A Preview of Your 2016 Timber Rattlers: Pitchers
The Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers officially dropped their roster from 28 to 25 players for Opening Day today, marking the start of their season. We at RtB will be covering every level of the Brewers farm, and I will be giving a preview (and subsequent updates) on who Brewers fans can expect to see in Appleton this year.
As always, the Brewers will give as many of their pitching prospects the opportunity to start games as possible. Here’s the Opening Day rotation, for reference:
RHP David Burkhalter | Age: 20
Burkhalter is spending another season in Appleton after he ran into some tough luck in 2015. Over the course of 101 innings in 2015 of both starting and relieving, Burkhalter had a strong 93:22 K:BB ratio.
His ERA was an unattractive 4.99, but that was largely due to a tough-luck LOB% (57.1%) and BABIP (.314). His FIP was a solid 3.51, and if he hadn’t been so unlucky, he’d probably be in Florida to start the season. Burkhalter has a starter’s build (6’3″), and could bulk up as he matures.
RHP Miguel Diaz | Age: 21
Diaz has finally reached Wisconsin, after two years in the Dominican Summer league and a pair in Arizona. A fracture in his elbow held him to 20 1/3 innings in 2015, though he struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings, as he did in 2014.
Diaz is a classic fastball-slider pitcher who is working on his command and changeup. If those skills don’t develop, he looks like a late-inning reliever.
RHP Marcos Diplan | Age: 19
When scouts and writers are asked which Brewers pitching prospect has the highest upside, many point to Diplan. He has been throwing a mid to high-90s fastball for several years, in spite of his age, and features a solid slider, as well as a changeup that is further along than many at his age.
He also has advanced command, posting a 54:21 K:BB in 50 1/3 innings with the Arizona Brewers in 2015. Diplan’s only drawback is his stature (6’0″ 160), which, even if he adds weight, will continue to scream “reliever” at many scouts.
LHP Jake Drossner | Age: 21
When RtB reported on the signing of Drossner when he was drafted in 2015, it was noted that his command was, according to one source, a 35 on the 20-80 scouting scale. That is dismal, but looking at his final year at the University of Maryland, the criticism makes sense. Drossner walked 7.31 batters per 9 innings in 32 innings with the Terrapins.
However, when he joined the Helena Brewers, he cut his walk rate in half (3.64 BB per 9). If the Brewers made an adjustment to Drossner’s delivery in Helena, it certainly did the trick, as opposing batters hit .268/.338/.363 (buoyed by a .350 BABIP) against the southpaw.
Drossner reportedly has a solid three pitch mix, and if his command is as greatly improved as it appeared in the Pioneer League, he could surge into relevance on the Brewers’ prospect lists.
RHP Nate Griep | Age: 22
Drafted out of Kansas State University in 2015, Griep had a really rough 2015 season in Helena. After posting a 2.63 ERA as a starter in the Big 12, Griep ended his 2015 with an ERA north of 8 in the Pioneer League.
Oddly enough, his K:BB ratios in both leagues were nearly identical (1.94 to 1.93). The big difference in the seasons were his hits allowed per 9 innings (7 to nearly 13) and home runs per 9 (0.23 to 1.07).
And this sort of thing happens often when pitchers are only working 33 2/3 innings in a season. Griep’s opponents had a .389 BABIP against him, which borders on absurd. Obviously the Brewers saw promise in him, or he would still be stuck in Helena.
RHP Scott Grist | Age: 23
As we all know, 38th round picks rarely pan out. However, if Grist’s short season with the Arizona Brewers is any indication, he has real promise. After being drafted out of Texas State University last year, Grist walked just four batters in 31 1/3 innings in Arizona, holding opponents to a .292 OBP despite, you guessed it, an unlucky BABIP (.347).
Grist will be 24 in May, which is way too old for Low-A ball. At his age, the Brewers will likely be looking to run him through the minor leagues quickly, so look for him to jump to High-A early this season if he gets off to a hot start.
