Jul 8, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians center fielder Michael Brantley (23) hits a home run during the seventh inning against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field. The Indians won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Four weeks ago I began a weekly series looking back at some of the top farm squads in the history of Brewers baseball, dating back to 1970 when the Seattle Pilots headed northeast from spring training in Arizona and became the Milwaukee Brewers. I have not included short-season Class A or Rookie ball teams, as their seasons are generally too short to compare to full-season squads in A, AA, and AAA levels.
With this week’s edition of Beating the Bushes, I present the #16 team on my list:
"#16 West Virginia Power, 2007"
The Power performed as the Brewers entry in the Class A South Atlantic League for four years (2005-08). The team played its home games at Appalachian Power Park, the construction of which began in March 2004 and was finished in time for the 2005 season. The $23 million facility had a capacity of 4,500, with over 248,000 fans clicking through the turnstiles in 2007. The stadium is located in Charleston, West Virginia, the capital and largest city in that state.
Manager Mike Guerrero was in the fourth year of his ten-year minor league career, his second and final year as the Power skipper. He also played for nine years in the minors, including one season in the Kansas City organization. Guerrero was added to Milwaukee’s coaching staff in 2014.
In 2007, West Virginia ran away with the Sally League North title, going 48-20. They dropped off in the second half, finishing third with a 34-34 mark.
The Power defeated Hickory two games out of three in the semifinal round, but got swept 3-0 by Columbus in the league championship series.
Team-wise on the stat sheet, the Power had a great hitting club, ranking first in the league in batting average (.281) and runs (804); second in home runs (128); and fifth in stolen bases (184).
The pitching staff, as a whole, was rather pedestrian, ranking in the middle of the pack in most of the major categories in the league.
Michael Brantley was a seventh-round pick in 2005 and was a key player for the Power in limited action. He played in just 56 games before moving up to AA Huntsville before the midway point. Brantley hit 335/413/440 in 218 ABs, adding 32 runs batted in and 18 steals.
He is in his sixth year as a big leaguer, all with Cleveland, having been involved in the C.C. Sabathia trade, which sent four players for the big left-hander. This season he earned an All-Star game berth, hitting 323/387/511 with 13 home runs.
Martin Maldonado is a name well-known to Brewers fans as the back-up catcher for Milwaukee for the last four seasons. As a 20-year-old, he was already a solid defender, throwing out an impressive 46% of runners trying to steal. He hit 221/309/288 in 208 ABs for the Power.
Nineteen-year-old Jeremy Jeffress was a first round pick in 2006 and a top prospect for Milwaukee, but some drug issues derailed what could have been a good career. He pitched well as a starter for West Virginia, going 9-5 with an ERA of 3.13 in 18 starts. He spent parts of five seasons in the majors, appearing in 50 games. He is back in the Brewers organization, pitching for AAA Nashville this year.
Matt LaPorta was a first-round pick in 2007, arriving late in Charleston. In 88 ABs, he crushed ten homers and hit 318/392/750. He was included in the Sabathia trade and played four years (2009-12) for the Indians, appearing in 291 games with 31 jacks. This year, he is playing in the Mexican League.
HR: Stephen Chapman (24)
RBI: Stephen Chapman (89)
BA: Andrew Lefave (.345)
SB: Brent Brewer (42)
W: Jeremy Jeffress (9)
ERA: Zach Braddock (1.15)
SV: Omar Aguilar, E.J. Shanks (9)
K: Jeremy Jeffress (95)
WHIP: Zach Braddock (0.915)
C: Andy Bouchie/Martin Maldonado
1B: Andrew Lefave
2B: Kenny Holmberg
3B: Taylor Green
SS: Brent Brewer
LF: Stephen Chapman
CF: Charlie Fermaint/Darren Ford
RF: Chuckie Caufield
SP: Brae Wright
SP: Mike Ramlow
SP: Jeremy Jeffress
SP: Alex Periard
SP: Chris Toneguzzi
CL: Omar Aguilar. E.J. Shanks
Player That Should Have Gotten Called Up to Milwaukee: Brent Brewer, SS
Brent Edison Brewer was selected by Milwaukee in the second round of the 2006 June Draft. He played 45 games that year in the Arizona Rookie league and showed a propensity for hitting three-baggers (6) and stealing bases (10 of 10).
The next year at West Virginia, he batted 518 times and increased his power numbers (11 HRs) but also struck out at a prodigious rate (170 whiffs). He continued his speed game, pilfering 42 of 49 bases.
In 2008, he started out with the Power, still showing good speed (16 steals) but little else. He moved up to advanced A (A+) Brevard County and hit a bit better (.251) and stole 15 bases.
He played 104 games in 2009 for Brevard County, batting .222 with 19 steals.
His final year in professional baseball was 2010, and he split time between Brevard County and AA Huntsville, batting only .215 and had more caught steals (4) than steals (1).
He changed sports that fall, going on to play college football for four years at the University of Tennessee. He saw action at strong safety, snagging two picks his senior year.
Brewer is currently involved in a sales field with Pilot Flying J travel centers.
Based on his stats in the minors, Brewer probably shouldn’t have gotten called up to the big club. But how cool would it have been to have a Brewer playing on the Brewers?