The minor league regular season wrapped up about a week and a half ago, ending the year for most of the prospects within the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization. As a whole the organization’s seven affiliates combined for a 372-381 record with each of the three highest level affiliates posting winning records – AAA Colorado Springs at 80-57, AA Biloxi at 71-66, and high-A Carolina at 73-65. The Brewers had two postseason entrants: the Sky Sox, who made the playoffs for the first time since 1997 but were quickly dispatched by the Memphis Redbirds; and the Arizona League Brewers, who lost in a single elimination game to the Cubs’ affiliate. There were several noteworthy individual accomplishments throughout the system, so let’s take this opportunity to recognize the best pitching and offensive performances at each level.
AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox (80-57)
MVP: OF Brett Phillips
After a down year in AA last season, Phillips re-established himself as a promising outfield prospect this season with the Sky Sox. He finished fourth on the team in plate appearances despite a few stints in the big leagues, lead the club in home runs, and was second in RBI. He struck out more than one would like to see (29.9 percent) but posted a solid 10.4 percent walk rate and Phillips seems to have truly settled in as an above-average defender in center field.
432 PA || .305/.377/.567 || 19 HR || 9 SB || .295 TAv
Pitcher: RHP Taylor Jungmann
Not too long ago, it looked like Jungmann might become a fixture in Milwaukee’s rotation. He was awful last season in the majors and minors, but bounced back with a terrific performance in Colorado Springs in 2017. Jungmann spent some time with both the big league club and the AA Shuckers, but made 17 appearances and tossed 90.3 innings for the Sky Sox this season. In that time he posted a 2.59 ERA, the lowest earned run average a Sky Sox pitcher has authored in that many innings this century. A DRA- of 78 agrees that Jungmann was much better than the league-average pitcher, but that still wasn’t enough to merit a September call-up, casting some doubt on Taylor’s future with the organization.
90.3 IP || 2.59 ERA || 4.04 DRA || 82 K || 39 BB || 4 HR || 1.20 WHIP || 48% GB
AA Biloxi Shuckers (71-66)
MVP: C Jacob Nottingham
Biloxi is a tough venue for hitters, evidenced by the fact that only two Shuckers received more than 300 plate appearances and posted above a .700 OPS. Jacob Nottingham was not one of those players, compiling a .695 OPS with 9 homers and 48 RBI across 101 games. That was still good enough for a slightly above-average TAv, but most important for Nottingham’s value this season were the steps forward he took behind the plate. He graded out with +7.1 framing runs, caught 40% of would-be base thieves, and sliced his passed balls by more than 50% from last season. It’s looking more and more like Nottingham will be able to stay behind the plate, now the bat just has to start coming along a little bit more.
385 PA || .209/.326/.369 || 9 HR || 7 SB || .263 TAv
Pitcher: RHP Aaron Wilkerson
When you’re a 28 year old minor league veteran, it can get tough to convince and organization that you still deserve a shot at the big leagues. Aaron Wilkerson was able to do just that with an outstanding showing for the Shuckers this year. He started 24 games and tossed 142.3 innings, both tops on the club. He struck out more than a batter per inning while demonstrating his signature control, ultimately earning his first call-up to the MLB this September. Now that Wilkerson has broken through on to the 40 man and into The Show, he could compete for a starting rotation slot or spot in the bullpen as a swingman next spring.
142.3 IP || 3.16 ERA || 2.32 DRA || 143 K || 36 BB || 12 HR || 1.07 WHIP || 37% GB
High-A Carolina Mudcats (73-65)
MVP: OF Troy Stokes
In an organization crowded with outfield talent, Stokes finally managed to stay healthy and stand out this season. The 2014 4th-rounder played in 100 games for Carolina and lead the team in OPS, was 2nd in home runs and runs batted in, and fourth in stolen bases. A diminutive specimen, Stokes has demonstrated plus speed to go along with above-average power, and finished out the season with a strong 35 game run in AA Biloxi. He’s certainly put himself on the front office’s radar with his performance in 2017.
426 PA || .250/.344/.445 || 14 HR || 21 SB || .279 TAv
Stoked for Carolina
Pitcher: RHP Jordan Yamamoto
Corbin Burnes (who was the org’s minor league pitcher of the year) and Freddy Peralta both had excellent partial seasons with Carolina, but we’ll give the nod here to Yamamoto for spending all year with the Mudcats. The 21 year old Hawaiian captured the league’s ERA title after finishing with 14.0 consecutive shutout innings, struck out better than a batter per inning and didn’t allow many walks. He throws four pitches and generally locates well, and there’s a possibility that the former 12th round pick can be a back-end starter at the big league level.
111.0 IP || 2.51 ERA || 2.80 DRA || 113 K || 30 BB || 8 HR || 1.09 WHIP || 40% GB
A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (59-79)
MVP: OF Monte Harrison
Wisconsin was the worst offensive team in the Midwest League this season, so there’s not a whole lot of strong performers to choose from. We’ll give the nod to Monte Harrison, who only spent a half season with the T-Rats but was an offensive dynamo for Wisconsin before getting a mid-season promotion. Finally healthy, Harrison flashed the power/speed potential that made him such a tantalizing draft prospect back in 2014. He looked good in center field, too. It’s tough not to buy in when he’s praised a 2018 Breakout Candidate with tools that rival that of Lewis Brinson’s.
