You have spoken, and the second group of ten Brewers’ prospects is complete. Of course, the first group of ten is now only 70% relevant. Maybe I should go back and black out those three turncoats that went to another team (four, actually, but one will now never be ranked as a Brewer prospect), but it’s probably punishment enough to have gone to Miami. The Marlins, though, could probably change their name to the Phoenix, as they seem quite capable of rising from the ashes to become contenders again whenever they have their dumpster-diving sell-offs.
I hope all of these players become Hall of Famers, or at least All-Stars, but I’m not going to burden them with my expectations of great former Milwaukee comps like I did the first ten. Well, maybe a few expectations...
So here they are, just where YOU, the reader, voted them this past month:
11. OF Tristen Lutz (debut)
Drafted first round (34) in 2017
Lutz, fresh out of high school, put up impressive enough numbers in rookie ball in Arizona and Helena to leapfrog past several players that have been high on the Brewers’ list before. In 187 plate appearances (a fairly good sample size), Lutz belted 9 homers while slashing .311/.358/.559 - that’s an OPS of .957, folks, and that’s good whatever level you are at. A strikeout rate of 22.5% is fine, if it doesn’t rise as Lutz rises through the ranks. Should he spend next season in Appleton we’ll get a better idea of his hitting; the low-A Midwest League has not been a hitters league for Brewer prospects.
12. SS/2B Mauricio Dubon (ranked 11 last year)
Acquired from Boston in 2016 in the Tyler Thornburg trade
Man, that was a good trade. So Dubon did nothing last season to cause a fall in his ranking - he had a good season, and could actually see some time in Milwaukee at some point in 2018. Between AA and AAA the middle infielder slashed .274/.330/.382 with 8 homers in 548 plate appearances. His strikeout rate of 13.8% shows a player that will get the ball in play, and he stole 38 bases, as well. Scout rankings of 50 field and 55 throw give hope for at worst a good utility player in the future, and maybe even a starter at second base.
13. OF Corey Ray (ranked 3 last year)
Drafted first round (5) in 2016
Corey Ray came out of the University of Louisville in the 2016 draft as perhaps the top rated hitter of the college group. In 2017, the Brewers selected Keston Hiura, who had much the same tag. Hiura produced at the plate in his first season. Ray has not in his two seasons. The fact that he is still rated 13th by you, the voters, is probably a reflection of that initial first round status and high ranking among scouting services. Last year Ray hit .238/.311/.367 in his second season of A+ ball, this time for the Carolina Mudcats. His walk percent ticked up slightly, but his strikeout rate went from 21.3% to 31%. His wRC+ fell from 101 to 92, so he went from being an average hitter in A+ ball to a well below average hitter. All of this with an increase in BABIP from .299 to .346. 2018 will be an important season for Corey Ray, but of course the Brewers will give him every opportunity to succeed. That’ll happen with first round picks.
14. OF Trent Grisham (ranked 8 last year)
Drafted first round (15) in 2015
As you may know, Grisham went by Trent Clark when the Brewers chose him in 2015 and changed his name to honor his mother this offseason. (Fangraphs still has him listed as Trent Clark.) Grisham is still young, and the Brewers certainly aren’t giving up on him, but his low batting average is a concern. His season at Carolina produced a slash of .223/.360/.348. So his high on-base percentage due to 98 walks made up for a low batting average, but one would hope for more power from an outfielder, and to produce more power you need to make more contact. He did use his speed to produce 37 stolen bases. His scout grades for fielding and throwing (50 and 50) are fine, and at 21 he has plenty of time to grow. The Brewers really need one of Corey Ray and Trent Grisham to blossom in 2018; top outfield prospect Lewis Brinson is gone and there is a real opportunity for somebody to grab the brass ring of future prospectdom.
15. RHP Cody Ponce (ranked 14 last year)
Drafted 2nd round in 2015
So Ponce is a big dude (6’6”, 265 lbs) who has a plus fastball and slider (both rated 60 on Fangraphs). He doesn’t strike out as many as you’d expect, but still gets guys out. He was also mostly in Carolina last season, with 3 starts for AA Biloxi added in. He worked 137.2 innings, which is a pretty good number, and I expect to see him get to 150 in a full AA season in 2018 if things go well. But that 6.7 k/9 ratio is curious. Even though his WHIP of 1.24 was OK, he wasn’t pitching to hard contact. And his BB/9 was solid at 1.97. You still hope for a bit more domination at that level for a 24 year old, but if he can maintain and increase the innings totals without sacrificing effectiveness as he progresses - AA this year, AAA next - he may have a shot as a back of the rotation guy in 2020.
