Category Archives: Prospects/Minor Leagues

Brb, rioting in the streets in celebration

Scroll to #96

Less Randy Wolf = More interest in Brewers

Posted by Steve

It’s only a fraction of how necessary it was to release Jeff Suppan a few years ago, but it still needed to happen: Randy Wolf has been released.

I’ll at least take a paragraph to reflect on Wolf’s tenure and his signing in general. He was okay here for two years, with last year being his best. His peripherals weren’t really even that different this year save for a bit of a higher home run rate; he was killed by a .340 BABIP. If you’re mad at Wolf for this performance, I don’t really agree with you. The honus should go on Doug Melvin for giving a declining player a three-year deal. Of course, if Wolf didn’t get a three-year offer from Milwaukee, he’d very likely wouldn’t have signed here, but so what? It’s just Randy Wolf. Point is, I don’t want to go more than two years on any free agent pitcher unless his numbers show he is solidly above average.

Essentially, my interest in the Brewers’ rotation going forward is inversely proportional to the presence of Randy Wolf. And now that Randy Wolf is gone, the rotation just got a lot more interesting.

We’ll get to see, presumably, all of the young-ish pitchers who have a shot at the rotation next season. Not just Mike Fiers and Mark Rogers, who have already had auditions, but Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg as well. We will also see a cameo from Shaun Marcum, who is auditioning for next season–I suppose there’s still an outsider’s outside chance Marcum could be dealt on waivers, but he’ll only have one, maybe two starts before the August deadline, so the chances of that are almost nil. More likely, he’s taking a longer audition for a chance to get a nice contract somewhere next season.

Basically, the rotation will consist of Marcum and Gallardo every five days,with some mash-up of Fiers, Rogers, Thornburg, Peralta, and Marco Estrada taking the last three spots. There have been rumblings of the Brewers shutting down Rogers, Fiers and even Estrada to prevent them from taking too much of a jump in innings from last season, which of course is smart in a now meaningless season. One way to accomplish this would be to piggyback them in starts–essentially each guy pitches three innings on the same day every five days. The starting pitcher would be Mirke Fiergers or something.

I did hear some concern over the release of Wolf in that the Brewers might need a veteran to eat some innings if they end up needing to shut down most/all of the younger pitchers. I’m really not worried about that; if that happens, the Brewers just need to call up some AAA soldier. I’m warning you now, Brewer fans: Brace yourself once again for some Claudio Vargas appearances in September.

Anyway, the Brewers are making some smart decisions now that they’re out of contention. By the end of this season, they should have a solid grasp of whether Jean Segura is ready to be the starting shortstop (I’ve actually been more impressed with his glove than his bat to this point, which doesn’t match his scouting report), and which of these pitchers should open up 2013 in the starting rotation.

Plus, it will simply be more fun to watch these guys pitch over Randy Wolf.

Brewers deal Izturis, call up Segura

Posted by Steve

Well, that didn’t take very long.

The Brewers “lost” Cesar Izturis to the Nationals on waivers and have called up newly acquired shortstop prospect Jean Segura. Segura excelled during his brief stint in AA Huntsville, hitting .433/.500/.533 in eight games. In a season that’s going nowhere, the Brewers decided to roll the dice and give their shortstop of the future a head start on the big leagues.

While exciting, this move isn’t without a bit of controversy. By calling him up now, the Brewers will more than likely burn his first year of service time next year. If they kept Segura in the minors the rest of this year and until June or so of 2013, next season wouldn’t be considered a full year of service time, and the Brewers would control his rights for an extra year. Someone on twitter called it “preferring his age 23 season over his age 29 season.”

I understand the concern, and I would have been completely fine if the Brewers decided to hold him back for this reason. But I think it’s more important to go case-by-case and look at the individual player rather than use a blanket strategy for every good prospect. The Cubs just called up Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters rather than holding them out until midway through next season. Holding players back isn’t as obvious of a move as it may seem.

If the Brewers deem Segura ready, I am totally fine with calling him up. It’s arguably just as important to give him MLB experience, particularly in a season that no longer matters, as it is to preserve his service time. The fact is, the Brewers are not the first organization to decide Segura was ready for the majors. The Angels had just called him up before including him in the Greinke deal. It’s definitely not a stretch to say he’s ready for a test drive.

The only regret I have over this transaction is that we just sold the tickets we had for tonight’s game. Other than that, I’m glad I’ll have renewed interest in watching the Brewers again.

So, now what?

Posted by Steve

For the last few weeks, all the focus was on Zack Greinke: first his health, then on what return he’d bring back in an impending trade. Now that the Greinke trade is complete, it feels a little confusing. What are we supposed to focus on now?

