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Milwaukee Brewers: 5 Minor League Players to Keep an Eye on in 2013

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COMMENTARY | As soon as spring training comes to a close, the focus tends to shift away from those who failed to make the big league roster. During March and April, these players can make for a nice little story, but once opening day rolls around, the Milwaukee Brewers become the talk of the town - as they should.

But when the big league squad begins to struggle, that's when the attention can divert back to Triple-A Nashville. Already, starting pitching and the back-end of the bullpen haven't exactly instilled confidence in the Brewer fan base. It's still far too early to hit the panic button, but as the 2013 season progresses, there are five players to keep an eye on in Milwaukee's farm system.

RHP - Johnny Hellweg (24)

Acquired in the Zack Greinke deal from the Los Angeles Angels, Hellweg stands at a towering 6'9" and tried out for a spot in the Brewers' much-maligned bullpen. While he turned some heads with his upper 90s velocity this spring, control issues plagued Hellweg and it resulted in his move to Nashville.

Still, Hellweg struck out more hitters than he walked and had a 4.15 ERA in five appearances, which was actually an above average performance for a Brewers' pitcher in the Cactus League. Should John Axford continue to allow gopher balls and blow saves, Hellweg might be the answer.

RHP - Michael Olmsted (25)

Take everything we just said about Hellweg and apply it to Olmsted. He's huge (6'6", 245 pounds), touches the upper 90s with his fastball and needs to work on his accuracy moving forward. Like Hellweg early on this spring, Olmsted appeared to have an outside shot at making the final cut.

He begins the 2013 season at Nasvhille after striking out 15 hitters in 11 1/3 innings this spring and putting up a 4.76 ERA. His velocity and nasty slider make him a prime candidate to slide into the closer's role, or at least the Brewers' bullpen, at some point this season. Olmsted was claimed off waivers from the Boston Red Sox in the offseason and could wind up being a real steal for the organization.

1B - Hunter Morris (24)

Morris got a lot of pub this winter following his breakout performance at Double-A Huntsville last season, which earned him the Milwaukee Brewers' minor league player of the year award. Things got particularly interesting when both Corey Hart and Mat Gamel went down with knee injuries.

With Hart expected back at the beginning of May, the Brewers didn't see the point of using Morris at first for a short period of time and then either burying him on the bench or sending him down to Nashville. Morris also struggled this spring, only hitting .115, so he will begin the season in Triple-A.

Hart will be a free agent at season's end, so Morris might be the answer at first base next season. We'll see if he can build on his .303/28 HRs/113 RBIs performance from last season and stay on track to be the everyday first baseman for Milwaukee in 2014.

2B - Scooter Gennett (22)

Gennett has risen yearly in the Brewers' minor league system, and he begins the 2013 season at Nashville as a career .300 hitter. All he does is hit, and while he doesn't bring much power to the plate, he's a second baseman and shouldn't be expected to be the next Rickie Weeks.

In fact, he and Weeks couldn't be more polar opposites. Like Morris, Gennett shouldn't expect to see the field for Milwaukee this season, but he's very much in their future plans. Weeks could be out of the picture - or set for a position change - sooner rather than later because of his hefty contract and recent performance, so look for Gennett to continue producing and take the next step in a year or two.

RHP - Hiram Burgos (25)

The Brewers basically had four pitchers fighting for three rotation spots this spring, but should it have been five? Burgos was the best pitcher for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, helping it to the final round. He was also steady in the Cactus League, but rather overlooked by Milwaukee and sent to Nashville.

Perhaps that's because Burgos struggled prior to the 2012 season in the Brewers' system, but last season between three different levels - including Triple-A - Burgos was 10-4 with a 1.95 ERA. It sure seems like Burgos has figured it out on the mound.

Milwaukee will probably look at Chris Narveson or even Tyler Thornburg before Burgos should guys like Wily Peralta and Mike Fiers falter to start the season, but Burgos deserves just as much as anyone to get the call.

Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He 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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