“I think I may have found a way for us to get Bonds and Griffey. And we wouldn’t have to give up that much”. A Seinfeld quote that made fantasy baseball owners listen up for advice that never did come, and had everyone else laughing at his ridiculously naive idea. So when the Milwaukee Brewers baseball executives in 2014 found themselves with the consensus 29th ranked farm system and someone muttered “I think I may have found a way for us to get have the top minor league system in baseball within three years. And we wouldn’t have to give up that much.” Maybe everyone laughed at that too. Except for Brewer fans.
And then over the course of the next couple years that’s just what happened. Trading away players that the 2017 Brewers won’t miss, Milwaukee has obtained 7 of their top 10 and 9 of their top 16 prospects through trades. In fact, 6 of the likely top 100 prospects in baseball (Brinson, Hader, Diaz, Ortiz, Bickford, Phillips) at the end of 2016 were acquired in trades. Maybe a good thing when the Brewers have had trouble developing top picks to the majors for so long. In doing so, the Brewers have improved from ahead of only the Angels farm (Sickels said in 2014, at least the Brewers have Clint Coulter), to a system with an honest claim as the best in the game.
So we’re a far cry from 2014. And 2017 is a fun year to write the top 50 Brewer prospect summary. Take a look below and let me know what you think. There are a number of prospects at every position, every level, high ceiling, high floor hitter and pitchers to get excited and track to Milwaukee. This may help to distract from what may be another non contending year at the major league level but it makes this Brewer fan optimistic better times at Miller Park are on the horizon.
I listed 50 but had looked at 15-20 more I could’ve included at Tier 5. So let me know if you expected to see anyone else and I’ll send my thoughts. I’ll check in through the year to update you on these players, see who’s playing well, who’s promoted, and who’s moving up and down the list. Go Brewers!
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players who are worth keeping an eye on, but likely to never make a team’s 40-man roster
1. Lewis Brinson, CF
Age: 22 (DOB: 05/08/1994)
Brinson’s a true 5 tool player, one of a handful in minors, and continues to make progress towards 30/30 potential. Introduced himself to Milwaukee with a .382/.387/.618 line in 89 Colorado Springs PA’s. Scouts love the tools and drool over plus-plus raw power. Brinson would hit his potential with further development of his patience (5.4% walk rate), but he has decreased his strikeout rate each of last three years. Brinson will start at AAA and could be Brewer centerfielder by mid-season.
2. Josh Hader, LHP
Age: 22 (DOB 04/07/1994)
Hader dominated AA with 73 K’s in 57 IP, 38 H allowed and a sub 1.00 ERA in 11 starts looking like the best southpaw pitcher in minor league ball. His numbers took a hit at Colorado Springs with 14 AAA starts but K rate was still fantastic at 11.5 per 9 IP. Detractors ding him on command, noting this may eventually move him to a reliever role, albeit a dominant one. Let’s avoid putting in Colorado Springs for too long, and that he pitches his way to the big leagues before the thin air gets to him.
3. Corey Ray, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 9/22/1994)
5th overall pick in 2016, Ray is just one of three Brewers my top 10 actually drafted by Brew Crew. The rest were acquired from other teams. Ray may be as sure a thing as there is in the system with 5 tool potential, a high floor, and a track record of success and improvement in college ball. Brewers challenged him in High A and held his own after early struggles slashing .247/.307/.322 in 247 PA. Contact was fine as expected with a 7.9% BB% and 21.3% K%. Some feel Ray may not be able to play CF but there’s no shortage of centerfielders in this farm so a move to corner is likely, and his bat would play. He’ll start back in high A.
4. Isan Diaz, 2B/SS
Age: 20 (DOB 05/27/1996)
Part of the return on Jean Segura trade to ARZ, Diaz had a breakout year leading Midwest league with 20 homers and hitting 59 XBH in 135 games a Class A Wisconsin. He has some swing and miss but does offset contact with a 12.3% walk rate. Has played a lot of SS in minors but will play 2B in the show. Will be tested at high Class A Carolina to start year. Lots to like with a left handed MI with 25 homer potential. Isan aims to take a spot next to Orlando Arcia in the middle infield in 2018 making him first MLB-er named Isan in MLB history.
5. Luis Ortiz, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 9/22/1995)
The 30th overall pick in 2014 from Rangers, Ortiz spent most of last year as 20 year old in AA. He was hittable but scouts and coaches raved about his makeup, above average command, nice velocity, a plus slider, an average change, and easy delivery. Most see him as a mid-rotation starter with a high floor, just needs reps and to stay healthy. There are concerns over his body but apparently he’s working out with Fresno native Matt Garza. Problem solved.
6. Trent Clark, OF
Age: 21 (DOB: 11/01/1996)
Milwaukee’s 1st round pick from 2015 has gone under the radar a bit with injuries limiting some of his playing time. Some view Clark as the Brewer system’s safest bet to become a plus MLB hitter. Ceiling may not be as high unless he can find some power, but his swing stands out. While he struck out over 25% of the time last year, he can draw walks (14.1%), makes hard contact and Clark has gotten on base at a .384 career rate. He’s got a ways to go, but many are still very optimistic on Clark. Will probably start in A ball Wisconsin.
7. Phil Bickford, SP
Age: 21: (DOB 7/10/1995)
So now we know why the Giants would trade their #1 prospect and a catcher with some usefulness (Susac) for Will Smith. Off field issues aside, Bickford is still a good pitcher. There’s nothing on the field to take the sheen off SF’s 1st round pick in 2015. He posted 2.92 ERA, 1.15 WHIP with 135K’s and 96 HA in 120 IP. Issues that tend to plague SP prospects such as secondary mechanics and secondary pitches apply to Bickford as well, so how he adjusts and grows (assuming he stays clean) will determine if he’s a mid-rotation guy or late inning RP.
8. Mauricio Dubon, SS
Age: 22 (DOB 7/19/1994)
Dubon was acquired in Thornburg trade from BOS so I’m only recently acquainted with him. Looks like Dubon has had nothing but success in his pro career since being drafted in 26th round of 2013 FYPD. Dubon can race Isan Diaz to the 2B spot next to Orlando Arcia assuming all goes well there, but Dubon has also played CF in fall league. He posted a .323/.379/.461 line at high-A and AA with 46 XBH and 30 sb in 549 PA’s. K-rate well better than average at 13.4%. Expected to start 2017 at AA Biloxi.
9. Lucas Erceg, 3B
Age: 21 (DOB: 5/1/1995)
Very impressive start to pro career as 2nd round pick in last year’s draft. He destroyed the Pioneer league (.400/.452/.552) and did well at Wisconsin (.281/.328/.497). Erceg is and old time baseballer who will be a fan favorite with his style and enthusiasm. I’m very high on his bat and profiles well at 3rd base with huge arm as you’d expect from the two way college player. I hope to see him in Carolina soon.
10. Brandon Woodruff, RHP
Age: 23 (DOB 2/10/1993)
11th round pick for Brewers in 2014 rocketed up prospects lists with an excellent year in AA. It was no mirage as he led minor leagues in K’s and his peripherals have matched the performance. Woodruff is durable and has 3 pitches but limited upside gets him into lower half of a rotation. Let’s hope he avoids having to pitch in Colorado Springs for long and gets to Miller Park quick.
11. Jorge Lopez, SP
Age: 23 (DOB 2/10/1993)
A 2nd rounder from 2011 draft, expectations were high for Lopez going into last year. He was proof MIL could develop a guy to high minors. They rewarded him with a trip to pitch in Colorado Springs. It did not go well. With a near 7 ERA and WHIP near 2.00 he was finally demoted to Biloxi and his numbers and stuff improved. He’s tearing it up now in Winter Ball. He’s still a mid-rotation upside guy, and I’m higher on him than most, but let’s not send him (or Phil Bickford) to AAA Colorado.
