30 Farmhands #7: Meet the Newcomers | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

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

Yesterday, the Brewers front office doubled down on their effort to trade Carlos Gomez after the deal with the Mets fell through. This time, the Brewers attempted to send the superstar centerfielder to the Junior Circuit, and successfully dealt Gomez to the Houston Astros (along with Fastballer Mike Fiers). The combination of Gomez and Fiers gained quite a haul for the Brewers, including rising star outfielder Brett Phillips, along with LHP Josh Hader, RHP Adrian Houser, and OF Domingo Santana.

2015 Deadline Deals Return (Revised BA Rank)
Aramis Ramirez Yhonathan Barrios
Carlos Gomez & Fastballer Fiers Josh Hader (8) / Adrian Houser / Brett Phillips (5) / Domingo Santana (10)
Gerardo Parra Zach Davies (6)
Jonathan Broxton Malik Collymore

This morning, the Brewers continued their efforts to rebuild by reportedly trading Gerardo Parra to Baltimore for RHP Zach Davies. This move adds to a veritable glut of serviceable right-handed pitching in the Brewers’ system, even with Tyler Cravy and Taylor Jungmann fully graduating to the MLB. The Brewers have also reportedly traded Jonathan Broxton to St. Louis for the Cardinals’ Malik Collymore.

What better way to continue the “30 Farmhands” series than by getting to know these prospects?

30 Farmhands Series recent posts:
2015 Minor League All-Stars
Meet the Helena Rookies
Meet the Arizona Rookies
Depth, Surprises, Replacements

Gomez-Fiers Trade Return
LHP Josh Hader (19th, 2012 [Orioles]. AA Texas League 2015). If you thought the Brewers loved that high arm slot, and that slot alone, their recent crop of left-handed pitchers is challenging that orthodoxy. Lefty Josh Hader adds to that list, which also includes last year’s first pick Kodi Medeiros and (arguably) could include this year’s second pick, Nathan Kirby.

The “true 21-year old” got his second chance in the Texas League in 2015, and has consistently improved his command throughout the season. For example, between 3 BB hiccups in early May and mid-June, the southpaw worked a seven game stretch with 23 K / 7 BB / 3 HR over 28.3 IP. Despite reports of aggressive pitching with a strong, hard fastball, which includes deception and life according to BaseballAmerica, Hader’s groundball/flyball ratios are somewhat counterintuitive: this year at AA Corpus Christi, Hader claims 0.71 GB/FB. It will be interesting to see how the youngster’s delivery and fastball produce groundballs over time, and whether his flyball profile plays at Miller Park.

A key stat to watch for the youngster is his strike outs, which have soared since June: in his last six games, 32 of 100 batters faced went down on strikes against the prospect.Here’s one of those strike outs. How about this delivery?

If the delivery raises question marks, it’s hard not to like the Luis Tiant move.

RHP Adrian Houser (2nd, 2011. Advanced A California League / AA Texas League, 2015) (Video). The highest Astros draft pick in the Gomez-Fiers return group, Houser is not a product of Jeff Luhnow‘s regime, as BaseballAmerica notes that he is a product of “the last of the pre-Jeff Luhnow era” (p. 186). The 22-year old worked what may be his most aggressive assignments of his career in 2015, as he split time between Advanced A Lancaster and AA Corpus Christi thus far.

As Houser moved to Corpus Christi, the big righty lost his strike out rate, and on the periphery his groundball rate also declined. Still, one particularly tough start might explain most of that groundball drop, since the youngster also boasts big Groundball:Flyball games of 13:6, 7:4, and 12:9 in July. Although he is slightly shorter than Cody Ponce, Brewers fans might think of Houser as a “baby Ponce” of sorts, given that the righty sprinkles tailing and cutting fastballs throughout his approach, while also keeping a curve, slider, and change in his pocket, too. Brewers fans may instantly focus on his size and wide arsenal as solid potential for organizational pitching depth, and Houser also sounds like he is thoughtful about his approach and game situations (see the interview below):

Given the advanced status of both Hader and Houser, it will be interesting to see how their grades and rankings compare to the pitchers already working in the Brewers’ system. Even a fast-riser like Ponce is still behind these guys in terms of overall development, and Houser could be a strong challenger for Tyler Wagner and Jorge Lopez (a good thing; not knocking either Wagner or Lopez, I like both pitchers). Meanwhile, Hader is instantly the most advanced, potential-impact lefty in the system.

OF Brett Phillips (6th, 2012. A+ California League / AA Texas League 2015) (Video). Brett Phillips had his second shot at Advanced A Lancaster to start 2015, and he made up for some shifts in average and discipline by increasing his power production. After moving to the Texas League, the lefty bat’s strike out rate stabilized somewhat, while his average and power also remained strong (here’s video of his first AA homer). According to BaseballAmerica, Phillips’s power is the biggest question with his bat, which they call “solid-average” with “above-average” potential (p. 181). Thus far, the outfielder has stuck at centerfield, giving the prospect a real chance to maximize the value of his hitting. In a MinorLeagueBall interview, Phillips’s teammate A.J. Reed said:

“Brett Phillips is an easy player to evaluate. He is a true five-tool player that always give 110% on the field. You can pretty much guarantee he will get a hit or two each and every game. Just from playing with him all year he has great confidence and will hit .300 at any level he is in. He will hit home runs here and there and shows some home run power but when he gets it going he will hit them in bunches. He is definitely one of the best hitters I have seen since entering pro ball.”

BrewCrewBall suggests that Phillips might have a chance to challenge shortstop Orlando Arcia as the Brewers’ top prospect, and BaseballAmerica also ranked Phillips as the top Astros prospect in their midseason rankings. Even with the question marks, the term “five tools” seems to be connected to Phillips’s name rather consistently.

It is intriguing that Phillips is the only “Luhnow” guy in this trade. In an interview posted on MLB.com, Doug Melvin called Phillips “untouchable” without Fiers included in the deal. One might speculate that Phillips was not only untouchable because of his quickly developing pedigree, but also the fact that Phillips was a part of Luhnow’s first draft in Houston. Of course, it is also clear that Melvin was quite emotional about dealing both Gomez and Fiers.

OF Domingo Santana (Dominican Republic, 2009 [Phillies]. AAA Pacific Coast League / American League, 2015) (Video). Going on 23-years old, Right fielder Domingo Santana apparently splits scouts with his skillset and approach, but it’s hard to ignore the righty bat’s power and overall discipline throughout the upper minor leagues. FanGraphs highlights the specific contact issues with Santana, and how his strike zone contact could impact his big league production; this is arguably the major issue that accompanies his solid power. BaseballAmerica echoed those sentiments before Santana’s first call-up in 2014, and that publication appears to contrast FanGraphs’ view on Santana’s speed. Even as Santana earned his second big league call-up in 2015, Astros site ClimbingTalsHill suggested that Santana would capitalize on his tools outside of Houston in a prophetic post.

I gather that Brewers fans will raise an eyebrow at Santana’s contact profile, but there is nothing wrong with the Brewers adding more depth with power (10.0% XBH in AA & AAA) and walk (12.0% BB in AA & AAA) potential. In the videos I posted, you will notice that Santana is relatively quiet in the batter’s box, which may lead some to speculate about the Brewers’ ability to tinker with Santana’s swing to maximize his contact and power.

Gerardo Parra Trade Return
RHP Zach Davies (26th, 2011. AAA International League, 2015) (Video). This morning, I posed the following question on Twitter, as the Brewers seemed prepared to acquire righty hurler Zach Davies for Parra:

 

While this question might sound sarcastic, it should highlight a few points: (1) The Brewers’ system is arguably stronger than Baltimore’s system, and the Milwaukee farm is trending upward for several reasons in 2015. (2) The Brewers have a freaking boatload of righty pitchers with either higher grades, arguably similar risk, or both higher grades and similar risk. That said, scouting reports on Davies rave about the righty’s change up, and his 6’0″ / 150 LB stature has drawn comparisons to Reds-now-Giants hurler Mike Leake. If you’re inclined to poo-poo that comparison, or the idea of “back-end rotation value,” consider that Leake prevented 11 runs from 2011-2014 while working full seasons for the Reds, and that’s before considering his break-out 2015 campaign (where Leake rates as solidly above average, in terms of runs prevented). With command, an above average pitch, and a repeatable delivery, there is no reason to dismiss Davies, even if he is a “high floor” prospect rather than a “high ceiling” prospect. In this case, Brewers fans should look past the ranking numbers, and focus on Davies’s skillset and potential value: as Fiers and Taylor Jungmann have shown, there is solid value and some surprises to be had from organizational depth.

While I was searching for information on the Brewers’ Maryland picks from the June 2015 draft, I found that the Baltimore area has a solid set of websites devoted to scouting and prospect analysis. That holds true for the Orioles, too, where one can find that Davies: is a control/command guy with his fastball that mixes pitches; pairs his change up well with his two-seamer; works as a pitcher’s pitcher; and, scares scouts with his size. The ability to “work low in the strike zone” and repeat delivery also stands out throughout scouting reports. Despite all the change up talk, dig the curve eight seconds into this video:

Judging Davies’s performance at AAA Norfolk will give Brewers fans several aspects of the young righty’s game to assess. Notably, the prospect’s walk rate climbed as his strike out rate dropped, and he arguably offset a climbing line drive rate with a steady groundball / flyball set up. Given this development, one might question Davies’s overall run prevention in 2015, especially as the righty moves from Norfolk to the unfriendly confines of AAA Colorado Springs (presumably). If the Brewers were radical and unorthodox with this righty, one might speculate that an AA Biloxi or MLB assignment could be preferable to sending the kid to Colorado Springs (but this is pure speculation on my part).

Ultimately, the Brewers have more high minors pitching depth, and more serviceable pitching depth, which is definitely not a bad thing given that the organization just surrendered one of their own organizational hurlers to land that haul from Houston. Given the acquisition of both Houser and Davies, it’s difficult to feel bad about losing Fiers (and I say that as someone who absolutely loved watching him pitch).

Jonathan Broxton Trade Return
2B-LF Malik Collymore (10th, 2013. R Appalachian League, 2015). BaseballAmerica profiled Malik Collymore as a hard-hitting nomad prior to the 2015 season, meaning that the farmhand needed to find a solid position on the diamond. The 5’11” / 190 LB prospect began his career at second base, before moving to leftfield in 2015. It’s hard not to drool on the “high upside,” most positive potential reported on Collymore, as BaseballAmerica calls him “intelligent” (p. 380) and FanGraphs describes his raw power potential as, “double digit homer raw power if his line drive game stroke allows him to get to all of it in games.” Of course, Collymore has not hit as well in the advanced rookie league this season, which leads one to speculate about that potential, but there are still aspects of his game to get excited about. The right-handed bat is maintaining an excellent walk rate, and he still boasts six extra base hits in 86 PA (which isn’t bad). His reported speed shines through those extra base hits, as those six hits are distributed evenly between doubles, triples, and homers. The stat to watch for Collymore will be his split, as well, since the youngster is showing a strong platoon split between southpaws and righty pitchers thus far in 2015.

In an excellent interview with VivaElBirdos, the Canadian-native revealed that his nickname is “Colly,” which incidentally sounds like the nickname of another hard-hitting Brewers legend. For fans clamoring for the removal of Doug Melvin prior to the rebuilding process, one can question whether this Canadian pipeline would have been unearthed during trade talks with a different GM at the helm. Here’s Colly hammering a homer in Marlins Park:

As though Brewers fans did not already have a thrilling season following the farm, with solid development from shortstop Orlando Arcia, breakouts from Michael Reed, Marcos Diplan, and Gilbert Lara, and a strong June draft, this prospect haul will give fans the chance to follow even more talented players.

 

Throughout the season, many Brewers fans and analysts have noted the improving farm system, and one can seriously question whether the draft, Lara’s surge, and this trade haul will help the Brewers leap into the Top Third of MLB farm systems.

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