Brewers Minor League All-Star TeamBy Jim Breen
Catcher: Martin Maldonado (Huntsville)
Youngster Tyler Roberts was supposed to be the up-and-coming catcher in the Brewers’ organization this season, but his pitch recognition and ability to handle breaking balls caused him to be demoted to Helena in recent weeks.
Instead, Martin Maldonado and his .303/.371/.424 triple-slash line in Double-A Huntsville have stood out. The organization likes him as a potential reserve catching option -- a young man with a good arm and above-average defensive skills with just enough bat to be interesting.
First Base: Sean Halton (Huntsville)
A career .311 hitter as a professional, Sean Halton has made a name for himself in the Southern League by hitting .335/.364/.492 for the Huntsville Stars. He anchors the Sounds’ lineup in the three-spot and already has 25 doubles on the season. Of course, he only walks in 4.3% of his plate appearances and possesses fringe-average home run power, so it remains difficult to be overly optimistic about his chances to stick as an everyday starter at first base in the big leagues. Even a “doubles hitter” such as Lyle Overbay hit 15-20 home runs per season as a minor leaguer.
Still, a .335 average and close platoon splits makes him an incredibly effective minor league offensive producer. It has been a very nice first-half for Halton.
Second Base: Scooter Gennett (Brevard County)
The fact that Gennett made the Bernie’s Crew All-Star Team this year speaks more to the dearth of second base production in the system than the resume of Gennett. The 21-year-old remains one of the brighter prospects in the system and scouts love his hit tool, but he also hit only .212 throughout the month of May -- which is not exactly All-Star material.
His power production will never be worth writing home about, but the 5-foot-9 Gennett should be serviceable as he fills out over the next couple of years. He will be more of a doubles guy with the occasional home run and is perhaps the position prospect to reach the majors.
Shortstop: Andy Gonzalez (Nashville)
The shortstop position has been a sore topic for Brewers fans this year. It’s akin to talking about World Series victories with a Cubs fan. Yuniesky Betancourt has caused fans to scour the minor league rosters for potential replacements, and no real options are available -- though Eric Farris has begun playing short a couple games per week for Nashville.
Andy Gonzalez may not be a prospect any longer, as the Brewers’ picked up the 29-year-old minor league vet after the season started, but he still has impressed by hitting .305/.428/.442 with three home runs and 18 RBI in 46 games. The Puerto Rico native is one of those minor league “glue players” that helps mentor younger players and provides roster flexibility. Very valuable to a minor league system.
Third Base: Taylor Green (Nashville)
Lots of consideration was given to Mike Walker of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, but Taylor Green has enjoyed a tremendous bounceback season that has Brewers fans reminiscing about the 2007 season, in which he took home the Player of the Year award in the Brewers’ system. Green, who was born in British Columbia, has compiled a .305/.371/.520 triple-slash line with 11 home runs and 20 doubles in 73 games this season in Triple-A Nashville.
The 24-year-old still struggles against left-handers and only possesses fringe-average power at third base (the PCL magnifies his power production). He has also been playing more second base as of late, which should increase both his versatility and chances of sticking at the big league level. If Casey McGehee continues to struggle at the plate, the Brewers may just give Taylor the call and see if he can handle the hot corner down the stretch in ‘11.
Left Field: Khris Davis (Brevard County)
Perhaps no one has more quietly put together an elite statistical season than Khris Davis, who is now hitting .331/.429/.568 for High-A Brevard County with 13 home runs and 20 doubles in a league that is dramatically supposed to reduce power numbers from right-handed hitters. One scout suggested to me that people are “too light” on Khris Davis as a prospect and that his power/patience combination is legit.
The problem is that Davis is likely relegated to a corner outfield spot and can also see his swing get long at times. His strikeout rate has decreased this year to 22.4%, which is a wonderful sign of improvement, but the hit tool is not as high as the power. Still, I felt Davis was slighted last year in the Brewers’ Prospect of the Year voting and could have another chance this season at the award.
Center Field: Erik Komatsu (Huntsville)
The reigning minor league Player of the Year in the Brewers’ organization is enjoying another fine season at the plate. He is walking more than he is striking out. He has displayed flashes of power, which is encouraging. He is also hitting .288/.379/.404 on the season.
Of course, the Brewers’ organization has stated that they do not view him as a legitimate center fielder. The 23-year-old also struggles against southpaws, only hitting .247 against them this season. Prior to the year, I had high hopes that he could be passable enough in center field defensively to let his bat play atop the Brewers’ lineup. Now, however, it seems he is a fourth outfielder who can handle multiple outfield positions and rake against right-handed pitchers -- and that is still valuable.
