Defining Opportunities

September 21, 2012

MVP Morris headlines Brewer prospects

By Jason Arndt
Brewers Farm Report

Huntsville’s Hunter Morris and Double-A Southern League MVP is one of nine Brewer prospects to showcase his skills before Major League scouts in Arizona in the Arizona Fall League. Many stars have been born in the league’s 20 seasons and could provide overlooked prospects in the shadows of more prominent can’t miss prospects a defining moment.
Many prospects use the off-season league to put themselves in the position of being added to their parent club’s 40-man roster or earn an invite as non-roster player the following Spring Training.
Major League players with experience in the Arizona Fall League are Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, Mike Piazza, Ryan Howard, Michael Young and Albert Pujols among other prominent All-Stars and future Baseball Hall of Famers.
Milwaukee’s prospects will be playing with the Phoenix Desert Dogs and are set to begin the season October 9. Unlike typical minor league affiliations, each team has player representatives from five different Major League clubs.
Brewer representatives will play alongside prospects with the Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics, Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays.
Below is a list of all nine Brewer farmhands along with his most recent team and what the Fall League could do for their baseball futures:
P – Nick Bucci, High A Brevard County:
On a team stacked with highly regarded pitching prospects in Brevard County, including first round picks Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley, Bucci saw limited action with the Manatees in 2012 but pitched quite well in all of his appearances.
Of all five Brewer affiliates, Brevard County has the strongest rotation with three pitching prospects in the Brewers’ top 20 (Jungmann, Bradley, Jimmy Nelson).
Bucci, 22, has been with the organization since being drafted out of Canada as a high schooler in 2008. He was overmatched early in his career after getting shipped around the system multiple times including a stop with Double A Huntsville in 2009 when he was just 18 years old.
Notched a career-high 150 innings pitched in 2011 with Brevard County striking out 119 and walking 51 batters with a 3.84 ERA.
Bucci had an injury following the 2011 season and warranted an innings limit for the 2012 season but had a total season ERA of 1.90 with 44 strikeouts in 42 innings.
The Fall League will allow Bucci an opportunity to strengthen and stretch himself out in preparation for the 2013 season and Brewers’ personnel will remain patient with the 22-year-old.
P – Kyle Heckathorn, Double A Huntsville Stars:
Heckathorn was drafted in the first-round of the Brewers’ 2009 draft and compiled solid seasons with Single A Wisconsin and High A Brevard County early in his career. But has struggled since being promoted to Double A Huntsville in 2011. Many scouts have praised his ability to limit walks but needs work on his fastball some work due to having minimal movement. Largely the reason for his struggles in Double A was due to hitters being able to “figure him out” the second time around the batting order.
Huntsville was able to minimize it by mixing his roles with the pitching staff in 2012 with 17 starts and 18 relief appearances. Due to his large frame, he has the capability of being a productive long reliever in the Major Leagues.
Scouts remain interested in his potential due to the combination of his size and hard-throwing abilities. In addition, Heckathorn does pitch with extreme passion and heart, but needs to calm down. The pitcher tends to get rattled after a tough inning on the mound.
P – Johnny Hellweg, Double A Huntsville Stars:
Hellweg was acquired from Anaheim along with two others (SS Jean Segura, Milwaukee; P Ariel Pena, Huntsville) and was reputed as having the higher prospect ceiling than fellow pitcher Pena in the trade.
Many Major Leaguers with Anaheim touted the minor league pitchers power pitching and Angels’ Vernon Wells coined Hellweg with the simple nickname “Gas.” Hellweg has a tall robust frame standing at 6′ 9” and has the ability to eat innings.
Prior to the trade, Hellweg was a routine starter for the Angels’ Double A affiliate in Arkansas but moved to Huntsville bullpen accruing just two starts.
The Fall League could provide Hellweg an opportunity to regain his starting pitcher form and put him back in the Brewers’ plans. Hellweg has proven more effective when given the starting nod over pitching in relief.
As for the plans of Phoenix in the Fall, Hellweg can only hope he can get the chance to re-establish himself.
P – Santo Manzanillo, Single A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers:
Manzanillo was expected to be a part of the Triple A starting rotation in 2012 but a car accident hindered his abilities and was relegated to relief roles and rehabilitation on his road back to recovery. He was among the top pitching prospects but mightily struggled in three different levels of minor league in 2012 and pitched the majority of his games out of the bullpen.
Many scouts believe he could be an excellent closer in the Major Leagues with his triple digit heat and solid breaking pitches.
Given the extent of his injury, he will need a couple more seasons in the Minor Leagues to fully recover. Manzanillo did earn a save in the Midwest League Championship with the Rattlers in 2012.
P – Jimmy Nelson, Double A Huntsville:

Entering the 2012 season, Nelson was a highly rated pitching prospect and compiled a productive season between High A Brevard County/Double A Huntsville. The right-hander pitched effectively for Brevard County in his 13 starts and compiled a 4-4 record with a 2.21 earned run average.

