There’s just about two weeks left in the Arizona Fall League, where the best and brightest of Major League Baseball’s minor league players collect to show off their skills to the parent clubs. So far, the Milwaukee Brewers have plenty to write home about.
The Brewers youngsters are playing for the Phoenix Desert Dogs, and even though the team has a last place record of 6-9, the team has plenty of bright spots, especially when it comes to players out of Milwaukee’s organization.
Chief among them, and certainly the biggest surprise out of Milwaukee’s system is
Despite that, Prince has had a fantastic Fall League. The 23 year-old shortstop is currently leading all Arizona Fall League players with a .414 average in 16 games, driving in nine runs and hitting one home run. He has a .485 On-Base Percentage and his OPS is up to 1.072. Small sample size or not, this kid is just mashing the ball.
If ever there was a time for Prince to go off like this, it was now. Josh Prince has never hit over .300 on a Minor League season, topping off at .281 in Brevard County in 2011 as his career-high with the Brewers. After a stellar collegiate career with Tulane and a season at Texas (where he was a freshman All-American), he seemed to have been stifled in the Minors. Look for that assessment to change after pounding Arizona Fall League pitching.
Another big surprise – or better put, relief – is the performance of Brock Kjeldgaard. The 6’5″ Alberta native is second in Phoenix’s leader boards in average, hitting .385 in seven games and leading the team with four home runs two which he hit in one game earlier this month.
Despite showing excellent power, however it seems the plate discipline is still a lingering problem for Brock. He has 10 strikeouts in 26 at-bats. Though it’s obvious he is seeing the ball better – on October 27th he went 4-6 at the plate – it seems to be feast or famine for him all over again rather than a real turning point in his career. If he’s hoping to make it to Milwaukee before Hunter Morris does at first base, he will need to lower that strikeout rate.
Speaking of Hunter Morris, he isn’t having the standout season in Phoenix that he had in Hunsville, but the Alabama native and product of Auburn University is quietly showing Milwaukee fans that there’s real future in his game. Hunter is hitting .288 for the Desert Dogs, with 21 total bases, 4 RBI, a .344 OBP and only 13 strikeouts in 59 at-bats. It’s not the flashy, hard-driving numbers most would have expected, but it’s consistent and effective play on both sides of the ball. While no one is necessarily drooling over his numbers, there isn’t anything over 14 games for anyone to complain about – which is probably better. There’s no question about it, Hunter Morris has everything he needs to make it to the next level, and it won’t be long until he finds himself in Milwaukee.
On the pitching side, three future Brewers are showing their skills off with the greatest success. Johnny Hellweg probably has the biggest chip on his shoulder of all of them.
Hellweg will, for better or worse, always be linked to Zack Grienke’s career in Milwaukee. With that tag comes the responsibility to achieve success, and in Phoenix he is doing that just fine. Just not as a starter. Hellweg has appeared in six relief spots totaling nine innings. In that time he has earned just two runs, struck out five and walked seven – even picking up a save in five games finished. His 2.00 ERA is one of the lowest on a Phoenix team who’s pitching has been he downfall of a very bright club. Hellweg’s 1.56 WHIP leaves something to be desired, certainly, but as his mechanics catch up to that 6’9″ frame he should be even more effective.
Nick Bucci, on the other hand, seems to have it all figured out in Phoenix. He is the only starter on the team with a winning record at 2-0 after three starts. He has a 4.50 ERA, giving up 11 hits and fanning 13 in 10 innings pitched. The best part? He’s only walked one batter in his time in the Arizona Fall League. Bucci has flown under the radar for most of his time with Milwaukee’s organization, but if he can continue to pitch well for Phoenix and carry that performance into the Minor League season, we may be hearing a lot from him in the future.
Jimmy Nelson has always had a knack for keeping opposing batters from hitting the ball, and his time in Phoenix has been no exception. His 1.09 WHIP is one of the lowest on the team, and he has struck out 12 in 11 innings of work. Despite a rough start last week in which he gave up three runs in two innings, he has been stellar throughout the Desert Dogs season. With Nelson on the hill, it seems that future of Milwaukee pitching looks very bright indeed.
But then, the same could be said for all of the Brewers playing in the Arizona Fall League. Despite cries from scouts and others that Milwaukee’s farm system is not what it once was, the prospects playing in Phoenix have been proving game after game that you cannot count out the Brewers, now or in the future.