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Minor League Report: June 10th

on 06/22/2002


It seems like just yesterday when young baseball players were breaking out of spring training, and all eyes were focused on the beginning of new minor league seasons and new minor league careers. In the blink of an eye, all the sudden we are at the halfway point of all the full season minor league team's years. It doesn't seem like it, but pitchers and hitters have all been in full swing for months, so now would be a good time to look back on the first part of the season and see who did the best for the Brewers' minor league system. This week, we'll give out our half-season awards, a precursor to our big end of the season awards extravaganza. The guys whose names you see here are pretty much the front runners for the end of the season awards, so you'll probably see most of these players' names in a few months.

Half-season MVP: Corey Hart, 1B/3B, High Desert

No one in the organization has made as big of a jump in prospectdom this season as Corey Hart has, and without a doubt, he is our half-season MVP. One year ago, he was starting his second season in short season rookie ball, in Ogden. He did hit .340 there, but no one could have guessed where he would be at now. The Brewers took a chance and skipped Corey right past Beloit, to advanced-A ball in High Desert, and he has been mashing the ball all season. At just 20 years of age, Corey leads the California League in a number of offensive categories, including OPS (1068), home runs (19), RBIs (66) and slugging percentage (.676). When he isn't leading the league in a category, he is pretty close to the top anyway, being among league leaders in on-base percentage (.392), batting average (.328), doubles (18), triples (6), stolen bases (16) and runs (57). His batting average has been as high as .350, and has never dipped below .300. Maybe the biggest development this season for Corey has been his defensive switch from first to third base, showcasing a strong arm and good range. Though he is 6'6, he is quick and agile, and his speed rivals that of fellow big youngster Cristian Guerrero. The only area of his game that needs work right now is his ability to take some more walks, but it is widely thought that since he will continue to make good, hard contact that more walks will come. He is a student of the game, and soaks up new knowledge and tutoring like a sponge. He is a burgeoning 5-tool talent that the Brewers didn't even draft until the 11th round of the 2000 draft. All of the sudden, he is one of the more exciting players in minor league baseball.

Half-season Cy Young: Ben Hendrickson, SP, High Desert

Pitching half of your games in the High Desert Mavericks' stadium is akin to pitching half of your games in Coors Field, and looking at the ERAs of pitchers that have pitched half their games there, it shows. A bandbox among bandboxes, home runs drop across the outfield wall by the bushel and runs flow across the plate in an endless stream. Ben Hendrickson didn't worried about such things during his half season in High Desert. Ben's biggest pitching tool may be his ability to just refuse to allow a run to cross the plate, at all costs. Ben showcased this, posting a sensational 2.55 ERA in the first half of the season, second in the Cal League. Possibly even more impressive was that he only allowed three homers in the first half, testament to his ability to keep the ball down and over the plate. In 81.1 innings pitched, he struck out 70 batters and allowed only 61 hits, holding opposing hitters to a .209 batting average. Ben throws two fastballs (two and four seams) in the low 90's, two changeups (one breaks in, one breaks out), but his most deadly pitch is a spike curve that drops straight to earth once it reaches the plate. Like Hart, his main weakness is in the walk department, as his walk totals were a little high in the first half, but that is attributed to developing his changeups (which were almost nonexistent last season) and his curveball going through a dry spell. Ben has the talent to be a top-end big league pitcher, and a workhorse at that. If you can keep your ERA down to 2.55 when your home park is the Mavericks', the sky is the limit.