12. Marcos Diplan, P
Age: 20 (DOB 9/18/1996)
Add another mid-rotation starter to the list. Diplan was billed as top international prospect in 2013 with Rangers and may not have lived up to that hoopla, but he’s been successful. He dominated low A as a 19 year old and was challenged at high A but held his own, to the tune of a 3.02 ERA and 129-50 K-BB ratio in 113.1 IP at both levels. Diplan is small for a starter but scouts think he could sit in the mid-90s as a major leaguer. Still some work to do with command and feel as a pitcher, but don’t forget about Diplan as he’ll get another shot at high A in 2017.
13. Brett Phillips, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 5/30/1994)
Phillips has had a nearly 30 % K rate in his two seasons since coming to the Brewers system and hasn’t slugged anything like he did at lower levels. So some are souring on Phillips as lowering his ceiling. He can still take a walk, has tools, and can play all three OF spots, so Milwaukee will continue to hope he turns it around.
14. Cody Ponce, RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 4/25/1994)
A lot of folks like MIL’s 2nd rounder from 2015 enough to have him in some organization top 10’s. Me, I’d like to see a bit more. He should get another extended look in high A to see what he brings. He’s a strike thrower, looks to be sticking as a starter and could move through system quick if all goes well.
15. Gilbert Lara, SS/3B
Age: 19 (DOB 10/30/1997)
Lara’s been around seemingly forever now and his production is still not matching potential, but there’s enough signs of life to keep the faith. He played all season at Helena (2.5 years younger than average) and was better than his first showing there. He’ll move to 3B soon but will have to start hitting eventually. Or else I’ll have to copy and paste this review next year.
16. Jake Nottingham, C/1B
Age: 21 (DOB 04/03/1995)
There was some good from last season, the Brewers seem willing to stick with him at catcher and challenging him at AA despite being just 21 last season. But overall he slashed just .234/.295/.347 though in 456 PA’s. He’ll need to improve those numbers and continue to make strides as a catcher, but is easily the highest ceiling backstop in the system.
17. Nathan Kirby, LHP
Age: 21 (DOB 11/23/1995)
1st supplemental pick out of Virginia in 2015. Recovering from Tommy John and should be ready for start of 2017, bringing his four pitch mix and college polish to the single A level Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Has a chance to be an end of rotation starter.
18. Taylor Williams, SP
Age: 25 (DOB 7/21/1991)
Don’t forget about this guy, a 4th rounder from 2013 draft. Williams missed 2015 and 2016 with injury but pitched very well back in his pro debut making it to the Florida State League. We’ll see how he’s doing after pitching in a game again but looks like he’ll pick up where he left off in high A. Brewers liked him enough to protect him from November’s Rule 5 draft.
19. Devin Williams, SP
Age: 22 (DOB 9/21/1994)
2nd rounder from 2013 draft came out of 2015 with 3rd starter upside with some command issues to work on. Devin didn’t pitch well enough to hold that projection with some mixed results in a redo at class A Wisconsin and a promotion to high A in 2016. Still a good arm but must improve or a full time move to pen will be near.
20. Monte Harrison OF
Age: 21 (DOB 8/10/1995)
2nd rounder from 2014. At the time he was a football player from a cold weather program and seen as a big project, a boom or bust. He kind of still is. 2016 was supposed to be a telling season in the Midwest League. He didn’t do well, but he at least earned another look. Harrison is still so raw I’m not quite ready to give up on him. My brother notes he’s had some hard luck injuries and asks if it’s affecting his attitude. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.
21. Mario Feliciano, C
Age: 18 (DOB 11/20/1998)
17 year old 2nd round pick in 2016. Held his own in Rookie league to the tune of .265/.307/.359. He’s certainly a toolsy, bat first catcher you hope can stick behind the plate, even if it’s a long shot, but the bat could still play somewhere else.
22. Ryan Cordell, OF
Age: 24 (DOB: 3/31/1992)
Included with Brinson and Ortiz in the LuCroy/Jeffress deal, Cordell may reap some rewards as well. He will start in AAA and if he can keep slugging he may hold spot in Milwaukee at some point for crop of bigger name prospects to follow. May be a candidate to move to 1B too to assure ABs.
23. Braden Webb, RHP
Age: 21 (DOB 4/25/1995)
Drafted 82nd overall in 2016 draft but hasn’t made professional debut. Has taken it easy in coming back from a UCL tear in 2014. Has three pitches and was dominant in SEC when he put it together. Looks like he’ll start 2017 in A ball.
24. Demi Orimoloye, OF
Age: 20 (DOB 1/6/1997)
Spent full season in RK level in Helena. Could not repeat great success in AZL for pro debut. Needs another year in Pioneer league to improve baseball skills. Still tremendous tools, tremendous athlete, will take time to develop. Same scouting report as when drafted in 2015.
25. Corbin Burnes RHP
Age: 22 (DOB 10/22/1994)
4th rounder from last years draft. Solid debut with bulk of innings in Class A Wisconsin. Will look to repeat success, work on command at that level.
26. Freddy Peralta, SP/RP
Age: 20 (DOB 6/4/1996)
Acquired from Seattle before 2016 season in Lind trade, Peralta worked as a starter and in the pen for Wisconsin and was promoted in July to Brevard County. He worked primarily out of the pen in High-A and it seems this may be where his biggest impact would be at the next level.
27. Jake Gatewood, 3B/1B
Age: 21 (DOB: 9/25/1995)
Supplemental 1st round pick from 2014 has had limited success as a pro. Bumped to 1st base by Erceg when he arrived in Wisconsin, Gatewood’s showed some game power. Scouts still rave about his raw power but strike zone judgment a big problem.
28. Tyrone Taylor, OF
Age: 22 (DOB 1/22/1994)
A 2nd round pick from 2012, Taylor had some success and was a top 100 prospect going into 2015 season. Since then there have been two poor seasons at AA. Taylor can make contact, doesn’t K a lot, but doesn’t do much when he hits it, slugging .328 in 1000+ AA PA’s.
29. Jon Perrin, SP
Age: 23 (DOB 5/23/1993)
27th rounder in 2015. Pitched well in High A last year with 19 walks in 110.2 IP. Got a taste in AA. Weighing a career as an attorney and applying to law schools. He’d be a good prosecuting attorney, because he never lets them walk. But I hope he keeps pitching well for the Brewers for now.
30. Wei-Chung Wang, SP
Age: 24 (DOB 04/25/1992 )
Left unprotected for recent Rule 5 draft and not taken, Wang is destined to see how he does in minor league purgatory as a SP or long reliever in Colorado Springs this season. Not currently on the Brewer’s MLB team SP depth chart and if all goes well for the Brew Crew, things will stay that way.
31. Chad McClanahan, 3B
Age: 19 (DOB 12/22/1997)
Signed away from college drafted in 11th round of 2016 draft for $1.2M bonus. Homered in 1st AB but Chad hit like Rue McClanahan after that struggling to a .208/.277/.333 line in 159 AZL PA’s. Has a reputation as a hit first guy and he may move from 3B to 1B sooner than later. There’s some optimism he has the skills to improve and hit soon.
32. Clint Coulter, OF
Age: 23 (DOB: 7/30/1993)
1st round pick from 2012 now in the outfield. Got an unearned promotion to AA last season despite struggles and ended up with a batting average buoyed .337/.382/.442 line that fans hope reinvigorates his pro career. Joins a crowded minor league OF that includes a number of players that have passed him by.
33. Kodi Medeiros, LHP
Age: 20 (DOB 5/25/1996)
12th overall pick in 2014 draft was one of the youngest arms in the Florida State league last year. And he looked it with nearly as many BB’s as K’s, 10.8 HA/9 and a WHIP near 2.00. They left him up there to take his lumps but didn’t impress many scouts or those perusing the stat lines.
34. Victor Roache, OF
Age: 25 (DOB 9/17/1991)
Another less than stellar 1st rounder for Milwaukee that never really developed. Repeated AA as a 24 year last season with about same results as prior year, and got hurt. May get a shot at AAA this season but times running out.
Answer: Clint Coulter, Kodi Medeiros, Victor Roache.
Question: Who are three Brewer 1st round picks that have never been in my kitchen and will likely never sniff the majors?
35. Javier Betancourt, 2B
Age: 21 (DOB: 05/08/1995)
A prospect held in some regard earlier in his career, did not have a good start to Brewer career in Biloxi (.224/.285/.321 in 383 PA). He’s a glove first middle infielder but he will have to hit some more to get a look at higher levels. Still young enough to get another shot.
36. Franly Mallen, 2B
Age: 19 (DOB 5/27/1997)
International sign from 2013 worked his way to Helena. Had a hot start and ended up at .279/.317/.391 as a 19 year old in Expect to get a look as A ball 2B.
37. Kyle Wren OF
Age: 25 (DOB 4/23/1991)
Wren keeps plugging away and performed to the tune of a .339/.425/.432 line in Colorado Springs last year. Time’s running out but would be a fine 4th OF if he keeps producing and he’s the type of guy I root for to get a shot.
38. Trey York, 2B
Age: 22 (DOB 04/04/1994)
9th round college sign. Hit AZL pitching last year but was 2.3 years older than average. Will get a shot at high A to start 2017 to see what he can do.
39. Troy Stokes, OF
Age: 20 (DOB 02/02/1996)
4th rounder in 2014 Stokes has put up good numbers in his pro debut through low level ball. Career .368 OBP in minors, can steal a base and play all OF positions. Will get tested at high A to start 2017 and will be interesting to follow.
40. Max McDowell, C
Age: 22 (DOB 01/12/1994)
13th rounder in 2015 from UConn. Athletic college catcher has some athleticism. Had 23 XBH for low A Wisconsin in 400 PA getting on base at a .359 clip. Good chance to stay at catcher. Moving to high A for 2017, hope trend continues.
41. Michael Reed, OF
Age: 24 (DOB 11/18/1992)
5th round pick from 2011 can get on base but does not have the power to stick for more than the cup of coffee he got last two seasons. Would drastically exceed my expectations if he were to get more than another quick look with big league club.
42. Damien Magnifico, RHP
Age: 25 (DOB 5/24/1991)
Was closing in AAA last season and got a cup of coffee (3 IP) in Milwaukee. #8 on the closer depth chart at this point.
43. Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF
Age: 26 (DOB: 12/25/1990)
Who needs Eric Thames? We have someone waiting in the wings I’m sure… Garrett Cooper? MIL’s best 1B prospect. I’m supposing someone from the crowded OF (or Nottingham) will eventually move to 1B but Cooper does have a good average and earned his promotions.
44. Zach Clark, OF
Age: 21 (DOB: 12/05/1995)
19th round signing from community college for a bonus and debuted as a 20 year old in AZL with some success (.252/.314/.409) in 140 PA. Will move to A-ball in 2017.
45. Angel Ventura, SP
Age: 23 (DOB 4/7/1993)
Fruit from an international free agent signing in 2011, Ventura made it to AA last year. He has worked more as a starter recently but is a bullpen arm in majors.
46. Trey Supak RHP
Age: 20 (DOB 5/31/96)
2nd rounder from PIT in 2014. Average bullpen arm. Pitched really well in Pioneer league but slowed down in Midwest League.
47. Pablo Abreu, OF
2016 international free agent. 16 year old signed for $800k. No stats yet. #44 ranked international free agent by Baseball America. #29 ranked by MLB.
48. Jose Sibrian, C
Age: 18 (DOB 10/24/1998)
Milwaukee’s top 2015 international signee, Sibrian the Venezuelan backstop did not hit at all in the DSL. He’ll get another shot here this year repeating the level.
49. Jean Carlos Carmona, SS
2016 international free agent. Switch hitting 16 year old shortstop signed for $785k. No stats yet. #20 ranked international free agent by Baseball America. #30 ranked by MLB.
50. Nate Orf, 2B/3B/OF
Age: 26 (DOB 02/01/1990)
A AAA utility player, Orf is the oldest player on this list. He is also the last player on this list of top 50 Brewer prospects for 2017.