Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Feeling Nostalgic About Greg Vaughn

Growing up, I like most kids loved Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. I mean, they are/were the greatest Brewers in franchise history. And while he played with both of those guys for a few seasons, perhaps my favorite Brewer post Yount/Molitor was Greg Vaughn. When early this offseason the Brewers announced they would be doing a Greg Vaughn bobblehead day I was stoked. To me, that was almost as cool as when they did Rob Deer last season and will probably go into my pantheon of Brewers bobbleheads (joining 15' Deer, 02' Aaron, 06' Miller, 08' Braun, 12' T-Plush, 13' Scott, 14' Gomez and 14' Yount). Then in January Vaughn was announced to attend Brewers On Deck. Suddenly all this talk of Vaughn got me really feeling nostalgic about his time as a Brewer and his career in MLB. Hell, I even recently purchased a lot of 12 Vaughn cards off eBay that had a few of his rookies that I didn't already have.

Vaughn was drafted by the Brewers in the 1st round (4th overall) in the 1986 Draft out of the U (where he was an All-American). He made his MLB debut in 1989 and was a rookie in 1990 when he hit 17 HR. He would go on to play eight seasons with the Brewers making the All-Star team twice, hitting 169 of his 355 career HR in a Brewers uniform. His two All-Star seasons (93' and 96') were his best in Milwaukee. In his age 27 season in 93' he hit 30 HR had an .850 OPS and drove in 97 (6.7 WAR). In 96' he slugged 31 HR had had an .948 OPS and drove in 95 (2.7 WAR) for the Crew before being traded at the July 31st deadline to the Padres for Bryce Florie, Marc Newfield and Ron Villone (YUCK! What a typical shit Selig/Bando move of the mid to late 90's).

(Couldn't find him hitting a HR as a Brewer, so here he is taking Randy Johnson deep in the 98' NLDS)

That trade hit me hard. I was 14 at the time and still didn't understand the economics of baseball and how my team could keep trading away our good players. Vaughn had a down year in 1997 due to injury but had outstanding season in 98' (Padres) and 99' (Reds) as an All-Star and MVP candidate even slugging 50 HR in 98' (friend of mine got Vaughn to sign a ball at On Deck and inscribe "50 HR" on the ball, thought that was awesome), one of only twenty seven players in MLB history to hit 50 or more in a season. He played four more season between Tampa Bay and Colorado before retiring after the 2003 season.

"Vaughn's Valley" out in LF is something that will live in Brewers lore for ever. It was a staple of County Stadium for six years, he played LF and hit the vast majority of his dingers to that part of the bleachers so it was very fitting. Vaughn was a bad ass, cool cat. He was strong, hit a lot of dingers, had a swag to him, usually had the top few buttons undone on his jersey and was usually seen with a big old dip in his lower lip. He was a ballplayer. I remember always trying to imitate that famous pigeon toed stance he had while playing home run derby with friends in the backyard. He wasn't the greatest player, but to me he always seemed a bit underrated and on some shitty Brewers teams he was something to really enjoy and look forward to. I look forward to getting his bobblehead this season and hope he will make it out to Miller Park that day so he can get an ovation he deserves from all the other fans who think Greg Vaughn was the man.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The View From Bernie’s Chalet’s Top 10 Prospects

1.       Orlando Arcia
This one is obvious. If you didn’t know Arcia was going to be number one on every single list, you probably just woke up today and decided to be a Brewers fan. If that’s the case, welcome. This is the only Brewers baseball blog, and there are no other blogs covering Brewers baseball. Please permanently lock your browser to this page and never leave.

2.       Brett Phillips
Again, this comes as little-to-no surprise for Brewers fans. Since getting Phillips in the Gomez/Fiers trade, he has been consistently ranked as the Brewers’ second-best prospect. While it was a little disappointing to see his power drop when brought into Biloxi, Phillips still has plenty of great attributes. He’s a great defender, has a good hit tool and some speed.
3.       Jorge Lopez
A pretty common third in the Brewers farm system rankings, Lopez finally burst onto the scene after an awesome season with Biloxi. I think the most impressive part of Lopez is his constant progress on the mound while still moving up the ranks in terms of level of competition.
The biggest complaint about Lopez is his control. He has the tendency to walk a few. Last year that didn’t affect his performance much because he had an awesome 81.8% strand rate. It won’t be a big surprise to see Lopez take a step back in the minors this year. He’ll likely be starting at AAA Colorado Springs where the ball has the tendency to fly out of the park, which normally doesn’t work well with letting players on for free.
If the Brewers get into trouble with the rotation, he’s one of two or three candidates to come up, so expect to watch him pitch in Miller Park in 2016. Most scouts peg him as a good number three with two potential.
4.       Trent Clark
Clark is a consensus top 5 prospect for the Brewers and a consensus top 100 prospect in baseball. The kid stormed into the league after being the Crew’s first round pick. In 55 games with two rookie ball clubs, Clark hit .309/.424/.430 with 25 SB in 33 attempts.
Lots of scouts peg him as a left fielder. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, and he’s projected to lose some of his plus speed as he matures. That doesn’t matter since he’s a very smart base runner, has good defensive instincts and is a whiz with the bat at just 18. Don’t forget about his 80 neck. Clark is going to be a very exciting prospect to watch over the next few years and could move quickly through the Brewers farm. Just how exciting depends on if he can learn to add some loft to his swing to add power to his hit tool.
5.       Josh Hader
This big lefty was part of the huge return in the Gomez/Fiers trade. Hader has similar concerns as Lopez but also comes with worries about his arm angle. I choose not to put too much thought into that since we have seen odd arm angles work out pretty well in the majors as of late, even if they do have a much larger chance of failure. Hader is one of the few Brewers’ starting pitching prospects that really shows a knack for striking out opposing batters. At AA Biloxi, Hader had an 11 K/9.

There is little worry that Hader will make an impact at the MLB level, the question is the role. If he can’t get his walk issues under control and continue developing a third pitch, he will likely have to settle for a role in the pen.
6.       Gilbert Lara
Lara is the most interesting prospect Milwaukee has, in my humble opinion. He reportedly has humongous power and shows an advanced feel for hitting at his age (18 with one year of pro-ball under his belt), but after a fast start last year, came crashing down in a bad way. Many scouts reported that Lara looked tired towards the end of the season, which makes sense considering he’s probably getting in more work than he’s used to with fewer breaks. If he can put everything together, Lara can be a huge difference maker one day for the Brewers (which you can say that for almost any prospect ever). I’m anxious to see what happens this year, especially if the Brewers will challenge him with a full year of baseball and if he drops off in the second half.
7.       Cody Ponce
If you’re on Brewers Twitter, you likely have heard a lot about Cody Ponce. The man was somewhat of an unknown coming out of a Division II college but really impressed in his pro debut. In just 46 IP for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Ponce had a 2.15 ERA, only allowed 1.8 BB/9 and allowed .02 HR/9. All of those are great signs for future success. It will be interesting to see how quickly Ponce can move through the organization. He’s a collegiate arm that shows a pretty good feel for pitching. He’ll likely start at Brevard County, a pitcher friendly environment, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s up at Biloxi in 2-3 months.
8.       Devin Williams
Williams is another big potential prospect. He continues to develop command and shows good feel for all three of his pitches, with room to grow and add velocity. The biggest thing he needs to work on his command, but considering what he’s already shown, it won’t be hard to imagine him in the Brewers’ rotation. Because of age, the Brewers continue to move Williams slow, and he’ll likely get his first shot at starting for most of the year this year. Brevard County should help the numbers continue to develop, and I could see him being brought up to help in Biloxi at the end of the year.

9.       Monte Harrison
Harrison didn’t handle the aggressive promotion to Single-A very well to start the year. He had trouble making contact against more advanced pitchers than he’s used to seeing and his baserunning didn’t stand out like it did in his pro debut. Then the second half came, and he improved his stats at Wisconsin but was brought back down to rookie ball where he really shined before getting injured. Harrison is one of those prospects who projects to do everything well. He has shown decent pop, great ability on the bases and has all the tools to be a plus defender. His second showing at Wisconsin should go better, and he has big potential to make an impact at the highest level. I expect the Brewers will hold him at one level this year, but if he takes off after this, Harrison could really speed through the system.
This pick might be more about fascination with the new guy than anything else. Nottingham was just added in the Khris Davis deal. No one’s really sure he’ll stick at catcher but most experts believe he’ll hit. The kid has slightly above average hit and power tools. If he sticks at catcher, and can piece together some semblance of a defense behind the plate, he’ll big a huge get for the Brewers’ future.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016