30 Farmhands #11: Meet the Surprise Saguaros | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

On Tuesday, Brewers fans can add an early afternoon game to the undeniable slate of intriguing playoffs (potential) elimination games that occur later in the day. The Brewers once again are sending some of their most intriguing, advanced prospects to the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. Eight members of the Brewers organization will join prospects from the Cardinals, Rangers, Royals, and Yankees organizations to play a packed slate of games.

Recent Prospect Coverage

Personal List: Top 15 Prospects
30 Farmhands #8: Prospect Narratives
30 Farmhands #9: Sleepers (Part One; Part Two)
30 Farmhands #10: Improvements

From MLB Advanced Media, here is the 2015 Surprise schedule:

Surprise Saguaros 2015 AFL
Tuesday October 13 @ Peoria
Wednesday October 14 Peoria
Thursday October 15 Mesa
Friday October 16 @ Mesa
Monday October 19 @ Salt River
Tuesday October 20 Salt River
Wednesday October 21 Scottsdale
Thursday October 22 @ Scottsdale
Friday October 23 Glendale
Saturday October 24 @ Glendale
Monday October 26 @ Peoria
Tuesday October 27 Peoria
Wednesday October 28 Mesa
Thursday October 29 @ Mesa
Friday October 30 @ Salt River
Saturday October 31 Salt River
Monday November 2 Scottsdale
Tuesday November 3 @ Scottsdale
Wednesday November 4 Glendale
Thursday November 5 @ Glendale
Friday November 6 Peoria
Saturday November 7 ALL STAR GAME
Monday November 9 @ Peoria
Tuesday November 10 Mesa
Wednesday November 11 @ Mesa
Thursday November 12 @ Scottsdale
Friday November 13 Salt River
Saturday November 14 @ Salt River
Monday November 16 @ Scottsdale
Tuesday November 17 @ Glendale
Wednesday November 18 Glendale
Thursday November 19 @ Peoria

Brewers Prospects (Brewers affiliate)
OF Brett Phillips (AA Biloxi)
Phillips is by now one of the most well-known prospects among Brewers minor league diehards, even though he’s only played on the Milwaukee farm for approximately two months. Arguably the centerpiece of the Carlos GomezMike Fiers (even if the other prospects did their best to earn their own hype), Phillips is one of the only true potential five tool players working in the Brewers minors. Adding Phillips’s premium defensive position to the equation makes him an easy challenger to shortstop Orlando Arcia‘s reign over 2015.

RHP Damien Magnifico (AA Biloxi)
RHP Jacob Barnes (AA Biloxi)
I am grouping Damien Magnifico and Jacob Barnes together, even though they are arguably different pitchers with different potential in the bullpen. For, both Barnes and Magnifico are members of a bigtime Rule 5 roster crunch in the Milwaukee organization, and the Arizona Fall League is arguably their potential audition for new GM David Stearns. It will be particularly interesting to see how Stearns handles such a roster crunch to begin his career at the helm of the Brewers roster: almost none of these players are “his” guys, so there is really no good sense about which players Stearns might protect on the 40-Man Roster, potentially trade, or leave unprotected (if a potential-Rule 5 player is left unprotected, another MLB team may draft them provided they remain at the big league level for the season — with some rare exceptions, like Wei-Chung Wang‘s injury stint during the 2014 Brewers season).

INF Yadiel Rivera (NL Milwaukee; AA Biloxi; AAA Colorado Springs. Currently on 40-man roster.)
OF Michael Reed (NL Milwaukee; AA Biloxi; AAA Colorado Springs. Currently on 40-man roster.)
Yadiel Rivera is one of the most intriguing players in the advanced minors, given that his flexible glove fits in one of the weak areas for the Brewers (third base). Granted, there are questions about Rivera’s bat that might not hold at third base, but if one is honest, that question mark does not rule out a potential job at third for Rivera in 2016 (after all, what do the Brewers have to lose? Or, what do they have to gain by hiring a veteran / established 3B, instead of seeing their organizational talent?). Rivera advanced quite well during the 2015 season, even earning a big league call-up, and the official site reports that the AFL stint could be an audition for the third base job.

I am grouping Michael Reed with Rivera because the defense-discipline profile outfielder has a chance to win a centerfield job for the 2016 Brewers. Adam McCalvy reported that Reed will see early time at centerfield in Arizona, which potentially aligns him with another roster need for 2016 Milwaukee. Reed himself knows the mechanical areas he will work on with his hitting, and is quite forthcoming about his goal to break 2016 spring training with the Brewers (!!!!). One must speculate that Reed is not getting this idea out of nowhere, so it is interesting to wonder what plans the front office hinted at when they selected Reed for September.

RHP Adrian Houser (NL Milwaukee; AA Biloxi)
After the Brewers acquired the “back end rotation” pedigree starter in the Gomez-Fiers trade, Adrian Houser himself was a revelation. Certainly, every single member of that trade return played well, from Domingo Santana‘s breakout at the MLB level, to the three farmhands that worked in Biloxi. Houser’s velocity came on strong as he maintained a strong groundball rate and improved his command in Biloxi. Given the surge by Jorge Lopez, and a number of other intriguing pitching performances on the farm, Houser will probably be a sleeper entering 2016. However, one has to look at his velocity, improved command, groundball rate, and off-speed offerings and wonder when Houser will break that back-end rotation mold. Notably, BrooksBaseball shows that Houser is a “true sinker” pitcher at the MLB level:

Adrian Houser MLB Velocity Vertical / Horizontal Movement
“Riding Fastball” 95.6 MPH “rises” 5.8″ and rides-in 5.4″ on RHB (compared to spinless ball of same velocity)
Sinker 2 95.1 MPH drops 2″ and rides-in 4″ additional from “Riding FB” (!!!)
Curve 82.8 drops 14″ and breaks-away 8″ from “Riding FB”
Change 86.8 drops 3″ and rides-in 1″ additional from “Riding FB”

If you catch me on the right day of the week, I’ll probably tell you that I think Houser will be the best pitcher in the 2016 organization. Given his advancement to the MLB by the end of the 2015 season, one wonders whether the Brewers view Houser as a “right-now” reliever, or will fully develop Houser into a starting pitcher.

LHP Josh Hader (AA Biloxi)
One of the best aspects of the AFL is that it features pitch f/x data, which is posted on BrooksBaseball, giving fans a chance to corroborate scouting reports with hard mechanical information. There is no pitcher I am more excited to see than Hader on the pitch f/x: not only will it be interesting to track the “exploding fastball” and hard breaking ball rumors, but it will also be intriguing to see how Hader uses his arm angles. Given that the delivery and arm angles are either a point of strength or question mark (depending on your source), this AFL campaign should give Hader a strong chance to show the stuff behind his unconscious 50 K / 11 BB / 3 HR performance against 152 batters with Biloxi. Hader’s depth options could follow those of Houser, given the Brewers’ nearly absurd starting pitching depth: even if Hader could start down the road, don’t be surprised if the Brewers break him into the MLB as a reliever.

INF Nathan Orf (AA Biloxi)
The Brewers made Nathan Orf a late addition to the AFL roster. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013 out of Baylor University, Orf jumped to Advanced A Brevard County from Rookie Helena, which gave him the chance to play for Biloxi in 2015. The utility option famously played all nine positions for Brevard County at the end of 2014 (after playing six positions throughout the season), and Orf followed that up with six defensive spots at the AA level (including more than 100 innings at LF, 2B, and 3B). Along with the glove, Orf offers a discipline-contact batting profile with some doubles power and hit — he surpassed the Southern League average with a .274 mark in 2015. Given some of the 2016 Brewers’ infield question marks and the general rebuilding trajectory, this AFL stint for Orf could be a clear audition for a utility role at a higher level.

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