The MLB lockout rages on as the league’s owners continue to keep players barred from team facilities and transactions are frozen at the big league level in the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement. Without much news otherwise, there has perhaps never been a better time for the start of “prospect list season,” which occurs annually each winter as the major outlets update their rankings following the most recent campaign. List season kicked off today for the Milwaukee Brewers, as Baseball America has released their top-10 prospect rankings for the org:
For the first time since 2019, the Brewers have someone new ranked as their #1 prospect:
1) LHP Aaron Ashby
The former JUCO star thrived at the Alternate Training Site in 2020, parlayed that into a placement at Triple-A to begin 2021 and eventually made his MLB debut. Ashby whiffed 100 batters in 63.1 innings at the highest level of the minors and continued that strikeout prowess in the big leagues, punching out 39 batters in 31.2 innings pitched. Along with 12 walks, Ashby worked to a 4.55 ERA in 13 appearances (4 starts) for Milwaukee. He earned plus or better grades for his fastball and slider from BA scouts (including a rating as having the best slider in the system) and was lauded for the development of his changeup. The thing that could hold Ashby back is his fastball command, according to BA, but they believe with improvements there he could develop into a #2 or #3 starter. BA suspects that Ashby could follow a similar “bullpen to rotation” development track like Woodruff and Burnes before him, depending on the team’s personnel in 2022.
2) SS Brice Turang
After consecutive years ranking as Milwaukee’s top prospect, Turang dropped to #2 in this winter’s iteration. He had a solid, if unspectacular season split between Double-A and Triple-A — a .258/.347/.362 slash in 496 plate appearances, with six home runs and 20 steals. Scouts are still split on his power potential; Turang has a slender build and hasn’t shown much in-game pop in the minors. He has good bat speed and pitch recognition skills to help him make frequent contact, but without more consistent power he looks more like a second-division starter or utilityman. Turang is a plus athlete and BA scouts say his greatest development has come on defense, where he should be able to stick at shortstop for the long-term.
3) OF Sal Frelick
Milwaukee’s first-round pick in 2021 hit the ground running during his debut season, raking against lesser competition in rookie ball and low-A before struggling against the more advanced pitchers in high-A. Overall, though, there is a lot to be optimistic about after Frelick hit a cumulative .329/.414/.466 in 169 plate appearances across the three levels. Named as the org’s best hitter for average and best athlete, Frelick earns praise from BA for his control of the strike zone and bat-to-ball skills. He doesn’t project to hit for much power though at 5’9”, and his arm strength in the outfield is below-average. He’s a 70-runner however, and BA sees the possibility that he winds up as a top-of-the-order hitter.
4) OF Garrett Mitchell
Mitchell dominated in high-A to start the year, but missed time with a leg injury and looked absolutely overmatched in Double-A, where he hit .186/.291/.264 while striking out in 28% of his plate appearances. Mitchell’s tools at the plate play down due to a choppy swing and an approach geared more for ground balls than doing damage. His speed is graded as a legit 80 by BA and he has the tools and athleticsm to play plus defense in center field, but without a significant change to his approach and swing, there are major doubts about his ability to be competitive against upper-level pitching.
5) 2B Tyler Black
Black was superlative in the Horizon League with Wright State this past season, leading to Milwaukee’s selection of the Canadian native with their pick in the supplemental round at #33 overall. He has an advanced approach that leads to a strong on-base ability, and he doesn’t chase much outside the strike zone. Black has a big leg kick and good bat speed, and thrives on pitches low in the zone with the possibility for average in-game power. Black is currently a poor defender who projects to be limited to second base due to a lack of range and arm strength, but he has the chance to be a plus offensive player at the position.
6) OF Hedbert Perez
He’s ranked at #6, but Perez is probably the most talked-about prospect among Brewers’ fans and analysts because of his age and toolset. He won’t turn 19 until April, but Perez made his professional debut in 2021 and even spent some time in full-season ball. He was eaten alive by low-A pitching upon his promotion (.452 OPS, 25 strikeouts and 1 walk in 68 plate appearances) but that’s not exactly surprising for someone so lacking in professional at-bats. Perez’s physical profile has changed since he signed with the Brewers at age 16, as he’s bulked up and gotten stronger. BA describes his swing as “fluid and compact” with excellent bat speed and easy power that he taps into in-game. His increased size, while helpful at the plate, has hurt his speed and arm strength in BA’s estimation, and they believe he ultimately ends up in a corner outfield spot. His tendency to overswing and try for home runs is a concern, too, but that should hopefully improve with experience. BA sees a potential “offensive difference-maker” at maturity but their scouts believe that is still several years away.
7) C Jeferson Quero
Quero hit .309/.434/.500 with more walks than strikeouts in his pro debut in rookie ball in 2021, recording 83 plate appearances before a separated non-throwing shoulder ended his season. BA suggests his bat speed is a question mark, but say that he has good bat control and contact skills with average raw power. On defense, he’s a high-energy player with the tools to become a plus backstop — athleticism, quickness, and soft hands in blocking and receiving with the ability to steal strikes, as well as a strong throwing arm and quick pop times. Teenage catchers are often very high-variance prospects, but BA believes Quero could be on the verge of a breakout when he likely reaches full-season ball in 2022.
8) OF Joey Wiemer
Wiemer was seen as a project when the Brewers took him in the 4th round of the truncated 2020 Draft, and he struggled mightily in his professional debut in the independent USPBL. But an adjustment to his swing helped Wiemer breakout and become the org’s minor league player of the year, with a .295/.403/.556 slash line and 27 homers along with 30 steals between low-A and high-A. BA sees his power as plus-plus with an improved ability to get to it in-game, but there is some swing-and-miss concern that could be exploited by more advanced pitching. His speed is plus and his arm gets an 80 grade, Wiemer can handle center field currently and projects as a plus defender in right. The jump to Double-A will be telling as to how well the hit tool plays against better hurlers, but the tools are there for an impact player.
9) LHP Ethan Small
Small was considered an advanced arm coming out of college, but seemingly took a step back in 2021. A tendon injury to his left middle finger cost Small nearly two months of game time, but he did post a stellar 1.98 ERA in 18 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. The shiny ERA hides some concern with the underlying metrics, however; Small’s control took a demonstrative step back as he issued 42 free passes in 77.1 innings, including a 24:21 K/BB ratio in 35.0 innings in Triple-A. He’s still got the high-spin fastball that runs 89-93 MPH, a plus changeup regarded as the best in the system, and he’ll vary his delivery to disrupt a hitter’s timing. He has yet to develop a dependable breaking ball, however, leaving him somewhere between a back-end starter and reliever depending on how well he can rediscover his control. Small could be ready to contribute in the big leagues as soon as next season.
10) OF Jackson Chourio
A big-ticket international signing, Chourio was excellent in his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League, batting .296/.386/.447 with 5 homers, 8 steals, and nearly as many walks (23) as strikeouts (28) while playing at just 17 years old. His quick bat helps the ball jump more than one might expect and he projects to physically grow into plus power. His pitch recognition and bat-to-ball skills are regarded as advanced for his age. Chourio played both second base and center field during his debut campaign, and has the tools to become an above-average defensive outfielder. He could mature into a legitimate power-speed threat.
For more detailed scouting reports and a full list of the players with best tools in the organization, be sure to subscribe and read the full post from Baseball America.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference