As we’re now a little over a month into the minor league season, we actually have some numbers to go off of in looking at prospects. After a year off, we can see who made adjustments and got better, and who didn’t.
In this look at the Brewers farm system, we look at a few prospects that didn’t earn a high spot on our pre-season Brewers Top 50 list, but have come out strong in 2021 and have positioned themselves as sleeper prospects in deep dynasty leagues.
Korry Howell, SS/OF
Few prospects in the Brewers system have gotten off to as hot of a start as Korry Howell. A 12th round pick out of Kirkwood CC in 2018, Howell got off to a slow start in the minor leagues. He hit .311 in 28 games after getting drafted in 2018, but just four of his 36 hits went for extra bases and they were all doubles. He also stole 12 bases.
In 2019, Howell struggled in full season ball. In just 91 games, Howell hit .235/.329/.317 with two home runs, 19 stolen bases, and 94 strikeouts.
Power and speed: Korry Howell blasted his 7th home run of the season last night for @TimberRattlers and showed off his speed by beating out a routine groundball for an infield single. He’s batting .320 for the season. pic.twitter.com/DlrkFtsm2Y
— Brewers Player Development (@BrewersPD) June 4, 2021
A different story is unfolding in 2021 for Howell. Through 27 games played for the High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Howell is hitting .304/.410/.578 with seven home runs, which leads the team, 20 RBIs, also leading the team, and 10 stolen bases. He has struck out 33 times, enough for a 27% strikeout rate, which is quite high for A-ball. He’s struggled with strikeouts as a pro. In 2019, he struck out 32% of the time, so this is at least a step in the right direction for Howell.
Those strikeouts are important to monitor going forward, but it’s clear that he’s making better contact and his power has finally arrived, which is something he really needed to move himself forward as a prospect. Howell was always fast and a stolen base threat, but he just needed to get on base enough and add more strength to be able to fully use it. So far in 2021, he has.
Howell just missed the Brewers Top 50 list, coming in at No. 51 for me. When the next update of the Top 50 comes out, Howell will certainly be on there.
The Brewers knew they would have to be patient with Howell as a hitter when they drafted him, and that patience is starting to pay off. With his power and hit tools starting to arrive, he’s worth a waiver pick up in your dynasty league before too many people catch on to what he’s doing.
Ernesto Martinez, Jr. 1B
Could the Brewers finally have a first baseman of the future they’re developing in the minors? The Brewers have had a revolving door at first base ever since Prince Fielder left in free agency a decade ago. The philosophy of the front office has had them focusing on up-the-middle players, which is fine, but that means the corner positions have been neglected.
The Brewers signed Ernesto Martinez as a 17-year-old out of Cuba in 2017. Now 21 years old, the 6’6″, 230 lb first baseman is my No. 43 Brewers prospect this year and is getting his first taste of full season ball this year and he’s taking advantage. Through 25 games for the Low-A Carolina Mudcats, Martinez is hitting .282/.396/.529 with five home runs and eight stolen bases, which leads the team.
He doesn’t look like a speedster, and it might not be a large part of his game going forward, but that speed is an interesting development. If he can develop into a true power/speed threat, Martinez can make a big jump up the prospect rankings and has a much higher fantasy value.
The key, as always with big power hitters like this, is the strikeouts. In 101 plate appearance, Martinez has struck out 33 times, about 32.7% of the time. If he’s going to make it to the big leagues, he’s going to need to cut that down.
He’s drawn 13 walks, which is good, and when he does make contact, it’s generally hard. 10 of his 24 hits have gone for extra bases. He’s gotten better just about every single year, and in a system short on first base prospects, he could find himself on a path to the big leagues if he cuts down on those strikeouts. I believe he will, at least a little bit, but he needs to get into the 25-30% range instead of the 30-35% range.
David Hamilton, SS
David Hamilton didn’t get a chance to play in 2019 after tearing his Achilles before his Junior season at Texas. The Brewers still took him in the 8th round in 2019. If not for the injury, Hamilton likely would’ve went much higher in the draft. Without a minor league season in 2020, Hamilton played some independent ball and hit .296 with 20 stolen bases in just 27 games.
That was just a sign of things to come.
So far for the High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Hamilton is hitting .293/.366/.434 with six doubles, four triples, and 20 stolen bases in 25 games. He just stole six bases in one game on Wednesday, June 2nd. He strikes out just 16.3% of the time and has been a very good top-of-the-order hitter for the T-Rats.
David Hamilton (MIL High-A) stole SIX bases last night! pic.twitter.com/opFnUro0FM
— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) June 3, 2021
Hamilton was ranked just 29th on my pre-season Brewers Top 50 list, partially because we hadn’t seen him perform in affiliated ball since coming back from injury. But through his first month of the season, Hamilton is impressing. He won’t hit for much power, but he is a top of the order threat, getting on base a lot, making contact and not striking out a ton, and being a massive base-stealing threat.
As an advanced college bat, Hamilton could end up moving quickly through the system. We’ll see if he stays at shortstop going forward, not for a lack of ability to play the position, but because Brice Turang is ahead of him on the depth chart and Willy Adames at the big league level. Regardless of his defensive position, if he can produce like this offensively, he’ll find his way into a lineup.
These three players are all trending up right now through the first month of the season. Hopefully, they can continue this upswing, and perhaps they could earn some promotions at some point this season. Depending on how deep your minor league rosters are in your dynasty league, these guys are worth a pick up right now, but at the very least they’re worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.