For the fourth-consecutive year, Ryan and I put our heads and notes together to create a Top 30 Prospects list for the Brewers’ organization. As always, neither of us got exactly what we wanted on this list, but we compromised to put together a quality list that combines our thoughts and opinions.
Check back on Thursday for the top ten prospects, as well as next week, when Ryan and I record a podcast largely focusing on the Top 30 rankings.
Earlier rankings: #21-30
11) OF Victor Roache (DNP)
Once considered to be a top half of the first round talent, a severely-injured wrist caused Roache to fall to the Milwaukee Brewers with the 28th pick of the 2012 Draft. He didn’t make his professional debut last season due to his injury, but the organization feels they got a potential above-average regular at the end of the first round. If true, that’s a steal. Roach’s value lies in his huge power. Recovering from his wrist injury may cause his power production to lag this season, but few scouts question Roache’s ability to hit the baseball a long way. The questions surround his contact skills and his ability to handle quality breaking balls. Roache will be one of the rare college draft picks who will need ample time to develop in the minors — again, largely due to his injury — but he could pay huge dividends for the Brewers down the road.
12) RHP Mark Rogers (stats)
Milwaukee drafted Rogers with the fifth-overall pick in the 2004 Draft, but he has yet to produce at the big-league level. His injury battles have been well-documented over the past few years. Last year, however, he was finally healthy for an entire season. Skeptics will point to his 4.72 ERA and 4.63 BB/9 walk rate in Triple-A in 2012, while optimists will point out his walk and strikeout rates improved incrementally throughout the year.
When right, Rogers will sit in the mid-90s with his fastball and largely feature a tight slider as his secondary pitch. The right-hander also throws an overhand curveball and a changeup, but he heavily relied on his fastball and slider once up with the big-league club in the second half. His velocity has been a big issue early in camp this year. If his progression is anything like last season, though, Brewers fans should expect Rogers to improve as the season moves along.
13) LHP Jed Bradley (stats)
Bradley didn’t put up great numbers in 2011 at Georgia Tech, causing him to fall to the #15 slot in the ’11 Draft, which was well below where most expected him to be drafted at the start of the year. Then, after getting off to a hot start in 2012, he faded badly for the remainder of the year before being shut down early. He velocity declined severely by mid-season. Reports came in that his once low-to-mid 90s fastball was sitting in the mid-80s, and it resulted in a ghastly 5.53 ERA at High-A Brevard. Bradley came into camp strong this year, though, and Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has reported his velocity being back into the 90-93 mph range. If he can sustain and build on that, while further developing his slider and changeup, this ranking may look silly-low at this time next year.
14) RHP Jorge Lopez (stats)
After taking a pair of college starters in the first round in 2011, the Brewers selected Lopez in the second, a raw but extremely athletic 18-year-old from Puerto Rico. After a short but successful debut that summer, Lopez returned to the Arizona Rookie league to start 2012. The results were disappointing. His mechanics fell apart often, causing him to lose command of the strike zone. It got so bad that they actually demoted him to the Dominican Summer League so he could work on his issues there, which worked well enough to suggest all is far from lost. He normally throws in the low-90s and can bump the mid-90s on occasion. He also features a hammer curve, which has true plus potential. Lopez still has lots of projectability left in his body and he reportedly looked much better in fall instructionals, though any expectations of him reaching the majors during the current presidential administration should probably be tempered quite a bit.
15) SS Orlando Arcia (stats)
Few prospects who have never played an inning higher than the Dominican Summer League will ever make Top 30 lists — much less one who missed the entire 2012 season with an injured ankle — but Arcia is one of the exceptions. Numerous scouting reports surfaced over the winter that project the 18-year-old to be an above-average defensive shortstop as he develops, which represents the massive uptick in his value. He found significant success in the DSL two years ago, hitting for average, showing a little power and drawing plenty of walks. One current big leaguer told me Arcia “is a legit player” and impressed during spring training last year. The Brewers could push him to Class-A Wisconsin, but he probably will remain in extended spring training and play for Helena in the Pioneer League.
16) OF Logan Schafer (stats)
Schafer is on the opposite end of the prospect spectrum from Arcia and Lopez. Where they’re all upside and projection, the young center fielder from Cal Poly is largely developed and polished. He’s a solid player who likely will have a major league career, but most likely as a backup or platoon player. His numbers in Triple-A in 2012 were solid but unspectacular, and he gets the most out of his body as it is, so his upside is somewhat limited. Still, a guy who can play an above-average center field and spray the baseball to all fields is a useful commodity, especially when making close to the league minimum for a few years.
17) RHP Ariel Pena (stats)
Pena came to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade, and many were excited to get a guy who had struck out almost a batter per inning in Double-A for the Angels and had posted a 2.99 ERA in his first 114.1 innings of 2012. After the trade, however, Pena imploded. His command completely left him. He walked 6.40 batters per nine innings and limped to a 7.24 ERA to close the season. One scout who saw him with Double-A Huntsville said he thought he was a mid-reliever at best, throwing in the low-90s with his fastball and featuring an above-average slider. On his best days, he looks like a back-end starter, and the Brewers will likely send him to Double-A once again to begin the 2013 season, hoping he can rediscover that form.
18) RHP Hiram Burgos (stats)
It’s tempting, and far too easy, to compare Burgos to right-hander Mike Fiers. Both were drafted late, have limited fastball velocity and retire guys with a mix of offspeed offerings that can be thrown for strikes on any count. While the description does fit reasonably well with both players, the reality is that most players who fit that profile don’t jump into the majors and post the sort of numbers that Fiers did before September, so it’s best to keep expectations for both players in check. Burgos sits 89-91 mph with his fastball and also throws a cutter, curveball, and changeup. He will need to miss a lot of bats, though, and the drop in his strikeout rate when he made the jump to Triple-A Nashville is somewhat troubling, despite the small sample. He has a chance to pitch in the back-end of a big-league rotation, but his margin for error is going to be pretty small.
19) RHP Nick Bucci (stats)
The right-hander lost much of the 2012 season with a strained shoulder, but his projection remains relatively untouched. The organization believes Bucci can develop into a mid-rotation starter due to a solid fastball that sits in the low-90s and a slew of offspeed pitches that could become league-average offerings. He throws a cutter — which sometimes resembles a slider — as well as a curveball and a changeup. Milwaukee sent him to the Arizona Fall League to make up for much of the season being lost due to injury, and Bucci got hammered with a 9.00 ERA. Don’t make too much of that lofty ERA, though. He still missed bats and should have an opportunity to take a step forward in Double-A this season.
20) OF Khris Davis (stats)
This ranking may raise the eyebrows of anyone paying attention to statistics this spring, but we didn’t feel comfortable going higher than this. Yes, Davis has put up some really good numbers, especially last year at Double-A and Triple-A. And yes, his career line in the minors is .294/.400/.513, which is pretty darn good. The problem is two-fold. First, he’s limited defensively, at least at this point, to left field and DH. His range isn’t big enough to patrol center, and his arm isn’t strong enough for right field. Some fans have talked about him moving to first base, but Adam McCalvy noted this spring that Davis tried first base in instructionals. It didn’t go well. That leads to the second issue, which is his bat will have to be truly outstanding to carry that left field or DH profile, and scouts have had persistent, if somewhat lessening, doubts as to whether or not it can stand up to major-league pitching. That being said, he has made a habit of proving people wrong all the way up the ladder. At some point, he may just outlast all the doubters. The bar to do that is pretty high, though.