Talkin’ Prospects

So my Baseball America Prospect Handbook arrived last week, and I finally had a chance to look through it. As it has been the past few years, the Brewers’ farm system is ranked among the best in baseball–BA ranks them fifth in talent this year. This is a topic that I love talking about because it is imperative that a smaller-market team like the Brewers drafts well.

Here’s a look at some of the Brewers’ top prospects.

Yovani Gallardo, RHP
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Any talk of Brewers prospects should start with Gallardo. Selected in the second round of the 2004 draft, Yo has established himself as an elite pitching prospect. He led the minors in strikeouts (188) and finished third in ERA (1.86). Unlike many young pitchers, Gallardo changes speeds well and is lauded for great mechanics. As Ned Yost would say, “He’s a pitcher. He makes pitches. He knows how to pitch.”

Baseball America writers rank Gallardo anywhere from the 13th to 18th prospect in baseball. If you need any more convincing, consider this quote from BA’s handbook: “Barring injury, it’s going to be difficult to hold him back for long. Gallardo will challenge Ben Sheets for the designation as Milwaukee’s No. 1 starter in the near future.”

Ryan Braun, 3b
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I recently discussed Braun in my third base post. Drafted out of the University of Miami in 2005, Braun has done nothing but hit since joining the Brewers’ organization. BA writers rank Braun anywhere from the 23rd to 46th best prospect in baseball. Braun will certainly move up to AAA this season if he doesn’t make the major league team. He should be ready by Opening Day 2008, but could be called up at some point this season.

Will Inman, RHP
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Inman was another high school pitcher drafted by the Brewers in the third round of 2005. Last season with class A West Virginia, Inman went 10-2 with a 1.71 ERA and recorded 134 strikeouts in 111 innings. As Milwaukee’s second-ranked pitching prospect, Inman is a bit infamous for his competitiveness and intensity on the mound. He’ll only be 20 this season, so the fact that he is moving up to high A Brevard County is very encouraging.

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
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Jeffress was the Brewers’ first pick in the 2006 draft. With the 16th overall pick, the Brewers continued their trend of taking the high risk/high ceiling player out of high school. He’s a fireballer, working regularly in the high 90s and topping out at 102 mph. As most pitchers do, Jeffress struggled a bit with his control in his first half-season of pro ball. Jeffress is definitely a project, but many scouts compare his athletic ability and velocity to Dwight Gooden.

Cole Gillespie, LF
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Drafted last year in the third round, Gillespie co-captained the Oregon State Beavers to a national championship last season. I was actually at the College World Series last year, and knowing the Brewers had drafted him, watched Gillespie very closely. As he patiently worked the count and put together great at-bats, I became convinced the Brewers got a steal.

He’s athletic and a good defensive outfielder. A shoulder injury has limited him to left field, but the Brewers don’t seem to think that’s a problem. In BA’s 2006 draft analysis of the Brewers, Gillespie nabbed titles of “Best Pro Debut,” “Best Pure Hitter” and “Closest to the Majors.” He hit .344/.464/.548 in his first pro season, and he projects to be an on-base machine. He should move quickly through the minors.

Mark Rogers, RHP
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Rogers was drafted fifth overall in 2004, and has been a bit frustrating so far. He’s shown flashes of greatness (i.e. averaging 11 k/9 as a pro), but choppy mechanics have led to some injury problems. Rogers was tabbed for arthroscopic shoulder surgery and will miss substantial time. The fact that super-prospects Jeremy Sowers and Homer Bailey, who will both likely pitch in the majors this year, were selected after Rogers adds to some of the frustration. The Brewers remain high on Rogers, however.

Other notable prospects:

Angel Salome, C
He is the closest the Brewers have had to a catching prospect in years. At 5’7″ and 190 lbs, “Pocket Pudge” is working to refine his defensive skills. He’s still a couple years away but the team is excited about him.

Yohannis Perez, SS
Yo #2 was a Cuban defector signed last year, and is compared to Rickie Weeks and Yuniesky Betancourt. He will probably start at AA.

Brent Brewer, SS
Noted for incredible athleticism and his fitting name, Brewer was drafted in the second round last year. Many think he’ll be moved, as he has the tools to be a great center fielder.

Steve Hammond, LHP
Hammond will be in the AAA rotation this year, and projects as a back-end starter. He could see Milwaukee this year, particularly out of the bullpen.

Lorenzo Cain, OF
Cain has five tools with some pop, but has racked up some strikeouts. The Brewers are high on the 20-year old, and he’ll play in high A this year.

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