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.
The tough season continues for the young Timber Rattlers, who lost four of six games since our last update. The Rattlers now sit at 38-74 overall, perfectly matching their Pythagorean W-L. The Wisconsin offense continues to struggle, as the T-Rats were outscored 22-17 during their six contests last week and have now been outscored by 159 runs this season. The Rattlers’ hitters have the highest collective strikeout percentage in the league at 23.5%, and they are last in the league in both runs scored and OPS by a wide margin. Due to a sudden cold streak from the Clinton LumberKings, however, the Timber Rattlers are still three games clear of last place in the Midwest League.
1B Alan Sharkey
The Rattlers’ offense was pretty quiet last week, but Sharkey was the one providing most of the noise. The 21 year old got off to a slow start this season after missing the month of April, but he has turned it on at the plate of late. Over the past week, Sharkey collected seven hits and four walks in 25 plate appearances, good enough for a .333/.440/.381 line while driving in two runs and even adding a stolen base. Sharkey’s hot streak extends to his last four weeks worth of games, as he’s put up a .728 OPS over his last 24 contests and provided solid offense in light of the loss of a big contributor in Dustin DeMuth. The sweet swinging lefty has now raised his line to an overall .248/.350/.344 on the season, and he has walked in an impressive 13.7% of his plate appearances.
RHP Angel Ventura
The 22 year old Ventura has been one of the Timber Rattlers’ best pitchers all season long, and he turned in another dandy of a start during his only appearance last week. Against the Lansing Lugnuts on August 6th, Ventura pitched 6.o strong innings while allowing just one earned run. He allowed seven hits while walking none, struck out seven hitters and induced 12 ground balls. Angel lowered his ERA to 3.09 in 96.0 innings this season, and he has struck out 98 batters on the year while walking only 35. His FIP of 3.09 perfectly matches his ERA, and Ventura has posted a 50.9% ground ball rate while allowing just four home runs in 2015.
C Carlos Leal
The 2015 Midwest League All-Star has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise poor offensive lineup, but Leal was not on his game over the last week. The 24 year old collected just two singles and struck out six times in twenty plate appearances over the last seven days, going hitless in his last three games. Leal still owns the highest OPS on the team at .764, but that figure was up over .800 last week after a strong performance during the month of July. With only a few weeks worth of games remaining on the schedule, it will important for Leal to finish the season strong if he wants to truly establish himself as a breakout performer in 2015 and firmly position himself on what is an otherwise weak organizational depth chart behind the plate.
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RHP Eric Hanhold
Hanhold was the Brewers 6th round selection this season out of the University of Florida, and was promoted to Wisconsin after just one appearance in the AZL. Eric made two appearances last week, and took losing decisions in both: a 3.2 inning start on August 4th and a 2.1 inning relief appearance on August 9th. Over those six innings, Hanhold gave up five earned runs on six hits, with three walks and three strikeouts. Hanhold has yet to post a scoreless appearance in six games this season, posting a 7.27 ERA in 17.1 innings pitched with eight strikeouts and four walks. Hanhold has induced ground balls at an incredible rate of 64.5% so far and has been hurt by a BABIP against of .353, so perhaps there is some hope for improvement.
Player to Watch
LHP Nathan Kirby
The Brewers’ pick at 40th overall in this year’s draft made his first career start on August 9th after two relief appearances, and it was a successful one overall: 3.0 IP, 4 hits, 1 earned run, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk. Kirby was eased back into game action after an injury issue came up post draft, but we should start seeing more extended outings from the 21 year old left hander during the season’s final weeks. Kirby has been successful thus far, giving up just one earned run in his first 6.0 professional innings, and he is showing glimpses of the upside the Brewers’ saw when they tabbed him early in the draft.
After an off day on Monday, the Timber Rattlers will begin a three game series in Appleton tonight against the West Michigan Whitecaps (57-54). Following the completion of that set, the T-Rats will host the South Bend Cubs (50-60) for a three game weekend series before taking to the road 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.