A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Weeks Whirlwind Goes to AFL
At some point, Rickie Weeks will finally be able to take a deep breath. He’ll return home to Florida in November, look back at the past summer and utter something along the lines of, “Whoa.”
To call it a whirlwind would do a great disservice to Weeks’ experience.
It’s basically been non-stop for the second baseman taken No. 2 overall in the 2003 draft out of Southern University. Once he finally has some down time, he’ll be able to get some perspective. For now, the Brewers prospect is just enjoying the ride.
“To tell you the truth, I really haven’t [thought about it],” Weeks said from Arizona, where he is playing for the Peoria Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. “Everything’s that happened to me so far has been good. I was drafted, I played for a championship team. I got to go to the big-eague level to get my feet wet. Then I came here to play with other top prospects.
I’m just taking it in stride. Hopefully, it should work out for the best.”
If how he handled the past half of a year is any indication, there’s little doubt about how it will work out. After the Tampa Bay Devil Rays decided on Delmon Young with the No. 1 pick, Milwaukee took Weeks second. He signed in August, giving him enough time to amass 63 at-bats with Beloit in the Midwest League.
He made the most of it, hitting .349 with a .494 on-base percentage and .556 slugging percentage. Weeks joined a very talented Beloit Snappers team just in time to help the push to the playoffs. Beloit made it all the way to the Championship Series before losing to the Lansing Lugnuts.
That would be enough for most draft picks, but Weeks was far from done. The Brewers called him up to Milwaukee to give him a taste of what the Majors was all about. He got into seven games and grabbed 12 at-bats, picking up two base hits.
Weeks is great at finding at-bats when he can. At Southern University, he played three different positions in three years to help his team. Even in the AFL, where it’d be expected that Weeks would work exclusively at the position many feel he’ll play in the big leagues — second base — he’s played four games at short because there was a need and it enabled him to get some extra plate appearances.
“Here in the fall league, everything is laid back,” Weeks said. “They’re trying to get people to play. They needed someone to play shortstop. I want to get in any way I can. That was one of the best ways to get out there.”
It’s that attitude that has Brewers officials as excited as they are about the fact he’s hitting .298 with a .443 OBP and is a perfect 6-for-6 on steal attempts in Arizona.
“We’re very happy with Rickie, and we’re tickled pink he’s a Brewer,” Milwaukee scouting director Jack Zduriencik said.
“We think he’s going to be a great player.
“He doesn’t just want to be a Major League player, he wants to be a very good Major League player. He’s a hard worker, and he’s got very good listening skills. He’s very determined.”
Weeks soaks up baseball knowledge like a sponge, and is willing to learn from anyone who has experiences that can benefit him on his path to the Majors. That’s why the AFL is a perfect place for Weeks, who is constantly trying to shorten his learning curve.
It’s not common for a draft pick to play in the Fall League the year he’s drafted, but Weeks has fit right in, picking up tidbits at every turn.
“My whole thing is to try to make up for lost time,” Weeks said. “I’m trying to get some at-bats, to get some games under my belt. So far, it’s going pretty well for me. I’m just learning as I go.”
While Weeks’ performance and his maturity belie his service time, it still becomes evident that he was playing college baseball just six months ago. The Brewers’ Double-A manager Frank Kremblas is managing Weeks on the Saguaros in the AFL, but Weeks still called him his “head coach.”
Professional lingo aside, it may not be too long before Brewers fans will get to see Weeks full-time in Milwaukee. Neither the organization nor the player have set a timetable, but seeing Weeks’ in the Brewers infield in 2004, with everything that’s happened in the past six months, certainly doesn’t sound fantastical.
“I’m not going to put it on myself,” Weeks said of pressure to reach the bigs quickly. “I’m going to play. If they feel the need, they’ll do it. For me, it’s keep learning, keep playing ball the way I know how to. Hopefully, some time I’ll get called up.”
When that happens, he will eventually be joined by several products from a thriving minor league system. Double-A Huntsville was stacked with talent like Ben Hendrickson and Dave Krynzel, both playing on the Saguaros with Weeks, and J.J. Hardy, who is playing for Team USA in Olympic qualifying action. And don’t forget Corey Hart, who was the MVP of the Southern League. Throw in 2002 first-rounder Prince Fielder, who played with Weeks in Beloit, and the future looks very bright for the Brewers.
“We’ve got some fine young players,” Weeks said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of the mix. Hopefully, I can tag along with those guys and we can make it tothe top.”