BrewersNation interview with

27 02 2008

UPDATE 02-27-08 3:30 PM – Because of the popularity of this interview, I’m going to continue to bump this to the top of the site for the rest of today. Make sure to scroll down a bit to find more current news!!!


Jim Goulart from agreed to do an interview a while back, and he was great about the whole process. There are few people that have more of an insight into the Brewers farm system than the guys at Brewerfan, and I am extremely grateful to them for allowing me to interview them. Here’s what Jim Goulart had to say. It’s some good stuff.

BN: There has been much talk about Alcides Escobar this off-season. Doug Melvin has spoken very highly of him in several interviews, but most fans believe that Escobar cannot hold his own at the plate because of his lack of power and plate discipline. What are your thoughts about Alcides Escobar? It’s just not Doug Melvin, but seemingly any Brewer front office member who has been quoted on Escobar — they’re all very high on this kid. I think that’s what you have to understand before anything else about Escobar, is that the Brewers saw something in him from the very beginning. They placed Escobar in the rookie level Pioneer League with Helena when he wasn’t yet 17 1/2 years old, basically unthinkable, especially for a kid from Venezuela who wasn’t acclimated to the U.S. but for a couple of weeks in Maryvale in that pre-season. Then, after an age 18 season in full-season rookie ball at West Virginia, Escobar more than held his own (in fact, excelled) in the highly competitive Arizona Fall League as one of its youngest representatives ever. Alcides followed that up with ’06 and ’07 seasons that have him primed to begin 2008 most likely at AAA Nashville at age 21 and four months.

That being said, there are legitimate concerns, as you note, such as his lack of any power at all. Escobar is probably now grown perhaps an inch taller than his long-listed height of 6’1″, and his wispy frame, ideal for shortstop, hasn’t led to extra-base hits by any stretch of the imagination. He managed seven triples among his 151 base hits last season, yet only 13 doubles. Back in 2005, he did better with 25 doubles to go with eight triples at West Virginia, but despite the heavy air in the Florida State and Southern Leagues, he’s got to find the gap for doubles more often as he grows into his body.

And yes, Alcides’ career walk ratio is ugly, just under .05 (one walk for every 20 AB’s), even less last season. At bare minimum you want to see minor leaguers walk once every ten AB’s, so he needs to at least double his current rate. But Escobar doesn’t strike out often either, so he must be hitting some bad balls in order to maintain his .281 career average. If he can finally begin to establish some patience (a big but not impossible if at this point), he shouldn’t have to sacrifice his average, which is important.

Escobar’s defensive prowess is so off-the-charts that if he can make even incremental improvements in slugging and on-base percentage, he’ll be a valuable asset to the Brewers regardless of what J.J. Hardy is doing two seasons from now. That’s a key, as Escobar might be in AAA developing those needed offensive skills for perhaps as much as two full seasons (technically the Brewers could keep him there for three seasons, but that’s unlikely). His ceiling remains very high, and rightfully so.

BN: The large consensus has been that Matt LaPorta will not make it to the big leagues for another couple years. A fantasy writer at wrote that we should expect to see Matt in a Brewers uniform by the end of the season. Is that possible? I’m guessing by “couple of years” you mean that LaPorta will debut at some point in 2009 rather than 2008. Look for Matt to mash wherever he’ll be in the minors this season — if he sees time in Brevard County, it’ll be interesting to compare his numbers there with those of Ryan Braun, who was actually somewhat less than superhuman (hard to believe) in 2006 in Florida before he dominated at AA Huntsville. I absolutely expect to see LaPorta in a Brewer uniform down the stretch as a September call-up after what should be a monster season. And heaven forbid, but if Ryan Braun and/or Corey Hart were to go down with significant injuries in July or August, I don’t believe the Brewers would hesitate to plug LaPorta in and see what happens. Here’s hoping Mike Cameron has a huge season of his own, but it’s hard not to picture a Braun – Hart – LaPorta outfield for most of 2009.

BN: Which unsung Brewers prospect should fans be on the lookout for in 2008? Always a fun question, isn’t it? I think we have to dip in the middle and lower rankings of our Brewerfan Power 50 to find prospects who we can call “unsung” yet who legitimately might sneak up on some people this coming year, although believe me, nobody had Taylor Green on their potential unsung hero list last March, and he only went on to shine as West Virginia’s third baseman, and his left-handed bat led him to Organizational Player of the Year honors.

I’ve been told by at least one member of the organization that LHP Derek Miller is going to have a significant big league career. He’s 26 years old and should be in Nashville’s rotation, if not to start the season, then fairly early on. He had Tommy John surgery in his junior draft year at the University of Vermont, but the Brewers drafted him in the 47th round to retain his rights through his senior season as a draft-and-follow. He’s made 66 starts in the Brewer system (3.49 ERA, 350 K’s in 374 IP), and all his peripherals simply demonstrate solid consistency without significant shortcomings. He seems to profile pretty comparatively with another Massachusetts lefty, Chris Capuano, and that bodes pretty well for Miller and the Brewers in terms of a potential rotation candidate for 2009.

To pick one younger guy, 4th round picks shouldn’t be considered unsung, but Eric Farris should be a force offensively and defensively at second base for West Virginia this season (and Brevard if he gets the chance) — he’s a name Brewer fans will be much more familiar with at the end of this season.

BN: Taylor Green won the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year last year, yet no one is talking about this kid. Why has he been largely ignored, and what special skills does Taylor bring to the table? Green actually got his fair shake of ink in the postseason with his award ceremony at Miller Park, and some off-season updates about his efforts to help Canada qualify for this summer’s Olympics in Beijing. But to be fair, he only turned 21 years old last November, which is exceedingly young, and he’s realistically three full years away from donning a big league uniform. (For some perspective however, to revert back to question # 1, as young as Green is, he’s still a month older than Alcides Escobar.) Green is off-the-charts in terms of work ethic, and you would think that would be the case with every single farmhand following his dream, but you’d be surprised how often we hear behind the scenes that is not always the case. He’s a left-handed bat, which given the current makeup of the top prospects in the organization, is a big deal. The Brewers would love to have 50 Taylor Green’s in their system when it comes to make-up. Let’s see what Green exhibits this season in terms of infield position flexibility, and if he can build on last season’s offensive success in a tough offensive environment in the FSL. And remember, amazingly Green hit 9th in that ridiculously awesome West Virginia lineup for half of last season, so he was protected somewhat early on.

BN: Who is Rob Bryson and why should Brewers fans be so excited about the young pitcher? I’m going to temper that excitement just a bit because it’s a big-time rule to at least let a kid play one year of full-season ball before you can use that word (“excite”) when discussing any prospect, particularly a pitcher. Bryson is a 6’1″ RHP who the Brewers drafted and followed through community college. He blew away Pioneer Rookie League hitters to the tune of a 70-12 K-to-BB ratio in 54 IP in ’07. He just turned 20 years old in December, but he has to continue working on his secondary pitches, as do all pitchers his age. I’m very optimistic that we’ll be discussing him with you again at this time next year, but the jump out of rookie ball is significant.

BN: Mat Gamel can hit, nobody questions that, but what are the Brewers going to do about his defense? Is a position switch inevitable? I love National League baseball, but there are times when one does picture the big league Brewer lineup with the DH available. Who knew Ryan Braun actually truly disliked playing third base until he came out and said so this spring? The fact Gamel raked as he did with his defense failing so, shows some pretty tough character, or simply confirms that, well, he can rake. Gamel’s left-handed bat (again, a key) is important in the Brewers’ grand plans, but you have to wonder if it’ll be as Milwaukee’s first baseman should the Brewers have to trade away Prince before his walk season in 2011. The problem is Gamel’s bat will be ready for Miller Park well before then. Mat’s a heck of trading chip value in the meantime, though.

BN: Which Brewers prospect (outside of Manny Parra) has the best shot to make the big league squad at some point this season? You’re going to hear a lot about how reliever Luis Pena is doing as Nashville’s likely closer in 2008. It’d be a great story to see him in Milwaukee, because the Brewers signed him as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela and this will be his 9th year in the system. He combines a true power arm like Seth McClung (100+ MPH) without the inevitable wildness, allowed only 50 hits in 68.1 IP last season and struck out more than a batter an inning while still inducing a fair number of ground balls. He’s battled some arm issues along the way, but in an absolute Doug Melvin dream scenario, he’s an inexpensive prime setup man and eventual closer after this season, freeing up important cash to be distributed to all the young position player talent in ’09.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your blog questions. We can hardly contain our excitement at Brewerfan, believe me.




12 responses

27 02 2008

Great interview! I’ve been high on Luis Pena since last season. I think he should be able to step into the set-up role or maybe even the closer role next season. I didn’t realize that he was nearing triple digits with his fastball though!

27 02 2008

I second the great interview comment by Steven! I’ve followed the Brewers closely but never really paid much attention to the farm system. Looks like the sun will continue on Milwaukee for years to come!

27 02 2008

I love this interview as it seems everyone does, and am curious if we could get interviews maybe four times during the year, updating the status of each of these players, and disappointments and surprises.

This website rivals Brew Crew Ball and looks like it may exceed it in content, and is now a site I will check daily. I always need my dose of the Brewers living in Wrigleyville, it’s not easy being a Brewers fan here.

27 02 2008

I suppose it would be pointless to say I love this interview too…but it’s great. I agree with Kyle. It would be nice to have this again sometime soon once the season starts.

I had never been to this site before today…but it looks good. This site looks like it updates its content much more often than the others. Looks like I’ll be coming back again!

I’m sorry you have to live in Chicago, Kyle. Way to keep the Brewers spirit alive down there though.

27 02 2008
BrewersNation interview with - FanHome

[…] interview with BrewersNation interview with BrewersNation […]

27 02 2008

I respectfully disagree that this site rivals Brew Crew Ball. This site is more of a news feed as such, BCB is more of the share your thoughts on thing bit. Now, don’t get me wrong, this site does do well in getting content up, but there’s little forum for talking/debating, or really just joking around. It’s in BCB’s shadow big time. This isn’t to say that couldn’t change, it’s just how it is now. Good work, though Jim. I know first hand blogs are a lot of work.

27 02 2008

Note that I’m sure the aim of this site is not to rival BCB. I was just saying- it’s got potential, but it’s not there yet.

27 02 2008

I completely agree with you Alfie. I do not pretend to supersede BCB in any fashion, but I would also like to point out that this site has only been up and running since December. The reader count is still going up day-by-day.

I would love to have much more talking and debating happening on the site, but it’s just not how it is at the moment. I do feel that the site would be better suited for you all if more commenting and debating happened, as it would be much more of a forum/community of readers and posters. This site is structured for all you readers to get your voice heard as well. That ball is in your court though, readers. That portion of the site can only improve if you all comment on an article and get your voice heard. Again, I am extremely grateful that you all find my site worthwhile enough to visit. Spread the word and come back and visit again!

28 02 2008

You’re right…it would be great if more people commented. that will come with time i’m sure.

this has only been up for 3 months and you already have interviews like that? nice

28 02 2008
Brewers bash A’s, 7-1 « BrewersNation

[…] he does.  Luis Pena also pitched a scoreless inning.  Remember that Jim from says he’s one to lookout for the next couple […]

7 08 2008
Right Field Bleachers » Blog Archive » In the News

[…] – BrewersNation interviews Jim Goulart of […]

13 09 2008

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