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Should Tommy John be in the Hall of Fame?
1. Yes
2. No

Minor League Roundtable, Part 2

on 04/12/2005


Part Two of our Brewerfan Minor League Roundtable focuses on the high-A Manatees of Brevard County and the newly-christened West Virginia Power. Part One, on Nashville and Huntsville, can be found here:

The high-A kids leave the California League and the high-air atmosphere of the desert for the stifling mugginess and heavy air of the Florida State League. No longer will an ERA of 5.50 be considered "OK". Then again, those gaudy batting figures are a thing of the past as well.

On the surface, this roster seems to be lacking in star power. Outside of catcher Lou Palmisano, there aren't a lot of well-known names recognized among casual fans of the Brewers' system. Do you think that Brewers' management will continue to move the top producers in low-A (see Vinny Rottino, Dana Eveland, Jeff Housman, and several others in recent seasons) past the high-A level, even though the High Desert factors are no longer in the equation?

Michael Clifton: I'm not sold on the Brewers moving all the top name prospects past High-A. Of those that made the jump, most are relatively polished college and JUCO players with the exception of Prince. With the affiliation with High Desert the past few years, the argument made for skipping Adelanto with the pitchers could have been valid. Also the Brewers seem to be building waves of prospects and we've seen that the past few years. The next wave in West Virginia seems to be quite young and so I don't see the Brewers making a lot of High-A bypasses this offseason.

Patrick Ebert: No, I think we'll see more players moved from low-A to high-A. We heard Reid Nichols say so many times over the last couple of years that players were bumped past High Desert because of the unfriendly park factors. The Brewers were wary letting their top arms get rocked, and they didn't seem to allow the park factors to skew the production of their top hitters.

Toby Harrmann: No, and the fact that Lou Palmisano, Adam Heether, Luis Pena and Ty Taubenheim are playing for BC is a testament to that. High Desert was just such a horrible place to have an affiliate that the Brewers didn't have any choice but to promote guys too quickly. This was exacerbated by the fact that they didn't have any real prospects in the high levels of the minors, so there was a free flow upwards. Now that there is some real talent in AAA and AA, there isn't any room for ultra-rapid progress unless it is really earned by the player. This should also pop the High Desert "bubble" of lower-quality talent that has to be foisted upon Huntsville each year when reinforcements are needed. With Brevard County being a pretty neutral park in a pretty neutral league, we'll see a cleaner flow of talent up the system, and the system will be better for it.

Speaking of Palmisano, was his 2004 season in Beloit a success or a disappointment? We'll make it hard on you, you have to choose one or the other.

Bill Batterman: A failure, although not an overwhelming one. His .293 average was good for just sixth on the Snappers among players with at least 100 at-bats and his secondary numbers were anything but exceptional. At age-22, he walked once every 9.51 at-bats, evidence of solid plate discipline, but fanned every 4.40, a troubling ratio for a highly-touted collegiate hitter in the Midwest League. On the other hand, he did flash some power -- his 22 doubles and 7 homers in 113 games were good for a .120 Isolated Power -- and his 784 OPS was second on the team among regulars. Palmisano's season, in other words, was a good one... but not for the team's #1 catching prospect, coming off an MVP season in the Pioneer League.

Perhaps expectations were too high, but his performance leaves a lot to be desired. It didn't appear to be poor luck, either, as his batting average on balls in play was a robust .366 (well above the .318 combined average for the Snappers). I fully expect him to rebound in 2005 with the Manatees but I'm not yet ready to pencil him in as the Brewers catcher of the future. Cutting down on his strikeouts while continuing to spray doubles to all fields would be my assignment for him this year. That, and to continue his development behind the plate, of course. I wouldn't root against him.

Toby: Success. He didn't get injured and his OPS was above league-average. Defense wasn't great, but he survived, and that's fine by me.

Michael: I think we can look at Palmisano's season in Beloit as a success. He hit a very respectable .293 and also made the MWL All Star squad. While his numbers were nowhere near the level he performed at in Helena in 2003, he did a lot of things well and perhaps expectations were too high for 2004. Lou is still the Brewers top catching prospect by a fair margin and with adjustments at the plate to include better patience and less K's, Lou will continue to be a Brewerfan favorite.

Patrick: Despite some off the field issues, I'm going to say it was a success since I have to choose. Hitting .293 with a .361 on-base average and a .413 slugging percentage for a catcher in the Midwest League is pretty good. It doesn't match the domination of Prince Fielder or Brad Nelson from 2003 and 2002 respectively, but Palmisano isn't expected to be that kind of hitter.

Are you surprised that closer Nick Slack wasn't moved to Huntsville to begin 2005? How do you see he and Ty Taubenheim sharing duties in the late-innings? Are they the most exciting pitchers on this staff in terms of potential? (Note: Taubenheim was added to the rotation to start the season, and these responses don't necessarily reflect that...)

Toby: Slack's non-promotion was one of the more interesting developments in camp. I think the Brewers want to see what he can do in a non-High Desert environment. He's still pretty young, so I don't see this as a huge setback for him. Slack will get the first crack at promotion, so he'll close and Taubenheim might be more of a long-man out of the pen early on. Rival might do some closing, too. In terms of potential, the most exciting pitcher on the staff is Luis Pena, and then Ben Diggins, and then it drops off from there.

Patrick: I was surprised Slack wasn't moved up. While his ERA was high, his secondary numbers looked pretty good. I think Slack and Taubenheim will absolutely shut down opposing teams in the late innings. As for as potential, Kenny Durost and Luis Pena have a higher upside for their raw, pure stuff alone, and Steve Moss still remains a promising positional prospect.

Michael: Taubenheim and Slack both have the stuff to be dominating closers and will provide Manager John Tamargo with options in the late innings. Perhaps back to back to shut down any late inning rallies. Both will get their share of chances to earn saves throughout the year. I think Ty and Nick are the most exciting in terms of what kind of stuff they can bring to the mound. Most exciting potential to me could lie in starter Luis Pena. Pena was added to the 40 man as a single A member, so you know he's highly thought of in Milwaukee. I love Pena's frame and effortless delivery. This guy is already exciting in terms of stuff but has a good chance to even add velocity when he fills out.

Bill: Carlos Villanueva is the Brevard County hurler who most interests me but Luis Pena and Jesse Harper are also pitchers to watch (in addition to Slack and Taubenheim). Villanueva fanned 113 batters in 114 and two-thirds innings last season while handing out just 30 free passes, an excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.77 (which, coincidentally, was also his ERA), and held opposing batters to a Gary Bennett-like batting average of .236. The only trouble spot for the 20-year old was the gopher ball, of which he surrendered 20, but the rest of his statistical record is stellar. I expect Villanueva to thrive in Brevard County and climb into the team's top 20 prospects by the end of the season.

What else piques your interest about this club? The Helena college guys skipping over West Virginia?

Michael: I am very interested in seeing how the college draftees who skipped single A do in Brevard County. I'll be watching Josh Brady close to see if he can continue his success. I'll also be paying attention to a favorite of mine in Drew Anderson.

Patrick: I think the offense could turn a few heads, led largely by college guys such as Sollmann, Brady, Heether and Anderson. Palmisano and Moss should give the lineup 6 solid hitters out of 8 positions on the field, while Ozzie Chavez could stabilize the infield at shortstop. Not the most sexy of teams on paper, but they could enjoy a good season.

Bill: I would be remiss if I failed to mention Steve Sollmann, the Notre Dame alum whose .487 on-base average in 2004 was the highest among all Brewers' Pioneer Leaguers with at least 100 at-bats since Prince Fielder reached base at a .531 clip with Ogden in 2002. His 921 OPS was good for fourth on the team behind Josh Brady (1079), Grant Richardson (1044), and Tony Festa (945), all of whom are exciting players with refined offensive skills. Sollmann, whose brother Scott played in the Brewers organization, also swiped 23 bases in 31 attempts and is considered a talented defensive second-baseman. He has several high- profile keystoners in front of him, including uber-prospect Rickie Weeks, but I expect Sollmann to move quickly through the system and challenge for a utility job on the Milwaukee bench within a few years.

Toby:That this isn't High Desert. Overall, it is a fairly non-descript, solid ball club.

On to West Virginia:

Youth is served! New league, spanking new ballpark, energized fan base, it is good to be a "Power", no? It's a shame we'll only have sporadic opponent's web audio on this bunch.

Hurricane Hernan Iribarren


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