The biggest change for LaPorta has been his defensive position. The Brewers had surprised many when they took him a year ago, because he was a first baseman in college and, obviously, Prince Fielder is already there. But the Brewers immediately moved LaPorta to a corner-outfield spot, and he's played both left and right field in his brief professional career.
"He's not bad in the outfield," said one scout who's seen LaPorta play this year in the Southern League. "He was a catcher in high school and a first baseman in college, but he moves OK. He'll be OK out there. He'll catch the balls he gets to, he takes good routes and angles."
That's comforting to know, but the keys that will get LaPorta to the big leagues do not involve his glove. They involve his bat and his attitude.
"He's a great kid," the scout said. "His make-up is off the charts.
"His plan and approach at the plate is good. It's just a matter of experience. He's got a good swing, a great approach, good discipline. Everything is right on line to be a solid contributor at the Major League level."
Zach Jackson, LHP: It's been an up-and-down career for Jackson. It began with high expectations when he was taken in the supplemental first round (32nd overall) of the 2004 Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
In his first full season, the Texas A&M product went a combined 16-8 with a 3.92 ERA, pitched in the Futures Game and went from the Class A Advanced Florida State League to Triple-A in one season. His fast track to the big leagues was re-routed when he was traded in December following that season to the Brewers in the Lyle Overbay deal.
He made his big league debut the following season, but didn't pitch all that well, finishing with a 5.40 ERA over 38 1/3 innings. He spent all of last year in Triple-A but had made it up for two relief appearances this May despite a 7.85 ERA in the Minors. Overall in the Minor Leagues, Jackson has gone 28-23 with a 4.62 ERA.
When he's on, he's got a good three-pitch mix: a fastball in the 90-91 mph range -- though he can reach back for a little more at times -- a slider and a changeup. His biggest problems, particularly in the big leagues, have stemmed from command issues and falling behind. He's also a little excitable on the mound and can be too aggressive at times. If he can tone it down, he does have good enough stuff to pitch in the big leagues. Only 25, if the Indians can tweak things here and there, he's a big, strong (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) lefty who could even help them this year.
Rob Bryson, RHP: The Brewers took Bryson as a draft-and-follow (31st round) in the 2006 Draft, then signed him prior to the 2007 Draft after he spent a year at junior college.
The right-hander had a 2.67 ERA and eight saves in his pro debut in the Pioneer League last summer, striking out 70 in 54 innings. He's kept up the strikeout rate this year as well. Pitching once again in relief and sometimes in a starting role, the 20-year-old has struck out 73 in 55 innings for West Virginia in the South Atlantic League. He's added five saves and has held hitters to a .209 batting average against, though his ERA stood at 4.25 at the time of the trade.
Bryson is all about arm strength. He's got a live arm with a fastball he can crank it up to 95 mph. He's got a power slider and plays around with a curve as well, though he'll eventually likely be a fastball-slider-changeup guy. It remains to be seen what he might become, a starting pitcher with a three-pitch mix, or a strong, physical short reliever with an enticing two-pitch power combination.