Right Field: T.J. Mittelstaedt (Wisconsin)
Following in the footsteps of light-hitting Cutter Dykstra for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Mittelstaedt followed up a mediocre 2010 season in Rookie Ball with an impressive season with the T-Rats. He is hitting .314/.434/.492 and playing all over the diamond, though mostly in the outfield. The 5-foot-10 Mittelstaedt has even launched seven home runs this season, six more than he had last year with the AZL Brewers.
Before thinking Mittelstaedt is a legitimate prospect, however, it must be noted that he is doing all of his damage against right-handed pitching. He only hits .217 against lefties and is mostly feasting on younger pitchers. The young man also has a .421 BABIP -- which should bring that batting average down -- but has helped him be one of the most productive bats for the Timber Rattlers this season.
Designated Hitter: Brock Kjeldgaard (Huntsville)
Big Brock turned a ton of heads after launching 18 home runs in his first two-and-a-half months with the Brevard County Manatees. Fans started pimping him as a potential solution to the Brewers’ future first base conundrum or as a potential corner outfielder with plus-power, but it’s important to remember that his strikeout rate is still huge. He doesn’t make enough contact to have any big league projection unless his swing fundamentally changes.
This is about production, though, and Brock Kjeldgaard was a stalwart for the Brevard County Manatees. He hit .268/.366/.558 and knocked in 49 runs in the middle of the Manatees’ batting order. The 25-year-old also played some center field -- which is funny to think about, considering the 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame. It was quite the first half for Brock, and we will see if he can handle the huge jump to Double-A . . . the biggest jump in the minors.
Utility Fielder: Mike Walker (Wisconsin)
Few Brewers prospects have been more consistent this season than Mike Walker -- who currently has compiled a .283/.403/.483 triple-slash line with 13 home runs and 55 RBI. He has been the engine that powers the Timber Rattlers’ offensive machine. The 23-year-old also represented the T-Rats in the Midwest League Home Run Derby during the All-Star Break. It has been a wild ride for the young man from the University of Pacific.
One scout I talked to didn’t believe in Walker whatsoever as a prospect. He told me that he’s feasting on younger pitchers with non-refined repertoires and does not have the hit tool to support average-power. After all, he’s already struck out 86 times in 79 games. That number projects to grow as he faces pitchers with better breaking stuff.
For now, though, enjoy the domination that is Mike Walker in the Midwest League. He deserves a nod on the Bernie’s Crew Minor League All-Star Team, and I carved out a DH role for him. As they say, the bat plays.
Starting Pitcher: Tyler Thornburg (Wisconsin)
Not even a contest. Tyler Thornburg has been phenomenal all season, statistically. He owns a sparkling 1.47 ERA that would make Roy Halladay jealous and has blown away 92 hitters in only 79.2 innings this season. The command has also been better than advertised -- and with a 92-94 MPH fastball, plus-curveball, and a changeup that flashes plus-action, that is a deadly combination at the lower levels of the minors.
Scouts have questioned his size and his mechanics. They doubt that he will be able to handle 200-inning workloads every year, which should be a legitimate concern. The Brewers, however, have always been an organization that will plug a pitcher into the starting rotation until they prove they cannot produce in that role. Expect no different with Thornburg.
Middle Relief Piitcher: Dan Meadows (Nashville)
At 6-foot-6 and 223-pounds, one would assume that Meadows would light up radar guns with a humming fastball, but the young left-hander sits in the high-80s. He relies on command and an ability to handcuff both righties and lefties at the plate. Opposing hitters are only hitting .215 on the season, though his introduction to Triple-A has not gone as smoothly as one would expect.
Most assume that a soft(ish)-tossing lefty profiles best as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, but Meadows is a rare breed. He holds righties to a .167 OBA and lefties to a .232 OBA -- which is reverse-platoon split. It is obviously quality work no matter which way you slice it, but those reverse-platoon are intriguing in a lefty reliever.
Note: Meadows was drafted by the Brewers in the 49th-round of the 2008 Draft. The scout that saw something in Dan Meadows hopefully received a promotion.
Closer: Santo Manzanillo (Brevard County)
I mentioned Manzanillo in the most recent episode of the podcast as a reliever who has emerged as a top-tier talent. Coincidentally, GM Doug Melvin reportedly raved about Manzanillo over the weekend and said the reliever was reaching 99 MPH on the radar gun. The reports I have received have Manzanillo touching 97-98 MPH, so a tick or two higher is certainly within reason. After all, he is the young Dominican that was hitting 100 MPH just a couple seasons ago.
At 22-years-old, he is dominating the Florida State League with a 1.52 ERA and 10 saves in 41.1 innings. Opposing batters are only hitting .200 off Manzanillo on the season. Though I would normally say a promotion to Double-A is likely around the corner, the Brewers could be extremely cautious with Manzanillo -- as he has exhibited extreme command problems in the past. Perhaps the organization wants to establish a track-record of success before making him take the largest step in the minors to Double-A.http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/fa ... 55769.html