16. C Mario Feliciano (ranked 23 last year)
Drafted 2nd round in 2016.
Feliciano was young for low-A ball in Appleton last season, but took on the bulk of the catching duties. He didn’t set the world on fire at the plate, he showed enough to be considered promising. Since there isn’t a lot of prospect depth at catcher in the Milwaukee system, we’re kinda hoping he makes strides at the plate and defensively over the next few seasons. His slash of .257/.320/.331 won’t wow you, but there’s time. Two things - he could very well not be the Brewers’ top ranked catching prospect next season (he supplants Jacob Nottingham for that spot this year), but I’m thinking he could have a one of the Molina brothers-not-named-Yadi type of big league career eventually. Or not.
17. RHP Marcos Diplan (ranked 13 last year)
Acquired in 2015 from Texas in the Yovani Gallardo trade
Another good trade; this guy named Knebel came in that deal too. Still just 21, the Brewers thought enough of his “stuff” to add him to their 40 man roster last November. He has a Pedro Martinez-like build (6’, 160 lbs) with a grades of 60 on his fastball. He hasn’t shown much in a season and a third at the A+ level, though, so he still hovers in the mid-teen rankings among Brewer prospects. Last year’s 5.23 ERA (but an xFIP of 4.27) included 8.52 k’s/9 and 5.08 BB/9 - with those numbers both trending in the wrong direction from the year before. That’s a lot of walks, taking his overall WHIP to 1.57. He started 22 games in 26 appearances and worked 125.2 innings, the most of his four year minor league career. His lowest walk rate was 3.75 in rookie ball in 2015. But the Brewers see something here; let’s hope he can harness it.
18. 1B/3B Jake Gatewood (ranked 26 last year)
Drafted first round (41st overall) in 2014
Gatewood was a shortstop when he was drafted. Not anymore. He’s 6’5” and 190 pounds, and if he has a future in the bigs it will be as a power hitting corner infielder. His 2017 season in A+ and AA saw 15 homers across his 570 plate appearances, and there’s potential for him to hit more dingers than that...but he also had 40 doubles and 4 triples so his slash of .264/.333/.441 is encouraging. He did fan 161 times, which was a 28.4% rate. Given the direction of the team this offseason, Jake might want to lower that a bit. But he has shown growth, is still young, and has an ideal frame. Perhaps they’ll let him try Colorado Springs this season, although a return to AA to start the year may be more likely.
19. RHP Phil Bickford (ranked 9th last year)
Traded to Milwaukee in the Will Smith deal at the 2016 deadline
After Bickford’s 2017 season went up in smoke and down in injury, he put together a sort of successful, short stint in rookie ball in Arizona. He managed just 17 innings in 5 starts and one relief appearance, fanning 16 but walking 10 and hitting 2. He did give up 14 hits, though, but not a dinger to be found. That worked out to a 2.12 ERA, but his xFIP was 5.10. This will be a big year for Phil, in more ways than one. An assignment to Carolina is probably a good bet.
20. C KJ Harrison (debut)
Drafted 3rd round in 2017
The catcher most likely to pass Mario Feliciano on the club’s prospect depth chart. Harrison had a very solid season at the plate in rookie ball in Helena, but his position there was listed as “DH”. He did appear in 17 games as a catcher, though, with 4 passed balls and just 1 error, while he threw out 7 of 27 base stealers. (Opponents sent 27 runners in 17 games against him? Methinks they were testing him out a bit. Not a bad performance.) His slash was .308/.388/.546, which is nice. Ten homers in 214 plate appearances, with a 25.7% strikeout percent. Harrison was listed as a first baseman going into last year’s draft, and really only caught in High School in Hawaii. We will find out this year if he really is a catcher, I guess.
So there you have it. The next ten players from the Brewers’ farm system, whether you list them as 11-20 or 8-17. Keep voting, y’all. At least ten to go.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs