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.
When Milwaukee drafted right-hander Taylor Williams with the fourth round draft selection in 2013 – no one knew how well he would fair after a rough start to his college career.
The junior from Kent State started was seldom used as a freshman with Washington State in 2011 where he pitched 10 innings allowing 14 earned runs before transferring to Mount Hood Community College.
However, it took him until his final college season with the Golden Flashes to show some brilliance – in 15 starts for Kent State he struck out 110 batters in 115.2 innings and had a 10-1 record. Williams also demonstrated excellent control allowing just 18 walks through the course of his season before the Brewers made him the fourth pick.
After his inaugural campaign with Pioneer League Helena in 2013 where he produced a 3-1 record and a 4.25 ERA in 10 games for the Brewers, MLB.com named him the organization’s 16th rated prospect.
Williams has responded with success including a stellar start in his first appearance with Single A Wisconsin where he struck out seven batters and held Peoria scoreless through his five innings of work on April 3. The 22-year-old maintained composure allowing just one walk and one hit during the in the No Decision.
The 5’11” pitcher from Washington State earned his first victory in relief six days later holding West Michigan scoreless in four innings.
Williams’ produced similar numbers in his last appearance April 26 where he held Kane County scoreless through six innings and struck out six batters. He allowed just one walk and two hits, but again received a No Decision.
Aside from being ranked 16th by MLB.com, Baseball America has ranked him 19th in the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league system.
Given his age and steady progression and performances, he might climb the ladder and make his way to High A Brevard County by the conclusion of the 2014 season.
If Garrett Cooper‘s inaugural 2013 campaign with the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization is any indication, the former Auburn first baseman could rapidly progress through the system.
Cooper, 23, was selected as the Brewers’ sixth round pick in the 2013 draft and made an immediate impact with two blasts in his professional debut with Pioneer League Helena June 20.
However, his 2-for-5 game with the Helena Brewers did not come as a surprise to the 6’6” Cooper as he maintains his objective as a power hitter.
“I am trying to improve on that this off season and add strength through the off season to hit more home runs,” Cooper said.
Cooper’s tour of the country did not start nor end in the Rocky Mountain region after signing his professional contract out of the University of Auburn where he batted .354 with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 37 walks in 56 games his senior season.
“It was a fun experience, moving around the country. Growing up in California, moving to Auburn, moving to Helena,” Cooper said. “It’s been a whirlwind of geographic locations.”
Despite possessing power potential, the first baseman has demonstrated the ability to hit for average at the early portion of his professional career.
Cooper not only began his career with two home runs but also rattled off a five game hitting streak from June 20-24 where he went 9-for-20 and belted three home runs. He also had a .500 On Base Percentage.
The California native hit safely in ten of his 16 games with Helena before Milwaukee made the decision to promote him to Single A Wisconsin. Through his short time with the Helena Brewers, he tabulated a .357 OBP with four doubles, four home runs and ten RBI.
Cooper said his time with Helena “was a good experience” and prepared him for Midwest League Baseball and life
alongside a loaded Wisconsin outfield of Tyrone Taylor, Michael Reed, Victor Roache and Max Walla.
“It was fun playing with them and it was nice hitting in front of them in the lineup,” Cooper said. “It was also good protecting them in the lineup.”
Cooper underwent roadblocks during his time with Wisconsin after missing time due to injuries but was able to come through with similar success.
In 32 games for the Timber Rattlers, he collected his first three career triples along with six doubles and blasted two home runs. He produced a .287 average and .346 OBP.
Cooper acknowledged his need to become a stronger and more durable presence in the lineup and maintained the off season objective of adding weight.
“Just getting stronger and being more flexible. That was my goal coming into the senior year of college was to get stronger and add more weight,” Cooper said.
Cooper responded by arriving to early winter session February 8 with a weight of 235 compared to 230 in his first season and feels “bigger and stronger.”
The Auburn alum was among 24 Brewers’ farmhands invited to attend the Minor League winter session which includes notable prospects Tyrone Taylor, Tucker Neuhaus and Damien Magnifico.
“It’s like mini camp and its a good thing getting out there sooner than all the other guys that come in and prepare to play every single day,” Cooper said.
Brewers’ officials are also providing Cooper additional options in advancing through the minor league system after taking repetitions at third base during the Fall Instructional League in October 2013.
“In high school it was the only time I ever played third base and little bit in junior college,” Cooper said.
He is looking at it as another opportunity to move forward and remains confident in his abilities at third base when needed.
“At third you have to get used to it and get back to the throwing across the diamond in every play at the hot corner,” Cooper said. “There is not much difference between first and third besides the throw.”
“Whatever they decide I will be happy with every chance I get. Just glad to be a part of the organization,” Cooper added.
Cooper told Brewers Farm Report he was surprised Milwaukee snagged him in the draft after receiving phone calls from two different organizations.
“The Brewers were definitely into my stuff. I talked to the Royals and Phillies a half an hour before I got drafted,” Cooper said. “The Royals and Phillies told me I was there next picks and all of sudden my name got popped up with the Brewers.”
Cooper credits his family for giving him unconditional support on maintaining his mission to become a professional baseball player and for preparing him for life traveling around the country.
“I grew up as the young kid and they are all pushing for me. I am the youngest, I am the baby and they are all just looking out for me,” Cooper said. “They are always there for me and give me whatever support I need.”
The youngest of seven children, he is grateful for his older siblings in taking the time out of their lives to play catch in the backyard of their California home during his childhood.
In addition to growing up along the California coasts where he also played beach volleyball, he has more than just Auburn as a southern connection.
Cooper gained early exposure to the Southern portion of the United States when he noted his mother being a part of the Louisiana community during times of her life.
“She took me down to the south a lot and I loved it down here,” Cooper said. “I have been all around the country to play baseball since I was a young kid.”
Despite a career setback by Milwaukee’s top left-handed pitching prospect Jed Bradley with Brevard County in 2013, Double A Huntsville will still receive help as others are elevated.
Bradley, 23, struggled through a 2013 season hampered by shoulder injuries which eventually shut him down in August 2013.
Consequently, the Huntsville native dropped from fourth to 16th in the MLB.com prospect rankings by the conclusion of the 2013 season.
However, the Stars will likely get a glimpse of Harvard graduate and organizational All-Star Brent Suter along with reliever Stephen Peterson from Brevard County.
While Suter produced a solid year between Single A Wisconsin and High A Brevard County, Peterson excelled in the relief role for the Manatees.
Peterson, 26, was signed by Milwaukee as an undrafted free agent in 2011 after he recovered from Tommy John surgery during his 2010 season at University of Rhode Island.
In 41 relief appearances for Brevard County, Peterson struck out 58 batters and walked just 12 through 64 innings pitched.
Peterson has steadily improved through his first three seasons with the Brewers organization going from 27 innings his initial season to 64 in 2013. He also compiled a 5-1 record with Brevard County and decreased his walk totals from 27 with Wisconsin in 2012 to 12 in 2013.
Rice University graduate Taylor Wall exhibited promise his initial season with Helena in 2012 producing a 3-1 record in 13 games (10 starts) but found his way into the Timber Rattlers’ bullpen in 2013 where he collected seven saves in 33 relief appearances.
A New Era
It remains to be seen whether Milwaukee’s newest draft class will parlay their short success to an extended 2014 season.
Milwaukee drafted Clint Terry with the 18th round pick and he succeeded with the Arizona Rookie League Brewers.
Terry, 21, struck out 56 batters and walked ten in his 46.2 innings for the Brewers and allowed just eight earned runs to give him a meager 1.54 ERA.
In conjunction with ten walks, he gave up 36 hits to yield him a WHIP of under 1.00 (.986).
Milwaukee opted to get him additional work following the regular season when he was sent to the Fall Instructional League in October.
Brewers’ ninth round selection Tyler Linehan maintained a commendable 2.45 ERA through 40.1 innings in a hitter-friendly Pioneer League.
Linehan, 22, produced his best career outing September 3 when he pitched six scoreless innings and striking out seven batters. He allowed just two runners to reach base at Billings.
Hobbs Johnson, 22, pitched four productive outings with Helena before being elevated to Single A Wisconsin.
In Johnson’s four outings with the Pioneer Brewers, he allowed one earned run and struck out nine batters through eight innings for a 1.12 ERA.
Johnson’s game intensified upon his arrival to Wisconsin’s Fox Valley region when he struck out 23 batters in 13 innings for the Timber Rattlers. He also allowed one earned run.
Milwaukee made another left-handed selection with Tyler Alexander, 22, in the 27th round from Florida International.
Alexander allowed three earned runs in 15.1 innings for Helena and maintained control with 27 strikeouts and three walks. He posted a 2-0 record in his 13 games for the Pioneer Brewers.
