Prospects in baseball are never a sure thing. Some high draft choices never live up to their tremendous potential, while low draft picks turn out to be stars. Other times, players can dominate the minor league for years, but they only amount to AAAA players who can never put it together at the major league level. Here is a look at the Brewers’ AAAA prospects.
In 1999, it looked like the Brewers had all the makings of a lights-out rotation at single-A Beloit. In the 1998 draft, the Brewers picked up first rounder J.M. Gold and Nick Neugebauer with their second pick. At just 18 years old, Neugebauer already had a blazing mid-90s fastball which allowed him to earn 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings over his first professional season. He flew up the charts making it all the way to the majors by 2001 and becoming one of the game’s top twenty prospects.
In his first big league start, Neugebauer shut down the opposition just like he often did in his minor league career. Though he went just five innings, Neugebauer struck out nine Reds batters and allowed only one earned run in route to his first big league win. In his next start however, four days later, Neugebauer had to leave after only an inning’s worth of work due to injury. After pitching sparingly the next season, Neugebauer was continually plagued with arm injuries, which eventually forced the one-time phenom into an early retirement.
The Brewers selected Dave Krynzel with the 11th pick of the 2000 draft. Krynzel was a five-tool talent who was expected to take over the Brewers outfield and leadoff position with his blazing speed. Instead of taking over, Krynzel stumbled through the minor leagues. After a very successful first season in rookie level Ogden, Krynzel was never able to have a season in which he hit above .300 the rest of the way. During three seasons of minor league ball, he was able to have 40 plus steals. However, he was never able to get on base consistently enough to be a threat.
In Milwaukee, Krynzel only had 48 at-bats. Often he was used only as a pinch hitter or a pinch runner. He is a prime example of a player with all of the tools to be a successful big league player, but was over powered once he reached the major league level.
Mat Gamel did everything that an organization could ask a minor leaguer to do while part of the Brewers. He put together solid offensive seasons, and made several position changes to work towards helping the club at the big league level. Gamel was able to have multi-20 plus homeruns seasons and was a .304 career minor league hitter. Yet, these factors never worked in his favor at the big league level.
With positions road-blocked by veterans, Gamel spent years in the minors that could have been played at big league level. When positions finally opened up, Gamel landed on the disabled list two years in a row with a torn ACL. These injuries cost him his spot with the Brewers. As he attempted to make it back to the majors with the Braves this season, Gamel again hurt his knee. Sadly, it appears that this once bright young stars career is over.
Ben Hendrickson is the greatest example of an AAAA player with the Brewers. When he pitched in the minor leagues, he was dynamite. Over his entire minor league career, Hendrickson put up a 3.69 ERA. These numbers are even lower if only his time in the Brewers system is included. He put up his best season in 2004 when he went 11-3 in AAA Nashville, with a 2.02 ERA.
His numbers as a big-leaguer are nowhere near his impressive minor league numbers. In 12 starts as a Brewer, Hendrickson went 1-10 with an enormous 7.41 ERA. With each start the ball was pounded around Miller Park as the righty struggled with his command. Though he was an all-star minor leaguer, Hendrickson was never able to become a mainstay in the Brewers rotation.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference