Months ago, I began preparing Disciples of Uecker for an updated Top 30 prospects list, since the club’s minor league surge in 2015 certainly made compiling such a list worthwhile. While working on this project, I quickly realized that the minor league depth spiraled well beyond the basic need for a “Top 30” or a “Top 50.” With two consecutive drafts that improved from good/risky to great/risky in 2014 and 2015 (respectively) and a set of rebuilding trades at the deadline, suddenly Milwaukee’s intriguing minor league depth extended through a greater part of the system. A list ultimately seemed counterproductive, for #25 this year certainly looks nothing like #25 last year, and the range of prospects from approximately #5 to #15 could fall according to personal taste and justification (without issue), and #30-#50 were stacked with players that may have high floor/MLB depth opportunities.
Top Prospects Coverage
Top Prospects Page
As a result of these considerations, I updated the Top 30 list into a “Top Prospects” page, in order to collect series of prospect analysis and draft coverage. This approach should hopefully attach prospect coverage to words rather than rankings, and cover the range of talent in the system. Since GM David Stearns has been extremely busy this offseason, I am personally thankful that I canned a prospect list in favor of prospect coverage, for Stearns replaced one-third of the 40-man roster with acquisitions and added significant minor league talent (especially in the low minors). Among Top 50 talent, only Tyler Wagner (my midseason #12), LHP Trevor Seidenberger, and Cy Sneed were traded away (a couple of other players were lost via waivers). By contrast, Stearns acquired a veritable baker’s dozen of rookies:
|Notable Rookies Lost||Notable Rookies Acquired|
|RHP Cy Sneed||RHP Junior Guerra|
|LHP Mike Strong||2B Javier Betancourt|
|OF Daniel Fields||OF Ramon Flores|
|LHP Trevor Seidenberger||RHP Freddy Peralta|
|RHP Tyler Wagner||RHP Carlos Herrera|
|RHP Daniel Missaki|
|IF Garin Cecchini|
|RHP Zack Jones|
|2B Colin Walsh|
|OF Keon Broxton|
|RHP Trey Supak|
|1B Andy Wilkins|
|OF Rymer Liriano|
|SS Isan Diaz|
Stearns traded for Isan Diaz most recently, as the young shortstop prospect came to Milwaukee in the Jean Segura/Tyler Wagner deal. Adding Diaz to the system creates a challenge for rankings, as the youngster excelled in a Diamondbacks system; between 2015 and 2016, Diaz propelled nearly 20 spots. Diaz is an interesting prospect insofar as discussions of the infielder’s defense vary wildly within his first couple years as a professional.
If you want the most gushing report, you might check out ESPN’s draft coverage of the youngster. BaseballAmerica has been more measured in their discussion of the prospect, noting before 2015 that Diaz’s expected offensive skills did not immediately translate to professional ball. In their 2016 ranking, where Diaz landed 9th in the Diamondbacks system, BaseballAmerica noted that an offseason mechanical adjustment helped Diaz improve his swing (and, therefore, production). Many analysts agree that Diaz should be viewed as a second baseman, perhaps even a bat-first second baseman, but that should not be a problem given Diaz’s development in the 2015 Pioneer League. Entering full season ball in the Brewers system, Diaz could be considered for a Top 10 Brewers system ranking; if the stacked rebuilding acquisitions and 2015 draft picks edge out Diaz, he should certainly receive top 15 consideration.
Behind Diaz, one might be inclined to rank righty Trey Supak, the next clear Top 15 candidate acquired by Stearns if it weren’t for an injury. Supak fits the Milwaukee mold as a big righty, throwing from a 6’4″ or 6’5″ frame (depending on who you read). Right now, the knocks on Supak are command and polishing the breaking ball, but dreaming on the ceiling should be enough to keep Supak in the mix of the top Brewers minor league arms.
After Diaz and Supak, the rookies split into a couple of different camps. First, Stearns effectively acquired a group of ex-prospects that can potentially serve in MLB supporting roles, and maybe even steal a job if they reach their potential during a rebuilding year (before the top prospects reach the MLB, anyway). In this category, the highest rankings might go to infielder Garin Cecchini and outfielder Rymer Liriano, who previously served as Top 100 prospects. The knock on Cecchini is a shift in his plate approach as he reached the most advanced levels of the minors, which some sources have attributed to “pressing” for an MLB job, as well as his defensive potential (if you’re down on Cecchini at 3B, there is some debate about whether his bat plays at LF or 1B). Previously, Cecchini was highly rated for his advanced contact-discipline approach, which is worth the gamble since Milwaukee has an open spot at 3B. Liriano hit a snag in his advanced development due to an injury, although his production has not necessarily fallen off in the minors (it’s not exactly thrilling for the Pacific Coast League, either). The dream for Liriano is that he reaches his moderate power/speed potential, which could result in a productive package (even in a supporting role). Liriano and Cecchini may or may not crack the Top 30 depending on how one measures their drawbacks against their previous ceilings, but they are the strongest and most interesting “ex Top 30” players if they are excluded from that aspect of the system.
Added to the list of MLB-ready, advanced minors depth are outfielders Keon Broxton and Ramon Flores, righty Junior Guerra, corner player Andy Wilkins, and the Rule 5 picks (RHP Zack Jones and 2B Colin Walsh).
Second, one could argue that the best decision Stearns made for the offseason was to focus on acquiring talent that fills out the Brewers low minors. Since there are a handful of strong prospects around AA Biloxi and AAA Colorado Springs, Stearns effectively staggered the Brewers’ contending window by adding a group of prospects to the low minors. This plan is obviously a gamble, but it is crucial for a club like Milwaukee to have a continuous flow of talent to the MLB. These low minors players may not reach the MLB whatsoever, but if they do, they provide the 2020-2022 Brewers with a set of young players to round out the roster, or trading chips for the final win-now players. By continually assembling this type of depth, Milwaukee will be able to aggressively make win-now trades and fill out the roster with low cost options. There is no “either / or” in terms of winning now versus rebuilding if one properly stacks the minors with talent.
In this category, one of the most misunderstood trades is the Adam Lind deal. Despite some scouting reports that emphasize that a couple of these extremely young righties have a feel for three pitches, many national and local sources simply wrote off the 3 RHP as “relievers” and nothing more. This seems strange, given that Freddy Peralta, Carlos Herrera, and Daniel Missaki have not had a chance to “break out” or “take a step forward” into the advanced minors yet. For now, Peralta and Herrera are the pitchers with the three-pitch feel (it’s tougher to grade Missaki due to his injury). Javier Betancourt may be straddling low/advanced minors in 2016 (he worked at Advanced A ball in 2015, so he may start at AA in 2016), so he may be less suited for this group than the three righties. However, the glove-first 2B nonetheless adds depth behind the clear MLB-ready players at this point.
Ultimately, in terms of ranking, the bulk of these players fill out Milwaukee’s intriguing MLB-ready or depth-role talent between #25 and #50. However, Stearns has done well to acquire a couple of Top 15 potential players, and obviously the low minors prospects may also surge into higher rankings should they take their leaps forward as they advance. One way or the other, there’s a lot to dream on in the Milwaukee minors, not simply from the homegrown drafts & signings or rebuilding trades, but also from Stearns’s split focus between the MLB roster and low minors.