Opening day of the minor league season is underway, so let’s finish our look at the Brewers 2017 affiliates! These two clubs are some of the most exciting prospects in the farm system and should be followed closely by Brewers fans all season.
The Mudcats are the new team the Brewers added as the A+ affiliate. The Manatees built a new stadium, moved, changed their name and jumped to the Braves, so the Brewers were thankfully able to pair with a good affiliate like Carolina. And how was Carolina rewarded? With one of the most exciting rosters in minor league baseball. The Mudcats have nine of MLB.com’s top 30 Brewers prospects and even more prospects that just deserve some of your attention.
Leading the way for the Mudcats is the exciting offense. Most importantly #5 Isan Diaz, #6 Trent Clark and #7 Lucas Erceg. That’s great now, but when #2 prospect Corey Ray finishes his rehab work, it’s likely he’ll be heading to join this group at high-A. Diaz and Erceg are coming off huge seasons for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Diaz was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year after a year in which he had an .827 OPS with 20 HR and 75 RBI. The Brewers are still working him at SS but most expectations are that he’ll wind up being one hell of an offensive second baseman who isn’t too bad with the glove. Then Erceg came into the system after the 2016 draft, but in just half a season slashed .327/.376/.518 while crushing 9 homers with 51 RBI. These two should pair to hit plenty over the fences, even at the offense-deprived Carolina League.
Clark, on the other hand, did not stand out like Erceg and Diaz. The former first round pick struggled but most have linked that to injury. Now that he’s presumably healthy, it could be an interesting combination since he does a little bit of everything well. I doubt we’ll see much power at this level, but there’s a .300+ hitter inside of Clark somewhere and other skills to boot.
Other offensive prospects of note include: #25 Jake Gatewood, who apparently spent lots of time adding muscle and fine tuning his swing in the offseason, Weston Wilson and Troy Stokes. All three bring something interesting to the table. Stokes is my prospect riser for the year, whom I expect to start making some top prospect lists after this season.
While hitting is great at this level, pitching is only a tick behind. The staff is made up of #11 Marcos Diplan, #15 Cody Ponce, #18 Kodi Medeiros, #19 Freddy Peralta and #20 Corbin Burnes. Ponce and Medeiros are repeating a level this year after not too thrilling seasons in 2016 at high-A. I’m sure the Brewers hope that each show they’re healthy and learned enough from last year to quickly move through the ranks again. Diplan and Peralta are some of the more interesting prospects. Both are rising up prospect boards after impressive 2016s but still have a lot to prove at this level. Then there’s 2016 4th round pick Burnes. Corbin dominated in his short time on the field last year to the tune of a 2.02 ERA at Rookie and A ball. He has a group of average pitches and good command that could see him speed through the system. The Carolina league should help all 5 find some success.
The one downside of having a team this stacked? I’m not sure how long they all stick around. I think Erceg, Burnes and Ponce could all be quick risers with a couple good months since they came into the profession from college. Diaz’s track record of success could also make the Brewers more willing to jettison him up to AA with a solid first half. The others might need to show more given their age and an overall lack of success throughout their career. Gatewood has hit for decent power but never shown much more than that, Medeiros was sloppy and needs to focus on command, Peralta only has 3/4 of a good season at Wisconsin, and this list goes on and on. Point is, we could see a lot of them at AA by the draft and then Biloxi becomes the team to watch, again.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Our last team on the list, Wisconsin is by no means as exciting off the bat as it has been in the past. That being said, it is loaded with prospects who have huge ceilings and could break out at any time. The talent pool is lead by #17 Gilber Lara, #22 Monte Harrison, #23 Mario Feliciano, #24 Demi Orimoloye and #29 Trey Supak.
Harrison and Lara are the most familiar names on that list. Harrison should be very familiar to fans of the T-Rats as this is his third season at A ball. He has seen injuries end his seasons, which has delayed his development, but he also doesn’t have a track record of success. This has kept him behind his peers and the Brewers hoping he can break out.
Lara is in a similar boat. Once, he was ranked much higher on the orgs prospect list, even after an influx of new talent, but a lack of performance has seen him dip into the lower half of these lists. He’s still incredibly young and the Brewers are hoping he can finally put the offensive profile together that made them give him the largest international signing bonus in team history.
Feliciano was drafted in 2016 and could be the best catcher in the system. He didn’t show much in rookie ball, but the 18-year-old has the foundation of a great tool set that could make him the Brewers catcher of the future. There’s a lot to enjoy about the possibility, but now he needs to demonstrate that.
Demi is a prospect that set the world on fire in 2015 with a great rookie season but then did not see similar success in 2016. The Brewers are still advancing him, so it’s safe to say they weren’t completely disappointed with the lack of success they saw at Rookie ball in 2016.
Supak is a good pitcher repeating after a partial season at Wisconsin. He likely will be moved up if his success from last year continues but for right now, the rotation is so loaded in Carolina it’s best to let him get his innings in at Wisconsin. This is another pitcher who could see quite the bump as the season goes on.
And that’s this year’s farm! We’re missing a few prospects like #12 Phil Bickford and #26 Nathan Kirby. Bickford was suspended for drug use and will likely go to Carolina for a bit when he is reactivated. Kirby is recovering from Tommy John Surgery and needed more time in extended spring training. I could see him going to either Wisconsin or Carolina once that is done.