With all of the winter weather tearing through the country right now, it is hard to even fathom the thought of Spring. But, regardless of how much snow we get tonight in the land of cheese curds and beer, Spring Training is in full swing. After 4 games, I think that it is pretty clear who will be on the roster in 2013 and who will not (unless you count the bizarre 1B situation we find ourselves in) . What I am looking out for are the next big pieces of the franchise. And I think they are already starting to emerge.
Spring Training is a magical time of the year when you can actually watch and follow the future of the franchise. These are 5 players who are going to turn heads this Spring and build momentum for the 2014 Brewers roster. I personally believe these 5 players could all be on the Opening Day Roster in 2014, which is why I have chosen them to watch this Spring Training (or ST, as it will be further known).
Keep in mind that I do not think any of these 5 players will find themselves on the Opening Day roster this season. Which makes it all the more imperative you watch them now.
Hiram Burgos - In the RtB Prospect Rankings, I had Burgos as my 10th rated prospect. After watching his outing from yesterdays game, there is a lot to like. Of the outings I have seen so far, he seems to be the only Brewers pitcher who does not need to work on his location as ST progresses. If anything, location is the biggest strength of Burgos’ game. None of his pitches (fastball, change-up, curve ball, and a cutter) are electric, but as many Hall of Fame pitchers can tell you “It’s about location, location, location.” Despite Burgos moving from Single-A ball to Triple-A ball over the course of one season and being named the 2012 Brewers minor league Pitcher of the Year, I still believe he needs a full season in Nashville to really fine tune his arsenal. At this point though, I am fairly confident that he will be a front runner for a rotation spot in 2014. So take note and follow the kid on Twitter @Burgos196
Johnny Hellweg - I really like this guy (Ranked him 12th in my Prospects list). Hellweg was a piece of the Greinke deal with the Angels last season. The kid looks like a giraffe on the mound, standing 6’9″ tall and only weighing about 210 pounds, but throws a nasty fastball. From everything I can gather, the Brewers front office isn’t sure where this kid belongs. Is he a starter, reliever, set-up, or closer? No one seems to know. Prior to coming over to play for the good guys, Hellweg was having success as a starter and had struggled out of the bullpen. His biggest obstacle in being a starter for the Brewers, is the staggering amount of young starters already in the team pipeline (Thornburg, Fiers, Jungmann, Bradley, Peralta, etc.). If he wants to be on the big league roster sooner, rather than later, he should focus on coming out of the pen. If he makes the team in 2014, then he will need to have a solid enough ST to get a Nashville assignment rather than being sent back to Huntsville.
Caleb Gindl - I have liked Gindl for a few years and his time is getting closer(6th in my Prospect list). Ron Roenicke has pretty much guaranteed that Logan Schafer is going to be the 4th outfielder (ranked him 2nd on my Prospect list) and it is justly deserved. Gindl could find himself on the big league roster in 2014 because Carlos Gomez only has a contract through this season, and Nori Aoki has an option for 2014. If the team continues to gear towards youth, they may decide Gindl is ready for the challenge. So far this ST he is 2 for 3 with 2 RBI’s, not too shabby. Gindl’s numbers at Nashville last season were underwhelming; .261 batting average, 12 HR’s, and 50 RBI’s, but I still believe that he has big league talent. This particular ST will be great for him, thanks to all of the Brewers who will soon be departing for the World Cup of Baseball. Whether or not Caleb can make the Brewers Opening Day roster in 2014, may have very little to do with him. But should Gomez or Aoki leave the team via Free Agency, then I expect Gindl would be the primary benefactor.
Scooter Gennett - (Ranked 4th in my prospect list) Before you even start, I know Rickie Weeks is our 2nd baseman and he is locked up for a couple of years. In case you missed it, I have been seeing a therapist about my hang-ups with Rickie. The reality is that Scooter was the first prospect I fell in love with when I started writing for RtB in the winter of 2010. Gennett has excelled at every level of the minors. Last season was his worst statistical season in the minors, but he still hit .293 and had 156 hits. Not to mention that when the Brewers acquired Jean Segura and he went to play a few games in Huntsville, several scouts acknowledged that the two had almost instant chemistry. So, should the team decide that Rickie Weeks is not worth the contract, or they can trade him for some quality prospects, I envision Scooter Gennett becoming our everyday 2nd baseman. However, he might still be on the fence in 2014. At 22 years old, we still have some time… The real thing to watch with Scooter is, how much playing time he actually gets this ST. Catch him on Twitter @Scooterg11
Tyler Thornburg - (My #1 Rated Prospect) I saved him for last for one particular reason, which is that many of you will disagree. Tyler Thornburg is very, very good. The hard truth is, I don’t think he is ready just yet. While I only have one outing to go off of (2 IP, 2 ER, 0 K’s, and 1 BB), it just seems like he needs another season in Nashville to truly be an option for the starting rotation. Thornburg is immensely talented and will be in the starting rotation soon, just not quite yet. Let us not forget his MLB debut, where he surrendered back-to-back-to-back home runs. Does that mean he is not a big league talent? Heck no! Does it mean he needs more time to work on his game? Yes. There is no need to rush him into the rotation, there are 6 solid guys who are already vying for those spots. So, we should enjoy watching him this Spring. If you care what I think, he will be in the rotation in 2014. That means we should use this opportunity to watch him grow against big league hitters. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerThornburg
No one knows more than me how much can change in Spring Training (Erick Almonte anyone?). These are just guys who are young and on the verge of being Brewers, so it is best to get familiar with them now. Feel free to disagree, or share some guys you are looking for this ST.