This season the Brewers don't figure to win many games. I mean, it's baseball so they're still going to win around 70+ which is getting close to half. But you know what I mean. For a lot of people that means this year will not hold much interest. However for prospect nerds such as myself and a great number of you, this season holds special importance. It's the beginning of the rebuild we've wanted for so long. But just because it's the start of the rebuild, doesn't mean we'll have to wait long to see some of the more intriguing prospects spend some time with the major league team. Here's a quick look at six of the better ones we should see at different points this year.
OF Keon Broxton
I found myself pushing back against the buzz surround Keon Broxton this spring. Spring stats are pretty meaningless after all (note: performance/talent and results are two different things). And I think stats from the last two seasons at AA and AAA are a bit misleading. Scouts don't deny the tools. The questions surround his ability to translate those tools to results at the major league level. Contact and pitch recognition have been real issues for him.
At the same time, what if he can translate those tools to major league success? As Kyle pointed out when we were discussing this, now is the time to find these things out. If he can translate, he's pretty interesting. He can definitely man center field effectively and could have the power for 10-12 home runs to go along with 20+ stolen bases. That's pretty solid.
I would caution against too much optimism though. Because we're not talking about him just doing what he's been doing over the past couple seasons. If he does that he's going to flame out fast. He needs to take tangible steps forward to be a major league asset--even just to become a competent fourth outfielder. But he does have options remaining so if he does struggle the Brewers have time to work with the soon to be 26 year old.
OF Michael Reed
Now here is the outfielder I'm really excited about. Michael Reed hasn't gotten much love in prospect rankings for the most part. But I'm convinced he can at least be an average regular. He won't hit for a ton of power--which is why he gets overlooked--but I think 7-10 HR is possible. He'll compliment that with an average hit tool, double digit walk rates, 20+ stolen bases, and above average defense in right field or potentially average defense in center field. That last bit is probably most divisive aspect of his game.
Some people see his above average arm, solid range in RF, and above average speed and see a player capable of handling center field. Some people note the fact the Brewers have played him almost exclusively in right over the last couple of years as an indication he's not cut out for center. I tend to lean towards the former opinion. And if that is the case, I expect him to finish the season as the Brewers primary center fielder. He might not be that far off either as he made his major league debut last September.
He's a guy I think has the potential for a very strong on-base percentage. Think something in the .350-.375 range at his peak. That and his combination of modest power with above average stolen base potential make him an ideal lead-off hitter. If they can get that with adequate defense in center field it's going to be a huge win.
SS Orlando Arcia
Speaking of huge wins. The Brewers signed Arcia for $95,000 in late 2010. Now he's their top prospect, arguably the best defensive shortstop in the minors, and an all around top 10-12 prospect in the game. He's also pretty close to major league ready. Defensively he's already there. The bat isn't far behind. But having never played at the AAA level, and considering the Brewers aren't going to be competitive this year, there's no reason to rush him.
The Brewers probably have some goal posts for him to reach--perhaps better channeling of his aggression at the plate as he drew a career low in walks last year. And once he does there won't be anything else holding him back--expect for the Super Two cutoff which should come in early May. I really don't think the Brewers are looking to hold him back until September or anything like that. So I expect Arcia to be with the major league squad by mid-season.
RHP Jorge Lopez
Arcia is the Brewers top prospect but Jorge Lopez is their top pitching prospect. Drafted out of Puerto Rico in 2011, he was one of those long term project types. Five years later it's looking like that project is a success. He made huge strides last year with his command and change-up to the point where a lot of people are giving him a ceiling of a No. 2 starter. That's not something you heard a lot of this time last year.
Lopez made his major league debut in September last year and will pitch at the AAA level for the first time in his career. Unfortunately for him that means starting the season in Colorado Springs. I suggest no one pay too much attention to his results as they might be misleading. All pitchers struggle to some degree in those high altitudes.
It's very possible that Lopez is at the top of the rotation depth chart. Chris Capuano will probably be the guy to make the one game spot start if needed. But should a starter go down, or get traded, Lopez is probably going to be give the first shot to take his spot.
RHP Zach Davies
Davies is a personal favorite of mine. I'm a sucker for a plus change-up and plus command profile. I think those guys tend to sneak up on people. Look at Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers as prime examples. Davies is unique in that unlike those two, he's not an extreme fly ball pitcher. Instead he induces ground balls at an above average rate. That's very interesting to me.
The major knock against Davies is his fastball. It'll sit anywhere from 88-90. That means his margin for error is very slim. That's where the plus command comes in. He'll need that in every game he pitches. But even the best pitcher can't expect that to happen. So when the command if off, it's likely major league hitters are going to tee off on him. That's what keeps the ceiling modest for Davies. Think something like league average production (which is not bad!). Over 30 starts that's a solid No. 4 starter.
RHP Adrian Houser
Houser was look upon as the last piece in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers piece. Some might have even deemed him a throw-in. By that I mean a player that probably won't be a major league player but has some interesting tools to dream on. If that was ever true, it's certainly no longer the case. The Brewers reportedly tweaked something with his pitch mechanics that allowed him to better repeat his command which gives him a much better chance of sticking in a rotation. With his plus fastball and above average curve he should at least be a reliever and potentially an impact one. But if he can get more consistent with his change-up and keep the gains on his command, he might be a 3/4 starting pitcher.
He'll start at AAA but like Lopez and Davies, he also made his major league debut last September. He'll pitch for the Brewers again this year, but I'm not sure when. It's not just a matter of showing progress, he also has a stocked major league rotation and two other rotation candidates in front of him.