For the past two years, Ryan Topp and I have collaborated to create a Top 30 Brewers Prospect list. It involves some gnashing of teeth and compromise — neither of us get exactly what we want — but in the end, we unveil a solid Top 30 list that combines both of our thoughts and opinions on the Brewers’ top prospects. Thus, if you disagree with a particular ranking and believe Player A deserved to be ranked higher, there is a rather good chance than one of us wholeheartedly agrees with you.
Yesterday, we unveiled #21-30 in the Brewers’ system. Be sure to check back tomorrow for #1-10 and again on Friday for Ryan’s system overview.
11) OF Caleb Gindl (stats)
Gindl has logged over 2,300 plate appearances since being drafted in the 5th-round of the 2007 Draft, and it is easy to forget sometimes that he’s only 23-years-old. The short, stocky outfielder is the owner of a career .300/.378/.466 triple-slash line playing young at every level in which he has been. He started off with strikeout issues early on, but diligent work on making contact got those under control without sacrificing walks. As he’s filled out, he has slowed down some, but he has the smarts on the base paths and in the outfield to make up for that and still get the job done at a respectable level — though he will never be a good defender. He has even managed to avoid the sort of lopsided platoon split — though that was largely due to a .414 BABIP against left-handed pitchers — that so often plagues left-handed hitters. So why is he so low on this list? Mostly, it’s an issue with profile. His lack of mobility relegates him to a corner outfield position, and he just does not possess the classic home run power you desire from corner outfielders. At his peak, he may be able to start for a team with very good pop up the middle, but he’ll probably always have to fight off bigger sluggers for playing time. Short term, he’ll head into spring training, trying to win a big league roster spot. Word also came out this week (via Buster Olney of ESPN) that the Brewers will consider him for left in the event Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension is upheld.
12) RHP Santo Manzanillo (stats)
No pitcher — outside of Wily Peralta — received more attention than Manzanillo throughout the 2011 season. Since GM Doug Melvin raved about the right-hander over the summer and let it slip that he was hitting triple-digits, Manzanillo has been labeled the closer of the future. The Brewers signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, and he struggled with his command throughout his first four seasons as a professional. Things started to click in 2011, though. His walk rate came down to a manageable 3.79 BB/9, which helped his year-end ERA come in at a sparkling 1.75 over 61.7 innings. Manzanillo still needs to refine his command — as his walk rate spiked after a mid-season promotion to Double-A — and continue to develop his offspeed stuff, but an arm like his is difficult to find. He is perhaps the most exciting relief prospect in the Brewers’ farm system and will likely repeat a stint in Huntsville to begin the season.
13) RHP Nicholas Bucci (stats)
Since the Brewers drafted the lanky right-hander in the 18th round in 2008 out of Canada, they’ve consistently heaped him with praise for his determination and work ethic. He was only 17-years-old when he was drafted and the Brewers have moved cautiously with him, but he’s starting to show signs of the breakout for which the team has been waiting. Though his ERA and batting average against went up, he cut his walks by two per nine innings, while giving up less than half a strikeout per nine as a 20-year-old pitching at High-A Brevard County. He throws a 90-92 MPH fastball that touches 94 MPH and mixes in a curve, slider and changeup. There are those within the organization who like him as a potential #3 or #4 down the road, and he is certainly on the right side of the age/level curve where you plenty of room for improvement exists. Ultimately, to reach that ceiling, he needs to continue to develop his secondary offerings and refine his command into a plus asset, because his stuff is never going to overpower hitters on its own. He will likely open 2012 at Double-A Huntsville, and he should be given some time to get his footing there given that he will not turn 22 until July.
14) RHP David Goforth (stats)
A 23-year-old reliever who compiled a 4.43 ERA in the Pioneer League will not often make Top 30 lists, but Goforth has the potential to skyrocket through the Brewers’ system and be a legitimate late-inning reliever. He touches the high-90s with his fastball and has developed a hard cutter that keeps hitters off his fastball. His cutter can turn into a slider at times if he takes off some velocity, but it seems to be more effective as a cutter. Goforth has a good feel of the strike zone and does not walk many batters, as his 2.21 BB/9 would indicate, but his command of the corners needs to be sharpened. He can become hittable at times when he works too much in the zone. Keith Law rated Goforth as a Top 100 Prospect going into the 2011 MLB Draft, so the fact that the Brewers grabbed him in the 7th round is a steal. He should start the season in Low-A Wisconsin, but could be in High-A or even Double-A by the time the season is complete.
15) OF D’Vontrey Richardson (stats)
If you’re looking for a prospect with crazy tools to dream on who is actually making progress in the Brewers’ system, the Florida State QB turned center fielder is your man. He has true five-tool potential and has started to round those abilities into true baseball skills. From 2010 to 2011, he lowered his strikeout rate from 27.7% to 17.9%. As a result, a couple of things have happened. First, his batting average jumped more than 40 points from .243 to .284. On the downside, his walk rate dropped from 9.3% to 5.6%, but that can be seen as the price of doing business in the short term. He also lost some power, though that could also have something to do with league and park effects. Richardson will face his biggest challenge yet in 2012, as he’s due for a move up to Double-A Huntsville for his age 23 season. He’s still developing as a baseball player, but if he can put everything together, he’s a starting caliber center fielder with a plus-glove for a contender. The likelihood of his reaching that ceiling, however, is extremely limited.
