In baseball, fans are always trying to find ways to find hope in their franchise. What will be the piece that gets them over the edge, earning them a chance to win a championship? Sometimes, it’s a blockbuster trade or a free agent signing, a topic we dove into a few weeks ago. If neither, it’s the ability to grow homegrown talent. Even if the product on the Major League field is struggling, there is always hope from the farm system.
On Wednesday, Baseball America named Brewers prospect Jackson Chourio the #3 prospect in all of baseball. In honor of the young center fielder getting recognized as one of the best prospects in the sport, we take a look back at the five best prospects in Milwaukee Brewers history.
At just 17 years old, Gary Sheffield was creating levels of excitement out of the minors that haven’t been replicated in Brewers’ history. In Rookie Ball with the Helena Gold Sox, Sheffield slashed .365/.413/.640 with 15 home runs in 57 games. He had phenomenal plate discipline as a teenager, never surpassing 63 strikeouts in a season during his time in the minors. He averaged .325 across his time in Rookie Ball, Single-A, and Double-A. At 19, he was not only the top prospect in the Brewers system but the top prospect in all of baseball.
The success seen by Sheffield as a prospect would translate to a long, successful career as a Major Leaguer, although not as a Brewer. Called up in 1988, the teenage Sheffield had solid numbers at the plate but struggled in the field. After bouncing up and down the minors in 1988, Sheffield would play three more seasons as a Brewer, with only one seeing over 100 games of action. A foot injury started friction with management that would carry on throughout his time in Milwaukee. He was traded to the Padres in 1992 and would go on to tally 2,689 hits and 509 home runs in his career.
Signed as a 16-year-old in 2020-21 out of Venezuela, Jackson Chourio is in the midst of a rapid rise through the Brewers minor league systems. In 2022, at just 18 years old, Chourio saw time in Low-A Carolina, High-A Wisconsin, and Double-A Biloxi, hitting a combined .288 with 20 home runs. As mentioned at the top, Baseball America named him the #3 prospect in baseball on Wednesday, behind two prospects who have already seen time in the majors. Chourio, if he continues his high level of play, is on pace to be the #1 prospect in baseball.
He has outstanding speed and great power to go along with great range in the outfield. Chourio is the only Brewer featured who has not seen time in a Brewers uniform, but the excitement generated so far has fans counting down the days until he debuts in Milwaukee.
Rickie Weeks was a mainstay in the Baseball America top 10 prospects list in the early 2000s. He was named the 8th best prospect in 2003 before peaking at number 5 in 2004. The 2nd overall pick in the 2003 MLB Draft spent three seasons in the minors before becoming a full-time member of the Brewers in 2005. He showed great speed in the minors, collecting 73 extra-base hits across three seasons. At the time of his call-up, Weeks slashed .320/.435/.655 with an OPS of 1.090 with the Sounds.
Weeks was the first in a line of young stars to take the field for the Brewers. JJ Hardy, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun were all high-level prospects who joined Weeks in the Majors between 2005-2007. Of the four future All-Stars from that class of prospects, Weeks was arguably the most highly touted. He would go on to rock the Brewers uniform for 11 of his 14 seasons and was a major contributor in two postseason runs.
The only pitcher on this list, Sheets was drafted 10th by the Brewers in 1999. Similar to the other guys on this list, Sheets’ time in the Brewers farm system was short but effective. In Rookie Ball, the right-hander recorded an incredible 10.1 SO/9 rate, giving up 31 hits in 35.2 innings pitched. 2000 was his last full season in the minors, where he had a combined 2.40 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. 2000 also saw Sheets earn a gold medal representing the United States at the Sydney Olympics, which included a complete game shutout to secure the gold.
Going into 2001, Sheets was tabbed the #5 prospect in baseball by Baseball America. He was promoted to the starting rotation later that season, a spot he held for eight seasons. The single-game record holder for strikeouts by a Brewer would go on to make four All-Star teams and finish with a career 3.72 ERA.
Peaking as the 8th best prospect in baseball in 2016 according to Baseball America, Orlando Arcia had all the tools for a great infielder. He hit the ball well, batting .307/.347/.453 as a 21-year-old in Double-A, earning him the MiLB Breakout Prospect of the Year in 2015. He was also a great fielder, winning a Minor League Gold Glove that same season at shortstop. With great speed, and the ability to get on base and flash the leather in the middle of the field, the Brewers brought up Arica to head their infield at age 21.
The hype around Arcia as a prospect unfortunately did not translate to a ton of Major League success. He never batted above .300, so even his next-level defense couldn’t make up for his subpar batting. The Brewers traded away their former top prospect in 2021 to the Atlanta Braves.