Prospect talk is all the rage lately, as it is every year around this time. ESPN got in on the action earlier this week when Keith Law began releasing his farm system rankings in groups of ten, culminating with his top 10 overall earlier today. The Milwaukee Brewers were included on that list, coming in at #6. Here’s what Law had to say:
The Brewers’ rebuild has been overshadowed by the presence of three contenders in the division, but they’ve done a good job restocking the system in the last 18 months with two strong draft classes and huge returns on trades of veterans.
The trades of Jonathan Lucroy, Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez all yielded prospects on this year’s top 100. The system is still stacked in favor of hitters, with their top two pitching prospects both carrying significant reliever risk (Josh Hader’s delivery, Luis Ortiz’s conditioning), while Jorge Lopez, who broke out as a top prospect in 2015, had a disastrous follow-up season this year.
They need to see more return on the July 2 market, as their one big signing there, Gilbert Lara, is off to a rough start to his pro career, and they have no one else from that avenue in their top 20. Their 2014 draft class has been similarly unproductive to date. But what the new regime has accomplished in a short period of time gives the Brewers a chance to keep pace with their better-heeled competitors in the NL Central.
Sixth overall is a bit lower than other outlets have been on the Brewers (and one spot worse than where he ranked them last year), but there are certainly arguments that can be made that the five teams in front of Milwaukee - the Braves, Yankees, Padres, Pirates and Dodgers - have more compelling groups of prospects than the Brewers may possess. According to ESPN’s organizational ranking primer, being listed within the top 10 means that a franchise can boast 20+ players in their farm system who project to be “more than replacement-level big leaguers.” So even though there are other teams ranked ahead of them, Law still feels that the Brewers have a tremendous amount of talent in their system.
I’ve got a couple of bones to pick from Law’s last paragraph, though. Regarding international free agents, the Brewers recently-graduated top prospect, Orlando Arcia, was signed on the J2 market (and for less than $100,000). While he doesn’t qualify as a “prospect” anymore, he’s still evidence that the club can hit on an international amateur. Sure, Gilbert Lara has struggled to begin his pro career, but he only recently turned 19 and it’s far too soon to call him a bust. The Brewers have also added several players who were ranked among the top international free agents in each of the last two summers, including Jean Carlos Carmona and Pablo Abreu this past July as well as Jesus Lujano and Jose Sibrian in July of 2015.
I’m also curious as to how Law concluded that the Brewers have had an unproductive 2014 draft class. Only 15 players from the first 10 rounds of that draft have made it to the major leagues, so who can really say definitively that their 2014 draft class was a success three years later? Monte Harrison has shown flashes of his tantalizing tools, but has struggled to stay on the field. Though Kodi Medeiros and Jake Gatewood may not exactly be thriving as professionals, Brandon Woodruff’s breakout last year helps soften that. Other draftees like Dustin DeMuth, Troy Stokes, David Burkhalter, have gotten off to nice starts to their professional careers, if we’re judging “productivity” by minor league success. Oh, and third-rounder Cy Sneed was flipped to Houston last winter for Jonathan Villar. I’d argue that was a “productive” use of resources.