Baseball season has finally started and the Milwaukee Brewers are off to an 0-2 start. Of course no one is really expecting the Brewers to win very many games this season, however down on the farm is a different story. The Brewers have transformed their minor league system from one that was considered among the worst in the league just a year ago into what many now consider one of the top 10 systems.
So any Brewers' fan that is looking to watch winning baseball this year might consider turning most of their attention to the club's minor league affiliates rather than watch the floundering major league team. Minor League Opening Day is tomorrow, April 7th, for each of Milwaukee's class-A through AAA clubs, and each has released their official Opening Day rosters:
AAA Colorado Spring Sky Sox
Top Prospects (with MLB Pipeline ranking):
SS Orlando Arcia (1) - The Brewers consensus top prospect hit .307/.347/.453 with 52 extra base hits and 25 steals in 129 games last season for AA Biloxi. He's defensively ready for The Show but he has yet to take an AAA at-bats, so the bat could use a little polishing off. He's the heir apparent at shortstop and he'll be in the big leagues at some point this season.
RHP Jorge Lopez (3) - The club's top pitching prospect broke out in AA last season while posting a 2.26 ERA with a 137:52 K-BB ratio in 143.1 innings. He throws in the low-to-mid 90s and his devastating curveball has always been his put-away pitch, but his third pitch changeup has made great strides in the last year. His control needs work, but with Matt Garza's injury Lopez could perhaps get an extended trial in the big leagues sooner than expected.
OF Michael Reed (18), RHP Zach Davies (19), RHP Damien Magnifeco (29), RHP Jacob Barnes (30), RHP David Goforth, RHP Junior Guerra, INF Garin Cecchini
AA Biloxi Shuckers
OF Brett Phillips (2) - Phillips has just 54 games of AA experience, so it's not very surprising that the center fielder will begin 2016 back in Biloxi. He hit .309/.374/.527 with 16 home runs in 120 games between high-A and AA last year, but seemed to lose his power stroke upon reaching AA and hit 0 home runs in his 23 games with Biloxi following the trade from Houston. In every year of his career he has split between two levels, so it's quite likely Phillips will end up in Colorado Springs sometime this summer.
LHP Josh Hader (4) - Like Phillips, Hader also came over in last summer's trade with Houston. His stock has taken off after a strong showing in Biloxi followed by a dominant performance in the Fall League. As a lefty who throws in the upper 90s it's not necessarily a question of if he'll get to the bigs, but when and in what role. He's got a plus slider but his third pitch changeup needs some polish and his command isn't the strongest. His slight build and funky arm slot could also leave him in the bullpen long-term. For now though the club will continue to develop him as a starter with the Shuckers.
C Jacob Nottingham (10), OF Tyrone Taylor (12), RHP Adrian Houser (17), OF Victor Roache (26), 2B Javier Betancourt, INF Nate Orf, 1B/3B Garrett Cooper, LHP Wei-Chung Wang, RHP Jorge Ortega
High-A Brevard County Manatees
OF Clint Coulter (13) - Coulter played all last season in Brevard County but posted an uninspiring .249/.329/.397 batting line with 13 home runs in 137 games. That was still better than average in the offensively depressed Florida State League, but it was propped up by a hot start to the year. A repeat of high-A to start the year is a bit worrisome, making this an important year for Coulter. He's still adapting to right field where he has a strong arm, and he needs to work on his approach at the plate if he's going to be a big league hitter. He needs to show improvement or get lost in the crowded outfield picture.
LHP Kodi Medeiros (7) - Medeiros was excellent in low-A last season, posting a 2.96 FIP in 93.1 innings with a 94:40 K/BB rate. He induced grounders more than 60% of the time and didn't allow a single home run all season. He's similar to Hader in that his smaller build and low arm slot could lend to a future in the bullpen and his control needs some polish. Pipeline projects him for a solid-average changeup, however, and he told Steven Jewell of RtB that his feel for the pitch was much improved last season. He'll continue to develop as a starter until he proves that he can't be successful in that role.
RHP Cody Ponce (8), RHP Devin Williams (9), RHP Bubba Derby (21), RHP Taylor Williams (22) [injured - Tommy John], RHP Angel Ventura, RHP Josh Uhen, RHP Jon Olczak, C Dustin Houle, INF Blake Allemand, INF Dustin DeMuth, INF George Iskenderian, OF Brandon Diaz
Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
SS Isan Diaz (11) - Diaz came over from the Diamondbacks as a part of the Jean Segura deal after winning Pioneer League MVP last season with an outrageous .360/.436/.640 slash and 13 home runs in 68 games. He'll be looking to build off those tremendous results during his full-season debut in Appleton, where he'll be playing shortstop even though it's generally thought that he'll eventually wind up at second base.
RHP Marcos Diplan (20) - Diplan will also be making his full-season debut in 2016 after an All-Star campaign in Helena that saw him post a 3.75 ERA and 54:21 K/BB ratio in 50.1 innings. Despite his small stature, there's hope he can stick in the rotation because of his solid three-pitch mix of a mid-90s fastball, slider, and changeup.
OF Monte Harrison (15), 3B Jake Gatewood (24), Freddy Peralta (27), Miguel Diaz (28), LHP Quintin Torres-Costa, RHP David Lucroy, LHP Jake Drossner, RHP David Burkhalter, C Max McDowell, INF Sthervin Matos, OF Troy Stokes, OF David Denson
Several top prospects like Trent Clark, Gilbert Lara, Demi Orimoloye, Gentry Fortuno and others will begin the year in extended spring training for the time being. Those four and other are sure to be on the short-list for a call-up to Appleton if there is an injury early in the season. Otherwise short-season affiliates in Helena and Arizona will begin their regular season play in June following the completion on the amateur draft.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs