As many, many sources have documented throughout the season, there is a lot to like about the Brewers minor league development during the 2015 season. The AA Biloxi Shuckers had an amazing season while facing a seemingly insurmountable roadtrip; several key minor leaguers exhibited breakthroughs at that level, and that club was also bolstered by several advanced prospects from big deadline trades. The lower minors were boosted with a valuable 2015 draft, Dominican Academy graduates, and some aggressive assignments of 2014 draftees and International players alike.
Beyond these well-documented strengths, there are other players that made interesting advancements in the shadows of the system’s stars. This brief two-part series will highlight eight players that could surge forward in 2016, as well as another group of players with specific traits or tools that are worth watching.
Key: Each entry includes the player’s name, draft pick / signing date & country, and 2015 level(s).
Adrian Houser, RHP (2011, 2nd [Astros]. A+ Lancaster & AA Corpus Christi; AA Biloxi, 2015): I don’t mean this as a knock on LHP Josh Hader, who the Brewers acquired in the trade with Houston that also netted Adrian Houser: when one compares deliveries with “reliever profile” and “starter profile,” I gather that Houser exemplifies the latter, while Hader’s reliance on deception, hitches, and lower arm angles leads others to place him in the former category. Watching Houser’s delivery, and seeing his exceptional progression in the advanced minors, leads me to question the “back end rotation” ceiling placed on the righty.
- Houser improved his walk rate moving from AA Corpus Christi to AA Biloxi (which could be due, in part, to working in a more favorable pitching environment).
- The young righty maintained a solid GB:FB ratio while advancing from A-levels to AA (1.12 GB:FB in AA levels).
- BaseballAmerica noted that Houser’s fastball can sit in the low-to-mid 90s, and they also praised his curveball (he also throws a slider, cutter, and change).
- Houser’s size and arm angle perfectly fits the Brewers prototype for right-handed pitching, which leads me to believe that the organization can maximize Houser’s approach (if they continue their preference with the new GM).
This frame evokes Yovani Gallardo, who was a couple inches shorter than Houser, as both appear to have similar release points, arm slots, and posture in their deliveries (this will be a comparison that I will have to scrutinize more, but it’s what the first “eye test” revealed). Of course, Gallardo arguably received stronger stuff and command ratings than Houser upon his debut, so this is not a “strict” comparison, but more of a basic way to categorize Houser’s approach: straightforward delivery, high 3/4-to-over-the-top delivery, easily repeatable mechanics.
If Houser already has that “back end rotation” ceiling stamped on his scouting report, he arguably isn’t a “sleeper” in the sense that a minor league surge will establish an MLB job for the youngster. Instead, I pick Houser as a “sleeper pick” to outperform his current scouting ceiling.
Karsen Lindell, RHP (2015, 9th. R Arizona, 2015): While previewing the Arizona Rookies, I pointed out that I liked Lindell’s delivery. Coupled with evidence that the righty could already spin a breaking ball and use it in games by draft day, as well as Lindell’s physical profile (6’3″, 190 lbs), it appeared that the Brewers drafted a young pitching project with a lot to like.
It will be easy to link Lindell to Nash Walters, another early-draft RHP project, but Lindell was arguably further along than Walters from the get go (not a knock on Walters, but praise for Lindell’s early rookie profile). Lindell had an easier time working in the Arizona League, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio, overall strike out rate, and groundball:flyball rate suggests that the youngster was already commanding the strike zone. Lindell also surrendered many hits, but an 18% line drive rate, 1:04 GB:FB, and .460 BABIP leave me skeptical about placing those hits squarely on Lindell’s approach. Granted, minor league stats don’t mean much overall, as it is more important that the Brewers development staff work with the righty on sharpening his approach; this is why I am inclined to like his K / BB performance in the Arizona Rookie League.
I know that Lindell is already a year older than Devin Williams was at this Rookie Ball stage, but I am picking Lindell as a “sleeper” because he could be a potential “breakout” righty with an early-career fastball & projectable body mix (like Williams).
Joantgel Segovia, OF (2013, Venezuela. R Arizona & Helena, 2015): In a way, Joantgel Segovia is not a sleeper in the sense that he already was already on the Brewers Top 30 prospect radar before he even reached rookie ball in 2015. The story on Segovia is that he could lack power and still produce value at the plate with his contact and discipline profile. That’s exactly what Segovia accomplished in Arizona, when he knocked the ball into play nearly 80% of his PA, collecting a .368 AVG (he also walked in 10% of his PA).
|2013 International Signings||Nation||2015 Level||2016 Age|
|Johel Atencio||Panama||Injured / DNP||19|
|Henry Correa||Dominican Republic||DSL||19|
|Franly Mallen||Dominican Republic||DSL / R+||19|
|Julio Mendez||Venezuela||DSL / R||19|
|Nicolas Pierre||Dominican Republic||R||19|
|Joantgel Segovia||Venezuela||R / R+||19|
The young righty bat did not hit when the Brewers promoted him to Helena, but the aggressive promotion of the 18-year-old seems more significant than his statistics: if the Brewers see Segovia’s habits, approach, and development and promote him, there is a chance that he could join highly-touted Gilbert Lara in another aggressive assignment in 2016 (it will be interesting to see if the Brewers send both to A Wisconsin for a chance at full season ball). So, in this sense, I see Segovia as a “sleeper” to challenge the top ranked International bat in the system, should his contact and discipline profile carry forward as he makes the leap to full-season ball.
Tyrone Taylor, OF (2012, 2nd. AA Biloxi, 2015): This one may seem like an odd “sleeper” pick, since Taylor is very much a highly regarded prospect in the Brewers’ system. But, I want to highlight Taylor in 2016 to (a) make up for my rough ranking of the outfielder, (b) emphasize that with the OF depth in the advanced minors, the Brewers can take a full year until they need to make a 40-man roster decision on Taylor (so he could even conceivably start 2016 at AA once again, with little consequence), and (c) argue that Taylor could conceivably accomplish in 2016 what Michael Reed was able to do in 2015 (remember that Taylor is a full year younger than Reed, too).
If one considers that Reed was an intriguing depth outfielder with potential tools to stick as a glove-first outfielder, with remaining questions about his bat entering 2015 (before his bigtime breakout), a similar type of argument can be applied to Taylor for 2016. Throw out the previous rankings for Taylor, and consider his tools: BaseballAmerica called Taylor a “true centerfielder,” suggesting that his glove would work (at the very least) as a depth option for the Brewers; he also has received solid batting potential and speed grades, and average arm grades). Taylor’s bat unfortunately did not advance with the youngster in AA Biloxi, but it’s easy to forget from his history of aggressive assignments that he was still three years younger than the Southern League in 2015.
So, basically, the centerfielder will get his chance to show that the bat can come around, and if Taylor resumes his AVG, gap power, speed, and discipline profile he flashed in Advanced A, he can reclaim his skillset that placed him at the top of the system after 2014; this makes Taylor something of a “second-chance sleeper,” if you will. (And I don’t see why a prospect only has one chance to impress, or breakout, anyway).
Addendum: Looking for that next step:
There are obviously traits in each minor leaguer in the Brewers system that one must watch for each year, from the very top of the rankings to the organizational depth players. This is a group of players where very specific areas of their game could impact their place and development among the top prospects in the organization (or, a big jump into the Top 50, or so). Undoubtedly, some of these players may be looking to simply establish “high floors” as depth players, while others could leap in value.
LHP Josh Hader (2012, 19th [Orioles]): Watch for delivery repetition and velocity deep into games.
OF Yerald Martinez (2012?, Dominican Republic): Watch disciple and gap power develop.
C Carlos Leal (2014, 34th): Watch for improved defense and consistent hitting at next, advanced level.
RHP Nash Walters (2015, 3rd): Watch for command and breaking pitch.
RHP Javi Salas (2014, 10th): Watch for consistent command at next, advanced level.
C Max McDowell (2015, 13th): Watch for the bat to develop, alongside surprising speed and defense at full season level.
RHP Gentry Fortuno (2015, 18th): Watch for consistent command at next level.
RHP Gian Rizzo (2010?, Venezuela): Watch for that strike out rate to improve while advancing.