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.
Of the six player representatives from the Brewers’ organization in the 2013 Arizona Fall League – one could be seeing big changes.
Huntsville’s Jason Rogers will be making a switch to the outfield after playing his entire season manning first base for the Stars.
In addition, there is plenty more at stake – and room for some improvement – for the other five players as they play through November.
Here are the following players headed to the Fall League following their team’s seasons and what they need to do:
Jason Rogers, 1B, Huntsville Stars
Given the circumstances involving teams above the organization, the potential look at Rogers in the outfield should not be considered a surprise.
After a powerful 2012 season where he is waging in a see-saw battle with Stars’ teammate Brock Kjeldgaard and Chattanooga’s Joc Pederson for the Southern League lead in home runs – Milwaukee could be attempting to keep him every way possible.
Rogers, 25, is subjected to the minor league portion of the Rule V draft held in December and faces an uncertain future given Milwaukee’s commitment to Hunter Morris at first base in Nashville for 2014.
However, Rogers told Brewers Farm Report earlier in August he has experience playing the corner outfield positions and is open to the opportunity of switching positions.
The 32nd round selection from the same draft as Morris in 2010 already notched career highs in home runs with 22 and with 85 runs batted in for Huntsville.
In 374 career games spanning four seasons he appeared in left field for 66 games and right field in one game.
Additionally, he made a sole appearance at third base his first season.
Rogers has demonstrated the ability to hit for a high average through the progression of his career and his power numbers have improved considerably since the 2012 season.
He will need to show he is capable of playing the outfield when he is given the opportunity in the Arizona Fall League.
Additionally, his odds will be better at staying with the organization given the outfield depth in Nashville.
Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Huntsville Stars
One of two first round picks by Milwaukee in 2011, the tall right-hander will need to redeem himself in the AFL after hitting a roadblock with Huntsville in 2013.
Milwaukee’s number two ranked prospect has shown the capability of producing impressive outings and physical endurance of taking on a tremendous amount of innings.
Jungmann produced a near unbeatable string of games May 9 until June 9 where he compiled a 6-1 record in seven starts.
The Southern League mid-season All-Star held opponents to nine earned runs in 45.1 innings during the hot streak. His 113.2 innings is second on the team to Ariel Pena’s 137.2.
However, his ability to get out of long-term slumps is seemingly difficult given his recent rough stretch games where has not captured a victory since July 6.
When the 6’9” pitcher is not showing impeccable location on his pitches, Huntsville Manager Darnell Coles has not hesitated to remove him from games early.
Jungmann will need to use the AFL to get out of the slump and set the tone for Spring Training in 2014.
David Goforth, RHP, Huntsville Stars
Milwaukee’s 16th rated prospect is undergoing a pitching adjustment after starting nearly every game during his minor league career.
Many national scouts project him to be a highly regarded reliever in the Major Leagues and in a purely player development move, the Stars moved him to the bullpen.
After compiling a 10-8 record with a 4.66 earned run average with Single A Wisconsin in 2012 the 2011 seventh round selection is making a statement in 2013.
Goforth produced a 7-5 record with Brevard County and allowed 27 earned runs in 78.1 innings before his promotion to Huntsville.
His control in his pitches has been remarkable allowing 44 walks in 123 innings combined between both levels.
Since the move the bullpen, he has notched four saves and just one earned run in 13 innings.
If Goforth maintains his successful stretch with the AFL, it will re-affirm Milwaukee’s confidence in him.
Adam Weisenburger, C, Huntsville Stars
The Southern League mid-season All-Star will need to stand out in the AFL and prove he should be promoted to Nashville in 2014.
In addition, the catcher is in need of more work behind the plate after accumulating 60 of Huntsville’s 133 games.
Weisenburger, 25, has not accumulated any more than 100 games in any of his three seasons with the Brewers’ organization.
With the emergence of Robinzon Diaz with Nashville and potential advancement of Brevard County’s Cameron Garfield, Weisenburger could be sandwiched in the organization.
Milwaukee could stick with Diaz, 29, heading into the 2014 season given his success at the plate.
Kevin Shackelford, RHP, Huntsville Stars
After three below average seasons, Shackelford has finally caught on with Double A Huntsville. Milwaukee likely sent the reliever to the AFL to get a longer look at his development.
Shackelford posted a 7-10 record in 55 games between Helena in 2010 and Single A Wisconsin with an earned run average above 4.00.
