GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When Nashville Sounds officials visited Maryvale Baseball Park recently, a reporter asked them to recall the last time that club had such a prospect-rich pitching rotation.
They pondered. It was probably before 2004, when the Sounds were a Pirates affiliate.
"We're probably a little deeper in pitching right now," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "That goes in cycles."
The current cycle has some intriguing arms right at the top of Milwaukee's farm system. By the third week of April, the Triple-A sounds will have three bona fide prospects making starts -- Wily Peralta (No. 1 on MLB.com's list of the Top 20 Brewers prospects), former first-round Draft pick Mark Rogers and the savvy Mike Fiers. Rogers will miss Nashville's first eight games while finishing a drug suspension levied last season.
That Sounds rotation also includes former Brewer Seth McClung, plus newcomer Brian Baker, holdover Josh Butler and reliever Zack Braddock, who could make some "piggyback" starts in an effort to regain arm strength and velocity.
With the Minor League season getting under way, fans can keep track of the Brewers' top prospects throughout the year on Prospect Watch. And get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of the Brewers' Minor League teams on the team's affiliates page.
Melvin has lobbied hard on behalf of the Brewers' pitching prospects in recent years, trying to counter the notion that the team is thin in that key area.
And this year's assignments do show signs of promise. Double-A Huntsville has prospects Tyler Thornburg (No. 4 on the MLB.com list), Cody Scarpetta (No. 18), Santo Manzanillo (No. 19) and Kyle Heckathorn. Advanced Class A Brevard County has 2011 first-round Draft picks Jed Bradley (No. 2) and Taylor Jungmann (No. 3), plus fellow prospects Brooks Hall, Jimmy Nelson (No. 8) and Austin Ross.
Class A Wisconsin has David Goforth (No. 11). Another 2011 Draft pick, Jorge Lopez (No. 16) will probably open at rookie-level Helena.
where to watch
A look at where the Brewers' Top 20 prospects are starting the 2012 season:
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
"I'm more encouraged with what we see, guys who have a chance to be Major League pitchers," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, who either hosted many of those arms in big league camp or borrowed Minor Leaguers to work the late innings of Cactus League games.
Roenicke was particularly impressed with the stuff and poise displayed by Bradley and Jungmann, the Brewers' co-first-round picks in last year's Draft.
"I don't want to say what's happened in the past because I wasn't here," Roenicke said, "but just looking from last year what I saw to this year, I like what I see this year."
Nashville was 71-73 last season but should be better in 2012 with the stacked pitching staff and so many hitters returning to what was a potent offense. They include third baseman Taylor Green (No. 5 on MLB.com's list), Milwaukee's 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, top outfield prospects Logan Schafer (No. 7) and Caleb Gindl (No. 15). All have a chance to play in the big leagues in 2012.
Double-A Huntsville also has some hitters to watch, including second baseman Scooter Gennett (No. 6), outfielders Kentrail Davis (No. 9), Khris Davis (No. 13) and Brock Kjeldgaard (No. 14), plus first baseman Hunter Morris (No. 10).
Debuts and Draftees
Both Bradley and Jungmann were advanced collegiate pitchers, so they're starting the season at pitcher-friendly Brevard County, only three steps from the Major Leagues. Each made a pair of appearances in Cactus League games and had a few weeks to soak up big league camp.
"It's just a little more experience to put under your belt," Bradley said.
Class A Wisconsin was burned by what Melvin called a couple of "tough injuries" in mid-March, when slugging first baseman Nick Ramirez (hamate) and outfielder Max Walla (fractured finger) went down with injuries that will put them on the disabled list to start the season. Ramirez, a fourth-round Draft pick last year who hit 11 home runs in his first 59 professional games, was hurt on a swing with Melvin watching from the other side of the fence.
Teams on TV
The Nashville Sounds and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2012 MiLB.TV package will include more than 2,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.