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Post-2005 Prospect Review: Milwaukee
by Tim Polko

Today's Fantasy Rx

Prospects with Double-Digit Upside
Likely 2006 September Call-ups
Potential Reserve Help
Minor League Draft Picks
Organization Rankings
Milwaukee's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects

Prospects with Double-Digit Upside

Jose Capellan, 24, RH Swingman
1-1 on a 14:5 K:BB in 16.2 IP over 17 G
with 17 H, 1 HR, a .70 G-F, and a 2.87 ERA for Milwaukee.
5-3 and 6 Saves on a 72:42 K:BB in 90.2 IP over 12 GS(36G)
with 88 H, 4 HR, a .84 G-F, and a 3.87 ERA for AAA Nashville(PCL).

Solid work out of the bullpen this summer virtually insures Capellan an Opening Day roster spot in 2006. He should emerge in a significant role quite quickly due to his solid skill set, especially since I don't expect either an excess of walks or flyballs to trouble him in shorter appearances. While an eventual move to the rotation remains possible, the acquisition of two more young starters in the Overbay haul insures Capellan will follow a slower development path, likely spending a couple seasons as a dominant middle reliever before shifting into a higher profile role.

Prince Fielder, 21, 1B-L
17/59 for .288/.306/.458 with 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 2:17 BB:K for Milwaukee.
110/378 for .291/.388/.569 with 28 HR, 86 RBI, 68 R, 8/13 SB%,
and a 54:93 BB:K for AAA Nashville(PCL).

Moving Overbay opens a starting slot for Fielder, most likely hitting in the #5 hole behind Geoff Jenkins and Carlos Lee. With plenty of patience, power potential, and even a little speed, Fielder looks like no worse than a Ryan Howard redux, albeit with much more BA upside down the line. He ranks with the best young sluggers in the game, and even if he does not secure Rookie of the Year honors, Fielder still will clear double-digit value rather easily, possibly pushing $30 by 2007. As my only major concern here involves down-the-line fitness problems echoing his dad's last years in the game, bidding around $15 for Fielder makes plenty of sense in keeper leagues.

Corey Hart, 23, OF-R
11/57 for .193/.270/.368 with 2 HR, 7 RBI, 9 R, 2/2 SB%,
and a 6:11 BB:K for Milwaukee.
132/429 for .308/.377/.536 with 17 HR, 69 RBI, 85 R, 31/38 SB%,
and a 48:88 BB:K for AAA Nashville(PCL).

Only a poor 2.08 G-F in the majors particularly worries me, since Hart otherwise appears fully seasoned and ready to join the Brewers. He obviously possesses plenty of speed and patience, and although he currently looks on track to break camp as the primary backup at all four corners, the fairly likely departure of Carlos Lee within the next year should clear a starting job. Consider Hart a superb endgame sleeper and reasonably decent buy anywhere in single digits due to the likelihood of him stealing a half-dozen bases for every 100 at-bats.

Ben Hendrickson, 24, RH Starter
6-12 on a 122:58 K:BB in 155.2 IP over 27 GS(28G)
with 176 H, 17 HR, a 1.75 G-F, and a 4.97 ERA for AAA Nashville(PCL).

I absolutely never expected Hendrickson to spend all year at Nashville, and now with the pick-up of David Bush and Zach Jackson from Toronto in addition to all five Milwaukee starters returning, he will need an outstanding spring to break camp in the rotation. The good news is that consistent command and a high groundball rate minimize his downside, virtually insuring Hendrickson will move to the majors fairly soon. Expect perhaps fifteen big league starts as an injury replacement before he assumes a full-time job in 2007, which should make Hendrickson a very viable minor league pick heading into next season.

Dave Krynzel, 24, OF-L
0/7 for .000/.000/.000 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 0:3 BB:K for Milwaukee.
115/450 for .256/.324/.416 with 11 HR, 51 RBI, 71 R, 24/32 SB%,
and a 43:138 BB:K for AAA Nashville(PCL).

