Five Milwaukee Brewers prospects who could make MLB debut in 2019
The Milwaukee Brewers are fresh off a successful 2018 campaign in which they came within one game of reaching the World Series for the first time since 1982. The franchise has done very little to improve their roster heading into 2019 however, watching key pieces like Wade Miley and Jonathan Schoop sign elsewhere and making little effort to re-sign other pieces like Gio Gonzalez or Mike Moustakas. They did bring in Yasmani Grandal behind the plate and Cory Spangenberg for infield depth, while shipping away a pair of outfielders in Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana, clearing up some room in their crowded outfield logjam.
Still, for Milwaukee to make another run at a World Series, they’ll need some of their prospects to step up and contribute right away. They saw great success from a pair of right-handers last season; Freddy Peralta and Corbin Burnes, and they’ll no doubt hope for more success stories again in 2019.
Below are five prospects who have yet to appear in a big league game who could debut this season, as well as what type of impact they could have with the Brew Crew.
1. Keston Hiura, 2B (Preseason rank: 1)
Pretty clearly Milwaukee’s best prospect, Hiura has torn through the minor leagues at the plate, blasting 13 home runs and swiping 15 bases last season, and then winning the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Although he has yet to appear at Triple-A, Hiura likely won’t have any issue hitting at that level – which could force Milwaukee to consider him as a September call-up, or even sooner depending what they do at second base.
Right now the Brewers have Cory Spangenberg, Hernan Perez and Tyler Saladino penciled in at the keystone. Hiura might already be better than all of them, even with his defensive deficiencies. The team could also look to promote fellow prospect Mauricio Dubon (more on him later) but it’s clear Hiura is the future at second for this team. How soon they want that future to become the present remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if Hiura makes it happen in 2019.
2. Corey Ray, OF (Preseason rank: 3)
Ray has always had an electric combination of power and speed, which he put on full display in 2018 with 27 home runs and 37 stolen bases at AA Biloxi last year. He’s 24 and has yet to reach Triple-A, which does delay his timeline somewhat. That, plus his 29.3% strikeout rate, likely make him a late-season call-up at best.
Ray wouldn’t have even cracked this list had the team not dealt both Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton. While they did get big league outfielder Ben Gamel in return for Santana, they still cleared a spot for a potential Ray appearance should injuries impact the big league roster. I don’t expect his strikeout issues to disappear anytime soon, but the tantalizing tools make him a big leaguer even if he’s striking out 35% of the time – which seems like a given.
3. Mauricio Dubon, 2B (Preseason rank: 5)
Most expect that Dubon will get the call before Hiura, although both have a good chance to strut their stuff in 2019. Hiura clearly has more upside, but it’s hard to ignore the 21-game hit streak and .343 average Dubon posted in Triple-A last year before an injury cost him most of the season.
Dubon has virtually no patience at the plate, posting a 1.8% walk rate last season. He has a little pop and decent speed, but offers very little from a fantasy perspective. If everything falls together he has the makings of a big league regular, but more than likely he will be a solidly above-average utility infielder, a la Hernan Perez. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dubon get the call early in the year, particularly if Spangenberg struggles or if Dubon hits like he did last year pre-injury.
4. Tyrone Taylor, OF (Preseason rank: 12)
Ray may be Milwaukee’s post exciting outfield prospect, but let’s not forget that while he put up monster numbers at AA, Tyrone Taylor was putting them up at AAA. Taylor blasted 20 home runs and swiped 13 bases for Colorado Springs last year. At 25 and coming with prospect pedigree as a second round pick way back in 2012, Taylor could easily be the first outfielder recalled should Milwaukee need reinforcements.
Taylor struggled for most of his minor league career, but an increased leg kick led to a power surge last year. While everyone hits well in Colorado, it’s definitely worth monitoring. I’d be surprised if Taylor breaks out as a big league regular, but a future as a power-hitting fourth outfielder seems very possible, and it could happen as soon as 2o19 if he gets off to a hot start in AAA.
5. Cody Ponce, RHP (Preseason rank: 33)
Milwaukee has a reputation for bringing up their future rotation pieces as bullpen arms first, and that’s what I think is going to end up happening here with Ponce. Standing six-foot-six and 240 pounds, he no doubt has the build to be a big league starter – but he may end up a bullpen piece long-term.
While he does have a four-pitch mix and solid command, none of his secondaries are more than average, and his fastball only gets into the low-90’s. A move to the bullpen full-time would allow that heater to play up into the mid-90’s, and he could work on his cut-fastball and his slider to make himself a nice little bullpen piece.
At 24, Ponce should start 2019 in Triple-A. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the Milwaukee bullpen by the end of the year.