1.25.2010

The Farm Report: Starting Pitchers

Our final position ranking is here and it's one that is, without a doubt, one of the most important. Good starting pitching is the backbone of contending baseball teams. Home-grown starting pitching is also something that Milwaukee has struggled to develop.

These are true starting pitchers, players whose role, for the time being at least, is set.

Starting Pitchers

1. Eric Arnett (Rookie)
2. Mark Rogers (High A)
3. Amaury Rivas (High A)
4. Josh Butler (AA)
5. Kyle Heckathorn (Rookie)

If this list were to go ten deep, you'd see names like Chris Cody, Jeremy Jeffress and Evan Anundsen, but we're sticking with five as we've done with every other position.

Kyle Heckathorn will start us at No.5, it's kind of sad that two picks from this years draft immediately rank in the top five starters in the Brewers system. Scouting reports at draft time said that Heckathorn, a righty, throws hard, with a mid-90s fastball and a power breaking ball. Much like the No. 1 pitcher on our list, he threw a lot of innings in college so his professional innings were minimal this year. Since he's a college pitcher he's considered an advanced prospect, I wouldn't be surprised if he joined what could be a very interesting pitching staff at Wisconsin this year.

Sitting at fourth on the list is Josh Butler. Crew fans got a little glimpse of Butler during September call-ups. If you were watching at the end of last season you would've seen a guy with good movement on his fastball and hit around 93-94 on the gun. Butler was the player the Brewers got when they traded Gabe Gross to Tampa Bay. He had been treading water in High A until this season when something clicked. He saw improvement in nearly every statistical category and earned his way on to this list. He may be one of the chief options in case of injury this season.

Next up we have Amaury Rivas. Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2005, Rivas has been a bit slower developing than the club probably hoped. He really excelled in the second half of last season, after the break he went 9-2 with a 2.26 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 71.2 innings pitched. Combine that with solid first half numbers (4-5, 3.82 ERA) and it's clear why he was named the team's minor league pitcher of the year. If Rivas can carry that success over to Double-A next season he could find himself approaching the majors as soon as next year.

Sitting at No. 2 is Mark Rogers, the former first round pick returning from a rebuilt shoulder who hadn't pitched an inning in two seasons. Indications are that Rogers has gotten his velocity back, he was throwing 95-96 this season and he managed to stay healthy for the whole year. The organization is being very careful (understandably) with him, he only pitched 64.2 innings, but that will change come next season. Rogers is on the 40-man roster already and will likely be assigned to Double-A next year. He'll get a shot at the majors sooner than later.

Eric Arnett gets the top spot, purely on potential and draft position. Much like Jake Odirizzi in our pitcher grouping, we don't have a very good statistical sampling of Arnett. He pitched a ton of innings for Indiana before being drafted so the team had him on a very strict inning count. Scouting reports at draft time said he throws hard, mid-90s, with a good breaking ball and improving change-up. It's difficult to project where Arnett will be assigned next year, college players are generally more advanced so the team likely hopes he will rise quickly.

What's nice to see is that there are talented starters nearing the major league level. The Brewers inability to develop pitchers is notorious, but with the prospects coming up in the next few seasons that should change. Excitement for pitching prospects, weird.

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