Milwaukee acquired Luis Ortega from Boston for seldom-used reliever Burke Badenhop and could fill a role with Helena or Wisconsin in 2014.
Ortega, 20, began his career as a starter with the Red Sox Dominican Summer League team in 2012 where he posted a 6-3 record with a 2.13 ERA in 13 starts.
However, he was relegated to the bullpen once he arrived to the Gulf Coast League in 2013 but provided similar numbers.
Making a successful jump to Double A from High A is “what separates the men from the boys” – and left-hander Brent Suter could ultimately be tested in 2014.
The Brewers’ 31st round pick in the 2012 Draft was recently among Milwaukee’s Organizational All-Stars.
The lanky Harvard graduate has demonstrated the ability to succeed at every level since making his professional debut with Pioneer League Helena in 2012.
Suter made an immediate impact in the Rocky Mountain environment of Montana striking out 42 batters and walking just eight in 43.2 innings for the Rookie League Brewers.
Additionally, he managed to keep his ERA below 4.00 in a league notorious for a high amount of runs per game.
Milwaukee opted to promote Suter to Single A Wisconsin at the tail end his first season and responded with eight strikeouts and three walks in 8.2 innings pitched for the Timber Rattlers.
Manatees’ teammate Tyler Cravy told Brewers Farm Report in August the 6’5” Suter fearlessly goes after hitters.
Suter started just three games for Single A Wisconsin in 2013 allowing three earned runs in 15 innings to give him a 1.80 ERA. He also struck out 15 batters and allowed just three walks in his three appearances before earning a rapid promotion to High A Brevard County.
Milwaukee’s Director of Player Development Reid Nichols had high regard for the Ivy League Pitcher and Cincinnati native.
“Brent Suter is a very smart pitcher,” Nichols said. “He knows how to read hitters and works the plate front to back.”
Suter had a scorching start to his Manatees career by winning seven of his first 11 starts including his first career complete game June 28 at Clearwater.
The Manatees needed all nine innings of Suter in the narrow 2-1 victory against the Threshers and the left-hander eventually claimed Florida State League’s Player of the Week July 1.
In the ensuing hot streak, he succumbed to a tough loss where he struck out 11 batters in seven innings but made one
mistake – allowing a solo blast to Dunedin’s Andy Burns in the fourth inning.
Brevard County could only muster two hits and were shutout 1-0 against an equally tough Austin Bibens-Drikx, who struck out ten batters in seven innings.
Suter produced a stellar strikeout-walk ratio during the initial 11 games with 51 strikeouts compared to 15 walks in 69.1 innings.
However, Suter was not the same pitcher after his complete game victory and went winless the remaining ten games for Brevard County.
Suter’s downturn during the later portion can be partially attributed to compiling a career high 139 total innings between Wisconsin and Brevard County, almost three times the amount of work he received in his first professional season.
Additionally, he led the Manatees with 124 innings pitched compared to second place finisher Chad Pierce who logged 108.2 innings.
Brevard County’s pitching staff was gutted due to a myriad of injuries and promotions to Double A Huntsville including David Goforth, Brooks Hall, Drew Gagnon and Kevin Shackleford.
Consequently, Suter and fellow starters Jacob Barnes and Pierce needed to shoulder a substantial workload.
However, he should be able to straighten out after an offseason of rest and likely additional workouts.
Seeing the name Michael Reed among Milwaukee’s organizational All-Stars did not come as a shock to Wisconsin Timber Rattler teammate and pitcher Tyler Wagner.
“His numbers showed it,” Wagner said. “Definitely if you were around him as much as I was, he definitely had that consistency.”
Reed produced numerous clutch hitting performances for the Rattlers including a dramatic 12th inning walk-off blast to defeat the Lake County Captains July 13.
“I don’t think about situations. Just put the ball in play,” Reed told Brewers Farm Report December 30. “I hit the ball hard no matter what happens and hope for the best.”
In addition to his walk-off winner, he also drove in the game-tying run in a five-run ninth inning to defeat Beloit 6-5 August 5. Teammate Alfredo Rodriguez scored on a fielding error during the play when he discovered no one covering third base.
Reed was second in the Midwest League with 13 triples and also collected 23 doubles, stole 26 bases and drew 71 walks for a .385 On Base Percentage.
“He is one those guys that definitely gives it 110 percent of the time,” Wagner said. “He can turn doubles into triples with the way he comes out of the batter’s box.”
