COMMENTARY | On Feb. 28, we made the case for three outsiders to make the Milwaukee Brewers opening day 25-man roster. Now, we'll do the same for three minor league players who are currently with the big league squad down in Maryvile for spring training.
The Brewers' minor league system isn't very highly regarded around baseball, and it was decimated following the trades that brought C.C. Sabathia, Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. Still, the organization received a boost when it obtained three prospects from the Los Angeles Angels in return for Greinke at the trade deadline last season, and there are plenty of minor league players trying to make a name for themselves in the Cactus League down in Arizona.
Some young players are already in line to get an opportunity to contribute in 2013, and there are even more who have been career minor league players that could very well make the final roster. Let's get to know these prospects and build a case as to why they should make the 25-man roster by April 1.
RHP -- Johnny Hellweg
One of the three aforementioned pieces of the Greinke deal, Johnny Hellweg is a 6'9" right-handed hurler trying to make the club as a reliever. Last season, he pitched for Double-A Huntsville after starting 21 games with the Angels' Double-A affiliate and compiling a 3.38 ERA. But with Huntsville, Hellweg was used mainly out of the bullpen and it paid off as he put up a 2.70 ERA in his final 20 innings of the season.
Should Hellweg fail to make the big league team, he may be a starter in the minors, but that's clearly not something the 24-year-old is thinking about as he tears through hitters in exhibition play. In two appearances through Feb. 28, Hellweg has pitched four innings and allowed just one hit and no earned runs with three strikeouts.
Just like another up-and-comer, righty fireballer Michael Olmsted, Hellweg has never pitched higher than Double-A, but that shouldn't matter if Hellweg can continue to show that his command has improved. His electric fastball -- it sinks and has been clocked in the upper 90s -- makes him a solid candidate to come out of the 'pen, and he also features a curveball while he works on a change-up. It all comes down to control with Hellweg, so keep an eye on his walk total this spring.
OF -- Khris Davis
Last season, the Brewers held four outfielders for a majority of the season, but with Nyjer Morgan playing in Japan, they may want to keep two backups on the parent squad, especially with the injury-prone Carlos Gomez roaming in center. Khris Davis isn't someone many consider a candidate to make the 25-man roster because he has never been a very highly regarded prospect.
Davis is off to a slow start this spring, notching just two hits in 12 at-bats, although on Feb. 28 he hit a 2-run home run and all he has done in the minors is hit. The 25-year-old hit .350 and had a .451 on-base percentage between three levels last season, including a .310 average with Triple-A Nashville. Along with Caleb Gindl and Logan Schafer, Davis is knocking on the door for a full-time spot with the Brewers.
Being right-handed may hurt Davis since both Gindl and Schafer hit from the left side of the plate and the Brewers only have one left-handed hitter -- Norichika Aoki -- set to be in the opening day lineup. But Davis' power and ability to get on-base, which leads to a high OPS, are intriguing aspects of his game and could make him a nice option off the bench for Milwaukee.
OF -- Logan Schafer
Should the Brewers want a right-handed option off the bench in Davis and choose to keep five outfielders, then it would likely come down to Gindl and Schafer for the final spot. What gives Schafer an advantage is his excellent defensive ability, which could come in handy late in games for Milwaukee.
Schafer has also had success at the plate, and only one point separates Schafer (.294), Gindl (.293) and Davis (.294) when it comes to their career minor league batting averages. Unlike Davis, Schafer has been hitting the ball well this spring with an average of .455, and while he doesn't have as much power as Davis, the 26-year-old Schafer did hit 11 HRs last season with Nashville.
Gindl has a history of hitting well in the Cactus League, and is hitting .556 through Feb. 28, but his 5'9" height hurts his case in the end. Davis brings the power and Schafer brings the glove, and with all three having similar success at the plate throughout their minor league careers, not having a defining trait makes Gindl the odd-man out. Schafer has had a cup of coffee in the majors in 2011 and 2012, and appears next in line to get a March call-up rather than a September call-up this year.
Dave Radcliffe lives in a little known Milwaukee suburb and is a self-proclaimed Wisconsin sports expert who has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.
You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
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