While working on ranking Brewers prospects, a number of difficult and intriguing issues appear. First and foremost, the convergence of lower-minor or Brewers-homegrown prospects that are advancing, and supremely advanced external acquisitions leads to a difficult set of wagers about the system’s value. The Brewers system is obviously more valuable because existing homegrown prospects stepped forward and a number of key trades netted solid prospects from other clubs. As if this issue weren’t enough, the Brewers are also seeing a few youngsters emerge in their Dominican Academy, and they also landed a number of toolsy and/or high-ceiling prospects in the draft.
This set of circumstances leads me to the conclusion that something like a “Top 30,” or any specific number of prospects ranked, is insufficient: even ranking the Brewers’ Top 30 now excludes a number of intriguing high-floor, advanced prospects that could conceivably make the majors as role players (which certainly has value), and a number of low minor and Dominican Academy players will also be excluded.
In order to address this issue (which is an excellent issue to have, by the way), I decided to unfold the Brewers’ system by looking at specific drafts, trades/external acquisitions, and international signings. Assembling such a list, I isolated 130 intriguing Brewers players that are currently on minor league rosters from the Dominican Academy all the way through AAA Colorado Springs (as well as a handful of Top 30 prospects graduated to the MLB club, to boot).
Even in these lists, I excluded some players that are either injured, not advancing, having rough developmental seasons, etc. — which is to say, there could be more players emerging in the system with a strong 2016 season, so my inclusion or exclusion of a specific player is not the be-all or end-all (I always think of a player like Fastballer Mike Fiers in this case: how many people would have penciled Fiers into the big leagues, let alone the rotation, in 2010, when Fiers was approximately two years older than the average Advanced A Florida League pitcher?).
In case you’re interested, here is a document of 130 Brewers prospects (visible in Google Docs).
So, first and foremost, let’s isolate the advanced prospects that have made the Brewers thus far. Congrats to each of these players!
|RHP Taylor Jungmann (2011 1st)|
|RHP David Goforth (2011 7th)|
|[OF Domingo Santana (Phillies) — also included below]|
|IF Luis Sardinas (Texas)|
|RHP Corey Knebel (Detroit 2013 1st Supplemental)|
|RHP Tyler Cravy (2009 17th)|
|IF Jason Rogers (2010 32nd)|
|[RHP Tyler Wagner (2012, 4th) — also included below]|
Each of these players was a BaseballAmerica Top 30 prospect within their respective organization prior to 2015. In a packed prospect year like 2015, it is great to see that several of these players already have, or will have, their rookie status revoked, which should free up a few spots to rank other players (of course, there are more worthy players to rank than empty spots in the Top 30).
In constructing a list of Top Prospects, one can consider:
- A player’s tools (batting average, power, speed, glove, and fielding arm for positional players; individual pitch offerings and command for pitchers).
- Overall ceiling (the potential impact a player will have if their tools fully develop).
- Overall floor (the basic impact a player could have even without full/ideal development or impact tools).
- Risk (a player’s distance from the MLB, injury history, or any issues impeding tools — such as lack of plate discipline for a batter, or lack of command for a pitcher).
- Development / Proximity to the MLB.
- Statistical performance while developing (which isn’t necessarily to say that stats are important for minor league players, but rather that one can look for certain tools to emerge in actual games).
So, in line with some of these areas, the Brewers currently have several notable high ceiling additions to their system in 2015, both via trade and via draft. Other players are taking developmental steps forward, but are still far from the MLB. To capture this, one can first consider the most notable players developing from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Brewers drafts.
I bolded players that I included in my Personal Top 15 (linked above), and I italicized players that BaseballAmerica included in preseason Top 30 lists (Durham, N.C.: BaseballAmerica, Inc., 2015).
I should add that I did not strictly follow my previous Top 15 order in each class, because I am playing around with ranking potential, tools, development, etc. This is basically to show that there are many ways to rank these players.
|OF Trent Clark||OF Monte Harrison||RHP Devin Williams|
|RHP Cody Ponce||SS Jake Gatewood||LHP Hobbs Johnson|
|OF Demi Orimoloye||LHP Kodi Medeiros||RHP Taylor Williams|
|LHP Nathan Kirby||OF Troy Stokes||OF Brandon Diaz|
|RHP Nash Walters||RHP Cy Sneed||OF Omar Garcia|
|1B Tyrone Perry||3B Dustin DeMuth||1B Garrett Cooper|
|IF Blake Allemand||RHP David Burkhalter||OF Johnny Davis|
|RHP Karsen Lindell||C Carlos Leal||LHP Clint Terry|
|1B Steven Karkenny||RHP Javi Salas||OF Michael Ratterree|
|IF George Iskenderian||C Greg McCall||1B David Denson|
|LHP Jake Drossner||RHP Jordan Yamamoto||RHP Tristan Archer|
|RHP Gentry Fortuno||LHP Zach Hirsch||RHP Tanner Poppe|
There are a lot of talented, potentially valuable players included in these drafts, especially given the 2015 development of players from Devin Williams, Jake Gatewood, Kodi Medeiros, Monte Harrison, among others. There are other intriguing players, such as Demi Orimoloye, Tyrone Perry, and Steven Karkenny, among others, who have instantly seen their tools translate in games. For instance, there were probably some questions surrounding a 19th round pick like Karkenny, but there were hints of speed and power in scouting reports and interviews with coaches. Even if he’s old for Pioneer League Helena, Karkenny’s 8/9 stolen bases and 23 extra base hits (7 homers!!!) in 259 PA is encouraging. The same goes for Perry’s power: power was the name of the game when the Brewers drafted Perry, and he is immediately applying power and discipline in Arizona Rookie ball. These types of prospects make deep organizational rankings difficult: do you bet on risky youngsters far from the MLB (who nevertheless hint at their ceiling), or do you bet on safer prospects that are closer to the MLB?
