The top prospects lists continue to get rolled out, and last night it was MLB Pipeline’s turn to reveal their list during a prime time special on the MLB Network. If you recall, MLB Pipeline was the first outlet to proclaim that our own Milwaukee Brewers had the league’s #1 overall farm system following last summer’s trade deadline. While the Brewers do still maintain a healthy amount of five players in the latest top 100, it appears as though their system has been passed up by a few other ball clubs heading into the 2017 regular season.
First, the five Brewers who made the list:
65. Isan Diaz
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 45 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
Diaz's plus bat speed and strong bat-to-ball skills from the left side enable him to make hard contact and drive the ball with authority across the whole field. The leverage he's added to his swing since signing has allowed him to tap into his impressive raw power in games with greater consistency. Diaz's aggressive approach yields quite a few whiffs, but is still advanced for his age, as he paced the Midwest League with 72 walks last season. A fringy runner with good instincts on both sides of the ball, Diaz profiles as more of a second baseman than shortstop at the highest level, where his range, speed and arm strength are a cleaner fit.
Diaz's ceiling as a power-hitting middle-infielder is tantalizing, but he's likely few years away from making an impact at the highest level. Once developed, he could form one of the top double-play combos in baseball alongside slick-fielding Orlando Arcia in Milwaukee.
62. Luis Ortiz
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
Ortiz combines stuff and feel better than most young pitchers. His strong build allows him to maintain his 92-97 mph fastball deep into ballgames, and his low-80s slider gives him a plus second pitch. Ortiz threw his changeup sparingly as an amateur, but has developed it enough as a pro to where scouts view it as a potentially average pitch. Meanwhile, a clean and repeatable delivery has helped to make Ortiz an accomplished strike-thrower early in his career.
Much like Brinson, Ortiz impressed last summer in his brief Brewers debut, posting a 1.93 ERA over six starts at Double-A Biloxi. He lacks projection in his physical 6-foot-3 frame and needs to stay healthy, but Ortiz has both the stuff and command profile to develop into a No. 2 starter.
38. Josh Hader
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 45 | Overall: 55
Hader possesses electric stuff, as he'll consistently operate at 93-97 mph with his fastball and complement it with a wipeout slider. The pairing enables him to miss bats with ease, a notion evidenced by his full-season-best 11.5 K/9 in 2016, and that should continue as Hader makes further strides with his changeup. Meanwhile, everything Hader throws plays up on account of his deceptive delivery, especially after he shifted to the first-base side of the rubber during the 2015 season.
Hader's control and command backed up a bit last season as Triple-A hitters consistently put pressure on the him to throw strikes early in counts, leading to too many elevated pitch counts and abbreviated outings. With improvement on that front as well as a more effective changeup, Hader could emerge as the Brewers' most dynamic starter in short order.
30. Corey Ray
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55
With a quick left-handed bat and a knack for making hard contact, Ray projects to hit for both power and average from the left side of the plate. There's 20-homer potential in his bat, perhaps even more if he can become more comfortable driving the ball the other way. Ray did a better job of managing the strike zone last spring and then during his pro debut, but he still struggles at times to recognize spin, resulting in some swing-and-miss tendencies. Ray's plus speed makes him a consistent threat on the basepaths and also serves him well in center field, where he spent his entire pro debut after manning right field exclusively at Louisville.
Ray suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during instructional league and underwent subsequent surgery in October. Expected to make a full recovery ahead of Spring Training, Ray's combination of power and speed could help him to jump on the fast track to the big leagues in his first full season.
18. Lewis Brinson
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
As a hitter, Brinson has come a long way since signing. His swing has cleaned up nicely as he's progressed without detracting from his plus raw power, while a more consistent and patient approach and improved pitch recognition has resulted in fewer strikeouts and more walks. Brinson's speed represents yet another plus tool and translates on the basepaths as well as in center field, where it helps him to compensate for what at times can be shaky jumps and reads.
Few players in the Minors can match Brinson's power and speed ceiling, the combination of which could make him a 30-homer/30-steal threat at maturity. After receiving a taste of Triple-A in late 2016, Brinson could be ready for his big league audition earlier than initially expected.
The Brewers ended last season with eight players on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list, but the trio of Brett Phillips, Trent Clark, and Phil Bickford all fell off the of the updated list (Clark and Phillips most likely to performance issues, Bickford because he got high). Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline also added on Twitter that Lucas Erceg fell just outside the top 100 overall, so it stands to reason that Milwaukee’s top six prospects when Pipeline released their updated organizational top 30 will be: Brinson, Ray, Hader, Ortiz, Diaz, and Erceg.
According to Pipeline’s rankings, three teams - the Yankees (7), White Sox (6), and Braves (7) - have more prospects within the top 100 than Milwaukee does. Pipeline also assigns each team “prospect points” based on how many players they have ranked in the top 100 and where. By that classification, Milwaukee’s system would rank #5 overall with 292 prospect points, behind the Yankees (414), White Sox (379), Braves (363), and Pirates (352).
It is worth remembering the significant depth that Milwaukee’s system has, so while they may not have as many ‘top 100’ prospects as the Braves or Pirates have according to Pipeline’s scouts, the Brewers should have more prospects earning grades of 50 overall (average MLB regular).