RHP Conor Harber | Age: 22
Like Grist, Harber was drafted in 2015, and like Grist, Harber’s command woes from college appeared to alleviate. As always, we’re dealing with small sample sizes, but Harber walked just 3 batters per 9 innings with Helena, holding them to a .628 OPS over 24 innings. Unlike many of his peers, Harber actually had a lucky BABIP (.277).
RHP David Lucroy | Age: 23
So it turns out the Timber Rattlers are filled to the brim with pitchers who were drafted out of college in 2015. Lucroy, at least, has the distinction of being the younger brother of some catcher named Jonathan.
Lucroy was knocked around after joining the Crew, in his case with the Arizona Brewers. Carried on the back of a .377 BABIP, opponents hit .319 off of Luc Jr. with 21 extra base hits in 43 innings.
Lucroy needed to be moved up, given his age, and he’ll need some early success in 2016 to kick start his career as a Brewers farmhand.
LHP Drake Owenby | Age: 22
Remember when I talked about David Lucroy? Owenby is a similar story. Just like with Lucroy, opponents also posted a .377 BABIP against the lefty, this time to the tune of a .315 BAA. He also lacked a nice BB/9 or K/9 to latch onto, though he suppressed extra base hits better than Lucroy.
He also has the natural advantage of left-handedness though lefties hit .356/.383/.422 against him on a .471 BABIP. There’s nothing I can even say about a BABIP that high, Owenby was just dreadfully unlucky. His peripherals against lefties were much better, but we’re looking at just 50 plate appearances at this point.
By the way, if you’re looking to feel really bad for Owenby and his awful luck, his BABIP with the bases empty was .258. With runners on it was .542 (?!?!).
RHP Freddy Peralta | Age: 19
Brought over in the Adam Lind trade, Peralta reportedly has a solid three pitch mix and great command, as evidenced when he struck out 67 batters in 2015 (second most in the Arizona League) while walking just eight.
You can mostly ignore his unlucky 4.11 ERA, because his FIP was an excellent 2.33. He also held opponents to a .242/.278/.312 slash despite a .340 BABIP.
Like Diplan, Peralta would be more highly touted if not for his size (5’11”, 175), but he clearly showed the pure stuff and command to remain a starter for the time being.
RHP Jon Perrin | Age: 22
Drafted in the 27th round in 2015 out of Oklahoma State University, Perrin appeared in three games with the Arizona Brewers (0.90 ERA) before earning a call-up to the Timber Rattlers, where he tossed 39 2/3 innings with a 4.31 ERA.
He walked less than a batter per 9 innings with the T-Rats, which is rarely seen in the lower minor leagues. Perrin is obviously more advanced as a college arm, and, as he saw some success in Appleton already, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in a Manatees uniform quite soon.
After all, he held hitters to a .609 OPS over both leagues, and as a starter, the imposing pitcher (6’5″, 220) certainly looks the part.
LHP Quintin Torres-Costa | Age: 21
One of the rare lower-level Brewers pitchers to not start any games, Torres-Costa pitched well in both rookie leagues. Torres-Costa is a real dark horse to keep an eye on in Appleton, as the young man struck out 43 batters in just 32 innings in 2015, over 12 batters per 9 innings. He wasn’t wild, either, walking just eight batters.
RHP Jordan Yamamoto | Age: 19
Yamamoto was considered the second best Hawaiian prospect in 2014, after Kodi Medeiros. The Brewers nabbed both, though Yamamoto’s 2015 wasn’t quite as good as Medeiros’.
Despite solid strike out and walk numbers, Yamamoto allowed just under a 1.000 OPS (.424 BABIP) to batters in the Pioneer League. Prior to the 2014 draft, Yamamoto displayed four pitches with good control, including a 92-93 MPH fastball. The six foot teenager will also have to combat skepticism about his potential as a starter.