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Victor Roache Regains Relevance

Victor Roache rebounded from a tough 2014 and showed some improvements in the higher levels of the minors.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers had two back-to-back first round picks in the 2012 MLB Draft. The late Bruce Seid used both of those picks on two similar players with power as their loudest tool: prep catcher-turned-outfielder Clint Coulter at 27th overall and college junior Victor Roache at number 28.

Since then their careers have taken quite different paths. Coulter won the organization's Minor League player of the year in 2014 and is widely considered a top 10 talent within the system. Roache, however, had to deal with returning from a broken wrist that sidelined him during his junior season and didn't allow him to make his professional debut until 2013. Though he flashed nice power in his first two seasons in Appleton and Brevard County with 40 home runs, his contact issues (.226 and 28% strikeout rate in 2014) were concerning enough for the 23 year old to begin the season by repeating the Florida State League.

Patrolling left field for the Manatees Roache got off to a blistering start. In 63 games in the FSL Roache hit .259/.326/.448, good enough for a wRC+ mark of 137 (or 37% better than league average). His 10 home runs were just four short of the highest full-season mark in the league this year. His ISO of .188 ranked second highest among players with a minimum of 250 plate appearances. Roache was a little old for the league and his play was boosted by a ridiculously high .382 BABIP which may cast doubt on how meaningful or sustainable his performance was. He struck out in 35% of his 264 plate appearances, his worst career mark at any level. In spite of these potential red flags the Brewers promoted Roache to AA Biloxi in mid-June.

Predictably Roache's BABIP declined to a more earthly .309 upon his promotion to the playoff-bound Shuckers (his career BABIP is .311). Interestingly his overall production remained largely the same. During his 67 game stint in the Southern League Victor hit .247/.321/.430 with eight home runs. Playing in a league where he was 1.1 years younger than the competition Roache still put together an above average 113 wRC+. Despite a drop in batting average Roache managed a nearly identical OBP to his high-A ball mark by walking in a career best 9.2% of his plate appearances. He combined this with a significant drop in his strikeout rate all the way to 25.7% (again a career best mark). His .184 ISO ranked 11th among SL hitters with 240+ plate appearances as well.

One of the most important jumps a player makes during his development is the one from high-A to AA ball. Victor Roache handled this leap quite impressively and even improved his play against stronger competition. This season helped Roache re-establish himself in what has become a crowded outfield situation down on the farm and he should now have a 40 man roster spot locked up before he becomes eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter.

Roache's ceiling is probably something along the lines of Khris Davis: a right handed masher with plus power as his carrying tool, probably limited to mostly left field due to his lack of speed and plus arm strength. He'll never hit for a high batting average thanks to his strikeout totals, but if he can continue to demonstrate the improved patience he showed this season he could post acceptable on-base percentages. His power still gives him value as a pinch hitting option and reserve outfielder off the bench if he can't break into an everyday role at the big league level. John Manual of Baseball America compared Roache to the slugging Twins' prospect Adam Brett Walker.

Victor Roache will probably begin 2016 at AAA Colorado Springs and he could be competing for some outfield at-bats at the big league level as soon as next season. It's unlikely he'll ever emerge as a star, but he could still be a productive piece for the Brewers as they continue to rebuild to the next era of competitive baseball in Milwaukee. Ideally you'd hope for more from a former first round draft pick. But given where Victor Roache was before this season it's a positive step that he's even a relevant prospect again.