Milwaukee Brewers Midwest League Standouts
School has officially started across the nation, and unfortunately, that means the end of the minor league baseball regular season. This includes the low-A Midwest League, made up of 16 teams in that play in the midwestern region of the country. This level represents the first “full season” level of minor league baseball, with teams squeezing in about 140 games between April and the first week of September. Being one of the lower rungs of affiliated ball, most teams are littered with young players still wet behind the ears and trying to learn the ropes of pro ball. The average age for hitters in the league was 21.4 years this season, and the average age for pitchers was 22.0 years.
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The Milwaukee Brewers’ representative in the low-A Midwest League, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, wrapped up their season on Labor Day. It was a tough season for the team up in Appleton, who ended the year on a four game losing streak and finished with a final record of 50-89. The Rattlers produced the league’s second worst record, finishing ahead of only the lowly Clinton LumberKings in their division. Their offense was the main culprit for the team’s struggles, averaging a league worst (by nearly half a run) 3.39 runs per game. With an average age of 21.2, the hitters demonstrated little patience at the plate, striking out a collective 23% of the time and just a .304 on base percentage, last in the league. The pitching staff was slightly better, ranking third worst in the league with a collective 4.11 ERA. The Rattlers’ hurlers ranked around the middle of the pack, however, in walks, strikeouts, and home runs allowed. The Timber Rattlers were outscored by 178 runs on the year, with their Pythagorean W-L perfectly matching their 50-89 record this season.
Despite their poor record overall, several Brewers’ farmhands had standout seasons in Wisconsin. This group includes a few players drafted this past June in Ray Montgomery’s first draft with Milwaukee. Keeping in mind the average age of the players in the league, here are the Timber Rattlers’ who stood out during the 2015 campaign:
3B Dustin DeMuth
Age: 23 || B/T: R/L
DeMuth was a senior sign in the fifth round of last year’s draft, and he struggled last season in his first go around in Appleton. Things were much better this time season, as DeMuth his .285/.361/.388 with five home runs and 17 doubles in 86 games before his season was cut short by a hand injury. DeMuth doesn’t offer much home run power, but he did slug line drives at a 25% clip this season and walked at an above average rate. Look for him to resume his career in Brevard County next season.
C Carlos Leal
Age: 24 || B/T: L/R
Leal was initially drafted with the idea of transitioning to pitcher, but last year’s 34th round pick didn’t take very well to the mound. The Brewers moved him back behind the plate and sent him to Appleton this season, where Leal thrived. He hit a terrific .309/.367/.397 in 310 plate appearances, leading the club in each of the triple slash categories and clubbing line drives at a 27.4% rate. Carlos also threw out 32% of runners attempting to steal on him. Like DeMuth, his season was cut short due to injury, but he should still be on track for a promotion to the Florida State League to start next season.
OF Brandon Diaz
Age: 20 || B/T: R/R
Diaz was Milwaukee’s selection in the 8th round of the 2013 draft out of high school, and he advanced a level per season over the last three years and hit well at each stop, including Wisconsin this season. In what seems like a familiar theme, Diaz missed the end of the season due to injury, but in 82 games he hit .241/.357/.362, finishing third on the team with a .719 OPS. Brandon’s six home runs ranked second on the team and his 23 stolen bases tied for first, and he showed above average patience with a team leading 46 walks and 13.5% walk rate.
RHP Cody Ponce
Age: 21 || B/T: R/R
The Brewers selected Ponce in the second round of this year’s draft, and he showed us all why with his dominating performance in Appleton. In 12 games (seven starts) for the Timber Rattlers, Ponce posted just 2.15 ERA, striking out 36 with just nine walks in 46.0 innings pitched. He allowed runs to score in just FOUR of his appearances for the Rattlers, gave just one home run all season, and boasted a 55% ground ball rate. With a fastball that can touch 98 and two above average secondary pitches, Ponce might have the best chance of anyone in the system to develop into the “ace” pitcher that the Brewers haven’t been able to develop since Ben Sheets.
RHP Angel Ventura
Age: 22 || B/T: R/R
Since Ponce didn’t join the team until midseason, it’s more than fair to say that Angel Ventura was the team’s best starter during the season. Ventura threw a team high 122.1 innings covering 28 appearances (14 starts), allowing a 3.09 ERA with 126 strikeouts and 46 walks. Ventura’s 9.3 K/9 led qualified pitchers on the team, and he paired that with a 49% ground ball rate.
RHP Devin Williams
Age: 20 || B/T: R/R
Ranked as the Brewers’ top pitching prospect by MLB Pipeline, Williams got a late start this season due to injury. When he got on the mound, however, the former 2nd round pick enjoyed his best professional campaign. Williams allowed a 3.44 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 36 walks in 89.0 innings pitched and showed continued development of his command. Williams already can hit 95 MPH, but could continue to add velocity as he fills out his lanky frame.
LHP Kodi Medeiros
Age: 19 || B/T: L/L
When the Brewers chose the Hawaiian southpaw in the first round of last year’s draft, there were concerns about his quirky delivery and small build. Medeiros helped alleviate some of those worries with his stellar 2015 campaign, however. While his 4.44 ERA in 93.1 innings doesn’t jump off the page at you, Medeiros’ FIP was a sparkling 2.97 and induced 94 strikeouts against 40 walks. Kodi didn’t give up a single home run all season long and was a ground ball machine with a better than 65% GB rate on the year, all while being nearly three years younger than league average.