While I don’t want to downplay the excitement of the Brewers hot start to the 2014 season, over the next month I will break down the Brewers future, looking at the organizational depth by position. To kick off the system overview, we will begin with first base.
Since the departure via free agency of Prince Fielder following the 2011 season, first base has been an organizational black eye for the Brewers. With a carousel of players including but not limited to Mat Gamel, Travis Ishikawa, Taylor Green, Juan Francisco, Yuniesky Betancourt, Sean Halton and other misfits along the way the Brewers have unsuccessfully auditioned many without a “keeper”.
The only stability the position saw came when Corey Hart manned the position in 2011 after moving from right field to make room for Norichika Aoki. Still, this success was short lived as Hart missed all of 2012 with a knee injury and departed in the off-season for the Seattle Mariners.
With short-term answers at the position currently in Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay it is clear that the Brewers need to take a hard look internally to see if there is a viable long-term solution within the system.
As we start our tour “down on the farm,” we find Hunter Morris first in Triple A Nashville. Morris, who ranks as the Brewers 10th-ranked prospect according to Jonathan Mayo on mlb.com, has long been thought to be the answer at the position since he was named minor league Player of the Year in 2012. That season Morris hit .303 with 28 home runs and 113 runs batted in during his first full season in Double A Huntsville.
The former Auburn Tiger was the Brewers fourth round pick in 2010 and at age 25 now enters his second full season in Triple A. His raw power should translate to the majors and gives the Brewers a potential left-handed power hitter in a very right-handed lineup. Still, Morris has to show more discipline at the plate if he expects to make it to Milwaukee. Since 2012 Morris has a walk right of 7% and while strikeouts are expected for power hitters Morris strikes out 22% of the time.
If you haven’t checked the box scores throughout the year you might ask how can the Brewers slot these two on the same organizational level? While Rogers, the Brewers minor league player of the year in 2013, played a lot of left field in spring training the answer actually has been a seemingly permanent move of Rogers to third base allowing Ramirez and Rogers to play everyday on a team that likes it’s parent team has won seven in a row.
Nick Ramirez enters the year unranked within the Brewers system according to Jonathan Mayo but has been a quick riser within the organization since he was drafted in the fourth round out of Cal State Fullerton in 2011. The 24-year-old left-handed hitter has shown good power with double digits home runs in both Wisconsin and Brevard County the past two seasons. Still, Ramirez’s growth as a prospect will really be measured this season as he gets his first taste of the Southern League in Huntsville.
In Brevard County, you will find beautiful weather, tourists and another former Auburn Tiger first baseman in 23 year-old Garrett Cooper. Cooper is a big prospect, literally standing at 6’6” and weighing in at 230 pounds. After being selected in the sixth round in the 2013 draft, Cooper got off to a fast start as a professional hitting .283 in 48 games between Helena and Wisconsin. While the book on Cooper is short, his advanced age for the level and college experience makes him a prospect that could move quickly. Keep your eyes on him and Brevard County as their entire roster in loaded with young studs within the Brewers system!
The positional depth the Brewers possess should put fans at ease as all three players listed have a chance to move through the system and Morris should figure in the first base equation in 2015. Still, this season is important for all three as well as the system as a whole. The Brewers have begun to build some depth, depth that many still view as inadequate in comparison to their competitors. However, if you look at the Brewers roster and the early returns to 2014 throughout the system it is suffice to say my faith is more in Brewers management rather than the writers ranking these players.