Neuhaus seeks rejuvenation
It has been a turbulent start to the season for the Single A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, but there are glimmers of hope for the youthful team.
The Timber Rattlers entered Sunday with an underwhelming 8-22 record, and according to the MLB.com, just four of the top 30 prospects are with the Midwest League team.
With a team that has two first-round selections from prior years, left-handed pitcher Kodi Medeiros, shortstop Jake Gatewood, and two second-round picks in infielder Tucker Neuhaus and outfielder Monte Harrison, one would perceive high expectations for the squad.
However, aside from age, personal and medical issues derailed most of the prospects development.
All four were drafted directly out of high school, with all of them still in their teens.
Harrison, 19, was picked in the second round of last year’s draft, and has just 74 career professional games under his belt, with the bulk of his action in the Arizona Rookie League.
The 19-year-old outfielder entered his initial season nearly two years younger than the league average in Arizona as an 18-year-old last year, but held his own.
Harrison played in 50 games for Arizona in 2014, collecting seven doubles, two triples, a home run and 20 RBIs.
Although he batted .261 in his initial season, he demonstrated an ability to reach base, 31 times in 224 plate appearances, posting a .402 On Base Percentage.
Harrison took advantage of his OBP, stealing 32 of 34 bases, and scoring 37 runs.
With Harrison’s promotion to the Midwest League, where he, again, is younger than the league average at a wider margin, the outfielder has struggled to find his stroke.
In 97 plate appearances, Harrison has walked eight times, and has already struck out 48 times in 24 games; consequently, he is hitting .155 with a .268 OBP. His strikeouts are at a much higher rate compared to his initial where he whiffed 44 times.
In 24 games for the Rattlers, he has produced one multi-hit game, April 22 against Cedar Rapids. He batted 2 for 3, with two home runs, a walk and three runs, but was not enough as the Rattlers lost 5-4 at Neuroscience Group Field in Appleton.
Further hindering his efforts to find a rhythm was departing the team May 7 to address a family concern.
When the Helena Brewers open their doors in June, it might be a tough decision for the Brewers to reassign him to the Rookie Pioneer League team for a variety of factors. It will largely depend on depth within the lower levels of the Brewers’ organization following the amateur draft, and if the Brewers return someone to Wisconsin from High A Brevard County.
Neuhaus, on the other hand, could experience a rejuvenation after struggling all of last season through the start of the 2015 campaign.
The 19-year-old Neuhaus, who was selected as a shortstop in the second round of the 2013 draft, was converted to third base 24 games into his initial season with the Arizona Brewers.
Neuhaus struggled his first two seasons, drafted when he was 17, and eventually fell of the MLB.com prospect rankings.
Injuries played a role, but it was not until April 9 of this season, where one of Neuhaus’ issues may have been addressed.
The third baseman departed the team to take an eye exam in Milwaukee April 10-29, and returned with a clearer vision.
According to Kelsie Heneghan of MiLB.com, the problem began to develop during Spring Training.
The report indicated that A couple of months ago, Neuhaus noticed that the vision in his right eye got significantly worse at night. The 19-year-old played on Opening Day, going 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, but it wasn’t just dominant pitching that got him out, according to MiLB.com.
“Something with my eye was wrong. And the first game I was seeing the ball well while the sun was still out and then once it got dark, my vision went bad,” he said. “I have some Oakley sports glasses that I got.”
In his first game back, Neuhaus tied a career high with three RBIs, the first coming in the first inning on an unusual forceout. With the bases loaded and one out, Neuhaus — the Timber Rattlers’ No. 5 batter — hit a grounder to second baseman Gianfranco Wawoe.
Since his initial return to the batter’s box, he has bounced back, producing a nine-game hitting streak, leading up to May 8.
Through his hitting streak, he has batted 13 for 37, collected two doubles, two triples, a home run with six runs driven in.
While his ability to maintain plate discipline remains to be seen, getting one walk in 38 plate appearances, it should be a positive step in the right direction.
On the mound, last year’s first-round pick and left-hander Kodi Meideros is still seeking a rhythm, getting rocked in his last four appearances (13.1 IP, 15 H, 15 ER, 10 BB, 15 K).
Medeiros, 19, produced two solid appearances to kick off the season, including a strong outing April 12 against visiting Peoria.
In the April 12 game, he pitched six innings of no-hit baseball against the Chiefs, notching seven strikeouts and walking just one batter, but came away with a No Decision after the Timber Rattlers allowed 11 runs in the final two innings to lose 11-1.
Despite Meideros’ struggles, the Rattlers may have found a diamond in the rough in the early portion of the season, 22-year-old Cy Sneed.
Sneed has rattled off six straight stellar outings for the Brewers Midwest League affiliate following a humbling season with Rookie Pioneer League Helena in 2014.
In his first professional season with the Brewers, where he pitched 38 innings and allowed 25 earned runs, he struck out 31 hitters and walked 14.
In the Rocky Mountain air in Montana, he gave up four home runs and 50 hits through his initial season.
But this season has been different for the former Dallas Baptist University pitcher, who was previously drafted in the 35th round by the Texas Rangers out of Twin Falls High School.
The Idaho native has allowed only four earned runs through 27.2 innings for Single A Wisconsin (1.30 ERA), but has a 1-3 record, producing a 1-2 record and 1.25 ERA.
Sneed’s most formidable outing came in the Rattlers’ 2-1 victory against the Peoria Chiefs April 25 where he struck out five hitters and allowed three hits and a walk to give him his first career win.
The win came after losing at Peoria 3-2 April 20, allowing two earned runs on six hits through 4 2/3 innings, but struck out six Chiefs and issued one walk.