Helena Brewers 2014 PreviewThe Helena Brewers 2014 season gets underway tonight in Helena, Montana at 8:05 pm CST. Here is a quick look at a few things to keep an eye on as the Pioneer League season gets underway.
Helena enjoyed a successful 2013 campaign, going 43-33, and were the only Milwaukee affiliate to reach the playoffs last season. They came up a game short of a championship, falling to Idaho Falls after previously defeating Great Falls in order to reach the finals. Outfielder Michael Ratterree was named as the Pioneer League Most Valuable Player after hitting .314 with 12 home runs and 58 runs batted in, and Helena manager Tony Diggs was honored as the Pioneer League’s Manager of the Year.
The Brewers will play a 76 game schedule that begins on Monday evening as they play host to Missoula, and wraps up on September 4th at Billings. They will play 16 games against each of their three other North Division opponents (Billings, Missoula and Great Falls) and will play seven games against each of the teams from the South Division (Ogden, Idaho Falls, Grand Junction and Orem.
Manager Tony Diggs returns for his second season at the helm for the Brewers. Diggs, a former minor league player in Milwaukee’s organization in the late 80′s and early 90′s, is in his 11th season as a coach with the Brewers. He will be joined by pitching coach Rolando Valles who is in his seventh season in the Brewers organization and his first at Helena. The hitting coach will be Jason Dubois, who is also in his first season with Helena after serving as the hitting coach for the Brewers AZL affiliate in 2013.
Pitchers: The Brewers pitching staff will be highlighted by 19-year-old righty Devin Williams, who was selected by Milwaukee in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. He’ll be joined by a pair of players returning from last year’s team in left-hander Tyler Linehan and right-hander Brandon Moore. The squad will also feature a handful of players that were selected in this year’s draft including Cy Sneed, J.B. Kole and Javier Salas, who were all selected in the first ten rounds. Several other names of note include former UW-Milwaukee pitcher Josh Uhen, a 5th round selection of the Brewers in 2013, Luis Ortega, who was acquired this past offseason from the Red Sox in exchange for Burke Badenhop, and Chad Thompson, who is working his way back from shoulder surgery last season.
Catchers: The Brewers catching corps will be led by Greg McCall. Selected by the Brewers in the 9th round of this year’s draft out of UT-Arlington, McCall will be joined by former Maryland backstop Jack Cleary, and 21-year-old Natanael Mejia, who spent last season in the Dominican Summer League.
Infielders: The strongest position on the Helena roster may be third base, where the Brewers boast a pair of talented players in Tucker Neuhaus and Dustin DeMuth. They will be joined by slick-fielding, Cuban-born shortstop Luis Aviles, Dominican infielder Gregory Muñoz and first baseman Alan Sharkey. Aviles and Sharkey spent last season in Maryvale, while Muñoz played in the Dominican Summer League.
Outfielders: Helena’s outfield will feature a mixture of both youth and experience. 19-year-olds Brandon Diaz, Elvis Rubio and Eric Williams, and 20-year-old Edgardo Rivera bring both speed and power to the Brewers lineup. They’ll be joined by 22-year-old Mitch Meyer, who was drafted in the seventh round this season, and 23-year-old Dionis Hinojosa, who played 33 games with Helena in 2013.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Devin Williams: The Brewers selected the 19-year-old Williams with their first pick in the 2013 draft. He made his debut last season in the Arizona Rookie League where he posted an earned run average of 3.38 and struck out 39 batters in 34.2 innings of work.
Cy Sneed: The highest drafted player from the 2014 draft set to open the season with Helena, the 6’4″ right-hander out of Dallas Baptist was taken by the Brewers in the third round. Sneed finished his junior season with a record of 8-3 in 16 starts. He posted an earned run average of 3.55 in 104 innings of work.
Tucker Neuhaus: Hopes are high for Neuhuas, whom the Brewers selected in 2013 with their Competitive Balance pick following the second round. He began his career in the AZL last season, playing in 51 games and splitting time between shortstop and third base.
Dustin DeMuth: One of the more advanced bats that Milwaukee grabbed in the 2014 draft, DeMuth finished up his senior season at Indiana University with a team best .374 batting average. He played in 57 games as the Hoosiers starting third baseman, belting five home runs and knocking in 40 runs, while also crossing the plate another 40 times.
Brandon Diaz: Diaz, who just turned 19 in April, is one of the faster players in the Brewers organization. In 45 games in Maryvale last season, Diaz hit .286 and scored 37 runs. An eighth round pick in 2013, he ranked second in the AZL in stolen bases last year with 21.