By now most of you know that MLB Pipeline is updating their top prospect lists. They're starting with the top ten at each position which will end with their updated top one hundred list. Then throughout the month of February they'll be updating individual team top thirty lists. Their most recent list was for third basemen.
When we started this series covering the updated lists we knew the Brewers weren't going to make a lot of them--they didn't place a third baseman. But we knew they'd make some of them and thought it provided a nice jumping off point to talk about the farm system as a whole, position by position. You see we're going to begin the BCB Community Prospect Rankings on Monday. So it seemed like a good idea to do a refresher on the farm.
What we didn't realize is how hung up people were going to get about the Brewers missing so many lists. If you follow the minors closely then really that should have been expected. But I get if if you don't follow the minor leagues closely. That's okay, there's nothing in the unwritten rules of being a fan that says you have to follow every aspect of the team for which you root.
But just be clear, this doesn't mean the Brewers farm system is weak. On the contrary, it's stronger than it's been in nearly a decade. Certainly the strongest it's been since the likes of Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, and Yovani Gallardo were promoted. Here's what I wrote in the first base article:
Make no mistake, the overall strength of the Brewers farm system is vastly improved. But there are two things to keep in mind. A large portion of their best prospects are outfielders: Brett Phillips, Michael Reed, Tyrone Taylor, Clint Coulter, Monte Harrison, Trent Clark, Demi Orimoloye, and so on. They'll only have a chance to be included on one of the ten total lists.
On top of that, a large portion of their best prospects are in the lower minors: Trent Clark, Demi Orimoloye, Monte Harrison, Gilbert Lara, Cody Ponce, Devin Williams, Kodi Medeiros, Nathan Kirby, Marcos Diplan, and others. The point is less obvious here. But generally speaking, prospects in the lower minors have a harder time making top prospect lists unless they're clearly huge toolsheds. As players get closer to the MLB level, they start to answer questions about their ability to reach their ceiling, thereby quelling uncertainties. I would not be surprised to find a number of these players make Top 10 lists once they've played at the AA level.
They might not have a lot of them making individual top ten lists right now, but that's not a good indication of the relative strength of the entire system. In time it's very possible several of the prospects currently in the farm system find themselves on various top ten lists. Right now the Brewers have one of the best farm systems in baseball. Truthfully. I'm not blowing smoke up your ass or spinning things in a positive light.
Jonathan Mayo is an impartial talent evaluator with no reason to oversell the Brewers. Here's what he had to say recently:
So if you don't want to listen to me, then listen to him. The Brewers system is pretty well off right now. With respect to third base, despite their absence from this top ten list, it's actually a position that could look very strong a year from now.
The top prospect at this point is Garin Cecchini. The Brewers recently acquired him from the Red Sox after a couple of down seasons. He used to be a highly rated third base prospect that graced a number of top ten lists. At this point he's a post-hype buy low guy. But if he can get back to his hitting ways, he could be a very solid third baseman. It's hard to say for certain if he'll start in AAA or MLB, but right now there isn't another option on the 40-man roster. So he could be the Brewers 2016 opening day third base regular. If he does work out, he's under team control for at least six years and would be the perfect bridge to the player that has the highest ceiling at third base.
The thing about this prospect is that he's currently a shortstop. And that's another reason why you shouldn't panic about the Brewers missing out on some of these lists. In a matter of a year or two a guy like Gilbert Lara could--and very likely will--move to third base. And if/when he does, he immediately becomes the best third base prospect since Ryan Braun--only this kid can actually stick there.
The Brewers broke their team record for an international signing bonus when they gave Lara approximately $3.1 million during the 2014-2015 int'l signing period. He was the top prospect on some lists and near the top on all of them. He has the chance for plus tools across the board which gives him a perennial All-Star level ceiling.
He is very young though and still has to prove he can reach that ceiling. He likely won't be MLB-ready until around 2020 which is yet another reason why he won't be appearing on any of these lists, not even shortstop--a guess mind you. But in two years he should have reached at least the high-A level and either proven he can stay at SS--which would raise his ceiling considerably--or moved over to third base--which will further help to solidify his prospect status.
Outside of those two players, Jacob Gatewood and Tucker Neuhaus have the best chance at become a legitimate third base prospect. Coincidentally, each* is also a shortstop at this point in their development. They each have a lot of work to do on the hitting side of things, no matter their position. Neuhaus gets good marks on defense and would project as a plus defensive third baseman. Gatewood is 6'5'' and might have to move to the outfield, though he has the power to profile there.
(*EDIT: It's been brought to my attention that Tucker Neuhaus hasn't played much SS at all since joining professional baseball. It appears he's already made transition to third base.)
(Second Edit: It appears he played mostly 2B in 2015. So perhaps that will be his forever home.)