Results tagged ‘ Stars ’

Another Opening Day

Tonight, the full-season affiliates of the Milwaukee Brewers (and other organizations as well, but you’re here for a reason so let’s focus) begin their respective regular seasons for 2013. The Brewers have four such affiliates so let’s give you a quick rundown of each one along with some quick hit info.

Nashville Sounds – Class-AAA Affiliate

The Nashville Sounds begin their 34th season of play and their 9th season as the Brewers’ top affiliate. Last year the Sounds got off to a poor start both at the plate and on the mound, but turned it around a bit as the season advanced. They technically wound up with a second-place finish in their Pacific Coast League, American Conference, Northern Division, but only sporting a 67-77 record for the campaign and falling well short of the playoffs.

While the Sounds had just one All-Star in 2012 (current Brewers reliever Jim Henderson), plenty of the parent club’s current players have made a stop in Music City, U.S.A. on their way to The Show. One man who has already debuted in the big leagues but is hoping to eventually carve himself out a permanent spot on Milwaukee’s pitching staff is the Sounds’ 2013 Opening Day starting pitcher: Tyler Thornburg.

Thornburg had an interesting 2012 as a professional with a run of oddly timed promotions which threw off his schedule and a shift in role which threw off his routine and ultimately led to some physical problems. With what is expected to be a full season of starting games again, the Brewers are hoping Thornburg can once again show the form that resulted in an 8-1 first-half record with Huntsville compete with a selection to the Double-A All-Star Game.

Thornburg will be followed in the Sounds’ rotation by 40-man rosterees Hiram Burgos and Johnny Hellweg, Zach Kroenke as the four, with Frankie De La Cruz rounding things out.

For more on Tyler Thornburg, check out his profile in my “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” series: #63 Tyler Thornburg

Filling out the batting order are such recognizable names as Scooter Gennett, Blake Lalli, Hainley Statia, Caleb Gindl, and Southern League (AA) MVP Hunter Morris. The Sounds have a nice mix of up-and-comers along with guys on the precipice of MLB service time.

The same can be said for the bullpen which is likely to be anchored by Donovan Hand who almost won a spot in the Brewers ‘pen to begin the season.

Huntsville Stars – Class-AA Affiliate

***UPDATE: The Stars’ opener was rained out tonight. Nelson will start tomorrow.***

Starting on the bump for the Stars tonight will be Jimmy Nelson, he of the 2010 draft class (second round). Nelson began the 2012 season with the High-A Manatees and was advanced up the ladder during the summer. Combined in 2012, Nelson posted a 6-8 record with an ERA of 2.83 in 127.1 innings across 23 starts. With his success in High-A, Nelson made himself the primary candidate to move up when promotion time came around and Huntsville had an opening.

While he struggled early with Huntsville, not much should be read into it. Many baseball people concur that other than the jump from Triple-A to the bigs (of course), the step between High-A and Double-A is the biggest one that a professional player makes. That being said, a heavy ball plays so long as it can be controlled. Following a brief appearance in the Arizona Fall League where it was clear that he was worn out, Nelson enters this season with elevated expectations as he continues along his career track. The Brewers have confidence in him, he has confidence in himself, and with his ability those things ought to come together pretty well in 2013.

Brevard County Manatees – Class-A Advanced Affiliate

The Manatees of the Florida State League play their home games at Space Coast Stadium. That’s awesome. Their rallying cry is “Fear the Sea Cow”. That’s even more awesome. From a production standpoint, the FSL is notoriously brutal on hitters, but the Manatees only got mediocre production from some of their pitching last year. That was en route to a 63-72 record. Looking to start the turn around on the right foot will be Opening Day starter and 2011 1st round draft pick, southpaw Jed Bradley.

Bradley had a rough go of things in 2012 after starting off well initially. More on his 2012 season can be found in his BBt(J)N profile here: #77 Jed Bradley. If the Georgia Tech product can remain injury/issue free in 2013, he’ll hopefully be able to flash more of the ability which led to his selection as the 15th overall choice 22 months ago.

Joining Bradley (who spent all of 2012 with Brevard County) will be a bevvy of graduates from Matt Erickson’s prep school in Appleton, Wisconsin. All they did together was win their league championship last year. Hopefully the magic sticks with the players as they spend some time in south Florida to begin the season.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – Class-A Affiliate

The 2012 Midwest League Champion Timber Rattlers will begin their title defense with a series in Peoria, Illinois before coming home for an April 8th tilt which features a bobblehead giveaway with the likeness of manager Matt Erickson holding the MWL Championship trophy. It’s sharp.

Off the field, the local owners of the facility pumped a bunch of money in and many structural improvements were made to the structure around the field. The press box was expanded, the broadcast booths were segregated and moved; it was a nice facility before, but now it’s even better.

On the mound, 2012 draft choice (4th round) Tyler Wagner gets the starting nod. It sounds like Erickson will once again be employing the “piggyback” technique where another starting pitcher knows he will be pitching for sure on a given day despite not starting in the first inning. To that end, Mike Strong will follow Wagner on the bump.

As for at the plate, the Timber Rattlers begin the year featuring a treasure trove of prospects. Most top choices from the 2012 draft (Clint Coulter, Mitch Haniger, Tyrone Taylor, etc) will be there right away. They’ll be joined by prospect darling Orlando Arcia with slugger Victor Roache expected to be not far behind as he gets a little time in extended spring training in Arizona.

There are many more names in the system that I could call out, but on this Opening Day I just wanted to highlight a few including the focus on the Opening Day starting pitchers for each affiliate.