261 PA || .265/.359/.475 || 11 HR || 11 SB || .307 TAv
Pitcher: RHP Thomas Jankins
Within the organization only Corbin Burnes and Aaron Wilkerson tossed more innings than Jankins’ 141.7 for Wisconsin this season, and he certainly made them quality ones. A 13th-round pick in 2016, Jankins was considered a “projectable” pick by Baseball America due to his lack of exposure to high-end coaching. It seems he’s now thriving in Milwaukee’s ranks, utilizing a three-pitch mix to attack batters and generate ground balls. He has a starter’s build and repertoire and is certainly someone to keep an eye on going forward.
141.7 IP || 3.62 ERA || 2.53 DRA || 121 K || 32 BB || 14 HR || 1.22 WHIP || 55% GB
Meet Thomas Jankins
Rookie Helena Brewers (28-48)
MVP: 1B/3B/OF Gabriel Garcia
A 14th-round pick by the Brewers in the 2016 draft, Garcia has done nothing but hit since joining the professional ranks. The 19 year old lead the Brewers in plate appearances this season, had the most doubles, the third-most long balls, second-most RBI, and second-best OPS among batters with at least 200 PA. Drafted as a catcher, Garcia played mostly first base this year but also made over a dozen starts at third and a few appearances in the outfield. It will be interesting to see how well his offensive performances translate to full-season ball next year.
285 PA || 300/.420/.498 || 9 HR || 6 SB || .296 TAv
Pitcher: RHP Gabe Friese
Friese was an passed over in this summer’s draft and signed with Milwaukee as a free agent. After tossing 20.1 innings in Maryvale without allowing an earned run, Friese was bumped up to Helena to finish out the summer. In a league that is notoriously hitter-friendly, the results remained strong for Friese. In 33.0 innings for the Brewers, Friese yielded a 3.82 ERA and 4.24 DRA. For some context, that translates to a DRA- of 63, or 37 percent better than the average Pioneer League pitcher. As a 22 year old who was a bit old for the level, it’s tough to know what we should expect from Friese going forward. If his 0.8 BB/9 rate can continue, though, he’s likely to keep finding success as he climbs the minor league ladder.
33.0 IP || 3.82 ERA || 4.24 DRA || 26 K || 3 BB || 4 HR || 1.27 WHIP || 50% GB
Rookie Arizona Brewers (33-23)
MVP: 1B/OF Pat McInerney
Passed over after his senior season at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, McInerny signed with Milwaukee following the draft and was assigned to the AZL, where he was more than two years older than the average player. McInerney took advantage of the inferior competition. He finished second on the club with 230 PA, tied for the league lead in home runs, took the fourth-most walks, and had the league’s 8th-best OPS. He showed some versatility, too, playing both left and right field in addition to first base. He did strike out 65 times in 50 games, though. McInerney could be a guy that sticks around the org for awhile, but given his advanced age he’ll have to show an awful lot if he hopes to ever reach the big leagues.
230 PA || .243/.378/.487 || 9 HR || 8 SB || .288 TAv
Pitcher: RHP Joaquin De La Cruz
De La Cruz began the season in the Dominican Summer League, but after our starts got his first stateside promotion to Arizona. He wound up tossing the third-most innings on the club while posting the league’s fifth-lowest ERA and the eighth-best strikeout rate (minimum 40 IP). De La Cruz doesn’t throw especially hard, but does feature a splitter, which is the organization’s favorite pitch. He’s got a long ways to climb before reaching the big league level, but at the very least his statistics appear promising.
42.7 IP || 2.53 ERA || 3.10 DRA || 46 K || 20 BB || 0 HR || 1.20 WHIP || 56% GB
Joaquin De La Cruz and Second Chances
Dominican Summer League (Brewers 28-43, Indians/Brewers 23-47)
MVP: 1B/3B Aaron Familia
18 year old Familia signed with Milwaukee last summer and completed his second season in the DSL in 2017. Only two players in the DSL hit more home runs than Familia this summer, and he had the 13th-best OPS among qualifiers. At 6’2″ and 170 lbs, Familia still has plenty of filling out to do and could add to his raw power potential. He could make the jump stateside next season, though hopefully his swing-and-miss tendencies (70 strikeouts) will improve as he climbs the minor league ladder.
237 PA || .289/.422/.455 || 5 HR || 3 SB || .318 TAv
Pitcher: RHP Freisis Adames
Adames got a bit of a late start to his career in comparison to others in the DSL, not signing until last year at 19. As such he was a bit old for the league this summer, and he was one of the top hurlers on the circuit. Adames worked the league’s fourth-most innings, finished second in strikeouts, and even tossed a complete game shutout. His ERA was about a half-run lower than league average, but a DRA- of 41 suggests that Adames’ performance was a whopping 59 percent better than the typical DSL arm in 2017. Hopefully he too will get the opportunity to make the jump stateside next season, where it will be easier for scouts to give us a clue about what sort of stuff Adames is working with.
74.7 IP || 3.13 ERA || 1.98 DRA || 80 K || 21 BB || 1 HR || 1.12 WHIP || 59% GB
Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire, USAToday Sports Images