With such a slow offseason, it might be easy to forget we’re actually less than a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Maryvale.
The Brewers are getting ready for the start of spring training by announcing a round of non-roster invitees to big league camp today, and the list includes some of the organization’s best prospects, giving fans who make the trip down to Arizona this spring a glimpse at the future.
Hiura was last year’s first round pick, with some prospect gurus considering him the best pure hitter in the class. His performance after signing did little to prove those folks wrong. After tearing the cover off the ball for two weeks in the Arizona Rookie League (.435/.500/.839 in 15 games), he continued the hot start to his career with a solid month in Appleton, hitting .333/.374/.476 as a 20-year-old. He’ll likely start the 2018 season in Wisconsin, but could be a quick climber in the system if his elbow problems are behind him and he can prove himself defensively at second base.
Orf, meanwhile, has proven himself pretty well over the past couple years. Keeping the standard caveats about offensive numbers at Triple-A Colorado Springs in mind, the diminutive Orf hit .320/.397/.507 for the Sky Sox last year as a 27-year-old. Despite that performance, he was never added to the 40-man roster for a September call-up. While the Brewers seem to be content (at least for the time being) with their middle infield options of Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard and Hernan Perez, Orf is likely hoping to make an impression this spring, and a solid showing could help him make a big league debut at some point this year.
Wren, like Orf, has performed well at Colorado Springs but has yet to see that production rewarded with a big league call-up. The son of former Atlanta GM Frank, Wren hit .286/.364/.401 in 128 games last year. The power numbers aren’t great, especially considering the offensive environment, but he’s always shown patience at the plate and could be a useful backup outfielder for someone someday. With the Brewers’ logjam of outfield talent, it doesn’t look likely it will come with Milwaukee, but he’ll have the chance to impress scouts from other teams this spring if he gets at-bats with the big league team.
Burnes enters the 2018 season as the organization’s reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and like previous winner Brandon Woodruff, he’s hoping to parlay that into a major league call-up sometime soon. After starting 2017 with 10 excellent starts in High-A Carolina, Burnes kept it going at Double-A Biloxi with a 2.10 ERA in 16 starts, striking out 84 in 85.2 innings and only allowing 3 home runs between those 26 starts. It’ll be interesting to see if the Brewers risk exposing him to Colorado Springs this year, or if he’ll go back to Biloxi until getting a call-up sometime this year. With Jimmy Nelson out to start the year, there’s also a possible opening in the back end of the big league rotation. If the Brewers aren’t concerned about making Burnes a Super Two player, it’s possible he could even find himself in Milwaukee closer to the start of the season.
While Ortiz didn’t have the success Burnes did last season, the Brewers will likely have a similar Biloxi-or-Colorado Springs debate with the big righty. Still only 22 years old this year, Ortiz could go back for another full year in Double-A, especially since his performance wasn’t exactly what you’d like to see from someone considered a top pitching prospect. Numbers aren’t everything in minor league development, though, and if the Brewers want to continue challenging him, a promotion to Triple-A could be in order.
While Perrin doesn’t get the attention Burnes and Ortiz do, he still put together a productive 2017 season -- the point where he might have an outside chance to be a factor in the Brewers’ bullpen sometime in 2018. He put up a 2.91 ERA in 23 appearances for Biloxi last year, striking out 91 in 105.1 innings. The 6’5” former 27th round pick split his time between the bullpen and rotation for the Shuckers last year, making 12 starts and 13 relief appearance and ending the year with an appearance in the Arizona Fall League.
While some of these names could make a push for a 25-man roster spot at some point in 2018, the Brewers’ Opening Day roster seems pretty close to set already, barring an injury during Spring Training or a late free agent addition or trade. Still, it’s always fun to see the top prospects mingling with the big leaguers and getting their first taste of big league life.
Pitchers and catchers report to camp on Valentine’s Day, with the rest of players reporting on February 19th. The first full-squad workout is scheduled for February 20th.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference