Right now, every Brewers fan is no doubt picking apart the performances of everyone on the Major League roster. We are watching Braun’s every move, examining Hart’s every at-bat, and keeping a close eye on Rickie Weeks in the field. It’s only natural. In the beginning of the season – especially when expectations are as high as they are in Milwaukee – the fan’s focus becomes singular and nothing else really matters besides the Division standing.
For most people, the Minor League affiliates of the Milwaukee Brewers will not even be glanced at until after the All-Star Break. This is totally normal. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t stories worth being told from down on the farm, even this early in the season. We start out our look at the minors this year with a trip to the Fox River Valley to look at the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
My (almost) home-town team in Appleton is off to a shaky start this year, but even at 4-4 they are still in striking distance of the lead in a weak division of the Midwest League.
On offense, two T-Rats are off to an incredibly hot start. First basemen Jason Rogers is leading Wisconsin in batting average with .321, as well as leading the team in hits and tied in home runs with two. He has already proven with his time in fall ball and with the rookie Brewers that he can be a pure hitter that gets on base, but this is by far his best start of his young career. Also anchoring the line-up this season in Appleton is Center fielder Chadwin Stang. Like Rogers, this is his third year in the Brewers system, and he has shown marked improvement every year. He is currently sitting on top of the team leader boards in homers with Rogers, and has posted – get this – a 1.182 OPS so far this season. Almost a third of his at-bats end in strikeouts, but he still draws walks and when he hits, he gets extra bases. Literally. He has four doubles, one triple and a home run through eight hits. I’m pretty sure he’d try to stretch out a bunt.
One more offensive player to watch is Shortstop Carlos George. George is hitting .292 so far in Midwest League play, and he has stolen five bases in the team’s first eight games. He hasn’t drawn a walk yet and has struck out eight times in 24 at-bats, but he’s young and fast and that’s really all you need to succeed in A ball. If he can work on his discipline I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from Carlos. After all, we could use more shortstops.
The pitching for the Timber Rattlers is inconsistent to say the least. But let’s be honest – if you’re a good
pitcher, you don’t hang around the bus leagues for very long. So far the best arm on the staff appears to belong to Drew Gagnon, who has yet to post a decision in two starts, but has struck out 13 and surrendered only two runs. Pitching is harder to make sense of at the beginning of the year, but it’s easy to say that if Gagnon can keep pace with these performances he’s going to have more than a few fans from the Brew Crew. Matt Miller has good stuff and is leading the team in strikeouts with fourteen, but he’s saddled with two losses and seven earned runs to go along with that impressive K total. He will have better starts, but an ERA of 6.30 is a tough hill to climb starting out your season.
Two relievers of note for Wisconsin are Chad Pierce and Seth Harvey. I mention them because they are the only two relievers thus far who have held their opponents scoreless. Pierce accomplished this while also striking out five over three total innings and only surrendering one hit.
Now it’s very likely these names won’t be climbing the ladder very far this season. They are not going to be Milwaukee Brewers any time soon, but for now their performances as Timber Rattlers are impressive enough to keep an eye on them.