If you’re looking the future faces of the Milwaukee Brewers, odds are you’ll find a fair share of them in Appleton for the low-A affiliate
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
18 of the 25 players on the Timber Rattlers active roster are members of the Brewers’ 2012 MLB Amateur Draft class, including each of their first four picks. Through just 13 games, they are showing exactly why there are high hopes for the group of first-year pros.
Among these names are the team’s three first round draft picks, Victor Roache, Clint Coulter, and Mitch Haniger; Tyrone Taylor, taken in the second round; fourth-rounder Tyler Wagner, fifth-rounder Damien Magnifico, and twelfth-round selection and Oak Creek native Eric Semmelhack.
In front of 2,487 at Time Warner Cable Field on Sunday night, outfielder Roache–taken with the 28th overall selection last summer–had a profound professional debut. In the bottom of the first, he lined the second pitch he saw off the scoreboard in left-center for a two-run home run.
Roache, along with fellow 2012 draftee Adam Giacalone, was activated and joined the team Sunday morning after remaining in Arizona for extended camp for a hamstring injury that set him back a few weeks.
“Sitting, being injured is tough when you want to play with these guys,” Roache said after the game, “You hate being injured, but it’s great playing again. It’s a great group of guys.”
After a period of trading away prospects for major league talent and draft picks that never panned out, seeing the future take the field every day provides for a refreshing scene.
“What Milwaukee’s doing in their low and high A-ball clubs is great. Maybe three, four guys in the lineup today will be playing in the bigs in four years,” one scout told me minutes before Roache’s home run.
You have to look no further than the outfield for manager Matt Erickson’s Timber Rattlers to see what’s taking shape in the lower levels. Roache, Haniger, Taylor, and 2011 fifth-rounder Michael Reed comprise an outfield ripe with talent.
Erickson noted the boost that the returns of Roache and Giacalone bring to the lineup.
“[They] add more of a threat to our offense, definitely. Victor gives us four guys in the outfield that could hit at the top of any lineup at this level.”
The return of Roache is, indeed, not only a large boost to the Rattlers, but also to those keeping tabs on the Brewers farm system.
Ranked as the seventh prospect in the organization prior to even playing a game, Roache missed seven months with a wrist injury. He asserts that he hasn’t lost any of his power. There were worries when he didn’t make the trip to Appleton with the rest of the team at the outset of the season because of a nagging hamstring, but all setbacks are behind him now.
Much like how the early-to-mid 2000′s core of the Brewers came up together–names like Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, and JJ Hardy–that is much of what is in place now.
“Having everyone here now is awesome. We’ve all had time to gel and now actually being on the same team brings us closer together,” said Coulter, who has exclusively been working at catcher, though there remains questions as to if the Brewers will move him or not with Jonathan Lucroy’s success.
“It’s hard to predict the future,” he added, “so the key is to try to stay healthy. When you’re not playing, you’re not getting better.”
Many of the team’s picks from the 2012 draft stayed in touch in the off-season through social media, texting, and team events.
“Me, Clint, Mitch, Tyrone, all the rest of the guys are all good friends now. Hopefully that’s something we can carry through for a while,” Roache said of the team chemistry. As did Coulter, he also noted the importance of remaining healthy.
The Brewers organization should pray for them to stay healthy because, if they do, expect a lot more moments like Roache’s dramatic entrance Sunday and for the rest of the future faces of the Brewers.