Prior to the 2009 season, we identified 10 prospects to watch in the Brewers' farm system. Of those 10, five remain on the 2010 list.
Lorenzo Cain, OF: A knee injury set back Cain's progress in 2009 after a breakthrough 2008, during which he combined to hit .279 with 11 homers, 60 RBIs and 25 steals at three stops. A latecomer to baseball who didn't start playing until he was in his teens, he was a 17th-round draft-and-follow pick out of junior college in 2004. An exciting player with a high ceiling, he hit .218 with four homers and 19 RBIs in 60 games at Double-A Huntsville upon his return from injury. He has a strong arm, good makeup and plus power potential as well as solid speed.
Alcides Escobar, SS: Whether by coincidence or design, the Brewers' top shortstop prospect remains a rookie by one at-bat and as such is one of the preseason favorites for National League Rookie of the Year honors. A defensive whiz from Venezuela, his offense has caught up with his glove -- he hit .328 with 76 RBIs and 34 steals in 2008 and .298 with 42 steals at Triple-A Nashville in 2009 before batting .304 in his big league stint last September.
Brett Lawrie, 2B: A converted catcher and 2008 first-round pick out of Canada, he didn't make his pro debut until last summer since he spent his post-draft months playing at the Olympics. With a surplus of catchers in the system, the Brewers decided to move him to second base. A power hitter who once slugged five homers in an exhibition game, he batted .274 with 13 homers, 65 RBIs and 19 steals in his pro debut in '09, mostly at Class A Wisconsin but with a late jump to Double-A Huntsville. He hits to all fields with authority.
Angel Salome, C: Nicknamed "Pocket Pudge" for the cannon arm and muscular physique on a 5-foot-7, 200-pound frame, Salome's star fell a bit in 2009 as injuries brought his numbers down to .286 with six homers and 44 RBIs at Triple-A Nashville. In 2008, he won the Southern League batting title and finished fourth in the Minors, hitting .360 with 13 homers and 83 RBIs in 98 games at Huntsville. A line drive hitter who goes to all fields, he had his progress slowed by shoulder and back woes after hitting .415 at Rookie-level Helena in his 2005 pro debut.
Prospects to watch
|Lorenzo Cain, OF||Eric Arnett, RHP|
|Cutter Dykstra, OF||Zach Braddock, LHP|
|Alcides Escobar, SS||Lorenzo Cain, OF|
|Mat Gamel, 3B||Kentrail Davis, OF|
|Cole Gillespie, OF||Alcides Escobar, SS|
|Caleb Gindl, OF||Kyle Heckathorn, RHP|
|Jeremy Jeffress, RHP||Brett Lawrie, 2B|
|Brett Lawrie, 2B||Jonathan Lucroy, C|
|Jonathan Lucroy, C||Jake Odorizzi, RHP|
|Angel Salome, C||Angel Salome, C|
These five players were on our 2009 list but are not on the 2010 list, due to the loss of rookie status, trade, poor performance, injury, the addition of other prospects to the list, etc.
Cutter Dykstra, OF: The son of Lenny Dykstra was a 2008 second-round pick but had a disappointing first full season, hitting .234 with six homers, 33 RBIs and 18 steals in 90 games at Wisconsin before being sent down to Helena. He has the speed and extra power his dad had, but he's played a game of musical positions, not quite settling in anywhere between second base and the outfield.
Mat Gamel, 3B: One of the top hitters in the Minors in 2008, the 23-year-old combined between Huntsville and a brief taste of Nashville to bat .325 with 20 homers and 99 RBIs. His 99 runs scored and 172 hits both ranked seventh in the Minors as he was named the organization's Minor League Player of the Year. Though he has not yet surpassed the maximum at-bats for rookie eligibility, he has expended the 45-day service time (excluding September), which is why he drops off the list after hitting .242 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 61 games in the big leagues in 2009.
Cole Gillespie, OF: Gillespie was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks with reliever Roque Mercedes in the deal for infielder Felipe Lopez. He had combined to hit .273 with 13 homers, 63 RBIs and 18 steals before the trade.
Caleb Gindl, OF: A 2007 fifth-round pick, Gindl worked his way onto this list last year by winning the Pioneer League batting title in his pro debut, hitting .372 at Helena. He batted .307 with 13 homers and 81 RBIs at West Virginia in his full-season debut in 2008 and his numbers continued to impress last year at Brevard County, where he hit .277 with 17 homers and 71 RBIs. But he just missed keeping his slot on the list for 2010.
Jeremy Jeffress, RHP: It may be too early to give up on the flame-throwing 2006 first-round pick. Jeffress is still only 22, but after several suspensions for a "drug of abuse" (think of careers going up in smoke), he is serving a 100-game ban and is one positive test away from a lifetime suspension. His fastball has been clocked at 100 mph, so one can only hope that at this time next year we will be telling a great comeback story.
The following five players are new additions to the Brewers' Prospects to Watch list.
Eric Arnett, RHP: The Brewers' 2009 first-round pick, taken 26th overall out of Indiana, Arnett was used sparingly last summer after throwing a lot of innings for the Hoosiers. He completed five innings only once in 14 appearances, and his velocity, mechanics and command were all inconsistent. When on, he has a fastball in the low 90s with plus sink and clean arm action. His slider has potential, but he needs to work on locating it better. At Helena, he posted a 4.41 ERA and fanned 35 over 34 2/3 innings, walking 21.
Zach Braddock, LHP: Braddock missed time in 2009 due to injuries, but when active he flashed one of the best arms in the system and could be a quick riser in 2010. Between Brevard County and Huntsville, he posted a 1.79 ERA and struck out 62 while walking only seven in 40 1/3 innings, limiting opponents to a .193 average. A move to the bullpen allowed him to really take off with a mid-90s fastball and sharp slider.
Kentrail Davis, OF: The 2009 supplemental first-rounder, taken 39th overall out of Tennessee, will make his pro debut this spring after signing late. Standing 5-foot-9 at 200 pounds, he's a left-handed hitter with a quick bat, good speed and raw power to go with overall athleticism.
Kyle Heckathorn, RHP: The second player taken out of Kennesaw State last year (teammate Chad Jenkins went in the first round), the supplemental first-round pick stands 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds and offsets his power stuff with a plus slider. He's still learning how to use his whole repertoire and could be a back end of the bullpen guy in the long run.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP: A 2008 supplemental first-rounder, taken 32nd overall out of high school, Odorizzi posted a 3.48 ERA in his debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Last year, he moved up to short-season Helena, where he had a 4.40 ERA in 12 games, striking out 43 batters and walking nine over 47 innings. Just 19, he throws a fastball in the low 90s and a slider and is working on a curve and changeup. He has good mechanics and is a good athlete with a high upside.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.