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Milwaukee Brewers Top-15 Prospects of 2009, No’s 1 – 5

March 19, 2009 BY ALEX EISENBERG No Comments Yet

For an overview of the process used to grade players, the factors used to determine where a player ranks, and other frequently asked questions, please click here. All grades are subject to change based on any new information I receive before the start of the season. If you disagree, you can make your case by contacting me or you can make a comment below at the bottom of the page.

You can find a full listing of each team’s top prospect list in the Top Prospect List Archive Page. Also, each team will have their Team Page published when their top prospect list becomes available. Team pages include team rosters, stats, payroll and front office information, past Baseball-Intellect articles related to that team, and links to some of the team’s best fan sites. Onto the Milwaukee Brewers

Also See: Milwaukee Brewers, Prospects 6 – 15

1. Alcides Escobar | SS | B – R | Huntsville (AA) | Age – 22 | Signed – Venezuela, 2003

Player Grades
Contact – 55 Now | 60 Future
Power – 35/40 | 40/45
Discipline – 45 | 50
Speed – 60 | 60
Defense – 60 | 65
Arm – 55 | 55
Instincts – 45 | 55
ETA – Mid-2009
Final Grade – B

Body Type – Lean and athletic

Scouting Report

I’m not as high on Escobar as some other publications, but you’re still getting a very useful player anytime you get a plus defensive shortstop with solid bat skills.

My issue with Escobar is he’s sorta a one-trick pony with the bat. His value is tied to his batting average because he doesn’t walk and he doesn’t hit for power. His .380 BABIP is unsustainable. That doesn’t mean Escobar won’t be able to hit for average. It’s just that his batting average last year probably doesn’t indicate his true skill. Adjust the BABIP to .348–a more reasonable figure–and the OPS drops from .802 to .751. Escobar has also had a major lefty/right split in that he hit left handers much better than righties.

But let’s keep in mind…Escobar was the 4th youngest position player in the Southern League and he’s a speedy guy that’s put up high BABIP rates before.

Escobar has a special glove with excellent range, soft hands, good footwork, and a strong arm, so even if he does nothing with the bat, his glove still gives him value.

Best Case Outcome – Average, maybe slightly above average offensive shortstop with a top level glove

More Likely Outcome – A little below average offensive shortstop with a top level glove


2. Mat Gamel | 3b/1b/OF | B – L | Double-A Huntsville | Age – 23 | Drafted – Rd. 4, 2005

Player Grades
Contact – 50 Now | 55 Future
Power – 55 | 55
Discipline – 55 | 55
Speed – 45 | 45
Defense – 40 | 45
Arm – 50 | 55
Instincts – 55 | 60
ETA – Mid-2009
Final Grade – B

Gamel made my list of hitting prospects to watch in 2008 and he did break out in a big way. But I do think it’s gotten to the point where I would view him as a bit overrated as a prospect.

It’s becoming apparent that he won’t be able to stay at third base and will have to eventually make the transition to first base or one of the corner outfield spots.

The position change lowers the value of his bat. Instead of profiling as a potential top-7 third baseman, Gamel looks more like an average, maybe slightly above average offensive player at first base.

In reality, Gamel isn’t all that different a player from his 2007 version. His power improved moderately (.172 to .209 ISO-power), but his BB% took a small dip and his K% rose slightly. The biggest difference between the 07′ Gamel and the 08′ Gamel was the BABIP. Gamel’s BABIP of .396 was likely a combination of skill and luck though he should not be expected to sustain that BABIP next year.

If you simply take the BABIP and drop it down to a more reasonable .347 BABIP (like I did for Escobar), his OPS drops from .923 all the way down to .859. I’m also just counting his playing time with Huntsville.

Best Case Outcome – Slighty above average first baseman or above average corner outfielder

More Likely Outcome – Average level first baseman or slightly above average corner outfielder


3. Brett Lawrie | 2b | B – R | N/A | Age – 19 | Drafted – Round 1 (16), 2008

Player Grades
Contact – 40 Now | 50 Future
Power – 50 | 55/60
Discipline – 45 | 55
Speed – 50 | 45
Defense – 40 | 50
Arm – 60 | 60
Instincts – 45 | 55
ETA – 2012
Final Grade – B

I compiled a scouting report on Lawrie last Summer, which you can see here. He has yet to play a professional game and it recently became known that Lawrie will play second base as a professional, this coming after most felt he would at least give catcher–where his bat would hold the most value–a try. Still, second base is a premium defensive position where his bat should have more than enough value.

