Last year at BP Milwaukee, we introduced the “3 Up, 3 Down” feature to take a look at how the prospects down on the farm are trending throughout the regular season. We took a look at a few players in each category back in late April, and now with about two months of the regular season complete it’s once again time to take a look around the farm system and see whose stock is on the rise, and which players are struggling to get their footing in 2017.
RHP Corbin Burnes, AA Biloxi Shuckers
No pitching prospect in Milwaukee’s system has performed better than Burnes this year. He began the season with Class Advanced-A Carolina Mudcats, but after tossing an even 60.0 innings and letting in a scant 1.05 ERA/1.66 DRA, the right-handed hurler earned a promotion to Class-AA Biloxi. He debuted there last night with 3.7 scoreless, hitless innings with a walk and four strikeouts before rain wound up shortening his start. A 4th-round pick in last year’s draft, Burnes is the first player from Milwaukee’s class to reach the AA level. Mark Anderson called Burnes a “number four starter in the making” in a recent minor league update, praising his “electric” arm speed, above-average fastball, and three improving secondary pitches.
To his friends he’s known as Corbin, but to you it’s Mr. Burns
RHP Trey Supak, high-A Carolina Mudcats
When the Brewers decided to bump Burnes up to AA, Supak was also a beneficiary as he was promoted from Wisconsin to Carolina to back fill the rotation spot. He certainly deserved the elevation based on his performance with the Timber Rattlers, as he authored a 1.76 ERA/2.36 DRA across 41.0 innings with 53 punchouts against just 10 walks and 21 base hits allowed. He got roughed up a bit in his debut with Carolina (4 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 7:1 K/BB), but with promising command projection and a durable frame, he’ll have the chance to develop into a number four or five starter before it’s all said and done. (Jason Rogers is hitting .270/.317/.420 in 46 games for Pittsburgh’s AAA affiliate after being outrighted off the 40 man roster).
RHP Brandon Woodruff, AAA Colorado Springs
Woodruff broke out in a big way last season, capturing Milwaukee’s minor league pitcher of the year award after posting a 2.68 ERA and leading the minor leagues with 173 strikeouts in 158.0 innings between high-A and AA. He’s only continued to improve his stock with a strong season in the extreme hitter-friendly environs of Colorado Springs. In 56.3 innings for the Sky Sox, he’s worked to a 3.04 ERA but with an impressive 1.97 DRA. The strikeout rate is down a skosh, but he’s limiting walks and generating plenty of ground balls to make up for it. Armed with a plus fastball and a slider that’s been called his “out pitch,” Woodruff may have leapfrogged Josh Hader as the first prospect arm that could get an extended trial in the big leagues this season.
— Brewers Prospects (@BrewerProspect) May 29, 2017
LHP Josh Hader, AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox
Hader made his Class-AAA debut with Colorado Springs last season and though he struggled to prevent runs in a tough pitching environment, his peripherals were still strong. That has not been the case this year. In 50.0 innings Hader has coughed up a 5.58 ERA; by Deserved Run Average, his 10.04 (!!!) mark leaves him as the 5th-worst qualified AAA pitcher this season. He’s allowing two and a half homers per nine innings, is walking almost five and half batters per nine, and his strikeout rate has fallen from 11.5 K/9 to 8.5 K/9. The Brewers still view him as a future rotation piece, but the funky arm-slot and regression with his already fringey command may wind up making a future relief role that much more likely.
OF Michael Reed, AA Biloxi Shuckers
At one time, strong on-base skills and defensive versatility had scouts pegging Reed as a future oft-used reserve outfielder or fringe regular at the big league level. He’s gotten a couple of brief looks in The Show, but the the acquisition of several new outfield prospects pushed the 24 year old down the depth chart and he found himself back in AA this season after a middling year with Colorado Springs last year. Reed has shown some power and is drawing walks at a good clip in the Southern League, but he is batting only .215 and has struck out in more than 29 percent of his plate appearances, by far the highest total in any of his minor league seasons. Given the fact that he’s been repeatedly passed over for call-ups while Milwaukee is currently playing with only two true outfielders on the big league roster, one has to wonder how much longer the Brewers will carry Reed on the 40-man.
3B Lucas Erceg, high-A Carolina Mudcats
Last year’s outstanding performance between rookie ball and the Midwest League left many optimistic that 2016 2nd-rounder would be a fast-rising prospect through Milwaukee’s system. Erceg has slowed down quite a bit during his first exposure to the Carolina League this year, however. Through 47 games the 22 year old owns a meager .216/.259/.342 slash, though he has popped five home runs over the fence. Erceg has continued the trend of low walk rates that we’ve seen early in his career, which may mean that he won’t be much of an OBP threat as he progresses. As my colleague Nicholas Zettel has noted, Erceg has faced some pretty tough competition in high-A, and given his age and pedigree it’s probably a bit premature to start freaking out about the longer-term projections. Erceg’s pronounced struggles do make it seem rather unlikely that he’ll see AA ball this year though, as many hoped that he would.