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.
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
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.
Huntsville’s Jason Rogers is taking the Southern League by storm by leading the league in home runs with 20 and runs batted in with 79.
But it was not always this way for the former two-sport star after he sustained an injury which took two years to heal.
“In 2011 I broke my hamate bone earlier in the year and missed about two months,” Rogers said. “At first I had some carpal tunnel issues.”
Rogers wrote the 2011 season off after the injury and was never able to regain comfort in the batters box until he obtained career highs in home runs and runs batted in for Milwaukee’s Double A affiliate.
In addition to leading the league in both categories, he compiled a 16-game hitting streak from July 19 through August 4 and accumulated nine home runs and 20 runs batted in.
Rogers produced a career high three home runs and six RBI against Pensacola July 20 and followed up with another home run in the next game.
The first baseman and teammate Brock Kjeldgaard are having a battle for the Southern League home run crown, but Rogers remains modest about the category.
“We just go about our business and do whats good for the team,” stated Rogers in regards to Kjeldgaard, who is just one behind the first baseman and is second in the Southern League.
After Rogers bowed out of the Southern League Home Run Derby during its All-Star break, the first baseman handed off the baton to Kjeldgaard.
Rogers previous career high was 11 between Midwest League Wisconsin and Brevard County of the Florida State League in 2012.
National scouts noted the Florida State League as a pitching-rich environment where batters’ power numbers can be deceiving.
“I think it is the prospects, there are a lot of good people in that league,” stated Rogers, who belted five home runs in 67 games with the Manatees.
Rogers knew Milwaukee was interested in him after scouts continued to check in and gauge his interest during his last season with Columbus State.
Upon entering the organization following his selection by Milwaukee in the 2010 Draft, he was open to trying other positions.
“I played a little bit of outfield in Wisconsin and Brevard County,” Rogers said. “But Huntsville was the first time I was committed to solely first base.”
Upon graduating high school, the 25-year-old received a football scholarship to Alabama A&M but opted for baseball.
“And I chose baseball because I had more experience in it,” Rogers said. “Football was fun but I was better in baseball.”
Given his personality, Rogers made the decision right for him.
“I am a laid back guy and not try to do much,” Rogers said. “I try not to make things complicated.”
Parker Berberet hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh inning to extend his hit streak to 19 games as the Single A Timber Rattlers defeated Beloit 6-1 Sunday.
The catcher’s hitting streak began July 8 at Burlington when he batted 2-for-5 with a home run and two runs batted in as the Single A Midwest League won 8-6 versus the Bees.
Berberet is batting .357 with three home runs and ten runs batted during the 19-game stretch. The catcher assumed the duties as the team’s full-time catcher following the planned re-assignment of Brewers’ first-round pick Clint Coulter to Rookie League Helena.
Outfielder Victor Roache (2-4) started the four-run inning with his 17th home run of the season on a tape-measure shot above the left center field scoreboard at Appleton’s Fox Cities’ Stadium.
Roache continues to be on a roll as he drove in three runs in the Midwest League victory (two from the home run).
Earlier in the game, the Brewers’ 2012 First-Round pick hit his tenth double of the season to score outfielder Michael Reed (1-4) in the bottom of the fifth inning to help the Rattlers pull ahead 2-1.
Roache is batting .312 with a .396 On Base Percentage in the last month and includes ten of his 17 home runs for the season.
Starter Eric Semmelheck of Milwaukee pitched six strong innings allowing one earned run and achieved his second victory of the season in 14 games started.
Semmelhack has allowed two earned runs in his last 11 innings (two starts) after suffering multiple rough outings for Wisconsin.
NOTES: Outfielder Tyrone Taylor expects to be activated from the Disabled List within the next couple days after sustaining a hip strain. Taylor was the Midwest League Player of the Week in June when he batted above .300 and began to show his ability to hit for power.