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.
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.