16) OF Kentrail Davis (stats)
High expectations hovered over Kentrail Davis after the Brewers drafted him out of the University of Tennessee in the first supplemental round back in 2009, but the young man has largely struggled with the adjustment to professional baseball. Despite being a 23-year-old in High-A last season, he only managed to hit .240/.314/.356 with eight home runs. Those numbers do not portray the plus bat speed and good hit tool that defined him coming out of college. That is more concerning for Kentrail than the majority of prospects, as his defense limits him to a corner outfield spot. Although he has struggled in his two stints above A-ball, the Brewers challenged Kentrail this fall and sent him to the Arizona Fall League. The idea was that Kentrail needed more time against better talent and perhaps this stage would bring out the best. The AFL is largely considered a hitter’s paradise, but his .325/.429/.519 triple-slash line was extremely encouraging. Look for the organization to push him to Double-A this upcoming season. The tools still exist. The organization is simply waiting for the tools to become more consistent and transform into usable baseball skills. Hopefully, the encouraging 23-game stint in the AFL serves as a harbinger for success to come in 2012.
17) RHP Jimmy Nelson (stats)
The Brewers drafted the big University of Alabama product in the second round of the 2010 draft. He’s primarily a fastball/slider pitcher and has shown an ability to get guys to roll over his power sinker when it’s down in the zone. He strikes hitters out (7.4 K/9 IP), but not at outstanding rates. He is still walking a batter almost every other inning, too. In the low minors, where defense is often shaky, that is not a recipe for a sparkling ERA, and Nelson did not have one, allowing a 4.38 ERA over 146 innings at Class-A Wisconsin. The keys going forward for Nelson will be to continue developing his slider that flashes plus — and was very, very good late in the year — and particularly his changeup, as well as refining his command of all three pitches. If things begin to fall into place for Nelson, he possesses the repertoire to pitch in the back-end of a big league rotation. If he can just make progress on the command and the quality of his pitches remain stagnant, a career in middle relief is also a possibility.
18) SS Orlando Arcia (stats)
One international talent evaluator that I spoke with labeled Arcia as “one of the best prospects in the Dominican,” which is high praise for a 16-year-old middle infielder who was not highly recruited coming out of Venezuela. His older brother is outfielder Oswaldo Arcia, one of the top prospects in the Minnesota Twins’ organization, and it appears that Orlando may carry on the family success. He hit .285/.381/.451 with 15 doubles, 1 triple, and 5 home runs in his first professional season. He has solid skills across the board. Scouts are excited about the flashes of power, but they remain more excited about the fact that he walked nine more times than he struck out in 2011. Even though we should be dubious of statistics coming out of the Dominican Summer League, those peripheral numbers are extremely encouraging for a 16-year-old middle infielder. Some believe he will eventually grow out of shortstop and become a second baseman, but that is not too hard of a knock on his value. It will be interesting to see if the organization challenges him and brings him stateside to the Arizona League this summer.
19) RHP Amaury Rivas (stats)
A year ago the Dominican right-hander was fresh off a solid, age 24 season at Double-A, where he posted a 3.37 ERA and better than a 2:1 K:BB ratio. At his best, he features a sinking, low-90s fastball and an outstanding changeup with both deception and movement. He had not been a spectacular prospect, but he appeared to be a guy on track to get a shot at pitching in the big leagues, either as a 5th starter or as a reliever. Then his numbers fell off considerably at Triple-A in 2011. The strikeouts went down, the walks, hits, and homers all went up, and his ERA was an unsightly 4.72 at the end of the year. There was speculation that perhaps Rivas was hurt. Word came in November that Rivas had surgery in his right elbow to remove bone spurs, and those fears were confirmed. He is supposed to be all clear and ready to go for spring training this year, so giving Rivas a mulligan for 2011 and seeing what he can do in 2012 seems like the best course of action at this point.
20) OF Khris Davis (stats)
The 24-year-old Davis made noise in the lower minors in 2010, mashing 22 home runs in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. That power binge continued during the first half of 2011. Davis clobbered 15 home runs in High-A Brevard County — which generally is death to right-handed power hitters — and posted an impressive .306/.413/.528 in 89 games. He hit both lefties and righties with equal aplomb and earned a mid-season promotion to Double-A Huntsville. The wheels fell off a bit at that point, as he only hit .210/.272/.331 with two home runs, though that was largely due to a .240 BABIP. Davis’ swing can get a little long at times, but he loads well and his power/patience combination could potentially lead to 15-20 home runs at the big league level. The issue is that Davis’ bat carries almost all of his value as a prospect because he is likely relegated to a corner outfield position and his below-average arm would ideally place him in left field. That places a ton of pressure on the bat to provide value.