Milwaukee is loaded with homegrown talent (Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Ryan Braun, Bill Hall,
Ben Sheets and Rickie Weeks came through the system). Who will be next in line? Some prospects took positive steps during the 2008 season. Here’s a look back.
Regular Season: 59-81
Statistical Leaders: 1B Brad Nelson (.286, 18 homers, 78 RBIs), OF Laynce Nix (.284, 23 homers, 60 RBIs), LHP Lindsay Gulin (7-7, 3.54 ERA, 120 Ks)
Lowdown: The Sounds finished in last place in the Pacific Coast League. In fact, it’s the worst record in the franchise’s 31-year history. Nelson, Nix and Gulin, all veteran Minor Leaguers, somewhat helped their careers, but another step needs to be made to challenge for big-league playing time. The Sounds were hurt by the amount of talent developing in Double A for most of the season, which brings us to …
Regular Season: 73-67 (41-29 first half, 32-38 second half)
Statistical Leaders: 3B Mat Gamel (pictured, .329, 19 homers, 96 RBIs), LHP Brae Wright (6-10, 3.59 ERA, 120 Ks), LHP David Welch (11-4, 3.90 ERA, 95 Ks)
Lowdown: The Stars posted the best record of any team that missed the playoffs in the Southern League, if that’s any consolation. The hitters need no comforting, they were solid. The Stars hit a league-leading .285, 16 points higher than the second-best team. The top three individual hitters in the league? All Stars: C Angel Salome (.360), Gamel and SS Alcides Escobar (.328), all of whom were September callups. Then there’s OF Matt LaPorta, who led the team with 20 homers despite getting traded to Cleveland in the CC Sabathia deal.
Class A Brevard County
Regular Season: 66-72 (35-34 first half, 31-38 second half)
Statistical Leaders: 3B Taylor Green (.289, 15 homers, 73 RBIs), RHP Alexandre Periard (9-6, 3.51 ERA, 76 Ks), LHP Bobby Bramhall (5-4, 2.51 ERA, 106 Ks)
Lowdown: The club lost a lot of pitching talent to promotion, which explains the win/loss dropoff in the second half. RHP Jeremy Jeffress earned club Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors after missing the first the first 40 games because of a suspension in August 2007 for testing positive for marijuana. Jeffress was Milwaukee’s first-round pick in 2006 and went 4-6 with a 4.08 ERA in Brevard County before moving up to Huntsville.
Class A West Virginia
Regular Season: 77-62 (32-37 first half, 45-25 second half)
Postseason: South Atlantic League runners up (first round: 2-1 over Lake County; championship: 0-3 to Augusta)
Statistical Leaders: 1B Steffan Wilson (.289, 19 homers, 100 RBIs), RHP Evan Anundsen (12-8, 4.28 ERA, 102 Ks)
Lowdown: Second best team in the Sally League for the second straight year, but look at the difference between the first and second halves. Something got into the Power. They ended up leading the league in batting average and runs scored for the season.
— Nick Zaccardi
3B Mat Gamel and SS Alcides Escobar were named Milwaukee’s Minor League Players of the Year, while RHP Jeremy Jeffress was named the club’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year as recipients of the 2008 Robin Yount Performance Awards.
In Double-A Huntsville, Gamel, 23, hit .329 (second-best in the Southern League) with 19 homers and a league-leading 96 RBIs. In the last two weeks, he was promoted to Triple-A Nashville and then to the big-league club. He played in the MLB All-Star Futures Game and was named to Double-A mid-season and post-season All-Star teams.
Escobar, 21, joined Gamel on the Southern League All-Star rosters. He led the league with 179 hits and ranked third with a .328 average. Escobar (pictured), nicknamed Inspector Gadget for his fielding tools, was also recalled by Milwaukee when rosters expanded Monday.
Jeffress, 20, pitched for Class A Brevard County and at Huntsville this season, compiling a 6-7 record with a 4.31 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 94 innings. The 2006 first-round pick missed a chunk of the early season due to a drug suspension.
— Nick Zaccardi
Gulin went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA in two starts last week with 14 strikeouts, nine hits and five walks in 13 innings. The left-hander slowed the Round Rock Express in both games, including a two-hitter in seven innings on Saturday. For the season, he’s 7-7 with a 3.63 ERA.
