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.
After ending last week on a three game winning streak, the Rattlers kept the ball rolling by winning their next two games to run the streak to a season high five wins, but the good news ended there. Wisconsin lost their series finale to Peoria at home before getting swept on the road in a three game set in Quad Cities to start the month of August. After going 2-4 since last week’s update, the Timber Rattlers now sit at 36-70 overall, mere percentage points ahead of the lowly Clinton LumberKings for last place in the Midwest League. The Rattlers have been searching for offense all season, posting a league worst 3.35 runs per game and having been outscored by 154 runs on the season. The pitching staff has been steadily improving, at least, bolstered by new additions from the 2015 draft class, though they are still 3rd worst in the league with a 4.24 ERA.
3B Sthervin Matos
It’s been an up and down season for the 21 year old Matos as the plate, providing glimpses of tantalizing power at the plate while struggling to make consistent contact with the ball. Indeed this was the case last week, as Matos collected only two hits in 19 plate appearances. The right handed hitting third baseman did manage to walk three times, however, and clubbed his team leading 7th home run en route to an .806 OPS over the last seven days. Matos has struggled with a 25.4% strikeout rate this season, but his walk rate is promising at around 10% and when he does make contact, he is clubbing line drives at a solid 20.8% rate. With the season ending injury to Dustin DeMuth, Matos should continue to see consistent playing time at the hot corner and get a chance to prove himself the rest of the season.
RHP Cody Ponce
I have been a huge fan of Cody Ponce since the Brewers made him their second round selection in June’s amateur draft, and he has done nothing to temper my high expectations so far. Ponce collected his first professional win after pitching 5.0 shutout innings against the Peoria Chiefs on July 28th, striking out two batters and inducing two ground ball double plays. Cody also made a two inning relief appearance against Quad Cities on the 2nd, giving up only an unearned run. Across two levels, Ponce now owns a minuscule 1.73 ERA in 26.0 professional innings, striking out 19 opposing batters and posting just a 0.962 WHIP. With a fastball that has hit 98 MPH and a 55.3% ground ball rate thus far, Cody is showing off all the tools necessary to advance quickly through the system and to the big leagues.
OF Elvis Rubio
It was a tough week for the 21 year old outfielder, who collected just three singles and two walks in 21 trips to the plate over the past seven days. It was a disappointing finish to what had been a strong month of July, as Rubio owns a .721 OPS over the last four weeks worth of games. Now leading the team with 375 plate appearances, Rubio has just a .237/.288/.329 slash on the season, unable to repeat his solid .270/.344/.339 line from last season in Helena. He does lead the team with 20 doubles on the season, but unless he can improve on his 17.6% line drive rate and a high 45% ground ball rate, Rubio is unlikely to show much home run or extra base power.
RHP David Burkhalter
There are many young pitchers have strong seasons for the Timber Rattlers, but the 20 year old Burkhalter has not been one of them this year. In his last start on August 2, Burkhalter managed to get through just 3.1 innings while allowing five earned runs including a home run, adding three walks and a hit batter. This is the second consecutive rough outing for David, who allowed three runs in a three inning save last week. His ERA now stands at 5.09 in 76.0 innings this season, and coming on the heels of a rough season in Helena last year, the former 6th round pick will likely be in for a second go-around in the Midwest League.
More from Reviewing the Brew
- Brewers: 4 Players Who Must Step Up for the Crew to Make the Playoffs
- Brewers: Yet Another Huge Promotion For Top Prospect Jackson Chourio
- Brewers Making Colossal Mistake With Corbin Burnes’ Contract
- Which Players May Be In The Final Month Of Their Brewers Careers?
- Brewers: Where Does Devin Williams Stand In NL Reliever Of The Year Race?
Player to Watch
LHP Nathan Kirby
Despite being rated by many as a first round talent Kirby fell to the Brewers at #40 in this year’s draft due to injury concerns. He signed with Milwaukee just before the deadline, and after a couple weeks of recovery, made his professional debut in a one inning relief appearance on Aug 2. Kirby held the River Bandits scoreless, allowing one hit and notching his first pro strikeout. Ranked as the Brewers #14 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Kirby features a low 90s fastball and a plus slider that helped him lead Virginia to the College World Series title this season. While the Brewers will surely be a close watch on his innings during the rest of the season, it will certainly be exciting to watch how he adapts to the professional game this season.
The Timber Rattlers enjoyed an off day on Monday, but will resume action tonight on the road against the Lansing Lugnuts (61-46), who lead the league’s Eastern Division. Following their three game set in Lansing, the Rattlers will head to Midland, MI to take on the Great Lakes Loons (53-52) before returning home next week. 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.