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 rookie level Pioneer League affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers plays in Colorado Springs, their first year at the old Sky Sox stadium after moving over from Helena and getting renamed the “Rocky Mountain Vibes.” This year BA ranked two Brew Crew minor leaguers among the top-20 prospects on the circuit.
Leading off at #9 is outfielder Carlos Rodriguez:
Rodriguez’s advanced hitting ability and solid approach were well beyond his 18 years at Rocky Mountain. The Venezuelan was one of the more polished players in the 2017 international class when he signed with the Brewers, and he cemented that reputation in the Pioneer League after recovering from an early hamate injury.
”No doubt that his best tool is his bat,” Rocky Mountain manager Nestor Corredor said. “He’s one of the best hitters at that age in this level.”
Rodriguez sprays balls all over the field, with his whippy, loose hands allowing him to control the barrel and make adjustments. He uses a line-drive swing with gap power, and while he could add more pop with added strength, he’s not likely to become a big home run hitter. An average runner, Rodriguez can stay in center field, but his tick below-average arm is short for right field.
Once he was healthy enough to play this season, Rodriguez began in the Arizona League but was bumped up to Rocky Mountain after just seven games. Despite being more than two years younger than the league average age, Rodriguez showed off a polished hit tool and strong bat-to-ball skills in hitting .331/.350/.424 across 157 plate appearances. That translated to a 105 wRC+ in the hitter-friendly environs of the Pioneer League. Rodriguez punched out only 20 times, or 12.5% of his plate appearances, and was able to keep the defense on their toes by spraying the ball all over the field (34% pull/29% middle/37% oppo). Listed at just 5’10” and 150 lbs, Rodriguez has tons of room to add strength and good weight in order to add more pop to his bat.
Later on down the list at #18 is backstop Nick Kahle:
Kahle had a solid, three-year career at Washington after playing high school ball in the Los Angeles area with White Sox prospect Blake Rutherford. He stood out most for his work behind the plate in his pro debut, as he’s a plus defender with soft hands, lateral quickness and good receiving skills. Kahle’s arm grades as average, but he still threw out more than 50 percent of basestealers both in his final college season and in a small sample in the Pioneer League.
A compact swing and an advanced feel for the strike zone will allow Kahle to be enough of an offensive force to complement his defense. He’s more of a doubles hitter with some opposite field power. Kahle was noted both in college and in his pro debut for his outstanding makeup.
”He’s very, very mature,” Rocky Mountain manager Nestor Corredor said. “He knows his game.”
Kahle went straight to the Pioneer League after the Brewers selected him in the fourth round and his advanced collegiate bat immediately translated to the professional game. In 40 games and 163 plate appearances for the Vibes, Kahle batted .255/.350/.475 for a 116 wRC+. The 21 year old showed a bit of swing-and-miss in his game (22.1% strikeout rate), but he also drew plenty of walks (12.3%) and drove six balls over the fence among his 18 extra-base hits. Behind the plate, Kahle threw out 8 of 15 would-be base thieves (53%) and was charged with only a single error in 17 games (he also split time along with Jose Sibrian and Luis Avalo). The 21 year old earned a late-season promotion to Class A-Advanced Carolina, where he started two games to close out the campaign.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference