The future success of every Major League team lies
largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind,
MLB.com is looking at the top 10 prospects from each farm
system, with only those who still maintain rookie status
entering 2011 being eligible.
With what right-hander Mark Rogers had been through, a little shoulder
stiffness in camp wasn't going to deter him.
The 2004 first-round Draft pick has been through two shoulder
surgeries, missed two full seasons and faced countless
doubts about whether he'd fulfill his big league dreams. And
despite the fact that he hasn't pitched in a Cactus League
game yet due to tightness in his shoulder, the Brewers'
No. 1 prospect is determined to be ready should the
club need him to begin the year in the rotation, with ace
Zack Greinke out of action with a fractured rib.
"There's the feeling when you first get drafted -- you feel
better than you've ever felt before in your life. You get
that golden opportunity," Rogers said. "Then, I went through [those] two years when I couldn't throw. When somebody takes
something away from you you've done your entire life, it was
really difficult for me. There were some times that I was [thinking],
'I don't know if I'm going to get back to that.' Playing
catch was a process for myself for a little while.
"I got to the point where it started feeling better and
better. I'm fortunate enough now where I don't think about
it anymore. I'm back to where I feel comfortable and
confident again. It was a long road back."
The 2010 season was the turning point. He made 25 starts in
the Minors, finishing with a 3.65 ERA and a .209 opponents' batting average, before making his Major League debut six years
after being drafted fifth overall in 2004.
"It was extremely satisfying," Rogers said. "It was more
rewarding now than if it was before any of this had
It certainly left him thirsting for more. The acquisitions
of Greinke and Shaun Marcum made the rotation more crowded,
but that wasn't something that was going to discourage
Rogers. Now, with Greinke's injury, there appears to be a
more obvious opening, however temporary, for the
"There was a time when I wasn't sure where I was going to be
in 2011," said Rogers, who barring any setbacks ,should be
ready to fill in for the Brewers in April. "Just to have the
opportunity to make what's going to be a very good team out
of Spring Training this year is a great chance for me.
Whether I go back to Triple-A and have a chance to maybe
help [Milwaukee] somewhere down the road would be really
rewarding, because I think we're going to be in it for a long
And Rogers thinks he will be, too -- something he wasn't always
100 percent sure of. He always knew he had what it took, but
admitted there were moments of doubt about getting the
opportunity to prove it.
"I always believed I could get here," Rogers said. "If I
didn't, I don't think I'd be here. I always believed I could
get here, but there were some times where you really
questioned it. There were some real low lows, but here I
Brewers' Top 10
1. Rogers, RHP: He's got a shot of at
least a temporary spot in the rotation with the injury to Greinke -- if he can get past his shoulder stiffness.
2. Wily Peralta, RHP: The 21-year-old right-hander
built on his Midwest League All-Star season in 2009 by
pitching at two levels last year. He threw a career-high 147
1/3 innings and held his own when he moved up to Double-A.
He has three pitches and just needs to refine his command a little
He could be ready to help soon.
3. Kyle Heckathorn, RHP: MLB.com's choice for Brewers
Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010, Heckathorn pitched
at two levels and led the system with a 2.98 ERA. His
sinker generates a lot of ground balls, though he didn't miss a
ton of bats. His breaking ball and changeup have a chance,
and they'll need to continue to improve if he wants to be a
starter. He'll keep working on his craft, likely beginning
the year back with Class A Brevard County.
4. Scooter Gennett, 2B: The Brewers took Gannett in
the 16th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, then signed him away from
Florida State. He
seemed more than worth it, as Gennett spent all year with
full-season Class A Wisconsin and hit .309 with surprising power
(.463 slugging percentage). He's a smart player who plays all-out, sort of
what you expect from a guy named Scooter. Now a second
baseman, he'll continue to improve at that position and
should be fine there as he moves up to the Florida State
League in 2011.
5. Amaury Rivas, RHP: Rivas has spent three years at full-season
stops and has been an All-Star in each. In
2010, he made the tough jump to Double-A, leading the
organization in victories (11) and finishing second to Heckathorn in
ERA (3.37). He has a terrific feel for pitching, which
allows his fastball-slider-changeup (the offspeed pitch is
his best) arsenal to play up. He'll move up to Triple-A in 2011
and could help out in Milwaukee when the need arises.
6. Eric Farris, 2B: The speedy second baseman was
slowed in 2010 by a knee injury that cost him two months and
some of his explosiveness. He seemed to be closer to the guy
who stole 70 bases in '09, when he went to the Arizona Fall
League, hit .351 and was 9-for-9 in steal attempts. He doesn't have
power but will do things like bunt to get on base, and his
defense at second is outstanding. Blocked by Rickie Weeks,
he'll likely return to Triple-A to wait for a chance.
7. Cody Scarpetta, RHP: The 11th-round pick in the
2007 First-Year Player Draft turned in his second consecutive solid full season,
finishing second in the system in strikeouts. He has
fanned 10.4 per nine innings throughout his career, a
testament of his outstanding stuff: a good fastball, a plus
curve and a decent changeup. The only thing eluding
Scarpetta has been consistent command, and he'll continue to
work on that as he moves up to Double-A.
8. Kentrail Davis, OF: The 2009 sandwich pick had to
take a step back to take a big step forward in 2010. He got
demoted from Brevard County down to Wisconsin but began to figure things out there, hitting .335 with a .421 on-base percentage and .518 slugging percentage in 64
games at the lower level. He can hit for average and get
on base. How much power he develops might determine
just how good of a prospect he is, especially playing an
outfield corner. He might get another shot at conquering the
Florida State League to begin 2011.
9. Tyler Thornburg, RHP: The 2010 third-rounder out
of Charleston Southern was hampered in his summer debut by a
minor injury, though he did show that Pioneer League hitters
were no match for him (.179 average against; 38 K's in 23 1/3 innings). He has a good fastball and outstanding curve. If his
changeup and command can improve, he could prove wrong those who
think his size means he's better suited for the bullpen and
be a starter long term. He'll serve in that role for his
first full season.
10. Jimmy Nelson, RHP: At his best, the 2010
second-round pick features a heavy fastball (he had a 3.00
groundout-flyout ratio in his brief pro debut last summer) and a good slider.
He has a changeup, but it needs work to catch up to the
other two pitches. He's big and durable and could be a workhorse in
the middle or back of a rotation. If the third pitch doesn't
come, he could have a future as a short reliever with his
other two offerings. Either way, he could be the type to
move fairly quickly, starting with a full-season assignment
Under the Radar
Erik Komatsu, OF: After a strong summer debut back in
2008, the eighth-rounder out of Cal State-Fullerton played
in just 26 games in '09 because of injuries. He bounced
back last year, leading the system with his .323 average and
finishing third with 28 steals. He draws a ton of walks
(.413 OBP last year) and could profile as a leadoff-type
down the road. After an All-Star turn in the Florida State
League last year, he'll try to make the jump to Double-A
Dan Merklinger, LHP: Normally a guy who leads your
organization in strikeouts and finishes seventh in ERA gets
more attention. Granted, Merklinger was taken back in 2007
in the sixth round and he'd never thrown over 100 innings in
a season before last year. But the southpaw tossed 143 innings last year,
mostly with Brevard County, and now has a career 9.5 K/9
ratio. At 25, he'll have to show he can succeed at a higher
level, something he'll get the chance to do in '11.
Hitter of the Year -- Gennett
He'll continue to live up to his name, playing hard while
leading the organization in batting average and continuing
to show surprising extra-base pop.
Pitcher of the Year -- Nelson
Heckathorn could walk away with his second straight award,
but here's a hunch that things will click for Nelson, as
he'll earn a promotion while topping the system in ERA.
Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMay
oB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.