I watched Lawrie against Team USA going up against the likes of Jake Arrieta (top-100 prospect) and Steven Strasburg (projected No. 1 pick in this June’s draft) and not unexpectedly, Lawrie was somewhat overmatched, but he did hold his own in some respects. His first two at bats were against Arrieta, the first of which he struck out on a good slider. His second at bat, however, Lawrie laid off a handful of sliders and fouled off a couple of good fastballs before finally swinging-and-missing at a fastball on the lower outside corner.

Against Strasburg, Lawrie flew out in his only AB against the dominant right hander. The AB lasted three pitches. He laid off a Strasburg fastball and hit a foul fly ball in the first two pitches.

Lawrie’s last at bat came against Blaine Neal (30 y/o AAA pitcher with the Detroit Tigers) and that ended with a hard line drive directly at the left fielder. So not a bad showing for the young prospect against more advanced and older competition.

Best Case Outcome – At his peak, I would venture to say he has borderline All Star potential (especially if he stays at second)

More Likely Outcome – Above average hitter at whatever position he ends up playing


4. Angel Salome | C | B – R | Double-A Huntsville | Age – 22 | Drafted – Round 5, 2004

Player Grades
Contact – 55 Now | 60 Future
Power – 50 | 55
Discipline – 45 | 55
Speed – 35 | 35
Defense – 40 | 45
Arm – 60 | 60
Instincts – 50 | 55
ETA – 2009
Final Grade – B

Body Type – very short (5-foot-7), but very strong for his size

Scouting Report

Salome really can hit — he’s a high and hard contact hitter with above average power and mediocre, but improving plate discipline. The problem for Salome is with his defense because if he can’t stick at catcher, he has nowhere else to play.

He did make strides from behind the plate as his caught stealing percentage improved from 11% to 23%. He still struggles with his foot work and at blocking balls in the dirt, but it’s something he’s improved since he first took up catching.

Salome has an unorthodox approach at the plate, but he consistently squares up on the ball and uses the entire field.

His .399 BABIP is unsustainable (the Brewers seem to have a lot of these type of players), but even adjusting for luck purposes, Salome still puts up very impressive numbers. One explanation for Salome’s BABIP is that he hardly ever pops out, which is usually a guaranteed out. However, he’s never been quite as efficient as he was at limiting pop-ups as he was last year.

Best Case Outcome – Top-5 offensive catcher with below average defensive skills

More Likely Outcome -Top-10 offensive catcher…worst case scenario would be for Salome to have to move off the position and where he plays after that, I don’t know.


5. Jeremy Jeffress | RHP | Double-A Huntsville | Age – 21 | Drafted – Round 1 (16), 2006

Player Grades
Fastball – 60 Now | 65 Future
Curveball – 45 | 55
Change-Up – 40 | 45
Control – 40 | 45
Command – 40 | 50
Pitchability – 45 | 50
ETA – Mid-Late 2010
Final Grade – B

Body Type – surprisingly small and athletic…when I first watched him, he looked taller and rounder, probably because his legs are long for his body and he wears a baggy uniform.

Stuff

Fastball – plus-plus velocity…fairly straight, especially at high velocities, but the pitch really gets on hitters quickly

Curveball – potentially an above average pitch, but he struggles to command…it’s a power, 11-to-6 curve…he’s prone to hanging it, which you can see below:

jeremy-jeffress-curveball
*Credit to SaberScouting

Change-Up- fringe-average pitch right now, but still developing

Scouting Report

It’s interesting how Jeffress has altered some of his mechanics since high school, especially since he was throwing mostly in the upper-80′s or low 90′s during that time…but that’s an article for another time.

jeremy-jeffress
*Credit to Minor League Baseball

Jeffress does an excellent job of using his momentum by drifting through his balance point. He throws all his pitches with tremendous intent, which is a major factor in producing his velocity. He’ll have a tendency to overthrow at times causing him to miss his spots. Jeffress will also occasionally rush through his delivery. There are times Jeffress doesn’t get out on his front leg, forcing him to pitch up-hill and making his pitches sail a bit.

Jeffress was blessed with the quick-twitch muscle fibers and tendons necessary to throw hard. However, he employs the necessary mechanical attributes that allow him to take his velocity to another level.

Jeffress has the stuff of a front of the rotation starter. But he has the command of a back of the rotation starter. While he’s still young and it’s likely his control/command will improve with experiences, it’s unreasonable to expect Jeffress’ control and command to improve to a front-line level.

Best Case Outcome – Borderline No. 2 starter

More Likely Outcome – No. 3 starter or a power arm out of the bullpen — a potential closer.

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Also See: Milwaukee Brewers Team Page

Up Next: Milwaukee Brewers, Prospects 6 – 15

Other references used for this article: First Inning and Minor League Splits

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