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February 10, 2010

Future Shock

Brewers Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Alcides Escobar, SS
Four-Star Prospects
2. Brett Lawrie, 2B
Three-Star Prospects
3. Mat Gamel, 3B
4. Wily Peralta, RHP
5. Cody Scarpetta, RHP
6. Jon Lucroy, C
7. Eric Arnett, RHP
8. Kyle Heckathorn, RHP
9. Kentrail Davis, OF
10. Angel Salome, C
Two-Star Prospects
11. Logan Schafer, OF

Four More:
12. Mark Rogers, RHP: Rogers' stuff was outstanding after missing two years due to shoulder problems, but can he pitch more than three innings every five days?
13. Caleb Gindl, OF: He's a small outfielder and very low on tools, but his production at the plate has been impressive.
14. Jake Odorizzi, RHP: He has advanced command and control for his age, but Odorizzi's stuff has yet to take the expected step forward.
15. Zach Braddock, LHP: This power lefty took a big step forward with a move to bullpen; he has the ceiling of a set-up man.

1. Alcides Escobar, SS
DOB: 12/16/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2003
2009 Stats: .298/.353/.409 at Triple-A (109 G); .304/.333/.368 at MLB (38 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: The Brewers' top prospect recovered from a slow start at Triple-A Nashville to grab hold of the big-league shortstop job.
The Good: Escobar is a spectacular defender with easy Gold Glove possibilities. Combining outstanding instincts with 65-70 speed (on the 20-80 scouting scale), he shows other-worldly range to both sides, outstanding fundamentals, and a tick above-average arm. He's developed into a good line-drive hitter who uses all fields and can occasionally drive balls into the gap. He has enough speed to produce 30-40 stolen bases annually.
The Bad: Escobar will never be a power threat, and he needs to develop a more patient approach to fit at the top of the lineup. He can rush himself defensively on run-of-the-mill plays at shortstop, leading to unnecessary errors. He's consistently hit lefties much better than righties throughout his career.
Ephemera: In Escobar's 45 games for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League, he hit .393/.440/.491. In 14 of his games played, he had three or more hits.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a plus-plus defender at short who hits .280-.300 and steals bases, but he has little else in terms of secondary skills.
Path to the Big Leagues: Barring an unforeseen disaster, Escobar's minor-league career is over.
Timetable: After hitting .304/.333/.368 in a late-season audition, the Brewers handed Escobar the big-league job by trading away J.J. Hardy. He's the Brewers' shortstop of the future, and that future is now.

2. Brett Lawrie, 2B
DOB: 1/18/90
Height/Weight: 5-11/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Brookswood SS (BC)
2009 Stats: .274/.348/.454 at Low-A (105 G); .269/.283/.308 at Double-A (13 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: The Brew Crew's top pick in 2008, Lawrie showed impressive bat skills in his full-season debut. He cut his season short to play for Team Canada.
The Good: Lawrie offers considerable offensive upside. He has a lightning-fast swing that comes out of a wide stance, and his big frame is reminiscent of a young Jeff Bagwell. He also has the raw power to project for 20-25 home runs annually. He's an average runner and plays the game with a lot of swagger.
The Bad: The Brewers originally planned on developing Lawrie as a catcher, but he requested to be moved to second base last year. He's downright awful there, with below average range and agility, and many scouts remarked about his lack of effort defensively, forecasting a move to left field down the line. Lawrie has a mature build, and he could end up being a below-average runner. His arm is average at best.
Ephemera: In a small sample size oddity, Lawrie was eight-for-nine in stolen bases during day games, but just 11-for-23 under the lights.
Perfect World Projection: Lawrie has an outside shot at turning into an offense-oriented second baseman, but his bat should play anywhere.
Path to the Big Leagues: He held his own at Double-A at the end of 2009 as a teenager, and some think he could come quickly.
Timetable: Lawrie will begin 2010 with High-A Brevard County in the Florida State League, but he could reach Double-A at some point during the year.

