Players headed to the Arizona Fall League are given a golden opportunity to improve their chances of remaining with a Major League organization or highlighting strengths and improving weaknesses.
Milwaukee sent eight Minor League players to the off-season league in 2012 in an effort to afford them a chance of showcasing their skills.
Brewers Farm Report examines the eight players and where they are presently within the Brewers’ organization.
The players listed are ranked according to who made the most of the opportunity and what team they are presently with:
Khris Davis, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Despite an underwhelming Fall League stint, the 25-year-old outfielder progressed through the organization faster than a speeding bullet in 2012.
Davis started his 2012 campaign with the Arizona Rookie League Brewers to rehabilitate an injury and was assigned to Double A Huntsville after playing six games posting a .368 batting average (7-for-19) with three home runs and five runs batted in.
The seventh round selection in 2009 blasted eight home runs with 23 RBI in 44 games with the Stars before earning a promotion to Nashville.
He posted similar numbers with the Sounds and was given a ticket to the Arizona Fall League.
Davis was given “medium priority” in the AFL playing in 15 of 25 games and connected on 12 hits in 53 at bats (.226).
Little did Milwaukee know he would use the AFL as motivation to put on a show in Spring Training and eventually earned a spot on the Opening Day Roster.
Johnny Hellweg, RHP, Nashville Sounds
Hellweg’s performance in the AFL allowed Milwaukee the chance to take a longer look at him following a mid-season trade involving All-Star Zach Greinke.
The 6’9” hard thrower known as “Gas” by former Angels’ teammate Vernon Wells made nine appearances in the Fall League posting a 2.08 earned run average.
His limited performance in the Fall League affirmed the Brewers’ opinion on him after posting a 2.70 earned run average in 20 innings with Double A Huntsville.
The following year, he was rated in the Top Five among all Brewers’ prospects in the system and made the jump to third best.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Nashville Sounds
The 24-year-old was sent to the AFL in order to straighten out following a tough transition from High A Brevard County to Double A Huntsville in 2012.
Nelson posted a 2-3 record in seven starts but had an earned run average of 4.91 spanning 22 innings. His 23 strikeouts in 22 innings was a Phoenix Desert Dogs’ best.
With Brevard County he posted a 4-4 record but had a phenomenal 2.21 earned run average in 81.1 innings and walked just 25 batters in the Florida State League.
Nelson hit a minor roadblock when he moved up to Huntsville allowing 34 hits and 37 walks in 46 innings for the Stars.
Aside from a tough couple outings with the Desert Dogs, he demonstrated flashes of brilliance and eventually earned a spot as Milwaukee’s top prospect.
Hunter Morris, 1B, Nashville Sounds
All eyes were on Morris following a season where he earned Southern League Most Valuable Player honors and crowned the Brewers’ Minor League Player of the Year.
His 2012 campaign with Huntsville gave him a league leading 28 home runs and 113 RBI, but fell just short of receiving the Triple Crown.
The left-handed batter was the Stars’ most durable player starting in 136 games and accumulating 571 plate appearances.
Morris’ AFL stint may have hindered his growth due to the extensive amount of at bats he tacked on from the beginning of the season through November.
The power numbers are still with him in Triple A Nashville but has been unable to maintain consistency through the duration of the 2013.
Josh Prince, Utility, Nashville Sounds
Nobody took advantage of the Fall League more than Prince after the highly regarded display.
The speedy utility player spent the majority of his minor league career playing below expectations of a former third round selection.
While Prince’s base stealing abilities have always been the highlight of his playing career demonstrated by back-to-back seasons with at least 40 stolen bases.
He seized the opportunity by leading the Desert Dogs in nearly every offensive category including a .404 batting average in 25 games.
In addition, he maintained a phenomenal .491 On Base Percentage and collected eight doubles and ten stolen bases.
Milwaukee made the decision to add him to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule V draft.
Prince’s power numbers increased for Triple A Nashville posting a career high 11 round-trippers and nearly matching his season best in runs batted in.
He received a couple recalls to the parent club, including a time where he took the spot of an injured Aramis Ramirez.
The 25-year-old Tulane University alum was involved in a walk-off win with Milwaukee but has been unable to improve upon his averages in the Minor League system.
Brock Kjeldgaard, OF, Huntsville Stars
Milwaukee gave the member of the Canadian National team an opportunity for more at bats and games following two consecutive short seasons.
The 27-year-old outfielder is one of the elder statesmen of the Brewers’ organization after his selection seven years ago.
Following two years off in order to focus playing for his home country, he has bounced around the system due to injuries.
