30 Farmhands #5: Meet the Helena Rookies! | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

The Brewers’ Advanced Rookie club is already seven games into their season, but as a few other signings roll in, it won’t be too late for Brewers fans to familiarize themselves with their Helena affiliate. Thus far, the Helena Brewers boast a 54 RS / 50 RA differential in seven games, but they have a 3-4 record due to three bigtime bullpen losses.

Arizona Rookies
Depth, Surprises, Replacements
The Best of “The Rest” of the 2014 Draft
Dominican Academy

Fans will have a good time debating the merits of both rookie clubs, as the Arizona and Helena teams are both jam-packed with some intriguing players. The Brewers farm system already improved by the time of the 2015 BaseballAmerica Prospect Handbook, and that list did not include Marcos Diplan, Luis Sardinas, or Corey Knebel. Ironically, Knebel and Sardinas’s quick trips to the MLB in Milwaukee will probably result in enough playing time to ensure that they’re never ranked as Brewers prospects (at least not as part of the “official publication cycle”), but Diplan is squarely in the midst of ranking territory with the Brewers’ aggressive promotion of the pitcher to Helena (from the Rangers Dominican Academy). Joining Diplan are a few of the most intriguing 2014 draft picks, as well as some of the college talent from the 2015 draft (not surprisingly, grinder Blake Allemand is already tearing it up).

Helena Leaderboard Key Stats Thus Far
Blake Allemand .344 AVG / 3 BB & 1 2B
Troy Stokes 5 H / 5 BB / 3 XBH / 3 SB (!!!)
Jake Gatewood 4 2B
Steven Karkenny 9 H / 2 XBH
Marcos Diplan 12.0 IP / 15 K / 5 BB / 2 HR
Jordan Yamamoto 10 K / 9.0 IP
Junior Rincon 2.7 IP / 4 K
Milton Gomez 5.0 IP / 6 K / 1 BB / 0 HR

Five To Watch
Cody Ponce, RHP (2015, 2nd). Looking back, it’s a lot of fun to see all the relative prospect hype for Cody Ponce entering the draft. Why did Ponce make so much noise? The big righty had a good chance to be the second Division II baseballer drafted in the First Round, and his solid arsenal and big fastball placed him in first round rumors. The Poly Post noted that Ponce’s fastball progressed from the mid-80s entering college to 90, then 93 as a sophomore, and then 96-97, which showcases the projectable benefits of a big frame. Others note that the righty “pitches downhill” and also boasts “one of the deepest repertoires of the draft.” All signs point to Ponce being the type of personality that enjoys working against the grain, or succeeding under the radar, especially given the history of first round potential in Division II ball. It’s not worth placing undue hype on Ponce, but given his arsenal, size, and stature in college ball, it would not be surprising to see Ponce quickly climb through the minors if he can develop solid strategies with his handful of pitches.

“The cutter and slider are two versions of the same pitch — Ponce can vary the break to make it short like a cutter or sweepy like a slider.” -River Ave Blues

“People used to tell me, ‘Your last years [playing baseball] may be in college,’” said Ponce. “Coaches and family members have always told me, ‘Cody, you’re going to be a great guy no matter what you do, even if you’re not playing baseball.’ But my dream has always been to play baseball.”
-Cody Ponce, to The Poly Post (linked above)

Jake Gatewood, SS (2014, 1st). Jake Gatewood has already escaped an injury scare on a fielding play in 2015, which might be the best news thus far for the talented-but-risky bat. Improving contact was already a draft-day “To Do” item for the prep infielder, and Gatewood has indeed struggled with the strike out throughout his 2015 performance thus far. However, if one isolates his strike outs and walks, noting the issues with contact for the righty bat, there are some positives with Gatewood’s BABIP at A Wisconsin (.350), and the prospect has nearly matched his total number of A-ball extra base hits in 30 PA at Helena. The Brewers aggressively moved Gatewood to Wisconsin, and then back to Helena, to give the youngster a taste of a full slate of games, which means that fans should take his statistics with an extra grain of salt (according to Baseball-Reference, Gatewood was nearly 2.5 years younger than league average). Instead of looking at stats, fans must watch for scouting reports on the young shortstop’s swing, as well as potential progress in the field (thus far, he has stuck at shortstop, flashing some range and errors).

“Coming from high school, you never really struggle at all. You may have one bad game all year. Going into it where pitchers every day are coming at you throwing like mid-90s, it’s really tough because it’s hard to go out and fail when you’ve never failed in your entire life before….My first rookie ball year, I didn’t understand any of that…When I went in, I was like it’s going to be easy again. But I struggled a little bit. It was tough but at the same time, I feel like it made me an even better person and definitely a better baseball player. It made me a way better baseball player and I’m glad I experienced it in rookie ball because then it can help me earlier in my career.”
-Gatewood, to PostCrescent.com

Monte Harrison, RF (2014, 2nd). The Brewers placed Monte Harrison on the same aggressive path as Gatewood, and Harrison matched his high-risk draft classmate with some of the same struggles on the field. However, the JSOnline reported that Brewers minor league personnel already see more polish on Harrison’s game than one might expect, and that is evident in the walks and extra-base hits that Harrison produced at A Wisconsin (once again, at nearly 2.5 years younger than the average A-ball player). Squinting through the strike outs, Harrison posted a solid walk rate and hit for more power (9.5% XBH on BIP) than Gatewood when he did connect (although Gatewood boasted the better overall average when he batted the ball in play). Harrison was billed as one of the top athletes, if not the best overall athlete, in the 2014 draft, and he is working in both Center and Right Field in 2015. Similar statistical caveats exist for Harrison, who is not yet at any point where his statistics will showcase the value of his pick (or his progression as a player). However, there may be fewer question marks about Harrison’s future position, which could eventually help the young prospect focus on his bat first.

“Sometimes you have to experience the bad to appreciate the good that comes next…It’s happening now to me. That’s good, I feel like….
If you want to be great, it takes time…Sometimes it happens quicker. Sometimes it takes eight years. Who knows what’ll happen?”
-Harrison, to Omaha.com

Marcos Diplan, RHP (Rangers Dominican Academy). Prior to the 2014 season, Jim Callis cited Diplan’s height as a potential issue for the starter. The complaints end there, however, as Callis argues that Diplan’s fastball velocity (96!), curve, and polish are strengths, especially given his age. Others note that the starter has a “loose arm,” and scouts have also praised Diplan’s aggressiveness as a strength. If you watch the link I posted above, and compare it to the video below, a question might be raised about Diplan’s armslot, and the Brewers’ potential plans with that slot. Given that the Brewers like tall pitchers with over-the-top mechanics, Diplan’s somewhat sidewinding 3/4 slot makes him an extra outlier for the Brewers (given that his height already gives him one knock, according to the Brewers’ stated agenda). However, the righty is already showing that his size can translate in the states, striking out 15 in his first two starts. Given that the Brewers are arguably aggressively moving Diplan, his early success is intriguing, making Diplan a “must follow” for Brewers fans this summer.

Jose Cuas, 3B (2015, 11th). On draft day, I was really excited to read about Cuas’s story, as well as some of the hype from the “positive” scouting camps. One of the most positive reports notes that Cuas allegedly shortened his swing in 2015, and highlights his speed and potentially projectable tools (a relative rarity for a college player). Fans can watch Cuas’s strike out total, as the righty bat has had some trouble with breaking balls, but they can also look for reports on his defensive progression and agility at third base. Moreover, as I’ve written in the past, Cuas has the personal tenacity, character, and history that hints that he’s the type of person that can handle challenges and use baseball to succeed. It’s hard to bet against a story like Cuas, and reading about his raw physical potential absolutely makes him one of the most intriguing “under the radar” players in the Brewers’ 2015 draft. It’s already tough to bet against Cuas, and it will be even more fun to cheer for him as he develops in the Brewers system.

“We’re going to be in a new environment where things are going to be a lot different than College Park, so it’s good that we have somebody that we know we can trust.”
-Cuas, on playing with teammate Jake Drossner in Milwaukee’s system.

Pitching Depth
Junior Rincon, RHP (Marlins Dominican Academy)
Jordan Yamamoto, RHP (2014, 12th)
Nate Griep, RHP (2015, 8th)
J.B. Kole, RHP (2014, 8th)
Joshua Torres, RHP (2013 Brewers DOSL Graduate)
Milton Gomez, RHP (2012 Brewers DOSLGraduate)
Donnie Hissa, RHP (2014, 21st)
Bubba Blau, RHP (2014, 24th)
Brock Hudgens, RHP (2014, 31st)
Chad Reeves, LHP (2014, 33rd)
David Carver, LHP (2014, 35th)

Positional Depth
Blake Allemand, IF (2015, 5th)
Troy Stokes, CF (2014, 4th). Brew Crew Ball Interview.
Milan Post, C (Dutch ML). Scouting Video with solid Electronic Music Picks.
Kevin Martinez, C/Util (2014 Brewers DOSL Graduate)
Carlos Belonis, RF (2013 Brewers DOSL Graduate)
Omar Cotto, OF (Blue Jays 2010, 12th; 2015 Brewers undrafted free agent)
Steven Karkenny, 1B (2015, 19th). Power/Speed Alert?
David Denson, 1B (2013, 15th)
Luis Aviles, IF (2013, 30th)
Edwin Maysonet, IF (Astros 2003, 19th)

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