The outfielder from Leander, Tex. Was part of a stacked Wisconsin consisting of fellow organizational All-Star Victor Roache and former teammate Mitch Haniger, currently of the Brevard County Manatees. Roache and Haniger are among Milwaukee’s top 20 prospects by MLB.com.
Reed’s defensive ability alongside Roache and Tyrone Taylor the majority of the 2013 season gave Wisconsin pitchers a sense of relief.
“Our defense this year was tremendous, I think it gave me a lot more confidence going onto the mound,” Wagner said. “Probably the best outfield I ever had in pro ball.”
In addition, Reed commended Wagner on being the team’s workhorse during the 2013 where he accumulated a team high in innings pitched.
“He throws strikes and everything you need to do on the mound – he did it – and he is a really great pitcher and did a good job,” Reed said, in regards to Wagner’s season.
Reed stated both Roache and Taylor are not just highly rated prospects, but also demonstrate great character.
“They are great guys and I enjoyed playing with them,” Reed said. “They both got the bat and one thing to note is they can make plays in the outfield.”
Furthermore, Reed demonstrated the ability to play all three outfield positions through the duration of his professional career.
“I love center field; however, whatever they need me most at is where I will play,” Reed said. “Right now they need more as a corner guy and that is where I will be at.”
Prior to playing outfield, he had experience as a starting pitcher at Leander High School in Texas and was highly touted by several Major League clubs entering the 2011 draft.
Reed fell to the Brewers in the fifth after scouts projected him to go as high as the second round.
His stock dwindled due to him accepting an athletic scholarship at Ole Miss, but eventually signed with Milwaukee well above the slotted value of $150,000.
Reed agreed after Milwaukee gave him $100,000 to go towards his college education and signed for a “great deal of money.”
Reed open to 2014 destination
Reed indicated he is not worried about his 2014 assignment within the Brewers organization and remains open about his future.
“I’ll play wherever they put me. If they put me in Brevard, it does not matter where I play,” Reed said. “I am fortunate to be given an opportunity to play. I really don’t expect to play anywhere in particular. I am just going to go out and play.”
The outfielder began his career with the Arizona Rookie League Brewers in 2011 where he played 14 games before splitting time between three different levels in 2012 in Helena, Brevard County and Huntsville.
Brevard County could be a promising promotion for Reed after exhibiting some success in limited action for the team in 2012.
Reed batted 9-for-32 (.281) with five runs scored, three stolen bases and accrued a .425 OBP for the Manatees.
If Mitch Haniger’s Arizona Fall League stint is any indication into where he will head in 2014, it should be no surprise to see him as a member of the Huntsville Stars.
The former first round selection by Milwaukee made an immediate impact in the Arizona Fall League with his first career professional grand slam in the off-season opener for the Surprise Saguaros.
In his first nine games with the Saguaros, where he is alongside six other Brewer farmhands, he is tied for the league lead with 12 runs batted in and is tied for third in doubles with three.
Additionally, the outfielder ranked 12th among Brewers prospects leads the Arizona Fall League with 13 hits and is second with 22 total bases.
Haniger was awarded Fall League’s Co-Player of the Week honors after his scorching start including a six-game stretch where he produced three multi-hit games.
Haniger reached base safely in the first six games of the Fall League season where he batted 11-for-24 (.458) with a home run and seven RBI. He also collected three doubles and scored four runs.
In conjunction with his offensive production, Haniger is displaying versatility in the outfield by playing all three positions and
observers indicate two could be in his future.
Reports indicate he could be an ideal right-field candidate with the ability to play center field in the later innings of games.
Observers indicate Haniger exhibits the arm strength and demonstrated he will not loft the ball to the cutoff man.
While Haniger presently does not have the prototypical power numbers a corner outfielder needs, many scouts believe it will develop as he progresses through the organization.
And given his short and rapid progression through the organization after his first full season in the Brewers’ organization, it brings plenty of promise.
Haniger’s performance in the Fall League speaks high volumes for the quick progression through his first full professional season in 2013.
The outfielder entered the 2013 season with Single A Wisconsin and immediately made the jump to High A Brevard County 41 games into the season – where he belted five home runs with 25 RBI and 12 doubles with the Timber Rattlers.
Haniger’s initial season was cut short due to a season-ending leg injury 12 games into the 2012 Timber Rattlers’ season and there was initial doubt following the injury.
However, Haniger told Brewers Farm Report in August he was fortunate his ligament did not require surgery and all he needed was a long rehabilitation stint to rebuild strength.