Brady Clark's debut as a starter essentially ended Krynzel's best hope of emerging as a Scott Podsednik clone. Even Corey Hart now appears ahead of Krynzel on the centerfield depth chart, rendering the leadoff prospect as no more than a faint contender for the fifth outfielder's job. Although he remained healthy and reasonably productive for Nashville, Krynzel simply lacks the OBP necessary for a significant big league role, limiting his fantasy value to that of an endgame SB flyer.

Likely 2006 September Call-ups

Nelson Cruz, 25, OF-R
1/5 for .200/.429/.400 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 2:0 BB:K for Milwaukee.
56/208 for .269/.382/.490 with 11 HR, 27 RBI, 33 R, 9/13 SB%,
and a 30:62 BB:K for AAA Nashville(PCL).
76/248 for .306/.388/.577 with 16 HR, 54 RBI, 45 R, 10/13 SB%,
and a 31:71 BB:K for AA Huntsville(SL).

With little left to prove in the minors, Cruz nevertheless might return to Nashville unless the Brewers opt to keep multiple outfield prospects as big league reserves. Corey Hart's breakout probably pushes him ahead of Cruz in the organization's plans, but since by 2007 I only expect either Geoff Jenkins or Carlos Lee to continue starting in Milwaukee, Cruz only needs to repeat these numbers to secure a starting job within the year. Of course, further contact problems could keep him out of the lineup indefinitely, however I expect Cruz's fairly broad skill base to carry him to plenty of success in the majors. He certainly deserves a mid-round pick in most minor league drafts.

Anthony Gwynn, 23, OF-L
138/509 for .271/.370/.338 with 1 HR, 41 RBI, 83 R, 34/49 SB%,
and a 76:75 BB:K for AA Huntsville(SL).

Tony's boy at least boosted his plate discipline to expected levels while repeating AA even as he otherwise managed little improvement in his stat line. Gwynn seems to lack either the power potential or the baserunning instincts normally required from a prospect with such limited tools. Despite his fantastic pedigree, he will not deserve fantasy consideration until he reaches the majors.

Jeff Housman, 24, LH Starter
5-12 on a 110:72 K:BB in 130.2 IP over 24 GS(28G)
with 155 H, 27 HR, a 1.15 G-F, and a 6.54 ERA for AAA Nashville(PCL).

Housman's formerly solid control largely vanished at Nasvhille, and his qualitative stats skyrocketed. Limited durability similarly indicates little chance for him to remain effective as a starter, though given his skill set, he also might not flourish in relief. You simply cannot risk owning Housman until he clearly proves his ability to overcome this disaster.

Brad Nelson, 22, OF-L
71/281 for .253/.359/.399 with 7 HR, 39 RBI, 50 R, 4/9 SB%,
and a 45:74 BB:K for AAA Nashville(PCL).
61/208 for .293/.370/.428 with 6 HR, 38 RBI, 27 R, 1/3 SB%,
and a 26:42 BB:K for AA Huntsville(SL).

Thumping his contact rate from .71 to .85 provided Nelson with the performance boost necessary to earn a trip to Nashville, cutting short his third tour of Huntsville. Unfortunately I just don't see sufficient fantasy upside here to warrant a roster spot at this time. Diminished power output accompanied his increased plate discipline, suggesting Nelson may not emerge as a viable starter for a few more years.

Manny Parra, 23, LH Starter
5-6 on an 86:21 K:BB in 91 IP over 16 GS
with 111 H, 4 HR, a 2.34 G-F, and a 3.96 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).

Injury problems again ended Parra's season early, and he required August shoulder surgery. However, he now appears healthy and could follow Dana Eveland's path to the majors. Spending some time in the bullpen also might help Parra's health, although until he avoids the DL for the year while echoing these skills, I cannot recommend him in any save the deepest leagues.

Vinny Rottino, 25, 3B-R
10/29 for .345/.406/.483 with 1 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R, 0/1 SB%,
and a 3:6 BB:K for AAA Nashville(PCL).
139/469 for .296/.351/.403 with 6 HR, 52 RBI, 63 R, 2/3 SB%,
and a 40:68 BB:K for AA Huntsville(SL).

