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.
Entering the 2015 season, observers would believe the Biloxi Shuckers would wear down in the midst of a 60-day road trip, after MGM Park in downtown Biloxi faced construction delays.
Based on the first 28 games, the players never got the memo, and continue to take their “Road Warrior” status in stride.
Shuckers’ general manager Buck Rogers prepared his players prior to the season, arriving to Arizona a week before opening day, to inform them.
Rogers expects MGM Park to be ready by June 6 when the Shuckers face the Mobile BayBears.
The 6,000 seat MGM Park, which began construction late last year, faced a lengthy process of relocating the team from Huntsville to Biloxi.
Huntsville Stars owner Miles Prentice sold the Stars to Ken Young for $14 million, according to the Huntsville Times, and was later approved by the Southern League.
“This is a collective effort between the players, coaches, staff and clubhouse managers,” Rogers said. “The guys are doing an excellent job of staying ahead of the game.”
Rogers received assistance from the Penske Corporation, who is providing a moving truck for the team as they move from city to city.
Shuckers’ outfielder Michael Reed is fortunate for the truck, indicating that “we got quite a bit of stuff to carry around.”
Outfielder Kyle Wren, who was acquired in an off-season trade with Atlanta, said it all boils down to team chemistry.
“It really has not been as bad people presume it would be, we got a good group of guys that come together, and we are about halfway there,” Wren said. “While we are having fun on the road, we are not using it as an excuse, we will continue to play hard.”
Wren, the Brewers’ 17th ranked prospect on MLB.com, is third in stolen bases with nine thus far and produced a six-game hitting streak early in the season, batting 7 for 25 with a two doubles, two stolen bases and four runs scored.
“I have been treated very well, and the Brewers have been very good to me,” Wren said. “I love the coaching staff and I can’t be any happier.”
“I think it is just the team makeup, I have been on teams before where things did not mesh,” Wren said. “But this team has great chemistry and if you don’t have team chemistry, you won’t win many games.”
Reed, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft from Leander High School in Texas, has drastically improved, compared to his 2014 season with High A Brevard County of the Florida State League.
The 22-year-old fleet footed outfielder is batting .316 with a .394 OBP in the first 26 games of the season for the Shuckers. He hit .255 with a .396 OBP for the Manatees last year.
Reed acknowledged that this “is a new experience” but cites team chemistry as the driving force behind the early success of the team.
While he enjoys the camaraderie of his teammates, he admits he looks up to two teammates with Major League experience, Taylor Green and Jaye Chapman.
“(Taylor) has been in the big leagues, so I pick his brain a lot, and also Jaye Chapman,” Reed said.
In addition to both outfielders, the Shuckers have two of only three unbeaten pitchers in the Southern League, Hall and Wagner.
Hall, who boasts a 4-0 record and is third with a 1.32 ERA, noted team chemistry has made the trip easier.
“If we didn’t get along like we do it would be tough on the road. But our team is well balanced and everyone has a great time everyday,” said Hall, who was named the Brewers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month.
Wagner, who has the same record, and is fourth behind Hall with a 1.50 ERA, believes the road trip has led to a more firm bond between teammates.
“It’s been going well, the trip is something to embrace because we are getting to know each other a lot better,” Wagner said.
Wagner relies heavily on the defense behind him for his string of six strong performances on the mound.
The 24-year-old picked by the Brewers in the fourth round of the 2012 draft was the Southern League’s first four-game winner. Wagner has amassed 36 innings with 28 strikeouts and issued just 11 walks. He has held opponents to six earned runs on 27 hits.
“It is about not trying to do too much, and keep my pitch counts low, get some ground balls, and let my defense do the work,” said Wagner, who helped his own cause, belting his first career home run April 27 against Pensacola.
In addition to on-field performances by the players, which includes shortstop and top ranked Brewers prospect Orlando Arcia, Rogers has been impressed with second-year manager Carlos Subero, along with Sandy Guerrero and Chris Hook.
“Our coaching staff is doing a real nice job of keeping things together,” Rogers said.
Arcia, 20, is in the top five in four statistical categories in the Southern League, batting average (3, .358), runs (T1, 18), hits (T2, 34) and On Base Percentage (5, .417).
While the team continues their road trip, the players continue to stress the importance of having fun, relaxing when needed and grasping the moment.
“We just relax and have fun, not take the game so seriously, we play cards or go to the movies on the road to take our mind off the game for awhile,” Wren said.
Rogers jokingly said the team has incurred one roadblock, when they were not allowed to watch the welterweight championship bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao at their former home in Huntsville.
However, according to Reed, the team managed to find ways around obstacle, hitting up downtown bars following the game.
“Given our address (at Joe Davis), the provider would not allow it,” Reed said. “We tried to get it at the stadium, but they would have charged us a ton, but we were able to catch it some place. We all found a way to watch it.”
However, Reed and the rest of the Shuckers acknowledge there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and paid a visit to MGM Park on April 14.
“It was their day off, and they could have stayed in bed if they wanted to, but they wanted to take a stadium tour in the rain,” Rogers said.
Players were able to talk with construction workers about the nooks and crannies of their eventual home and were floored, Rogers said.
“I think it is going to be an awesome stadium, and it looks great, we are all excited,” said Reed, who personally monitors the progress on the Shuckers’ team website.
“It’s in a great location and it is going to look awesome. They are just placing sod on the field either today or tomorrow, and we are about halfway there,” Wren said.
“It should be a great stadium and the atmosphere should be great, and look forward to being there,” Wagner said.
According to sources at Fox Sports, Milwaukee is working on a trade to send long-time Brewers’ farmhand Yovani Gallardo to Texas.
There have been no reports of any players returning to Milwaukee in exchange for Gallardo, who has one year remaining on his contract.
However, we can rule out 21-year-old prospect Jurickson Profar, multiple sources said.
The potential deal makes sense for Brewers’ pitching prospect Jimmy Nelson, who could slide into the team’s starting rotation, after team officials planned to have him in the bullpen pending any off season trades of their starters.
Nelson’s 2014 campaign with the Major League club drew mixed results, starting 12 of 14 games, posting a 2-9 record and a 4.93 ERA.
Nelson, 25, had his best start of the season May 25 at Miami when he tossed 5.2 innings, allowing no earned runs with six strikeouts and three walks to earn his first career victory.
He then produced two underwhelming starts, allowing nine earned runs through 10.1 innings, but produced a solid 10:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The right-hander produced a solid start in a 2-0 loss to the New York Mets July 27, where he strung
together seven strong innings, allowing two earned runs and struck out six batters.
Based on his season trends, he accrued six starts where he pitched six or more innings, and two where he pitched seven. He was 1-3 with three no decisions in all six of those starts.
Aside from Nelson, there is speculation from a variety of individuals on Twitter that the Gallardo trade could lead Milwaukee to either a Max Scherzer or James Shields free agent signing.
A report from MLB insider Chris Cotillo indicates Scherzer has multiple offers on the table, including one for seven years, and could sign with the Washington Nationals.
Tom Haudricourt reported Sunday that the Brewers are maxed out financially, and the trade will likely clear up some of Gallardo’s $13 million salary.
Chances are slim Shields will come to Milwaukee on a free agent contract.
One of the sole objectives to the potential deal is to relieve payroll, and not add further fuel to to a belt that is already strapped.
Regardless of Nelson’s track record last season, it could be his job to lose entering Spring Training, unless the Brewers still consider Tyler Thornburg a viable option.
Kyle Wren knew he would be a marked man heading into the off season within the Atlanta Braves organization.
The 23-year-old outfielder was drafted by his father, Frank, in the eighth round of the 2013 draft following three productive seasons with Georgia Tech.
When Atlanta fired Frank in Sept. 2014, Kyle began to prepare for a new organization.
“I wasn’t naïve about it, in the back of my mind, I knew there was a possibility I would get traded this offseason,” Kyle Wren said. “They were up front about it, it wasn’t a bad situation.”
Milwaukee stepped up to the plate and offered 20-year-old right-handed pitcher Zach Quintana, who compiled a career 11-13 record, 6.15 ERA, 139 strikeouts, 103 walks in 194.2 innings from 2012-14.
The Brewers acquisition of Kyle Wren immediately placed the left-handed hitter as the organization’s 12th rated prospect following two seasons within the Braves organization.
In his two seasons, Kyle Wren batted .304 with 35 doubles, 13 triples and stole 81 bases in 185 games as he ascended through four different levels of the Braves minor league system.
He stole 33 of his 46 bases with Advanced A Lynchburg of the Carolina League through 76 games in 2014.
The 23-year-old was acquired by the Brewers midway through a game in the Arizona Fall League.
“I couldn’t be happier with being in the organization, especially after hearing that the Brewers instigated the trade talk after learning about the situation with my Dad,” Wren said. “They thought they could get me for a cheaper cost than they would have.”
Kyle Wren already knew two of the Brewers prospects prior to the trade, teaming up with two Brewers’ first-round selections, Jed Bradley at Georgia Tech and Victor Roache during a 2011 Cape Cod League stint.
“The good thing about it is when I heard it was to the Brewers, I knew a lot of guys on that team, I know Jed Bradley from playing with him at Georgia Tech,” Wren said. “I played with Victor Roache up in the Cape Cod League, so there is a couple of them I knew quite while in the organization.”
