Top 10 Prospects: The Milwaukee Brewers by Marc Hulet December 8, 2010 The Milwaukee Brewers 2010 MLB Record: 77-84 (3rd in the NL Central) Minor League Power Ranking: 24th (out of 30) Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List The Prospects 1. Jake Odorizzi, RHP Acquired: 2008 supplemental 1st round (Illinois HS) Pro Experience: 3 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A Opening Day Age: 21 Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0 Notes: Odorizzi was my favorite prep arm in the 2008 draft and I was more than a little surprised to see the Brewers get him with the 32nd overall selection. He suddenly became the club’s top prospect after second baseman Brett Lawrie was dealt to the Jays. Odorizzi broke out in 2010 after being handled cautiously for the first two years of his pro career. The right-hander spent the entire ’10 season in low-A ball and produced a 2.93 FIP in 120.2 innings. Odorizzi saw his strikeout rate jump to 10.07 K/9, while his control was respectable with him posting a rate of 2.98 BB/9. He also had an average ground-ball rate of 46%. Odorizzi has a four-pitch mix with an 88-93 mph fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. He may be better off scrapping the slider and focusing on three pitches. The right-hander has room to fill out and could add a few more ticks to his fastball. Odorizzi will likely continue to move slowly and he should spend most of the year in high-A ball. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter. 2. Mark Rogers, RHP Acquired: 2004 1st round (Maine HS) Pro Experience: 7 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA/MLB Opening Day Age: 25 Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0 Notes: Rogers was the fifth overall pick during the 2004 draft. The Maine native had little trouble adjusting to life in pro ball despite signing out of high school. Injuries derailed his career, though, and he missed all of 2007 and 2008 after shoulder surgery. The right-hander has always struggled with his control – both before and after surgery – and he posted a walk rate of 5.56 BB/9 in double-A in 2010. Rogers made his MLB debut late in the season with two relief appearances and two starts. He showcased a solid fastball, as well as respectable secondary offerings: curveball, slider, and changeup. He has the pitches necessary to start but his injury history and lack of fastball command could lead to a career as a high-leverage reliever where he could focus on fastball-curveball. Rogers’ heater has reached the upper 90s in short stints but it has shown good movement when he throws it 92-93 mph. On the mound, Rogers has a strong lower half and utilizes a long stride in his delivery. His command issues come from an inconsistent arm slot and his throwing shoulder often flies open, which elevates his pitches. I’ve also noticed that you can pick up his grips from second base and he may need to shield his glove better. 3. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Acquired: 2006 1st round (Virginia HS) Pro Experience: 5 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A/A+/AA/MLB Opening Day Age: 23 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0 Notes: Jeffress is one of the most talented arms in the system – including the Majors – but the right-hander’s personal demons make him a tough player to rank. He has a fastball that can hit the upper 90s, as well as a good curveball and an OK changeup. Unfortunately, he occasionally telegraphs his breaking ball by throwing it at a slightly different arm slot. The right-hander moved to the bullpen in 2010 and had a lot of success. He could develop into a big league closer as long as his control holds up and he can avoid getting suspended from baseball. After already serving a 100-game suspension for an abuse of drugs, Jeffress is one positive test away from being suspended from baseball for life. The right-hander appears to have cleaned up his act, though, and he made his MLB debut in 2010 with 10 innings out of the bullpen. He should spend 2011 in the Majors, unless he has a poor spring. 4. Kyle Heckathorn, RHP Acquired: 2009 supplemental 1st round (Kennesaw State) Pro Experience: 2 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A/A+ Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0 Notes: Heckathorn is an interesting prospect. The right-hander was drafted for his ability to hit the high-90s with his heater with quality control, but he’s never been overly dominant due to an inconsistent slider and below-average changeup. He opened the 2010 season in low-A ball and posted a strikeout rate of just 7.09 K/9. He finished off the season with a 3.12 FIP in 39.0 innings and his strikeout rate dropped to 5.31 K/9. Heckathorn also produces above-average ground-ball numbers. If he cannot continue to improve his secondary pitches, he could end up in bullpen as a high-leverage reliever- likely as a set-up man. 5. Wily Peralta, RHP Acquired: 2006 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic) Pro Experience: 5 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A+/AA Opening Day Age: 21 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0 Notes: Peralta has had a fair bit of success in the minors despite his youth. He has a strong fastball that can touch the mid-90s, and he also features a slider and changeup. The right-hander breezed through high-A ball in 2010 and posted a FIP of 3.70 and gave up 101 hits in 105.0 innings. After posting a strikeout rate of 10.24 K/9 in 2009 at low-A ball, Peralta’s rate dropped to 6.43 K/9 in ’10. He’s also shown inconsistent control throughout his career. Peralta has a larger frame and a lack of conditioning is a concern even at his young age. He throws with a three-quarter arm slot and does a nice job of making all his pitches look the same as they come out of his hand. He does, though, have a habit of holding onto his changeup too long at times. He also seems to lose concentration at times, which could suggest a career in the ‘pen might be better for him in the long run. But Peralta does get rattled easily so high-leverage situations could be a problem. 