Haniger, Goforth head Brewers' list of seven NRIs
Top 20 prospects joined by Molleken, Garfield, Weisenburger, Davis and Mattison
MILWAUKEE -- Top 20 Brewers prospects Mitch Haniger and David Goforth were among seven players in Milwaukee's Minor League system invited to big league Spring Training camp on Wednesday.
Besides Haniger, an outfielder who ranks 12th on MLB.com's list of the top Brewers prospects, and right-hander Goforth, who ranks 17th, the team invited right-hander Dustin Molleken, catchers Cameron Garfield and Adam Weisenburger and outfielders Kentrail Davis and Kevin Mattison.
Haniger, 23, split the 2013 season between Class A Wisconsin and Class A Advanced Brevard County and batted a combined .264 with 11 home runs, 68 RBIs and a .348 on-base percentage, drawing praise from afar from Brewers manager Ron Roenicke for his plate discipline. In the Arizona Fall League, Haniger hit .280 with four home runs and a league-leading 24 RBIs. He is probably ticketed for Double-A Huntsville.
Closer to the Major Leagues is Goforth, a 25-year-old who converted back to a relief role during a 2013 season split between Brevard County and Huntsville. He combined to go 11-8 with a 3.17 ERA in 34 games, 18 starts, holding Double-A batters to a .188 average and logging five saves after switching to the bullpen. After 16 relief outings for Huntsville, Goforth went to the Arizona Fall League for extra work and held opponents to a .234 average.
"He will get a good look in Spring Training," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said during the Winter Meetings. The Brewers have only three bullpen spots locked up (closer Jim Henderson, setup man Brandon Kintzler and left-hander Tom Gorzelanny), leaving four up for grabs between candidates like Rob Wooten, Donovan Hand, Michael Blazek, Alfredo Figaro, Will Smith, Hiram Burgos, Mike Fiers and non-roster invitees Zach Duke and Goforth.
If he does not make the Major League team, Goforth has a chance to be Triple-A Nashville's closer at the start of the season. He viewed relief work as his best chance to get to the Majors.
"It's the fastest way to get where I want to be," Goforth said.
Davis and Weisenburger were also in big league camp last year before season-opening assignments to Huntsville. Davis finished the year at Nashville, and batted .268 for the season with seven home runs, 47 RBIs, 26 stolen bases and a .364 OBP.
Molleken signed with the Brewers midway through the 2013 season to a contract that included a renewal option for 2014. The 29-year-old has pitched parts of 10 Minor League seasons in the Pirates, Rockies and Brewers chains and had a 3.14 ERA in 10 games at Nashville last year.
Garfield was a second-round Draft pick of the Brewers in 2009 but struggled with knee injuries in 2011 and '12. He will turn 23 in May after playing a career-best 109 games last season, batting .250 with a .280 OBP, eight home runs and 48 RBIs at Brevard County.
The Brewers acquired Mattison from the Marlins in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December. He batted .216 with seven homers, 31 RBIs and 18 stolen bases with Triple-A New Orleans last season.