With Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg graduated to the big leagues, the Brewers have a new top prospect.
He is 24-year-old, 6-foot-5 right-hander Jimmy Nelson, the team's second-round Draft pick in 2010 who has ascended to the top of the list by excelling this season at Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville. In his first 19 starts between the two levels, Nelson pitched to a 2.93 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning.
Nelson has also limited opponents' free passes. After a promotion to Double-A Huntsville last season, he had 42 strikeouts versus 37 walks. This season, he has 108 strikeouts versus 41 walks.
"I walked too many guys toward the second half of the season," Nelson said. "It was mechanical, a little mental and also physical, just being healthy and stuff.
"This year, I just have the mentality that I'd rather give up a ground-ball hit than a walk. Make the other guy earn it. More times than not, you'll see that you'll go deeper in games, your pitch count will be lower."
Nelson was the Brewers' lone representative at the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game in New York, throwing a scoreless inning in the U.S. team's win against a World squad. He will have to be added to Milwaukee's 40-man roster after this season, so Nelson is a prime candidate for a September callup if he is not needed in the Majors before then.
Five players earned the Major League service they needed to graduate from our preseason prospects rankings, including the Brewers' former top two: Peralta and Thornburg.
Peralta has had the most encouraging season by far, pitching to a 4.30 ERA in his first 21 starts with particularly encouraging results in his last six outings, a stretch in which he has gone 3-1 with a 0.87 ERA. He has delivered three straight quality starts, including a three-hit shutout for the Brewers' first complete game in more than 400 games. After a very shaky start to his big league career, the hard-throwing sinkerballer looks like he could be a No. 1 or 2 starter after all.
"He has that ability," manager Ron Roenicke said. "The difference is going to be the mental side of it. Is he able to really run his own ballgame? Is he able to bounce back when he has a bad inning? The good ones, they all do it."
Thornburg remains stuck in limbo, currently pitching in long relief for the Brewers with a future still unknown. Will he be good enough to start in the big leagues? Could he be a closer? Somewhere in-between? Roenicke said the club is still deciding.
No. 12 prospect Logan Schafer, 16th-ranked Khris Davis and 17th-ranked Caleb Gindl also graduated to the big league club. All three outfielders will vie for playing time down the stretch in the wake of Ryan Braun's suspension.
Six players off the preseason list means six new faces, a list headed by the newest player in the Brewers' farm system.
No. 5 on the updated prospects list is third baseman Nick Delmonico, who just arrived this week as the 21-year-old, left-handed-hitting price paid by the Orioles for former Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez. The Brewers have coveted Delmonico for years, all the way back to the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, when he was regarded as a supplemental first-round talent who fell to the sixth round because of signability concerns. His father, Rod, was the head baseball coach at the University of Tennessee and is a friend of Brewers first base coach Garth Iorg.
brewers' top prospects
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin asked for Delmonico three weeks ago and was told he was not available. When the market for K-Rod heated up, the Orioles changed their mind and made the deal.
"There was enough traffic on K-Rod that we were able to extract what we consider a good player who still has to develop," Melvin said. "A good player who has a chance to be a Major League player."
Also new to the Brewers' list are 2013 second-round pick Devin Williams, a high school right-hander ranked ninth, and competitive balance round pick Tucker Neuhaus, an infielder ranked 13th.
"Williams was much higher on our board than where we picked him," Melvin said. "Some teams take a lot of college players, some teams [have varying numbers of selections]. It's all over the board when it comes to that. But we liked both of these guys. They were talked about a lot."
The other new members of the Brewers' Top 20 list are right-handers David Goforth (No. 17) and Jorge Lopez (No. 18), and shortstop Yadiel Rivera (No. 20).
The biggest climber and faller on the Brewers' list moved 11 spots apiece - outfielder Tyrone Taylor up 11 spots to No. 4 and left-hander Jed Bradley down 11 spots to No. 16. Taylor, a 16th round pick in 2012, has risen to become the Brewers' top position prospect on MLB.com's list with a strong season at Class A Wisconsin, where he has a batting average just shy of .300 and an on-base percentage near .360. Even Roenicke, who has been fighting fires with the big league club, has taken note of Taylor's plate discipline.
Bradley is moving in the other direction. After battling a groin injury last season, he is pitching to better numbers this season but has lacked the velocity the Brewers expected when they made the left-hander one of their two first-round Draft picks in 2012.
Top 100 representation
The Brewers have only one player on MLB.com's list of the top 100 prospects in baseball -- Nelson at No. 96 -- and the team's farm ranks 29th out of 30 clubs, in terms of "prospect points," which is a scoring system that awards 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 points to the team with the No. 2 prospect, and so on. That fits the widely held perception that Milwaukee's system is weak, something Melvin and amateur scouting director Bruce Seid have worked hard to dispute.
"From Triple-A on down to our Low-A team, we have anywhere from two to four guys at each level that have a chance to be Major League pitchers," Seid said after this year's Draft. "I'm confident in our development, I'm confident with the guys we're sending out, and I think we are definitely strengthening the system."