We already know that Keith Law of ESPN is a little higher than most prospect writers on some of the players down on the farm for the Milwaukee Brewers. Last week, he named a whopping two prospects from the Cream City within his top-100 list, which is double that of what most other outlets have been saying this winter. But, even though this minor league system boasts both the #21 overall prospect in Keston Hiura and #85 Zack Brown, Law believes that is lacking in overall strength when compared to the rest of the franchises around Major League Baseball.
ESPN has Milwaukee’s farm ranked 25th overall, down from #8 just one year ago. Only the Giants, A’s, Cubs, Marlins, Cubs, and Orioles are seen as having a worse collection of minor leaguers than our team in the Menomonee Valley. Of course, plenty has changed for our local nine since the outset of 2018; beginning with the Christian Yelich deal that January, Slingin’ David Stearns dealt away 16 of his prospects in an effort to bolster his MLB team to their first playoff berth in seven seasons. Many of those were players - Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz, Luis Ortiz, Brett Phillips, and Jorge Lopez - have been considered to be top-100 level talents at one point or another in recent seasons. Others, like Kodi Medeiros, Jordan Yamamoto, Jean Carmona, KJ Harrison, Gilbert Lara, and Demi Orimoloye, were thought of as notable prospects within the organization.
Those trades, coupled with the prospect graduations of Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and Corbin Burnes, have largely depleted the organization of their noteworthy upper-level prospect depth. But the big league club won a Senior Circuit-best 96 games on their way to an appearance in the NLCS, so you probably won’t find many people around Milwaukee or within the front office who are disappointed about a low overall farm system ranking. “A strong farm system has real value,” Law writes, “and the Brewers used their farm system last year in the two best ways you can.”
What’s left after all the transactions and promotions is a system filled with flawed hitters and high-variance hurlers. A preponderance of notable position players - guys like Corey Ray, Lucas Erceg, Troy Stokes, and Jake Gatewood - have significant swing-and-miss concerns. Near-term arms Trey Supak, Marcos Diplan, and Cody Ponce project as relievers. It isn’t difficult to see any or all of those players filling a spot in the big leagues at some point, but none of them figure to be much more than average MLB players and most seem ticketed for secondary roles.
There are plenty of players at the lower levels with intriguing tools who are no doubt of interest to those who follow the organization closely. On a broader scale, though, those players are more so considered to be “lottery ticket” types - players with wide ranges of outcomes that may be just as likely to flame out in the near future as they are to breakout into lauded prospects. Sure, we as Brewers fans may love guys like Tristen Lutz, Payton Henry, Caden Lemons, Aaron Ashby, or Justin Jarvis, but until those players and others show that they can consistently apply their tools during in-game scenarios, or perform at a more advanced level of the minors, we can do little more than dream on their upsides.
If you’re into projecting low-level prospects and fantasizing about roles for players who are years away from the big leagues, then there is plenty of reason to be intrigued by the farm system currently possessed by the Milwaukee Brewers. But minor league systems built upon projectable but unproven low-level players, with mostly future role players in the upper levels, aren’t ones that can yield much present-day value in terms of trades or graduations. An overall rank of #25 may feel a little harsh at first blush, but on the whole it’s a good summation of today’s snapshot of the depleted Milwaukee farm system when taken in comparison to the rest of the league.