Minor League Report - April 15th-April 21st

on 04/24/2002


Going down to spring training in Arizona is a ton of fun. I'd recommend it to pretty much any baseball fan anywhere, if they ever had a couple of weeks off in late winter, to take off for a week and just take in some baseball. Two of the coolest things you get to see are: major leaguers just tossing the ball around right in front of you; and watching the young pups of the minor league system step up and play with the big boys. Usually the easiest way to tell that it is a minor leaguer is to look at the back of the jersey and see that there is no name, only a number in the 70-100 range.

One day when I walked into Maryvale Baseball Stadium to take in a spring training game, I camped out on the first base line and watched as different Brewers infielders started playing catch with each other. As soon as Richie Sexson stepped out of the dugout, you knew it was him - it's hard not to recognize a 6'8 guy on a baseball field. After Sexson walked out, someone else walked out and stood next to him and began playing catch, but I had to do a double take. At first, I thought it might have been Sexson's child or something, before spotting a name tag, very loosely sewn on to the back of the jersey: West, #92.

Todd West is listed at 5'11 and 165 pounds, but both measurements may be a bit generous. His extraordinarily diminutive build might have been part of the reason the slick-fielding shortstop slipped to the 14th round when the Brewers took him in the June 2000 draft. Forgetting about his body's size for a second, West does have some legit major league tools. His defense at shortstop and second base is pretty much major league ready, right now. He also has a plus arm that not can get a lot of guys out from deep in the hole, but it also one of the more accurate arms you will ever see. On the basepaths, West has plus speed, although it isn't blazing. At the plate, West has a good eye for the strike zone and will walk at a good pace, and won't strike out too often.

However, because of his size, West does have some natural physical limitations. While his range on defense is not really affected, he doesn't have a whole lot of leg strength for that extra kick on the basepaths, meaning for his size, he is not as quick as he could be. Naturally, because he is so small, he won't hit for a lot of power, and sometimes he even struggles to get the ball into the gap. Also at the plate, West sometimes gets the bat knocked around in his hands a little bit because hard boring fastballs and sharp breaking balls can overpower him, which leads to a batting average generally lower than you'd expect.

The point of today's minor league report is not that I am trying to rag on Todd West or just focus on the bad things, but it is this: size does, to a degree, have an effect on a player's offensive output. However, a player's output, and therefore worth, is not based on his size. Todd West will never hit a lot of home runs, that is just the hitter he is, and part of it is because he is a small guy. There are smaller guys who will hit more home runs, and there are probably a couple of bigger guys who will hit fewer. And West definitely can contribute for the Brewers at the major league level some day - he can play awesome defense anywhere on the infield and at the plate he will work the count and not embarrass himself at all. Heck, even in his limited spring training at bats, he hit better than some of the Brewers I saw.

Offensive Player Of The Week:
For the second week in a row, a player wins this award going away. Indianapolis Indian outfielder Ryan Thompson was head and shoulders above pretty much everyone else in the system last week, and had one of the better weeks in minor league baseball so far this season. Thompson, 34, dominated International League pitching over the course of seven games: he hit .531, with four home runs and two doubles and nine runs batted in. Ryan was signed as a minor league free agent this past offseason and was one of the last men reassigned to the minors from major league camp. At the major league level, Ryan has played for the Mets, Indians, Astros, Yankees and Marlins, accumulating more than three years of major league service time.
Last Week: Ryan Knox, OF, High Desert

Pitcher Of The Week:
The decision here was a little tougher, because no one really had an outstanding week, and a lot of pitchers are still on pretty strict pitch counts, so no one is pitching a whole lot of innings yet. But, someone has to win, and this week the honor goes to Brian Nielsen, a relief pitcher for the Beloit Snappers. Nielsen, a lefthander, was drafted in the 10th round of the 2000 draft out of a Florida high school. He is not a reliever by trade, but the Beloit rotation is filled for now. This past week, Brian put together a good pitching line: eight innings pitched, allowing two earned runs off of five hits and two walks, while striking out eight. He had a 2.25 ERA for the week.
Last Week: Andrew Lorraine, SP, Indianapolis

Team Of The Week:
The only Brewers farm team to break .500 last week was the High Desert Mavericks, coming in at 4-3, and they take home the award this week. The Mavs were spurred on this past week by some very good hitting. Jon Hart and Ryan Knox both hit .400 and Todd West and Dave Krynzel weren't far behind, at .391 and .360, respectively. The team also had 15 more extra base hits, including two home runs apiece from Knox and Hart. And, adding to their league-leading total, the Mavs stole 13 more bases last week. While pitching wasn't their strong suit, Carlos Alvarado made his Brewers debut and didn't allow an earned run in three outings for the Mavs last week. Pete Smart (1.80), George Perez (1.80) and Roberto Maysonet (2.45) also all posted ERAs under 3 for the week.
Last Week: Indianspolis Indians