Milwaukee may have question marks at the big-league level, but the Brewers appear well-stocked at the hot corner with several intriguing candidates waiting in the wings.
Here's a rundown of BrewerUpdate.com's current rankings in the system.
1. Mat Gamel
The left-handed batter was a hitting machine before the All-Star break at Huntsville in 2008 before enduring a severe slump to finish with a still sparkling .329 average, 96 runs, 167 hits, 35 doubles, 19 homers, 96 RBI, .395/.537/.933.
Gamel played in the Futures Game and was a Southern League All-Star and then shipped up to Nashville for five contests, where he went 5 for 21 (.238) before his September call-up to Milwaukee in September—1 for 2 with a double against San Diego's Chris Young during the latter's two-hitter.
Gamel still struggled but improved defensively under Don Money's tutelage. He could be an answer to the Brewers' left-handed hitting needs, but his second-half swoon was puzzling, although partly could be blamed on elbow tendonitis that he revealed in Milwaukee and prevented him from participating in the Arizona Fall League.
His efforts garnered Gamel the J.G. Taylor Spink Award as the 21st annual Topps/Minor League Player of the Year.
The Florida native has been impressive since being the team's fourth-round selection in 2005, batting .311 with Helena. He then knocked in 88 runs during an All-Star campaign in West Virginia and batted .300 at Brevard County the next two seasons.
If he doesn't make the big-league club, Gamel should spend most of next summer in Nashville.
2. Taylor Green
This Canadian topped the Manatees with a .289 average, 15 long balls and 73 RBI despite several weeks of speculation surrounding his possible inclusion in the CC Sabathia trade. Green, also a lefty at the plate, showed great strike zone awareness, walking 61 times to 59 whiffs for a .382 OBP.
A former second baseman, Green got off to a quick start in the AFL with a .333 average (8 for 24) and .448 OBP in seven games before a pitch broke his nose and then a bad-hop grounder hit him there again during practice, ending his promising stay.
Green was drafted in the 25th round in 2005 but hit only .231 at Helena in '06, but he exploded onto the scene as the organization's player of the year at West Virginia in 2007, hitting 14 HRs, knocking in 86 and batting .327 in 111 games.
He should replace Gamel at the hot corner in Huntsville in 2009 as he continues his climb up the ladder.
3. Casey McGehee
Milwaukee claimed the 26-year-old Fresno State standout on waivers from the Cubs in late October and added the former 10th-round draft choice to the 40-man roster.
McGehee played left field as a freshman with the Bulldogs and reported to spring training in 2007 as a catcher.
Still, the likelihood is that the right-handed hitter will stay at the hot corner after making his big-league debut with Chicago in September, where he batted .167 in going 4 for 24, including 0 for 6 in two games against the Brewers.
He spent 2005 at Double-A West Tennessee, making the Southern League All-Star team after hitting .297 in 124 games. He batted .280 in 135 games at Triple-A Iowa in 2006 and started there in '07, where he hit only .173 in 18 contests. He then played in 105 games at Double-A, finishing with 26 doubles, nine homers, 54 RBI and a .273 average. He batted .296 in 2008 with 12 long balls, 30 doubles and 92 RBI in 133 games at Iowa.
4. Adam Heether
The Long Beach State product and 11th-round selection from 2003 played the entire '08 campaign at Triple-A Nashville after two seasons at Huntsville. Heether finished with a .272 average in 124 games for the Sounds, contributing 31 doubles, 11 homers and 51 RBI while registering a .383 OBP with 64 walks against 89 strikeouts. He also was successful on 11 of 12 stolen-base attempts.
The right-handed hitting Heether was consistent, batting .278 against lefties and .270 versus righties. He ended on a high note, hitting .340 during August. Heether committed 16 total errors.
He played in the Arizona Fall League after hitting .299 with 62 RBI during 2007 with the Stars. Heether had 35 doubles and 56 extra-base hits with Beloit in 2004 and was named a postseason all-star for his 2005 campaign in the Florida League.
5. Zelous Wheeler
The Alabama native and 19th-round pick from 2007 batted .300 and turned in a .398 OBP at Helena in 59 games that season. The right-handed stick then improved on that in his first full season at West Virginia last summer, batting only .258 but contributing 31 two-baggers, 13 homers and 87 RBI. He walked 61 times, stole 13 bases and had a .346 OBP, although he struck out 105 times and was caught stealing 11 times.
Wheeler hit .326 in April and .324 in June but faltered to a .218 average after the break. However, he rebounded nicely with a .348 showing (8 for 23) in West Virginia's six playoff contests, which included two doubles, a homer and five RBI as the Power reached the championship series.
Wheeler should advance to Brevard County in '09.
On the radar
John Delaney: Selected in the 27th round last June, the right-handed hitting Delaney finished with 12 doubles, five triples, nine homers and 33 RBI and batted .262 at Helena, where he also walked 51 times to help give him a .376 OBP.
Delaney hit .358 versus southpaws but smacked six of his long balls against righties despite a .207 average. He struggled out of the gate at .176 in June but then finished at .304 in July and .283 in August.