On August 1st, the Milwaukee Brewers sent catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the Texas Rangers in exchange for prospects Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, and a player to be named later. The two clubs negotiated almost right down to the 3 pm CST deadline and agreed to announce the PTBNL after the completion of the minor league season. It had been rumored that the third player going to Milwaukee would be a “significant” talent. The deal was officially completed yesterday as the Brewers announced they had acquired outfielder Ryan Cordell to finalize the transaction.
The 24 year old Cordell was not ranked in the preseason top 10 Rangers’ prospects according to BP, but he was mentioned as a player to watch in the Texas League back in April. The 6’4″ and 195 lb outfielder was the Rangers’ 11th-round draft pick out of Liberty University in 2013. He bats and throws from the right side.
According to Kit House from a BP Ten Pack earlier this season, “Cordell was an interesting toolsy college player before he posted a .914 OPS in 2014, his first full professional season. Then he got a promotion to Double-A, struck out like he was at a middle school dance, and baseball could almost cross off at least one more fourth outfielder-type.” Indeed, Cordell got off to a rather fast start in his career, batting .318/.385/.530 with 13 home runs and 21 steals in 89 games in 2014 between low-A and high-A, and then hitting .311/.376/.528 in 68 games with High Desert to start the 2015 season. As House alluded to, however, Cordell struggled mightily during his first exposure to AA, managing only a .217/.263/.335 slash with five home runs and 10 steals in 56 games. He struck out in 30.2 percent of his plate appearances while walking at just a five percent clip.
|30+ PA 2016||Age||TAv||opposingOPS|
|Texas League Median||24||.248||.691|
Cordell rebounded in a big way in 2016, however. After heading back to the Texas League for a second go-around, Ryan slashed his strikeout rate down to 21.8 percent (more in line with his 20.8 percent MiLB career rate), upped his walk rate to 7.2 percent, and posted a comfortably above-average .264/.319/.484 slash line in 445 plate appearances for a .279 TAv. He stole 12 bags and slugged 19 home runs, which tied for the eighth-most dingers in the league. He was also one of only six players in the Texas League to record a 10+ homer, 10+ steal season.
According to House, Cordell has a “workable” swing that he uses to generate a significant amount of hard contact. He did add that Ryan is unlikely to ever display more than average contact skills or power. Beyond his ability at the plate, however, House felt that his defense could already play at the big league level. He noted that Cordell could become a “very good outfielder” and possesses the “arm of a college pitcher.” Cordell’s plus speed has obviously helped him become a stolen base threat on the base paths, and it also allows him handle capably all three outfield positions. He has experience in the infield, as well, but Brewers GM Slingin’ David Stearns told reporters that the club views him strictly as an outfielder.
Cordell’s overall skill set makes him an intriguing player overall, one whom Fangraphs’ editor Carson Cistulli says is not all that dissimilar from Keon Broxton or Domingo Santana. Cordell has the tools to become a perennial 15+ home run, 15+ stolen base threat with above-average defense in an everyday role at the MLB level. He simply needs to make enough contact in order to effectively tap into those tools. Ryan did miss time with a high-ankle sprain this season, though he’s reportedly near 100% healed from that injury and will play instructional ball this fall to make up for the lost time.
The addition of Ryan Cordell adds yet another name to the increasing log-jam of near MLB ready outfielders within the Brewers’ minor league ranks. It will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on how Stearns sorts through all those candidates; who will be traded, who will flame out, and who will earn a role with the big league club going forward?