Clint Coulter is hitting even better in the tougher Florida State League than he did in the Midwest League a season ago. That Milwaukee's No. 4 prospect is now a right fielder rather than a catcher is no coincidence.
"The switch helped a lot," said Coulter, who is tied for the FSL lead with seven homers and 24 RBIs through his first 30 games for Brevard County.
The Brewers approached the 27th overall pick in the 2012 Draft about the position change after last season and there was no hesitation.
"They said it was the fastest way to the Major Leagues for me, so I was all in," said Coulter, who was hitting .310 for the Manatees.
Coulter was a Midwest League All-Star last year, batting .287 with 22 homers and 89 RBIs, but as the designated hitter.
It was a bounceback year at the plate for Coulter after an injury-plagued 2013, but he struggled behind the dish. The 21-year-old made 10 errors and committed 17 passed balls in 61 games.
"His catching didn't get a whole lot better," said Reid Nichols, the Brewers' director of player development.
Coulter, though, has proved to be a relatively quick study as a right fielder despite little experience there and the gusty winds at the Manatees' Space Coast Stadium.
"If you can play the outfield here, you can play it anywhere," he said.
The strong-armed Coulter got a crash course at his new position in the instructional league and then a little extra tutoring in the Arizona Fall League.
"I feel comfortable out there," he said.
Coulter has obviously also been comfortable at the plate, the time he was having to spend trying to master catching now available to fine-tune his work at the plate.
The right-handed batter homered in Brevard County's home opener, went deep in three of four games from April 17-21 and had a four-hit outing with a homer and three RBIs on April 26.
Coulter hadn't cooled much in May, either, driving in nine runs in the first 10 games.
As impressive as Coulter's power numbers are, they might be even better if it wasn't for the wind that blows from left field to right at Space County Stadium.
"I've had two hit the top of the fence," he said.
Coulter certainly isn't an all-or-nothing hitter, though. He had nearly as many walks (13) as strikeouts (19) in his first 129 plate appearances.
The native of Washington may not have been a polished catcher, despite having former Major Leaguer Tom Lampkin as his high school coach, but he is a surprisingly polished hitter.
"With all the rain in the Northwest, I only played 14 games my senior year," Coulter said. "One time, we got rained out four straight days. Scouts hardly got to see me play."
The former state champion wrestler already was on the radar, though. He had been selected to play in the Under Armour All-American Game the previous summer.
"It even rained then," Coulter said. "I came in for the fifth inning and they stopped the game in the sixth. It was like a rain cloud was following me."
His career path seems bright and sunny now, though, thanks to his position change.
"When the Brewers worked me out before the Draft, they had me take some fly balls," Coulter said. "Maybe they were thinking about me in the outfield even then."
Impressive return: Top Philadelphia prospect J.P. Crawford had two hits in each of his first four games with Clearwater after missing the first four weeks of the season because of an oblique strain suffered during Spring Training. The 20-year-old shortstop homered in his first game May 6, reaching base four times and driving in three runs. Crawford was 8-for-15 and had drawn five walks, giving him an on-base percent of .667. Crawford, ranked No. 22 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, played shortstop in three straight games at Daytona after being the designated hitter in his debut at Clearwater against Brevard County.
A new start: St. Lucie first baseman Dominic Smith, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2013 Draft by the New York Mets, needed a reset for his season and maybe he got it May 12. The 19-year-old had struggling mightily before going 3-for-5 with a double and four RBIs in a 12-6 victory over Tampa. The double was just his second extra-base hit, and he wasn't far removed from a stretch of six straight hitless games. Smith was hitting .157 in 19 games with three RBIs before the breakout. The Mets' No. 9 prospect batted .271 with a .344 on-base percentage last season for Class A Savannah but had only one homer and 44 RBIs in 126 games.
Like father, like son: Clearwater's Brandon Leibrandt, the son of former Major League pitcher Charlie Leibrandt, is off to an impressive start in his first full season after being a sixth-round pick by Philadelphia last year. A left-hander like his father, Leibrandt worked a career-best eight innings May 7 at Daytona while improving his record to 3-1 and lowering his ERA to 1.85. The former Florida State University pitcher had a WHIP of 0.85, allowing just 25 hits and eight walks in 39 innings over six starts. Leibrandt, ranked as Philadelphia's No. 28 prospect, had struck out 35.