While the Brewers system is widely panned by the experts — I think the highest rank I saw out of 30 was 23rd best — there are some pieces to be excited about. Follow along if you choose to, but rest assured that help is developing throughout the minor league affiliates which begin play tonight. After all, there is no substitute for game action in baseball.

Good luck to the Sounds, Stars, Manatees, and defending champion Timber Rattlers! Maybe the Brewers will have some more rings to give out before the 2014 season.

Brewers Protect Five From Rule V Draft

The Brewers announced this morning that they have added five players to their 40-man roster ahead of tonight’s midnight EST deadline for protecting players from the upcoming Rule V Draft.

The players protected are:

  • RHP Nick Bucci
  • RHP Hiram Burgos
  • OF Khris Davis
  • INF Scooter Gennett
  • OF Josh Prince

Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash was contacted for some quotes* about the players added today and said the following about how they arrived at these five names.

“They’ve all excelled at various times over the course of the season at different levels. Probably even more important than that are the tools and ability they possess. We want to manage and protect our assets. We didn’t want to lose any of the five.”

“We had some other guys we liked as well,” said Ash. “We did our due diligence. We started with a list of nine or 10 names and whittled them down. There are surprises (in the Rule 5) every year. You can’t protect everybody.”

Nick Bucci

Bucci is 21 years old and coming off of a very good 2012 season split between the Low- and High-A levels of the Brewers farm system. He posted combined numbers of a 1.90 ERA, 1.102 WHIP, 9.3 K/9 in 42.2 innings over 10 starts. He missed time to begin the season coming off of an injury. His season debut was July 18th with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Bucci finished his year with a stint in the Arizona Fall League. Not only are the Brewers high on him, but after missing the amount of time he did, it was a way to help him get more innings before shutting it back down for the winter.

“I wouldn’t put much emphasis at the level he pitched at. That was mostly a rehab assignment,” said Ash. “He’s young and has a good arm, and a team could keep him as the 13th pitcher on the staff (if taken in the Rule 5 draft). For $50,000 (the draft price), you can’t replace that kind of arm. It might be a longer road for him but we like his upside.”

Hiram Burgos

Burgos, 25, rocketed through the system in 2012. He began the year with the High-A Brevard County Manatees, made a stop in Double-A with the Huntsville Stars, and finished as a Nashville Sound in Triple-A. There was even talk that he was being kept at the ready in late September should the Brewers have needed an extra arm later in their season. Quite the year. That is evidenced in his numbers which ended up at a 1.95 ERA (2.91 in AAA), 1.035 WHIP (only 128 hits), over 171.0 innings pitched in 28 games (27 starts).

“Everyone wants to put labels on him and he is a Shaun Marcum type,” said Ash. “He has great command and without overpowering stuff he still has a knack for missing bats. It’s hard to explain. He has command of the strike zone and a real knack for getting out of trouble as well. Those are some of the intangibles you look for in a pitcher.”

Khris Davis

Davis is a 6’0″, 195 lb outfielder who both bats and throws right-handed, turns 25 next month. Davis began his season with Huntsville before an injury and subsequent rehab assignment cost him some time. He came back to Hunstville in early July and was promoted to Triple-A on July 30th where he played out the remainder of the season. Davis played a total of 82 games in the regular season posting a combined line of .350/.451/.604 which includes a .310/.414/.522 line at Triple-A in 32 games. Davis was also assigned to the Arizona Fall League in order to get more at-bats but he didn’t fare as well in the desert the second time around. Still, he does appear to have a bat which could play at the MLB level one day.

“He’s a tremendous offensive player,” said Ash. “He’s a bit streaky but when he’s hot, he’s real hot. I saw him hit the longest home run I saw all year at Nashville. It went over the batter’s eye in center field. The ability is there and in the American League it’s easy to carry an extra hitter (as a Rule 5 pick). His bat is close to being big-league ready. We didn’t want to lose him.”

Scooter Gennett

Gennett’s addition to the 40-man roster was probably the easiest to guess (outside of Burgos because Melvin told us so in an interview awhile ago) because despite his small stature (5’9″, 164 lbs) his profile has been an elevated one. All he’s done is hit since signing with the Brewers after being drafted in the 16th round of the 2009 draft. Over .300 at both Low-A and High-A, Gennett continued his progression with a full season in Double-A which saw his average dip to .293 but he basically maintained his OBP including an increase to his walk rate. He is still learning second base defensively after being drafted as a shortstop, but those issues are getting farther away in his rear view with each inning. His errors decreased, his fielding percentage has gone up every season (I know…I know), and his Range Factor per Game has also increased every season.

Josh Prince

The final player who was added today (alphabetically, not necessarily reflective of ability) was tapped due to his incredible “season” in the Arizona Fall League. Josh Prince was just converting from infield to outfield defensively and after a pedestrian season at Double-A Huntsville (.251/.346/.360) the Brewers probably thought that they might be able to avoid protecting him for one more year. Then when Mat Gamel’s exemption request to play in the AFL was denied, the Brewers sent Prince instead and he absolutely rose to the occasion. Now, AFL offensive stats are often inflated but Prince even rose to the top of the inflation. He hit a team-best .404 which was good for second-highest overall in league. His OBP was .491 so he was still drawing some walks (a team-best 15, 5th-best in the AFL) and his slugging finished at .573 which gave him an OPS over 1.000 at 1.064.

“That (AFL) performance certainly put him over the top,” said Ash. “That kind of performance in that setting is something everyone notices. He was the talk of the league, and every scout from every team passes through there at some point. It’s hard to minimize that kind of performance. He solidified his place in the organization.”

With these additions, the Brewers 40-man roster currently sits at 39.

*Appreciation and credit to Tom Haudricourt at the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel for the quotes about the players from Brewers assistant general manger Gord Ash.

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