After a 2020 season which no games were played, minor league baseball finally returned last week as the 2021 season kicked off across all levels. For the Brewers, like other clubs, things look quite a bit different than when we last saw minor league games.
Gone, sadly, are the Rookie Advanced Rocky Mountain Vibes from Brewers affiliation, as are the Triple-A San Antonio Missions, who were replaced by the Nashville Sounds during minor league realignment. The Biloxi Shuckers remained the team’s Double-A affiliate, while the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and Carolina Mudcats swapped levels, becoming High-A and Low-A, respectively.
Whether it was pre-existing Brewers minor leaguers, offseason signees, or 2020 draftees of the team, tons of players got their first chance to impress the parent ballclub starting last Tuesday. So let’s dig in for the first time and see how the affiliates did to start their respective seasons.
Here is our wrap-up of the first week of play for the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league affiliates.
Triple-A Nashville Sounds (3-2)
The Sounds, in their return to Milwaukee Brewers affiliation for the first time since 2014, got off to a slow start in dropping their first two games before winning their next three to finish the week 3-2. So far, Nashville has been all about the long ball.
The Sounds smacked 12 homers over their first five games of the season with 10 different players accounting for them. Third baseman Zach Green and outfielder Corey Ray (No. 10 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Brewers prospects) each had a pair of bombs to their name.
Infielder Jamie Westbrook got off to a torrid start at the plate for the Sounds during the team’s first week. In five games, Westbrook went 8 for 14 with a home run and four walks, good for a .571 average and 1.452 OPS, while only striking out one time.
On the pitching side, Aaron Ashby (No. 7) had a scoreless Triple-A debut, giving up a hit and four walks while striking out six. The rehabbing Josh Lindblom also went scoreless last week, giving up three hits and three walks across two outings (4 1/3 innings) and striking out six as he works to return to a Brewers team that appears to be getting healthier.
Double-A Biloxi Shuckers (1-5)
The Shuckers got to wait a day for their 2021 debut after a rainout on Tuesday forced them to start their season with a doubleheader on Wednesday. It ended up being the start of a rough week for Biloxi, who ended up dropping five of six to the Birmingham Barons.
The Shuckers were led by a couple of Milwaukee’s top prospects. Catcher Payton Henry (No. 19) finished his five games going 7 for 19 with a double and a homer, while outfielder Tristen Lutz (No. 12) went 7 for 23 with a double and homer of his own across six games.
Lucas Erceg had a nice week in his transition into a two-way player. Not only did he go 4 for 14 with a double, three walks, and a stolen base, he also threw a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and two walks while striking out a batter.
High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (4-2)
The Timber Rattlers began their season strong, taking four out of six from the Beloit Snappers to start the season with a 4-2 record. However, there was a slight damper after the second game of the season due to a small injury scare.
Top prospect Garrett Mitchell started his pro career strong, going 3 for 5 with three runs scored, a pair of walks, and a pair of steals. He would end up getting removed from his second contest early due to a leg injury, though reports afterward were that he isn’t expected to miss much time.
Later in the week, outfielder Korry Howell nearly hit for the cycle for the Timber Rattlers, ultimately falling a double short. He finished the week hitting .286 with a 1.051 OPS and team leading two homers. Prospects Hayden Cantrelle (No. 16) and Thomas Dillard (No. 22) also hit their first homers of the season.
Wisconsin also saw a trio of impressive starts last week. It began with Victor Castaneda on Tuesday (5 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K), followed by Reese Olson on Friday (5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K), and then Zach Mort on Saturday (5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K).
Low-A Carolina Mudcats (5-1)
The Brewers’ lowest affiliate had the best week of all of them as the Mudcats came just a game away from sweeping the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, taking five of six to begin the season 5-1. Carolina scored four runs or more in every game of the series.
One of the most eye-opening starts came from first baseman Ernesto Martinez. The 2017 international signee hit a pair of impressive home runs last week, including this one during Sunday’s series finale.
Leading the way, offensively, for the Mudcats last week was infielder Gabe Holt, who went 7 for 20 with seven runs scored, seven walks, and just one strikeout. Zavier Warren (No. 11) and Joey Wiemer, both 2020 draftees, each had the first homers of their pro careers as well.
It was also a big week for two pitchers returning from injury: Caden Lemons, a 2nd round pick in 2017 who hadn’t pitched since the 2018 season, and Brendan Murphy, a 4th round pick from 2017 who most recently pitched that same year. They gave up an earned run over four innings and zero earned over three innings, respectively, last week.
We are now officially in full swing with both the major and minor league regular seasons for the first time since 2019. Stay tuned during the season as we bring you highlights from both leagues in 2021.