One thing’s for sure; this is still the same awful bullpen. Yesterday’s game showed that, and the bullpen isn’t going to change. Not that that matters much though; wins and losses are irrelevant now.

That’s one thing that’s kind of nice. I no longer feel like I need to hope the Brewers lose games in order to ensure they trade Greinke. I still really don’t care whether they win, but at least I don’t have to be annoyed when they do. I really didn’t enjoy that.

So anyway, the question is, what am I looking for the rest of the season?

I don’t expect the Brewers to contend next year without Zack Greinke. The starting rotation is going to look much different next year, and they have many young pitchers who will be getting their feet wet. Thing is, I want that to happen. I don’t want Doug Melvin to feel like he needs to go and sign two more Randy Wolfs because he needs to patch together another okay team. Mark Rogers, Wily Peralta, Tyler Thornburg, Johnny Hellweg, Ariel Pena, Tayjor Jungmann… The Brewers need to turn several of those players into major league pitchers, particularly starters, if they are going to have success within the next 4-5 years. I don’t want to see the development stunted by aging #4 starters.

For that reason, I would love to see Aramis Ramirez and/or Corey Hart traded before the deadline. If Melvin targeted players at the AA level or so, the way he did with Greinke, there shouldn’t be too long of a turnaround. In fact, I bet they’d have a solid team by as early as 2014.

Trading Hart and Ramirez makes a lot of sense. Both players have good value right now. Ramirez in particular should be traded because of the money that he’s owed. He has performed so well that right now, you could get a team to take most (or even all?) of his contract and send you a legitimate prospect or two. That opportunity may not be there by next season.

Same situation with Hart. He is under contract through 2013. If the Brewers trade Hart before the start of next season, the team who acquires him will have the right to a compensation pick. If they wait until next season to do it, it will be the same situation as Greinke–no pick for that team. A lack of comp picks won’t dampen the return on elite players like Greinke, but it could on a merely solid player like Hart.

Of course, I’d be truly shocked if either of these players were dealt this year. Doug Melvin’s MO isn’t to trade players when their value is highest; it’s to hold on to them, use the value for the Brewers, and then take a lesser return/let them walk in free agency. In this case, I strongly feel holding on to them is the wrong move. Doesn’t matter what I think, though.

So then, what do I want to see the rest of the year? Let’s make a list, shall we?

Tyler Thornburg’s return to normalcy

The Brewers sent Thornburg back to the minors today, capping the end to a short yet stupid experiment. His schedule has been completely erratic over the last month or so, and it capped off with a “tired arm” after pitching multiple innings in consecutive outings. What a foolish way to handle your top pitching prospect. I want to see Thornburg back starting games, and I don’t even want to see him in Milwaukee unless he is in the rotation. No more coming out of the bullpen for Thornburg the rest of the year.

Trade/DFA Wolf, K-Rod

I expect the Brewers to DFA Francisco Rodriguez soon. It’s been a train wreck in slow motion over the last couple weeks for Franky. He went from burying his trade value six feet under to clearly not even warranting a spot on the team. He’s a sunk cost; the Brewers have too many young pitchers they should take a look at to keep wasting innings on a broken K-Rod.

Wolf should be let go, too. There’s a chance someone will take him off the Brewers’ hands for nothing, but if not, there is no need to keep giving him starts. Same thing with wanting to see younger pitchers.

In a similar vein, if Shaun Marcum is able to come back this year, he’d be a good candidate for an August waiver trade. Something to think about.

Give the young pitchers a long look–in the starting rotation

All those pitchers I mentioned earlier should get some consideration for rotation spots in Milwaukee. Mark Rogers had an encouraging outing yesterday. He is out of minor league options, which means the Brewers have to have him on the MLB team next year or lose him. He should stay in the rotation the rest of the year.

Wily Peralta has turned his season around. He should take Randy Wolf’s spot in the rotation as soon as possible.

Thornburg, Hellweg, and Pena should all be given consideration based on how they pitch going forward as well.

Within a few weeks, call up Jean Segura and hand him the keys to shortstop

I understand giving Segura some time yet in AA, but I don’t think he should need more than a couple weeks. Unless he falls flat on his face in Huntsville, I want to give him time in MLB in a low pressure situation in which he knows he’ll play every day. From a marketing standpoint, the team should want to show off the prize of the Zack Greinke trade as well. It’s a win-win.

Think about it. Not only do these moves make baseball sense, but it’s a much more watchable team. How much more enjoyable would the team be with a rotation of Gallardo, Fiers, Rogers, Peralta, Estrada/Thornburg/other young pitcher and Segura at shortstop every day the rest of the way? Right now, when Wolf or Estrada pitch, I don’t even feel obligated to watch. I’d want to watch this “new” team every day the rest of the season, though.

