COMMENTARY | As we near the end of the 2013 minor league baseball season, the Milwaukee Brewers will probe their farm system when the rosters expand in September.
Teams are allowed to have as many as 40 players on the roster throughout the final month of the regular season, and with none of Milwaukee's affiliates set to make the playoffs, it won't have to delay promoting prospects to the big league club.
Record-wise, it was an ugly year from top to bottom for the Brewers' minor league clubs. It's fitting, as Milwaukee sports one of the worst farm systems in baseball, but that doesn't mean there aren't some players that shined.
Besides, the Brewers are darn-near fielding a Triple-A team thanks to injuries, and that had a trickle-down effect on the performance of each level.
For the players that spent their time down on the farm, let's find out who is deserving of these unofficial and completely made-up awards:
Triple-A Nashville MVP: RHP Johnny Hellweg (11-5, 3.16 ERA)
For as badly as Hellweg struggled following his promotion to Milwaukee (0-3, 10.97 ERA), he showed what he's capable of down in Nashville, going 10-1 over his final 15 starts. The 24-year-old right-handed hurler throws gas but is far from a strikeout pitcher, which helps explain his alarming K/BB ratio (1.06).
But this selection is a no-brainer, as Hellweg was named the PCL Pitcher of the Year for 2013.
Hellweg relies on getting hitters to pound the ball into the ground, so he needs a good defense behind him. He didn't get that during his short stint with the Brewers earlier this season, but maybe his fortunes will turn in September.
Double-A Huntsville MVP: RHP Jimmy Nelson (5-4, 2.74 ERA, 4.80 K/BB)
Even though he nearly split his time down the middle with Nashville and Huntsville, there still wasn't anyone more valuable to the Stars' than Nelson.
He rocketed to the Brewers' No. 1 prospect slot, according to MLB.com, during the 2013 season and while he's encountered some bumps in the road at Triple-A (4-6, 3.94 ERA, 1.76 K/BB), he's still been the Sounds' second-best starting pitcher behind Hellweg. It remains to be seen if Nelson will join the Brewers in September, as he isn't currently on their 40-man roster.
High-A Brevard County MVP: RHP Tommy Toledo (4-2, 2.17 ERA, 19 SVs)
He's not even close to being one of Milwaukee's top prospects, but it was slim pickings for Brevard County's 2013 MVP, and Toledo was as reliable as they came for the Manatees. His performance has likely earned him an opening-day spot up in Double-A, as Toledo was one of the few bright spots this season in Brevard County.
Low-A Wisconsin MVP: OF Victor Roache (.325 OBP, 21 HRs, 72 RBIs)
There were several other promising players down in Appleton this season, but we'll give the nod to Roache, whose power is second-to-none in the Brewers' organization. There's no doubt that strikeouts are a concern with the 21-year-old, but it was merely his first year playing professional baseball. He'll continue to rise through the ranks not only in the farm system, but also on Milwaukee's prospect board.
Top performer from 2013 draft class: OF Michael Ratterree (.320/.398/.617, 12 HRs, 52 RBIs)
A 10th-round selection out of Rice University, Ratterree burst onto the scene with Helena in the Pioneer League, displaying an OPS over 1.000 in 56 games. He was blocked by Roache, Michael Reed and Tyrone Taylor at Low-A Wisconsin, but you can bet your bottom dollar you'll see him there at the start of the 2014 season.
Most promising prospect: Jimmy Nelson
When looking farther down the road, players like Taylor, Roache, 2013 second-round draft pick Devin Williams and shortstop Orlando Arcia come to mind because of their upside. But for the immediate future, Nelson is so important for the Brewers because of their pitching struggles. He, along with Hellweg, could be the guys to help stabilize Milwaukee's starting rotation as soon as next season.
Biggest surprise: OF Tyrone Taylor (.282/.345/.412, 8 HRs, 57 RBIs)
Not only is Taylor just 19 years old, but he also played just as well if not better than players selected ahead of him in the 2012 draft by the Brewers -- Roache, Mitch Haniger and Clint Coulter. And unlike Roache and Haniger, Taylor doesn't have that college experience to lean back on. His athleticism, wheels and bat speed have the Brewers excited for Taylor's future.
Biggest disappointment: C Clint Coulter (.260/.329/.432, 7 HRs, 35 RBIs)
Coulter's numbers don't look all that disappointing, but consider this -- he began the season with Low-A Wisconsin and is now in rookie league, and he was the Brewers' top pick in the 2012 MLB draft. With the Timber Rattlers, Coulter hit just .207 with 3 HRs and 13 RBIs in 33 games while battling injury.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
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