Each week throughout, the staff at Reviewing the Brew will be bringing you a comprehensive minor league report about each of the Brewers’ affiliates. There isn’t much to write home about up at the big league level this season for the Brewers, but Milwaukee does have plenty of exciting prospects off to hot starts throughout their minor league system. The Brewers’ low-A affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (who play about an hour and a half north of Milwaukee) are no exception.
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As a team, the T-Rats are off to a slow start to begin the season. They currently rank last in the Western Division of the Midwest League with a 6-12 record. Some of their issues mirror the ones the parent club are experiencing; they rank second to last in the Midwest Leaugue in runs per game with 2.72 while sporting a collective ERA of 4.11, or third worst in the league. While the Timber Rattlers do rank tied for second with nine home runs, their 31.6% strikeout rate as a team is more than 7% higher than any other team in the league. The Rattlers do feature the second youngest average hitter age in the league, so some of this lack of discipline can’t be unexpected.
C Carlos Leal
The 23 year old Leal was drafted by the Brewers as a pitcher last season in the 34th round. After giving up six runs in 6.1 innings with a 1.579 WHIP in rookie ball last season, the Brewers moved Leal to catcher and promoted him straight to Appleton. So far, the move has paid off in spades, as Leal leads the T-Rats in hitting with a .364/.404/.545 line in 48 plate appearances. He’s clubbed five extra base hits, leads the team with 24 total bases, and has even thrown out 47% of potential base stealers from behind the plate. If Leal can continue this hot start, he could find himself gaining some more notoriety as a prospect.
LHP Kodi Medeiros
The Brewers chose the 18 year old (soon to be 19) Medeiros with their first pick last season, and he struggled in his first experience in pro ball, posting a 7.27 ERA with 13 walks and 26 strikeouts in 17.1 innings in rookie ball. The Brewers’ aggressively started all three of their top picks in last year’s draft in Appleton, despite being an average of three years younger than the rest of the league. Medeiros was spectacular in his season debut, pitching six no-hit innings with seven strikeouts and 11 ground ball outs. Medeiros continued his strong work to this point in the season, giving up just five earned runs in 15.1 innings pitched, striking out 20 against just five walks. He has yet to give up a single home runs, and he is holding opponents to a .130 batting average against. Kodi currently ranks #8 among Brewers’ prospects according to MLB.com, and his stock should continue to rise if he can keep up this level of production.
OF Monte Harrison
The Brewers selected Harrison in the second round of last year’s draft, and he impressed in short season by posting a .402 OBP and 32 stolen bases in 50 games after being drafted. So far in 2015, however, Harrison has not been able to carry over that success. In 63 plate appearances, Harrison is hitting just .151/.286/.283 with three extra base hits. Though he does lead the team with two home runs, he has struck out in 44% of his plate appearances while walking just 8% of the time. Harrison, the Brewers’ third ranked prospect, might have the highest ceiling of any player in the system, so a slow start for a player who is an average of 2.4 years younger than the rest of the league shouldn’t be too concerning.
RHP Orlando Torrez
Torrez came to the Brewers by way of the Dominican Republic, and has spent the last four seasons in the rookie level Dominican Summer League. The Brewers finally jumped Torrez to American ball this season, and so far he has struggled to adapt. Already 23 and a year older than league average, Torrez has given up six runs (five earned) in 9.2 innings this year, striking out five while walking a whopping eight batters. After struggling each of the last three years against much younger competition in the DR, one has to wonder how much of a future Torrez has left in baseball.
Player to Watch
3B Dustin DeMuth
The Brewers made DeMuth their fifth round pick in last year’s draft, selecting the 23 year old after a career at Indiana University. The big third baseman struggled against younger competition in Appleton last year, leading the Brewers’ to reassign him to the team to begin the season this year. So far, DeMuth has slugged his way to an .838 OPS while playing solid defense at both third and first base. If DeMuth can keep up his hitting ways, expect to see him promoted sometime during this season. With a shortage of third base prospects in the system and the impending retirement of Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers’ are hoping DeMuth can progress quickly through the system, as a player drafted as a college senior should. However, if DeMuth fails to make it beyond Appleton this season, his big league future might be called into question.
Coming off a sweep of the Peoria Chiefs, the Timber Rattlers (6-12) will look to keep some momentum going with a three game series on the road starting tonight against the Clinton Lumberjacks (7-11). Following that three game set, the T-Rats come back to Appleton for a six game home stand. Being just a relatively short drive north of Milwaukee, I recommend visiting TimberRattlers.com and getting tickets (as I already have) to catch some games for this exciting, young team this season.