The 2016 season didn’t produce quite as many notable individual performances within the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league system as the previous year had seen, but there were still a few pleasant surprises by players who we may start seeing included in the various top-100 lists that will come out over the winter. Lucas Erceg hit the ground running after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft; Isan Diaz lead the Midwest League with 20 home runs while playing the middle infield; Brandon Woodruff lead the minors in strikeouts while posting a 2.68 ERA; and Marcos Diplan averaged better than 10 K/9 while making it to high-A as a 19 year old. With a new year nearly upon us, which prospects could be breakout performers in 2017?
OF Zach Clark (2017: Age 21)
Ray Montgomery and the Brewers didn’t nab Zach Clark until the 19th round of this past summer’s MLB Draft, but the Mississippian’s skill set was enticing enough for the Brewers to give him an over-slot bonus of $125,000. Clark enjoyed a thoroughly successful junior college career, was a highly praised commit to Alabama, and ranked as Baseball America’s 229th-best draft prospect before choosing to instead make the leap into the professional ranks after being selected 561st overall. He rewarded the club’s good faith by producing a nifty .252/.314/.409 slash (.272 TAv) with 2 home runs and 6 steals in 140 PA in the Arizona League.
According to a review of Milwaukee’s 2016 draft class from The Baseball Draft Report, “Clark’s speed, athleticism, and defensive value put a reasonable floor as a speedy, athletic, valuable defensive backup…What makes Clark so exciting is the upside he’s flashed at the plate.” Clark’s power/speed combination has been favorably compared to first round picks like Delvin Perez, Josh Lowe, and Will Benson, and a player of his ilk isn’t one typically found (much less signed) in the 19th round. The outfielder has exhibited plus-plus speed, plus raw power, and a more advanced feel for contact than one might expect. There’s quite a bit of ways to go in order to actualize those tools, but Clark has the capability to become a productive major leaguer and could be a candidate to make the jump to full season ball in Appleton next year.
RHP Jon Perrin (2017: Age 24)
Jon Perrin was a late-round senior sign in the 27th round of the 2015 MLB Draft after enjoying a modestly successful career at Oklahoma State. Baseball wasn’t his preferred career, as Perrin had dreams of being accepted to Harvard Law and told David Laurila of Fangraphs he would walk away from the game if he had the opportunity to enter the school. Perrin’s dream of becoming a lawyer may not have worked out as he’d hoped, but the massive leaps in development that the big righty has made in the past two seasons could have him well on his way to becoming a major leaguer instead.
Perrin began the year as a 23 year old in low-A, but made quick work of the Midwest League by posting a 1.08 DRA and an outrageous 47:1 K/BB ratio in 36.0 innings. He continued his success after a promotion to Brevard County, where he ultimately spent a bulk of the season; in 110.7 innings for the Manatees, Perrin worked to a 2.66 ERA and 2.60 DRA with 7.7 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, and a 49% ground ball rate. Perrin made one final start in AA to close out the 2016 season and it was a bit of a stinker, but there’s a good chance he’ll be back in Biloxi to begin the 2017 season.
At 6’5″ and 220 lbs, Perrin has the body type to be a durable innings-eater. His arsenal fits right into that mold, as well. According to a BP Eyewitness Report from James Fisher earlier this year, Perrin throws from a three-quarters arm slot that features some deception. His fastball sits in the 88-92 MPH range and touches 93 with light sink, along with a sweeping slider he can get strikeouts with and a changeup that features “downer action” and “average deception.” His repertoire plays up because of Perrin’s outstanding control and command, as he throws plenty of strikes and is able to manipulate the ball within each of the four quadrants of the strike zone.
Fisher grades Perrin with an OFP of 50 with a realistic role of 4th starter/set-up reliever, a report that if it holds true would easily place Perrin within the top 20 or 30 prospects in the organization’s minor league system. It may not be the sexiest profile to dream on, but if Perrin starts well out of the gates next year it wouldn’t at all be surprising to see his quick ascent through the system reach it’s apex at the major league level in 2017.