Arrested Development

The talent inside the Brewers farm system is clear and tangible, but the development of that talent is an unclear process. The Crew is widely considered to be one of the best at growing their own stars, using the farm to continually make the big club better - whether by promotion or trade. That said, there are problems with the way the Brewers are developing their prospects - some philosophical, some bad decisions.

Scarce spots

Management of the 40-man roster is always hit or miss, there will be players that hold a spot on the roster for reasons of depth or for reasons that no one can quite understand. Players will be removed and be lost to another team for reasons that only management can rationalize. There are two names that come to mind that illustrate a couple of odd, confusing and downright stupid decisions that management made in regards to this season's 40-man roster.

The first name that stands out is Adam Heether, a super-utility player that can play six positions around the diamond. Heether was coming off a career year for Triple-A Nashville in which he hit .296 with 18 homers and a .396 OBP. He got off to a slow start with Nashville this year and when Mat Gamel came off the 60-day disable list Heether was dropped from the 40-man roster to make room. He was claimed by Oakland and now plays with their Triple-A club.

But why does this move make sense? With Gamel in Triple-A and Zealous Wheeler and Taylor Green in Double-A the team must have thought they didn't have a need for Heether. But none of those three players have the same level of versatility, combined they can play three different positions (3B, SS, 2B) but that still doesn't match up to Heether. Also, Wheeler and Green aren't even on the 40-man roster, so if needed they won't be able to help the big club this season anyways.

What's worse is that this move came at a time when Jeff Suppan was still taking a roster spot as well. Utility players like Heether don't come around often and letting him go for nothing makes absolutely no sense.

Another prospect that is wasting a 40-man roster space is under-performing pitcher Alex Periard. Pitchers who have done much more have not found their way onto a big league team's 40-man roster. So what, exactly, has Periard done to place himself on the 40-man?

A 16th round pick in 2004, he has failed to pitch well above A-ball. His best years came in 2007 and 2008 before he was promoted to Double-A. In those two seasons he posted an ERA of 3.55 and 3.51. In his stints in Double-A he posted an ERA of 5.68 (8 games in 2008) and 4.71 this year. There was nothing in his numbers to indicate he deserved a 40-man spot and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would put him on a top ten prospect list for the Brewers - even top twenty might be a stretch.

But he's there, burning option years and underwhelming the competition.

Lacking Promotions

It can't be said that Milwaukee doesn't promote prospects in season, Jonathan Lucroy is an excellent example of that being false, but it's not the promotions that do happen that surprise (usually) it's the advancements that don't.

In this season I will point to a pair of prospects that play for the Crew's Double-A affiliate, the Huntsville Stars. The first member of that squad I will point to is Lorenzo Cain, a player who, had he not been injured last season, might have vied for a starting spot on the Major League roster this season. In 2010 Cain is hitting .325 with a .408 OBP in 58 games. He's stolen bases (19 in 21 tries), gone for extra-bases (He has 100 total bases) and scored runs (43 in 58 games).

So what possible reason could the organization have for slowing his development when an outfield spot in Triple-A is populated by 30-year-old Adam Stern, a player who on a good day is a step behind Brady Clark? Certainly there isn't one that makes sense.

Another player who could stand a promotion is starting pitcher Amaury Rivas. Last year's Minor League Pitcher of the year, Rivas has had a very good 2010. He's posted an overall ERA of 2.96 and struck out 65 batters against 29 walks. Not dominant numbers but good enough numbers that he should receive a chance at Triple-A.

Rivas is on the 40-man roster and thus is using an option year to pitch in the minors. The thought should be get him near the Majors as quickly as possible, especially if he is pitching well enough to earn that promotion.

Another player that is performing superbly is top prospect Brett Lawrie, while I am for promoting Cain and Rivas, I am against promoting Lawrie - at least this early in the season. Because Lawrie skipped Advanced-A ball a full season with Huntsville is not a bad idea, even if he does lead the Southern League in total bases.

The examples of Rivas and Cain are just a pair, the station to station promotion of prospects has been something that has chaffed fans for the entire Doug Melvin era. When pitchers or hitters are effective and dominant, keeping them at a level where their opposition is clearly over-matched does no good for anyone.

That Seems Cold

Why did Milwaukee release Mike Jones exactly? It's easy to point to his high walk-rate and say he just wasn't cutting it in Triple-A, but if a roster spot was needed why was Jones the one to go when the organization decided to keep 35-year-old Marty McLeary who has already given up more runs in 8.1 innings (11 earned) than Jones did in 12.2 innings (one earned).

This move hints at a problem I have with the Brewers overall approach to Triple-A this year, but even so makes absolutely no sense. The team waited out injury after injury to Jones before he finally pitched his way to Triple-A and was promptly released because he walked 13 batters in 12.2 innings. Not a fair sample size. What adds to the absurdity of this move is that McLeary (again, 35 years old!) has allowed 90 hits in 45.2 innings this season. 90! The guy makes Jeff Suppan look like Cy Young!

Why give Mike Jones so many chances and when he finally looks like he's started to turn a corner as a pitcher you release him? It's ridiculous, someone should tell the front office that Crash Davis was a fictional character.

Triple Age

You know what I like to see at a minor league baseball game? Top prospects. That's why I have absolutely no interest in seeing the Nashville Sounds play. The only legitimate prospect that the Brewers have placed with their Triple-A affiliate is Mat Gamel. One player on a team of 25. Oh a case can be made for Brendan Katin or (if you're really pushing it) Tim Dillard, but the only player on that team seems to have a strong chance at the Majors is Gamel.

This is a trend that Milwaukee has year in and year out but they are not the only ones. It's a common practice to load up the highest level of the minors with veterans who have major league experience or at least a ton of minor league experience. This year the Brewers have taken that practice to another level though.

The outfield features Trent Oeltjen, Adam Stern and Brendan Katin. Stern hasn't had a hit in the majors since 2008 and Oeltjen has only 70 big league at-bats under his belt. Katin hasn't even had a chance to play in the big leagues, despite huge power potential (and even bigger strikeout potential).

The infield isn't much more awe-inspiring, featuring never-been's such as Joe Koshansky at First Base, Luis Cruz at Shortstop and Rey Olmedo at Second Base. It's not that having a few of these guys on your Triple-A team is a bad idea, they can step into a major league role in a pinch, but an entire roster composed of scrubs like this does little for the future of a franchise.

It's been said that pitchers and hitters learn the most in Double-A and Triple-A, so what are prospects learning when they aren't even playing at the minor's highest level? There is no argument that can be made that says the franchise is better off by letting Lorenzo Cain dominate Double-A rather than face a higher level of competition in Triple-A.

When you see a pitcher like Rick Porcello or Mike Leake shoot up the ladder and contribute to their drafting club quickly you can't help but wonder if the Brewers will ever have a pitcher do that. Under the organization's current philosophy that will not happen. That is not a fair approach, performance should be rewarded more than it is.

Yes, this is not true across the board. Ryan Braun and Yovanni Gallardo climbed the ladder quickly, as did Jonathan Lucroy and Rickie Weeks. But three of those players are position players and the Brewers difficulty in developing pitchers is well documented. Why should pitchers spend more time in the minors than position players, if they produce they should be given the same chances.

Milwaukee has done a very good job developing their prospects into players. The bottom line, however, is that they could do better.


A Princely Sum

The Milwaukee Brewers are mired in a longtime slump in the development of young pitchers and Prince Fielder's time under club control is running short on time. I've delayed in making my decision about Big Prince's future with the Brew Crew but that's a choice that's become more and more clear in the early part of this season.

It's not about the 2010 Brewers anymore, it's about 2011 and beyond. For the future of the franchise, one of the biggest stars on the Milwaukee Brewers has got to go. So what makes now the right time? Why make this deal now rather than wait until the end of the season?

Fielder is on pace to drive in his lowest number of runs since he came into the majors. He's also on pace to have his lowest home run total since his rookie season and lowest doubles total in a full season since he came to the majors. That won't last, but the Brewers are making due without his RBIs and have players approaching in the minors that can take his spot in the near future. Between Brett Lawrie and Mat Gamel you will have an acceptable replacement.

The closest precedent for this deal would have to be when the Texas Rangers traded Mark Teixeira to Atlanta at the trade deadline. In that deal Texas landed a 100-MPH arm in Neftali Feliz, a future gold-glove winning shortstop in Elvis Andrus, a serviceable pitcher in Matt Harrison and a high-ceilinged bat in Jarrod Saltalamacchia. That's four players who have had some degree of success in the major leagues.

Will the Brewers be able to bring in the same haul of players and prospects? It's hard to say, Teixeira is a gold glove winner. There is a school of thought that says teams will give up more during the season and another school that says they won't. One thing that is for sure is that whoever does give up their prospects will want to keep Fielder for as long as possible. Much like Doug Melvin dealing for C.C. Sabathia well before the trade deadline, the market will be better for Prince the further the team is from trade day.

The market is there, teams will have an interest in Fielder. He's the left-handed bat and power hitter that teams will covet, not to mention he's still only 26 years old. There are a number of different teams that have the need, the entire American League West for example.

What the Crew will ask for back - and the only thing that they can reasonably accept - is pitching. Any pitching will do, ideally major league ready or near-major league ready but the development of position players has never been a problem.

A small market team like the Brewers can't have the percentage of payroll tied up in one player that it would take to keep Prince in Milwaukee. That's the bottom line.


The Pros of Ken Macha

With the Brewers stumbling through the first two months of the season, there have been many voices (mine included) calling for Ken Macha's release from his managerial duties. However, I'm a reasonable person (not really), and I feel like maybe I should look at some of "Pros" of Ken Macha. Without further ado, here is my list:

Pros of Ken Macha:
-Successfully managed the Oakland Athletics, a smaller market club, into the ALCS. He really knows how to manage in the American League. (Side note, I happen to think a drunken chimp could manage the AL)

-That accent of his, is unbelievable! For a man from Pittsburgh, who spent some time in California, it's a true modern day miracle that he speaks with a slight "Yooper-like" accent. Helps to really connect to the Northern Wisconsin fan base.

-He is old, and has been around baseball for a long time. That can only mean he has some awesome stories to share. Why, I bet he has some doozies about Ty Cobb. I can just hear the story that starts out like, "Honus Wagner was a bitch, why the fuck is his card worth so damn much" or "Shoeless Joe Jackson, now there was an American". Also, I like to imagine this whopper, "In my day, we didn't use steroids, that stuff is for pussies...no, we would just smoke tobacco and have sex with the local whores to enhance our performance..............oh Fran...Fran, Fran, Fran".

- He looks like he would be a nice grandpa. Why yes Ken, I will have a Werther's Original.

-He's not Tony LaRussa. That guy, while a good manager, is just a prick.

-He's not Dusty Baker. I know Yovanni Gallardo is thankful for that.

-He likes "whipping shitties" in the Miller Park parking lot with Doug Melvin in a 1969 Chevy Camaro

- He would easily win a "look disinterested" contest.

- Is the inspiration for a mildly amusing twitter character: @notkenmacha.