6. Cody Scarpetta, RHP Acquired: 2007 11th round (Illinois HS) Pro Experience: 3 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A+ Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0 Notes: Scarpetta had a solid season in 2010 while posting a 3.24 FIP and a strikeout rate of 9.98 K/9 in high-A ball. The right-hander made 27 starts and could develop into a real workhorse, but he might need to improve his conditioning a bit to maintain his stuff late into games. Scarpetta flashes a good 89-94 mph fastball and a plus curveball. His changeup has developed to the point where he’s no longer considered a future reliever- as long as he can improve his control (4.71 BB/9 in 2010). Scarpetta utilizes a long stride and throws with a high three-quarters arm slot. There is not a ton of effort in his delivery but he doesn’t have the smoothest throwing motion, which explains the control issues. Although he has a good breaking ball, he has a habit of slowing his arm down when he throws it, which will tip off advanced hitters. 7. Hunter Morris, 1B Acquired: 2010 4th round (Auburn University) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: A Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5 Notes: Morris was a talented prep hitter who fell to the second round of the 2007 draft due to signability concerns. He headed off to college and his hopes to improve upon his draft status were dashed after an inconsistent college career. In his pro debut, Morris hit .251/.306/.436 in 291 low-A at-bats. He’ll need to be more patience at the plate after posting a walk rate of just 6.4%. He stole seven bases in his debut and has OK speed for a first baseman but he’s not going to steal many bases at the big league level. He could use it to turn some singles into doubles. Morris hits with a wide, well-balanced stance. His bat speed is average, though, so his power is dependent on his strong wrists and good leverage; He clears his hips quickly. Defensively, he has quick feet and a strong arm. His range is above average. Morris is a little soft around the middle so he could lose some range before too long. He should move up high-A in 2011 and could reach double-A. 8. Jimmy Nelson, RHP Acquired: 2010 2nd round (University of Alabama) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: Rookie Opening Day Age: 21 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0 Notes: A big, strong pitcher at 6’6” 235 lbs, Nelson projects as a durable third starter. He struggles with his release point, which creates inconsistent control, but there is little effort in his motion. He throws with a high three-quarter motion and takes a long stride. When he throws 88-93 mph, his heater has some life but it straightens out when he touches the mid-90s. He also shows a good slider and a developing changeup. When he has good command, Nelson generates a lot of ground balls (61% in rookie ball in 2010). He was used as a reliever in his pro debut and posted a strikeout rate of 11.14 K/9 but his numbers were skewed by a .399 BABIP and iffy control. 9. Tyler Thornburg, RHP Acquired: 2010 3rd round (Charleston Southern U) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: Rookie Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 2.0 Notes: A starter in college, Thornburg has the potential to develop into a set-up man at the MLB level. The right-hander has a fastball in the 89-95 mph range but he struggles to control it. His arm action has a lot of effort to it with a whippy action. He also shows a plus changeup but his breaking ball is below average. He has the potential to produce good K-numbers and solid ground-ball rates. A two-way player at Charleston, Thornburg’s command could take a step forward as he focuses on a single role. He throws with a high arm slot. In his debut, he posted a strikeout rate of 14.66 K/9 in 23.1 innings. If the organization can help him harness his fastball, Thornburg could move quickly, especially if he moves to the ‘pen full time. 10. Caleb Gindl, OF Acquired: 2007 5th round (Florida HS) Pro Experience: 4 season 2010 MiLB Level: AA Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0 Notes: Some prospect watchers will prefer Kentrail Davis to Gindl. Both outfielders are undersized but Gindl’s approach and mechanics at the plate impress me a little more. He’s more likely to carve out a nice career as a fourth or platoon outfielder. Gindl utilizes a wide, well-balanced stance but tends to get out on his front foot a little too much, which results in lazy pop flies. His swing produces average bat speed. He doesn’t have great stolen-base speed but he’s a good base runner underway and could stretch some singles into doubles. In 2010, Gindl spent the year in double-A and produced a triple-slash line of .272/.352/.406 in 534 at-bats. He shows nice patience at the plate (10.3 BB%) and has done a nice job of improving his contact rates (K% down from 23.4 to 16.8% from ’09 to ’10). His power output (.134) is short for a corner outfield spot. He can play all three outfield positions but projects better in right field.