The Brewers announced that five of their minor leaguers have been added to the 40-man roster. They are: RHP Nick Bucci, RHP Hiram Burgos, OF Khris Davis, 2B Scooter Gennett, and OF Josh Prince. The reason this is significant, of course, is because all of those players would have been eligible for the Rule V draft. Adding them to the 40-man now protects them from becoming part of another team, and from the ever-grubby hands of former Brewers scouting director, Jack Zduriencik.
Milwaukee certainly wasn't short on talented individuals who could be exposed to this draft, so let's break down what made this fab five special enough to warrant such protection...
Burgos is coming off a stellar season; good enough to earn him the Brewers' minor league "Pitcher of the Year" honor. He pitched 171 innings this past season across three levels, spending the majority of it at AA Huntsville, and finished the year at AAA Nashville with an accumulated 1.95 ERA. Burgos' aggressive pitching style plays well against less-refined minor league hitters, making up for what he lacks in pure stuff. That's not say he couldn't get major league hitters out with what he has in his arsenal, but it will likely limit his role at the big league level to a 5th starter/swingman role; one he could find himself in as soon as opening day.
Khris Davis bounced right back after a lackluster finish at AA Huntsville last year, hitting a ridiculous .350/.451/.604 between the previously mentioned Huntsville and AAA Nashville this season (albeit, he only accumulated 241 ABs between them due to injury). Davis is your prototypical power-hitter: double-digit HR power, takes a walk, but also swings and misses a lot. Lack of a defensive position has put his prospect status in check a bit, as his best position in left field is currently locked down at the big league level for the better part of the next decade. Still, a bat with some pop is one with value, and Davis could earn his way into a bench role at some point this coming year.
Ryan "Scooter" Gennett is more than just an awesome name; he's arguably the best player on this list. For Gennett, his 2012 stint at AA Huntsville was more of the same: hitting, and more hitting. It's his best and only tool. In many ways, Gennett is a lot like Jose Altuve in that he plays second base, squares up on the ball consistently (and with some surprising pop), and has not cracked 6 foot. However, Gennett is more "small for his position" than "oompa loompa" like Altuve. Oh, and he's also left handed, which I hear is pretty valuable in baseball. Gennett has been reportedly getting better every year defensively, and as a 22-year old at AAA, he'll be in no rush to be perfect there right now. He'll be a nice asset to have, though, should any of Rickie Week's old injuries start to crop up.
Prince would likely have been a surprise addition to this list if this happened, say, 2 months ago. "New Outfielder In Town" Josh Prince finished the 2012 regular season at AA Huntsville hitting .251/.346/.360 with 41 stolen bases. Not very good for someone not playing shortstop full time. However, "Heir to the Throne" Josh Prince went off recently in the Arizona Fall League, managing a 1.064 OPS in 89 ABs, and getting lauded for his great range at multiple positions with plus speed. The latter point I think is what sold the Brewers into adding them, as they likely see potential now for him to become a super-utility player. Whether he'll realize it is yet to be seen, but those types of players can be really valuable (See: Jerry Hairston Jr's career). And besides, his name is Prince; the Brewers collect those guys. I predict that in 2 years, they will draft a Josh Fielder, then proceed to refer to him as "Prince" for the remainder of his career, garnering many a lawsuit from "The Artist Formally Known As, But Who Now Is Known As Again".
The final add was Nick Bucci, a bit of an interesting one, actually. Bucci spent most of the 2012 campaign injured, but finished strong on the year pitching 32 innings for Adv. A Brevard County, where he struck out 37 batters against walking 15, and compiled a 1.99 ERA. Like many of the Brewers prospects not named Josh Prince or Johnny Hellweg, his stint with the Arizona Fall League didn't go so great, but still showed the ability to consistently miss bats. It's an interesting move too because former first rounder Kyle Heckathorn is also Rule 5 eligible, and now as a reliever, is probably closer to the big leagues than Bucci. Heckathorn also struggled a little in the AFL, but showed good enough peripherals as a reliever in AA that I wonder if teams would have been more willing to go after him than Bucci if they were given the option. After all, who could have predicted Lucas Luetge would go off the way he did in making the Mariners 25-man roster this past season after an alright year in AA (held lefties to.186 average in 2012)?
Considering the remaining options and their current progression points, it does appear the Brewers made the most logical choices here. It will be interesting to see if any team takes a chance on Heckathorn, although it would seem unlikely that lightning would strike twice like that (I'm looking at you, Jack Z).
That's all for now. Looking forward to contributing more here at "The Book of Gorman", and I wish you all a Happy Hot Stove Season. The Winter Meetings are just around the corner...