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Most Improved Farm Systems for 2016

I am still catching up on a few things from my Christmas Hiatus.  One of the articles that I wanted to share was this Jonathan Mayo piece on the most improved farm systems in baseball.  The Brewers made his list.  Here is what he had on Milwaukee:

The best deal for the Brewers may have been the one they didn’t make at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. When the reported trade sending Carlos Gomez to the Mets fell through, they ended up making an even better deal, at least in terms of rebuilding their farm system, with the Astros. It brought in four prospects that landed in their Top 30, including Top 100 prospects Domingo Santana (since graduated) and Brett Phillips. Josh Hader should join them after a strong season and even stronger Arizona Fall League campaign. Adrian Houser threw well following the trade, too.

Zach Davies came in a Deadline deal as well, from Baltimore in return for Gerardo Parra, and he made six starts in the big leagues at the end of the year. That gave the Brewers immediate return in both deals, with Davies and Santana both looking like members of the 2016 Opening Day roster, along with some future star-caliber prospects.

Smaller deals at the start of the year (Yovani Gallardo) and at the very end (Jason Rogers) also netted Top 30-caliber prospects, but aside from the Gomez deal, it was the 2015 Draft that has helped restock the prospect shelves the most. The successful haul brought in four Top 30 players, with the Brewers getting high-ceiling talent like Trent Clark and Demi Orimoloye as well as intriguing college arms like Nathan Kirby (a first-round talent who had injury issues) and Cody Ponce. Add in the advancement of homegrown players like Orlando Arcia and Jorge Lopez and the Brewers have turned around their pipeline as quickly as any team.

Appleton Baseball Birthdays – January 9:
Ken Cloude – 41

Ken Cloude was a member of the 1995 Timber Rattlers.

Ken Cloude was a member of the 1995 Timber Rattlers.

Flashback Friday Supplemental – January 8, 2016

To see the main Flashback Friday for this week, follow this link to the Timber Rattlers website.

I wanted to supplement this week’s entry with a column and a few notes on the Seattle Mariners exhibition game that was rained out.  Plus, there are a few photos from the front page of The Post-Crescent that I wanted to share in a fuller size…speaking of…Click the images for full size.

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Here is a better look at the photo of Junior signing for the fans before the rain:

mariner exhibition 96 Junior Autographs

The first entry is a Chuck Carlson column from July 30, 1996:

Rattlers try to keep a sunny disposition

In barely 45 minutes, two years’ worth of work was washed away.

Literally, figuratively, meteorologically.

It was supposed to be the glorious capper to a wonderful season for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.  After two years of negotiating, begging, and wrangling, the Rattlers had finally worked out a way to get their big club, the Seattle Mariners, in town for an exhibition.

And Monday evening, Ken Griffey, Jay Buhner, prodigal son Alex Rodriguez and all the other big-leaguers would give the home folks a treat they wouldn’t soon forget.

Well, forget it.

The weather, horrendous weather, which has tortured this team all season, got in one more shot and ruined yet another important night for the Rattlers.

And this one really hurt because it seemed the weather, which had toyed and taunted with the game all day, seemed ready to behave itself.

The Mariners arrived, took batting practice and fans oohed and aahed as Griffey, Buhner, Rodriguez, and others sent rockets over the stadium walls.

But it was all just a cruel hoax.  Five minutes before the game was to start, the skies unloaded and the rains came.

Again.

Just as they had a month or so earlier during the second most important night of the Rattlers season – the Midwest League All-Star Game.

Remember?  It poured that night too, but at least the Rattlers, by working all night, were able to get the field playable and the game in the next night.

There will be no such reprieve for this one.

“If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get (the Mariners) back in six or seven years,” said John Wollner, president of Appleton Baseball Inc.

Luck? The Rattlers? Please.

“Thank God I’m young and my heart is strong,” said Rattlers general manager Mike Birling, who has watched nine precious home dates rained out this season after only five all of last year.  “It’s so disheartening, but I guess that’s life in Northeast Wisconsin.”

