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Brewers Top 10 Prospects

By Drew Olson
February 3, 2003

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Prospect Handbook
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During the darkest days of their worst season, Brewers officials looked upon their improving farm system as a source of inspiration and encouragement. When you think about it, what choice did they have?

Though the sometimes leaky roof above Miller Park was a source of embarrassment and frustration, it was no match for what went happened on the field: 106 losses, a 10th straight losing season, two managerial changes, an All-Star Game debacle and the unpopular decision to sit shortstop Jose Hernandez in the final week to avoid having him set the major league record for strikeouts.

Under those bleak circumstances, positive reports about minor leaguers provided a welcome diversion. They weren’t enough, however, to prevent a sweeping organizational overhaul. During the final week of the regular season, Wendy Selig-Prieb, the daughter of commissioner Bud Selig, stepped down as club president and was replaced by Ulice Payne Jr. On the same day, general manager Dean Taylor was fired and replaced by former Rangers GM Doug Melvin, who later brought assistant Gord Ash and farm director Reid Nichols along as aides in his attempt to turn things around.

The first two years of Taylor’s tenure coincided with the final year in County Stadium and the first year at Miller Park, which meant he faced pressure to win immediately while trying to rebuild a farm system haunted by first-round busts such as Antone Williamson and Chad Green. That double play is virtually impossible to turn.

Taylor’s most positive legacy is that the farm system is in better shape than when he came aboard in 1999. That’s thanks primarily to scouting director Jack Zduriencik, who was retained by Melvin. Taylor also peddled veterans in the weeks before his exit, adding prospects such as lefthanders Wayne Franklin and Shane Nance, righthanders Ben Diggins and Pedro Liriano, infielders Keith Ginter and Johnny Raburn, and outfielder Chris Morris.

Under Taylor, the Brewers also aggressively promoted their top prospects. In order to show disgruntled fans a youth movement indeed was under way, he promoted a handful of young players to the big leagues in September. By then, it was too late.

With a four-year contract and a solid track record in player development, Melvin may choose to let players develop at a slower pace. If he succeeds, he may owe a debt to Taylor and the glaring reality that Brewers’ fortunes can’t sink much lower.

Top Prospects
Of The Past Decade

1993 Tyrone Hill, lhp
1994 Jeff D'Amico, rhp
1995 Antone Williamson, 3b
1996 Jeff D'Amico, rhp
1997 Todd Dunn, of
1998 Valerio De Los Santos, lhp
1999 Ron Belliard, 2b
2000 Nick Neugebauer, rhp
2001 Ben Sheets, rhp
2002 Nick Neugebauer, rhp


Prospect Archives

1999 Top 10 Prospects
2000 Top 10 Prospects
2001 Top 10 Prospects
2002 Top 10 Prospects
• Top 10 Prospects Since 1983
• Top Prospects for all 30 teams
1. Brad Nelson, 1b

Age: 20. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS–Algona, Iowa, 2001 (4th round). Signed by: Harvey Kuenn Jr./Larry Doughty.

Background: Nelson was considered one of the top high school power hitters in 2001, and he put on an impressive batting-practice display during a predraft workout for the Brewers. He also excelled at various talent showcases, even showing a low-90s fastball from the mound, but he nevertheless lasted until the fourth round of the draft. He failed to homer in 105 at-bats in Rookie ball that summer. Well, his adjustment to wood bats is over. A strong Iowa farmboy, Nelson led the minors with 49 doubles and 116 RBIs. He punished pitchers throughout the season, though he seemed to run out of gas a little after he was promoted to high Class A High Desert at age 19.

Strengths: Nelson is the best all-around hitter in the system. He has good actions at the plate and has earned comparisons to Sean Casey, though Nelson should hit for more power. Managers rated Nelson, and not Marlins slugger Jason Stokes, as the top power hitter in the low Class A Midwest League. While scouts disagreed, they said Nelson had better pop to the opposite field. Few players can drive the ball as far the other way as Nelson can. His willingness to use the entire field enabled him to put up a strong first full season despite his youth and experience against inferior high school competition. Nelson’s arm remains strong and he has good hands, though each is less of an asset at first base than it was when he played third base as an amateur. Class A Beloit manager Don Money considered Nelson a favorite because of his attitude and work ethic.

Weaknesses: Pitchers will be loathe to challenge Nelson, so Money encouraged him to work the strike zone and take more walks. That lesson hasn’t taken yet, at least not to the extent needed. Nelson lacks speed and range, which prompted his move from the hot corner and makes him no more than an ordinary defender. He has a thick body and will have to work to stay in shape, though no one questions his willingness to do so.

The Future: Nelson probably will return to the California League at the start of 2003 and could reach Miller Park as early as 2005. The big question is where he’ll fit into Milwaukee’s lineup. A move to left field could be in Nelson’s future.

2002 Club (Class)

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

Beloit (A)

.297

.353

.520

417

70

124

38

2

17

99

34

86

4

High Desert (A)

.255

.333

.451

102

24

26

11

0

3

17

12

28

0

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