Baseball is back. Minor-league baseball, that is.
For the first time since September 2019, baseball will be played down on the farm. And the landscape in 2021 is a bit different than it was a couple years ago.
There are fewer teams and gone are longtime circuits such as the International League, Southern League, etc., replaced by generic designations such as Triple-A East, Double-A Central and so on.
Need a reminder of where the Milwaukee Brewers minor-league teams are located? And which prospects are playing where? We’ve got you covered.
TRIPLE-A: NASHVILLE SOUNDS
Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate from 2004-14 is back in the fold as the Brewers’ highest minor-league club. The Sounds will play in the Triple-A East league in the Southeast Division at First Horizon Park, which was built in 2015. The majority of Nashville’s games will be against other members of the Southeast Division, which includes Charlotte (White Sox), Durham (Rays), Gwinnett (Braves), Jacksonville (Marlins), Memphis (Cardinals) and Norfolk (Orioles). With the minors having limited travel this season, Nashville will play select teams from the Midwest Division (Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville and Toledo) and no teams in the Northeast Division.
Rick Sweet: The former major-league catcher has been managing Milwaukee’s Triple-A teams since 2014 – from Nashville to Colorado Springs to San Antonio and now back to Nashville.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aaron Ashby, SP: Fourth-round pick in 2018. ... Struck out seven in 2 2/3 innings in spring training. … Left-hander split time in 2019 with Carolina and Wisconsin, combining to post a 3.50 ERA, 1.278 WHIP and 9.6 K/9 in 126 innings.
Quintin Torres-Costa, RP: Left-hander was a 35th-round pick in 2015 draft has steadily moved up the chain. … Missed most of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery. … Split time between Triple-A Colorado Springs and Dobl-eA Biloxi in 2018, recording a 1.64 ERA, 0.945 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 over 55 combined innings. … Owns an 11.6 K/9 over minor-league career.
Mario Feliciano, C: 2nd-round pick in 2016 made his MLB debut earlier this year when Brewers needed a catcher. … Had played just three games above Single-A level. … Named 2019 Carolina League MVP after hitting .273 with 19 home runs and 81 RBI. … Just 22 years old.
Others: There are plenty of players with major-league experience, as expected at the Triple-A level, including pitchers Ray Black, Blaine Hardy, Wade LeBlanc and Hoby Milner, infielders Logan Forsythe, Chad Spanberger and Dee Strange-Gordon and outfielders Dustin Peterson and Corey Ray. For what it’s worth, Keston Hiura is not listed on Nashville’s current roster.
DOUBLE-A: BILOXI SHUCKERS
Biloxi has been Milwaukee’s Double-A affiliate since 2015 and remain so for the next 10 years. The Shuckers opened MGM Park in June of that year (after opening the season on very long road trip). The Shuckers and their beautiful logo will play in the South Division of the Double-A South League (yes, it can be confusing) along with Mississippi (Braves), Montgomery (Rays) and Pensacola (Marlins). In the North Division of the South League (see, we told you) are Birmingham (White Sox), Chattanooga (Reds), Rocket City (Angels) and Tennessee (Cubs). There are two other Double-A leagues (Central and Northeast), but the Shuckers will only face teams from the South league.
Mike Guerrero: A former Brewers farmhand, Guerrero has been managing and coaching in Milwaukee’s system, including serving as a first-base coach and infield coach with the big club, since 1996. This is Guerrero’s first managing gig since 2013, when he led Triple-A Nashville.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ethan Small, SP: First-round pick in 2019. ... Left-hander has yet to pitch above Low-A level although he did get 2 2/3 innings in spring training. … In first year of pro ball in 2019, combined for 21 innings between Brewers Gold team in rookie ball and Wisconsin, allowing five runs (two earned) on 11 hits with four walks and 36 strikeouts.
Brice Turang, SS: Future of first-round pick in 2018 could be at second base. … Has shown ability to get on base at all levels, owning a career .374 on-base percentage in the minors. … Split time between High-A and Low-A in 2019, combining to slash .256/.367/.340 with 82 runs and 30 stolen bases in 35 attempts. ... Still only 21.
Tristen Lutz, OF: A first-round competitive balance pick in 2017. … Played in rookie ball the year he was drafted, Low-A in 2018 and High-A in 2019. … With Carolina in ’19, batted .255/.355/.419 with 13 home runs in 112 games. … Turns 23 in August.
Others: LHP Leo Crawford, acquired from the Dodgers for Corey Knebel, had 134 K in 105 2/3 IP in 2019. … Catcher Jhonnys Cabrera, who doesn’t turn 19 until June 2, might be the youngest player in Double-A. … Lucas Erceg, a second-round pick in 2016, will both pitch and play the field. … 1B/DH David Fry hit 17 home runs for Wisconsin in 2019.
HIGH-A: WISCONSIN TIMBER RATTLERS
Wisconsin has been a Milwaukee affiliate since 2009 but now will be making the jump from Low-A to High-A. The Timber Rattlers, who play in Appleton, Wis., had been Milwaukee’s location for its alternate training site. Wisconsin is playing in the High-A Central League in the West Division, along with Beloit (Marlins), Cedar Rapids (Twins), Peoria (Cardinals), Quad Cities (Royals) and South Bend (Cubs). The Timber Rattlers will play exclusively against teams from their own division with the exception of some contests against the East Division’s Great Lakes (Dodgers) and Western Michigan (Tigers).
Matt Erickson: A native of Appleton, Erickson has been the Timber Rattlers’ manager since 2011. He played in four games with the Brewers in 2004 and in 2008 began his tenure at Wisconsin as hitting coach.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Thomas Dillard, C/1B: Fifth-round pick in 2019. … Played in 51 games for Wisconsin in 2019, batting .246 with six home runs. … Hit 13 homers and slugged .563 for Ole Miss in 2018 and had 14 homers with .541 slugging percentage in 2019.
Garrett Mitchell, OF: First-round pick in 2020 has yet to play in a regular-season game professionally. … Appeared in 22 spring training games and went 11-for-30 (.367) with a double, triple, home run and three steals. … Expected to play center field.
Carlos Rodriguez, OF: Left-handed hitter from Venezuela was signed as an international free agent and debuted as a 17-year-old in 2018 in rookie ball. … Playing for two rookie teams in 2019 – Rocky Mountain and Brewers Gold – he combined to hit .329/.346/.416. … Doesn’t turn 21 until December.
Others: SS Hayden Canrelle, a fifth-round pick in 2020, played independent ball for the Nerds in the City of Champions Cup in 2020 and batted .264/.393/345. … OF David Hamilton, an eighth-round pick in 2019, made his pro debut in the independent Constellation Energy League with Texas last year, batting .296/.430/.370. … Left-hander Nick Bennett, a sixth-round selection in 2019 out of Louisville, had a 1.91 ERA, 1.152 WHIP and 11.7 K/9 in 33 innings with Rocky Mountain and Louisville in 2019.
LOW-A: CAROLINA MUDCATS
Carolina had been Milwaukee’s High-A team since 2017 but moves down a level in 2021. The Mudcats are playing in the Central Division of the Low-A East League along with Down East (Rangers), Fayetteville (Astros) and Kannapolis (White Sox). Eighty-four of Carolina’s 120 games will be against those three teams. The Mudcats will play three teams from the North Division – Delmarva, Fredericksburg and Lynchburg – as well as Augusta from the South Division.
Joe Ayrault: This will be Ayrault’s 11th season managing a Milwaukee affiliated team. He started in 2010 with Helena, then in 2012 moved to Brevard County and before taking the reins in Carolina in 2017. He has the most wins in Carolina Mudcats history.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Abner Uribe, RP: Right-hander who was signed out of the Dominican Republic. … Debuted at age 18 in 2018 in the Dominican Summer League and allowed 10 hits while striking out 21 in 19 IP. … Pitched only 9 1/3 innings in 2019 in rookie ball.
Zavier Warren, C: Switch-hitter. … Taken in third round of 2020 draft. … In 17 games at Central Michigan last year hit .328/.469/.406. … At Cape Cod League in 2019, batted .315/.396/.443 in 170 plate appearances.
Freddy Zamora, SS: Second-round draft pick in 2020 out of Miami. … Played two seasons with the Hurricanes (2018-19), batting .300/.391/.429 with seven home runs (six of which came in ’19) and 33 stolen bases. … Considered a top-10 prospect in Brewers’ system by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline.
Others: OF Micah Bello, a second-round pick in 2018, slugged .318 at Rocky Mountain in 2019. … OF Joey Wiemer, a fourth-round pick in 2020 out of Cincinnati, played for Birmingham-Bloomfield in the independent United Shore League last year. … IF/OF Gabe Holt, a seventh-round pick in 2019 hit .333/.425/.460 in two years at Texas Tech and debut in 2019 with 11 games in rookie ball.