The minor league baseball season is starting to wind down, with only a few weeks left before teams across the country finish up their regular season schedules over Labor Day weekend. As such, the time has come for Baseball America to release their annual list that names the players with the top tools across all the full-season levels of MiLB. There are 10 leagues and 20 different player categories rated for each league, including offensive, defensive, pitching tools. There is even an additional column for “best managerial prospect.”
Baseball America currently views the Milwaukee Brewers as having the worst farm system among all 30 Major League Baseball franchises, but their scouts still saw fit to recognize four prospects from the org who were rated as having a top tool in their league:
Luis Aviles, Jr. — Best Baserunner, Southern League
The Biloxi Shuckers currently rank second-best on the circuit in team steals, and that is due in large part to the contributions of Aviles, 24. The shortstop has appeared in only 75 games this year but has swiped 25 bases, which is the fourth-highest total in the league. He has been successful in 81% of his steal attempts and is considered a stout defender at short. The right-handed hitting Aviles owns a .255/.330/.327 slash with a pair of homers in 303 plate appearances. good for a 94 wRC+ in the pitcher-friendly league. The former 30th-round pick has posted a .241 average and .632 OPS in over 2,200 minor league plate appearances, and is eligible to become a free agent after this season if not added to the 40-man roster.
Noah Zavolas — Best control, Carolina League
Zavolas, an 18th-round pick out of Harvard last summer, came to Milwaukee as part of the Domingo Santana trade. The 23 year old righty has started 22 games and logged a league-leading 133.0 innings for the Mudcats this year, posting a terrific 2.98 ERA. His 1.6 BB/9 ranks as the lowest among pitchers who have made at least 15 starts, and his 4.43 K/BB ratio ranks as the second-best among pitchers with at least that many starts. He generally works in the 88-91 MPH range with his fastball and leans on an above-average changeup as his best pitch, relying more on pitchability and generating ground balls (47.5% GB rate in 2019) than missing bats, as he owns a modest 6.9 K/9 rate this year.
Payton Henry — Best defensive catcher, Carolina League
Henry, recently turned 22, was considered to be a project when he was selected by Milwaukee in the 6th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, as most prep catching prospects are. But he has taken great strides behind the dish since turning professional, getting named as the top defensive catching prospect in the org in 2018 before earning recognition as the best defensive backstop in the Carolina League this year. He’s thrown out 38% of would-be base thieves this year and Baseball Prospectus rates his overall defense as +2.3 runs above average in 2019. Henry, considered to be a top-15 prospect in the org by most publications, also carries some offensive potential, most notably his plus raw power; he is batting .237/.317/.395 with 13 homers in 429 plate appearances for the Mudcats this year, which comes out to a 107 wRC+.
Ryan Aguilar — Best defensive first baseman, Carolina League
Aguilar, who turns 25 next month, has shown some promising defensive tools as a utilityman since getting selected in the 31st round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He has spent an abundance of time in the outfield, mostly in center and right, but he has appeared most regularly at first base for the Mudcats this season. Aguilar was charged with only 5 errors in 89 games at the cold corner for a .993 fielding percentage, and BP grades his overall work including his time in the outfield at +4.9 runs above average. Aguilar enjoyed an offensive breakout of sorts during his second go-round in the Carolina League, batting .272/.403/.409 with nine home runs and 10 steals in 405 plate appearances for a 140 wRC+. He earned a promotion to Double-A Biloxi on August 1st, and so far has a 78 wRC+ in 31 plate appearances at that level.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Baseball Prospectus