Half-season Silver Slugger: Brad Nelson, 1B, Beloit

While Prince Fielder has the best power rating in the system, Brad Nelson showed in the first half that he is right behind the Brewers' 2002 first round pick in terms of being able to hammer a ball over the fence, as he has done early and often while playing in his first season of full season ball, with Beloit. Not only has the barrel-chested first baseman smacked 14 home runs in the first half of the season, but he has also knocked an impressive 24 doubles deep into the ballparks of the Midwest League, likely a sign of more home runs to come later on. Brad has also shown that he can hit well average-wise, too, as he has been among league leaders in batting average for most of the season, and finished the half season with a .295 batting average. In addition to leading the league in home runs, he also has shown a knack for getting clutch hits, as he leads the league with an impressive 71 RBIs, which puts him on pace to break the Brewers' minor league record for RBIs (134, by John Jaha in 1991). A big question mark entering the season was his ability to play first base, and though he has still looked confused at times on defense, his ability to man first base has improved markedly over the first half of the season. A number of scouts have said that like Hart, he could play third base too (he did in high school), but the Brewers will be perfectly happy to have him at first for now. Also like Hart, Brad could draw a few more walks, but he is such a dominant power hitter that, as he progresses upwards, teams will simply not pitch to him as much, and he will draw more.

Half-season Most Improved Player: Steve Scarborough, SS/2B, Huntsville

For a guy that struggled to a 747 OPS last season in hitter friendly High Desert, an OPS of nearly 900 in pitcher friendly Huntsville is truly a surprise. Steve has always had the ability to hit doubles and draw walks, but this season he also added contact hitting to his repertoire, and his numbers have skyrocketed. He lead the organization with doubles (27) in the first half (on pace to break Darrell Nicholas' 47 double record of 1997) and was also among the top 2 or 3 doubles hitters in all of the minors. He continued to draw walks, too, gaining first pace without swinging 39 times in 252 at-bats. Looking at least season, he finished with 34 doubles and 65 walks for the entire season. The biggest improvement has come in the batting average department, though, as he increased his average from a High Desert spiked .255 to a Huntsville lessened .313. He pounded out 79 hits in the first half, and made consistent contact even when he was getting out, striking out only 49 times. All in all, he batted .313/.407/.488 for Huntsville in the first half, and was among league leaders in doubles, batting average and on-base percentage. If he can continue to drive the ball into the gap, take walks and make good contact as the year progresses (in AAA), he will definitely work himself into Milwaukee's plans for the future.

Half-season Manager Of The Year: Frank Kremblas, Huntsville

When a team wins 6 games in the opening month of the season, it's hard to get any worse, but it's also hard to get a whole lot better. Huntsville manager Frank Kremblas managed to get his Stars untracked after a horrendous first month and though they were out of playoff contention, positioned the team well for a second half playoff run. After the 6-19 start that saw neither the pitching nor the hitting working, the Stars went 15-13 in May, and 10-6 in June before the first half of the season ended. Numerous players were able to step up after poor first months, most notably second baseman Elvis Pena and starting pitcher Paul Stewart. Pena was able to raise his average from an April-ending .192 to a first-half ending .265 and Stewart's April ERA was 10.35, but after some tutelage from Kremblas, he finished the half season with a 4.44 ERA, including a 2.32 ERA in May. Much like last year's Huntsville team, who won the Southern League Championship, the team is made up of a bunch of solid, but unspectacular players, so Kremblas has had to get the most out of his talent to compete, and with the way the ship is pointing, it is looking like Huntsville might be able to make another playoff run.

All-Minors Half-Season First Half Team:
Catcher: Brian Foster, High Desert/Huntsville
First Base: Corey Hart, High Desert
Second Base: Elvis Pena, Huntsville
Third Base: D.J. Clark, High Desert
Shortstop: Steve Scarborough, Huntsville
Left Field: Izzy Alcantara, Indianapolis
Center Field: Dave Krynzel, High Desert
Right Field: Pete Zoccolillo, High Desert/Huntsville
Utility: Froilan Villanueva, Beloit/High Desert
Right Handed Starter: Ben Hendrickson, High Desert
Left Handed Starter: Derek Lee, Huntsville
Right Handed Reliever: Jack Krawczyk, Huntsville
Left Handed Reliever: Derrin Ebert, Indianapolis
Closer: Brian Mallette, Indianapolis

