Earlier today, FanGraphs released their top 25 list for the Milwaukee Brewers organization. The FanGraphs lists differs from many other lists because it looks at the players from more of a statistical perspective, keeping the projections more objective. While it does pull in the Baseball America ranks, the aim here is to look at the player’s tools and the range of possibilities for an MLB career.
Headlining the list is outfielder Lewis Brinson. As one of two players in the organization ranked with a 60 FV, Brinson should be making an impact on the Brewers roster as early as this season. The tools for Brinson are all average or above average, so it’s just a matter of if he can make the major league adjustments. He’s projected for a 7.9 fWAR in his first six years in the majors. The noteworthy comparison for him in the article is Vernon Wells, and I don’t think anyone would complain if that’s how Brinson turned out.
The other player that got a 60 FV in FanGraphs rankings is outfielder Corey Ray. Though he is further away from a major league career, the tools are there as well for him to be an above-average major league player. At this point, it’s a matter of whether or not that success will hold through the minors. Though the projection is high on him, that length of time means there’s still a 50%+ chance he never sees the majors. It’s not a reason to be down on him at all, just the reality of the minors.
In the group of 55 FV players, the one guy that stands out the most is LHP Josh Hader. You could say that FanGraphs is in love with him. In fact:
Well KATOH, if you like Josh Hader so much why don't you marry him? pic.twitter.com/EIaa9ad45o— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) January 24, 2017
There’s no other projection on the Brewers list that is as optimistic or as volatile as the one for Josh Hader. Not even Lewis Brinson got a projection that optimistic. With a projected 9.4 fWAR over the first six years of his career, the chances of him being a 10+ fWAR player over his career are just as good as his chances of struggling and ending up with an fWAR under 7.0. He is another player that we should see in the majors as soon as this season, and hopefully that success will carry over.
Right below Hader, and continuing his ascent through the prospect rankings, is Brandon Woodruff. It’s hard to find a guy who has worked harder than Woodruff in the last year or two, and the results are showing for it. Ranked #6 on FanGraphs list with a 50 FV, Woodruff is gaining steam and projects to be a mid to high-leverage reliever in the majors, though a James Shields comparison is a nice one. If this year goes well for him, we could see him in the bullpen at some point, though 2018 is a more likely projection.
Unfortunately, not all of the projections are as good for the Brewers prospects. Leading the 45 FV players is Trent Clark, who is trending downward after a rough 2016. Though his struggles could be injury related, the reports on him are that he’s been sluggish at the plate. Some of the tools are still there for a resurgence, but his current downward trend is not encouraging.
Another player trending downward in the system is Phil Bickford. Even before the drug suspension, Bickford had been struggling with his command and hadn’t been showing the same velocity as before. The potential is still there with a 45 FV, but he is going to have to work to get back up on the Brewers list. He’s already going to miss around 40% of the minor-league season due to the drug suspension, so he will need to take full advantage of that remaining 60%. That being said, a Tyler Clippard comparison isn’t a bad one.
The one other player that really tumbled in these rankings is catcher Jacob Nottingham. Many lists, in addition to the FanGraphs list, do not see him as a future catcher, which is a major problem for him. He’s in this no-man’s land right now where his skills aren’t good enough to be a catcher, but his bat isn’t good enough to be a first baseman. The organization might suspect this, which could be part of the reason why they acquired Andrew Susac. For Nottingham to make it in the majors, at least one of his skills will have to improve.
Overall, the projection is very good for the Brewers system. In his overview, Eric Longenhagen notes that the Brewers have been grabbing players with “Gothic cathedral ceilings”, meaning they could be very great if everything goes right. While the results haven’t shown in the majors yet, there’s still time for all of it to come together, and the rankings reflect the overall positive feeling in the Brewers organization.