Sep 5, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers (50) pitches in the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Nearly three months 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 #9 team on my list:
"#9 Brevard County Manatees, 2009"
The Manatees won the first half of the season in the Florida State League North Division with a 40-24 record, and performed almost the same in the second half, but finished 39-24 and in second place. In the first round they had the misfortune of playing the Tampa Yankees and lost the series, 2-0, to the eventual FSL champions.
Mike Guerrero was the manager of the Manatees, who played at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida, also the spring training home of the Washington Nationals. Brevard County drew over 68,000 fans, an average of nearly 1,100 per game. It was Guerrero’s second of two seasons as the Brevard County manager and he recorded the best record of his ten-year minor league managerial career.
The hitters did well, leading the FSL in hitting (.267) and stolen bases (207). They finished fifth in runs scored (554) and tied for sixth with home runs (65).
Once again, the pitching staff was among one of the best in the league. The Manatees pitchers placed first in ERA (2.75) and strikeouts (1005), and second in homers allowed (50) and WHIP (1.217).
A few individual players had nice season as well. Eric Farris led the league in steals with 70 and Caleb Gindl was second in homers with 17. Pitcher Amaury Rivas was tied for seconds in wins (13) and tied for third in strikeouts with 123.
Pitcher Mike Fiers was in his first year of professional ball and played at three levels (Rookie, A-, A+) and had a ‘sick’ season, in today’s parlance. He appeared in 22 games (40 IP) and allowed 24 hits, five walks, and struck out 59. After a few years in the minors, Fiers has pitched in parts of four seasons in Milwaukee and currently has a 5-2 record in six starts for the Brewers.
Outfielder Logan Schafer had a nice season before he moved up to AA the last couple weeks of the season. He hit .313 and stole 16 bases for the Manatees. Schafer is the Brewers fourth outfielder and has played in 213 games in four years with Milwaukee.
Catcher Martin Maldonado played 81 games for Brevard County and played at two other levels. He only hit .199 in 251 at-bats, but drew enough walks to have a .300 OBP. He has played in 192 games for Milwaukee in four years as a back-up catcher.
Reliever Jim Henderson was pitching for his fourth organization in 2009, and also played at three levels for Milwaukee. In 15 games for Brevard County, he earned four saves and had a 3-0 record. Henderson has pitched for three years in the bigs, and had a career high of 28 saves in 2013.
John Axford also pitched at three levels in 2009, with the Manatees being his first stop. He pitched 19 games in middle relief, recording a 4-1 record with a 1.63 ERA. The ‘Ax-Man’ pitched for five years in Milwaukee before being traded to the Cards in 2013. He notched a league-high 46 saves for Milwaukee in 2011.
HR: Caleb Gindl (17)
RBI: Caleb Gindl (71)
BA: Logan Schafer (.313)
SB: Eric Farris (70)
W: Amaury Rivas (13)
ERA: Roque Mercedes (1.08)
SV: Rob Wooten (18)
K: Amaury Rivas (123)
WHIP: Roque Mercedes (0.984)
C: Martin Maldonado
1B: Chris Errecart/Steffan Wilson
2B: Eric Farris
3B: Zelous Wheeler
SS: Brent Brewer
LF: Lee Haydel
CF: Logan Schafer
RF: Caleb Gindl
SP: Evan Anundsen
SP: Amaury Rivas
SP: Mark Rogers
SP: Michael Bowman
SP: Josh Butler
CL: Rob Wooten
DIDN’T YOU USED TO BE?: Mark Rogers
Ten years ago, Mark Rogers was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the June Amateur Draft. The Mount Ararat High School senior (Topsham, Maine) was the fifth pick overall and had a huge upside as a highly-rated HS pick.
To give you an idea of his ability, Rogers was named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year. A few other winners over the years include Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Zack Greinke, Justin Upton, Clayton Kershaw, and Rick Porcello.
So yeah, this guy had a ton of potential.
He could not get beyond High A in his first three seasons and then blew out his right shoulder in July 2006. He did not pitch at all in 2007-08 due to surgeries and rehab.
He made his return for Brevard County in 2009 and started 22 games, averaging just three innings per start, but had a WHIP of 1.160 and an ERA of 1.67.
Rogers pitched at Huntsville and Nashville in 2010 and earned a call-up to Milwaukee in September. In four games (two starts) he pitched ten innings, allowing only two hits and three walks while striking out 11.
The big right-hander pitched at three levels in 2011 and was suspended in August due to a positive test for a ‘stimulant.’
Rogers made seven starts for Milwaukee in 2012 and pitched well, with a WHIP of 1.282 and a K/W ratio of 2.93.
He has not seen the big leagues since.
The Seattle Mariners signed him as a free agent in January 2014 and after seven innings at AAA Tacoma, was released.
Rogers spent the balance of the season at Lancaster of the independent Atlantic League.
For a pitcher with such a bright future, injuries and bad luck cost him a major league career.