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 Timber Rattlers faced two of the worst teams in the league during their seven game slate last week, and they took advantage by putting together what was likely their best seven game stretch all season. Wisconsin won six contests last week while only dropping one, raising their record to 49-83 on the season. The T-Rats scored 30 runs offensively, averaging nearly a run more per game than they have during the rest of the regular season, while the pitching staff only allowed 17 runs to come across the plate. Even with their strong showing in the week, the Timber Rattlers still own the second worst record across the entire Midwest League, and they’ve been outscored by 165 runs on the year. Wisconsin has now outplayed their Pythagorean W-L record 47-85.
3B Tucker Neuhaus
It’s been an up and down 2015 for the 20 year third baseman, who started the season off by posting an OPS over 1.000 in the season’s first month before seeing it drop in each successive month after, bottoming out at .466 in July. Neuhaus saw his bat come back alive in August, however, and was a dominant hitter in the last week: a .294/.391/.529 slash in 23 plate appearances with a home run, a double, and more walks (4) than strikeouts (3). Tucker’s bounceback August saw him post an .813 OPS in 25 games, and he’s now up to a more respectable .242/.305/.345 slash in 2015. A strong end to the season could help determine if Neuhaus begins next season with the Timber Rattlers or if he’s shown enough to get bumped up to Brevard County.
RHP David Burkhalter
In a week filled with strong pitching performances by the Timber Rattlers’ staff, Burkhalter the nod for his dominating start against Burlington on August 26th. The 20 year old threw 5.0 innings of one run ball, allowing only a solo home run. He struck out a season high eight batters while walking none in the game. This continued a stretch of nice outings for the 20 year old, who has been inconsistent all year but has allowed only a 1.80 ERA in his last 15.0 innings pitched with an insane 17 to 1 K:BB ratio. David has now lowered his ERA to 4.55 on the season, and he’s walked just 5.7% of batters he has faced.
SS Jake Gatewood
The Brewers moved Gatewood back up to Appleton a little over a week ago, and while the slugging shortstop has flashed his signature power stroke, he’s struggled a bit overall at the plate. The 19 year old managed just a .158/.200/.421 line in 20 plate appearances last week, though all three of his hits went for extra bases (two doubles and a home run). Jake struck out five times in that stretch while walking just once. Gatewood has shown flashes of his high upside this season, especially during his stint back at Helena, but it will be interesting to see how he fairs in his second go-around in the Midwest League in 2016.
LHP Nathan Kirby
Kirby didn’t pitch last week, but the reason why is his cause for being on the “Who’s Not” list this week. Kirby was placed on the minor league disabled list on August 25th due to elbow soreness, and the Brewers announced on August 29th that the 21 year old lefty would require Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. Kirby became the second Brewers’ farmhand to have to undergo the procedure this season after RHP Taylor Williams. Kirby ends his first professional season with a 5.68 ERA, seven walks, and seven strikeouts in 12.2 innings pitching. The surgery was performed today, and the Brewers will be hoping their pick at #40 in this year’s draft will be recovered in time to restart his career as a 23 year old in 2017.
More from Reviewing the Brew
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- 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
RHP Cody Ponce
Ponce continues to simply dominate the Midwest League, throwing four shutout innings with four strikeouts against Burlington on August 26th to earn his third save of the season. The 21 year old has quickly become one of my favorite prospects in the system, and the 0.98 ERA, 18 strikeouts, and two walks he allowed in 18.1 August innings certainly helps soften the blow felt by Kirby’s injury. This 2015 draftee should probably be considered a top 15 prospect in the system at the very least, despite MLB Pipeline‘s low ranking for him. Ponce throws in the upper 90s, has generated a near 57% ground ball rate this season, has walked just 3.6% of hitters between two levels, and now sports a 1.21 ERA in 37.1 innings for the Timber Rattlers. He should get two more appearances this season, including a start tonight. It may be early in his career, but Ponce could have a chance at becoming Milwaukee’s first homegrown “ace” since Ben Sheets.
Sadly, it’s now the final week of the regular season for the Timber Rattlers, who finish up Midwest League play on September 7th and won’t be making an appearance in this year’s playoffs. The T-Rats finish their road series in Clinton (42-90) tonight before heading to Appleton for their final homestand of the season, a three game set against the Cedar Rapids Kernels (73-60). The Timber Rattlers then finish their season on the road in Burlington with a three game tilt against the Bees (57-75). With just three home games remaining, I strongly urge you to visit TimberRattlers.com and grab tickets to catch this young, exciting group of prospects one more time before the season is over!