The next list of advanced prospects should showcase the difficulties of applying an answer to the question I posed. It’s tougher to find a deep pool of “prospects” from the 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 drafts, but there are still a number of valuable depth players emerging from this class:
|2012||2011||2009 & 2010|
|RHP Tyler Wagner||OF Michael Reed||SS Yadiel Rivera (2010)|
|OF Tyrone Taylor||RHP Jorge Lopez||RHP Brooks Hall (2009)|
|OF Victor Roache||LHP Mike Strong||SS Nick Shaw (2010)|
|OF Clint Coulter||RHP Drew Gagnon||RHP Hiram Burgos (2009)|
|RHP Damien Magnifico||C Adam Weisenburger||RHP Austin Ross (2010)|
|SS Angel Ortega||LHP Jed Bradley|
|LHP Brent Suter||1B Nick Ramirez|
|SS Taylor Smith-Brennan||C Parker Berberet|
For example, as I’ve written about throughout the summer, players like Michael Reed, Tyler Wagner, Victor Roache, and Jorge Lopez made significant developments in their respective approaches on the field, or received bigtime promotions. Then there are valuable role players like Yadiel Rivera, Mike Strong, and Damien Magnifico, who will conceivably provide depth options for the Brewers by 2017. This should be a clear example of applying questions (and potential ceilings) of guys like Orimoloye, Perry, Karkenny, or even Troy Stokes, or the clearer roles of Rivera, Strong, and Magnifico (among others) from more advanced prospect stages.
Of course, you’ll undoubtedly notice that these drafts have not even delivered some of the strongest starpower potential, or most advanced prospects, or even some of the highest potential ceilings in the Brewers system. It is excellent to see a deep class of International signings “graduate” into the Brewers’ USA minors, and there are a number of intriguing players working at the Dominican Academy. For a system that only claimed a handful of “traded” or “international” prospects among their Top 30 after the 2014 season, it is excellent to see the Brewers expand the diversity of sources for potential players (by my count, there are at least 15 players on these lists that arguably deserve Top 30 consideration).
|International “Graduates”||DSL “Young Players”||Other Acquisitions|
|SS Orlando Arcia||IF Franly Mallen||OF Brett Phillips|
|SS Gilbert Lara||RHP Carlos Luna||OF Domingo Santana|
|RHP Miguel Diaz||IF Ignacio Otano||RHP Zach Davies|
|OF Joantgel Segovia||1B Nicol Valderray||RHP Marcos Diplan|
|RHP Jorge Ortega||RHP Nelson Hernandez||LHP Wei-Chung Wang|
|C Johel Atencio||RHP Joaquin de la Cruz||OF Malik Collymore|
|RHP Gian Rizzo||OF Bryan Torres||LHP Josh Hader|
|RHP Angel Ventura||OF Adolfo Morillo||RHP Adrian Houser|
|3B Shtervin Matos||RHP Deymar Alvarado||OF Kyle Wren|
|LHP Joan de la Cruz||RHP Maiker Pinto||RHP Yhonathan Barrios|
|1B / OF Juan Ortiz||IF Javier Castillo||RHP Jaye Chapman|
|OF Nicolas Pierre||RHP Jesus Brea||RHP Ariel Pena|
|RHP Joshua Torres||IF Julio Mendez||LHP Luis Ortega|
|RHP Orlando Torrez||OF Henry Correa||RHP Johnny Hellweg|
|RF Jose Pena||IF Joshue Herrera||C Beau Wallace|
Key: A “young” DSL player is 18-years-old or younger for bats, and 19-years-old or younger for pitchers. I understand that this is a somewhat flawed solution, as age is clearly not simply the only criteria the Brewers will use to assess and promote these players. I used “age” as a cut-off because there is so little scouting information available for these players that I find it easier to judge the statistical records of players that are “younger than average age.” It’s an imperfect method, but a necessary method given the lack of information about these players.
This is a monster group of prospects that arguably impacts the Top 30 list more than the drafted players, for several reasons:
- Several players with strong ceilings and extremely advanced prospect status appear from the international signings and trades (see specifically Orlando Arcia and Brett Phillips).
- A couple of the Brewers’ highest ceiling bats and arms appear here, even with risk involved (this list can include anyone from Marcos Diplan, Miguel Diaz, and Gilbert Lara, to Franly Mallen, Malik Collymore, and even Wei-Chung Wang).
- There are several advanced prospects that have very strong floors, and seemingly solid MLB roles (Zach Davies, Domingo Santana, and Kyle Wren arguably appear here).
If there was ever a time to institute something like a “Top 50” or “Top 60” prospect list for the Brewers system, this would be the year to do it. For, these charts should show that the Top 30 list will be crowded with talent, and arguably exclude any number of players with potentially high ceilings, solid developmental steps forward, and even high floors and somewhat clear MLB roles. It’s a good problem to have, as I said above, and one that those ranking Brewers prospects should have fun solving.