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse star leapt past the Florida State League, skipping from Benoit to Huntsville while only suffering from an expected decrease in power. Rottino seems nearly certain to join the Brewers within the next couple of years since tremendous flexibility will rank him among the best 25th men in recent history, albeit still behind Brooks Kieschnick for Milwaukee. Due to limited upside that should keep him secured to the big league bench, Rottino does not merit a fantasy pickup until he reaches the majors.

Dennis Sarfate, 24, RH Starter
0-1 on a 10:4 K:BB in 12 IP over 1 GS(2G)
with 6 H, 1 HR, a 2.29 G-F, and a 2.25 ERA for AAA Nashville(PCL).
9-9 on a 110:59 K:BB in 130 IP over 24 GS
with 120 H, 13 HR, a .85 G-F, and a 3.88 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).

A slower development track for many Milwaukee prospects snagged Sarfate this summer, leading him to a virtual repeat of his 2004 campaign. He now moves into a Nashville rotation suddenly looking very full, so even if he remains effective, his chances of succeeding with the Brewers appear increasingly remote. Do not gamble a roster slot on Sarfate this winter.

Ty Taubenheim, 23, RH Starter
2-6 on a 44:24 K:BB in 64 IP over 11 GS
with 64 H, 7 HR, a .73 G-F, and a 4.36 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).
10-2 on a 75:26 K:BB in 106 IP over 16 GS
with 86 H, 7 HR, a .97 G-F, and a 2.63 ERA for A+ Brevard County(FSL).

Solid control in his first year as a starter earned Taubenheim a mid-season promotion, and his continued success at Huntsville resulted in his move to Toronto with Lyle Overbay earlier this month. Unfortunately, entering an organization with the upper level pitching depth of the Jays leaves Taubenheim little margin for error as he nears the majors. Since he simply lacks the dominance necessary to compete against several superior potential teammates, expect Taubenheim to settle back into a middle relief role that possesses minimal roto value.

Carlos Villanueva, 22, RH Starter
1-3 on a 14:9 K:BB in 20.2 IP over 4 GS
with 21 H, 3 HR, a .57 G-F, and a 7.40 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).
8-1 on a 124:32 K:BB in 112.1 IP over 21 GS
with 78 H, 11 HR, a .71 G-F, and a 2.32 ERA for A+ Brevard County(FSL).

Acquired in the Wayne Franklin deal in the spring of 2004, Villanueva completed his second-straight dominant A-ball season, finally earning a promotion to Huntsville in August. With injuries culling many of the upper-level pitching prospects, he now looks like one of the best long-term bets in an organization perennially seeking homegrown starting pitching. Villanueva could shoot up this list next year with a reasonable echo of these numbers at Huntsville.

Potential Reserve Help

Khalid Ballouli, 25, RH Reliever
4-7 and 2 Saves on a 61:23 K:BB in 74.2 IP over 9 GS(24G)
with 94 H, 5 HR, a 1.29 G-F, and a 4.82 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).

A move to the bullpen did not help Ballouli drop his hit rate to a satisfactory level, though departing the California league at least prevented another 5.95 ERA. While good command and minimal homers allowed should push him to the edge of the majors, I do not see Ballouli securing a regular big league role.

Kenard Bibbs, 25, OF-L
100/359 for .279/.341/.370 with 1 HR, 25 RBI, 45 R, 23/32 SB%,
and a 34:47 BB:K for AA Huntsville(SL).

The surprise here is that Bibbs posted numbers closer to those of Anthony Gwynn than most other outfielders in the organization. Of course, he lacks Gwynn's plate discipline and overall upside, so despite some potential as a reserve, Bibbs does not appear likely to reach the majors with the Brewers.

David Bradley, 28, RH Swingman
6-5 on an 83:32 K:BB in 104.2 IP over 14 GS(35G)
with 99 H, 9 HR, a 1.07 G-F, and a 3.35 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).

While I see a lot to like here, Bradley's advanced age eliminates his prospect status while his lack of dominance gives him little chance to push above AAAA status at best. Do not expect to see him on your free agent list barring an unlikely skill surge.

