Brewers Farm Update

Minor League Context: June 2

Where is the season going? In less than a week, the calendar will flip from June to July, Minor League All-Star games have been played in many leagues, and teams are recalling top prospects and depth prospects alike to give them a shot at an MLB role. With this in mind, it’s time for another look at the context for minor league statistics within the Brewers system. This is an important exercise because it should help to underscore the environments within which prospects are working, and potentially raise some questions about statistics lines in either direction (don’t scout the stat line!).

For example, on May 12, I featured the fate of catching prospect Jacob Nottingham, who faced a brutal opposing OPS of .639 in the Southern League in his age-22 season (two years younger than the median age of the league); Nottingham’s extra base profile and walks looked solid behind his poor overall stats line, and since then the catcher continues to hit. Opposing pitcher quality has eased against Nottingham, but it is worth emphasizing that the catcher continues to face a tough Southern League. His .737 OPS is stronger than the opposing .666 mark allowed by his pitching competition, and his ascent from a .581 OPS on May 12 to his current mark does not simply match the extent to which pitching quality has eased in his version of the Southern League. The catcher is batting .318 / .414 / .494 since May 12, slugging 11 extra base hits (2 homers) and posting 15 K / 10 BB in 99 PA. By Total Average (TAv), Nottingham is the third best age-22 regular in the Southern League:

age-22 Southern League Regulars G PA H HR BB SO BPF oppOPS TAv
Charcer Burks 63 266 70 6 32 44 97 0.69 0.307
Travis Demeritte 71 297 62 10 33 77 96 0.686 0.285
Jacob Nottingham 54 201 43 2 16 37 101 0.666 0.276
Michael Hermosillo 50 215 38 1 26 41 90 0.685 0.268
Dawel Lugo 70 298 75 7 15 47 105 0.684 0.267
Trey Michalczewski 48 197 35 5 24 57 94 0.671 0.254
Nathan Lukes 46 187 43 1 15 36 102 0.704 0.252
Nick Ciuffo 53 215 44 4 18 57 104 0.699 0.246
Javier Betancourt 61 200 50 4 12 27 101 0.67 0.245
Mauricio Dubon 71 304 74 2 25 42 101 0.664 0.244
Josh Van Meter 69 291 62 1 31 61 99 0.697 0.242
Victor Reyes 67 269 68 1 14 41 105 0.68 0.235
Andrew Velazquez 60 221 46 4 16 62 102 0.691 0.235
Jamie Westbrook 45 167 40 3 4 18 105 0.696 0.234

To underscore this feat by Nottingham, and to emphasize the importance of context, the Brewers prospect is young even for the Minor Leagues. Among 123 regulars in the Southern League, only 15 are playing in their age-22 season. Age-22 is quite young for Class-AA professional ball. Fellow Brewers prospects Mauricio Dubon, Javier Betancourt (remember him? He’s performing just as well as the recently promoted Dubon!), and Nottingham share the toughest environment of any of these players. Despite this, Nottingham is the third best age-22 bat in the Southern League (despite facing tough competition). Without context, someone might glance at a .249 Batting Average (AVG) / .350 On-Base Percentage (OBP) / .387 Slugging Percentage (SLG) and scoff at the idea that Nottingham could serve as one of the impact prospects in the Brewers system. In fact, the age-22 Southern League is batting approximately .251 / .306 / .372, which makes Nottingham’s line a standout performance.

This type of exercise could (and should) be repeated across each age group for each minor league level.

With this example in mind, here are how the Brewers regular minor league bats fare in terms of competition at each level.

Brewers Affiliates (80+ PA) Age Median oppOPS Park (Brewers) Tough Competition Easy Competition
AAA Pacific Coast (215) 26 .771 100 (113) Phillips / Orf / Wren / Heineman Sogard / Nieuwenhuis / Brinson / Susac
AA Southern (123) 24 .684 99 (101) Davis / Nottingham / Reed / Dubon / Charles / Roache Choice
A+ Carolina (124) 23 .711 99 (106) Ray McDowell
A Midwest (201) 22 .704 102 (104) Gideon / Cuas / Segovia / Morrison No One

Next, the regular minor league arms:

Brewers Affiliates (26+ IP) Age Median oppOPS Park (Brewers) Tough Competition Easy Competition
AAA Pacific Coast (182) 26 .7695 101 (115.5) Dillard / Archer / Wang Hader / Suter / Kohlscheen / Woodruff / Espino
AA Southern (103) 24 .685 99 (101.5) Uhen / Snow Lopez / Ortiz / Ventura
A+ Carolina (115) 23 .712 98 (107) Peralta / Burnes / Diplan / Hanhold / Kuntz / Torres-Costa Yamamoto / Rodriguez
A Midwest (169) 22 .706 102 (104) Desguin / Brown Webb / Myers

Compared to earlier surveys of the minor league context in 2017, it appears that several of the Brewers affiliated environments are becoming more moderate. This is reflected in a survey of the Baseball Prospectus Top Ten, where four of the Brewers’ most valuable prospects have found their environment to improve as the year progresses:

Prospect Class June 27 Competition April 25 Competition Judgment
OF Lewis Brinson AAA Easy Easy -
LHP Josh Hader AAA Easy Tough Improved
OF Corey Ray A+ Tough Tough -
2B Isan Diaz A+ Moderate Moderate -
RHP Luis Ortiz AA Easy Moderate Improved
OF Brett Phillips AAA Tough Moderate Declined
OF Trent Clark A+ Moderate Moderate -
3B Lucas Erceg A+ Moderate Tough Improved
IF Mauricio Dubon AA Tough Tough -
RHP Cody Ponce A+ Moderate Tough Improved
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