For a little background, Gulin was drafted by the Mets in 1995 and has been in Triple-A in four seasons but never pitched in the big leagues. Gulin is 31, so time is not on his side. It would be a great story if he could continue to pitch well and earn that elusive call up.
Jeffress is more of what you would call a prospect. The 16th overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft also went 2-0 last week, giving up one run in 11 2/3 innings while striking out 11. Jeffress is only 20, and those two starts were Nos. 2 and 3 since being promoted to Double-A.
It’s a nice bounce back for Jeffress, who tested positive for “a drug of abuse” late last season and had to serve much of his 50-game suspension to start this year.
— Nick Zaccardi
CHICAGO — While the Brewers swept the Pirates this weekend, top prospect Mat Gamel was moved from Double-A to Triple-A.
He started at third base in his debut for the Nashville Sounds on Sunday. It was forgettable. Gamel went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. That’s right, the Golden Sombrero.
Gamel’s promotion comes with odd timing. Yes, he’s hitting .326 with 19 homers and 96 RBIs this season. But he batted .243 in July and .205 in August with Double-A Huntsville, so he’s far from at his best at the moment.
Could Gamel reach Milwaukee some time in September? General manager Doug Melvin is non-committal. This next week with Nashville could be a determining factor. More games like Sunday’s certainly won’t help his cause.
— Nick Zaccardi
On Wednesday the Brewers gave top pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress word that he’d be headed to Double-A Huntsville. Here is an excerpt of the Brewers.com report of the transaction:
“Jeffress, a hard-throwing right-hander and Milwaukee’s first-round
Draft pick in 2006, was bumped up to Double-A Huntsville on Wednesday.
The promotion came a day after Jeffress pitched six shutout innings and
allowed one hit in a win for Class A Brevard County.
The Brewers plan to send Jeffress to the Arizona Fall League, and
promoting him at this time expands their options for other choices
later. Each organization can send only one player to the prestigious
AFL who was not at least on a Double-A roster by Aug. 6.
“We want to keep our options open with the A-ball exception,” said
assistant general manager Gord Ash. “Plus, [Jeffress] deserves it.”
In his 15 appearances for Brevard County, Jeffress was 4-6 with a 4.08
ERA, but that includes one poor appearance in relief on July 6 in which
he surrendered five earned runs in five innings. In his 14 starts,
Jeffress was 4-5 with a 3.75 ERA.
Overall, Jeffress notched 102 strikeouts in 79 2/3 innings this season
versus 41 walks. He allowed three or fewer earned runs in each of his
past eight starts, a stretch that includes two scoreless appearances.”
The full report can be found at Brewers.com.
The Brewers announced this week that they have signed three more players from this year’s First Year Player Draft. Blake Billings, the club’s 19th round selection, along with Bobby McEwen and Steve Braun (undrafted free agents) have all reached agreements with the club.
Billings is a right-handed pitcher from Hillcrest High School in Alabama, McEwen is an righty out of Gonzaga University and Braun is an infielder from the University of Maryland.
Yes, Braun is the younger brother of Brewers All-Star outfielder Ryan Braun. He hit .276 with two home runs and 23 RBIs and also stole a team-high nine bases in 49 games for Maryland last season. He’s been assigned to the Brewers Advanced Rookie League affiliate in Helena, Mont.
“Who knows what’s going to happen, but if it all works out and we got
to play together one day at this level, it would be pretty cool,” said
Ryan Braun on Tuesday. “Just both of us being in the same professional organization
is special. Not too many brothers ever have an opportunity to do that.”
The full story on these signings can be found at Brewers.com.
Brewers give Gibbons another shot
Milwaukee also announced that it had purchased the contract of outfielder Jay Gibbons from the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League. Gibbons was signed to a minor-league deal and was assigned to Double-A Huntsville.
Gibbons played his entire seven-year career with the Baltimore Orioles before they released him following a disappointing showing in Spring Training. Gibbons had his best season in 2005, when he hit .277/.317/.516 with 26 home runs and 79 RBI in 139 games.
But he has seen limited action since then, playing just 90 games in 2006 and shoulder surgery limited him to 84 games in 2007.