Minor League Mailbag: 3/11/14

Pitcher Hobbs Johnson posted a 0.86 ERA in 11 combined appearances between Helena and Wisconsin last season.  (Photo: Brad Krause)

Pitcher Hobbs Johnson posted a 0.86 ERA in 11 combined appearances between Helena and Wisconsin. (Photo: Brad Krause)

Back with a Spring Training edition of the Minor League Mailbag. Readers this time around chimed in with questions about some of Milwaukee’s prospects including Hobbs Johnson, Kevin James and Barrett Astin.

Hobbs Johnson put up some big strikeouts numbers last season. Is the sample size too small or could he be a flame throwing power arm in the bullpen? (Jason, Milwaukee, WI)

Johnson isn’t really a “flame thrower”, as his fastball was only sitting around 90-91 mph when I saw him in Wisconsin last summer. But you’re right, he did put up impressive numbers in his first season. He turns 23 in April, so even though he only has 11 pro games under his belt, starting the season at Brevard County shouldn’t be out of the question. He’s left-handed and knows how to pitch so that should help him at the lower levels. The real question will be if he can continue to have success at Double-A and beyond. If he can do that, he could be a valuable lefty out of the bullpen.

Kevin James was pretty highly thought of once. What do you think of his chances to stick with the Brewers? (Mike, Green Bay, WI)

He’ll get a look this spring. At 23 years old and having not pitched above rookie ball, he’s got his work cut out for him. But the Brewers obviously saw enough in the Wisconsin native to at least take a peak at him this spring. If he impresses, he could get a crack at a Single-A roster. The next few weeks should determine if and where James will fit in the organization.

Do you view Barrett Astin as a starter or a reliever? (Nathan, Fayetteville, AR)

It will be interesting to see what the Brewers do with Astin. After closing for Arkansas in college, the Brewers gave him a chance to start some games for Helena. While 8 of his 12 appearances were starts, he only went more than five innings one time. Milwaukee’s M.O. is usually to let guys start and build up their arms until they prove they aren’t starters and then shift them to the pen. Astin throws a lot of strikes, and scouts say his curveball is a good secondary pitch. He’ll need three pitches to stay in the rotation long-term though, and my thought is that he will eventually shift back to a relief role.

Have you considered doing a minor league podcast at all? (John, Oshkosh, WI)

I’ve had a couple of people ask about this recently but it’s not something that we have in the works at this time. Personally, I don’t think I have a voice for radio, and I’m not sure we’d have enough content to fill an hour – or even a half hour – on a regular basis right now. Podcasts are great if you have something interesting to say, but to do one just for the sake of doing one isn’t something I’m interested in. It may be something we’ll re-visit down the road, but we have no plans for a podcast at this time.

If you’re looking for a good podcast to listen to, I really enjoy Mike Ferrin and Jason Parks on Fringe Average. They have a lot of prospect and minor league discussion. Disciples of Uecker also does a really good Brewers-related podcast that will hit on the minor leagues at times as well. That’s another that I enjoy listening to. Both are worth your time if you follow the Brewers or minor league baseball.

I know in the past you’ve tweeted some updates from some of the minor league spring training games. Will you be doing something similar again this year? (Chris, Sheboygan, WI)

Your timing is perfect Chris. We’ll actually be hitting the road for Arizona tomorrow. We’ll be driving (I like to avoid flying whenever possible) so it will probably be sometime this weekend before we get out there, but I’ve got a few interviews in the can and I’m hoping to have some daily stories, interviews, photos, etc from minor league camp over the next two weeks. I’ll try to do some tweeting as well from the MPP twitter account (@BrewersMPP) so make sure you’re following and I’ll do my best to provide some prospect updates along the way.

Thanks again for all the great emails. If you have questions about any of the Brewers prospects, feel free to email me at millerparkprospects@gmail.com or tweet me @BrewersMPP and I will pick a few of your questions to use in next month’s edition.

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