3. Mat Gamel, 3B
DOB: 7/26/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2005, Chipola JC (FL)
2009 Stats: .278/.367/.473 at Triple-A (75 G); .242/.338/.422 at MLB (61 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: This slugging prospect got off to an outstanding start at Triple-A, but the inability to establish a big-league career seemed to take its toll during the season.
The Good: Gamel has the ability to consistently hit .280-.300 in the big leagues, as he's more of a pure hitter with strength and leverage as opposed to the classical power type. He works the count well, and he shows the ability to hit multiple pitch types in multiple locations.
The Bad: Gamel's glove has not developed nearly as well as his bat. He's sloppy, just a plain bad third baseman with bad hands, slow actions, and an inaccurate arm. He'll almost assuredly need to move to first base or the outfield in the majors, and one scout even classified him as an AL-only player. He's prone to tinkering with his swing when things aren't going well, leading to even longer slumps.
Ephemera: Gamel hit .392/.473/.784 for Triple-A Nashville in April, but hit just .236 afterward, with only four home runs in 199 at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a solid but unspectacular everyday first baseman or corner outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, he's blocked.
Timetable: The Brewers dangled Gamel in the trade market in the offseason, with few real bites. There's no good opening for him in Milwaukee right now, so he'll likely return to Triple-A.

4. Wily Peralta, RHP
DOB: 5/8/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005
2009 Stats: 3.47 ERA (103.2-91-46-118) at Low-A (27 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 10

Year in Review: The big Dominican was one of the better arms in the Midwest League while being used in a tandem starter role.
The Good: Peralta has one of the better arms in the system. His fastball sits at 92-94 mph, consistently touching 96 to go with natural cutting action. He has a decent feel for a low-80s slider that should become a big-league average pitch down the road. His big frame, strong build, and high three-quarters arm slot make him built to eat up plenty of innings.
The Bad: Like many young arms, Peralta's changeup needs work. His command and control issues can hold him back at times, and he can be guilty of overthrowing. More than anything, he just needs innings to refine his overall game.
Ephemera: Peralta kept himself out of trouble by limiting batters leading off an inning against him to a .168/.262/.263 mark with 31 strikeouts in 95 at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a good third starter, with power relief as a backup plan.
Path to the Big Leagues: As promising as Peralta is, he definitely has a lot to work out, and he will likely move up one level at a time.
Timetable: Peralta will pitch at High-A Brevard County in 2010, where escaping from the tandem starting system could help him take off.

5. Cody Scarpetta, RHP
DOB: 8/25/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/240
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 11th round, 2007, Guilford HS (IL)
2009 Stats: 3.43 ERA (105.0-83-55-116) at Low-A (26 G); 5.40 ERA (5.0-5-1-1) at Double-A (1 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Finally healthy, this over-slot signee from 2007 showed why the Brewers were so excited about him in the first place.
The Good: Scarpetta has average to a tick above-average velocity, sitting at 90-91, sometimes touching 93, but it's his curveball that makes him special, as it's the best in the system-a true 12-6 breaker that generates some embarrassing swings from opponents. He has a clean, compact delivery, and a high baseball IQ, as his father was the third-round pick by the Braves in 1982 who spent nearly a decade in the minors.
The Bad: Scarpetta has a big, wide frame and some softness to him physically, so conditioning could be an issue down the road. He has some feel for a changeup, but it's also highly inconsistent. He has a history of hand issues, including a restorative surgery similar to what Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya underwent, although he did stay healthy throughout 2009.
Ephemera: Former Braves/Giants/Phillies/Orioles righty Chris Brock is the only player drafted 341st overall to win a game in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Scarpetta projects to be a third or fourth starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: He still has at least two years to go, but it's more likely that he's three years away from the big leagues.
Timetable: Scarpetta will move up with Peralta to form an impressive top of the rotation at High-A Brevard County.

