Brewers Spring Opener: What We Learned from the Prospects


Technically, I was supposed to preview Chris Narveson’s season outlook today; I instead got caught up in the (Spring) Opening Day hysteria. As expected, Ron Roenicke started his typical starters on offense with Randy Wolf on the mound. More and more players got involved as the game progressed, holding a 1-1 tie against San Francisco in the Spring opener. As a whole, the game was a positive, though the Brewers only scratched four hits, which isn’t a call of concern yet as the hitters have only had a week of practice.

Roenicke inserted prospects into the game in its latter stages, giving Brewers fans a glimpse of the future. In case you missed it, here’s what we learned from a paltry sample size of action.

Michael Fiers

Fiers emerged as one of the top prospects in the Brewers farm system in 2011, winning the Pitcher of the Year in the Brewers organization while spending time in AA Hunstville and AAA Nashville. At 6’3″, 200 lbs. and 26 years, Fiers is an older prospect and should see his time with Milwaukee coming soon. Last season he pitched two scoreless innings as a September call-up after going a dazzling 8-0 with a minuscule 1.11 era in 12 games. His fastball is nothing special at 88-92 mph, but has late movement not normally seen in the Minors. He uses every inch of his 6-3 frame in his delivery, somewhat reminiscent of John Axford’s motion, but with a longer step and less arm movement.

Personally, Fiers’s prospects as a Big Leaguer excite me as much as any other Brewers farmhand, which is why I listed him first. After blossoming in 2011, he might be seen in the bullpen in 2012 and should compete for a much-engrossed starting spot in 2013 with the likes of Jed Bradley and Taylor Jungmann. He inherited a tie ballgame in the ninth and pitched a scoreless frame. He retired the Giants’ Roger Kieschnick, Tommy Joseph, and Connor Gillaspie on two weak groundouts and an infield pop out, respectively. Overall Fiers has  shown enough  positives on the mound that I think he can contribute in the majors as a fifth starter or a bridge-inning reliever.

Eric Farris

Farris put himself in a position to possibly score the winning run after singling with one out in the bottom of the ninth. After a Nori

Aoki fly out and with Taylor Green at the plate, Farris was caught leaning and Wilmin Rodriguez picked him off to end the game. The pick off isn’t any sort of an alarm; Farris stole 70 bases in 2009 while in high-A ball. The aggression is something good, especially on a team that will need to manufacture more runs with the loss of Prince Fielder. Farris is a long shot to make the Opening Day roster and will most likely begin in Nashville. There is, however, a glimmer of hope that he will beat out veteran Cesar Izturis and former Braves pinch-hitting great Brooks Conrad on basis of his speed and glove. A second baseman of small stature, Farris’s future hopes at starting for the Brewers shouldn’t be very high–he’s stuck behind Rickie Weeks. On Sunday, however, he showed promise with a solid stroke to the opposite field.

Caleb Gindl

The stocky outfielder (he’s 5’9″, 200 pounds) made an appearance in Sunday’s game, rolling out to second in his only at-bat. He may not look great in a baseball uniform, but he possesses above average pop and solid defense. Fellow RtB Steve Alstadt profiled Gindl and his future with the Brewers here. I recommend referencing the article. Anything I would write about the man affectionately called the “human bowling ball” by his teammates would be exactly what Steve already wrote.

Martin Maldonado

The 25-year-old catcher has been a journeyman throughout his Minor League career, making stops with two organizations and every possible level with the exception of the Majors. He made his name known with a strong showing in the Winter Leagues this past season, posting solid .271/.350/.415 numbers with four homers and 15 RBI. His prospects with the Brewers in 2012 are bleak with the re-signing of backup catcher George Kottaras this winter, but he is projected to hold that spot in the future. His role with the team will be limited as long as Milwaukee keeps Jonathan Lucroy–as it is expected to do–but his quick release and strong arm behind the plate along with improved offense give the Brewers a future backup catcher.

Brock Kjeldgaard

Pronounced “kill-guard”, the 6’5″, 235 pound pitcher-turned-outfielder has shown enough promise to be placed on the 40-man roster. He appeared as a pinch hitter on Sunday, striking out in his one plate appearance. Kjeldgaard doesn’t flash much leather on defense and strikes out a lot, as shown in the Spring opener. He doesn’t project to be an everyday starter in the future, but could manage a spot on the roster as a pinch hitter by 2013. His 18 homers in his first two and one-half months at Brevard County in 2011 showed promise at the plate, but his strikeout rate combined with below-average defense and no definite defensive spot will nag his chances.

The Brewers obviously didn’t want to lose Kjeldgaard’s bat, signing him and placing him on the 40-man roster to avoid losing him in the Rule 5 draft. Expect him to roam in AA and AAA in 2012 before actually competing for a job in the Big Leagues in 2013 or ’14, when he’ll be competing for a spot with guys like Khris Davis, Kentrail Davis, Gindl, and Hunter Morris.