Each year, spring training serves as a warm up for players knock out the winter’s cobwebs and get in playing shape for the long baseball regular season. Most players are working through some sort of mechanical adjustments or tinkering with a new pitch, pitchers only work maybe a couple of innings as they build up arm strength, and games feature wholesale lineup changes halfway through as managers try and get all their guys work. Spring training at least gives us baseball to talk about, but the small sample size of game action is far too small for us to draw any sort of meaningful conclusions about a player’s performance.
Given the training camp nature of spring, it also allows us to catch our first glimpses of some of the top prospects littered throughout the minor league system. Split squad games and non-roster invitations allow ample opportunity for farmhands to show their wares in major league games, which have more often been televised or broadcast on the radio in recent years. Even with the massive grain of salt that should be taken based on the paragraph above, it’s difficult not to engender some enthusiasm when a prospect shows off his tools during spring games. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the Milwaukee Brewers’ prospects who have shown well during the first two or so weeks of spring training game action:
Milwaukee’s 2nd-round pick in last year’s draft, Erceg isn’t officially a part of big league camp but has been loaned from the minor league side several times and seen plenty of game action. In six games thus far he’s taken 11 at-bats while working a 1.500 OPS. He’s slugged two balls over the fence already and driven in seven while showing off his rocket arm at third base. Check out where this ball lands.
While he’s no longer technically a prospect, Aguilar has only 64 MLB plate appearances on his ledger in parts of three seasons and has yet to establish himself in the big leagues. The Brewers claimed the hulking first baseman off waivers in early February to give him a shot at earning a spot on the bench as a right handed power hitter and backup to lefty Eric Thames. Given his lack of positional versatility, the out-of-options Aguilar needed his bat to do some serious talking if he’s going to make the team out of camp. So far, so good, as Aguilar has scorched opposing pitchers to the tune of a .474/.524/.842 slash in 19 at-bats with two home runs. You can read more about his profile in this BPMilwaukee feature by Dylan Svoboda.
The subject of one of yesterday’s features on BP Milwaukee, the PTBNL from the Jonathan Lucroy trade is making a strong impression during his first camp with Milwaukee. He’s already appeared in 10 games and in 15 at-bats has posted a 1.279 OPS while showing power (one homer), patience (six walks), and versatility in the outfield. He’ll likely begin the season in AAA, but Cordell has already earned praise from the big league manager.
Ryan Cordell is making an impression. CC: "He’s probably a little farther along than I expected, closer to the big leagues than I expected."
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 8, 2017
Ranked as Milwaukee’s #1 overall prospect, expectations are high for the 22 year old center fielder. He’s looked solid so far this spring playing center field while batting .273/.333/.455 across 22 at-bats. He’s stolen a base and shown off some impressive opposite-field power.
The 22 year old shortstop isn’t quite as polished as the other players we’ve discussed so far, as he just reached AA for the first time last year for a 62 game stint. After getting dealt to the Brewers over the winter, he’ll return to that level to start the 2017 season with Biloxi. Dubon has been a bit over-matched at the plate, collecting only two hits in 11 at-bats while striking out three times, but he’s flashed impressive leather already on several occasions while manning the shortstop position. Here’s his incredible play from yesterday’s game against the Padres.
Even though he’s ranked by BaseballProspectus as the best Brewers pitching prospect, there are still questions about whether Hader will be able to remain as a starter long-term. To answer those doubts, he’s working diligently to master his “messed-up circle change” grip to give him a third offering along with his dominant fastball/slider combination. Thus far during the spring, Hader has been working in the 92-96 MPH range and touched 97 (per Brooks Baseball) while allowing just one earned run in 4.7 innings with a 5:2 K/BB ratio.
Despite possessing a rather strong minor league track record (3.63 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 in 426.7 innings at AAA), the 30 year old Espino has never gotten a shot at the big leagues while previously with the Indians and Nationals organizations. Espino is in camp as a non-roster invitee and is likely ticketed for the Sky Sox rotation to begin the year, but he’s been impressive during his couple of looks this spring. He’s brandishing a five pitch mix (rising four seamer, sinker, changeup, slider, and curveball), sitting 88-92 MPH with his hard stuff and has yet to allow a run through a team-high 6.0 innings. He’s allowed just one hit, walked two and has whiffed four opposing batters. Perhaps he’s a candidate to become this year’s version of #2016BrewersAce Junior Guerra.
A former 45th-round pick by the Mariners (2010) who has previously spent time in Seattle’s and San Diego’s farm systems, Kohlscheen joined the Brewers on a minor league deal last year and was lights-out at AA Biloxi’s closer, posting a 2.54 ERA and 67:17 K/BB ratio with 23 saves across 49.7 innings pitched. His 12.1 K/9 last season was tops among Brewer farmhands (minimum 40 IP) and helped him earn another minor league deal with Milwaukee for 2017 that included an invite to big league camp. Thus far Kohlscheen has worked two scoreless appearances spanning 3.3 innings that have included just one hit allowed, no walks, and three punch-outs. He’s been throwing a rising fastball in the 92-94 MPH range along with a hard slider that sits 85-88 MPH. The 28 year old has never appeared in the big leagues, but given the Brewers wide-open bullpen situation, if he doesn’t break camp with the big league club he stands out as a candidate to receive a call-up at some point during the year.