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.
By Jason Arndt
Brewers Farm Report
After a dismal 2014 season with High A Brevard County, Victor Roache has shown a resurgence in the first 18 games of the 2015 season, but has plenty of room for improvement.
Hopes were high for the 23-year-old Roache when he belted a team record 22 home runs for Single A Wisconsin in 2013, a year after being drafted in the first-round by the Milwaukee Brewers.
But plate discipline has plagued him since arriving from Georgia Southern University, striking out 137 times in his first professional season, and subsequently fanned 138 times last year.
While he supplanted Hunter Morris as Brevard County’s single season home run record holder with 18 home runs last year, his batting average plummeted from .248 in 2013 to .226 in 2014, and On Base Percentage took a harder nosedive from .322 to .298.
He walked 46 times in 2013, but experienced a decline of 9 walks last season.
However, he has substantially improved this season, accumulating a 9-game hitting streak, and has hit safely in 11 of the last 12 games.
In the span of 12 games, he is batting .388 with a line of .464 OBP and 1.179 OPS. He has accumulated 19 hits, collected two doubles, a triple and four home runs with 13 RBI.
In the first 18 games of his 2015 campaign, he has pounded out 23 hits, collected two doubles and has five home runs with 18 RBI in 70 at bats for a .329 batting average and 1.005 OPS.
At this time last year, he hit .188 with no home runs and drove in eight runs and plating six.
Despite showing glimmers of hope, Roache continues to be hindered by plate discipline, striking out 23 times in 18 games, compared to 15 at this time last year.
Additionally, the clock could be ticking for him, he will turn 24 at the end of the season and compared to another 2012 draftee, 21-year-old Tyrone Taylor, he is lagging behind schedule.
Roache, who shared the outfield with Taylor and Michael Reed at Single A Wisconsin, is the sole player remaining in Brevard County when Taylor was given the promotion to AA Huntsville (Biloxi) during the 2014 post season, and assignment of Reed to Biloxi prior to opening day.
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.”
With the support of teammate Devin Williams and a developing curveball, left-hander Clint Terry is ready to move ahead in his young professional career.
“That is my pitcher and he is a dominating pitcher. That’s why I like him,” Williams told Brewers Farm Report in January. “He keeps hitters off balance and you never know what he is going to throw.”
The left-handed Terry struck out a stunning 56 batters compared to ten walks in 46.2 innings to start off his professional career with the Rookie League Brewers in Arizona.
“I think its the fastball and throwing strikes, its what people see and not walk people,” Terry said.
In addition to his strikeout-walk ratio, he allowed eight earned runs in 14 games to give him a meager 1.54 ERA for the season.
However, the 21-year-old from Palatine, Ill. acknowledged he has plenty of room for improvement which includes polishing off his curveball.
Terry believes he will accomplish substantially more once his breaking pitch is established and can utilize against left-handed hitters.
“As strange as this sounds, it is against right-handers I think,” Terry explained, in regards to whether he felt he pitched more effectively against left-handers.
“That is why I am working on my curveball right now and to reach the Majors you have to have a curveball. I need to have a curveball to go to and then I will feel comfortable throwing it to left handed hitters,” Terry added.
He has a slider, but is working on making the curveball more of a priority for his professional baseball future.
“It was a slurve and I barely threw it, like two or three times per inning in those 46 innings,” Terry said. “So I didn’t really have much control with it or confidence.”
Terry was on the scout’s radar screen in a year prior to Milwaukee drafting him with the 18th round pick in 2013 when San Francisco snagged him in the 36th round in 2012.
“It had to do with getting stronger and being drafted in the 38th round and financially it was not a good time and waiting another year was a good decision,” Terry said.
Terry has backed up his decision by adding additional weight to his 6’2” frame during off season workouts, bulking up to 208 lbs compared to his professional debut of 195 lbs.
The left-handed Palatine Fremd High School graduate has his eyes on the Midwest League entering Spring Training.
“I am hoping for Wisconsin right now and trying to get a spring spot there and that is what I am shooting for,” Terry said.
As for his relationship with fellow pitcher Williams, Terry stated the Brewers’ 2013 second round selection has pushed him to be the best on the pitching mound.
“We are always competing together and when he did good, I tried to one-up him and it worked out,” Terry said.
Life as a professional baseball player has yet to begin for Milwaukee’s Tucker Neuhaus with a transition to a new position and recovery from a variety of obstacles.
The 18-year-old supplemental second round selection in 2013 by Milwaukee believes he is ready for a change to the hot corner.
“I started getting a really good feel for it down at instructs and got really comfortable with it,” Neuhaus said. “I think in the long run that is where I will be best.”
The shortstop by trade played 27 of 51 games at third base for the Rookie Arizona Brewers in 2013 where the left-handed hitter produced a scorching stretch midway through July.
He additionally made 12 appearances during the Brewers’ fall instructional session in October at the Maryvale Complex in Arizona.
“That is where I took my reps at and I think that is where my future will be,” Neuhaus said.
During his first professional season, Neuhaus demonstrated some of the potential Milwaukee saw in him when he was drafted.
In his eight game hitting streak July 21-23, he collected three doubles with seven RBI and eight runs scored. He batted .406 and also was not caught stealing on three attempts.
“I think everything was coming to form. My timing was down and starting to get the hang of pro ball and the everyday grind like the pitching, velocity,” Neuhaus said. “You get hot, you get cold.”
Additionally, he hit safely in 11 of 12 games from July 21-28 with 11 runs driven in and 11 runs scored.
However, it was a struggling season for Neuhaus after dealing with family tragedy and an injury during his senior season at Wharton High School in Tampa.
“I didn’t play much of the spring of my high school season so I was going into the end of the season without any at
bats so it was kind of tough,” said Neuhaus, who batted .231 with 12 doubles and 29 runs scored in his inaugural season.
Tragedy struck the Neuhaus family in November 2012 when Tucker’s older brother was killed in a car accident in Florida. Tyler was 19 years old and a catcher at community college.
“It was really hard for something like that to happen. It was just a shock but our support system was amazing,” Neuhaus said. “You just never know. Everything is part of God’s plan. Just have to move on and stay strong.”
The younger Neuhaus told Brewers Farm Report him and his brother shared a common goal of reaching the grand stage of baseball.
“It was his dream to play in the big leagues so it was kind of my goal not just for me, but for my brother also,” Neuhaus said.
“We had great friends and our family was there and had a lot of people I didn’t even know that were supporting me and that really helped a lot,” Neuhaus added.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Neuhaus decided to wear his older brother’s number of 19 his final season as a tribute to Tyler.
Despite a trying senior season for Neuhaus and his teammates on and off the diamond where his team went winless during the regular season, Milwaukee still called his name with the 72nd overall selection in June 2013.
“I knew I had the chance to get drafted by the Brewers. They had interest all year and always kept up with me,” Neuhaus said.
The Florida high school senior is prepared for life in Wisconsin as he climbs the organizational ladder and meets his ultimate goal.
“I was born in Minnesota and I lived there for eight years so I don’t think it will be too bad because I still go up there about once a year,” Neuhaus said. “I was up there for Christmas this past year and the cold doesn’t really faze me so I don’t think it will be too hard of an adjustment.”
Neuhaus is optimistic about his future within the Brewers’ system and feels he is just scratching the surface of getting stronger and better on the field.
“When I put on some more weight I definitely think more pop is going to come and I will see the ball go further,” Neuhaus said. “I am already feeling stronger this off season.”
The 6’3” infielder credits spending time at Performance Compound in Florida for helping him gain ten pounds during the off season, stating he weighs in 200.
“I lift down there about five times a week and I see some big leaguers training down there once in awhile,” Neuhaus said.
Furthermore, he acknowledges professional baseball is a much longer season and believes he is ready for a productive 2014 season.
