12.21.2010

In for a Drought?

There is a perception out there that the Milwaukee Brewers had a thin Farm System before the Zack Greinke trade and that it must be even weaker now that the team has traded more of it's top prospects.  While it is true that the Brewers Farm isn't as deep as it was (you can't get better by taking talent away) it's not as bare as one might think.

Center Field:  Was Lorenzo Cain the best center prospect that Milwaukee had? Without a doubt. Was he the only center field prospect that had the potential to be a good major leaguer? Nope.  Outfield is a spot that the Brewers have improved on in recent years, especially center field.

In Double-A Caleb Gindl, a 5'9" lefty with pop, saw extended playing time in center and performed well.  He won't be the defender that Carlos Gomez is but with another season under his wing he may be above average at least.  Gindl has a career average of .298 in the minors with a very nice .375 OBP.  That's one option.

Logan Schafer could be the Brewers next big position prospect
Also in Double-A was 2009 Minor League Hitter of the Year Logan Schafer.  Schafer missed most of the season with various injuries but was stellar in his award year.  He hit .308 with a .370 OBP and only struck out 56 times in 480 at-bats.  The organization is very high on him and if he can bounce back he could be primed to make a run at a starting job as early as the end of next season.

Moving down the line, Brevard County may have a possible center field option as well.  The ever steady Erik Komatsu played 75 games in center for the Manatees.  He has a polished eye at the plate (his OBP last season was .413) and he was very consistent all season.  On his way to a .323 season average, Komatsu never hit less than .302, or higher than .357 in a month in 2010.

Another option might be 2010 1st round pick Kentrail Davis.  Drafted as a center fielder, many project Davis as more of a corner outfielder.  He played the majority of the season in left last year, but that had more to do with a lingering hamstring injury.  It wouldn't be a surprise to see him see extended playing time in center next season.

Shortstop:  This is a major position of concern for Milwaukee.  If you go level by level in the Brewers farm system there is not one offensively inclined prospect that might help the big club.  This is not surprising however, since the Brewers thought Alcides Escobar would be in the lineup for the next several seasons.  Usually when a top prospect reaches the majors, the cupboard is pretty bare behind him.

The closest might be Josh Prince, who spent last season with Brevard County.  Prince projects out as a lead-off hitter, mostly due to his lack of power and base stealing ability.  He had a nice 2009 season, earning his way to A-ball after being drafted in June.  It was a different story in 2010 though, when he hit just .233 with a .287 OBP and 22 errors.  There is enough to like about Prince that he may improve, but he has a long way to go.  Like it or not he is Milwaukee's top shortstop prospect.

The outside-the-box option is Triple-A second baseman Eric Farris.  Yes he's been a second baseman basically his entire 4-year minor league career, but he has seen some (very) limited playing time at shortstop.  If Rickie Weeks does sign an extension than Farris' path to the majors is blocked, it wouldn't be a bad move to see what he can do at shortstop next spring.

Farris is a contact hitter with terrific speed and base stealing ability.  For his career he's hit .296 with a .336 OBP.  In 2009 he stole 70 bases for Brevard County.  Farris was slowed by a knee injury last season but finished strong, hitting .274 for Nashville and had a nice stint in the Arizona Fall League where he led Surprise with a .351 batting average.

Starting Pitching:  Giving up Odorizzi may end up costing the Brewers in the long run, but he was a long way from the major leagues and so much can happen in the time it takes a prospect to climb the ladder.  Odorizzi is certainly one of the Crew's top pitching prospects, but the best?  A pretty strong case could be made for Cody Scarpetta.

And that's what's most impressive about this deal, that Milwaukee was able to add a player of Greinke's caliber and not give up any of the starting pitching prospects that are close to helping the big league club.  Amaury Rivas, Cody Scarpetta, Wily Peralta, Kyle Heckathorn - these are names that Brewer fans should get used to hearing because within the next two seasons they could be helping Milwaukee.

That's without mentioning former first round pick Mark Rogers, who finally made his major league debut last season.  Rogers looked good in the 11 innings he pitched last September and should start the year with Triple-A Nashville.  Starting pitching in the Brewers system is not a big time concern, even after losing Odorizzi.

The Harvest is Good:  The overall state of the Brewers farm system is still good, though not perfect.  While they now lack some of the impact players they had at the top there are still good quality players to fill in the void.  There aren't many strong position players but the Brewers don't need many strong position players.  This is a testament to the impressive job that the Doug Melvin's front office and scouting department have done since taking over. Milwaukee can and will stay strong for years to come because of their commitment to the growing players.

3 comments:

  1. Where does Mat Gamel fit into the plans for 2011?

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  2. First Base, Nashville Sounds. He has no position with the big club until Fielder is gone, so he will have 2011 to learn first base... in Triple A

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  3. You might want to check with Baseball America. They had the Brewers as the worst farm system in the game BEFORE the Greinke trade. Easily the worst system in the game now. Total lack of near ready impact or top end talent in general.

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