Kjeldgaard played just 81 total games between three levels of the organization in 2012 and was in need of more work.
He played in just seven AFL games and could not advance himself to Triple A Nashville through the duration of 2013 season.
The 34th round selection is notorious for striking out (839 in 709 career games) and was unable to rid himself of the stigma in the Fall League with ten in 26 at bats.
His power numbers are the most prolific demonstrated by a see-saw battle with Huntsville teammate Jason Rogers for the Southern League home run lead.
The 6’6” right-hander was projected as a starter early in his career and earned himself a spot in the organization’s Top 20 throughout his career.
Heckathorn’s walk totals have been low in his professional career and is known as a fly ball pitcher, but has been unable to keep his hit totals down.
Milwaukee sent the pitcher to the Fall League as a way for him to redeem himself, but displayed similar numbers with the Desert Dogs.
Despite his struggles, he has since calmed down after being moved to the bullpen and used as a long-reliever.
Brewers’ officials will be faced with a tough decision in the winter when they decide whether to protect him from the Rule V draft and add him to the 40-man roster or expose him to other teams.
But following an off-season car accident in 2011, the right-hander has not been the same with reduced zip on his fastball.
Rated among the organization’s Top 20 in the early portions of his career, Milwaukee stamped his ticket to the AFL with hopes of reviving his career.
His stint with the Desert Dogs was unsuccessful allowing seven earned runs in two innings of work.
Manazanillo opened the season with Huntsville but struggled in 26 games before his reassignment to High A Brevard County.
Brewers’ officials made adjustments to his development relegating him to short relief to make the most out of his arm.
Following the 2012 season, the 23-year-old Canadian allowed nine earned runs in 42.2 innings between the Arizona Rookie League and High A Brevard County.
Bucci struck out 44 batters and walked just 15 during the 2012 season and was sent to the AFL to log more innings and prepare for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Milwaukee added him to the team’s 40-man roster in order to protect him from the minor league portion of the Rule V draft when teams began to raise eyebrows at his successful appearances.
However, the right-hander pulled himself out of the Classic to rest his ailing throwing arm and sent to the Rookie League to rehabilitate it.
After less than an inning pitched, he was shut down for the season.
By Jason Arndt
Brewers Farm Report
It could be Josh Prince‘s time to shine for Milwaukee after Brewers’ third baseman Aramis Ramirez was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday.
Ramirez sprained his left knee sliding into second base in Friday’s 3-1 Brewer loss against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In minor league action, the Huntsville Stars will be sending Milwaukee’s number three rated prospect Taylor Jungmann to the mound at Chattanooga.
Jungmann compiled a exceptional 2012 campaign with the High A Brevard County Manatees posting an 11-6 record with a 3.53 earned run average in 153 innings.
The Stars defeated the Lookouts Friday night behind a spectacular pitching performance by Jimmy Nelson. The right-handed pitcher struck out eight in five innings to give the Stars the opening night victory against its Southern League rivals.
Nashville hopes to avenge Friday’s 12-0 loss to New Orleans with tall hard-throwing Johnny Hellweg getting the nod for the Sounds.
Brevard County is on the road in Daytona as they continue it’s opening series against the Cubs’ High A Florida State League affiliate.
In earlier action, the Rattlers dropped its first loss of the season in extra innings against the Peoria Chiefs Saturday afternoon by a score of 4-3 despite the offensive performances of outfielder Tyrone Taylor and infielder Alfredo Rodriguez. Please see game report at the bottom.
Tonight’s probables are as follows:
And the game report of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers:
Peoria gets in under the tag for 13 inning win
Rattlers fall for first time in 2013
PEORIA, IL – The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers could not hold a 3-0 lead Saturday at Chiefs Stadium and wound up on the losing end of a 4-3 score in thirteen innings to the Peoria Chiefs. Alfredo Rodriguez had three hits and Tyrone Taylor drove Rodriguez in twice, but it was not enough as the Rattlers dropped their first contest of the 2013 season.
The bottom of Wisconsin’s order got them going in the top of the third. Rodriguez and Michael Reed both singled with one out. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base with Taylor at the plate. The Chiefs brought the infield in and Taylor sent a grounder to second. But, the ball was booted for an error and Rodriguez scored without a play at the plate. Orlando Arcia followed with a single to right that knocked in Reed for a 2-0 lead.
Rodriguez and Taylor combined to give the Rattlers (2-1) a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning. Rodriguez singled to start the inning and went to second on an infield grounder. Taylor doubled down the left field line to send Rodriguez home for the three run lead.
Rattlers starting pitcher Brent Suter did not allow a run for his first 4-2/3 innings. But, Casey Rasmus reached on a swinging bunt with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Michael Swinson followed with an RBI double to left-center.
Rodolfo Fernandez came on in the bottom of the sixth inning and gave up consecutive doubles to Patrick Wisdom and David Washington to let Peoria (2-1) within a run.
The Chiefs tied the game in the bottom of the seventh as the first three hitters singled. Rasmus had the third single in the sequence to drive in the tying run.
The game remained tied until the thirteenth, but not for lack of opportunities.
Wisconsin put their leadoff batter on base in the tenth and twelfth innings. Peoria put their leadoff batter aboard in the ninth inning. They loaded the bases and had a 3-0 count to Charlie Tilson with two outs in their half of the twelfth. But, neither team could push a run across the plate.
In the bottom of the thirteenth, Rattlers reliever Taylor Mangum retired the first two Chief batters. Then, Rasmus pulled a seeing-eye single into the hole between firsts and second. Rasmus would steal second to get into scoring position.
Swinson lined a 3-2 pitch off the glove of Jose Sermo at third base. The ball trickled into foul territory in left field and Rasmus raced for the plate. Sermo’s throw was in time, but a bit high. Catcher Clint Coulter got the tag down quickly on Rasmus, but the Chiefs catcher went in headfirst and was ruled to have got his hand in just under the tag to score the winning run.
The final game of the four game series is Sunday afternoon at Chiefs Stadium. Jorge Lopez is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. Peoria will send Kyle Helisek to the mound. Game time is 2:00pm. Tune in for the broadcast on AM1280, WNAM starting with the Miller Lite Pregame Show at 1:40pm.
October 20, 2012
By Jason Arndt
Brewers Farm Report
No one should be happier to be in the Arizona Fall League than Huntsville’s Josh Prince. The Stars’ 2012 everyday centerfielder has taken advantage of every opportunity given to him since being converted from the infield.
Prince was drafted in the third round by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2009 out of Tulane University as a shortstop where he remained there until the 2012 season when the organization decided to give him a chance in the outfield.
The newly minted outfielder responded by stealing 41 bases for second in the Southern League to Pensacola’s Billy Hamilton – a player that stole a minor league record 155 bases between High A and Double A.
In addition, the 24-year-old from Louisiana notched career highs in every category other than stolen bases in 2012 including a significant jump in walks (72) and doubles (28) compared to his previous highs set in 2010 when he played 106 games with Brevard County (32 walks, 13 doubles). The 44 stolen bases set in 2010 remains his personal best.
Prince’s 72 walks in 2012 significantly compensated his low batting average of .251 and led him to post a .346 OBP.
After posting subpar averages through his minor league career, the Fall League has breathed new life into his career and has showcased his flexibility playing both corner outfield positions in addition to centerfield.
The Phoenix Desert Dogs have given him the opportunity to play second base for the first time in his career while making an appearance at third base and shortstop.
In ten games for the Desert Dogs, Prince is among the league’s best in nearly all categories and has demonstrated the ability to play in an environment where scouts take notice of the Minor League’s hottest prospects including his Huntsville teammate Hunter Morris among other notable players.
Nelson hits stride
Prince’s Huntsville teammate Jimmy Nelson has pitched well in two starts and may have given himself the opportunity to be the Triple A Nashville Sounds number two pitcher, at worse, in 2013.
Brewers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year Hiram Burgos is the only other pitcher that could knock him off consideration as the team’s ace.
In both starts, Nelson (1-0) has accumulated seven innings pitched with four strikeouts and two earned runs for the Desert Dogs.
If the 23-year-old continues to compile solid appearances there is no doubt he will jump a few slots among the top rated prospects in the Brewers’ farm system entering the 2013 season.
Manzanillo’s Time Running Out
Santo Manzanillo’s struggles have continued into the Arizona Fall League, a place where he was expected to improve his stock following a significant car accident prior to the 2012 season.
The accident left the hard-throwing righthander to lose significant zip in his fastball and his outings have gotten much shorter as the season progressed in 2012.
In two innings of relief, he has allowed seven earned runs and walked four while striking out just one batter.
As other prospects within the Brewers’ Farm System continue to move forward and leapfrog him in organizational rankings, Player Development officials may not put him in its long-term plans if there is no signs of improvement in 2013.
The 2012 season was supposed to be Manzanillo’s season of recovery following this accident. But if his fastball is not rejuvenated by the middle of 2013, it may be time to for the Brewers to move ahead without him.
September 21, 2012
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.