Brewers flashed speed, power in '10

Lawrie, Komatsu, Davis emerged as well-rounded hitters

Erik Komatsu led the Florida State League in on-base percentage and runs. (Scott Jontes/

By Danny Wild / | November 15, 2010 5:00 AM

This offseason, will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

The Brewers' Minor League success in 2010 came from the bottom up -- both of Milwaukee's Rookie-level affiliates, the Helena Brewers and Arizona League Brewers, won championships. Helena posted 14 runs in beating Ogden for the Pioneer League crown and Jason Rogers homered and drove in five runs to lead the AZL Brewers past the Reds.

But there wasn't much else to celebrate on the Crew's farm. Triple-A Nashville finished last in the Pacific Coast League's American North Division; Double-A Huntsville's player development contract was renewed after the Stars finished six games under .500 and missed the Southern League playoffs. Class A Advanced Brevard County and Class A Wisconsin also skipped the postseason.

Two league titles are still big accomplishments. Do the Brewers have much help coming up in 2011?

Brewers organizational All-Stars

Catcher -- Tyler Roberts, AZL Brewers (42 games), Helena (1 game): Milwaukee was pretty shallow behind the plate in the Minors, especially after Jonathan LuCroy got called up. Roberts appeared in only 43 games, but he posted solid stats, batting .288 with six homers, 23 RBIs and a .354 on-base percentage in helping the Arizona League affiliate to the title.

First baseman -- Joe Koshansky, Nashville (131 games): Koshansky, who spent time in the Majors in 2007-08, posted another well-rounded campaign in 2010, batting .262 with a system-leading 26 homers. He ranked fourth among Brewers Minor Leaguers with 79 RBIs while logging a .380 OBP at Triple-A. Chris Dennis (Wisconsin) and Cody Hawn (Helena) also had excellent seasons.

Second baseman -- Brett Lawrie, Huntsville (135 games): Lawrie was the Brewers' first-round pick in 2008 and already has been a two-time Futures Game All-Star. He spent the entire year at Double-A, where he batted .285 with eight homers, 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. The two-time Southern League All-Star led all Brewers second basemen in homers and steals and appears in line for a promotion in 2011.

Shortstop -- Zelous Wheeler, Huntsville (135 games): Milwaukee is rather weak at this position, but Wheeler, a 2007 19th-round pick, again posted solid numbers after a promotion to Double-A. Back in his home state, the Alabama native hit .275 with 11 homers and 65 RBIs with the Stars. His on-base percentage was about 70 points higher than Nashville's Luis Cruz, who also showed good production. Wheeler had 43 extra-base hits and batted .299 against left-handed pitching and .318 with runners in scoring position.

Third base -- Mat Gamel, Nashville (82 games), Huntsville (8 games), Brevard County (6 games): The 25-year-old has excelled at Triple-A but struggled at times in the Majors -- he strikes out a lot, but when he does it in the Minors, it hasn't been much of a knock to his overall production. He appeared in 12 games with Milwaukee in 2010 after playing 61 games in '09, spending most of the year at Nashville, where he hit .309 in 82 games. Across three levels, the former fourth-round pick batted .304 with 14 homers, 74 RBIs and a .388 OBP. Former second-round pick Cutter Dykstra (.312, 39 RBIs, 27 steals) also posted solid numbers at Wisconsin.


Brendan Katin, Nashville (94 games): The Miami product spent a third straight season at Triple-A, showing solid power and production while posting his highest batting average (.286) since 2005. The Florida native led all Brewers Minor Leaguers with 26 homers (tied with Koshansky) and ranked fifth in the system with 76 RBIs. He raised his on-base percentage nearly 70 points from 2009, when he had 92 RBIs as a Pacific Coast League All-Star. He'll be 28 on Opening Day.

Erik Komatsu, Brevard County (130 games): The Cal State-Fullerton product showed off in Florida, batting .323 with six homers, 63 RBIs, 28 steals and a .413 OBP. He hit .333 against right-handers and was well over .300 in every month of the season, including a .357 mark in July. He owned a .474 OBP in 23 games in June and hit .342 with runners in scoring position. The 23-year-old ranked third in the system in steals.

Khris Davis, Wisconsin (128 games): Davis, who played with Komatsu in college in 2008, had a well-rounded season at Class A, hitting .280 with 22 homers, 72 RBIs, 17 steals and a .398 OBP as a Midwest League All-Star for the Timber Rattlers. He was Player of the Week on June 28, batted .303 vs. lefties and peaked in May, when he hit .321 with 19 RBIs in 30 games. He struck out too much (128 times in 128 games), but he also drew 77 walks and totaled 128 hits. Let's see if he can catch Komatsu as he climbs the system.

Designated hitter/utility -- Chris Dennis, Wisconsin (128 games): The Windsor, Ont., native saw almost as many at-bats at DH as he did at first base this year, but either way, it's hard to overlook his production as a middle-of-the-lineup slugger with speed. The lefty-swinging 22-year-old hit .270 with 18 homers, ranked second in the system with 87 RBIs, added 11 steals and a .362 OBP at Class A. Sean Halton is another solid option -- he batted .292 with 10 homers and led Brewers farmhands with 88 RBIs across two levels. Dennis gets the nod for his speed and power. He also had 60 extra-base hits to Halton's 32.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Kyle Heckathorn, Wisconsin (17 games), Brevard County (8 games): The Kennesaw State product pitched like a first-rounder in 2010, leading all full-season Brewers pitchers with a 2.98 ERA. He went 10-6, ranking second in the system in wins, and struck out 90 over 122 innings between two levels. He issued only 33 walks, allowed just three homers and recorded his first two career complete games.

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Dan Merklinger, Brevard County (25 games), Huntsville (1 game), Nashville (1 game): The 2007 sixth-round pick shot through the system in his fourth season, earning a trip to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League. Merklinger went 8-7 with the best ERA among Milwaukee southpaws (3.65) and led the system with 148 strikeouts (only Yovani Gallardo had more among Brewers arms). He'll be 25 on Opening Day and looking to build on his AFL campaign.

Relief pitcher -- Chris Smith, Nashville (47 games): Smith led all Brewers relievers with 26 saves -- two more than John Axford posted in Milwaukee -- and added four wins in a solid campaign that saw him reach the Majors for the third straight year. He struck out 62 batters over 48 innings and owned a 3.56 ERA. The right-hander will turn 30 around Opening Day, so he'll certainly be looking to stick with the big club in Spring Training.

Danny Wild is an editor for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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