The right-hander from North Carolina snapped out of it following a promotion to Double A Huntsville 24 games into the 2013 season with High A Brevard County.
In 18 games for the Stars he has allowed three earned runs in 26.1 innings pitch for a meager 1.03 earned run average.
Additionally, the 24-year-old saved five games to match his season best in an entire 2012 season with Single A Wisconsin.
Mitch Haniger, OF, Brevard County Manatees
The 2012 first round selection has been on a hot streak with Brevard County after making adjustments to a tougher pitching environment compared to the Midwest League.
Haniger was promoted instantly from Single A Wisconsin after belting five home runs and collecting 12 doubles in just 41 games for the Rattlers.
Milwaukee is likely taking a look and see how he fares against other team’s pitching prospects and how he will stick with his inevitable move to Double A Huntsville.
It took just 55 games with Single A Wisconsin for 2012 first round selection Mitch Haniger to convince Milwaukee to move him up the organizational ladder to Brevard County.
The decision to promote him to the Florida State League team even caught Haniger off guard as he was in the middle of an Iowa road trip with the Timber Rattlers.
“I was in Quad Cities when I got the call to Brevard, and the next day I traveled to Wisconsin and packed up and got down to Florida,” Haniger said.
Haniger’s promotion was near improbable given his season-ending injury just 12 games into the 2012 season after sustaining a partial tear to a knee ligament at play at the plate.
However, the 22-year-old California-born outfielder made a rapid recovery and considers himself grateful the injury was not as terrible as originally believed.
“I found out pretty quickly that I did not need surgery,” Haniger said. “Luckily things went very well and came back very quickly.”
Haniger made a statement early in the season for the Brewers’ Single A affiliate.
He gathered 43 hits in 145 at bats (.297 batting average) and knocked in 25 runs prior to the promotion.
Of his 43 hits, 19 were extra base hits (12 doubles, two triples, five home runs) and scored 24 times.
In addition, the speedy outfielder stole seven bases in seven attempts and walked 25 times for an On Base Percentage of .399.
Following an adjustment to the pitching-rich Florida State League his first 20 games, Haniger is catching on rapidly.
In the last 26 games, he produced 29 hits in 100 at bats for an average of .290 and tabulated 13 walks to give him an On Base Percentage of .368.
Haniger collected three of his seven doubles in the span in the August 17 blowout victory over the Daytona Cubs. In addition to the three doubles, he drove in three of the ten runs and batted 3-for-5 with two runs scored.
“I just went with whatever they gave me and not try to do too much,” Haniger said. “And not start something up every time you come to the plate.”
The outfielder is looking to make a strong statement as the season draws to a close in Brevard County – after a struggling start with the team.
“I am not pressing at all. I am just trying to finish out the season,” Haniger said. “I am just taking it one at bat at a time, one game at a time. I am not trying to worry about the future.”
Brevard County one of two winning teams
The Manatees are one of two teams within the Brewer organization with winning records and Haniger does not seem surprised given the history and chemistry between teammates.
“We won the Midwest League last year and all of us in the clubhouse knew how to win,” Haniger said. “That is why we have been able to compete.”
In addition, he notes all of the players within the clubhouse knows the role they serve on the team.
“There is not one particular guy in the clubhouse that leads the team in the vocal standpoint,” Haniger said.
He also spoke highly when asked about the impression infielder Nick Delmonico is making on the team after being acquired from Baltimore for veteran reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
“He has a great approach at the plate and very disciplined,” Haniger said. “He is battling some injuries right now,” Haniger said.
The Haniger File
11th Rated Prospect in Brewers system
|Born: December 23, 1990|
|Birthplace: Santa Clara, CA|
|Height: 6’2” Weight: 180|
Bats: Right Throws: Right
College: California Polytechnic State University
Drafted: First round (38th) overall by Milwaukee in 2012
Drafted alongside 10th rated prospect Clint Coulter and 8th rated prospect Victor Roache in the first round
Manatees’ pitcher Tyler Cravy is craving more starts after producing multiple stellar outings after coming out of the bullpen.
With the loss of left-hander Jed Bradley for the season and struggles of other top rated pitchers to start the season, Manatees’ Manager Joe Ayrault turned to Cravy.
“I made a couple spot starts in his place,” Cravy said. “It gave me the chance to be in the starting rotation and I was not sure how long I would be there but things have worked out great.”
The 24-year-old right-handed pitcher has allowed just six earned runs in his last eight outings spanning 42.1 innings.
