This is the fourth part in a series of posts recapping the seasons of the Milwaukee Brewers minor league affiliates.
We’re over halfway done with this series now that the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Biloxi Shuckers and Carolina Mudcats all have season reviews. That brings me to the next team: the Milwaukee Brewers Low-A affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Quite frankly, 2017 was a tough season for the Timber Rattlers. They finished 20 games under .500 and generally lacked standout performers. That being said, there were a few bright spots in Appleton.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2017 Results
The team had some difficulties right out of the gate. After splitting a series with the Quad Cities River Bandits to open up the campaign, they lost three of their next four games and finished the month of April with a 10-11 record. They also scored one run or fewer eight times during the month.
The next couple months weren’t kind to them, either. They wound up finishing the first half in the cellar of the Western Division after dropping the last four games in May and the final 10 contests before the All-Star break.
Many hoped for a mid-season turnaround, but Wisconsin couldn’t muster it. They certainly performed better in the second half as their 33-37 record suggests, but that was nowhere near good enough to punch a ticket to the playoffs when the start of September came along.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2017 Offense
As I mentioned earlier, some players did perform well in Appleton this past year. One of those players is outfield prospect Monte Harrison. He raised his stock significantly by producing an .850 OPS with 11 home runs and 11 steals. This earned him a ticket to the Midwest League All-Star Game as well as a promotion to High-A afterward.
Joining Harrison on the All-Star squad was catcher Mario Feliciano. His numbers certainly aren’t overly jaw-dropping (.251/.320/.331, four home runs), but his 10 steals are interesting to say the least.
Infielders Ronnie Gideon and Tucker Neuhaus supplied most of the power for the Timber Rattlers in 2017. They led the team with 14 and 13 home runs, respectively, while driving in a combined 102 runs. Their batting averages were less than desirable and strikeouts were a concern, but the power show could help them as they advance in the system.
One other success story from 2017 is Keston Hiura. Although the Milwaukee Brewers just drafted him in June, they opted to send the UC-Irvine product to Low-A after he clobbered rookie-league pitching. His hitting ways continued in Appleton, as he managed to sport a .333/.374/.476 slash line after 105 at-bats.
As the team’s record would indicate, some players definitely underperformed. Outfield prospect Demi Orimoloye is likely atop the list of fallers in the system. He batted just .214 over the full season while racking up a team-leading 139 strikeouts. His raw power and speed are evident (11 homers, 23 doubles, 38 steals), but he needs to make more contact if he wants to get anywhere near Milwaukee.
Gilbert Lara also disappointed in his first taste of Low-A. He was demoted back to rookie ball after batting just .193 in 67 games for the Timber Rattlers. Unfortunately, Lara broke his leg in his first game back in Helena, ending his disastrous season abruptly.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2017 Pitching
Things were slightly better on the pitching side of things, although there still wasn’t much to call home about. The team leader in innings pitched was starter Thomas Jankins, who racked up 141.2 frames. He proved to be a serviceable arm for Wisconsin, producing a 9-8 record to go with a 3.62 ERA.
Trey Supak wound up being the star of the staff, however. The righty was promoted to Low-A after a strong rookie-league showing, and he continued on with his hot start. Supak wound up finishing his time in Appleton with a 1.76 ERA and a 53:10 K:BB in 41 innings pitched prior to another promotion.
A few other young arms showed promise for the Timber Rattlers. Zack Brown managed to produce a 3.39 ERA in 85 innings of work before earning a call up to High-A. Josh Pennington (one of the players received in the Tyler Thornburg trade last offseason) also saw some success in the rotation. After undergoing elbow surgery in December, he returned to post a 2.97 ERA and while striking out nearly a batter per inning in nine starts.
Adrian Houser also pitched well (1.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 11 strikeouts in nine innings), although he barely pitched since he was returning from Tommy John surgery.
Wisconsin’s bullpen had a couple notable arms as well. Daniel Brown wound up leading the team in saves with six, and his 74 strikeouts in 72 innings pitched certainly bode well for him. Luke Barker also made an impact out of the ‘pen, logging five saves to go with a 2.84 ERA and a 34:8 K:BB in 31.2 frames.
The results certainly weren’t there, but there is reason to be optimistic following Wisconsin’s 2017 campaign. Besides, what organization boasts about the minor league championships they’ve won? All that matters is that players are developing, and 2017 helped some players do just that.