Last year at this time the Brewers had gutted their system to acquire Zach Greinke and Shawn Marcum, leaving them with one of the worst minor leagues systems I had seen in a very long time. While they don’t suddenly have a system brimming with talent, there are a few arms at the top of the rankings that could impact the big leagues over the next two years and help form the core of the pitching staff for the next few years.
1. Wily Peralta (RHP)
Having been a part of the Brewers organization since 2006 Peralta’s name has seemingly been on the prospect radar forever. In that time he has consistently taken steps forward and no profiles as a durable mid-rotation starter. His fastball will work in the low and mid-90s consistently and his slider will work as a plus pitch at times. His change-up has come a long way and is easily a usable third pitch. He still needs to polish his location and the consistency of his change-up but Peralta is just about big league ready and could help in 2012 if injuries strike the big club.
2. Taylor Jungmann (RHP)
Jungmann was the clubs top pick last June and signed for a $2.5 million bonus late in the signing period. He has a long, lean frame and good arm action. His fastball works from 90-93 mph consistently and he has shown more on occasion. His slider shows plus potential and he could have an average change-up with more work. He pounds the strike zone with all three pitches. Though the occasional scout sees Jungmann as a potential number two starter, the consensus sees him as more of a solid number three.
3. Jed Bradley (LHP)
The Brewers second first round pick, Bradley was taken just three picks behind Jungmann and also signed close to the August deadline. He has good height like Jungmann but a thicker frame that lends to his ability to maintain his velocity deep into starts. He works 90-92 mph consistently from the left side and will touch as high as 95 once in a while. He also throws a slider and change-up and most scouts I spoke with liked his slider better than Jungmann’s. His change-up is further behind Jungmann’s though it has improved. Bradley also projects as a number three starter and he and Jungmann could arrive in Milwaukee together.
4. Taylor Green (2B/3B)
Green can flat out hit and that was masked prior to the 2011 season thanks to surgery on his left wrist before the 2009 season. He uses the whole field exceptionally well and he sprays hard hit line drives all over the place. He has added some loft to his swing, combined with his natural strength and has power that rates a tick above-average. He could max out as a 15-18 homer guy with lots of doubles and a good batting average. He is a tough case defensively as he doesn’t profile well at third or second base. If he hits the team will find room for him and he could hit in the upper half of a good lineup.
5. Tyler Thornburg (RHP)
A smallish (5-11, 185) right-hander Thornburg sits with average velocity and can bump 93-94 mph when he needs more. He has shown more velocity in short spurts and plenty of scouts think he could excel in a relief role. His change-up is his best pitch with excellent fade and the potential to be a 60-grade offering. He leaves his curveball up frequently and doesn’t always get good rotation on it but it should be a usable third pitch down the line. Several scouts I spoke with last year are concerned about his fastball-change-up profile and believe he would be better served as a reliever dialing it up to the mid-90s as a setup man.
6. Scooter Gennett (2B)
Gennett is a tough player for me to rank. Over the years I’ve been burned by running little second baseman that can hit up my rankings and I’ve seemingly established some sort of personal bias against them as a result. He can flat out hit the baseball. While he does have some strength he has modest doubles power and doesn’t project for more against better pitching. He is an improving defender but still has a ways to go and his bat will have to continue to carry him. If he doesn’t hit .300 he doesn’t have much value and his prospect star will quickly fade.
7. Logan Schafer (OF)
Schafer does a little bit of everything on the field. He is an outstanding contact hitter with wonderful command of the strike zone. He should continue to hit for average and get on base in the Major Leagues. His power is limited to the doubles variety but he has enough strength and the wheels to hit 25+ doubles a year. He is a quality defender in center field and his arm is a fringe-average tool that plays in center field. He could be a decent regular or a fourth outfielder de jour.
