Brewers Farm Update

2017 Brewers Minors: Arms

At the big league level, the Milwaukee Brewers became a team known for pitching in 2017. The club featured the most single-season 2.00+ WARP pitchers in franchise history, thanks to strong campaigns by Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Corey Knebel, and Jimmy Nelson. Between June and July, the club mostly hovered between 162-game paces for 25-to-50 runs prevented, and by the end of August the Brewers arms were squarely in that 50 runs prevented range (or better) over a full season.

This is a fascinating development for a franchise that has not been known for pitching, and fans and analysts may have to get used to this scenario: the arms are ahead of the bats across the system. In 2017, while consecutive first round draft picks Corey Ray and Trent Clark backpedaled, pop-up pitcher Corbin Burnes posted a phenomenal year and saw his stuff tick ahead after noted mechanical adjustments in his delivery. But the pitching development hardly ends with Burnes, who exemplifies the current stock of middle-to-back end rotation starting pitching prospects that grade out as thoroughly solid quality within that role; reports cooled on Cody Ponce, but he had a ho hum innings building season, as did Luis Ortiz at Class-AA; Freddy Peralta was chasing Burnes for most impactful pitching season within the minors; his trademate Carlos Herrera took a big step forward in full season ball; and behind these quality depth options, Trey Supak, Josh Pennington, and others still had quite fine seasons.

Related Reading:
2017 Brewers Minors: Bats

There is a type of depth with these pitchers that simply cannot be matched by the current bats in the Brewers system. Currently, the bats feature multiple risk factors, especially in terms of developing hit tools. This profile not only suits graduates Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips, but also the aforementioned Clark and Ray, among others. Perhaps the selection of Keston Hiura in the 2017 draft is most important to counteract this risky trend, although Hiura simply reapplies that risk in a different area of the game. If the Brewers bats currently fit the profile of “could be big tools impact” / “might not make it out of a bench role,” the arms are quite the opposite, with no true top-end pitching prospect in the system. It’s a beautiful thing: not one ace. But among those non-aces, perhaps a number of starters that could prove as “boring” as Zach Davies, or have question marks answered like Chase Anderson or even Jimmy Nelson.

One gets the sense that these Brewers arms could be plugged in the rotation any which way, which should be considered an exciting affair given the recent hype of pitching coach Derek Johnson’s blank-slate, situational-personal coaching approach. It should also be mentioned that in an era of velocity, the top Milwaukee arms are hardly flamethrowers, which adds an interesting question about whether the Brewers are exploiting undervalued aspects of the game (I know that’s a played out question by now, but still…), or simply whether the Brewers have found a profile of arm that fits their system or organizational approach.


 

To accompany the statistical index of 2017 Brewers minor league bats, I have prepared an index of statistics for the 2017 arms in the affiliated ranks. To provide basic consistency with the survey range for the bats, I translated the initial scale of 50 batting PA to 16.7 pitching IP for assessing seasons. This largely produced a similar number of players across leagues, which also means that league median statistic figures should have a solid range to reflect statistical context.

Median (16.7+ IP) Players DRA oppOPS Park Age
Pacific Coast (AAA) 354 4.835 0.771 101 26
Southern (AA) 192 3.935 0.688 99 24
Carolina (Advanced A) 179 4.055 0.7005 97 23
Midwest (A) 325 4.00 0.700 102 22

I choose the method of indexing statistics because it is relatively straightforward in terms of user interface: every metric can be measured against a “constant” or comparison variable, such as “Player Total Average (TAv)” versus “League TAv.” In an index, 1.00 can basically be read as “average,” for it means that a player’s metric perfectly matches the comparison metric. For example, righty Eric Hanhold played his age-23 season at Class-Advanced A Carolina, where the median age was also 23; his index is therefore 1.00 for that statistic.

It should be noted that I calculated the index in a different way for pitching prospects in order to remain consistent with the batting index. This means that an overall index greater than 1.00 suggests that a pitcher’s OPS-allowed was better than the average contextual indicators in the league, and that an index below 1.00 means that pitcher was below average given the context of the league. In order to provide additional context to an index that only weighs age, park factor, and opposing OPS alongside OPS-allowed, I added a Deserved Run Average (DRA) index so that readers can compare outcomes and reflect on the validity of the OPS-allowed index.


 

This index is slightly different than the batting index, since there are different OPS values for pitchers and their opponents (for example, a batter is facing tougher opposition if the opposing OPS is lower; for pitchers, tougher opposition means higher OPS from opponents). For this reason:

+1.00 Age Index means “younger” than league average age.

+1.00 oppOPS Index means better than average opponents (compared to the league).

+1.00 Park Index means hitter’s park.


 

This index should not be read as a significant, be-all / end-all assessment of pitching performance. Instead, it should be read alongside other statistics and scouting reports as an indicator of the context in which the pitcher performed, as well as how their advanced performance (via DRA) compared to the league.

Index Team IP DRA OPS oppOPS oppIndex AgeIndex ParkIndex WeightedOPS DRAIndex
Trey Supak WIS 41.0 2.61 0.453 0.722 1.03 1.05 1.02 1.76 1.53
Corbin Burnes CAR 60.0 1.81 0.502 0.726 1.04 1.05 1.08 1.70 2.24
Cody Ponce BLX 17.7 4.07 0.435 0.658 0.96 1.04 0.98 1.48 0.97
Bubba Derby CSP 63.3 2.72 0.714 0.754 0.98 1.13 1.17 1.36 1.78
Freddy Peralta BLX 63.7 2.15 0.529 0.654 0.95 1.14 1.00 1.34 1.83
Taylor Jungmann CSP 90.3 4.04 0.615 0.739 0.96 0.96 1.18 1.31 1.20
Freddy Peralta CAR 56.3 3.49 0.644 0.722 1.03 1.10 1.03 1.30 1.16
Carlos Herrera WIS 38.0 4.97 0.620 0.693 0.99 1.16 1.00 1.28 0.80
Corbin Burnes BLX 85.7 2.30 0.526 0.652 0.95 1.09 0.99 1.27 1.71
Jordan Yamamoto CAR 111.0 2.80 0.615 0.690 0.99 1.10 1.04 1.26 1.45
Brad Kuntz CAR 60.0 3.60 0.660 0.708 1.01 0.92 1.23 1.22 1.13
Wei-Chung Wang CSP 57.0 3.55 0.672 0.780 1.01 1.04 1.00 1.22 1.36
Zack Brown CAR 25.0 2.07 0.598 0.687 0.98 1.05 1.02 1.20 1.96
Angel Ventura CSP 77.7 4.79 0.689 0.745 0.97 1.08 1.06 1.20 1.01
Nate Griep CAR 49.3 4.62 0.600 0.708 1.01 1.00 1.00 1.19 0.88
Brandon Woodruff CSP 75.3 3.46 0.765 0.739 0.96 1.08 1.19 1.19 1.40
Quintin Torres-Costa CAR 45.3 3.12 0.654 0.722 1.03 1.05 1.00 1.19 1.30
Kodi Medeiros CAR 128.3 4.45 0.691 0.693 0.99 1.10 1.07 1.17 0.91
Josh Hader CSP 52.0 8.03 0.861 0.749 0.97 1.13 1.18 1.13 0.60
Josh Pennington WIS 30.3 3.50 0.634 0.687 0.98 1.05 0.98 1.09 1.14
Marcos Diplan CAR 125.7 5.76 0.778 0.707 1.01 1.15 1.03 1.09 0.70
Nick Ramirez BLX 79.0 4.28 0.549 0.679 0.99 0.89 1.00 1.08 0.92
Wuilder Rodriguez CAR 60.7 3.03 0.523 0.692 0.99 0.96 0.87 1.08 1.34
Junior Guerra CSP 30.0 6.62 0.643 0.749 0.97 0.81 1.18 1.08 0.73
Parker Berberet CAR 18.7 2.96 0.515 0.676 0.97 0.85 1.00 1.08 1.37
Eric Hanhold CAR 64.0 2.72 0.745 0.717 1.02 1.00 1.09 1.08 1.49
Tim Dillard CSP 62.7 6.26 0.779 0.766 0.99 0.79 1.39 1.07 0.77
Cody Ponce CAR 120.0 4.72 0.745 0.712 1.02 1.00 1.07 1.04 0.86
Michael Blazek CSP 85.0 4.00 0.750 0.748 0.97 0.93 1.16 1.04 1.21
Drake Owenby WIS 37.7 3.14 0.628 0.688 0.98 0.96 1.01 1.04 1.27
Luis Ortiz BLX 94.3 4.84 0.704 0.662 0.96 1.14 1.00 1.03 0.81
Rob Scahill CSP 25.7 3.21 0.611 0.746 0.97 0.87 1.00 1.02 1.51
Travis Hissong BLX 35.0 4.03 0.632 0.674 0.98 0.96 1.02 1.02 0.98
Luke Barker WIS 31.7 3.81 0.616 0.707 1.01 0.88 1.00 1.02 1.05
Zack Brown WIS 85.0 4.15 0.701 0.713 1.02 1.00 0.98 1.02 0.96
Paolo Espino CSP 75.7 2.01 0.778 0.743 0.96 0.87 1.27 1.01 2.41
Conor Harber CAR 89.3 7.10 0.748 0.702 1.00 1.00 1.07 1.01 0.57
Braden Webb WIS 86.7 3.66 0.693 0.696 0.99 1.00 1.01 1.01 1.09
Thomas Jankins WIS 141.7 2.53 0.720 0.696 0.99 1.05 1.00 1.01 1.58
Bubba Derby BLX 50.0 2.70 0.622 0.673 0.98 1.04 0.91 1.00 1.46
Andrew Barbosa CSP 66.3 5.72 0.777 0.751 0.97 0.90 1.19 1.00 0.85
Forrest Snow CSP 26.0 3.02 0.731 0.734 0.95 0.93 1.13 1.00 1.60
Tristan Archer CSP 64.3 4.63 0.745 0.758 0.98 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.04
Brent Suter CSP 36.7 2.50 0.801 0.728 0.94 0.96 1.21 1.00 1.93
Trey Supak CAR 72.3 5.86 0.758 0.690 0.99 1.10 1.01 0.99 0.69
Colton Cross WIS 32.3 4.74 0.659 0.704 1.01 0.92 1.00 0.98 0.84
Cameron Roegner WIS 78.3 4.38 0.674 0.706 1.01 0.92 1.01 0.98 0.91
Daniel Brown WIS 72.0 5.52 0.708 0.695 0.99 1.00 1.00 0.97 0.72
Jorge Lopez BLX 103.7 3.50 0.667 0.668 0.97 1.00 1.00 0.97 1.12
Hiram Burgos BLX 19.7 1.92 0.525 0.661 0.96 0.83 0.97 0.97 2.05
Taylor Williams BLX 46.7 4.10 0.660 0.677 0.98 0.96 1.00 0.97 0.96
Angel Ventura BLX 51.7 5.82 0.668 0.656 0.95 1.00 1.00 0.94 0.68
Tayler Scott BLX 61.7 4.81 0.683 0.677 0.98 0.96 1.00 0.94 0.82
Jon Perrin BLX 105.3 2.62 0.697 0.665 0.97 1.00 1.01 0.93 1.50
Forrest Snow BLX 58.7 2.67 0.701 0.689 1.00 0.86 1.07 0.90 1.47
Josh Uhen BLX 58.7 5.51 0.711 0.675 0.98 0.96 1.00 0.89 0.71
Jon Olczak CAR 20.0 6.16 0.844 0.720 1.03 1.00 1.00 0.88 0.66
Aaron Wilkerson BLX 142.3 2.32 0.643 0.672 0.98 0.86 1.00 0.87 1.70
Matt Ramsey BLX 44.3 2.72 0.688 0.681 0.99 0.89 1.00 0.87 1.45
Miguel Sanchez WIS 64.0 4.26 0.728 0.695 0.99 0.96 0.95 0.86 0.94
Luke Barker CAR 22.0 6.52 0.721 0.686 0.98 0.92 1.00 0.86 0.62
Nattino Diplan WIS 88.7 5.45 0.788 0.698 1.00 0.96 1.01 0.85 0.73
Quintin Torres-Costa BLX 20.7 5.71 0.788 0.650 0.94 1.09 1.00 0.85 0.69
Tyler Cravy CSP 53.3 9.20 0.855 0.760 0.99 0.96 1.00 0.84 0.53
David Goforth CSP 54.3 6.21 0.785 0.741 0.96 0.93 1.00 0.84 0.78
Aliangel Lopez CAR 40.0 8.10 0.826 0.688 0.98 1.00 1.02 0.83 0.50
Aaron Myers WIS 35.0 6.93 0.793 0.693 0.99 0.96 1.00 0.83 0.58
Andrew Vernon WIS 29.0 8.30 0.799 0.690 0.99 0.96 1.00 0.81 0.48
Hiram Burgos CSP 42.7 6.11 1.013 0.762 0.99 0.90 1.22 0.81 0.79
Jordan Desguin WIS 87.7 5.60 0.859 0.708 1.01 0.96 1.01 0.81 0.71
Alec Kenilvort WIS 17.3 2.89 0.798 0.700 1.00 0.92 1.00 0.80 1.38
Andy Oliver CSP 21.3 9.70 1.112 0.742 0.96 0.90 1.39 0.80 0.50
Victor Diaz WIS 79.0 7.52 0.877 0.696 0.99 0.96 0.99 0.75 0.53
David Burkhalter WIS 32.0 6.76 0.965 0.694 0.99 1.05 1.00 0.75 0.59
Parker Berberet WIS 47.0 4.58 0.793 0.704 1.01 0.81 1.00 0.73 0.87
Scott Grist CAR 22.0 4.49 0.915 0.680 0.97 0.92 1.09 0.73 0.90
Taylor Jungmann BLX 33.0 4.62 0.840 0.681 0.99 0.89 1.01 0.72 0.85
Stephen Kohlscheen CSP 40.7 9.24 0.914 0.731 0.95 0.93 1.00 0.70 0.52

