Brewers Farm Update

Minor League Context: Arms

Following the original April 25 Minor League Context post, and yesterday’s note on the batting environments for Brewers affiliates, it is time to look into the environments faced by system arms. I looked at pitchers with 13.0+ innings pitched thus far, which produced a smaller batch of pitchers than bats. Yet, many of the environmental factors hold across the diamond: the top prospects in Colorado Springs are (mostly) facing easy competition, Carolina and Biloxi are both facing rather tough environments and competition, and the Midwest League is split.

Let’s have a look at where the system stood for the previous update:

Affiliate (Players) Median oppOPS Median Age Brewers Park Factor Easy Competition? Tough Competition?
AAA Pacific Coast (228) .736 27 125 Woodruff / Garza / Cravy / Suter Wang / Archer / Burgos/ Scahill/ Hader
AA Southern (130) .650 24 97 Jungmann / Ventura Gainey / Derby / Snow / Ramirez / Lopez
Advanced A Carolina (105) .695 23 96 No One Everyone
A Midwest (211) .675 22 109 Myers / Drossner / Garza Desguin / Roegner / Jankins / Brown / Supak
Players With >4.0 IP

Now, here’s the competition through May 12:

Brewers Affiliates (Arms) 13+ IP Median oppOPS Park (Brewers) Tough Competition? Easy Competition?
Pacific Coast (AAA) 157 .751 101 (118) Wang Cravy / Woodruff / Kohlscheen / Suter
Southern (AA) 105 .678 95 (94) Almost Everyone Jungmann / Ventura
Carolina (A+) 102 .7155 95 (101) Everyone No One
Midwest (A) 163 .683 101 (112) Sanchez / Supak / Roegner / Desguin Webb / Myers

There are a few things worth noting here:

  • Brandon Woodruff is whipping the Pacific Coast League, but he’s faced one of the easiest opposing OPS among regular pitchers. It is still worth digging into Woodruff’s solidly above average strikeout and walk rates, and also emphasizing that Woodruff has maintained his 48 percent groundball: 52 percent flyball ratios established at Class-AA Biloxi last season. Everyone is excited to see Woodruff take the next step to Milwaukee, but as with Lewis Brinson, take that shiny surface statistical performance with a grain of salt and expect a slightly more average MLB role.
  • On the contrary, what role can one present for age-30 phenom Paolo Espino? In terms of scouting stuff, no one would place Espino ahead of Woodruff. Espino seems like a pitchability-supreme guy. And so he is, outpitching Brewers fans’ current favorite pitching prospect while facing significantly tougher opponents (.756 oppOPS to Woodruff’s .724 mark). With Junior Guerra returning from the disabled list, and a series of rotating improvements among Brewers starters, Espino may find it easiest to sneak into an MLB bullpen role. But, handling a tough PCL does lead one to wonder whether Espino could start; we’ll split the difference and call him a pitchability swingman for 2017.
  • We await scouting updates on Trey Supak, but as recently featured on BPMilwaukee, the young righty is maximizing his time in the Midwest League. Supak is posting the best strikeout-to-walk ratio among Wisconsin starters. For the future, watch his flyball rate (currently 66 percent) and look for scouting updates on Supak’s third pitch.
  • Might we praise the 19-16 Biloxi Shuckers, those Shuckers outplaying a sub-.500 run differential in an extremely tough environment? The Shuckers, the gem of the Brewers system breakout in 2015, are the forgotten affiliate in 2017, as the in-between prospects from last year’s forgettable Brevard County club and the remainder of 40-man roster depth and advanced minors veterans forge a supreme sub-hype crew. Shuckers bullpen leaders Matt Ramsey, Nick Ramirez, Taylor Scott, Forrest Snow, and Bubba Derby have a lot to say about that, with a cumulative 102.3 IP, 104 K / 46 BB / 7 HR (0.20 Fielding Independent Pitching ratio), and 32 runs allowed (2.82 runs average against an approximate 3.71 park-adjusted run environment, good for 10 runs prevented).
  • And yet they win, lead by Jorge Lopez and Luis Ortiz. Lopez and Ortiz have both faced notably tougher-than-median opponents, and within this duo Ortiz has faced even significantly tougher opponents still. But no sweat, as the median-age Lopez and very-young Ortiz are posting strong K:BB ratios. From here out, keep an eye on the flyballs, as both righties have flyball rates above 60 percent; this figure may fly in the suppressed environment of Biloxi, but could be very problematic at Miller Park (currently playing a 102 pitching park factor over thee years, according to Baseball Reference).
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