After the initial 10-minute deluge, Manager Lou Piniella was still willing to play a seven-inning game, though without most of his key players.  But when the second round came through, that clinched it.

“Timing is everything and our timing was lousy,” Birling said.

But it wasn’t a total disaster.

The Mariners agreed to participate in a home run derby, with Griffey, Rodriguez, and Dan Wilson against Rattlers Luis Tinoco, David Arias, and hitting coach Joaquin Contreras.

For the record, Wilson won, beating out Arias in the final round.

But while it wasn’t exactly what the fans had shown up to watch, most of the sellout crowd stuck around to observe.

“That shows how big an event this was,” Birling said, “Thank God the Mariners agreed to the home run derby because this would have been a disaster for us and the community.  Just to get the Mariners on the Fox Cities Stadium field was something.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”

You really have to feel for these guys.

First it was the cold and wind in April and May.  Now it’s been the rain of June and July.

What will August bring?  Locusts?  A plague or two?  Who knows?

As for the Mariners, they hopped on their bus afterward and headed for a four-game series in Milwaukee that starts today.  The Rattlers hit the road for a game in Beloit.

And the forecast today?  More rain.

Figures.

 

RATTLERS NOTES by Chuck Carlson and Jeff Sherry

Rodriguez an old-fashioned guy
The Mariners all-star shortstop prefers Goodland Field to Appleton’s new home for minor league baseball

If Alex Rodriguez’s taste in cars is anything like his taste in ballparks, his next vehicle will probably be a Pacer.

Rodriguez, who made his professional debut two summers ago with the Appleton Foxes, returned to the area Monday as an all-star shortstop for the Seattle Mariners.  The 21-year-old participated in the home run derby after his team’s exhibition with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers was cancelled by rain.

It was his first trip to Fox Cities Stadium and Rodriguez, who played at Goodland Field with the Foxes had mixed thoughts on the team’s new home.

“It’s a night and day difference,” Rodriguez said.  “But for me, I like Goodland Field more.  It was kind of like my first girlfriend.  It was the first professional experience I had and it was a lot of fun.  I love the mystique of that field.”

Apparently Rodriguez has yet to be spoiled by his new four-year $10.6 million contract extension.

“I love this field, but I play in a lot of nice stadiums in the big leagues,” Rodriguez said.  “They’re nice, and their locker rooms are nice, but there’s just something I like about old parks.”

PROPERLY PAMPERED:  Timber Rattlers officials have been working hard the last few weeks to make sure everything was just perfect for when the Mariners arrived.

“Our whole purpose from when we got this game was to make them feel like this was a major league game, like they just went to another stadium,” Timber Rattlers general manager Mike Birling said.  “We wanted them to have all the novelties here that they have at major league parks.”

Among the novelties the Mariners received were free hats, free T-shirts, pregame and postgame meals…the list goes on and on.

“Each player had to have three towels, they had to have gum in their lockers, shavers – all kinds of things that normally we don’t really provide,” Birling said.  “It’s all the little things that these guys have gotten used to in the major leagues that minor leaguers don’t get.”

All the extra work seemed to pay off.  Birling said the Mariners were very complimentary about the treatment they received.

“They’ve been very pleased,” Birling said.  “Everything they’ve said has been positive so far.”

KINDER AND GENTLER: There was a time not so long ago when Mariners manager, the volcanic Lou Piniella, could work in expletives the way some artists work in oils.

As a player and then as a manger, he made his reputation as a fiery, bawdy, take-no-prisoners type who would just as soon pop his cork than look at you.

But, apparently, that’s all changed thanks to his new religious awakening.

“I’ve found the Lord,” he said.  “He has taught me what my priorities in life are.”

Piniella admits that sometimes it hasn’t been easy following the straight and narrow.

“There are days,” he said with a smile, “when I take two steps back and three steps forward.  But, I feel great.”

SIGN HERE: It was hard to tell who was more excited about the Mariners being in town – the fans or the Rattlers players.

