The Brewers may not have been quite as active as some had expected prior to Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, but Slingin’ David Stearns still managed to move arguably the club’s three most valuable assets. Left-handed reliever Will Smith was sent to the Giants for Catcher Andrew Susac and RHP Phil Bickford, while franchise catcher Jonathan Lucroy was packaged with closer Jeremy Jeffress and shipped to Texas for OF Lewis Brinson, RHP Luis Ortiz, and a player to be named later.
Milwaukee added some potential high-impact talent to a minor league system that is now rated as the best in baseball according to at least one outlet. Here are Baseball Prospectus scouting reports on the newest future Brewers.
Rangers Trade Return:
CF Lewis Brinson
6’3″ || 195 lb || B/T: R/R || Age: 22
Hit: 55 || Power: 55 || Speed: 60 || Arm: 60 || Glove: 70 ||
Future Role: 60 – first division starting center fielder
Report: There’s the potential for five above-average tools, which wasn’t the case in 2014. He now shows a shorter stroke capable of hard contact to all parts of the field, along with a more advanced approach. There’s always been plus raw power, and that pop shows up in games thanks to his strong wrists and his ability to use the lower half to create leverage. If there’s a concern offensively it’s that he still gets pull-happy, and while the strikeout rates have dropped each year, this is still the type of player who is going to swing and miss. A lot.
Brinson’s offense hasn’t caught up to the defense, but that’s a compliment to the glove rather than an insult to the bat. His plus speed helps him get to pretty much everything in center field. He has the type of arm strength you’d love to see in your right fielder, and swoon for when you see that it plays in center.
There were only a handful of players more impressive than Brinson in the Arizona Fall League, and it helped confirm what those who saw him all year had been saying. Even with the strikeouts, this is player who can impact the game in essentially every realistic way you could ask for. – Chris Crawford
AA Frisco – 326 PA, .236 TAv || .237/.280/.431 || 11 HR || 11 SB || 19.6 percent K || 5.2 percent BB
AAA Colorado Springs – 13 PA, .585 TAv || .615/.615/.923 || 1 HR || 2 SB|| 15.4 percent K || 0 percent BB
RHP Luis Ortiz
6’3″ || 230 lbs || B/T: R/R || Age: 20
Fastball: 65 || Slider: 60 || Changeup: 45 || Command: 55
Future Role: 60 – #3 starting pitcher
Report: Not only do some prefer Ortiz over (Dillon) Tate, but there are those who believe Ortiz has the highest ceiling of any prospect in the (Rangers’) system. He gets his fastball into the mid 90s consistently from an easy arm action, sitting 93-95. The slider is his go-to out pitch. It doesn’t have as much depth as Tate’s, but it has more deception because the tilt comes so late. The only thing keeping him from projecting as a frontline starter right now is the lack of a quality third pitch, as both his curveball and change are closer to 40 than 50. Even without an average third offering, he has a chance to start because the command is so advanced. He repeats his delivery as well as you can expect a teenager to repeat things, and he not only throws strikes with all four pitches, he locates them to any part of the plate.
The concerns with Ortiz don’t come from stuff or an inability to throw strikes, but whether or not he’ll be able to hold up during a season. He’s burly—to put it nicely—and he’s missed time in each of the past two years, ending his 2015 season with elbow tendinitis. If he can stay healthy and keep the weight in check, he could be an innings-eater who misses bats, but there’s more volatility here than the stuff might suggest. – Chris Crawford
A+ High Desert – 27.2 IP, .216 TAv || 2.60 ERA || 4.20 FIP || 25.5 percent K || 5.5 percent BB || 51 percent GB
AA Frisco – 39.2 IP, .256 TAv || 4.08 ERA || 3.32 FIP || 19.5 percent K || 4.0 percent BB || 47 percent GB
(Note: Player to be named later won’t be announced until after the completion of the minor league season.)
RHP Phil Bickford
6’4″ || 200 lbs || B/T: R/R || Age: 20
Fastball: 65/70 || Slider: 50 || Changeup: 40 || Command: 50
Future Role: 45 – back end starter/high-leverage reliever
Report: Bickford’s stuff profiles best in a late-innings relief role. He has the body and arm to work multiple times through a lineup, and he features a deceptive fastball with late life up that generates swings and misses, but he lacks a third pitch and struggles commanding within the zone. His slider can change multiple grades from one start to the next but is something that can be masked in short stints. Bickford’s best-case scenario is a two-pitch starter with a back-end rotation spot. A high-leverage reliever is the safe bet. -David Lee
Report: Bickford’s arm strength is elite, and when he’s working in short spurts, he’ll touch the high 90s with a four-seam fastball that has late life. His slider is maddeningly inconsistent; he struggles to repeat his three-quarters arm slot, and it will vary from a 40 pitch that he can’t locate to a 60 with hard tilt. The change is very much a work in progress, and like the slider its grade varies wildly from appearance to appearance. The control is ahead of the command, but he does a good enough job filling the strike zone that he should be able to start. However, because the stuff is so much better in shorter outings, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he ends up making his living as a reliever. – Chris Crawford
A Augusta – 60.0 IP, .233 TAv || 2.70 ERA || 2.44 FIP || 28.3 percent K || 6.1 percent BB || 34 percent GB
A+ San Jose – 33.0 IP, .214 TAv || 2.73 ERA || 3.97 FIP || 27.9 percent K || 9.3 percent BB || 35 percent GB
C Andrew Susac
6’1″ || 215 lbs || B/T: R/R || Age: 26
Hit: 50 || Power: 60 || Speed: 30 || Arm: 55 || Glove: 50
Future Role: 55 – above-average MLB starting catcher
Report: Advanced approach with good feel for zone; solid plus power plays in game at present; good strength; balanced swing stays on plane and allows for hard contact pole to pole; natural backspin and carry; improving actions behind the plate; capable defender who could refine to average overall producer with glove; above-average arm with solid release and accuracy. Average bat speed and coverage holes; can be beat by sequencing and elevated heat; danger that overexposure at big-league level will eat into contact and power utility once book gets out; well below-average runner; likely tops out as average defender. – Nick J. Faleris
Fantasy Impact: Given a full complement of at-bats, Susac could hit .260 with 20 homers, making him a potential top-10 catcher. – Bret Sayre
MLB Career Statistics (2014-15):
San Francisco – 243 PA, .268 TAv, -1.3 FRAA || .240/.309/.407 || 6 HR || 0 SB || 29.2 percent K || 8.6 percent BB
AAA Sacramento – 239 PA, .302 TAv || .273/.343/.455 || 8 HR || 0 SB || 18.8 percent K || 10 percent BB
AAA Colorado Springs – 9 PA, .030 TAv || .111/.111/.111 || 0 HR || 0 SB || 33.3 percent K || 0 percent BB