Recently, I’ve been analyzing the offseason of GM David Stearns, specifically focusing on several of the newcomers and the depth of the system that Stearns has enhanced. Milwaukee’s organization was taking off before the GM started his wave of trades, and since Stearns focused on young, raw, and risky prospects, he has yet to truly make his mark on the system. So, I hesitated to rank prospects for some time. But, pitchers and catchers are reporting, and spring training will begin shortly, so it’s worth having a list for the purpose of noting how far Milwaukee has come in drafting, signing, and acquiring talent.
With the rankings, I am also providing some “awards,” in order to look forward for 2016. The point of a list, I gather, when you’re not in scouting circles is to tell a certain story, aggregate information, and show who you’re “high” on (or “low” on, I suppose). These notes should help define the intersections of polish, floor (current ability / base level of performance), and ceiling (potential) within my list.
Michael Conforto Award for shockingly quick MLB ascent: RHP Cody Ponce. Given the way that Ponce began his professional career, and his mix of wrinkled fastballs and velocity, if there’s one player I’d bet on to make the MLB from a (potential) Advanced A placement to open the season, it’d be Ponce.
Willy Adames Award for 30th to 1st potential: RHP Carlos Herrera. Every time Brewers fans or analysts complained that we knew too little about the RHP in the Adam Lind trade, or that they didn’t rank highly, I thought of Adames: the shortstop was ranked 30th in the Tigers‘ system for 2014, and shot to 1st for the Rays after the David Price trade. Buy into the scouting reports, analysis, and factor in a chance for a youngster to put it all together: don’t buy into the rankings, or rate Stearns’s trades based on the rankings.
Jorge Soler Award for huge power: C Jacob Nottingham. It’s hard to argue against Nottingham’s power, even against some of the other big power potential bats in the system. Nottingham has a big step in his development for 2016, so one can look for how his power carries into the advanced minors.
End 2016 Top Prospect: OF Demi Orimoloye. Scouting Twitter throughout the offseason has created quite a buzz on Orimoloye. While suspicious analysts will point to his lack of polish or raw prospect status, Orimoloye’s tools may have a chance to shine in full season ball for 2016 (hopefully). Athleticism alone doesn’t make a ball player, but seeing the successful development of a physical player like Carlos Gomez makes it even more fun to dream on someone like Orimoloye.
MLB Sleeper: IF Colin Walsh. With third base theoretically open, and a platoon chance at 2B, it’s easy to focus on notable acquisitions like Aaron Hill, Garin Cecchini, and even Will Middlebrooks. But, the Brewers must keep Walsh on the MLB roster for the year if they hang on to him, and in that case, the utility option has an advanced plate discipline performance to drive his way into the batting order (he could theoretically use that tool to elbow out others at either 2B or 3B). I bet 2016 Walsh = 2004 Brady Clark if Walsh gets a chance to play.
Top 15 Consideration:
SS Orlando Arcia: The near-consensus top prospect in the Brewers system should also be one of the most exciting top prospects in the game for 2016.
RHP Jorge Lopez: Lopez may begin 2016 at AAA Colorado Springs, but his step forward last season shows that he is polishing an arsenal that should challenge MLB hitters.
OF Brett Phillips: I was surprised to see some lower power grades for Phillips during this prospect season than I expected. Phillips still grades as a solid five-tool potential player in the middle of the diamond.
RHP Cody Ponce: Big frame, big fastball, and a quick professional start: it’s hard to vote against that in a ranking.
OF Trent Clark: There is a chance Clark is actually underrated, even with all the praise he’s receiving in the prospect ranking season. Clark and Orimoloye should give Ponce a good fight for best prospect of the 2015 Brewers draft during the minor league season.
OF Demi Orimoloye: I said it above and I’ll say it again: athleticism and loud tools. Add Orimoloye’s advanced professional status thanks to his Team Canada days, and it’s easy to design a profile to dream on.
RHP Devin Williams: There is a lot of disagreement on Williams, but I am betting on accounts that focus on his athleticism alongside his stuff.
SS Gilbert Lara: As some scouts and analysts praise other Brewers young prospects, Lara seems to be lost in the mix, even after his smashing 2014 instructionals. In full season ball, Lara has a chance to show why the Brewers bet on his promise.
OF Monte Harrison: A casualty of the deep system. Harrison developed his calling card tools in games in 2015, even with the well-advertised rough A Wisconsin start. Don’t be surprised to see Harrison reapply those gains and take off this year.