8. Jorge Lopez (RHP)
An ultra-projectable right-hander, the Brewers popped Lopez in the second round last summer out of Puerto Rico. He has extremely long limbs and a clean delivery that scouts praise. His fastball is fringe-average now and will touch 93 mph at times but scouts don’t hesitate to project a tick or two additional velocity in coming years. His curveball has the potential to be at least a plus pitch. Both his change-up and command are well below-average but he is a good athlete that should see progress in those areas as he gains experience. In an ideal situation Lopez could max out as a number two starter though it’s much easier to project him as a mid-rotation guy.
9. Cody Scarpetta (RHP)
A short-armer with outstanding size, Scarpetta will having outings where he shows a plus fastball and plus cureball, and others where he struggles to show anything enticing. His command comes and goes regularly and his change-up is a below-average pitch that is unreliable. At his best his fastball-curveball combination has the ability to miss bats and torture a lineup. Given the deception his short-arm delivery provides, his struggles with command and the quality of his top two pitches, Scarpetta projects best in the eighth inning.
10. Santo Manzanillo (RHP)
This ranking is aggressive considering the off-season injury Manzanillo incurred. He suffered a sprained right shoulder after a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Though how he comes back from the injury will be unknown until sometime this spring, he has showed triple-digit heat in the past. Assuming he comes back as the pitcher he finished 2011 then Manzanillo offers late inning velocity and enough of a breaking ball that he can keep hitters from sitting dead red. His command also stepped forward in 2011, giving him more of a closer profile than he held before. If healthy he has a chance to see time in the Brewers bullpen this year.
11. Orlando Arcia (SS)
The younger brother of Twins prospect Oswaldo Arcia, Orlando is a very different player than his brother. An range, athletic player with the natural skills to play shortstop on an everyday level. He moves well and has average arm strength. He has a line drive swing with some strength and the projection to be an above-average hitter with fringe-average home run power. There is a lot of physical maturation required for Arcia to reach his ceiling as a solid everyday middle infielder and he will likely require five to six years before he’s on the big league radar.
12. Jimmy Nelson (RHP)
Nelson is a beast of a man, standing 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 245 pounds. He as excellent mound presence and the big stuff to back it up, reaching as high as 96 mph with his four-seam fastball. He also throws a slower sinking fastball that induces lots of ground balls. His slider is a solid pitch that shows some potential but he lacks consistency with it. Tough he continues to work on a change-up the pitch is well below-average. If he can pull everything – including his mechanics – together he could profile as a number three or four starter that eats 200 innings a year with quality stuff.
13. David Goforth (RHP)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m a sucker for big time arm strength and Goforth is no exception to that rule. In short spurts the 2011 seventh round pick has shown velocity as high as 98 mph. He has a lightning fast arm that works well though he lacks the ability to maintain his arm slot, causing him to lose control at times. He added a cut fastball in 2011 and that improved his success dramatically. Though he toys with a curveball and change-up, neither is expected to get much use as a professional. Goforth could move extremely fast as a power reliever capable of working in the eighth inning.
14. Michael Reed (OF)
Several scouts I spoke with last spring loved Reed’s physicality. He’s well-built and strong though he maintains at least average speed. He has the arm and athleticism to profile in right field defensively. His hitting ability is raw but he has shown some improvement in controlling the strike zone and making more consistent contact. His natural strength allows for plus power projection to round out his right field profile. He isn’t a high school prospect that will move quickly but he has a chance to impact the big leagues if everything comes together.
15. D’Vontrey Richardson (OF)
Continuing to rank Richardson is nothing short of a bet on his raw tools eventually being actualized. He is a supreme athlete having played offense and defense at various times for the Florida State football team. He is a 70-grade runner on the bases and in the outfield, which is good because his instincts lag behind in both areas. He knows the strike zone well for an inexperienced player but he struggles with pitch recognition and will likely always have a lot of swing and miss in his game. He will show strength in batting practice but his lack of pitch recognition leads to more weak contact in game situations. He has a long way to go but Richardson’s tools could still turn him into an above-average regular.