Remember the days of top-20 or 30 Milwaukee Brewers prospect lists where almost every player had a 50 or better OFP? Those days are long gone. For good reason, too. Some developed into usable assets for the Milwaukee Brewers (Keston Hiura, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes, etc.), others were traded for true difference makers (See Christian Yelich), and the rest just didn’t pan out. Despite the good and the bad, the Brewers are left with a pretty abysmal system.
When Baseball Prospectus released its top-20 Brewers prospects list, it affirmed what was just mentioned above. The system is short on thrilling talent, has a few players who slot into the “ok talent” pool and, otherwise, supports a field of maybes. While the excitement may be gone, there are still players who carry rather low risk and a chance to be a Major League contributor.
Without further ado, here’s the top 10.
- Brice Turang, SS
Yeah, this should surprise no one. In his first full season of pro baseball, Turang showed he could handle lower level talent pretty well with a .287/.384/.376 line and 21 stolen bases in 82 games with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Lacking from that line is any semblance of power. Turang was promoted to Carolina for the remaining 47 games of the season and the output went down, but he is just 19 years old.
BP lauds his speed and glove, but state that the hit tool’s continued development is crucial for him to be of any value. Otherwise, you’re looking at a defensive utility replacement taking up the 13th spot on the hitters’ side of the roster. According to the fantasy outlook, he might compare favorably to one Jose Peraza, but with quality defense.
2. Tristen Lutz, OF
Lutz’s 2019 at High-A Carolina ended a lot better than his line suggests. With a slash of .255/.335/.419, I think the true area that should be looked at is what I like to call “post-adjustment.” The story with Lutz throughout his career thus far has been a steady spike in performance after the adjustment period. For example, he hit .271/.354/.446 with 11 of his 13 homers in 91 games after April.
Per the line, BP worries some about Lutz as a hitter. After all, his good power can’t play if he doesn’t make contact. They’d like to see a dip in his K-rate, which is a common ask of 20-year-old power hitters, and to see more power, a tool he flashes mightily.
Defensively, they believe Lutz plays best in right field with one hell of an arm, but state he could play center in the future. The fantasy comparison goes says “Hunter Renfroe-esque.”
3. Aaron Ashby, LHP
The reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year in the organization makes a huge jump up the list in his second year of pro ball. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m not surprised because I constantly fawn over him.
The BP writers love Ashby’s “curveball” (he’s told me that it’s a slider, despite what it looks like), calling it one of the better lefty hooks in the minors. They also compliment his mechanics. The big tool missing for Ashby is a third pitch. If he gets there, they’re guessing a 3rd or 4th starter for his future.
4. Ethan Small, LHP
Two lefties back-to-back? That’s impressive. Small made a fantastic first impression, but it was short. He only threw 21 innings (Thanks a lot College World Series).
BP says the same things about Small you’ll read in most places: great deception in his delivery, good control, good fastball and changeup. They don’t love that the fastball has below-average velocity. I think the Brewers see something the rest of the league doesn’t in soft-tossing pitchers. He gets another 3rd or 4th starter grade.
5. Mario Feliciano, C
The better of the two catchers in the farm, Feliciano reestablished his value with a dominant performance with the Mudcats. He also turned 21 as the League year came to an end.
Feliciano gets deservedly knocked for his strikeout numbers, but otherwise, BP seems to be big fans. While they’re still questionable about the defense, they see the potential for an average defender with an above average bat. He gets an OFP of 55, which is pretty good as far as catchers go.
6. Carlos Rodriguez, OF
Rodriguez continues his surge up the charts. In my mind, this is mostly stat-based because the guy hits for average everywhere he goes. He’s also only 19.
BP seems torn on Rodriguez’s hit tool. While they project it to be above average, there’s a big leg kick with weird timing that they don’t love. There’s not much power to project for Rodriguez either, but he should have the speed and instincts to be a pretty good center fielder. If he’s at Wisconsin this year and has success, I think a lot more people will get excited about his future.
7. Corey Ray, OF
Ah, the prodigal son. Ray’s line last year was an impressive .563/.563/.933... In 5 games with the AZL Brewers. Meanwhile, he saw a brief demotion to Biloxi after looking lost at AAA. He was dealing with injuries, so there’s reason to believe he might regain the power stroke that brought him back to the limelight in 2018.
The evaluators at BP see a Swiss cheese swing, AKA one that’s full of holes. The kid won’t stop striking out and that’s left a lot to bail ship on his potential. They see his future peaking as a fourth outfielder. Even that may be high based on what we’ve seen.
8. Zack Brown, RHP
Yeesh, continuing a look at high hopes that’ve been squashed. Brown went from being one of the most exciting prospects on the mound for Milwaukee to a pitcher who had no control.
BP lovingly calls Brown’s arsenal “mostly average.” They seem to view the Brewers not protecting him from the Rule 5 and then him not being selected as damning evidence of his future. They don’t love his fastball, call his curve and changeup inconsistent. It’s not a great review of Brown.
9. Antoine Kelly, LHP
A flame thrower, for once. Kelly is all excitement and more risk. He looked great at the AZL for Milwaukee, where newbies couldn’t touch his fastball. At a brief stint in Wisconsin, the fastball was much less intimidating.
Surprisingly, BP seems pretty high on Kelly. They discuss that he has some mechanical issues that need to be cleaned up, but that his slider could develop into a good weapon that compliments his fastball. His future grade puts him at 4th starter or late-inning reliever.
10. Devin Williams, RHP
Williams actually pitched in the Majors last year. He should have a fighting shot to win a bullpen spot out of Spring Training this year. He was as good as ever.
Prospectus likes his pitch mix, especially the fastball and changeup. They believe he’ll be a solid reliever. That’s about as straight forward as it gets.
Also appearing on the list:
11. Drew Rasmussen, RHP
12. Micah Bello, OF
13. Nick Kahle, C
14. Payton Henry, C
15. Joe Gray, OF
16. Cooper Hummel, OF
17. Eduardo Garcia, SS
18. Braden Webb, RHP
19. Je’Von Ward, OF
20. Lucas Erceg, 3B
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus