Brewers Farm Update

Prospect Opening Day

So far, so good for the 2018 Brewers: the club is six games into the season, and spinning a 26 Runs Scored / 28 Runs Allowed differential into a 4-2 record thanks to late inning heroics and a phenomenal bullpen. Now, the rest of the system swings into gear for Milwaukee. Affiliated clubs in Colorado Springs (Triple-A), Biloxi (Double-A), Carolina (Advanced A), and Wisconsin (A) begin their scheduled seasons today. Brewers fans are excited for the prospect season, undoubtedly because a couple of years of rebuilding and poor play taught them to turn to the prospects for future hope.

This year, things look different in the minors. The Brewers dropped 16 spots in the Baseball Prospectus organizational rankings, due as much to the underperformance of top draft picks (Trent Grisham, Corey Ray) as the big Christian Yelich trade (which sent away three of the highest ceiling prospects in the system, even if they were risky ones). Looking through the affiliated clubs’ opening day rosters, one can get the feeling that the system is less exciting than the 2016 and 2017 versions; or, if the system remains exciting, it’s exciting because of some of the very raw, underdeveloped talent in the club’s low minor affiliates, rather than the advanced affiliated prospects. Nevertheless, extremes abound for this system, as the Brewers are also using their most advanced affiliates to store MLB 40-man roster players (prospect or not).

Below is a list of the 2018 Top 10 Brewers Baseball Prospectus prospects, as well as eleven additional prospects that were covered in the list, plus Jordan Yamamoto (who was also included in the Yelich trade package). I’ve assembled their 2018 age, assignment, as well as the Overall Future Potential role and likely projection for each player (where available). In the case of the eleven additional prospects, only one role or outlook was typically provided by the scouting team, whereas a “high percentile” and “likely outcome” were both provided for the Top 10.

Prospect 2018 Age Role / Likely 2018 Assignment
OF Lewis Brinson 24 All-Star CF / Above-average CF Traded (MLB Miami)
DH Keston Hiura 21 Willie Calhoun Advanced A Carolina
OF Monte Harrison 22 All-Star CF / Above-average CF Traded (Double-A Jacksonville)
RHP Corbin Burnes 23 Mid-rotation / No. 4 or Set-Up RP Triple-A Colorado Springs
OF Brett Phillips 24 Glove & power CF / Average CF Triple-A Colorado Springs
2B Isan Diaz 22 Above-average 2B / Regular 2B Traded (Double-A Jacksonville)
RHP Brandon Woodruff 25 No. 3 or 4 SP / Set-Up RP MLB Milwaukee
RHP Luis Ortiz 22 No. 3 or 4 SP / Set-Up RP Double-A Biloxi
OF Trent Grisham 21 Average LF / Second division LF Double-A Biloxi
OF Corey Ray 23 Second-division CF / Fourth OF Double-A Biloxi
RHP Marcos Diplan 21 (Potential Breakout) Reliever Advanced A Carolina
IF Mauricio Dubon 23 Quality Utility Player Triple-A Colorado Springs
3B Lucas Erceg 23 Regular 3B Double-A Biloxi
C Mario Feliciano 19 Long-Development Everyday C Extended spring training
1B Jake Gatewood 22 Power Platoon Bat Double-A Biloxi
OF Tristen Lutz 19 (Potential Breakout) Everyday RF A Wisconsin
C Jacob Nottingham 23 Back-up C with Pop Triple-A Colorado Springs
RHP Freddy Peralta 22 Quality MLB RHP Depth Triple-A Colorado Springs
OF Troy Stokes 22 Quality bench contributor Double-A Biloxi
RHP Trey Supak 22 Reliever / Long-Development No. 4 SP Advanced A Carolina
RHP Carlos Herrera 21 (Potential Breakout) Reliever A Wisconsin
RHP Jordan Yamamoto 22 Quality RHP Depth Traded (Advanced A Jupiter / DL)

A few quick notes:

  • Yesterday, Brewers beat reported Adam McCalvy reported that Keston Hiura will begin the season as a DH due to some elbow soreness experienced while throwing during camp. This is one key reason that fans need to slow the brakes on Hiura Hype, as the DH-risk remains real, and the highly regarded second base prospect really is not a professional second baseman yet; until that is proved otherwise, one also has to wonder if he will end up in left field or as a DH.
  • Anchored by Corey Ray and Trent Grisham, the Double-A Biloxi outfield might have the best bounceback tandem in the system. It’s so easy to find critiques with each player’s development thus far, and yet here we are with both players working a level away from the MLB at very young ages. If either play puts things together at this level, MLB role projections could quickly come into focus.
  • Tristen Lutz and Carlos Herrera both debut in full season ball, making A Wisconsin one of the most exciting teams in the system. That team is loaded with sleepers, as well as some prospects like Lutz and Herrera who are looking to define that top percentile MLB role and the risk associated with it.

