The Milwaukee Brewers' farm system hasn't received much recognition nationally in recent years, but it was a good sign that the organization felt compelled to protect five prospects on its 40-man roster.
To prevent them from being snatched away by other clubs in the Rule 5 draft of unprotected players in December, the Brewers added right-handers Hiram Burgos and Nick Bucci, outfielders Khris Davis and Josh Prince, and second baseman Scooter Gennett. The moves left Milwaukee with 39 players on its 40-man roster.
"They've all excelled at various times over the course of the season at different levels," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Probably even more important than that are the tools and ability they possess. We didn't want to lose any of the five."
Prince, a third-round pick in 2009 out of Tulane, practically forced the Brewers to protect him with a banner campaign in the Arizona Fall League, where he opened eyes by batting .404 -- the second-highest mark in the circuit. A converted shortstop, Prince, 24, batted .251 in 137 games with Class AA Huntsville in 2012.
"That performance certainly put him over the top," Ash said. "He was the talk of the league, and every scout from every team passes through there at some point. It's hard to minimize that kind of performance."
Burgos, 25, soared from high Class A Brevard County to Huntsville to Class AAA Nashville this year, fashioning a 10-4 record along the way with a 1.95 ERA in 28 games (27 starts). He was named the Brewers' minor league pitcher of the year.
"He has great command, and without overpowering stuff, he still has a knack for missing bats (153 strikeouts in 171 innings)," Ash said. "It's hard to explain. He has command of the strike zone and a real knack for getting out of trouble as well. Those are some of the intangibles you look for in a pitcher."
Bucci, 22, missed much of the 2012 season with a strained muscle behind his pitching shoulder, but he is considered one of the best arms in the system. He went 2-2 with a 1.99 ERA in six starts for Brevard County before being assigned to the Arizona Fall League.
Davis, 24, a seventh-round pick in 2009, spent time on the disabled list with a leg injury but made a big impression while splitting time between Huntsville and Nashville. At those two stops, he batted .350 in 82 games with 15 homers and 52 RBI.
"He's a tremendous offensive player," said Ash. "The ability is there, and in the American League, it's easy to carry an extra hitter (as a Rule 5 pick). His bat is close to being big-league-ready. We didn't want to lose him."
Gennett, 22, has been one of the Brewers' top prospects since being taken in the 16th round of the 2009 draft out of high school, making all-star teams in each of his three seasons and playing in the 2012 All-Star Futures Game. In 133 games at Huntsville this year, the 5-foot-9 former shortstop batted .293 with 30 doubles, two triples, five homers and 44 RBI.