One of the largest knocks against the Brewers' minor league system over the
last few years has been not only their lack of quality positional prospects, but
the general lack of plate discipline throughout the system. Pretty much
everywhere you'd look, even players with relatively high batting averages would
fail to draw their fair share of walks. While this in large part remains a
problem, the Brewers' top two position player prospects seem to be making
strides early in the season on being more selective at the plate.
Billy Hall, a shortstop drafted in the 6th round back in June of '98, has had
problems controlling the count and the plate throughout his minor league career.
Hall had a bust out season last year, setting career highs in pretty much every
last offensive category. However, even though he had his best season in his
career, he only managed to walk 27 times, while striking out 124 times in about
500 at-bats. During the offseason, Hall stated that he was trying to grow as a
player and would try to concentrate on making better contact. Through the first week and
a half of his season in AAA Indianapolis, the results seem to be there. In 46
plate appearances, Hall has 11 hits, 7 walks and had been hit by one pitch,
while only striking out twice. It is unlikely that the 7:2 BB:K ratio will be
kept up all season, but he already had more walks (7) then he accrued in 168
plate appearances in AA Huntsville last summer (5). While he hasn't hit for
quite the power that he did last season yet, it is a pretty safe bet the Brewers
are more than happy to see Hall get on base at a .400+ clip if he has to trade
off a few home runs.
Dave Krynzel, Dean Taylor's first draft pick in the '99 draft, also struggled
to take a walk last season in stops at class A Beloit and A+ High Desert.
Krynzel did walk 36 times, but that was spread over more than 520 at-bats. He
also struck out 150 times, which is not what the Brewers want their leadoff man
of the future to do. In returning to High Desert this season, the centerfielder
seems to have made a few strides in controlling the strike zone. In 44 plate
appearances thus far, Krynzel has walked 4 times and struck out 7 times. This is
still not ideal, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Krynzel
already has the natural ability to make things happen with the bat and hit for a
high average, so if he can add the ability to take a healthy number of walks to
his repertoire, Dave could be a dominate force roaming centerfield in Miller
Park for years to come.
Offensive Player Of The Week
Ryan Knox probably didn't deserve to get
sent back to High Desert this season, but he is making the most of his chances
so far in the California League. The 1999 24th round selection was lights-out in
his first week and a half for the Mavericks, batting .424/.500/.909 in 33 at
bats. Knox has crushed 4 home runs and 4 doubles so far in the young season,
and even more impressively, has stole 10 bases in 10 attempts in 10 games
played. He also scored 11 times and walked 3 times, versus only 4 punch-outs.
With numbers like these, Ryan won't have to wait long before he gets the call up
to Huntsville again.
Pitcher Of The Week:
Andrew Lorraine was one of the last spring training
invitees sent back to the minor league camp and he is showing in the early going
why. In 2 starts spanning 12 and 2/3 innings, Lorraine allowed only 1 earned
run, and that came on a solo home run, to post a sparkling early season ERA of
0.71. He allowed 10 hits and walked only 2 batters, striking out 6. The 29 year
old lefty, pitching for his 3rd organization in a year, was originally drafted
by the California Angels in the 4th round back in 1993. He has 163 major league
innings under his belt and has pitched for the Angels, the White Sox, the A's,
the Mariners, the Cubs and the Indians.
Team Of The Week:
Anytime you can go 6-0 on a road trip, you know things
have to be going pretty well, and that's how things are going for the 9-2
Indianapolis Indians. The Indians have both their pitching and their hitting
going full bore for them early on, under first year manager Ed Romero. Lorraine,
Everett Stull and Tim Harikkala all are in the top 10 in ERA, Brian Mallette
leads the league with 3 saves (though he is presently in Milwaukee) and the
pitching staff as a whole has a 2.55 ERA, including 2 shutouts, both being good
enough for the International League lead. On the batting side, Indy also leads
the IL in batting, with a team average of .289. They also have the home run
lead, with 22, which is 5 more than their nearest opponent and more than twice
as many as everyone else. Individually, they have the top three home runs
hitters. Izzy Alcantara has 6, followed by Ryan Christenson with 4 and Ryan
Thompson and Midre Cummings with 3 apiece. Just Alcantara and Christenson
combined have more home runs than 9 teams in the league.