A few observations:

  • Like the batting index, the “non-prospects” immediately dominate this pitching index. Trey Supak has been a deep cut since the Brewers acquired the projection-upside play in the Jason Rogers trade, and the righty worked what finally would be his first full season….at age 21. Taylor Jungmann is hardly even old for Class-AAA Colorado Springs as an organizational depth option. Quiet relief prospect Bubba Derby, a member of the Khris Davis trade, worked a season that matches the “contextual” aspects of Corbin Burnes or Supak (his trademate Jacob Nottingham also had a fine season on the batting index). Freddy Peralta looks like loads of fun, bringing numerous fastball and off-speed / breaking ball offerings and a funky delivery to keep hitters off balance. In this case, the command aspects (and delivery repetition due to a crossfire set-up) of the scouting report should be read alongside the index to round out future role and expectations, but it is undeniable that Peralta placed himself on the radar of quality organizational depth (at worst) in 2017.
  • Cody Ponce had quite an interesting year in terms of DRA deviating from his other contextual factors. In terms of OPS, age, and park factors, Ponce scored well in both Carolina and Biloxi. Yet, the righty’s DRA did not stack up against either league, with DRA index of 0.86 and 0.97 in both assignments, respectively. The big righty is making his way up the organizational ladder, however, and it’s tough not to dream on that cutter or fastball at least helping Ponce secure a solid bullpen role of some sort.
  • BP scouting team member James Fisher provided a detailed description of Jordan Yamamoto for last season’s midseason prospect feature, noting that delivery refinements and stuff progression drove the righty’s stock. Yamamoto continued to build on that 2016 notice with an excellent 2017 campaign, arguably putting together the most interesting pitching season in the organization (Burnes received the hype, but Yamamoto could have defined a role).The righty was extremely young for the Carolina League, and if the progression continues, the youngster could be primed to expand on a 140+ IP floor during his age-22 season at Class-AA Biloxi. It is worth noting that Yamamoto did not face tough competition in Carolina, although the funky park factors and his age did mightily correct for that indicator. If you’re skeptical about the index, DRA likes Yamamoto even more.
  • Additional potential 2018 pop-ups / projection guys who posted better than average contextual index and DRA scores: Zack Brown, Josh Pennington, Braden Webb, and Thomas Jankins. Keep an eye on: Parker Berberet (!!!), Luis Ortiz, Jorge Lopez, Matt Ramsey, and Jon Perrin.
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1 comment on “2017 Brewers Minors: Arms”

Robin's Home Town

I think an interesting thing to take from this is Josh Hader’s performance. Obviously, he struggled in a starting role in CSP and then absolutely dominated in his bullpen role in the majors. This is an indicator that his stuff plays better in relief. I would recommend that this be his role next year.

Kodi Medeiros may be able to make that impact as well, with his fastball-slider combo. Eventually, 2 young lefties out of the pen, or dare I say used in piggyback starting roles with righties?!? Endless possibilities….

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