LHP Josh Hader: This is a pitch f/x rating. I honestly can’t weigh the “will he / won’t he start” debate as heavily once I saw his average Arizona Fall League fastball. If Hader’s actually living in the upper-90s, rather than topping out there, his arm angle should give batters even more fits.
RHP Adrian Houser: This “middle rotation” question mark flashed hard mid-90s sinkers and favored his “weak” pitch in games. Houser’s quick MLB opportunity suggests that the organization was higher on the righty than his pre-2015 scouting reports. One wonders whether Stearns shares that view.
SS Isan Diaz: Diaz seems to be the clear top prospect that Stearns acquired during his trades. Even throwing salt on the glowing praise does not ruin the strengths of Diaz’s middle infield potential. I listed him as a SS, but many appear to pencil Diaz in as a future 2B.
LHP Kodi Medeiros: After seeing Hader’s pitch f/x, I can’t wait until we get more data on Kodi Medeiros.
RHP Miguel Diaz: One of the preseason sleeper RHP of the 2015 season, I want to take the “high” vote on Diaz for 2016, too.
OF Michael Reed: I like Reed way more than this ranking. Not only do I believe that Reed could play in centerfield, I believe that his advanced development of a patience/discipline approach, strong defensive skills, and baserunning ability should give Reed an opportunity to fight for a starting job. Whether Reed gets that chance in Milwaukee’s stacked outfield or not remains to be seen.
C Jacob Nottingham: Even if you take the “knock” that Nottingham is an offense-first catcher, it’s hard to sleep on his power for his position. Even if you write in Nottingham as a 1B, well, there’s still that power. The youngster should probably be higher on my list, but you could literally say that about 10 other prospects in the system.
[Injured Top 15 Potential: LHP Nathan Kirby. We’ll have to check back on Kirby later into the summer. Unfortunately for him, there are entirely too many interesting guys eyeing up the 10-30 spots, but a big MLB exodus should help the southpaw (more than a handful of the Top 15 could reach the MLB by midseason if everything falls into order).]
Top 30 Consideration: In this part of the system, I am trying to focus on (a) players that I am looking to step forward in 2016 (like Herrera), (b) players that are making big debuts (like Jose Sibrian), and (c) the best MLB depth options (from acquisitions like Rymer Liriano or Garin Cecchini to organizational guys like Jacob Barnes, who took a huge step forward in 2015).
SS Jake Gatewood
RHP Zach Davies
OF Tyrone Taylor
RHP Marcos Diplan
OF Malik Collymore
RHP Trey Supak
IF Garin Cecchini
SS Yadiel Rivera
OF Clint Coulter
RHP Jacob Barnes
2B Javier Betancourt
1B Tyrone Perry
RHP Yhonathan Barrios
[Injured: RHP Taylor Williams]
RHP Carlos Herrera
RHP Ariel Pena
OF Ramon Flores
IF Franly Mallen
OF Rymer Liriano
C Jose Sibrian
Top 50 Consideration: This might seem ridiculous, but the system is deep enough that player profiles that ranked between 15-30 entering 2015 are arguably showing up much “lower” in the system. In many cases, this is not a knock on the player: for example, Damien Magnifico should rank solidly as an MLB potential reliever with his fastball. By contrast, 24 of the players now listed ahead of Magnifico were not a part of Milwaukee’s system entering 2015. I am including this list in order to highlight more MLB-potential minors depth (like Victor Roache and Adam Weisenburger), more 40-man depth (like Junior Guerra and Tyler Cravy), and intriguing players to look for in 2016 (from Jon Olczak to Troy Stokes or Johel Atencio).
OF Victor Roache
RHP Junior Guerra
RHP Freddy Peralta
IF Colin Walsh
OF Keon Broxton
RHP Zack Jones
RHP Damien Magnifico
1B Andy Wilkins
RHP Bubba Derby
RHP Carlos Luna
OF Troy Stokes
RHP Tyler Cravy
1B Garrett Cooper
OF Joantgel Segovia
OF Brandon Diaz
1B David Denson
OF Kyle Wren
OF Yerald Martinez
RHP David Burkhalter
[Injured (2015): C Johel Atencio]
SS Angel Ortega
LHP Mitchell Lambson
RHP Kender Villegas
C Adam Weisenburger
C Manny Pina
LHP Hobbs Johnson
RHP Karsen Lindell
C Carlos Leal
IF Blake Allemand
LHP Jake Drossner
RHP Jon Olczak
[Injured: RHP Daniel Missaki]
See more Top Prospect coverage here.