Nelson was promoted to Double A Huntsville and made ten starts for the Stars. He has shown an excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio in all levels of his minor league career.
With the Single A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2011, Nelson pitched 146 innings and struck out a Midwest League high 120 batters and walked 65. He followed up in 2012 with 127 combined innings by fanning 119 and walking 62.
He made significant progress by reducing the amount of home runs allowed from nine in 2011 to five in 2012 against higher level batters.
The Fall League will present an opportunity for him to bolster his stock among the top Brewer prospects and maintain his consistency.
1B – Hunter Morris, Double A Huntsville Stars:
Morris was named the Brewers’ 2012 minor league position player of the year and nearly collected the hard to obtain Triple Crown with Double A Huntsville.
In the highly-celebrated season for Morris in his hometown, he also collected the Southern League Most Valuable Player and was tabbed a Southern League post-season All-Star along with teammate Scooter Gennett.
The left-handed first baseman belted 28 home runs and drove in 113 runs with the Stars and was just points shy of grabbing the batting title. In addition, he was one double away (40) from capturing the league leader.
The one significant area where Morris could improve would be reducing the amount of strikeouts and the Fall League could provide him the chance to refine his plate discipline.
Anything Morris does with Phoenix in the fall will set the tone for Morris’ 2013 season with Triple A Nashville.
SS – Josh Prince, Double A Huntsville Stars:
Playing in the shadows of a league Most Valuable Player and two All-Stars is never easy, but Prince was able to be an excellent table-setter for both Gennett and Morris. Without his ability to get On Base and advance himself to scoring position, Morris’ numbers could have been less.
Prince was second in the Southern League with 41 stolen bases, behind Pensacola’s Billy Hamilton (51 in Double A, 104 in Single A – Minor League record).
The infielder by trade played a majority of his games in centerfield for the Stars in 2012 is indicative of his speed and range and has succeeded at every level of minor league baseball.
As the Fall League also provides players with the chance to demonstrate abilities at other positions, Prince will improve his versatility and be an essential part of the Triple A Nashville Sounds in 2013.
OF – Khris Davis, Triple A Nashville Sounds:
Davis rocketed his way through the Brewers system in 2012 and made his presence known at all three levels (Rookie, Double A, Triple A). The outfielder began the season with the Arizona Brewers on a rehabilitation stint and eventually made his way all the way up to Nashville in just 50 games.
In 44 games with Huntsville, Davis belted eight home runs and tabulated an on base percentage of .484 with a .383 batting average.
Much like Bucci above, Davis had limited playing time and should be able to clearly establish his role within the Brewers’ minor league system for 2013 with a solid Fall League showing.
OF – Brock Kjeldgaard, Double A Huntsville Stars:
Kjeldgaard has been organizational soldier for the Brewers since being drafted in the 2005 34th round. The Canadian-born outfielder was a member of the Canadian Olympic team has been a work in progress for the Brewers but has the ability to hit in the clutch despite accruing a .211 batting average.
The Fall League will be crucial for Kjeldgaard as he fights for a spot within the Minor League system next season.
Phoenix Desert Dogs – 2012 Roster
Coaching Staff:
Manager Aaron Holbert
Hitting Coach Darnell Coles
Hitting Coach Steve Livesey
Pitching Coach Charlie Corbell
Pitching Coach Don Schulze
Nick Bucci            Brewers
Gary Daley             Oakland
Grant Dayton          Miami
Brian Flynn             Miami
Shawn Haviland      Oakland
Kyle Heckathorn  Brewers
Johnny Hellweg    Brewers
Brett Hunter             Oakland
Chris Jones             Atlanta
Lenny Linsky          Tampa Bay
Santo Manzanillo    Brewers
Scott McGough        Miami
Jimmy Nelson       Brewers
Cory Rasmus            Atlanta
Chris Rearick          Tampa Bay
C.J. Riefenhauser     Tampa Bay
James Simmons       Oakland
Zeke Spruill           Atlanta
Kirby Yates           Tampa Bay
Matt Kennelly          Atlanta
Jake Realmuto         Miami
Max Stassi              Oakland
Nick Ahmed           Atlanta
Tim Beckham          Tampa Bay
Grant Green          Oakland
Miles Head          Oakland
Hak-Ju Lee          Tampa Bay
Hunter Morris    Brewers
Josh Prince          Brewers
Edward Salcedo    Atlanta
Richie Shaffer       Tampa Bay
Khris Davis         Brewers
Kyle Jensen           Miami
Kevin Kiermaier    Tampa Bay
Brock Kjeldgaard Brewers
Christian Yelich       Miami
Phoenix Desert Dogs – 2012 Schedule
October 9: Scottsdale Scorpions 2:35pm
October 10: At Scottsdale Scorpions 8:35pm
October 11: At Peoria Javelinas 2:35pm
October 12: Peoria Javelinas 2:35pm
October 13: At Mesa Solar Sox 2:35pm
October 15: Salt River Rafters 2:35pm
October 16: At Salt River Rafters 8:35pm
October 17: At Surprise Saguaros 2:35pm
October 18: Surprise Saguaros 2:35pm
October 19: Mesa Solar Sox 2:35pm
October 20: Peoria Javelinas 2:35pm
October 22: At Scottsdale Scorpions 2:35pm
October 23: Mesa Solar Sox 2:35pm
October 24: At Suprise Saguaros 2:35pm
October 25: At Salt River Rafters 2:35pm
October 26: At Surprise Saguaros 8:35pm
October 27: Scottsdale Scorpions 2:35pm
October 29: Salt River Rafters 2:35pm
November 1: At Salt River Rafters 2:35pm
November 2: Surprise Saguaros 2:35pm
November 5: At Surprise Saguaros 2:35pm
November 6: At Peoria Javelinas 2:35pm
November 7: Peoria Javelinas 2:35pm
November 8: At Mesa Solar Sox 2:35pm
November 9: Scottsdale Scorpions 2:35pm
November 10: Salt River Rafters 2:35pm
November 12: Peoria Javelinas 2:35pm
November 13: At Peoria Javelinas 2:35pm
November 14: Surprise Saguaros 2:35pm

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