He has started seven of the the eight outings compiling just a 2-1 record and a few no decisions for the Florida State League team.
Cravy struck out a season-high eight batters in his last two appearances totaling 12.1 innings combined.
Brevard County saw Cravy as a late-inning setup man to closer Tommy Toledo at the start of the season.
Cravy believes the transition to starter has allowed him better preparation and ability to sharpen up his pitches.
“As a starter it is just an opportunity for more time in between starts,” Cravy said. “And working on mixing up my pitches.”
The 17th round selection in 2009 believes the slider is giving him the best route of success in his most recent starts.
“I am pretty confident with my slider lately,” Cravy said. “I sometimes pitch it a little slower to get guys out and faster to jam it in.”
Cravy believes there are telltale signs he will have a good game during pre-game warmups including the ability to mix up his pitches.
“Definitely the fastball, if it leaves my hand well,” Cravy said. “If I can throw sliders for strikes. Its good indication of how I will do.”
Brevard County’s catching core of Cameron Garfield and Rafael Neda are credited with keeping him level throughout games.
“They both do a great job calling games and tell on me to stay on top of my pitches,” Cravy said. “They helped me out a lot.”
Cravy spent all of 2012 with both catchers with the Single A Midwest League Champion Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and learned quickly the difference between both leagues.
“They (hitters) are definitely more disciplined and you do not get away with bad pitches,” Cravy said. “If you get a bad pitch in, chances are you are going to pay for it.”
And as Cravy progresses slowly up the organization’s minor league ladder, he has shown signs of improvement on an annual basis.
Regards to Jacob Barnes, Brent Suter
Cravy noted fellow starter Jacob Barnes as another reason for the Manatees’ high points throughout the season.
Barnes came on in a rare relief appearance following an early departure by Milwaukee’s number 19 rated prospect Damien Magnifico August 23 to pick up his ninth victory of the season.
In the game, he struck out six batters in six innings and allowed just one walk and no earned runs to help the Manatees to a 3-1 win.
Barnes has boasts a 9-3 record with an earned run average of 3.02 in 101.1 innings pitched for the 2013. Milwaukee selected Barnes in the 14th round of the 2011 draft.
In addition, team-leader Brent Suter in Innings Pitched was noted for the ability to keep his walks down and Cravy mentioned his tall and lanky body type as the reason for taking on an extensive amount of innings.
Riding a nine-game hitting streak was a clear indication Clint Coulter was ready to play fully following a season of injuries and missed time.
Milwaukee’s tenth rated prospect lost a month of the season after partially tearing a knee ligament and was a new experience for the 20-year-old catcher.
“I slid in late to second trying to break a double play and twisted my leg,” said Coulter in regards to how he was injured with Wisconsin early in the season.
Now the catcher is showing signs he is healthy given a torrid August with the Arizona League Brewers.
Coulter batted .420 (21-50) for the Arizona Brewers with five doubles, three home runs and 15 runs batted in which includes the nine-game hitting streak.
The hitting streak carried into the Pioneer League on his first game back with the team.
Helena Manager Tony Diggs gave Coulter the start August 21 and the catcher responded with a 3-for-4 game along with two runs scored.
“It was my first knee injury and it was new experience for me to miss a month and I was like ‘oh man’,” Coulter said. “Now I am officially healthy and ready to finish the season strong.”
The 20-year-old catcher began his second season with Single A Wisconsin where he sustained an injury.
Despite Coulter’s struggles with Wisconsin, he remained optimistic the experience and exposure to a tougher league will help him in the long run.
“Absolutely. Whenever you get a chance to compete at a higher level, it’s definitely an adjustment,” Coulter said. “Hopefully I will get another opportunity, not this year, but definitely next season.”
Coulter acknowledged the territory life in the Minor Leagues can be tough especially when being reassigned to different levels of system within the same year.
“When you are the minor leagues you are going to be traveling a lot and once you reach the big leagues there is going to be travel,” Coulter said. “You just got to go out there and play the season. Your sleep is messed up and body is messed up and you just show up and play hard.”
One of the areas in Coulter’s mind is helping the Pioneer League Brewers in the playoffs after the team clinched the first half North Division.
“I am working the playoffs here and hope it brings me something to carry into the offseason,” Coulter said. “I will keep doing the same thing every game and if it keeps working use it.”
Coulter made it a point to remain focused on the catching position even with some Major League catchers switching positions to extend their careers.
“There are elements of the game you cannot control and I can’t be thinking down the line,” Coulter said “Aside from my recent injury I am still pretty young so just cross your fingers.”
