The Milwaukee Brewers called up perhaps their most exciting prospect of the last decade, giving second baseman Keston Hiura a chance to show what he can do at the big league level.
Hiura is expected to take over the everyday duties at second base, and after he torched Triple-A pitching with a .333/.408/.698 slash line, along with 11 home runs and four stolen bases in just 37 games. It is clear he is ready to take his bat to the next level.
I expect Hiura to have an instant impact on Milwaukee’s offense, and from a fantasy perspective he is worth an add everywhere. This kid is a beast, and hitting in a lineup with Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas should afford him plenty of opportunities for runs and RBI.
However, this post is going to look primarily at who is next in line for a promotion to the Brewers. Most of their high-level minor league talent is still a few years away, but there are still a few prospects who could get their first taste of the show in 2019.
Note: I omitted prospects who have already made their big league debuts from this list.
1. Mauricio Dubon, 2B/SS (Preseason Rank: 5)
Assuming Hiura takes over the everyday duties at second base, that makes a path to the big leagues much murkier for Dubon. However, he has experience playing both second base and shortstop, and could make an appealing utility infield option for the Brewers. Hernan Perez is currently serving in that role, but his 31.6% strikeout rate and 90 wRC+ aren’t great, and the team could decide to give Dubon a crack at that spot in the near future. Plus, starting SS Orlando Arcia isn’t a pillar of health, so there could be an opportunity there.
Dubon is currently hitting .271/.306/.429 with five home runs and five stolen bases for the San Antonio Missions. While he’s not hitting as magically as he did last season, an increase in power and the doubling of his walk rate are both very encouraging signs for his development as a big leaguer.
2. Lucas Erceg, 1B/3B (Preseason Rank: 18)
The 24-year-old Erceg has not quite reached his potential as a slugging corner infielder, and his numbers so far for Triple-A San Antonio don’t inspire a ton of confidence: .218/.322/.436 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 36 games. His .246 BABIP is likely to come up though, and his 13.6% walk rate is exceptional – but his 23.7% strikeout rate is far and away the highest of his career.
Still, Milwaukee loves their all-or-nothing sluggers, and Erceg has the raw power to fill a Mike Moustakas or Travis Shaw like role for this team long-term. With Shaw potentially on his way out, Erceg could force his way onto the active roster if an injury hits, or he could be a nice September call-up, giving the Brewers a left-handed hitting bench bat and platoon option for the stretch run.
3. Tyrone Taylor, OF (Preseason Rank: 12)
A former second round pick way back in 2012, Taylor lost a lot of his prospect luster until last season, when he went ahead and blasted 20 home runs while swiping 13 bases at Triple-A and hitting .278.
He’s back in Triple-A again this season, and while his tools (five HR, four SB) and batting average (.264) look about the same, he has had huge strikeout issues. He posted a 15.4% strikeout rate in 2018, but is up to a 29.9% rate this season, an alarming shift. He is walking a lot more (8.0% rate) but he may not get the call until he can make more contact.
However, Taylor has probably passed Corey Ray on the prospect depth chart, and would likely be the first outfielder recalled if Milwaukee needs someone at the big league level. His power/speed combo should make him a fantasy relevant outfielder if given regular at-bats, although that probably won’t happen in Milwaukee anytime soon.
4. Bubba Derby, SP (Preseason Rank: U/R)
The Brewers are pretty devoid of pitching prospects, particularly at the higher levels. While Zack Brown is probably their most exciting pitching prospect, he’s having a horrendous time dealing with Triple-A hitters, posting a 5.36 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP in eight starts.
Should the Brewers need to dip into their minor league reserves for a pitcher, one of the few who hasn’t already pitched in the big leagues who could get a call would be right-hander Bubba Derby. Derby isn’t pitching exceptionally well this year, with a 4.65 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 31 innings, but he has over 200 innings of Triple-A experience under his belt, and has done adequately enough to merit a taste of big league hitters.
Derby has a decent enough four-pitch mix, although the likelihood of him being anything other than a No. 6 starter/long reliever are slim. The Brewers could try him out in a relief capacity to see if an increased velocity and a focus on just one of his fringe secondaries could make him a usable asset, but either way I’d expect very little fantasy relevance from Derby.
5. Weston Wilson, 1B/3B/OF (Preseason: 38)
Wilson is the only player on this list who has yet to play at AAA, but his AA numbers are extremely impressive, and the Brewers have moved him just about everywhere on the diamond. Added versatility, plus strong hitting in Double-A and his age (24) could make him a September call-up this season, particularly if he makes it up to AAA in the near future.
Wilson is currently slashing .266/.354/.525 with nine home runs, 23 RBI, four steals and a 158 wRC+ with Biloxi. He has played primarily third base, but he also has experience at first, second and left field this season – and has played shortstop, center field and right field in the minors as well.
Wilson will need to keep hitting in San Antonio to reach the big leagues this season, but as a super-utility player with good plate discipline and burgeoning power, he could have an impact in Milwaukee this season – and for years to come.