So far in our Milwaukee Brewers Minor League reviews, we’ve covered Triple-A, Double-A and High-A. The next step: a review of the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers’ 2018 campaign.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers had a decent season. They were certainly better than what the standings showed. They started off slow, going just 31-38 in the first half of the season. However, the Milwaukee Brewers Class-A affiliate turned things up in the second half, going 37-33 after the All-Star break. They would’ve been in the upper half of the standings had they been in the opposite division, but the Timber Rattlers were stuck in a distant seventh place overall in the Midwest League Western division.
Even with the disappointing showing in the standings, there were plenty of very exciting players to come through Appleton this season.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Hitters
Easily the top performer for Wisconsin was outfielder Joantgel Segovia. He got his first taste of full-season ball in 2017, but struggled to the tune of a .220 batting average, 12 extra-base hits and just a 5.2% walk rate in 444 plate appearances. He turned things around in 2018, producing a .347/.397/.441 slash line thanks to 14 extra-base hits and an improved 5.8% walk rate in just 223 plate appearances. Additionally, he went 12-for-17 on stolen base attempts in that span prior to getting sent up to High-A Carolina.
The Timber Rattlers also featured some of the Milwaukee Brewers’ top prospects. Tristen Lutz made his inaugural appearance in full-season ball, and he announced his presence with authority. His .245 batting average left much to be desired, but he made up for it by leading the team in walks (46), doubles (33), home runs (13), runs scored (63) and runs batted in (63). He even added nine stolen bases while only being caught thrice.
Fellow outfield prospect Demi Orimoloye also spent time with the Timber Rattlers, slashing .260/.343/.419 with 15 stolen bases before being sent to the Blue Jays in exchange for Curtis Granderson. Additionally, catching prospect KJ Harrison added 29 doubles and 12 homers to Wisconsin’ cause prior to getting dealt himself as part of the package that brought Gio Gonzalez to Milwaukee. The other piece of that trade, infield prospect Gilbert Lara, hit .249 with 26 doubles of his own during his time with the Timber Rattlers.
Outside of the top prospects, some other hitters made good strides, too. Catcher Payton Henry produced just a .707 OPS, but he hit 10 home runs with a stellar 11.3% walk rate. He also made improvements defensively, throwing out 44% of potential base stealers in the Midwest League after catching just 28% of thieves in the rookie-level Pioneer League.
Outfielder Zach Clark mirrored Henry with a .707 OPS, but he also led the team in triples (8) and stolen bases (19). First baseman Pat McInerney provided plenty of pop in his brief time with Wisconsin, hitting 10 homers and eight doubles in 187 at-bats before being promoted.
One other under-the-radar prospect worth monitoring is infielder Eddie Silva. The Florida International product went undrafted in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft, but the Milwaukee Brewers signed him in late June. He joined the Timber Rattlers for the final month of the season, slashing .321/.359/.511 with 14 extra-base hits, 16 runs scored and 20 RBI in a mere 142 plate appearances.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Pitchers
Wisconsin’s pitching staff wasn’t amazing, but they were definitely serviceable for the whole season. Fellow starters Dylan File and Christian Taugner produced 3.96 and 3.49 ERAs, respectively, thanks to a propensity to give up home runs. Their control was strong throughout the season, as they walked just 47 hitters combined in the 260 frames they covered. They posted a 1.6 BB/9 between the two of them.
The rotation got a nice jolt after the First-Year Player Draft, though. Southpaw Aaron Ashby earned a promotion to full-season ball after 20 1/3 innings with rookie-level Helena, and he performed marvelously with the Timber Rattlers. In 37 1/3 frames, he compiled a 2.17 ERA and a strong 47:9 K:BB. He only received one pitching win in his seven starts, but Ashby’s performance is already displaying why the Brewers took him in the fourth round out of Crowder College in Missouri. Fellow lefty Scott Sunitsch, a Washington State product selected in the 18th round, contributed a 1.71 ERA in four starts of his own.
The bullpen also featured a few intriguing pieces. Rodrigo Benoit opened the season as the T-Rats’ closer, posting 10 saves and a 56:18 K:BB in 43 innings pitched before heading up to the Carolina League.
Ironically-named hurler Robbie Hitt gave up his fair share of hits, but he produced a 58:23 K:BB in 62 1/3 innings of work and didn’t give up a homer all season. Right-hander Cody Beckman held opposing hitters to a measly .191 batting average and struck out nearly a batter per inning before his own promotion to Carolina.
Lefty Clayton Andrews was promoted to Class-A shortly after being drafted in the 17th round of the 2018 draft, and he more than held his own to the tune of a 1.33 ERA and a 42:5 K:BB in 27 innings. J.T. Hintzen, another reliever taken in the 10th round, posted solid results himself with 3.22 ERA and a 41:10 K:BB in 36 1/3 frames.
There weren’t any award-winning performances from either the hitters or the pitchers, but there are plenty of reasons to be excited. Many of the top performers in 2018 will move up to High-A in 2019, meaning the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will become a proving ground for more under-the-radar prospects, as well as a launch pad for 2019 draft picks to help them move faster through the organization. In both instances, there are a lot of good things in store for the Milwaukee Brewers’ affiliate in Appleton.