Milwaukee drafted Coulter in the first round from the State of Washington, home of the Seattle Mariners.
However, Coulter grew up a Red Sox fan and fellow catcher Mike Napoli is a player he enjoyed watching the most.
“They were the underdog at the time and hadn’t won a World Series in a bunch of years so I grew up liking them,” Coulter said.
By Jason Arndt
Brewers Farm Report
Full length feature will be posted Friday, August 23
It has been a long and rough road for Milwaukee’s tenth rated prospect Clint Coulter.
The catcher talked with Brewers Farm Report Thursday night, a day following a 3-for-4 game where he scored two runs in Helena’s 4-3 loss to Orem.
Coulter stated he never sustained an injury through his high school playing career and his 2013 experience was a new experience.
When asked about making a return to Helena following weeks of rehab with the Arizona League Brewers, he was modest and focused on Helena’s playoff run after the team won the first half North Division title.
The catcher sustained an ankle injury attempting to break up a double play with Single A Wisconsin and noted this injury along with his spring training as the reason for his season struggles.
Coulter states he is ready to play and feels healthy for the first time all season and hopes to make it back to Wisconsin by Opening Day 2014.
Despite losing the entire 2012 season due to a fractured ankle, teenager Orlando Arcia has been able to hold his own among older players in the Midwest League.
The Venezuelan-born shortstop is progressing in the League after making a major jump from the Dominican Summer League in 2011 straight to Single A.
In the span of a month the 19-year-old produced a seven game hitting streak and presently sits at a five-game streak.
Arcia accumulated 20 runs scored and struck out just nine times in 94 at bats for the Brewers’ Single A affiliate.
In addition, he is batting .297 with an On Base Percentage of .353 since July 20 along with six multi-hit games.
The 165 pound shortstop faced a different situation on August 15 when the Chiefs intentionally walked him twice in a 3-for-5 game where he scored twice.
Arcia belted two of his four home runs in the last four games with scouts believing the shortstop will develop power when he fills up.
Within the last 15 games where he produced the seven- and five-game hitting streaks, he is batting .322 with 13 runs scored and three stolen bases.
Arcia might be getting comfortable on the basepaths after suffering two injuries, including the season-ending injury he sustained in 2012 when he slid into second base. He also had an injury scare earlier in the season when he sprained the same ankle after a play at the plate.
The shortstop has took the Brewers’ organization by storm after the team signed him as a 16-year-old undrafted free agent and rattled off an impressive debut with the Dominican Summer League in 2011.
In his inaugural season, the eventual 17-year-old stole 13 bases and homered six times in 64 games for the DSL Brewers and collected 26 doubles.
Rattler Manager Matt Erickson is batting Arcia ninth for the majority of the season to minimize pressure on him and allow him time to grow.
Wagner the Wisconsin workhorse
If there is a more deceiving statistic in baseball, it would be the win column for starting pitchers – and Wisconsin’s Tyler Wagner has done more than what his record presents.
The 22-year-old fourth round selection from Utah has been the Rattlers’ workhorse the entire season racking up a team-leading 130.2 innings with a 3.24 earned run average – but has a 9-8 record to show for it.
Wagner is tabulating a 2.89 earned run average in his last nine appearances but received four No Decisions and three wins, including an eight strikeout performance July 13 against Lake County.
The right-hander racked up a career high ten strikeouts and allowed no runs in seven innings May 8 against Clinton.
Reed does it again
Outfielder Michael Reed is the epitome of clutch performances for the Rattlers after carrying the team to another walk-off win August 15.
Reed made Peoria pay for intentionally walking Arcia when two batters later, the speedy outfielder hit a game winning two-out single.
The 20-year-old from Texas has produced double digits in nearly every offensive category including 11 triples, third in the Midwest League.
In addition, he has compiled a .391 On Base Percentage and stolen 23 bases and collected 22 doubles.
Taylor rebounds from injury
Reed’s outfield mate Tyrone Taylor is bouncing back from an injury requiring him a stint on the seven-day disabled list by hitting safely in seven of his nine games since returning August 8.
Taylor is batting .293 in the last nine games including four multi-hit games, four doubles, six runs batted in and two stolen bases.
Prior to his placement on the disabled list, it is believed he attempted to play through the hip injury indicated by his decline at the plate.
The outfielder’s average dropped more than 30 points in the course of a month before Wisconsin officially shut him down for a week.