We're continuing our look at The All Bonus Baby Teams this afternoon; recently, we covered Atlanta, Toronto, and Houston. Today we're making our way through Milwaukee, which benefits from Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik's stint as scouting director for the club. The lineup is absolutely loaded, and there probably aren't many teams that can compete with this group offensively. Pitching, though... not so much.
And don't forget that these teams are all about 2011. We're not looking too far into the future. These posts are merely answering the question, "What kind of team could each organization build using only players drafted and signed since 2000?" And considering that this is merely a fun exercise, we're throwing DH's on every team, because we're fun like that. Don't get too frazzled if this sets off your traditionalist alarm.
1) 2B Rickie Weeks - 2003 1st Round Pick (2nd overall)
A once-elite prospect that battling injuries before finally blowing up (6.1 WAR) last season as a 27-year-old, Weeks combines plus power and a good walk rate with decent defense at an up-the-middle position. He strikes out too much and most of his speed is gone, but he's still a star-level player and clearly Milwaukee agrees given their recent extension.
2) RF Corey Hart - 2000 11th Round Pick
He's coming off of a really strong season, and he's now got two of those in the past four years. Unfortunately, those two fantastic years sandwich a couple of pretty poor seasons, and he's probably closer to the player that struggled than the player that's thrived. The Brewers owe him $25.5 million through 2013, though, so they're clearly banking on good performance from the right fielder.
3) LF Ryan Braun - 2005 1st Round Pick (5th overall)
Braun's gotten a ton of attention lately for the possibly excessive but probably unnecessary extension that Milwaukee gave to him last week. And while that contact isn't likely to be a good investment for the Brewers, Braun is still among the best hitters in baseball at the moment. It remains to be seen whether his recent explosion is the sign of his offense going to a new level, but he was already a 4-5 WAR player at the moment anyways.
4) 1B Prince Fielder - 2002 1st Round Pick (7th overall)
Another top-10 pick by Zduriencik that hit right on the nail, Fielder's probably not long for Milwaukee given all the money invested in Braun, Hart, Weeks, Gallardo and Greinke, but his status as an elite bat shouldn't be question. What is questionable, though, is the reported eight-year, $200 million initial price for the slugger once he hits free agency. Another thing to keep your eye on: Fielder's strikeout rate, which is currently at 11.8% this season, way down from 23.9% last year.
5) DH Matt LaPorta - 2007 1st Round Pick (7th overall)
The LaPorta pick is a success for Milwaukee simply on the basis of his role in their acquisition of CC Sabathia and the subsequent run to the playoffs, but he has yet to really establish himself as a good player with the Indians. He's flashing a .180 isolated power and a strong walk rate (12.5%) so far this season, and he does appear to be a solid regular even if he's not a star.
6) 3B Mat Gamel - 2005 4th Round Pick
Gamel's MLB career has been held back by superior talent at the MLB level, defensive struggles, injuries and offensive inconsistency, but he continues to hit in the minors and he's still only 25. The glove will never be good at third base and he's probably better off playing somewhere else (possible 2012 replacement for Fielder?), but Gamel's hit .298/.382/.487 in a lot of Triple-A at-bats and that usually translates into some solid MLB numbers.
7) CF Lorenzo Cain - 2004 17th Round Pick
He was set up to be Milwakuee's everyday center fielder in 2011 before turning into a key component of the Zack Greinke deal, and now he's back in Triple-A with Omaha. But at 25, he's pretty much MLB-ready, and people should be pretty angry (or concerned about poor performance or an injury) if he's not in a Royals uniform by the end of this season.
8) SS J.J. Hardy - 2001 2nd Round Pick
Hardy's bat has totally fallen since the beginning of the 2009 season (.246/.309/.375), but he's still a plus defender at shortstop and the bat's good enough to make him a solid regular. He's gotten less valuable as his salary has risen through arbitration, which is the primary reason that he's been with three organizations in the past three years, but he's still going to get a ton of attention when he hits free agency after the season.
9) C Jonathan Lucroy - 2007 3rd Round Pick
Lucroy is off to a hot start as Milwaukee's primary catcher this year since coming off the disabled list, and he appears to be establishing himself as the long-term guy at the position. His numbers should dip a good deal from here given his .417 BABIP, but he seems likely to have a solid-to-good bat for the position.
1) RHP Yovani Gallardo - 2004 2nd Round Pick
He was my preseason pick for NL Cy Young, and even though that decision isn't looking too sexy right now, I'm still very bullish on the 25-year-old. He misses bats and keeps the ball on the ground; with improved command and efficiency, he could be one of the best starters in baseball.
2) LHP Dana Eveland - 2002 16th Round Pick
The pitching talent that Milwaukee's acquired through the draft drops off a lot after Gallardo. Eveland's not a bad pitcher, though. He's only 27, he's gaot a 4.49 FIP in 330 MLB innings, and his minor league numbers have always been strong. His raw stuff is lacking, but he can be a decent No. 5 starter.
3) RHP Mark Rogers - 2004 1st Round Pick (5th overall)
Rogers has way more upside than Eveland, but he's always been a guy with shaky command and it remains to be seen how he'll adjust to MLB hitters. He's only 25, though, and has a big fastball that sits in the mid-90's. He might end up in relief, but given Milwaukee's lack of quality young starters, he'll presumably be given every chance to stick in the rotation.
4) LHP Manny Parra - 2001 26th Round Pick
The Parra-as-a-starter experiment is probably closing in on its end, but this must be truly nerve-wracking for Brewers fans given that Parra's continually shown a repertoire that would work as a starter. But his command isn't good, and his control is even worse: he keeps the ball low, so his GB rate is always strong, but he constantly leaves the ball in the middle of the plate, so his HR/FB is always higher than normal. The K/GB skills would make you think that he's not that far off from thriving in the rotation, but Parra's now 28 and he's pitched at least 120 innings as a Brewer in each of the past three seasons.
5) RHP Ty Taubenheim - 2003 19th Round Pick
Taubenheim's only pitched 46 innings in the majors, and none since 2008, but Milwaukee's options at this juncture are awfully weak, and Taubenheim's probably the best of the bunch at this point. The Brewers have a couple of intriguing arms at Triple-A, but unfortunately Amaury Rivas and Wily Peralta were both signed as IFA's. The 28-year-old is currently under contract with Texas, but he hasn't pitched yet this season.
Set Up: Zach Braddock - 2005 18th Round Pick
The 23-year-old Braddock is already among Milwaukee's most important relievers, but he's off to an ugly start this season. His average FB velocity is down from 93.1 to 90.7, and his FIP has more than doubled from last year's stint with the Brew Crew. But he appeared to be establishing himself as one of the better lefty relievers in the game last year, and if he can regain his velocity there's no reason why he can't continue to do that.
Closer: Jeremy Jeffress - 2006 1st Round Pick (16th overall)
Jeffress is a fascinating young player. He nearly let his marijuana habit let him get a lifetime ban from baseball, but his last positive test was in June of 2009 and he's made huge strides as a pitcher since changing roles that year. And for all the pot that Jeffress toked up, it appears that the only thing that he lost through all of those years was some development time: Jeffress is now a key reliever for the Royals and pumps one of the hardest fastballs in the game. Only Joel Hanrahan and Aroldis Chapman have thrown harder than Jeffress on average this year.
DISTRIBUTION OF PICKS
2000: 1; 2001: 2; 2002: 2; 2003: 2; 2004: 3; 2005: 3; 2006: 1; 2007: 2; 2008: 0; 2009: 0
6th or later: 6