The Brewers’ farm system is likely to once again be highly-rated heading into the 2018 season, but if there’s been a knock on the organization, it’s this -- for all the depth, there isn’t really a future superstar working his way through the minors. There may be plenty of future Corey Hart-s or Rickie Weeks-es, but the general consensus has sort of been that the system lacks that next Prince Fielder or Ryan Braun.
That perception may be starting to change, though -- at least when it comes to one player catching the eye of national prospect writers. All aboard the Monte Harrison Hype Train.
As we await the release of the annual Top-100 prospect lists, it looks like Harrison will be one of the fastest-rising prospects in the game. After not sniffing the Top-100 lists last year, Harrison finally put together a healthy season and had a 20-20 year when you combine his numbers at Low-A Wisconsin and High-A Carolina. He then went on to star in a part-time role in the Arizona Fall League, where he really started to catch the attention of scouts, hitting 5 home runs in just 13 games while putting up a .937 OPS.
In a recent podcast, MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo agreed that Harrison is the prospect that will debut in the Top-100 for the first time that they’re the most excited about.
Here’s some of what Callis had to say:
And the thing that struck me is talking to a lot of the professional scouts who work the Arizona Fall League, who aren’t necessarily guys who have a history with Harrison as an amateur -- because there’s a lot of times that the amateur scouts are different than the professional scouts -- and I just remember talking to guys, and seemed like almost every time or every other time that I would talk to one of those guys out there, and we’d talk about whichever player was at the game we were at or somebody in particular, and it didn’t take very long before it seemed like the majority of those guys would say, “What do you have on this Monte Harrison guy? He’s unbelievable.”
And like they didn’t realize that he was a top, top draft guy who -- fallen by the wayside is strong -- but I guess kind of receded into anonymity for a couple years because he got hurt. I mean his tools are unbelievable. He’s a big, tall, super athletic corner outfielder, and that guy could be a 30-30 guy at the big league level.
Baseball Prospectus’ John Eshleman also filed a report on Harrison this week, and it was glowing. Grading Harrison’s Overall Future Potential at 70 on the 20-80 scale, Eshleman gave him individual tool grades of 50 hit, 60 power (70 raw power in batting practice), 60 baserunning, 50 glove and 60 arm. His summary:
Harrison has incredible upside if he hits all of his development hurdles. Project to be good enough in CF to stick there where his power will be an asset. Given athleticism, make-up reports, prior development, confidently project continued improvement at plate and in all around game.
Eshleman says Harrison has “elite” bat speed and wrist strength, to the point where even if his plate discipline only improves slightly -- and that’s an area that does need to improve if he’s going to make the leap to being a top prospect -- it’s possible Harrison could still be an average bat. The notes also say Harrison has the combination of pure strength, bat speed and launch angle to have plus power in the future, all while running 4.18-4.23 from first to home.
Aside from the plate discipline issues, the other big flaw in Harrison’s game he needs to work on appears to be his reads in center field. Right now he’s getting by on that pure speed, using it to cover for mistakes and inefficient routes. Luckily, like the plate discipline, that’s something that could improve fairly easily as he works his way up the system.
Eshleman says the potential is there for Harrison to be a future 30/30 player, which would qualify for superstar status. The Brewers have only had three such seasons in their history, and Braun has two of them. Even if the plate discipline and defensive routes don’t improve much and he doesn’t hit that level, he still has the profile of someone like Keon Broxton -- plenty of pop to hit more than a few out despite contact issues and some great defensive plays despite bad jumps and routes -- and that would still be plenty valuable.
Top-100 lists should start being published in the coming weeks, as we approach the start of spring training next month.