On the Cusp: Milwaukee Brewers
Former first-rounders Knebel, Jungmann may get work out of bullpen
In this series, Bernie Pleskoff takes a team-by-team look at which top prospects are poised to make a contribution at the big league level in 2015.
In the coming season, the Brewers are a club that will rely mostly on seasoned veterans. Newly-acquired infielder Luis Sardinas exceeded his rookie limit last year, as did starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson.
While there may be a slight peppering of rookie prospects mixed in during the coming year, chances are many of the top prospects will debut in subsequent years.
Here are the Brewers prospects I think have a chance to make an impact in Milwaukee in 2015, listed by their rankings in the Brewers' Top 20 Prospects list.
Corey Knebel | RHP | 6-foot-3, 195 pounds | No. 8
If there's room for Brewers prospects this coming season, the bullpen may be the place. Knebel offers the team a big, strong power pitcher with a history of being a closer at the University of Texas at Austin. Signed as a first-round pick by the Tigers in 2013, Knebel came to the Brewers from the Texas Rangers along with Sardinas and Marcos Diplan in the Yovani Gallardo deal. It marked the second time Knebel was traded. The first was from Detroit to Texas in a deal that included Joakim Soria going to the Tigers from the Rangers.
Pitching downhill from his long frame, Knebel can throw his fastball at 98 mph. He supplements that pitch with an effective curveball and a changeup that still needs refinement. His fastball/curveball combination works well as long as he commands both pitches. Command was his main issue this past season. He walked almost five hitters per nine innings while pitching at Double-A Erie (Tigers), Triple-A Round Rock (Rangers) and Triple-A Toledo (Tigers). Knebel has the ability to strike out hitters, but if he falls behind in counts, he gets in trouble. He may need time to refine his control and command against Minor League hitters, but he could find his way to the Majors as a late-season callup.
Taylor Jungmann | RHP | 6-foot-6, 210 pounds | No. 11
Jungmann was the Brewers' 2011 first-round selection. Like Knebel, Jungmann pitched for the University of Texas at Austin. Having just turned 25, he has time to continue his development. However, he may be needed on the big league club at some point during the year. Inconsistency has been an issue to this point. If he finds the correct release point in that huge frame, he's fine. However, repeating his delivery and throwing strikes remain a bit of a challenge. Trading greater sink on his fastball for a bit less velocity, Jungmann has the potential to induce ground balls. He also throws a good slider and a mediocre changeup. To reach his potential, he has to reduce his walk rate.
David Goforth | RHP | 5-foot-10, 205 pounds | No. 18
I saw lots of Goforth in the 2013 Arizona Fall League, where he pitched very effectively out of the bullpen. A potential closer, Goforth has a solid 93- to 98-mph fastball with late life. He also throws a cutter and a curveball. Calm and collected, he doesn't get rattled easily. He will be more effective if he throws more strikes with less effort. His walk rate has been on the high side throughout his career, but he gets the job done. With his stuff, one would expect him to be a high strikeout pitcher. That simply is not the case.
Juan Centeno | C | 5-foot-9, 195 pounds | (unranked)
A native of Puerto Rico, the left-handed-hitting Centeno was claimed off waivers from the New York Mets last October. He played in 10 games for New York in 2014 and saw action in four games in '13. He is known as a very good defensive catcher with a good arm. Having turned 25 in November, Centeno has time to continue to refine an increasingly impressive hit tool. Sporting a lifetime batting average of .275 in the Minors, his last three seasons on the farm have featured strong offensive production. He punishes right-handed pitching, which may make him even more attractive. Given the Brewers' very solid catching corps of All-Star Jonathan Lucroy (now injured) and the very capable Martin Maldonado, Centeno may provide a good insurance policy if another catcher is needed.
Note: Right-hander Johnny Hellweg (No. 12) had Tommy John surgery in April 2014. He may be fully recovered and ready to contribute by mid-season.
Others to watch: LHP Jarret Martin (No. 19), RHP Michael Blazek , 3B Jason Rogers