“It is a long season but I haven’t even played a full season yet but I just know that your body does break down,” Neuhaus said.
“It is self-motivation, you got to get up every morning and want it. You just have to be one of guys that wants to be out there everyday,” added Neuhaus.
It took 53 selections in the 2013 June Draft before Devin Williams received notice he was picked by the Milwaukee Brewers.
The initially projected first round selection from Hazelwood West High School in Missouri is using the long wait as fuel to forge ahead after his first season as a pitcher with the Brewers’ organization.
“I don’t think that had much to do with it. There were some teams that had some doubts about me I am just thankful that the Brewers picked me,” Williams said regarding the letter of intent he signed with the University of Missouri prior to the draft.
“I was passed up by everybody once. So it just makes you want to prove everyone wrong,” Williams added.
Williams, 19, endured a tough and frustrating start to his young career where he allowed eight earned runs on 15 hits and 13 walks in his first six appearances (14.2 IP) with Rookie Arizona League Brewers.
However, the prep pitcher rated as high as 20th by ESPN.com entering the draft demonstrated the ability to be teachable.
“There was some adjustments with my mechanics because at certain times I would get off balance with my delivery,” Williams said.
Williams responded with a string of stellar outings the latter portion of the season where he amassed 23 strikeouts compared to nine walks in 20.1 innings. He also allowed 13 hits through the final stretch.
The 6’3” hard thrower captured his first career victory in a three-inning relief appearance August 16 where he fanned six through three innings.
Williams stated his best game came against the Dodgers where he held the team hitless and struck out two through four innings.
Despite his promising start, Williams acknowledges he still has plenty of room to grow as a pitcher.
“I want to cut down on my walks this season because I had too many last season,” Williams said. “I think my slider needs a little work right now because it is a pretty inconsistent pitch right now.”
Williams also noted mental adjustments need to be made during the transition to professional baseball following his high school career.
“The hitters in pro ball are more disciplined than in high school and they would never chase after anything outside the strike zone,” Williams said.
Williams expressed confidence in his fastball when Brewers Farm Report asked him whether he believes he is a power pitcher or finesse pitcher.
“I am more of a power pitcher because I like to use my fastball a lot,” Williams said, but counters it by using his change-up and slider when ahead in the count.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he can throw a 96 miles per hour fastball and accrued a 6-2 record with a 1.15 ERA his senior season. He struck out a phenomenal 101 batters in 55 innings and allowed just 19 hits.
While Williams is determined to pave a path to the Major Leagues, he enjoyed experiences with his teammates in Arizona.
One player he was impressed with is left-hander Clint Terry, Milwaukee’s 18th round selection in the same draft.
“That is my pitcher and he is a dominating pitcher. That’s why I like him,” Williams said. “He keeps hitters off balance and you never know what he is going to throw.”
Terry, 21, struck out 56 batters and walked ten through 46.2 innings and tabulated a meager 1.54 ERA.
Williams’ Final Statistics:
Williams grew up less than a half hour from St. Louis and admits growing up as a diehard Cardinals fan.
“I grew up a big Cardinals fan. I went to about 15 games a year since I was four years old,” Williams said. “When I am pitching for the Brewers I wouldn’t worry about that at all.”
His feelings for the Cardinals changed after the team opted to select two other players prior to Milwaukee’s selection in the second round and hopes to avenge being passed over as a member of the Brewers’ major league squad.
“Yeah absolutely, they are one of the teams that passed up on me,” said Williams, regarding how he wants to win against his hometown team.
When Milwaukee picked Williams, he knew he had to snag the opportunity and forgo his scholarship to Missouri.
“I wanted to get my coaching down in the minor leagues to get to the big leagues faster,” Williams said.
Williams stated he was in awe of Miller Park when he toured the stadium days after being drafted in June.
“The Park is beautiful, I have never been there and never been in a stadium with a dome on it,” Williams said.
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.