I was looking at the ZiPS Brewers projection for some countdown article ideas. Yesterday provided me with an opportunity to talk about Jonathan Lucroy because he was projected to score 56 runs. Today I'm stretching things again. Outfielder Victor Roache is projected to drive in 55 runs. Of course he won't get the opportunity to play with the Brewers at the MLB level this year--if ever. And that's what I really want to talk about: Increased prospect depth.
About this time last year I can remember looking at Victor Roache scouting reports and just hoping against hope that he could figure out his contact issues. He's got exceptional power and could hit 30+ home runs if he could make enough contact. And at that point in time, he was probably one of the Brewers top outfield prospects. Now the landscape is completely changed.
For one thing, the presence of Brett Phillips greatly improves the outfield prospect scene. He's the best outfield prospect they have and the second best overall prospect in the system. The closest the Brewers had to that quality of outfield prospect this time last year was Monte Harrison, and he was a good 4-5 years away. He probably still is. Tyrone Taylor was one of the Brewers top prospects at that point, but he projected to be more of an average regular that hits a lot of doubles, plays good defense, and steal 20+ bags--which is still a possible outcome for him. So as far as near MLB outfield prospects, it was Taylor or Roache--I don't count Clint Coulter because he was just making the move to the OF and I'm still not convinced that's his forever home.
Victor Roache had a solid season, but he did only spend half a season at AA--where he did still strike out quite a lot. I'd say he did improve his stock, but marginally. Taylor on the other hand, had a pretty mediocre season. However given his age at AA, I'd say his value simply stagnated or marginally decreased. I don't think the two have changed position on the Brewers OF depth chart with respect to each other. However, in my opinion, another player leapfrogged them both.
Michael Reed is one of my favorite underdog prospects. It's become clear he cannot stick in centerfield, but right field is still a possibility. Unfortunately, he doesn't have that prolific power that people typically assume a corner outfielder needs. I believe he's being overlooked for this reason. He makes up for that lack of power--he's likely to hit 7-9 HR in a full season--with a high walk rate leading to a strong OBP, 20+ stolen bases, and above average defense in RF. That looks and awful lot like a good season from Nori Aoki. I think Reed has easily passed both Taylor and Roache on the depth chart.
But the Brewers have more to boast in the OF than just Reed and Phillips. At the major league level they have Domingo Santana. He seems to have a somewhat similar profile to Roache--just more advanced and with better defense. Contact is an issue for Santana. But he's younger than Roache and has seen better production at higher levels. So in terms of near-MLB ready players Roache has already been pushed back by two players. And that's before we consider the other trades/waiver claims.
David Stearns has brought in Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Keon Broxton, Ramon Flores, and Rymer Liriano. Nieuwenhuis and Broxton are center fielders. So they're a bit different than Roache. Maybe we shouldn't compare them. Flores and Liriano are corner outfielders though. Each is MLB-ready so one could argue they already surpass Roache on the depth chart. But what about just comparing ceilings and likely outcomes?
In terms of ceiling I think Roache is second to Liriano, but ahead of Flores. While Flores plays solid defense, makes good contact, and has solid SB speed, Roache's potential to hit 30+ HR puts him ahead. However Liriano could be the best defender of the three, could hit for 20+ HR, and steal 15+ bases. So if we're generous, and consider Roache's ceiling putting him ahead of Flores on the overall depth chart, that's still
It's possible that all of these guys end up as 4th outfielders--except Phillips who looks as safe a bet to be a solid major league regular as anyone in the system. But even if that's the case, the Brewers have still improved their 4th option 4 times over--Santana, Liriano, Flores, Reed--and 6 times over if you include Nieuwenhuis and Broxton.
I don't mean to suggest Victor Roache's career is done before it begins. He did have a solid season and improved when he was promoted to AA. He just has more and different obstacles in the form of players ahead of him. This is a good problem for the Brewers to have. If Roache continues improving he might surpass some of those currently ahead of him on the depth chart. Or the Brewers could trade him.