This morning, Baseball Prospectus proudly unveiled their Top-10 Brewers Prospects on the main site. The entire piece — which includes scouting reports, fantasy analysis, and an additional blurb on the state of the organization’s youth (full disclosure: I wrote the latter part) — can be read FOR FREE. Just a wealth of information at your fingertips.
BP Milwaukee is digging deeper into the Brewers’ farm system, though, as Christopher Crawford and the rest of the BP Prospect Team have exclusively provided their No. 11-20 prospects for Milwaukee. The scouting information comes from Crawford (compiled and written by myself), with some of my personal thoughts coming at the end.
11. Nathan Kirby, LHP
12. Jacob Gatewood, SS
13. Demi Orimoloye, OF
A common refrain in the Brewers’ system, none of the three prospects listed above were a part of the organization two years ago. All are intriguing pieces, but patience will be essential. Kirby was once considered a safe top-five pick before injuries knocked him to the supplemental round. His recent Tommy John surgery pushes his timeline back even further and makes his ugly 5.68 ERA in Class-A rather irrelevant. In truth, he’s not too different from fellow UVA alumni Danny Hultzen, just with a shoulder that’s not decaying.
Gatewood has massive bat speed and plus-plus power potential — as evidenced by his 40 extra-base hits in just 389 at-bats — but the contact issues prevent him from being anything more than a high-value lottery ticket. What’s crazy is that Orimoloye could have more upside than Gatewood. The Brewers’ fourth-round pick has three tools with 60 potential and showed a bit more feel for hitting than expected. He could be a Top-100 prospect by the end of the 2016 season, if his early success carries into the upcoming campaign.
14. Josh Hader, LHP
15. Adrian Houser, RHP
16. Kodi Medeiros, LHP
Hader pitched well in Double-A for the Astros organization this past year, but the left-hander kicked it into a higher gear after moving to Double-A Biloxi. He has an above-average fastball that touches 98 mph and two competent secondary offerings. Although his penchant for missing bats has garnered him a lot of attention from Brewers followers, the arm action remains ugly and difficult to project. That latter piece will unfortunately follow him until he’s able to put together a substantial body of work at the highest level.
Some folks in the industry were most impressed with Houser and his development in the second half. The command and the secondaries come and go, an inconsistency that could force him to the bullpen, but his 2.92 ERA and 4.0 percent walk rate for Double-A Biloxi illustrate the fact that he made some impressive adjustments that could help him stick as a starter if everything continues to progress.
Medeiros isn’t too different from Hader, just a couple levels his junior. The lefty has some strong supporters in the industry who believe in his devastating fastball-slider combination, while some are heavy detractors due to his poor changeup, bad mechanics, and non-ideal size. On the bright side, the 19-year-old handled an aggressive promotion to full-season ball and didn’t allow a single home run in 93.1 innings. He could ultimately be a reliever, but he could be a darn good one.
17. Yadiel Rivera, SS
18. Marcos Diplan, RHP
19. Michael Reed, OF
20. Javier Betancourt, 2B
The final quartet is a mixed bag, with potential bench bats and a talented young pitcher with extreme variance in his potential outcomes. Rivera and Betancourt are glove-first middle infielders (at shortstop and second base, respectively) with little chance to do anything special with the bat. Betancourt has a bit more bat speed and more feel for the barrel, but Rivera is one of the best defensive shortstops in all the minors. While they’re a pair of unexciting prospects, small-market organizations need to develop quality bench players to ensure they don’t have to overspend for them in free agency.
Speaking of homegrown reserves, Reed may be the perfect fourth outfielder. No standout tools and a lack of physical projectability limit his ceiling, but he’s well-rounded, smart, and can provide quality defense in the corner outfield spots. He hit .278/.379/.422 in Double-A. The power needs to take a real step forward, though, if he’s going to stick as an everyday guy.
Diplan is another guy with big stuff and a small body, so all the natural question marks pertain. He posted a 3.75 ERA in 50.1 innings for Helena in the Pioneer League, striking out an impressive 25.7 percent of the batters he faced. At 19 years old and ages away from being anything concrete, he’s a wild card in the system.
Although the above list is grouped in three tiers, it should be noted that a significant drop-off exists between Kodi Medeiros and Yadiel Rivera, at least for me. The top-16 prospects can largely be ordered however you’d like. Personal preference matters. I know at least one scout who would push Hader and Houser into the top-10, another who would demand for Orimoloye to be ranked higher, and yet another who would balk at Kirby’s omission from the top-10 list. That’s how these things go, which is why all prospect lists should be read for their content much more than the individual ranking slots.
Still, the future of the Brewers’ system depends on the development of many of these players. If Hader, Houser, and Medeiros ultimately wind up as sure-fire relievers, this list suddenly has a different complexion. Similarly, if Gatewood cuts down the strikeouts and continues to hit for power and Orimoloye enjoys more success in 2016, the Brewers will have a plethora of high-end offensive prospects that should help them shorten their rebuilding process. And if general manager David Stearns bolsters the system with additional trades this winter, things look even more promising.
I believe the most encouraging aspect of Baseball Prospectus’ top-20 Brewers prospects is what is not present. Guys like Clint Coulter, Tyler Wagner, Damien Magnifico, and Miguel Diaz have legitimate big-league potential (to varying degrees and with different timelines, of course) and couldn’t crack either of the lists. Those will certainly feel like oversights to some people, but it’s really splitting hairs whether someone is ranked No. 17 or No. 23. The real takeaway is the fact that the Brewers have enough depth to have 20-plus prospects with legitimate big-league potential.
And given the fact that David Stearns has already shown a willingness to move Major League players for prospects, the full-blown rebuilding process in Milwaukee has a chance to be less painful than the one that happened in Chicago or Houston. A fan can’t ask for anything more than that.