For the fourth-consecutive year, Ryan and I put our heads and notes together to create a Top 30 Prospects list for the Brewers’ organization. As always, neither of us got exactly what we wanted on this list, but we compromised to put together a quality list that combines our thoughts and opinions.
Be sure to check the site on Wednesday and Thursday, too, as we unveil the remainder of our Top 30 Prospects. Next week, Ryan and I will also have a podcast largely devoted to this Top 30 list.
21) OF Caleb Gindl (stats)
Gindl entered the 2012 season with lofty expectations. He was coming off a .307/.390/.472 season with 15 home runs at Triple-A Nashville and absolutely raked during spring in big-league camp. The 24-year-old outfielder struggled, though, in his return to Nashville. He only hit .259/.315/.420 and the question of whether his bat can carry a corner-outfield profile became only more pronounced. However, it’s important to note Gindl improved dramatically throughout the season. Much like Rickie Weeks, much of his poor season can be attributed to a putrid start.
Gindl is once again performing well in spring training, and one scout recently said, “No question he can hit.” The lack of power should keep him from being an everyday right fielder. He could steal some time as a platoon guy in his best years, though.
22) RHP Drew Gagnon (stats)
What the lanky right hander from Long Beach State lacks in sizzle, he makes up for in a polished approach that should at least get him to the majors some day. Gagnon generally sits in the high-80s to low-90s with his fastball and supplements it with a curveball and changeup that flashes league-average potential. He even added a cutter last year, according to Baseball America. His strikeouts have declined somewhat as he’s moved up the ladder, but he possesses good command of his pitches and he has shown a knack for inducing poor contact. Gagnon figures to move to Double-A this year, which should prove to be a telling test for his contact-friendly approach. If he can make the leap successfully, he’ll stay on a track for an eventual role in the back of a big-league rotation. If not, it could quite possibly point to a future as a swingman.
23) RHP Damien Magnifico (stats)
The fireballing right-hander out of the University of Oklahoma was snagged by the Brewers in the fifth round of last year’s draft. He immediately showed both his promise and why a guy with a 100 MPH fastball slipped that far. He posted a 5.82 ERA and walked over six batters per nine innings in short-season ball, but the 21-year-old also struck out better than 10 batters per nine innings. Magnifico is capable of completely dominating hitters with his fastball when well-located, and Minor League Ball’s John Sickels noted that his slider had improved markedly when he saw him in fall instructionals. If he can learn to command both pitches, he has definite closer potential.
24) OF Jose Pena (stats)
When the Brewers signed Pena out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 for a $400,000 bonus, the scouting reports lauded his raw power and projected him to be a future corner outfielder. He really struggled in his first two professional seasons, however, removing him from the consciousness of many. Last year, the 20-year-old outfielder seemingly put it together a bit in the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues, hitting a combined .302/.345/.528 with 13 doubles, 10 triples and eight home runs. One contact said the Brewers love Pena and believe he can still be a starting right fielder down the road. He has huge raw power and has a big arm suitable for right field. The same contact cautioned that he could struggle upon reaching full-season ball, though, because he’s a little too aggressive at the plate.
25) RHP Michael Olmsted (stats)
The 6-foot-6 right-hander was tremendous last season in the Boston Red Sox organization. He threw 59.1 innings between High-A and Double-A — posting a 1.52 ERA and a 14.0 K/9 strikeout rate. His fastball touched the upper-90s last summer and sits in the mid-90s. He also features a wipe-out slider that helps him rack up so many strikeouts. One big-league scout said Olmsted has been throwing the ball really well this spring, sitting 93-95 mph in his most recent outing. I’ve heard he’s even bumped at least 96 mph this spring, too. The scout did caution, though, that he didn’t believe Olmsted was ready for the big leagues yet. He ultimately has a late-inning reliever ceiling and was perhaps the steal of the winter for GM Doug Melvin.
26) RHP David Goforth (stats)
Our back-of-the-rankings, big-armed reliever-palooza continues with another guy who can consistently push the limits of triple digits on the radar gun. The 2011 seventh-rounder out of Ole Miss is almost definitely ticketed for the bullpen long term, but the Brewers pitched him in the rotation in last year to encourage him to work on developing his repertoire and command. Specifically, the team is looking for one of his secondary pitches to emerge as a consistent weapon to go with his blazing fastball. His strikeout numbers were alarmingly low last season, which is partly due to the tinkering with offspeed stuff and partly due to having to pace himself. There is reason to hope, though, his strikeout rate could make a big leap forward when he’s eventually moved to the bullpen.
27) 2B Chris McFarland (stats)
When Milwaukee wooed McFarland away from Rice University with a lofty $315,000 signing bonus in the 18th round of the 2011 Draft, the organization expected to get a well-rounded hitter who would eventually move to second base. That expectation appears accurate after last season’s performance in the Pioneer League. McFarland hit .301/.358/.433 with six home runs and 15 stolen bases. Milwaukee already transitioned him to second base, where he experienced some growing pains, but he’s a doubles hitter who can occasionally run into one and could potentially hit 10-15 home runs once he fills out. He will need to cut down the strikeout rate and improve defensively, but it was a solid professional debut for the 20-year-old Texas native.
28) SS Yadiel Rivera (stats)
The young Puerto Rican is two different players in many ways. Defensively, he’s a guy who looks destined to develop into a plus-player at the big-league level. He combines silky smooth actions, soft hands and a strong arm at shortstop, and he is also cutting down on the mistakes as he gains experience. The problem is with the bat, he leaves much to be desired. He possesses a little pop, but falls in love with his home run swing far too easily. The result is a lot of strikeouts, low batting averages and precious few walks. If he wants to have any sort of big league career, he will have to focus more on making contact and laying off bad pitches. Still, it’s hard not to dream on a young shortstop with his caliber of glove.
29) OF Michael Reed (stats)
Coming out of a Leander, Texas, the Milwaukee Brewers drafted Reed in the 5th round of the 2011 Draft. They saw an athlete with plus-power, plus-speed, and a plus-arm — though all of it was exceedingly raw. He struggled in his brief stint in the Arizona League in 2011, but the Brewers liked Reed enough to push him to full-season ball for a brief two-week stint between extended spring training and rookie ball. He then went to the Pioneer League and largely disappointed. He showed the ability to draw a walk, but really struggled otherwise. Striking out a lot, he was unable to make enough contact to allow his speed to play. The real surprise, though, was the lack of power. Milwaukee could send him back to the Pioneer League yet again to give his raw tools the chance to manifest themselves in usable skills on the diamond.
30) RHP Kyle Heckathorn (stats)
It hasn’t been the minor league ascendence that Brewers fans hoped for from a college pitcher taken with the 47th pick of the 2009 Draft, but he has persevered and is now knocking on the door to the major leagues. Despite the fact that many scouts always thought he was destined for the bullpen, the Brewers used him almost exclusively as a starter until midway through 2012 when they shifted him to the ‘pen. His low-90s sinker is a big-league pitch, as is his hard slider, and he’s working on an improved changeup. His long limbs also give him some deception on the mound. Thus far in his professional career, however, he’s had trouble missing bats. He throws strikes, but he occasionally struggles to throw good strikes. On the plus side, he rarely walks batters and induces a lot of ground balls. Three separate contacts have all said the same thing: “He’s a big leaguer.” He should, at the very least, eventually get an extended look in the big leagues as a middle reliever.