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Baseball America ranks three Brewers among Carolina League top-20 prospects

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Two catchers and a shortstop are recognized.

USA Baseball 18U National Team Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images

At the end of each minor league season, Baseball America takes the time to tour around the circuits from Triple-A down to the short-season leagues and name the top-20 prospects at every stop. The Class A-Advanced affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers — the Carolina Mudcats — plays in the Carolina League, and this year BA ranked three Brew Crew minor leaguers among the top-20 prospects on that circuit.

Each of Milwaukee’s representatives ranked in the bottom half of the list, starting at #14 with Mario Feliciano:

As a 20-year-old catcher, Feliciano won the Carolina League MVP award and led the league in home runs and slugging percentage while placing second in RBIs, third in OPS and tying for sixth in runs.

”I like him on both sides of the ball,” Winston-Salem manager Justin Jirschele said. “He stays to the middle of the field. He has plus power and is an advanced hitter.”

Fastballs up and in are still a challenge for Feliciano, but his improvement at the plate was significant...a healthy Feliciano showed plus raw power this season, and he impressed scouts with his athleticism, too. He shared the catching position with fellow Brewers prospect Payton Henry and hit much better in games in which he caught.

Prep catchers are considered an extremely risky proposition in the MLB Draft, but that didn’t stop then-scouting director Ray Montgomery from popping Feliciano in Comp Round B during the summer of 2016. He showed a promising combination of tools but ultimately underwhelming batting lines during his first few years as a pro, including an injury plagued 2018 season that limited him to a total of just 46 games. But 2019 was truly a breakout season for the catching prospect, who won’t turn 21 until November. He batted .273/.324/.477 with 19 home runs in 482 plate appearances for the Mudcats, and his 129 wRC+ was one of the top totals in the Brewers’ minor league system. As BA notes, he was even better when he started games behind the plate — .325/.364/.588 in 60 non-DH games. Feliciano has shown enough on defense to convince folks that he should be able to stick behind the plate, even if only as a fringy defender. But if he can sustain this type of production at the dish, he’d certainly have an impact bat for the position.

Next up at #16 is Milwaukee’s top pick from 2018, shortstop Brice Turang:

The Brewers ambitiously sent the 19-year-old Turang to Carolina in early July...He continued to draw walks and steal bases with the Mudcats but struggled at the plate.

Nevertheless, scouts remain high on the 21st pick from the 2018 draft. Turang, who signed for more than $3.4 million, made all the plays at shortstop in the Midwest League and the Carolina League. The Wisconsin staff raved about his character and makeup.

Scouts say Turang has shown more pop since gaining 10 pounds last offseason. He knows the strike zone and drives the ball. He could be as good as a 70-grade runner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.

Turang spent the bulk of his year with the Timber Rattlers and made the All-Star team in the Midwest League, batting .287/.384/.376 for a 125 wRC+ while showing an advanced eye at the plate (13.7% BB rate) and strong bat-to-ball skills (15.1% K rate), if not much thump with the lumber (2 home runs among 19 extra-base hits). He drew free passes with greater frequency in 47 games for Carolina (16.4%), but his strikeout rate jumped by seven points and his already meager power production dropped even lower (1 HR, 9 XBH). Turang hit only .200/.338/.276 after the promotion and seems ticketed for a trip back to Carolina to begin 2020. Still a teenager until November, Turang still has plenty of time to continue growing into his wiry frame and add some more pop to his bat. His hit tool, speed (30 stolen bases), and defensive ability (he’s played shortstop and second base and projects as an above-average infielder) help to give Turang a high floor. But higher OBP than slugging profiles don’t typically work against more advanced pitching, so Brice probably still has some work to do in order to project as an everyday player.

Finally, at #18 comes another prep catcher chosen in the 2016 Draft, Payton Henry:

Part of a two-prospect catching duo with Carolina, Henry impressed with his framing ability, leadership and power. He tied for fourth in the league in home runs and was third in RBIs.

After being invited to major league camp a year ahead of 40-man roster eligibility, Henry spent the whole season with the Mudcats. Scouts like his strength and toughness.

Henry has a plus arm and a stellar 1.89 pop time. He’s older than fellow Mudcats catcher Mario Feliciano and may take more time to develop, but he has already caught the eye of Brewers manager Craig Counsell.

Henry was chosen in the sixth round in 2016 and signed to a bonus that was nearly twice the slot value of pick #171. He has shown big power ability so far at every level, including 14 home runs in 121 games this season. But that is also accompanied by a big penchant for strikeouts, including nearly a 30% whiff rate with Carolina. He didn’t draw as many walks this year as he has in the past but still put up an above-average batting line of .242/.315/.395, good for a 107 wRC+ given the pitcher-friendly environment of the league. Henry’s defensive tool kit is the most enticing part of his profile, however — in addition to his noted framing ability he also threw out 38% of would-be thieves on the basepaths in 2019. Henry won’t turn 23 until next June.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs