We all know the Major League season is in full swing, but the Minors are also underway. With a handful of games under their belts, it's time to take a look at who to watch for level by level in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system here in 2010.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Low A)
For the second straight season the Brewers home state affiliate will feature some of the top pitching prospects in the organization. Along with a strong core of high potential pitchers there is a smattering of position players who could make this a very interesting team to watch this year.
Five to Watch
1. Eric Arnett - RHP - The Brewers top pick in 2009, Arnett will start his first full professional season with Wisconsin. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him finish the year in Brevard County, but he'll need to perform in Low A first.
2. Kyle Heckathorn - RHP - The second pitcher the team drafted in 2009, Heckathorn will also be pitching for the T-Rats this season. Heckathorn is a two-pitch pitcher at this stage in his career and will need to improve his off-speed stuff if he's going to stay a starter.
3. Jake Od0rizzi - RHP - A compensation pick in 2008, Odorizzi is considered more of a long-term project. In a few years some think he could be a stud starter but as a high school pitcher it's hard to really know what he brings to the table. Definitely one to keep an eye if you head to Time Warner Field.
4. Cameron Garfield - C - Another high pick from the 2009 draft, Garfield hit .248 for rookie level Helena a year ago. He's going to get the majority of the playing time behind the plate and it'll be interesting to see how he improves in year two.
5. D'Vontrey Richardson - OF - A two sport athlete at Florida State, Richardson will be a full-time baseball player this year. Considered very athletic, he's a project nonetheless. It may take a while but if he does develop he could be an entertaining player.
All Eyes On - Eric Arnett - You'll hear about Odirizzi and Heckathorn and a few other players but Arnett is a first round draft pick and as such, he'll be the focus of attention while he is with Wisconsin. Arnett made his debut with the Rattlers on Monday and gave up four earned runs in 4.1 innings. He didn't walk anyone, but he'll need to be much better.
Sleeper - Sean Halton - Halton (left) hit the ball very well at two different levels in the Crew's minor league system last season. At 6'5" he's certainly got the size and he hit .345 in 69 minor league games in 2009. A 13th round pick, a big year in 2010 could put him on the map as a first base prospect.
Brevard County Manatee (High A)
The pitching is what really stands out on the Brevard team. The Manatees will feature most of the good young pitchers that stood out for the Timber Rattlers a year ago. Mix in a few interesting hitters like Brock Kjeldgaard and Kentrail Davis and you've got a chance to see more than a few players who could find their way to the majors in the next several seasons.
Five to Watch
1. Kentrail Davis - OF - Milwaukee is very high on outfielder Kentrail Davis, so high, in fact that he's made his professional debut with the Brevard County club, bypassing low A entirely. Davis has drawn high praise and is off to a nice start batting .333. Keep an eye on him, his path to the big leagues could be short.
2. Wily Peralta - RHP - Peralta was eye catching if you saw him pitch for Wisconsin a year ago. He throws a mid-90s fastball with good secondary stuff. If he continues to improve he could be one of the top pitchers in the system. His first appearance was fantastic, he gave up only four hits over six innings while striking out eight.
3. Cody Scarpetta -RHP - The clock is already ticking on Scarpetta's option years, due to an invalidated rookie contract. He'll be making it to the big leagues sooner than later. He needs to be more consistent with his command, his first start was disastrous, walking six and giving up four runs in 2.1 innings.
4. Jeremy Jeffress - RHP - Make or break time for Jeffress. Once he comes off his second substance abuse suspension he'll have to show immediate improvement and a commitment to the game. Beyond that, he'll have to stay on the field. It remains to be seen whether or not he truly is over his drug problems but you have to hope, for his sake, that he is.
5. Brent Brewer - 3B/SS - The most athletic player in the Brewers farm system has to be running out of chances. He's heading into his third straight season with Brevard County and saw his batting average drop from .251 to .222. He'll need to show marked improvement to stay in baseball much longer.
All Eyes On - Jeremy Jeffress - A $100 million arm and five cent brain, that might be one way to describe the physically gifted Jeffress. Still, since his 100-game suspension he's said all the right things and appears to be making the right decisions. It's up to him now to find out whether he is going to be a future star, or another 100 mph arm that never panned out.
Sleeper: Michael Fiers - Fiers showed off his impressive command in climbing to Brevard County in his first pro season last year as a reliever. This year the Brewers seem interested in giving him a chance to be a starting pitcher. We'll see how he does in year two of his professional career.
Huntsville Stars (AA)
The Stars might be the team to watch in the Crew's farm system. Loaded with pitching and hitting prospects, this has the potential to be a very entertaining team to watch. The Brewers minor league hitter of the year will be headed there once he is off the DL and last years minor league pitcher of the year (Amaury Rivas) is already there.
Five to Watch
1. Brett Lawrie - 2B - The Canadian hitter was deemed advanced enough to bypass a second year of A-Ball entirely. Whether he stays at second base or finds himself somewhere else on the diamond he started his 2010 season off with a bang, he finished a double shy of the cycle in just his third game.
2. Lorenzo Cain - OF - After an injury filled 2009 campaign Cain saw his stock fall in the eyes of many. But, 2010 is another year and a fine spring has put him back high on the Brewers top prospect list. He's on a talented team with Huntsville this year and with a strong season could find himself with the big club by the end of the year.
3. Jonathan Lucroy - C - So Lucroy goes from having the chance to win a major league roster spot to being sent back to Double-A for a second season. Nothing like helping a players development by keeping him out of the level of the minors where players learn the most (AAA). Still, Lucroy did have some areas to improve on from last year, notably power and run production. He's the catcher of the future and with Gregg Zaun's 0-18 start the future may be sooner than later.
4. Mark Rogers - RHP - If Rogers has a big year in Double-A he could climb to the top of the Brewers pitching prospect lists. Two things need to happen for him to help the big club this year or next, longer starts and health. Here's rooting for the kid from Maine.
5. Amaury Rivas - RHP - The 2009 minor league pitcher of the year for the Milwaukee Brewers, Rivas has taken a while to develop but the Crew's patience was affirmed. If he can build on his outstanding '09 campaign with another big year for Huntsville, the dire state of pitching in Milwaukee's farm system suddenly becomes quite the opposite.
All Eyes On - Jonathan Lucroy - C - Lawrie might be the higher rated prospect (by a lot) but there are no bones being made about him contributing to the Major League team this year or even next, though 2011 might not be out of the question. Lucroy, on the other hand, could be the starting catcher by the end of the year. The pressure is on the former Ragin' Cajun and a down year in his second stint in Double-A would greatly dampen his chances.
Sleeper - Steffan Wilson - 1B/RF/LF - Who is Steffan Wilson? That was the question being asked when the first baseman/corner outfielder was added to the spring training roster. Well Wilson has quietly put up solid numbers over his three minor leagues seasons. Over that time he's hit .288 with 44 home runs and 200 driven in. He turned some heads in spring training and he could turn even more in Huntsville this year.
Nashville Sounds (AAA)
The Nashville roster isn't quite as prospect-laden as Milwaukee's other affiliates, but there are a few prospects to keep on eye on. Most of the players with the sounds this year seem well poised to step in with the big club in case of injury or ineffectiveness.
Five to Watch
1. Zach Braddock - LHP - A hard throwing lefty with pinpoint command, Braddock is one of the top young arms on the Farm. If he can stay healthy he's viewed by many as a possible future closer. At one time there was thought he could be a starter but injury troubles have put that thought out of mind.
2. Mat Gamel - 3B - Everything that could go wrong for Mat Gamel seems to have gone wrong in the last month. He showed a level of commitment that the front office likes to see this spring but was sidelined by a shoulder injury. It's not likely he'll be able to step right in and produce until he's fully healed, but when he does he'll need to rebuild his stock. With Casey Mcgehee's production with the big club it would seem Gamel's route to the big leagues is blocked. It would seem.
3. Angel Salome - C - Similar to Gamel, Salome had a chance to establish himself last year but injuries and defensive questions hampered his 2009. He'll need a big year to prove to the front office that he can be the catcher of the future of Lucroy, but at this point he would seem more like trade bait.
4. John Axford - RHP - Another player that impressed this spring, the 6'5" Axford is viewed very favorably by management and the coaching staff. Axford throws hard and when he can maintain his command he can be a dominant relief pitcher. He'll see time with the big club before the season is over.
5. Adam Heether - 3B/UTIL - If Heether can repeat his success from a year ago he will put himself in talks for a roster spot this year (in case of injury) and next year. He plays multiple positions and hit for average (.296) and power (18 HRs) a year ago. Putting those numbers up in back to back years would be impressive.
All Eyes On - Mat Gamel - Many will be interested in Braddock's performance in 2010, but he has less to prove. Braddock will be making his first appearance in Triple-A. Gamel on the other hand, had success in the majors and minors last year then fell apart. He'll need to re-establish himself as one of the best minor league hitters in the organization.
Sleeper - Brendan Katin - OF - With the confidence lost in Corey Hart at the major league level, one has to wonder if Katin finally figures out how to draw a walk that he could get a shot at the big leagues. He's off to a great start this year, with four walks and three home runs in the first four games of the year.
Keep an eye out, the Farm Reports have begun anew.