Looking for pitching? Well, the Brewers have some, albeit some that come with limited upside and no clear potential ace. Most of their top prospects have departed in recent trades in hopes of a World Series run. To be honest, while what they were left with on the farms isn’t great, it’s far from bad.
Top 5 Brewers Fantasy Prospects
1. Wily Peralta, SP
Josh’s take: Peralta broke out in the high minors last year, and is one of the few impact prospects in the organization that wasn’t drafted in the 2011 amateur draft. After gutting the system to acquire Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, the team needed someone to step up, and Peralta answered the bell. He’s a large man on the mound, 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds according to his Baseball America bio. He’s armed with a plus velocity fastball, sits at 91-95 mph and can touch 98 mph (throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball), slider, and change-up. Neither of his secondary offerings are lauded, but the slider is considered the better pitch of the two. He used that pitch mix effectively striking out better than a batter-per-inning, 9.38 K/9 combining Double-A and Triple-A stats. Peralta also made huge strides in his control walking fewer batters, 3.91 BB/9 in 2010 and 3.52 BB/9 in 2011. He’s unlikely to break camp with the team, as the entire 2011 rotation returns, but should someone struggle or get hurt, he looks ready to step right in and take the ball.
Charlie’s take: The one thing I like the most about Peralta’s potential fantasy impact is his track record for generating ground balls. According to FirstInning.com, Peralta generated ground ball rates of 56 percent at both levels in 2011. It seems his on the the ground and out of the stands, there is a chance for some impact in mixed leagues. However, his minor league performance from level-to-level hasn’t exactly been consistent. Was his 2011 step-up the real deal? He’ll have to prove it to fantasy GMs once again in 2012 before anyone should truly trust him in keeper leagues.
2. Jed Bradley, SP
Josh’s take: The Brewers popped the former Georgia Tech product at pick 15 in this past year’s draft. Bradley already has gotten a taste of professional baseball making five appearances, two of which were starts, in the Arizona Fall League. It’s not enough of a sample, 8.1 innings, to draw much from, but it is promising he’s already gotten some of his acclimation of being a pro out of the way. Bradley is a southpaw that throws hard, low-90s fastball that can hit mid-90s when he needs something extra, a plus change-up, and a slider that needs some work to consistently be average. As a guy drafted out of college, expect him to open the year in full season ball, but don’t expect to see him in the show this year.
Charlie’s take: In my opinion, the upside of this young lefty could push him above Peralta. The only problem is that we haven’t seen him pitch much at a professional level yet. I had a chance to see him for just a bit in the Arizona Fall League and I loved what I saw from his delivery, which was simple, repeatable and should lead to above average command as he strides toward the big leagues. Like most of the arms on this list of Brewers prospects, Bradley’s upside isn’t huge, but more than enough to project him as a solid number three starter and a guy you’ll eventually target late in drafts in mixed leagues.
3. Taylor Jungmann, SP
Josh’s take: Jungmann was the first Brewers first round selection this past year, pick 12, but finds himself behind Bradley due to being right-handed. As a member of the Texas Longhorns, he had an incredibly successful college career (32 wins and 9 losses in three seasons with a 1.85 ERA and 0.97 WHIP). He showcased excellent control that improved every year, 2.83 BB/9 for his career, but had a merely good, not great, strikeout rate, 9.01 K/9. What is a bit bothersome is that his worst strikeout rate, 8.04 K/9, came in his final season, as a Junior, in college. There is certainly something to be said about the type of success he exhibited, but don’t make the mistake of projecting him as a future ace. His stuff is more fitting of a mid-rotation starter, and includes a low-90s fastball that can hit mid-90s, a plus slider, and a change-up that is below average. Like Bradley, he should open up in full season ball, but don’t expect to see him in the bigs this year.
Charlie’s take: We’ll see what adjustments Jungmann makes as a pro, but I’m a little concerned with how he rushes his arm through the drive-line during his delivery. His motions is essentially smooth, but his front leg seems to land (based on the video I’ve seen) a tad too early, thus causing his arm to play catch-up, which creates a bit of awkwardness as he delivers the baseball. We’ve seen these types of quirks go both ways for young prospects, but for a guy who doesn’t project as much more than a three, any hindrance could make him a fantasy baseball afterthought.
4. Tyler Thornburg, SP
Josh’s take: Unlike the other two pitchers listed, Thornburg has minor league experience, albeit one full season and change. The Brewers selected the diminutive, 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, with the 96th selection in the 2010 draft. He signed quickly enough to throw 23.1 innings in rookie ball where he fanned batters at a silly rate, 14.66 K/9. Thornburg split 2011 between Single-A and High-A and continued to miss bats at a high rate, 10.54 K/9. His control could use some work, 3.88 BB/9, but his propensity for retiring batters by the strikeout is intriguing. He has a quirky delivery that creates deception, but could make it difficult to maintain consistent command of his pitches. He throws a fastball that sits in the low-90s, a plus change-up, and a curveball. After finishing the year in High-A this past season, Thornburg should open the year in Double-A.
Charlie’s take: While Thornburg’s motion might be a bit herky-jerky, his mechanics seem sound enough with regard to the fact that I don’t see a clear injury risk or reason why he can’t establish better command in the future. That being said, he’ll have to do so quickly to avoid an eventual bullpen role as he’s already 23.
5. Jorge Lopez, SP
Josh’s take: Lopez’s inclusion on this top five makes it a full trio of 2011 drafted arms on the list. He’s less polished than the other two, but may have the highest ceiling. It comes down to projection with Lopez. He already throws in the low-90s, but as he fills out, could bump that up to the mid-90s with regularity. John Sickels of Minor League Ball describes his curveball as excellent, and Lopez is working on a change-up as well. He signed fast enough to get his feet wet in Rookie Level ball, but may go back there to begin the year.
Charlie’s take: Lopez is the ultimate “no one really knows, but he could be great” prospect, where the ceiling is about as high as the floor is low right now. He’ll only be 19 at the start of the 2012 season, so he has a ways to go and a lot of development left. Still, the underlying skills are there to dream on. For fantasy owners in deep keeper and dynasty leagues, sometimes that’s enough to warrant a serious look.
Top 5 2012
1. Wily Peralta, SP – A solid showing at Triple-A to start the year should make him the go-to arm should (and when) the need for a fill-in starter arises.
2. Taylor Green, 3B
Josh’s take: Green’s fantasy prospects for 2012 are more bleak now than they were before the signing of Aramis Ramirez. That said, he has experience at second base, and Mat Gamel is currently expected to start at first base. With that in mind, an injury to the oft-injured Rickie Weeks could open the door to playing time at second base, or further major league struggles from Gamel could do the same at first base. For now, he is an infield utility option for the Brewers. He’s not the youngest of prospects, turned 25 in November, but a big part of his delay in reaching the majors was a wrist injury he suffered in 2009. When healthy, as he is now, he has pop. Green also is a man with a plan at the dish, working walks regularly, and making contract frequently. That approach lead to a .336/.413/.583 line in Triple-A and earned him a cup of coffee with the parent club. A utility role to begin the year could prove a blessing in disguise if it earns him added position eligibility.
Charlie’s take: Green was clearly affected by wrist injuries for parts of 2009 and 2010, but last season he picked up where he left off as an up-and-coming prospect through the 2008 season. However, he still has to find playing time in Milwaukee to make any impact, with A-Ram at third and Gamel getting the first look at first base. Also, don’t overlook his struggles against left-handed pitchers, which could end up making him a career platoon player. Last season, Green hit only .267 with a .741 OPS vs. LHP and only one of his 22 home runs came against lefties at Triple-A.
3. Logan Schafer – Yet another prospect that reached the big leagues in 2011, and should open the year on the major league roster. Schafer could be pressed into action immediately if Ryan Braun ends up serving a 50 game suspension for taking a substance on MLB’s banned substances list. With a strong early season showing, and T-Plush reverting back to 2010 Nyjer Morgan, Schafer could find himself netting serious playing time. His game is predicated on speed, and he recognizes that working walks at a passable rate, and making tons of contact. If everything breaks right, and he adjusts to the major league pitching well, he has a ceiling of being a two category, batting average and stolen base, contributor in large mixed leagues and NL-only formats.
4. Mike Fiers – Fiers has starting and relieving experience, and success doing both. His 2012 role could be in the Brewers bullpen, or could be staying stretched out in Triple-A in case of emergency. He is older, 26 (turns 27 in June), lacks high-octane stuff, and finds himself on this list because of readiness and potential for playing time.
5. Tyler Thornburg – Could move quickly if he harnesses command. If not, even a bullpen role should create AL-only opportunities in the strikeout department.