Of course, this list does not even cover 10 percent of the Brewers system, so while assembled minor league assignments, I collected ten of my favorite “deep system” prospect picks. Here I picked one arm and one bat from each level:

10 Deep Picks 2018 Age Development Status / Role 2018 Assignment
RHP Nelson Hernandez 21 Long-Development Pitcher A Wisconsin
OF Demi Orimoloye 21 Toolshed comes alive! A Wisconsin
LHP Daniel Brown 23 “Old” pitcher Advanced A Carolina
SS Luis Aviles 23 Advanced glove waiting for bat Advanced A Carolina
RHP Thomas Jankins 22 Aggressive assignment breakout? Double-A Biloxi
C Nick Franklin 27 Catcher convert! Double-A Biloxi
LHP Tyler Webb 27 Quality MLB Depth Triple-A Colorado Springs
OF Tyrone Taylor 24 STILL YOUNG OF Depth Triple-A Colorado Springs
RHP Caden Lemons 19 Long-Development Projection Play Unassigned
C Jose Sibrian 19 Long-Development Catcher Unassigned

A few quick notes on my favorites:

  • I will continue to write about Demi Orimoloye as long as he stands outside of typical top prospect debates, because in terms of having tools and waiting to hone the baseball aspect of the game, there’s probably not a higher return in the system (of true extreme risk players) than Orimoloye putting it all together. Watching his second turn at Wisconsin could demonstrate how likely this type of scenario may be, or how risky Orimoloye really will be.
  • I picked a few long development and “old” guys in the system because there are simply some very interesting underlying performances (Daniel Brown, Nelson Hernandez) and tools (Luis Aviles) in some of these minor league grinders. Hernandez and Aviles have not necessarily had easy and clear development paths the last few years, but Hernandez is making his full season debut at a reasonable age overall, and Aviles has always simply been about whether the bat comes around. In 2016, the glove was the same story with Aviles in midseason Wisconsin Timber Rattlers coverage, so there’s a question about how long it’s worth hammering home this scouting line, but here we are with another chance for Aviles to prove himself.
  • In contrast, it is worth emphasizing that an extremely athletic, ex-Top 10 Prospect like Tyrone Taylor remains (very) young for Triple-A, and is now working a level removed from the MLB. While there are undoubtedly reasons that Taylor’s prospect star has fallen, the recent identification of mechanical adjustments to unleash MLB stars should underscore that where talented, athletic players work to fix their approach, even a seemingly pedestrian profile can emerge as a productive MLB player. Taylor has the athleticism to work as an MLB depth outfielder, now it is worth seeing whether the bat follows at the most advanced level.
  • The aggressive Thomas Jankins assignment is probably my favorite for the 2018 season. At BP Milwaukee last season, Kyle Lesniewski profiled Jankins as one of a handful of intriguing late round arms in the Brewers system. While Jankins might not have the “big stuff” profile of a Trey Supak to dream on, the righty has a command profile that matches some of the analytic trends emerging in the Brewers big league rotation (Zach Davies) and offseason acquisitions (Wade Miley).

 

Finally, throughout the minor league season, remember to support minor league players in their quest for a living wage, and continue to discuss alternatives to the current format of minor league compensation upheld by Major League Baseball. Prospects deserve transparent press coverage and support from fans, and part of this support should include transparency about MLB efforts to openly suppress pay of their affiliated professional players. It is worth emphasizing that the MLB is codifying their position of exploiting minor league players at a time of great wealth for the sport, as evidenced by the extra $50 million MLB Advanced Media revenue payment paid to every team; in an elite revenue industry, why are many minor league players struggling to earn even $7,000 a year for their professional efforts?

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