The early returns in the Jonathon Lucroy trade already look to be working out. Lewis Brinson dominated down the stretch in 2016 upon joining the Brewers’ farm system and is now having himself a decent, albeit early, Spring. Luis Ortiz quickly found himself sprinkled all over top-10 prospect lists and should see himself starting in Milwaukee’s rotation come 2018, at the latest. Where this trade becomes a heist is not in the two headline pieces, but oddly enough from the infamous player to be named later, whom the Brewers acquired in September, a month and a half after the original trade took place. That player is outfield/third basemen Ryan Cordell.
Cordell, a former 11th round pick, made his way into a few top prospect lists while spending time in the Rangers organization, most recently by Baseball America in their midseason update in 2016. He has never really been considered an impact prospect due to his advanced age. 2017 will be his age-25 season. He is closer to the vaunted “career minor-leaguer” title than the prospect tag. But, he was only drafted in 2013 and has advanced a level every year since.
In the 2015 season, the tall right-hander was progressing quickly, and borderline dominating at the lower levels. The year before, he ran a .340 TAv in 70 plate appearances with the Rangers Class-Advanced A team and then followed that up with a .310 TAv in 2015 with the same squad. He barely made it through half the season before getting the call to the Rangers’ Class-AA affiliate.
This is where it all went wrong for Cordell. In 242 plate appearances, he ran an OPS of .598 and a TAv of .217. Putrid numbers and his advanced age left him on the cusp of being stripped of his prospect tag.
Then the 2016 season came around and Cordell made some adjustments. For example, his strikeout percentage fell from 30.2 percent to 21.8 percent, an astronomical jump. His walk rate went from 5 percent to 7.2 percent. Cordell displayed the plate discipline he had at the lower levels but now he was bringing it to the higher levels. His slugging percentage jumped nearly 150 points, and his on-base percentage jumped 56 points. Cordell showed off his power-speed combo by hitting 19 home runs and stealing 12 bases in 445 plate appearances.
It is easy to look at that miserable 2015 stint in AA as a 23-year-old and be cautious with a player of advanced age and huge struggles. But if you take that short, 242 plate appearance blip out of the picture, there is a player who has succeeded at every level. That is before discussing what he has done this Spring.
Cordell has already played in nine games this Spring, just as many as Orlando Arcia and Lewis Brinson, and he might just hit himself into a fourth or fifth outfielder spot. He has six hits, a home run, and five walks in twenty plate appearances. He has been on-base in over half of his plate appearances. Of course, nobody should overreact to any ten games, let alone Spring Training games, but Cordell and his roster chances are being evaluated and he is delivering.
It would appear at the moment Cordell is blocked by the glut of young outfielders the Brewers employ, along with Ryan Braun, but it still isn’t hard to see him finding a roster spot. The Brewers may want to give Lewis Brinson full-time at-bats in the minor leagues rather than share time with Braun or Domingo Santana, who also needs full-time at-bats to develop. This opens up a bench spot for the versatile Cordell, who can also play some third base and first base. Then there is the injury concern; Braun and Santana both haven’t exactly been the healthiest guys when it comes to injuries. Keon Broxton and his 30 percent strikeout rate is no guarantee either. Ryan Cordell is yet another young name to keep on your radar this Spring and possibly come Opening Day.