6. Jon Lucroy, C
DOB: 6/13/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2007, University of Louisiana, Lafayette
2009 Stats: .267/.380/.418 at Double-A (125 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: Lucroy's a solid catching prospect who took steps forward... and some backward in his first year at the upper levels.
The Good: Lucroy has the best approach in the system, as he works the count at a big-league level and is rarely fooled by anything outside of the strike zone. He has enough power for plenty of doubles and double-digit home runs annually. Defensively, his best tool is a plus arm, and he threw out more than 40 percent of opposing base stealers in the Double-A Southern League.
The Bad: Lucroy has no star-level tools. He seemed to focus far more on contract in 2009, which led to a significant power drop, fewer strikeouts, and no gain in batting average. His receiving skills are unrefined, as he often stabs at pitches outside of the strike zone. He runs like a catcher.
Ephemera: Other than June, when he had 11 walks and 20 strikeouts, Lucroy had as many or more free passes than whiffs in every other month of the season.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a solid everyday catcher, but not an impact-level one.
Path to the Big Leagues: Gregg Zaun is not exactly what anyone would classify as a roadblock, and Lucroy seems to have passed Angel Salome in terms of Milwaukee's long-term depth chart.
Timetable: Lucroy should move up to Triple-A in 2010, but how he'll share time with Salome has yet to be determined.

7. Eric Arnett, RHP
DOB: 1/25/88
Height/Weight: 6-5/230
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Indiana
2009 Stats: 4.41 ERA (34.2-33-21-35) at Rookie-level (14 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: One of the top arms in the Midwest, Arnett maintained his status as a late first-round talent throughout the spring and pitched well in his pro debut.
The Good: Arnett has a class power pitcher's frame and arsenal. His low-to-mid 90s fastball reached as high as 96 last year. His slider continued to improve, and it now projects as an average big-league offering. He maintains his stuff deep into games and has a clean, smooth arm action.
The Bad: Arnett's changeup lags behind his other options. It's more of a splitter, and Arnett has trouble getting good velocity separation with it. There are a lot of moving parts to his delivery, which led to significant command and control issues, as well as velocity fluctuations.
Ephemera: Arnett was a three-sport star at Watkins Memorial High in Ohio, earning three all-conference awards in baseball and football, and two all-conference honors in basketball.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be an innings-eating third starter or power reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: He'll likely have the standard two- or three-year trek through the minors.
Timetable: The Brewers hope that Arnett can show them enough this spring to earn a full-season assignment at High-A, where he'll join Peralta and Scarpetta in a prospect-laden rotation.

8. Kyle Heckathorn, RHP
DOB: 6/17/88
Height/Weight: 6-6/240
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Kennesaw State
2009 Stats: 6.04 ERA (22.1-30-4-15) at Rookie-level (6 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Expected to be a sure-fire first-round pick coming into the year, Heckathorn's inconsistent spring dropped him to 47th overall.
The Good: Heckathorn is a massive righty with an equally massive arm, as he's been clocked as high as 99 mph, although he usually sits from 92-94. He'll flash a good slider with two-plane break at times, and he also has some feel for a changeup. While his delivery is a bit awkward, he repeats it well and has above-average control.
The Bad: Scouting reports on Heckathorn vary wildly, with one scout recalling a game in which he sat at 88-91 mph, only to see his velocity jump to 93-96 in the next start. As often as his slider breaks right, he'll sometimes completely flatten one, and his changeup can also get overthrown and lack break.
Ephemera: While 29 players have been drafted out of Kennesaw State in Georgia, only three have reached the big leagues, with Nationals righty Brett Campbell being the only pitcher to do so.
Perfect World Projection: He could turn into a third starter, but it will take a lot of factors going right, with most scouts projecting him in a role in the back of a bullpen by the time he reaches the big leagues.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, he's remaining a starter, so it could be a while.
Timetable: As he's not as refined as most college arms, Heckathorn's full-season debut will likely take place at Low-A Wisconsin.

9. Kentrail Davis, OF
DOB: 6/29/88
Height/Weight: 5-9/200
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Tennessee
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: One of the spring's bigger disappointments, Davis hit just .308 for the Vols and fell out of the first round, but Milwaukee still gave him first-round money ($1.2 million) as a sandwich pick.
The Good: Davis packs impressive tools into a small, muscular frame that had one scout comparing him physically to "a slightly larger Joe Morgan." He consistently drives the ball to his pull side, but he's equally adept at going with pitches and going the other way. He's an above-average runner and scouts like his effort.
The Bad: Davis is raw at the plate, as while he works the count well, he's also prone to lunging at pitches, especially when he gets behind in the count. His outfield play needs work in terms of jumps and routes, and if he needs to move to a corner, he could end as a bit of a tweener. He doesn't get good jumps on the bases, and it takes time for him to accelerate.
Ephemera: Davis' cousin, Marcus White, is a 300+ pound behemoth who spent some time on NFL practice squad rosters.
Perfect World Projection: Davis' ceiling is arguably as high as any position player in the system, but he comes with a lot of risk.
Path to the Big Leagues: His chances to explode and rocket through the system are equal to the possibility of him stalling out at Double-A.
Timetable: Davis' showing this spring will determine at which of Milwaukee's two A-level affiliates he makes his pro debut at.

