With keen resourcefulness in 2008 and 2011, the Milwaukee Brewers defied market size in an uncapped sport by making the playoffs. First, they developed a bountiful farm system from which Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Yovani Gallardo and Jonathan Lucroy more or less came of age at the same time. And then they acquired two of the best pitchers of this generation, CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke, for seven prospects, six of whom had been drafted and developed by the same abundant system. While the ends absolutely justified the means in both cases, the Brewers will never be able to trade for pitchers like those again until their farm system is replenished. And they won't be in a position to make those earth-shaking moves until they begin developing their own pitchers and everyday guys to elevate the big-league club to the point that such blockbusters are defensible. Struggling as they are now with starting pitching and waiting for a difference-making player to arrive via Nashville, the Brewers are caught in one of those inevitable small-market down cycles. The only way out is to begin growing their own down on the farm once more. When Braun and Fielder were racing to the majors, the publications that evaluate such things pretty much unanimously had the Brewers' farm system as the best in all of baseball. In the last couple of years, the same publications downgraded the Brewers to dead last. Is it possible that a farm system could dry up that quickly? It only takes a couple of high-profile cases to shape perceptions. The 2009 first-round pick, right-hander Eric Arnett, never advanced past Class A before undergoing reconstructive knee surgery this past spring. The 2010 first-round pick, right-hander Dylan Covey, did not sign after it was discovered he had type-1 diabetes. Those were high-profile mistakes, the kind that can also skew the big picture in a superficial way. It also didn't help the farm system's image when right-hander Tyler Thornburg, the third-round pick from 2010, was promoted with high expectations last year. Now he's 0-6 with a 6.99 ERA in Nashville, but the hope lies in the fact that he is striking out more than one per inning. So where is the reality on the Brewers' farm system? While there are not enough legitimate prospects at the high level to make it immediately serviceable, it's safe to say that it is not nearly as dire down there as it has been portrayed. First baseman Hunter Morris and second baseman Scooter Gennett from Nashville are going to fill the right side of the Brewers' infield sooner than later. They are the can't-miss guys in the system. Two years after he was made the Brewers' No. 1 pick out of the University of Texas, right-hander Taylor Jungmann remains somewhat inconsistent at Class AA Huntsville, but he is learning to get hitters out with his fastball and changeup. Ariel Pena's 2.77 ERA at Huntsville has been notable. At Class A Brevard County, a pitcher worth keeping an eye on is David Goforth, the seventh-round pick out of the University of Mississippi in 2011. The Brewers envisioned him as a reliever because his velocity is consistently between 94 and 98 mph. But because he is developing a curveball and a slider, Goforth is now possibly being viewed as a hard-throwing starter.
Brewers farm system isn't as bad as you might think
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | May 28