The reports of the demise have been greatly exaggerated

Tom Haudricourt had this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday.

Brewers say farm system not depleted by trades

After the Milwaukee Brewers traded away several highly rated prospects to acquire starting pitchers Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke this off-season, some analysts suggested they had “gutted” their minor-league system.

Those who oversee the drafting and developing of players for the Brewers consider that assessment a bit harsh.

“I’m very tired of hearing that,” said scouting director Bruce Seid. “We have work to do, but our fans can feel good about what the future holds for the Brewers’ system down the road.  “A lot of them are down lower in the system at present, but we have more athletic, big arms in the system than at any other time I can remember.”

The Brewers acknowledge that they surrendered some of their best prospects to get Marcum from Toronto and Greinke from Kansas City in trades two weeks apart in December. Second baseman Brett Lawrie, a first-round draft pick in 2008 who was an advanced offensive player at age 20, returned to his native Canada in a one-for-one swap for Marcum.

Lawrie was slated to be ranked as the No.?1 prospect in the Brewers’ system for 2011 by Baseball America. When Lawrie was traded, right-hander Jake Odorizzi – a supplemental first-round pick in ’08 – was in line to move up from the No.?2 spot.

But Odorizzi didn’t last long as the heir apparent. The weekend before Christmas, he was included in the six-player deal with the Royals that netted Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Shortstop Alcides Escobar, the Brewers’ No. 1 prospect entering 2010, also went to Kansas City along with centerfielder Lorenzo Cain, No.?8 on the 2010 list, and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, a 2006 first-round pick slated to be the No. 3 prospect for 2011.

There’s no denying that the Brewers cut a wide swath through the top of their prospect list, but there were solid reasons they were willing to do so, not the least of which was improving a starting rotation that ranked near the bottom of the National League for two years.

The key takeaway quote from this article is this one from Gord Ash:

“We do have to be a development and scouting organization because we can’t go into the (free-agent) marketplace and sign whomever we want,” said assistant general manager Gord Ash.

“But that doesn’t mean you stockpile them. You use them to make your big-league team better, as (general manager) Doug (Melvin) has done. You can’t operate your farm system separate from your major-league club. There has to be a cooperative path between the two.

“If your team is positioned to win now, which ours is, you have to take advantage of that.”

Here are some names you may see on the back of Timber Rattlers jerseys in the near future.

Seid also thinks folks should keep an eye on four pitchers taken in the 2010 draft – Jimmy Nelson, Matt Miller, Austin Ross and third-rounder Tyler Thornburg, whose slight build and high-90s fastball has drawn comparisons to a younger Tim Lincecum.

“This past year, I’ve had several unsolicited compliments from player development directors, scouts and coaches who have seen these players we have infused into the system,” said Seid. “I respect those comments above anyone else who hasn’t seen these kids.

“These kids need time to develop, so patience is needed there. But some of these arms have front-line potential. There’s no way to predict what their roles will be in three to five years.  Time and development will reveal that, but I don’t remember us having this many power arms at one time.”

Time will tell.

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