Kyle Wren said he looks forward to reconnecting with Jed Bradley during his new journey through the Brewers’ organization, and had admiration for the pitcher while he was a freshman with the Yellowjackets.
“He has one of the hardest work ethics I have ever seen, he is one of the reasons I think I ended up working so hard,” Kyle Wren said.
Additionally, Kyle Wren was amazed by Roache’s mindset during the Cape Cod League, around the time he became considered one of the most notable prospects as a power-hitter.
“We became friends in the Cape Cod League…he was just a really humble guy and you expect those big home run hitters to be cocky and he was just a humble guy,” Kyle Wren said. “I really respected him with how he handled all of that.”
Kyle Wren has reasons for optimism heading into his inaugural campaign within the Brewers organization.
Despite holding a slim 5-foot-10 frame, he believes he has packed on extra muscle following a rigorous off season.
“It has always been tougher for me to pack on muscle,” Kyle Wren said. “With a professional off season, I have a much longer period of trying to work and getting stronger than in college.”
He entered the AFL registering in at 172, and reports checking in at 185 within the last two weeks, the heaviest he has been.
“I am just trying to come in with a little more muscle on my frame and take it to another level of play,” Kyle Wren said.
Kyle Wren was one of four outfielders added to the Brewers organization, following the departure of three longtime farmhands, Kentrail Davis, Sean Halton and Caleb Gindl.
Peterson, 26, was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Cubs and sports a career .284 average with 175 doubles, 25 triples, 57 home runs and 435 RBI in seven professional seasons. He has two games of Major League experience with Oakland in 2013, where he batted 1-7 with three strikeouts.
Long, 27, was acquired along with left-handed reliever Jarrett Martin from the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher Shawn Zarraga.
Like Peterson, Long also bats left-handed, but has never accrued a full season at the Triple A Level.
Long has a career .286 average with a .365 OBP and has collected 146 doubles, 54 triples, 60 home runs with 370 RBI in seven professional seasons. He has drawn 322 walks but has struck out 509 times in 2,989 plate appearances.
Guez, a free-agent signee, has a career .258 average with 77 home runs and 349 RBI in seven seasons.
By Jason Arndt
Brewers Farm Report
A plethora of new outfielders at the upper levels of the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league system will be evident entering the 2015 season following departure of key longtime farmhands.
The Brewers made their final farewells to a flurry of departing outfielders, including former first-round selection Kentrail Davis and two frequent fliers to Miller Park in Caleb Gindl and Sean Halton.
Milwaukee’s loss of Davis to the Los Angeles Angels in the Triple A phase of December’s Rule V draft should not come as a shock.
Davis, 26, did produce a solid, but unremarkable, minor league career with the Brewers and remained in a holding pattern of his development in Double A since 2012.
The first-round selection in 2008 batted a career .266 with a .358 on base percentage, stole 103 bases and collected 118 doubles, 34 triples and scored 326 runs in 596 career games dating back to 2010.
In Davis’ 2,518 career plate appearances, he drew 265 walks and struck out 482 times.
With the starting outfield core in place at Miller Park for at least another 3-5 years, including Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis, the new Los Angeles Angel would be in his 30’s by the time he reaches Miller Park.
Similar to last season’s Rule V loss of infielder Eric Farris, Milwaukee might have looked out for Kentrail Davis’ best interests, with hopes the once-promising outfielder can latch on to another organization and succeed.
Outfielder Sean Halton was plucked by the Baltimore Orioles in the same Rule V draft after accruing time with Triple A Nashville and parent club Milwaukee the last two seasons.
Halton, 27, batted .238 with a .291 on base percentage in 42 career Major League games with the Brewers in 2013. In his 42 games, he collected four doubles, belted four home runs and drove in 17 runs. Halton drew just five walks and struck out 31 times in 111 plate appearances.
Halton also remained in a holding pattern in Triple A, playing his last three of six seasons with Nashville.
The new Orioles’ farmhand had his best season in 2011 while a member of the Huntsville Stars, collecting a career-high 39 doubles and batted .298 with a .346 OBP.
Gindl, 26, signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after Milwaukee attempted to outright him off the 40-man roster to make room for new additions, and led to his subsequent release by the Brewers.
The 26-year-old left-handed hitter played 65 career Major League games between 2013-14, batting .232 with a .335 OBP. He collected seven doubles, two triples and belted five home runs with 14 runs driven in.
Other key losses were veteran outfielder Jeremy Hermida, who initially agreed to a minor-league contract at the start of the off season after one season with Nashville, was released so he could further his career in Japan.
Josh Prince, considered an Arizona Fall League wonder, made an appearance at Miller Park but his career never flourished following his AFL campaign in 2012.
All Hiram Burgos had to do was return home to reclaim some of the form he had when being named Milwaukee’s 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Following several injury setbacks during the 2013 season including a six game stop with Milwaukee, Burgos is demonstrating signs of life with Indios de Mayaguez of the Puerto Rican Winter League.
The 26-year-old Puerto Rican native has allowed just six earned runs in six starts (nine total) for the Indios and is starting to show command with his breaking balls for the first time in more than a year.
Burgos has walked just 12 batters while striking out 29 in 27.2 innings pitched and has an earned run average of 1.95 despite a 0-2 record.
In his last appearance December 17, he struck out five batters and walked just one at home against Leones de Ponce but came away with his second loss of the season.
The last time Burgos sported an earned run average with command was his award-winning season in 2012 when he split time between three different levels of the Brewers’ organization.
Additionally, he compiled a 10-4 record with a similar ERA of 1.95 with Brevard County, Huntsville and Nashville.
The ride was not nearly as smooth during the 2013 when he summoned to Milwaukee to provide pitching help in the midst of a injury-ravaged Brewers’ season.
Milwaukee made the decision to recall Burgos from Triple A Nashville April 18 after making just three appearances for the Sounds in 2013.
Burgos posted three consecutive solid performances including his first career victory in his first career Major League appearance April 20 against the Chicago Cubs.
However, he imploded in his final three appearances allowing an outing where he allowed ten earned runs in three innings at Cincinnati.
Milwaukee determined the cause was a right shoulder impingement which necessitated a stint on the 15-Day Disabled List in May 2013.
Consequently, he went from the team’s 11th ranked prospect entering the 2013 season to falling off the radar screen by MLB.com.
Herrera trudging along in Dominican Republic
Utility player Elian Herrera is struggling to regain form in the Dominican Winter League batting .286 with no stolen bases.
The fleet-footed Herrera was claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers in November and placed on the Brewers’ 40-man roster.
In 665 career games in the Dodgers’ organization, he has 149 steals with 48 caught stealing and a .365 On Base Percentage.
After a strong start in the off-season league, he has gone hitless in 15 at bats for the Estrelles de Oriente.
Baseball plays more games than any other sport with 140 in the minor leagues and 162 in Major League Baseball.
Despite the end of the season for all minor league teams in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, except the Helena Brewers whom will compete for the Pioneer League title, there will be developments along the way in the winter.
Six players will make an appearance in the Arizona Fall League and their performance will make-or-break standing within the Milwaukee organization and eventually lead to new assignments on the 40-man roster.
Three of the six participants are Top 20 prospects in the farm system and depending on how they perform in the AFL, it will either reinforce their standing within the organization or cause a drop.
Rogers has most to lose, and gain, in the AFL after accumulating career highs in multiple offensive categories.
Teams likely have an eye on Rogers and will make note of him when the Rule V draft is conducted in December’s MLB winter meetings. The first baseman has reached the point where he could go unprotected if not added to the 40-man roster and might be snagged by another team.
After Milwaukee spent the majority of last off-season looking for new affiliates after both teams struggled in making progress toward new stadiums – the Brewers were left with them when other clubs found or re-established PDCs with the remaining affiliates.
Brewers Farm Report will follow developments of a proposed new stadium for the Triple A Nashville Sounds after the Mayor of Nashville proposed a new $80 million stadium at the old Sulphur Dell sight.
Although Nashville will not build it in time for the 2014 season, the Brewers will deeply consider extending with the Sounds if a stadium plan is in place by the end of 2014.
Huntsville faces a similar fate with Joe Davis Stadium and for years the Brewers pushed the Stars to come forward with a plan to build or renovate the 29-year-old facility.
Milwaukee made it clear during last off-season of its disappointment in Joe Davis Stadium.
There has been swift community opposition in Huntsville for the potential of a new stadium due to involving taxpayer contributions.
If history is any indication of the severity of the issue, look at how the 23-year relationship between Single A Beloit and Milwaukee ended in 2004.
Following decades of Beloit struggling to upgrade Pohlman Field, Milwaukee severed ties with the Snappers and entered into a working agreement with the Appalachian League West Virginia Power before agreeing with the Timber Rattlers.
While Nashville’s future is promising with proposals, the Stars will have an entire year to come forward with a plan of action.
Huntsville and Milwaukee have been together since 1999 and the Brewers have been with the Stars longer than any of the other four affiliates in the organization.
Given the long-term outlook of the Milwaukee Brewers, there will likely be a trade or two involving Major Leaguers and lead to a return of prospects from other organizations.
Brewers Farm Report will provide information and summaries of the players involved in the off-season deals.