Each week throughout the regular season, the staff at Reviewing the Brew will be bringing you a comprehensive minor league report about each of the Brewers’ affiliates. There hasn’t been much to write home about up at the big league level this season for the Brewers this season, but Milwaukee does have plenty of exciting prospects playing well 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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Things have been tough for the T-Rats this season, one of the youngest teams in the Midwest League this season. After going 3-4 since our last update, the Timber Rattlers now sit at 13-32 this season, holding steady at 20 games back of the division leading Quad Cities River Bandits. It’s been a tough go of it on all fronts up in Appleton; the offense has scuffled to a league worst 3.07 runs per game, while the pitching staff has collectively thrown to a 4.23 ERA, third highest in the league. As a team, patience has been an issue. No team strikes out more than the Rattlers, who have whiffed at a 27.2% rate as a team while walking just 8.2% of the time. There have been a couple of bright spots, however. The pitching staff has done well at limiting home runs, giving up just 13 in 45 games, second fewest in the league. The Brewers tend to favor imparting a ground ball philosophy in their young pitchers, which should help in continuing to limit the long ball. The Timber Rattlers’ catching tandem of Greg McCall and Carlos Leal have also thrown out 39% of attempted base stealers, fourth best in the league.
UTIL Francisco Castillo
The versatile Castillo was an international signee by the Brewers back in 2011, and the 22 year old is in his third season stateside and second with Wisconsin. He has made most of his appearances at second base, but can also play shortstop and all three outfield positions. Castillo didn’t make his debut this season until May 8th, but the switch hitter has been almost impossible to keep of the bases in the last week. Castillo has torn it up the past seven days, slashing .444/.450/.500 in 21 plate appearances, driving in three runs and stealing a base. His OPS is still low at .604 for the season, but Castillo has started 12 games since reporting to Appleton 18 days ago, and should continue to get plenty of chances to prove himself this season.
RHP Cy Sneed
It seems like I can’t stop gushing about Sneed, but he put together a thoroughly dominating performance in his last start on Friday. Facing the Kane County Cougars, Sneed pitched eight shutout innings, giving up just six hits while walking none, striking out six batters and inducing 12 ground balls. The 22 year old lowered his ERA to a minuscule 1.81, his FIP to 2.43, has walked just nine batters in 44.2 innings pitched, and has a WHIP of just 1.052. It seems only a matter of time now until we see Sneed, who wasn’t ranked among the Brewers Top 30 prospects before the season, get moved up to Brevard County.
OF Monte Harrison
After impressing in his rookie league debut last season, Harrison has seen little success at the next level this year. At 19 years old, Monte is nearly two and a half years younger than the rest of the league, and it has shown in his undisciplined approach at the plate. In 21 plate appearances last week, collected just three hits and two walks. He struck out nine times, and has whiffed at an astonishing 42.4% of his plate appearances this season. Harrison continues showing excellent ability in center field, but with just a .556 OPS for the year, it’s fair to question whether the Brewers may have been too aggressive with Monte by assigning him to Appleton this season.
RHP Orlando Torrez
Torrez made two appearances last week, one in relief and one start, and neither went particularly well. The 23 year old gave up home runs in each appearance, and his two homers last week were more than he had given up in his eight previous appearances combined this season. Across six innings last week, Torrez gave up five earned runs, eight hits, and walked four batters. He has now walked more batters this season (21) and given up more earned runs (18) than he has recorded strikeouts (13), with opponents putting up a .370 OBP against him.
Player to Watch
C Carlos Leal
After a hot start to the season, Leal has started to gain some notoriety around baseball circles for his peculiar path to the pros: he played catcher in college, but the Brewers drafted him in the 34th round in 2014 as a pitcher. After struggling to adapt to the mound, the Brewers returned Leal to behind the plate and he has flourished, putting together a .760 OPS in 30 games while throwing out 44% of the 27 runners who have attempted to steal on him. With people starting to take notice of his performance, Leal has started to struggle a bit over the past couple weeks, including five hits and two walks in his last 31 plate appearances. The 23 year old will be a player to keep an eye on throughout the season to see if he can continue to vault himself into prospect status.
The Timber Rattlers finish up their road trip with a three game set in Cedar Rapids against the Kernels (28-17) that starts tonight. Following the end of that series, the Rattlers return to Appleton for a ten game home stand, starting with a four game series against the in-state rival Beloit Snappers (18-27), who rank just above the T-Rats in the cellar of the Western Division. 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.