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Mehring Monday: MLB Debuts for Rattlers in 2013

October 7, 2013

Nine former Timber Rattlers made their Major League debuts in 2013. There are a few that immediately spring to mind. There are a few you may need to think about for a bit. Then, there are a few - if you haven't been following the team for awhile - that will make you go, "Right! He played with the Timber Rattlers!"

You can click on the name to see their stats and a few highlights through the page. The one main MLB stat from this year I will include for each player is their WAR* - or wins above replacement. If you are unfamiliar with that stat, click here to see an introduction to it on FanGraphs.

Hiram Burgos, a Timber Rattler with a 5-7 record in 19 games - eight starts - in 2010, made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers on April 20. He made the start against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park on that day and allowed a run on five hits.    Burgos made a total of six starts for the Brewers this past season. He made a few really nice starts, but his numbers were thrown off by a start at Cincinnati on May 11 in which he gave up twelve runs - ten earned - on eleven hits and three walks over three innings.   That one start against the Reds would be a big knock on his WAR and sent it to -0.72 for the season.

Khris Davis, one of two Timber Rattlers to hold the franchise record for home runs in a single season, broke camp with the Brewers after Spring Training and made his MLB debut on April 1. Davis hit 22 homers over 122 games with the Timber Rattlers in 2010. He hit half as many home runs (11) in just under half the number of games (56) for the Brewers in 2013. To toss another stat your way, Davis had an OPS of .949 in his rookie season. This guy by the name of Yasiel Puig had an OPS of .925. Granted Puig played in 104 games, but I think a lot of people would like to see what Davis could do over an entire season. In his limited time for the Brewers, Davis came in with a WAR of 1.30 which wound up being the second highest among former Rattlers in their debut season.

Scooter Gennett hit .309 with nine homers and 55 RBI for the Timber Rattlers in 2010. He was called up three different times to the Brewers. The first time was for his debut on June 3. It took him awhile to get going at the big league level, but once he did, Gennett opened some eyes. He played a total of 69 games with the Brewers, hit .324, and surprised some (not me) with six home runs. Gennett's WAR of 2.09 was the highest of Rattlers making their MLB debuts in 2013. That number was also sixth among all players making their debuts this season. Puig was tops (4.98). The rest of the top five were Nolan Arenado (3.88), Juan Lagares (3.66), Nick Franklin (2.26), and Jedd Gyorko (2.09). Then next two players behind Gennett on that list were Brad Miller (1.98) and Wil Myers (1.97). Not a bad list.

Sean Halton had a brief stay with the Timber Rattlers in 2010. It was a stint that saw him play just 23 games and hit .221 with no home runs and eleven RBI. Like Gennett, Halton was called up to the Brewers a few times. The first time was on June 27 where he picked up a hit as a pinch-hitter against the Cubs in his first MLB at bat. Halton was called up from Nashville again when rosters expanded in September and would hit a walkoff home run against the Reds on September 15 and a grand slam against the Cubs on September 17. In all, he played 42 games with the Brewers this season and wound up with a WAR of -0.02.

Johnny Hellweg is a little different from the other players on this list. He didn't pitch for Wisconsin until after he had made his MLB debut. Hellweg was in the Midwest League back in 2009 and 2010 when he pitched for the Cedar Rapids Kernels against the Timber Rattlers. The Brewers picked him up from the Angels organization in the Zack Greinke trade during the 2012 season. Hellweg got called up to Milwaukee for a start on June 28 and made four appearances - three starts. His next start was scheduled to be during the break for the MLB All-Star Game. The Brewers sent him to Wisconsin for a start against the Lake County Captains on July 15 and he allowed a pair of runs over six innings for the win. Hellweg went to Nashville in the Pacific Coast League after the start against the Captains. He was named the PCL Pitcher of the Year and Milwaukee Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Year before getting called back up to the Brewers for September. Hellweg's WAR with the Brewers came in at -1.23.

Jimmy Nelson was a Timber Rattler in 2011 and was 8-9 with 120 strikeouts over 146 innings pitched that season. He began 2012 with Huntsville in the Southern League, moved to Nashville before the end of the first half of the season, and pitched well enough to be rewarded with a September call-up to the Brewers for an appearance at Wrigley Field against the Cubs on September 6. In his brief cameo for the Brewers - ten innings over four games with one start - Nelson allowed one run on two hits. He made three relief appearances in games that could be considered mop-up duty, but kept the score where it was - which is what a pitcher in that spot is supposed to do. Nelson got his first MLB start at New York against the Mets and gave up a run on one hit over five innings. He had a no decision in that game, but pitched well. Nelson's MLB WAR was 0.35

Josh Prince was drafted by the Brewers in 2009 and was a Timber Rattler by the end of that season. He would play 31 games for Wisconsin and hit .221 with a homer and ten RBI. You may remember that there were some injury problems with the Brewers early in the season and Prince was promoted from Nashville to appear on April 6. His first major league hit was a ground rule double on April 7. He would get into six more games for the Brewers - five as a pinch-runner and one as a starter in left field - over a couple of different stops in Milwaukee. Prince was 1-for-8 and his WAR in limited action for the Crew came in at -0.10.

Juan Carlos Ramirez was a Timber Rattler from the final year of the relationship between the team and the Seattle Mariners. He was just Juan Ramirez in 2008 with the Timber Rattlers and was 6-9 with 113 strikeouts over 124 innings pitched. When he made his MLB debut with the Philadelphia Phillies on June 23, 2013, JC Ramirez became the seventh player - and fifth pitcher - from that 2008 Timber Rattlers team to make it to the majors. Ramirez stuck with the Phillies after the promotion and appeared in 18 games with 15 walks and 16 strikeouts over 24 innings. His WAR was at -0.70 in the big leagues this year.

Caleb Thielbar was a Timber Rattler in 2010. He appeared in 30 games as a reliever and his numbers were not the type to jump out and say "Hello! Future Major Leaguer HERE!". Thielbar allowed 41 runs - 33 earned - on 65 hits over 53 innings as a Rattler. Then, he was sent down to Helena in early August. Then, he was released from the Brewers organization. Then, something clicked during a stop with the St. Paul Saints in the independent leagues during 2011. The Minnesota Twins signed him and he went to Triple-A by the end of that season. The Twins needed help in the bullpen and gave Thielbar a chance on May 20. Thielbar didn't allow a run over his first 17 appearances in the big leagues and ended the season 3-2 with a 1.76ERA over 49 games. He walked 14 and struck out 39 in 46 innings with the Twins and ended the year with a WAR of 1.27. There were only three other pitchers who were exclusively relievers during their debut seasons with a higher WAR this year: Kevin Siegrist (1.95), Yoervis Medina (1.87), and Seth Maness (1.63).

There's a lot of promise in this group of ex-Timber Rattlers. We'll be keeping an eye on them during their careers.

*-Using the WAR from