Interview with Brewerfan.net (5/13)

13 05 2008

The guys at Brewerfan.net were gracious enough to answer more questions about the start of the season in the minor leagues. Toby Harrmann answered the questions for this installment in the interview series with the guys from Brewerfan. If you have not had a chance, stop by their site and thank them for doing the interview!

BN: Which offensive prospect had the best April in your opinion?

Brewerfan.net: There were a number of superb performances during April in the minor leagues, but I believe the cream of the crop was AA Huntsville third baseman Mat Gamel. Gamel smacked 39 hits, 16 of them for extra bases, on his way to a .379 batting average. What makes it more impressive is that he did it in the Southern League – a notoriously pitcher-friendly league.

To put Gamel’s April 1.128 OPS into perspective, Corey Hart won the Southern League MVP honors in 2003 with an .807 OPS. Gamel can swing the stick without a doubt. The hole in his game is defense at third base, much like Ryan Braun before him. The Brewers will be more conservative with Gamel’s progress to the big leagues in order to let him be as defensively ready as possible when he hits the big leagues full time. They would like to get Mat’s left-handed power bat in the lineup, though.

BN: The Milwaukee Brewers traded Gabe Gross for a relatively unknown entity in RHP Joshua Butler. Could you tell us a little about him and what he brings to the table down in Brevard County?

Brewerfan.net: Baseball America ranked Josh Butler as the 16th best prospect in the Tampa Bay organization – that’s notable as BA ranked the Rays’ organization #1 overall in terms of talent. After his acquisition, Brewerfan.net’s Power 50 ranked him as the 14th best prospect. Why the love for Butler?

Though he’s never had great numbers in the minors, his stuff has impact potential. His best two pitches are a low-middle 90’s sinking fastball and a nice slider. He also throws a decent curveball and mixes in an occasional changeup. He’s had some problems wearing down, and that leads some to suspect that he’ll be a relief prospect down the road. For now the Brewers will keep him in the rotation and see how he does against better competition. I personally think they’ll keep him as a starter for as long as possible, and have no immediate plans to switch him to relief. He should make the move to AA in the second half of the season.

BN: Omar Aguilar has had a supremely hot start to the 2008 season. We know that he has a blistering fastball, but how about any breaking pitches? Does he have good enough stuff to be the closer in Milwaukee someday, or are we looking at a middle reliever in Omar?

Brewerfan.net: As you noted, Aguilar throws in the middle to upper 90’s. His “out” breaking pitch is a very good slider, and he also mixes in a changeup. Like any other ultra-hard thrower, the key for Aguilar is location of his fastball. When he can throw his fastball for strikes, he can be unhittable. That alone makes him a potential closing prospect.

BN: Zach Braddock has already been promoted in the young 2008 campaign. What makes him so special?

Brewerfan.net: Beyond his stuff – a low 90’s fastball, a plus slider and a changeup, with flashes of great command – Zach is a tremendously fierce competitor and a physically imposing presence on the mound. Any left hander that can pump the ball into the 90’s grabs your attention, but Zach has the intangibles that make you think he’ll be pitching in Miller Park some day.

The biggest issue for Braddock, like all young pitchers, is staying healthy. He had Tommy John surgery in high school and missed the second half of 2007 with a tweaked shoulder. If he can stay on the mound, he’ll be a top pitching prospect in the near future. He sort of reminds me of Dana Eveland, only a bit taller and with a tick better stuff. Dana is doing well in the big leagues right now as a 24 year old (sadly, not for the Brewers)… I could see a similar career progression with Braddock.

BN: Which pitcher should Brewers fans keep an eye on in May and June?

Brewerfan.net: The easy answer to the question is Jeremy Jeffress. He should be back on the mound by the end of May and he’s our best pitching prospect. I’m going to go in a little different direction and suggest one of my favorite prospects in the system: 20 year old Canadian-born righty Alexandre Periard.

Periard has a heavy 89-95 MPH fastball complimented with a solid curve and a solid changeup. He’s adept at keeping the ball down in the zone and gets a lot of groundball outs – he has the potential to be a 2 to 1 (or better) groundball to flyball pitcher. The knock on him so far has been his lack of strikeouts. He averaged about 1 every 2 innings pitched last season. This year so far, it’s a different story. He’s striking out 3 guys every 4 innings. While his ERA has risen, I don’t see that as any reason to worry. His WHIP is exactly the same as it was last year, he’s striking out more guys, and keeping his groundball ratio up. He’s a guy you’re going to hear a lot more about in the very near future.

BN: Russell Branyan has been mashing down in Triple-A Nashville. I would love to see him get a call-up sometime soon, but I do not know where he would fit in Milwaukee. What are your thoughts here?

Brewerfan.net: The Brewers’ dearth of left-handed hitters in the lineup has been well documented. While I tend to believe that good hitters will hit, maybe this lineup could use a little shakeup and left-handed infusion. Case in point, Billy Hall has been a great asset to the team, but his at-bats against right handed pitchers have become increasingly frustrating.

I could see the Brewers bringing up Branyan to spell Hall (though not platoon with him) at third base against right handed pitchers, and to get some of the power back on the bench that we lost when we traded Gabe Gross. As for a corresponding move, I’d send Gwynn back to AAA. We have three other guys that can play center field, and Branyan can play the corners.

BN: In our earlier interview, Luis Pena garnered a lot of praise from Brewerfan. He has struggled to start the season. Is there any reason for concern here, or do you think he will be able to bounce back?

Brewerfan.net: Pena had one horrific appearance early on that has skewed his entire stat line. On April 10th against Oklahoma, he recorded one out, allowing 6 earned runs on 3 hits and 3 walks. Outside of that appearance, he’s given up 3 earned runs in 13 innings of work, and has a 2/1 K/BB ratio. I know you can’t just pretend that outing never happened, but I don’t think he actually has anything to bounce back from. I should also note that he hasn’t had a lot of regular save opportunities…Nashville lost a lot games early on. He’ll be just fine.

BN: Give readers at BrewersNation something to look for in May and June.

Brewerfan.net: If you haven’t been following the exploits of the AA lineup, do it now before the Brewers break those guys up. And with the draft coming up June 5th and 6th, remember that the Brewers have 6 of the top 62 picks in the draft, so there should be a huge influx of top tier talent by the middle-end of June.

Go Brewers!

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5 responses

13 05 2008
Bob

I love these Brewerfan.net interviews!!! Keep them coming!

I completely forgot that Jeremy Jeffress was coming back soon. I hope he stays off the pot…

13 05 2008
BJ

Great interview! Always good to hear about the future of the Brewers!

13 05 2008
Kyle

These are the best, and why I keep checking this site, the great interviews! Good work and I can’t wait to follow Alexandre Periard. Could you put this article as a favorite on the side like the last one?

13 05 2008
Kyle

Wow, you already put it on the side! One step ahead!

15 05 2008
Tyler

I love the interviews!!! What do you say to a mailbag of some sort?

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