MLB Pipeline has begun to update their prospect list. They take a very deliberate approach which I actually like a lot. It gives us all time to digest their lists and discuss the players that appear. It's been a while since the Brewers had very many players pop up, but that should start changing soon. However this time around no Brewers prospect was included on MLBP's Top 10 Right-Handed Starting Pitchers list.
I wouldn't be too bummed out about that though. There are always tons of RHP in the minors and it's one of the deeper positions for prospects. The fact that--in my opinion--top Brewers RHP Jorge Lopez missed out doesn't mean he isn't a quality pitcher.
I might be reading into this too much, but it seems to me it's very likely Jorge Lopez would be in Callis' "Next 5" so to speak. He does say those five aren't necessarily in the next five, but he also didn't say that none of them are. So if we assume that at least one of them is, and he lists Lopez the top of that group, it stands to reason he fits in the 11-15 range. Of course he may have actually meant that none of them are. It's unclear. It's also not that important. Jorge Lopez is a pretty good pitcher and I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up in the Top 100 list, which comes out Friday, January 29.
(EDIT: Some clarification the matter can be found in Jim Callis' most recent Pipeline Mailbag. He says Lopez doesn't make the Pipeline's Next Five, but would have on his personal rankings. He also says there are 29 RHP on Pipeline's Top 100 ranking which comes out next week. I still think Jorge Lopez--among a couple, perhaps several, other Brewers prospects--will be listed on it somewhere.)
I think Lopez probably has the chance to be a very good mid-rotation starter. I'm thinking more of a good No. 3, but I know some people think he could be a No. 2. The command and the change-up took steps forward in 2015. If he can take another step forward, then I'll start buying into that hype. But ending up as a pretty good #3 SP is pretty darned good. He got his first major league call-up last year and I would expect him to become one of the Brewers main starters before the 2016 season is over.
Speaking of which, I think Cody Ponce is the next best RHP in the system. I really think there's a chance people look back in ten years and think to themselves, "Cody Ponce went 55th! How?" I don't want to oversell him. He's not going to be an ace. He could still end up closer to the back end of a rotation. But I fully believe 2/3 is a realistic ceiling for him.
He has a good body--6'6'' and 240 lbs. That's the makings of an innings eater. He has a plus fastball that can reach the mid 90's. Perhaps with more time he can maintain that higher velocity. He also has an above average cutter to go along with an average change-up. His curveball is fringe average to slightly below average. His command should get to league average in time.
The Brewers took Ponce in the second round--their third pick of the draft. After a brief stop in rookie ball he tossed 46 very successful innings at low-A Wisconsin. I'm not sure where he'll begin the 2016 season, but as a college draftee he should be able to move through the system relatively quickly.
I think the other RHP in the Brewers farm system that has a shot at being a strong #3 is 2013's top pick, Devin Williams. He had an undisclosed injury or health concern that held him back from starting the season until May which limited him to 89 innings in low-A Wisconsin. He fared quite well though, especially for a 20 year old. He has three average or better pitches with fastball, slider, and change-up. As he progress, if he can get solid command he should be a quality starter for the Brewers in a few years.
He should start 2016 in A+ Brevard County. As he is younger and hasn't been able to build up his endurance quite yet, I'm guess he spend the whole season there. In fact I'll wager he goes one level per season until he's major league ready--until he gets to AAA where everyone is just and injury and phone call away. That would put him on a pace to get a mid-season call-up or cup of coffee in 2018 and perhaps become a rotation mainstay in 2019.
A personal favorite of mine is Zach Davies. I know a lot of people see him as a decent back-end starter. The main knocks against him are his average fastball that sits in the high 80's and his slim build. But I see his double plus change-up and above average command and I have to believe it's possible for him to outperform projections--at least for some time. I think 3/4 is a realistic ceiling for him and I'm excited to see what he can do with a full season in 2016--assuming he gets that shot.
The Brewers have other RHP that I like as well. Tyler Wagner looks like he could become a solid league average starter which would make him a solid number 4. I think he's rather similar to Taylor Jungmann in that respect. Wagner got a couple of spot starts in 2015 and should be in store for more this year, though he'll likely start in AAA for the majority of the season.
Marcos Diplan is much further away--he pitched in rookie ball for the first time in his career after just one season in the Dominican Summer League. Scouts raved about his fastball that already hits the high 90's. He's on the shorter side--6'0''--but if his body can hold up he could be something special.
Nash Walters was the Brewers third round pick in 2015. It was an off the board selection and I really have no idea what to expect from him. But they must have seen something in him because it wasn't one of those money saving moves. He still signed for close to slot. I'll be following his career closely and with hope.
There are a handful of others that show promise but I can't go on about all of them. Well... I probably could but I won't. The ones discussed here are my personal picks for the top of the Brewers RHP list. What do you all think? Did I forget someone? Let me know.
Also, here is MLB Pipeline's Brewers Top 30 list. Something to keep in mind about it: They update the list to reflect trades and promotions, but not performance. So in other words, they haven't yet restructured the team lists to account for players' performances in 2015. That will start to happen in February.