10. Angel Salome, C
DOB: 6/8/86
Height/Weight: 5-7/200
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2004, George Washington HS (NY)
2009 Stats: .286/.334/.413 at Triple-A (82 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: After breaking out in 2008, Salome seemed to hit a bit of a wall at Triple-A.
The Good: Everything Salome does is awkward, but it just seems to work for him. Nobody would teach a young player his open stance or hitchy swing, yet he makes consistent contact to all fields with gap power. He's made strides defensively, showing average arm strength in 2009 with improved receiving skills.
The Bad: Salome's aggressive approach got the better of him at Triple-A, as pitchers were able to get him out with a steady diet of breaking pitches. Defensively, he's still well below average, and he's extremely slow on the basepaths.
Ephemera: Salome got off to a bad start at Triple-A Nashville, hitting just .191 in April, but he hit .305 thereafter.
Perfect World Projection: Scouts who still like Salome think he could end up as a second-division starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: With some temporary filler ahead of him and Lucroy behind, he might be a bit stuck.
Timetable: Milwaukee doesn't seem ready to give Salome a serious look, so he's likely headed back to Triple-A to begin 2010.

11. Logan Schafer, OF
DOB: 9/8/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, Cal Poly
2009 Stats: .217/.379/.304 at Double-A (7 G); .313/.369/.446 at Single-A (113 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: A gritty, grinding college outfielder, Schafer continued to impress by winning the Florida State League batting title.
The Good: Schafer's biggest strength in his lack of weaknesses. With an easy line-drive stroke, he laces balls to all fields with gap power, and he rarely strikes out. He's an average to a tick above-average runner, and his speed plays up in center due to outstanding instincts. He's a big makeup player who appreciates where he is and gives maximum effort every time out.
The Bad: Schafer really doesn't have any star-level tools. He doesn't have much over-the-fence power, nor does he possess enough speed to ever be a true base-stealing threat. He needs to develop a more patient approach at the plate to give him at least one usable secondary skill, and his arm is borderline average at best.
Ephemera: Ozzie Smith (28), Mike Krukow (5), and John Orton (4) are the only players drafted out of Cal Poly to hit home runs in the big leagues; Schafer's odds at being the fourth increased greatly with the recent stunning retirement of A's outfielder Grant Desme.
Perfect World Projection: Schafer could be a second-divison starter or good fourth outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's closer than one might think.
Timetable: Schafer will begin 2010 at Double-A Huntsville, and while a big-league debut this year would be a long shot, it's not totally out of the question.

The Sleeper: A fourth-round pick in 2006, right-hander Evan Anundsen throws strikes with an effective three-pitch mix. He could develop into a dependable back-end rotation starter.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Prince Fielder, 1B
2. Yovani Gallardo, RHP
3. Alcides Escobar, SS
4. Carlos Gomez, CF
5. Brett Lawrie, 2B
6. Mat Gamel, 3B
7. Wily Peralta, RHP
8. Cody Scarpetta, RHP
9. Jon Lucroy, C
10. Eric Arnett, RHP

It's easy to forget just how young Fielder is, as we could be talking about a 30-year-old who already has 350-400 career home runs five years from now. Gallardo is an ace in the making, and he's arguably the one person on the Brewer roster they could least afford to lose, as he's the only member of the rotation that scares other teams. What does one do with Gomez, a career .246/.292/.346 hitter who nonetheless still has dazzling tools? PECOTA doesn't seem to know either, as it's projecting a small step forward in 2010, but his list of comparable players is loaded with superstars. I'm willing to let my bet ride on the tools for now.

Summary: While the Brewers have had one of the more productive farm systems of late, that well of talent has run a bit dry, while their architect packed up for a general manager job in Seattle. There's young talent that has the ability to step forward in 2010, but now some of it needs to do so.


Next up: the New York Mets.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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