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