All-Minors Half-Season Second Team:
Catcher: Eli Alfonzo, High Desert/Huntsville
First Base: Brad Nelson, Beloit
Second Base: Ralph Santana, Beloit
Third Base: Rob Sasser, Indianapolisv Shortstop: J.J. Hardy, High Desert
Left Field: Brandon Gemoll, Beloit/High Desert
Center Field: Dan Boyd, Beloit
Right Field: Ryan Thompson, Indianapolis
Utility: Scott Candelaria, Beloit/High Desert
Right Handed Starter: Matt Yeatman, Beloit
Left Handed Starter: Jimmy Osting, Indianapolis
Right Handed Reliever: Tony Stavros, Beloit
Left Handed Reliever: Andy High, Huntsville
Closer: Roberto Giron, Huntsville

The All-Prospect Team consists of players that played in the first half of the season only. Also, some of their positions are different than the ones they played at for most of the first half, but in order to fit in everyone I wanted, some people had to be changed around. Players that were switched to different positions are capable of playing those positions.

All-Prospect Team:
Catcher: Eli Alfonzo, High Desert/Huntsville
First Base: Brad Nelson, Beloit
Second Base: Steve Scarborough, Huntsville
Shortstop: J.J. Hardy, High Desert
Third Base: Corey Hart, High Desert
Left Field: Bill Scott, Huntsville
Center Field: Dave Krynzel, High Desert
Right Field: D.J. Clark, High Desert
Utility: Froilan Villanueva, Beloit/High Desert
Starting Pitcher: Ben Hendrickson, High Desert
Starting Pitcher: Mike Jones, Beloit
Starting Pitcher: Matt Yeatman, Beloit
Starting Pitcher: Jose Garcia, Huntsville/Indianapolis
Starting Pitcher: Jimmy Osting, Indianapolis
Closer: Gerry Oakes, Beloit

Offensive Player Of The Week:
This week, an unexpected addition to the list of offensive players of the week. Beloit has had only one guy so far, but thanks to the recent exploits of second baseman Ralph Santana, they now have two. Last week, Santana broke out of a season-long slump and hit .464/.545/.571 over 28 at-bats. He had a double, a triple, five walks, three stolen bases and eight runs scored, all batting leadoff. He has hit much better since being given the everyday second base job, after Scott Candelaria was promoted. The 21 year old was taken in the 42nd round of the 2000 draft out of a Florida community college. He's 5'11, 165 and a switch hitter.
Last Week: D.J. Clark, 3B, High Desert
June 3rd: Steve Scarborough, SS, Huntsville
May 27th: Corey Hart, 1B, High Desert
May 20th: Brad Nelson, 1B, Beloit
May 13th: DJ Clark, 3B, High Desert
May 6th: Pete Zoccolillo, OF, High Desert
April 29th: Corey Hart, 1B, High Desert
April 22nd: Ryan Thompson, OF, Indianapolis
April 15th: Ryan Knox, OF, High Desert

Pitcher Of The Week:
The workhorse of the Huntsville staff finally gets his first pitcher of the week honor. Dave Pember, the stalwart of the Huntsville rotation, started two games last week, pitched 15.1 innings and only gave up 2 runs, for a 1.17 ERA. He went 1-1 in the two starts, giving up 13 hits and 5 walks, with 10 strikeouts. The big righthander leads the Stars with 4 victories, 74.1 innings pitched and 56 strikeouts. The 24 year old Pember was drafted in 8th round of the 1998 draft out of college, is 6'5 and 225 pounds.
Last Week: Luis Martinez. RP, Huntsville
June 3rd: Ben Hendrickson, SP, High Desert
May 27th: Jimmy Osting, SP, Indianapolis
May 20th: Derek Lee, SP, Huntsville
May 13th: Ryan Miller, SP, High Desert
May 6th: Doug Dent, SP, High Desert
April 29th: Justin Gordon, SP, High Desert
April 22nd: Brian Nielsen, SP, Beloit
April 15th: Andrew Lorraine, SP, Indianapolis


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Minor League Report: May 20th-May 26th
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Minor League Report: May 6th-May 12th
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Player Interview: Ben Hendrickson
Minor League Report: April 22nd-April 28th
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Roster Projections Revisited
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2002 Roster Projections
Season Wrap Part 3: Seasons in Review
Season Wrap, Part 2: The Awards Ceremony
State of the Minors
Minor League Midseason Report

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