Just about every Rattlers players had his picture taken with Rodriguez or Ken Griffey Jr. or Jay Buhner as well as procuring a raft of autographs.

“It’s weird,” said pitcher Kevin Gryboski, who was toting four baseballs to be autographed.  “Even though you see these guys in spring training, just to get an opportunity to play against them is an honor.  I know I’m a professional baseball player, but watching these guys makes me feel like a little kid again.”
Appleton Pro Baseball Birthdays for January 8:
Taylor Wall – 26
Justin Ockerman – 33
Herb Conyers – Born 1921
Nick Starasta – Born 1923
Chauncey Fisher – Born 1872

The first time Ken Griffey, Jr. came to Fox Cities Stadium

Ken Griffey, Jr. – and Mike Piazza – have both been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Griffey had already been the Seattle Mariners starting centerfielder for several years by the time the Foxes/Timber Rattlers became Seattle’s Midwest League affiliate so he never played in a minor league uniform.

However, he did come to Appleton twice for in-season exhibition games.

Ken Griffey, Jr. walks off the field during batting practice at Fox Cities Stadium in 1996 (Photo Credit: Brad Krause)

Ken Griffey, Jr. walks off the field during batting practice at Fox Cities Stadium in 1996 (Photo Credit: Brad Krause)

The exhibition game on July 30, 1996 was rained out, but there was a home run derby in which Griffey participated.  The exhibition game that was played was held on April 29, 2001.

This was before social media (what a time THAT was) so I couldn’t find a lot of photos of Griffey in town.  The following screencaps are from this KIRO-TV story that was done in 2014 by Gary Horcher, who covered the home run derby in 1996 as a reporter for one of the Fox Cities TV stations and provided the video.

Griffey at the plate during home run derby. (Screencap from KIRO-TV)

Griffey at the plate during home run derby. (Screencap from KIRO-TV)

 

(Screencap from KIRO-TV)

(Screencap from KIRO-TV)

In the dugout.

(Screencap from KIRO-TV)

(Screencap from KIRO-TV)

Dan Wilson, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey, Jr. watch the action during the home run derby.

There was a Griffey who wore a Timber Rattlers jersey.  Craig Griffey, Ken’s brother, was drafted by the Mariners in the 42nd round of the 1991 draft out of Ohio State and would play 37 games for the 1993 Appleton Foxes.

Flashback Friday will have more on the home run derby and how it happened.

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Birthdays – January 7
Eric Semmelhack – 25
Phillippe Aumont – 27
Michael Marseco – 29
Jose Escalona – 30
Brian Kappel – 33
Alan Zambrano – 37

Phillipe Aumont in 2008.

Phillipe Aumont in 2008.

 

Michael Marseco has the only walkoff triple in Timber Rattlers history.

Michael Marseco has the only walkoff triple in Timber Rattlers history.

Your 2016 Starting Point

Happy New Year, Timber Rattlers fans.

When we left you before Christmas, there was no snow on the newly installed field at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium.

Then, Monday December 28th happened…and it’s still here over a week later.

January 6 16 a

 

January 6 16 b

It finally looks like winter around here.

There are 94 days to the Home Opener!  The Season is Coming:

Season is Coming

Rattler Radio Podcast with Rob Zerjav and Aaron Hahn – December 15, 2015

Rob Zerjav and Aaron Hahn are the guests on this week’s podcast.  They talk about the winter meetings from the perspective of minor league teams, protective netting, drones, some upcoming promotions for the 2016 season, the condition of the new playing surface at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, and a host of other topics.

Since I don’t have pictures of the other stuff, here are some photos of the field as of yesterday.  To put their comments in perspective, we had well over 2 inches of rain.  Normally, the outfield would be a lake and the warning track would be at least a tidal pool.  The new drainage worked perfectly and just look at the lack of water!

Green Grass and no puddles 2

 

Green Grass and no puddles

To the Podcast!

Mehring Monday: A long time ago

Apologies for posting this to the blog instead of the website, but I have been having some issues with the software to publish it to there.
Mehring Monday December 14 2015

The image for this week’s Mehring Monday should tip you off as to my plans this week because the only way to prepare for this weekend is to go old school.

The new Star Wars movie is out later this week. I won’t be attending for a midnight showing on Opening Night. I’ve done that once* and that was way too many people for my liking.
Yes, those are VHS tapes of the original movies…or Episodes IV, V, & VI. I just couldn’t get into the prequels because….well….prequels. I mean come on. Plus, there are, what, a total of four memorable scenes from the prequels.

I will need to watch these again because they are not the versions that George Lucas fooled around with after they were originally released. In other words, Han shoots first and Anakin’s Force Ghost is played by Sebastian Shaw…um….spoilers for a 38-year-old movie.

The movies have never strayed too far from my memory because of the Star Wars Night the Timber Rattlers have done every season for the last several seasons at the ballpark. As a brief aside (and to fill this week’s baseball requirement) the Timber Rattlers will host Star Wars Night on Saturday, June 4.

Every time we unveil the jerseys for Star Wars Night and every time the characters are here I am taken back to the first time I saw the first movie.

The movie premiered on May 25, 1977, but it didn’t turn up until a few weeks later in my hometown’s one screen Ford Theater**.

We went to a small diner to grab something to eat before the show and had seen the commercials and heard the buzz, but were still a little unsure as to what the movie would be like.

Pardon the phrase here, but kids today don’t know how good they have it for special effects in movies. Prior to the first movie, a special effect for a spaceship was pretty much this.

We just didn’t want Star Wars to be that – and it wasn’t. There was something perfect about it for an 8-year-old.

A lot has changed between the first time I saw that movie and now. For example, that diner in my hometown is now a travel agency. I couldn’t see Episodes V and VI at the Ford Theater because it became a XXX movie theater, which is something that was just weird and something that we don’t normally talk about or mention to outsiders… Anyways, that theater is now a Vape Shop and HVAC dealership.

I am hoping that this new movie is good and carries on the spirit of the originals. Speaking of which, I need to find my VCR.

*-It was The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Totally worth it!
**-Not that one.  That one was called Ford’s Theater.

Rattler Radio Podcast – December 8, 2015

This week’s guest is Matt Erickson.  We talk a little about the past, a lot about the present, and some about the future.

Thank you for checking out the podcast.

 

IMG_1147

Rattler Radio Podcast – December 1, 2015

This week’s episode of the Rattler Radio Podcast features Kyle Lobner.

We discuss  his upcoming article on Trent Clark and Malik Collymore, Brewers Top 10 Prospect lists from 2016, 2011, & 2006, What If…?, and many other topics.

MiLB.com’s Brewers Organization All-Stars

MiLB.com is….well….I will let them explain.

This offseason, MiLB.com will be honoring the players — regardless of age or prospect status — who had the best seasons in their organizations. We’re taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball

The link at the top of the post leads to their All-Stars in the Brewers organization.

The biggest moves for the organization came off the field when the Brewers hired 30-year-old David Stearns as their new general manager, succeeding Doug Melvin. Stearns had been assistant GM for the Astros and helped their rebuild, which began, of course, with the farm system. Stearns dismissed former farm director Reid Nichols, replacing him with Tom Flanagan, who started as a Brewers batboy in 1990 and had spent the last decade as the club’s director of baseball operations. He takes over a system on the way up.

Spoiler Alert: No one on the list played for the Timber Rattlers in 2015.  However, there are several Rattlers from past seasons who made the list….Like Orlando Arcia:

This year Arcia showed why he is the Brewers top prospect with a breakout season — and he has the MiLBY to prove it. The 21-year-old led the system with 157 hits while posting career highs in homers (eight), RBIs (69) and average (.307).

“He is a natural leader, not necessarily a kid that has to be loud, but just the way he goes about the game. It speaks for itself, all players look up to him,” Subero said. “If it’s a tight ballgame in the seventh, you want Orlando up. He wants to be up there and he’ll deliver. So that’s the type of player he is, he’s a kid that, with help and God-willing, he’ll definitely be an impact at the Major League level soon.”

Chris McFarland:

After repeating the Midwest League, McFarland found success at the next level. The 22-year-old hit .274 with a career-high 46 RBIs and 28 walks. McFarland ranks second in the organization with 150 hits, while topping second basemen with 183 total bases.

A shortstop in high school, the Texas native continued to work on his defense as he transitioned to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League this past season. McFarland will look to cut the errors down as he enters his fifth campaign as a second baseman in 2016.

Jorge Lopez:

Lopez turned his Double-A introduction into an eventual Major League debut with an organization-leading 137 strikeouts and 12 wins. The 22-year-old posted a 2.26 ERA and finished the year with three straight Brewers Pitcher of the Month honors en route to being named the Southern League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher.

“I was able to see him turn from a kid into a man in terms of baseball savvy and on the mound, working with his pitches,” Subero said. “Just a kid who’s hard-working, great competitor with three pitches — all three are plus pitches — and he would even show plus command at times during the game. That’s what got him over edge and definitely made him one of our top guys in the whole system.”

Damien Magnifico:

Along with the promotion to Double-A, Magnifico was sent to the bullpen. The right-hander started out as a middle reliever, but after rebounding from a tough outing, Subero saw a closer in Magnifico. The University of Oklahoma product allowed three inherited runs without registering an out against Mississippi on May 10. Instead of letting him fester over it, the manager threw Magnifico back in the fire the following day.

“He performed and saved the game, and ever since, we called him our closer,” Subero said. “It’s just really electric stuff with good sink on it, mid-90s to upper-90s and is developing a slider, which has been very impressive, in the Fall League.”

Click the link up top for the whole list.

This seems odd to me – Rookie of the Year musings

I know….I know…great title for a post.  What do you want on a day that looks like this:

November 17 Field

The news of Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa being named – respectively – Rookies of the Year in the National League and American League got me to thinking about past winners of those awards and how they had done against the Timber Rattlers.

Correa was a monster against the Rattlers in 2013 as a member of the Quad Cities River Bandits (15 games; .305/.397/.458; 2HR, 12RBI, 14 runs).  Bryant skipped over the Midwest League on his quick move to the big leagues.

As I got to the list at Baseball Reference and worked back through the NL winners something seemed odd to me.  After a quick triple check…which is something I rarely do…I can safely say that the last NL Rookie of the Year winner to play in the Midwest League was Jason Bay, who played for the Clinton LumberKings in 2001.  At the time, the LumberKings were an affiliate of the Montreal Expos.  Click that link for Baseball Reference and check my work, if you feel like proving me wrong.

The AL Rookie of the Year winners are a different story.  Five of the last seven players to win that award have played in the Midwest League.

2015: Carlos Correa (Quad Cities – 2013)
2013: Wil Myers (Burlington – 2010)
2012: Mike Trout (Cedar Rapids – 2009, 2010)
2010: Neftali Feliz (Clinton – 2008)
2009: Andrew Bailey (Kane County – 2007)

Here’s a look at how Myers, Trout, Feliz, and Bailey did against the Rattlers during their MWL seasons.

Myers (’10): 10 games; .382/.500/.735; 2HR, 8RBI, 6 2Bs
Trout (’09): 3 games; 2-for-9
Trout (’10): 13 games; .436/.508/.618; 2HR, 6RBI; 13 Runs; 13 Stolen Bases
Feliz (’08): 1 game, 1 start; 0-0, 1.69 ERA; 5.1IP, H, R, 3BB, 11K
Bailey (’07): 3 games, 3 starts; 1-1, 1.08ERA; 16.2IP; 8H, 3R, 2ER; 6BB, 29K

No real lesson to learn here about their performance and the award that they eventually won.

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