One final remark

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the departure of George Kottaras. First, let me say it was a questionable move. Travis Ishikawa serves no purpose on this team and does nothing that Kottaras can’t. They should have gotten rid of Ishikawa and left Kottaras as the backup first baseman/third catcher/top pinch hitter off the bench. But, they didn’t, and it sounds like Kottaras finds himself in a larger role on a playoff contender, so good for him. Plus, no matter what happens to him in his baseball career, he’ll still be devilishly handsome.

 

 

Bravo, Doug

Posted by Steve

As soon as Zack Greinke turned in an outstanding performance on Tuesday, he became the center of attention in baseball circles. He was the number one target and was sure to be dealt.

For two days, the Brewers’ front office fielded calls from a handful of teams. In the end, it seems to have come down to Texas, Atlanta, and Los Angeles/Anaheim, with the White Sox high in interest but low in ammunition. Texas seemed to be the frontrunner, they have the best farm system of any interested team, and Mike Olt seemed like the target. Sure enough, we now know the Brewers targeted Olt but were rebuffed. In fact, the Rangers wouldn’t even give up starting pitcher Martin Perez, according to Ken Rosenthal. After that, the took the deal from the Angels.

And a solid deal it was. A few weeks ago, I handicapped potential Greinke suitors. I ranked Texas number 1, but LAA number 3, and the first name I mentioned was Jean Segura. He was the Angels’ top prospect and a logical target considering the Brewers’ need for a shortstop.

In addition to Segura, the Brewers added AA pitchers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena, two power arms with good upside.

Segura was the Angels number 1 prospect and was rated #43 in baseball by Baseball America in their recent midseason rankings. By that count, that would mean BA now has him as the Brewers’ number one prospect (Tyler Thornburg is the only other Brewer on the list at #48). He’s only 22, and at 5’10 and 165 isn’t quite Altuve in his stature but is still small. His ceiling is a leadoff hitter with solid power for a shortstop. The question is his defense, though it’s not a huge one. He has a strong arm and decent range, but he doesn’t project to be a defensive wiz like Jurickson Profar or somebody like that. Some scouts question whether he can stay at shortstop long term or will need to move to second, but for now there’s no reason not to put him at short and give him a long leash. He’ll start at AA Hunstville, but I’d be surprised if he was down there more than a few weeks. It’s not like the Brewers have an above replacement-level shortstop holding him off.

Hellweg is an exciting player as well, though he’s more of a boom-or-bust. He’s a giant; is 6’9″ frame helps him generate a mid-to-upper 90s fastball. While his floor is lower than someone like Tyler Thornburg or Wily Peralta, his ceiling is likely the highest of any pitcher in the Brewers’ system. He’s a fine player to take a risk on as a secondary piece in a trade. He may be the key to this deal; if he develops into a top-of-the-rotation starter, the Brewers will have gotten a steal.

Pena has been a starting pitcher throughout his career, although it seems possible he could move to the bullpen. He was rated as having the best slider in the Angels’ system.

Overall, I’m very pleased with this trade. Not over the moon thrilled like I probably would have been with a return of Mike Olt+ from Texas, but considering he wasn’t available, I don’t doubt this was the best return the Brewers could have gotten.

A small part of me was terrified Melvin would either go for an established player with only a couple years of team control left, or or a young major league pitcher with a limited ceiling for Greinke. He did neither. The Brewers control the rights of all of these players for their first six years in MLB, which is extremely valuable.

According to Baseball America’s pre-2012 rankings, the Brewers got the Angels’ number 1, 4, and 9 prospects–a great return for just two months of Greinke.

The Brewers traded Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain and Jeremy Jeffress for Greinke. This package is behind that, but not by very much. Another way to look at it is the Brewers traded Escobar, Odorizzi, Cain, and Jeffress for 1.5 years of Greinke/a deep playoff run, Segura, Hellweg and Pena.

Not bad at all.

Judgment Day

Posted by Steve

Dominoes are starting to fall around Major League Baseball. Two or three trades went down today, depending on whether Ryan Dempster accepts his trade to Atlanta. Two of those deals involved big-name pitchers who are impending free agents. Dempster went to Atlanta (assuming he accepts) for starting pitcher Randall Delgado, ranked the #46 prospect by Baseball America entering this season. Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante were traded from Florida to Detroit for a package that included starting pitcher Jacob Turner, ranked #22 on the same list.

The package Florida received for Sanchez and Infante would have really excited me had the Brewers got that for Greinke. These deals are encouraging for the Brewers, because (a healthy) Greinke should bring back more than either Sanchez/Infante or Dempster.

The “healthy” part is the key. Tomorrow is a huge day for the Brewers and any team interested in Greinke. You can bet that after the bizarre “battery recharging,” teams will want to see him have an effective start in which he at least convinces people he’s healthy. If he does, I anticipate tomorrow being Greinke’s last start in a Brewer uniform.

Detroit and Atlanta are presumably out of the starting pitching market after their deals today, although you never know. More likely now would be Washington, Baltimore, and Anaheim.

Two other things might be working in the Brewers’ favor.

1. The Phillies are really trying to re-sign Cole Hamels, and there seems to be a real chance he signs. If he does, that leaves Greinke as the clear top starter available.

2. The Rangers just lost starting pitcher Colby Lewis, who will need Tommy John surgery. Their need for a starting pitcher is even greater now than it was. The Angels are within striking distance, and the hard-charging A’s are close behind them (Darkhorse Greinke candidate?)

Assuming Greinke looks okay tomorrow, my guess is that he goes to Texas for Mike Olt. Philly seems to be demanding Jurickson Profar for Hamels, but I still have to believe he’s untouchable. If Greinke looks good tomorrow, the Brewers should offer him to Texas for Olt. I now believe, given the deals made today (which would seem to raise Greinke’s price) and Texas’ increasing desperation, they would be willing to trade him.

There could be more parts involved, maybe someone like K-Rod, Nyjer Morgan, Kameron Loe, the Brewers’ competitive balance draft pick going with Greinke, or some other lower-rated players coming back to Milwaukee along with Olt.

Anyway. Just a guess; we’ll see what really happens. Only thing for sure is tomorrow is a huge day for the Brewers and the trade value of Greinke. Here’s to a strong start from him. It will be bittersweet, knowing he’ll be leaving, but it’s the best thing for the franchise at this point.

The nine-game playoff series, and messing with Tyler Thornburg

Posted by Steve

I’ve made it quite clear that I want the Brewers to be sellers. I don’t feel their ever-dwindling playoff chances are worth holding on to several assets that will expire after this season.

It seems like the Brewers are inching closer to this thinking, but not quite yet. Seems it’s put up or shut up time, according to Doug Melvin.

The Brewers next nine games are against the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds–the three teams ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central. There’s no real problem in waiting nine more days, except I am very worried that after something like a 5-4 stretch, Melvin/Attanasio will conclude the Brewers are “still in this thing” and hold on to Greinke and everyone else.

The only way I could be talked out of selling is if the Brewers went 8-1 or 9-0. Those are the only two records that would put them above .500, and I just can’t support buying/not selling when the team isn’t even above .500.

It seems the Brewers have decided to go all in in these nine games, however. They’ve sent down Taylor Green to make room for shortstop Jeff Bianchi (fifth player this year on the roster whose primary position is shortstop!), and they designated Tim Dillard for assignment to bring Tyler Thornburg back to the big leagues.

I don’t have a problem sending Green down, only because they weren’t using him anyway. He still hasn’t gotten a real chance in the majors in Milwaukee, and it’s no sure thing he ever will. That bugs me, but given the roster makeup, they have no other real option.

The Thornburg thing is trickier. Obviously, they want to make the bullpen as good as they can. I can’t blame them for that. Jose Veras has been brutal and shouldn’t be in high-leverage situations at all, really. I had no real problem with Tim Dillard, although his numbers weren’t great, they weren’t terrible. I can’t say I understand keeping Livan Hernandez over him, but again, this is the last guy in the bullpen. It’s not a huge deal.

The much more important factor in this is Thornburg. Are the Brewers really doing the right thing by taking him out of a starting rotation and putting him in the bullpen? It smacks of desperation, and it bugs me that they are seemingly putting the team’s very small playoff chances ahead of the development of their top prospect.

Not to say moving a young pitcher to the bullpen for a time hasn’t worked before. Chris Sale is taking that route right now with great success. Still, the White Sox are monitoring his innings very closely because of his huge jump in innings. Last year he threw only 71 innings out of the Sox bullpen. He’s already at 101, and they’re in the middle of a playoff race. That’s a pretty dangerous jump. All sorts of studies show that pitchers 25 and under who increase their innings load by 30 or more from the previous season are at risk.

Thornburg is at 85.1 innings this year when you add up his starts in AA, AAA and his one MLB start. If he stayed in the rotation, that puts him around 160 innings–a near perfect jump from his 136 innings last year. Finally, 160 puts him in position to throw a full season next year–hopefully, in Milwaukee.

So instead of keeping their top prospect on a perfect course, they’re potentially screwing with his workload to chase a pipe dream playoff chance.

If they put him in the rotation soon, whether to replace Wolf, Estrada, or Greinke after a trade, I’m fine with this, but I’m not sure that happens. As of right now, I’m not loving what I’m seeing from the Brewers’ front office.