I need to talk about something positive.

Posted by Steve

I’ve been so down about the Brewers and the outlook for the rest of the season that I feel it’s necessary for me to write about something positive. Unfortunately, to do so I won’t be writing about the big league team.

The best thing about baseball, if you’re a die-hard fan, even when things are going poorly with your team, there are still reasons to be excited. One is the draft, and I’m getting pumped for it—less than a month away. Another thing to get excited about is impressive prospects. Right now the Brewers have two sluggers in AA Huntsville who are raking.

Left fielder Matt LaPorta is making AA look like a semi-pro league. In 118 at-bats, LaPorta is hitting .331/.426/.695 with a gaudy 1.120 OPS. He leads the Stars in home runs (10), RBI (36), walks (17) and slugging percentage.

Last year’s first round pick was largely expected to spend all of 2007 in the minors, with most/all of the year being spent in AA. If he continues this pace, the Brewers will probably need to promote LaPorta to AAA by mid-season. Don’t be surprised by a call-up to Milwaukee in September, either.

LaPorta-from mlb.com                              Gamel-from mlb.com

The other prospect is third-baseman Mat Gamel. Gamel broke out last season, and hasn’t slowed down a bit offensively. In 136 at-bats, Gamel is hitting .368/.434/.640, good for a 1.074 OPS.

Both of these players could very likely hold their own offensively in Milwaukee right now. The question for each, though—and it seems like we’re saying this for every top Brewers hitting prospect—is defense. LaPorta was a first baseman throughout college, so he’ll never be a very good defensive outfielder. Most accounts have LaPorta holding his own pretty well in left so far, however.

Gamel is unfortunately a different story. He has a lot of work to do if he wants to stick at third base. His defense last year made Ryan Braun look like a gold glove defender. Errors aren’t the end-all-be-all by any means, but he already has 10 this season.

One thing to keep in mind for those wanting the Brewers to trade for a pitcher: these two players are the ones every team will be asking for. I can’t envision the Brewers getting back a top-of-the-rotation starter without giving up one of these players (unless they give up an MLB player).

It’s hard to say which player is more valuable at this point. LaPorta will almost surely be in Milwaukee before Gamel, as Gamel will need to work more on his defense in the minors. However, Gamel is left-handed, which gives him an edge, and as long as he’s still playing third base, his value will be very high. Keep an eye on these two throughout the season, especially if you need some good news if things keep going south for the Brewers.

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