Calix Crabbe, 22, 2B-S
94/387 for .243/.354/.310 with 1 HR, 33 RBI, 42 R, 18/24 SB%,
and a 65:65 BB:K for AA Huntsville(SL).

Declining speed and averages continue to drag down Crabbe's value even as his plate discipline remains quite impressive. He needs a strong rebound in his second AA tour to remain on track for the majors, though even ignoring Rickie Weeks, Crabbe just doesn't appear destined for more than a bench job.

Brett Evert, 25, RH Reliever
2-2 on a 49:20 K:BB in 45.1 IP over 3 GS(21G)
with 50 H, 4 HR, a 1.06 G-F, and a 5.40 ERA
between AAA Tacoma(PCL) and AAA Nashville(PCL).
0-0 and 1 Save on a 32:7 K:BB in 30.1 IP over 16 G
with 31 H, 6 HR, a 1.04 G-F, and a 2.97 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).
0-2 and 2 Saves on a 7:4 K:BB in 10.2 IP over 7 G
with 9 H, 1 HR, a 1.08 G-F, and a 5.06 ERA for A+ Brevard County(FSL).

Seattle soured on Evert, who then signed with the Brewers as a free agent in July. He remained in the bullpen for the rest of the season, thoroughly impressing at Huntsville before control problems ruined his Nashville numbers. The former Atlanta prospect remains a decent long-term option, but he needs to find some place with less competition, perhaps even heading to AA again to improve his dominance as a reliever.

Jerome Gamble, 25, RH Reliever
4-1 and 5 Saves on a 48:12 K:BB in 42.2 IP over 31 G
with 51 H, 2 HR, a 1.10 G-F, and a 6.33 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).

Considered a solid prospect worthy of a Rule 5 pick in 2002, Gamble struggled with injuries over much of the past few years, somehow slipping to this surprisingly terrible performance in his first year of relief work. Gamble simply no longer looks like a particularly promising pitcher, so don't expect to see him in the majors any time soon.

Brandon Gemoll, 25, 1B-L
131/432 for .303/.351/.438 with 7 HR, 59 RBI, 53 R, 3/6 SB%,
and a 30:104 BB:K for AA Huntsville(SL).

While the Lyle Overbay trade effectively opens the AAA first base job for Gemoll, he needs to hold a high batting average to compensate for his drooping power and patience. Nothing here provides any indication that Gemoll should see more than an occasional cup-of-coffee given the many superior hitters also stuck at first.

Mike Jones, 22, RH Starter
No 2005 stats.

Jones required shoulder surgery in October of 2004 and then a second operation this April, focusing on his labrum. The 12th pick in the 2001 draft may never resume pitching at a level commensurate with his former prospect status, especially since he lacked solid command even before spending much of the last three years barred from the field with elbow and now shoulder problems. Of course, given his previous skills, he could reemerge as no less than a capable reliever, so do not ignore him completely when reviewing potential future Brewers.

Mike Meyers, 28, RH Reliever
7-4 on a 75:40 K:BB in 79.2 IP over 7 GS(33G)
with 87 H, 16 HR, a .97 G-F, and a 5.31 for AAA Nashville(PCL).
0-0 and 1 Save on a 16:4 K:BB in 21 IP over 11 G
with 21 H, 0 HR, a 1.35 G-F, and a 1.71 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).

The former Cub farmhand still has not returned to form following a 2002 season lost to injury, and he now appears set to spend the remaining years of his career as upper-level roster filler. Shifting roles during every season also does not help, so unless Meyers harnesses his lost command soon, he never will approach fulfilling his previous promise.

Julio Mosquera, 33, C-R
0/1 for .000/.000/.000 with 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0/0 SB%,
and a 0:0 BB:K for Milwaukee.
62/240 for .258/.290/.383 with 4 HR, 30 RBI, 32 R, 4/5 SB%,
and a 10:34 BB:K for AAA Nashville(PCL).

Mosquera simply lacks the offensive skills necessary to remain in the majors for more than the briefest periods. I scarcely can imagine the fantasy league where Mosquera warrants a roster slot.

Chris Saenz, 24, RH Starter
No 2005 stats.

Tommy John surgery in 2004 cost Saenz all of this season, and with his appearance on the Brewers' minor league free agent list, his future seems somewhat in doubt. However, he at least looked like a decent upper-level pitcher prior to the injury, so he easily should find another job while still possessing the potential to return to the majors in the near future.

Steve Scarborough, 27, SS-R
103/404 for .255/.323/.413 with 11 HR, 58 RBI, 50 R, 6/11 SB%,
and a 39:93 BB:K for AAA Nashville(PCL).

Spending a fourth AAA season with the Brewers understandably did not lead to a major league promotion for Scarborough, who at least now receives the opportunity to find a better situation in minor league free agency. Of course, given his unimpressive skill set, he might just remain in the minors indefinitely.

Mitch Stetter, 24, LH Reliever
1-1 on a 23:11 K:BB in 25.1 IP over 27 G
with 23 H, 5 HR, a 1.22 G-F, and a 4.26 ERA for AAA Nashville(PCL).
2-3 and 8 Saves on a 47:11 K:BB in 51.2 IP over 32 G
with 46 H, 3 HR, a 1.97 G-F, and a 2.61 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).

Suddenly Stetter seems on the verge of a big league job scarcely two years after his selection in the 2003 draft. He dominated the Midwest League as a reliever last year, failed miserably as a California League starter, then stayed in the bullpen all summer, registering a fairly impressive skill set that suggests plenty of upside in the majors. A strong spring just might vault him onto the Brewers unless the club acquires a veteran lefty, nevertheless until you see him compile several strong outings, Stetter needs to stay far from your team.

Glenn Woolard, 24, RH Starter
7-11 on a 113:64 K:BB in 146.2 IP over 26 GS(29G)
with 160 H, 15 HR, a 1.28 G-F, and a 4.91 ERA for AA Huntsville(SL).

Acquired with Carlos Villanueva for Wayne Franklin and Leo Estrella in the spring of 2004, Woolard remains higher in the system than Villanueva yet simply lacks similar upside. Consistently unimpressive command suggests he probably belongs in the bullpen. Since the Brewers also possess plenty of superior starting options closer to the majors than Woolard, he needs to return to relief immediately and hope that improved dominance will result in an eventual call-up.

Tony Zuniga, 30, 3B-R
76/235 for .323/.376/.472 with 7 HR, 43 RBI, 35 R, 5/5 SB%,
and an 18:28 BB:K for AAA Nashville(PCL).
49/190 for .258/.321/.342 with 3 HR, 28 RBI, 17 R, 0/1 SB%,
and a 17:27 BB:K for AA Huntsville(SL).

The minor league journeyman managed surprisingly strong averages at Nashville as well as reasonably decent plate discipline. Echoing these numbers over another full AAA season easily could result in a late-season promotion for Zuniga, though he does not merit more than the briefest of looks until he receives that opportunity.

Minor League Draft Picks

Ryan Braun, 22, 3B-R
54/152 for .355/.396/.645 with 8 HR, 35 RBI, 21 R, 2/6 SB%,
and a 9:34 BB:K for A West Virginia(Sal).
14/41 for .341/.383/.585 with 2 HR, 10 RBI, 6 R, 2/3 SB%,
and a 2:6 BB:K for R+ Helena(Pio).

The fifth pick in this year's draft, Braun spent several weeks demolishing the Sally League to secure his status as the Brewers' likely long-term solution at third base. Defensive questions might force the Miami product to another corner position, but with plenty of competition elsewhere on the diamond, Braun will remain at the hot corner as long as possible. Expect him to move very quickly, likely reaching the majors sometime in 2007, a timetable that warrants a mid-round pick in most leagues given his offensive upside.

Aside from players listed above, no other Milwaukee prospect deserves consideration in 2006 fantasy drafts. Dana Eveland no longer qualifies as a rookie due to exceeding the service time maximum.

