Brewers' farm system more than trade chips
Top prospects have brought in stars, but Milwaukee not sapped
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers officials drafted 51 new players this week and continued to dispel the notion that Milwaukee's talent pipeline is dry."We've been successful in developing young players, whether it's guys that we've traded or the number of guys in the big leagues," general manager Doug Melvin said. "Our scouting people do a good job of drafting, and we make a decision of whether to keep them for ourselves or to trade us to help us win and b e competitive -- highly competitive -- at the Major League level. "Every Draft is important. If you have one pick, it's important to hit on the pick. Every one is important." Melvin is aware that a number of national publications rank the Brewers' system near the bottom of the Major League rankings. Those rankings reflect the trades Melvin has made to improve the Major League club, from his blockbuster acquisition of left-hander CC Sabathia in July 2008 to last winter's trades for right-handers Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke. The Brewers parted with then-top prospect Matt LaPorta in the Sabathia deal, with top positional prospect Brett Lawrie for Marcum and top pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress for Greinke. Milwaukee officials don't regret any of those trades; Sabathia carried the Brewers to their first postseason appearance in a generation, and Marcum and Greinke sit atop a 2011 rotation that has pushed the Brewers back over .500. Melvin concedes that he had to spend some prospects to make those trades. But he strongly disputes those who say the Brewers' system has been left barren. "We've got more prospects than what people [say]," Melvin said. "We just don't go out and publicize it like other teams sometimes do." Amateur scouting director Bruce Seid tries not to look at those organizational rankings. "Yeah, I take it personally," Seid said. "I haven't seen every organization, but I do believe that we have some guys who are going to be Major League players, and quality ones. We've had a couple of guys who have been All-Stars in consecutive years at whatever level they're at, and I think that's overlooked. "From a perception standpoint, one or two guys may have their opinions and then others pile on. But we're able to withstand that perceived notion, and the reason why is we look at what's on the field. What's on the field was brought on by what we've done in scouting and player development. "You go in cycles, and our cycle was to develop this Major League team from what we've done over the last 10 years. By doing that, our farm system is a little lighter at the top, and it may be that we for a few more years. But we have infused a few players into the system in the last couple of years -- we had seven All-Stars on our two A-ball teams and [four] All-Stars from our Double-A team that was just announced. That's  All-Stars. Granted, which ones are going to end up being the cream of the crop? We don't know. But at least they're performing and showing some skills, and this Draft will add to the some of the depth that we do need." The Brewers had two first-round picks this year, because their top selection from 2010, prep right-hander Dylan Covey, did not sign, and they used both on polished college pitchers. Texas right-hander Taylor Jungmann went to the Brewers at No. 12 overall, and Georgia Tech left-hander Jed Bradley at No. 15. Texas is still alive in the NCAA Super Regional. The Longhorns begin a best-of-three series against Arizona State on Friday night. The hope, Melvin said, is that Jungmann and Bradley eventually sign and slide right into a group of pitchers already in the pipeline. It includes 2010 Draft picks Jimmy Nelson (second round) and Tyler Thornburg (third round) and '09 pick Kyle Heckathorn (supplemental first round), all three of whom are in MLB.com's version of the Brewers' Top 10 prospect list. The club is high on some other recent pitching picks, like 2010 eight-rounder Austin Ross and '09 fourth-rounder Brooks Hall. All of those players are in Class A and a couple of years shy of the Majors. The upper levels of the Brewers' Minor League pitching ranks are more thin, though the club likes Wily Peralta and Amaury Rivas. The consensus top prospect is right-hander Mark Rogers, who was briefly considered for the big leagues after Greinke cracked a rib in Spring Training. A minor setback with his surgically repaired shoulder removed Rogers from consideration, and he's had trouble this season with carpal tunnel syndrome in his right wrist. Peralta, Rivas and a healthy Rogers could all conceivably pitch for the Brewers in 2011 if needed. "When we look at what we have from a player development standpoint, we don't count just what we have in the system," Melvin said. "We count what's at the big league level down through the Minor League system. Our scouting staff, player development staff, have done a good job." On the positional side, the MLB.com top 10 Brewers prospect closest to the Majors is probably Triple-A second baseman Eric Farris, a superior defender who would step in should Rickie Weeks be lost for an extended period of time.