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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It’s been an up and down week for the Timber Rattlers, who were swept in a three game road series in Cedar Rapids before coming home and sweeping the Clinton LumberKings in a three game set. With their 3-3 record this week, the Rattlers have pushed their record to 34-66. While they are still 29.5 games back of division leading Quad Cities, the T-Rats have managed to climb their way out of the cellar for the first time since the starting the season with six straight losses. The Timber Rattlers enjoyed an off day on Monday before returning to action later today.
It’s been a busy week for roster moves in Appleton, as well. Unfortunately, third baseman Dustin DeMuth, in the midst of a strong season for the T-Rats, will miss the rest of the season with a broken hand. DeMuth ends the year with a .285/.361/.388 with five home runs in 351 plate appearances. He is a strong candidate to begin next season in Brevard County after his showing this year. Luis Aviles was added to the active roster in DeMuth’s place, and undrafted free agent outfielder Omar Cotto was promoted to the team this week from Helena this week, as well. The Brewers’ competitive balance pick in this year’s draft, Nathan Kirby, waited until just before the deadline to sign after winning the College World Series with Virginia. The lefty is currently dealing with some injury concerns but has found his way to Appleton, where he will begin his professional career once he is healthy. The Timber Rattlers welcomed back utilityman Francisco Castillo from the disabled list, though catcher Nataniel Mejia and outfielder Brandon Diaz were DL’d retroactive to July 23rd.
C Carlos Leal
The hits just keep coming for Leal in July. With nine hits and two walks in 25 plate appearances last week, Leal has boosted his OPS up over .900 for the month of July, his best month so far in his outstanding season. The Midwest League All-Star has an incredible 28.6% line drive rate this season, and is now hitting .326/.388/.431 on the season with 19 extra base hits in 265 plate appearances. Leal is no slouch behind thew plate, either, having thrown out 33% of runners attempting to steal on him this season. Leal has proven he can hit in the Midwest League, though being more than a year and a half older than league average at age 23, it remains to be seen if he can continue to produce as he tries to ascend through the system.
RHP Angel Ventura
The 22 year old Ventura was absolutely dominant during his only appearance last week, a 6.0 inning relief appearance in tandem with a Kodi Medeiros start on the 25th. Ventura entered the game in the fourth inning and proceeded to shut out the LumberKings for the remainder of the game. Clinton managed only two hits and two walks off Angel, and the 6’2″ righty struck out a whopping 11 batters during the game. Since blowing up for nine earned runs in 4.2 innings on July 9th, Ventura has now allowed only run over his last 17 innings, striking out 16 while walking just six, and he currently owns a 3.18 ERA and a 50.6% ground ball rate in 85.0 innings this season.
IF Tucker Neuhaus
Neuhaus’ July free fall continued with another tough week last week, as he managed to reach base just four times (two singles, two walks) in 23 plate appearances last week. He is now hitting just .181/.218/.208 in 21 games in July, and he seen his season OPS fall below .600 for the first time since returning from injury at the end of April. Still just 20 years of age, there is plenty of time for Neuhaus to re-establish himself as a viable prospect after the Brewers chose him in the second round in 2013, but to this point this season has been mostly disappointing.
RHP David Carver
The Brewers drafted the 23 year old Carver in the 35th round in 2014, and he began this season in Helena before being promoted to the Timber Rattlers a couple of weeks ago. He made his debut on July 21st and has made two starts since – and the results have not been very pretty. Carver has thrown a total of 11.0 innings in for Wisconsin, giving up 17 hits and eight earned runs. He has struck out nine against just three walks, but Carver hasn’t experienced much success overall in his professional career, holding a 5.74 ERA and 1.561 WHIP in 73.2 minor league innings. Carver doesn’t miss many bats (5.9 K/9) and has given up his fair share of home runs (1.1 HR/9), which isn’t a recipe for a successful career.
Player to Watch
OF Omar Cotto
Cotto was passed over in this year’s draft after a four year career at USC, but signed with the Brewers shortly thereafter and has looked impressive with the bat. The speedster tore through Helena .292/.395/.385 line and 13 stolen bases in 20 games after being signed, and found himself promoted to Wisconsin thanks to this strong performance. Cotto owns two hits through his first two Midwest League games, and the under-the-radar outfielder will look to continue trying to make a name for himself with the Timber Rattlers.
After an off day on Monday, the Rattlers begin a three game series in Appleton tonight at 7:05 against the Peoria Chiefs (54-45). They’ll finish the month off by starting a nine game road trip on the 31st, with their first stop in the Quad Cities for a three game set against the league leading River Bandits (63-36). 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.