On October 11th, The Arizona Fall League kicks off its 25th season of existence. The 27-game season will feature six teams that are made up of a conglomeration of prospects from five separate major league organizations. For the Brewers, they join the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, and Detroit Tigers on the Salt River Rafters. Each team typically sends anywhere from 5-8 prospects each season from their minor league affiliates. This year, the Brewers are sending six – including one of the team’s two top 100 prospects (per MLB Pipeline).
While the Crew’s 2015 season with the Suprise Sagueros appeared to focus on pitching – sending Josh Hader, Jacob barnes, Adrian Houser, and Damien Magnifico – this season looks to evaluate the stock of three sizeable offensive prospects for the rebuild: C/1B Jacob Nottingham, SS Isan Diaz, and OF Brett Phillips. RHP’s Tayler Scott, Tyler Spurlin, and Josh Uhen are also making the trip to Arizona.
Ranked as the 15th-best prospect for the Brewers based on MLB Pipeline’s rankings, Nottingham has had a rough first season after being traded to the Brewers in the offseason. Though he’s been known for his power-plate discipline combo, he’s been disappointing for a good chunk of this season. But the decision to place him in the Fall League may not be based solely on his offensive disappointment. Many scouts have gone back-and-forth about his abilities to become a regular catcher in the majors. While he can be a strong battery-mate behind the plate, his 21 passed balls and a mere 20 of the total 51 runners being thrown out (28%), he still has plenty of work to do in order to improve. He’ll join Detroit’s Grayson Greiner (26th-best prospect in Tigers system) and Atlanta’s Kade Scivicque as the team’s backstops.
Though us fans should not get our hopes up too soon, Isan Diaz could become the organization’s second breakout prospect in the Fall League in as many years. Last season, LHP Josh Hader exploded onto the scene with his wipeout slider and strong velocity. This year, Diaz could ‘wow’ audiences with his advanced feel for the bat despite being only 20 years old. It could be said that Diaz could be considered the organizational prospect of the year – especially with maintaining his health through 130 games thus far. Though it appears to be a ton of games for a top-flight prospect, the organization may be looking to push him into as many games as possible to speed up his progression time by having him crack through to his potential even more.
Either way, Diaz’s bat and solid defense could warrant the everyday shortstop job for the Rafters. He’ll be joining an infield that’s loaded with high-end talent. Ranked as the 14th best prospect in all of baseball, SS Ozzie Albies of the Atlanta Braves is likely to move to second for the fall due to the entrenchment of former top draft pick and prospect SS Dansby Swanson at the major league level. Also playing alongside the combination are Atlanta’s power-hitting 2B Travis Demeritte (6th best 2B prospect in all of baseball), Colorado’s corner infielder Ryan McMahon (5th-best 3B prospect), and Arizona’s 3B/SS Dawel Lugo (12th ranked prospect in ARI system), among others. If anything, Isan Diaz and the rest of the infield could be the team’s strongest aspect.
With the upcoming fall season being his second appearance in the Arizona Fall League, Phillips will look to build upon a very strange first season with the Crew. While his traditional slash line appears unimpressive, he’s managed to maintain his above-average play with his power and batter eye. Though the strikeout rate has jumped tremendously since he arrived in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers trade, he’s finally hit his stride in the month of August – hitting .258/.370.393 with four home runs in 108 plate appearances. It’s unclear whether or not Phillips will get a call-up in the month of September, but he could end up playing an equivalent of a full major-league season – possibly indicating that the organization is testing his limits so that they can call him up next season for a lengthier stay.
Phillips appears to be the top outfield option in for the Rafters, as he is the most-highly touted of the bunch. Atlanta’s Dustin Peterson (#18 on their list), and Detroit’s Christin Stewart (#3 on their list) and JaCoby Jones (#10) will also play large roles in the outfield. All players are known to have at least average power potential, and Stewart has slammed 26 home runs between the Tiger’s Single-A and Double-A affiliates this season. Phillips appears to be the everyday right fielder for the team, as Jones and Rockies unranked prospect Noel Cuevas are listed as primarily centerfielders while Peterson and Stewart are slated to play more in left.
The former Chicago Cub draftee came to the Brewers after being released by the Cubs earlier this year. After pitching briefly in the Independent League for Sioux City, he was picked up by the Crew and placed in Double-A Biloxi. Though his numbers and ability doesn’t jump out, the chance to play in the Fall League for the first time will expand the 24-year old’s season and give the Brewers a longer look at him.
The 25-year old right hander put together a strong season pitching for both High-A Brevard County and Double-A Biloxi. Owning a career 2.77 ERA out of the bullpen, Spurlin has been able to advance in the ranks despite walking about 3.5 per nine innings. It will be his first appearance in any fall league, and most likely be used in middle-relief capacity.
The former Oshkosh North and UW-Milwaukee graduate will make his first appearance coming out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League. His solid play in High-A Brevard County (8.5 K/9, 4.35 ERA in 49.2 IP) was awarded when he was called up to Double-A Biloxi. He’s tossed 5.2 scoreless innings for the Shuckers, and will look to expand his prospect stock after three full-years in the farm system.
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