Organization Rankings

Finally freed from Selig ownership, everything about the Milwaukee organization strikes us as remarkably appealing. Mark Attanasio seems like a dedicated owner, Doug Melvin remains the most underrated GM in the game, and Ned Yost continues to deploy skilled players, giving chances to journeymen like Scott Podsednik and Brady Clark while allowing youngsters like J.J. Hardy to develop at the big league level. The Brewers also play in a remarkably comfortable stadium that offers some of the most affordable concessions in the majors. Additionally, Milwaukee now possesses the best cadre of young position players in the majors, highlighted by the newly-established infield of Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, and Bill Hall, capably warming third base until Ryan Braun reaches the majors. Carlos Lee, Brady Clark, and Geoff Jenkins give the team three potential All-Star outfielders, and as likely outfield reserves Gabe Gross and Corey Hart could start for most teams, moving Carlos Lee or even Geoff Jenkins will further solidify the team's superb foundation. Only the lack of a young catcher overly concerns me, but Melvin now possesses the depth to grab that youngster when the right deal appears. Right now Fielder and Corey Hart top the current crop of prospects, and while losing Weeks, Hardy, and de la Rosa to the majors depletes the team's rookies, the overall depth here remains respectably strong, providing an intriguing source of prospects for any fantasy league.

Current ranking of potentially helpful fantasy depth for teams discussed thus far in 2005, based on both the quality and quantity of players ready to contribute in the majors, as well as consideration of the trade value of minor league draft picks from the lower levels of each system:

1. Florida Marlins(Hermida, Jacobs, E.Reed, Willingham, J.Wilson, Petit, Olsen)
2. Arizona Diamondbacks(Co.Jackson, C.Quentin, S.Drew)
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim(J.Mathis, B.Wood)
4. Colorado Rockies(Shealy, J.Salazar, Quintanilla, Stewart)
5. Los Angeles Dodgers(Billingsley, R.Martin, J.Guzman, Loney)
6. Texas Rangers(I.Kinsler, J.Botts)
7. Milwaukee Brewers(P.Fielder, C.Hart)
8. Seattle Mariners(S.Choo, J.Strong)
9. Minnesota Twins(F.Liriano, Kubel)
10. Boston Red Sox(Pedroia, C.Hansen, Papelbon)
11. Chicago White Sox(Br.Anderson, Ch.Young)
12. Atlanta Braves(Marte, Chuck James)
13. Tampa Bay Devil Rays(Del.Young)
14. Baltimore Orioles(Markakis, Maine, W.Young)
15. Oakland Athletics(D.Barton)
16. Cleveland Indians(Fr.Gutierrez, F.Carmona)
17. Cincinnati Reds(Denorfia)
18. Kansas City Royals(Huber)
19. Chicago Cubs(F.Pie)
20. Houston Astros(Hirsh)
21. Toronto Blue Jays(D.McGowan)
22. Detroit Tigers(Verlander)
23. New York Yankees(K.Thompson)

Today's Fantasy Rx: I suspect the tremendous press surrounding Prince Fielder will lead to a general fantasy overvaluation, so whichever young outfielders break camp in the majors look like the best targets here. Corey Hart ranks as the obvious grab in most leagues, though either Dave Krynzel or Nelson Cruz easily could open the year with Milwaukee, thus meriting automatic endgame pick-ups. Jose Capellan also possesses plenty of upside, making him a good Dollar Days gamble in most keeper leagues.

Milwaukee's Top 15 Fantasy Prospects for 2006
1. Prince Fielder, 1B
2. Corey Hart, OF
3. Nelson Cruz, OF
4. Dave Krynzel, OF
5. Ben Hendrickson, SP
6. Jose Capellan, RP
7. Carlos Villanueva, SP
8. Brad Nelson, OF
9. Dennis Sarfate, SP
10. Ryan Braun, 3B
11. Anthony Gwynn, OF
12. Vinny Rottino, 3B/UT
13. Manny Para, SP
14. Mitch Stetter, RP
15. Calix Crabbe, 2B

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