1) SS Orlando Arcia (Last Ranked #1): Fans finally got a chance to see the top prospect in action, as he played his first major league game on the second of August. Though he went hitless in the first two games, he came through and had at least one hit in the next seven games. While that .189/.254/.504 slash line in 54 plate appearances isn’t all that pretty right now, he’s just getting his feet wet in the majors.
2) OF Lewis Brinson (Last Ranked #2): Though Brinson has just been placed on the 7-Day DL for a hamstring sprain, his start with his new club began with a bang. In just 48 plate appearances, he gave many pre-deadline skeptics a taste of his true ability as he hit .391/.375/.918 with 4 steals and 5 extra-base hits. While the 138 wRC+ looks fantastic, we need a lot more at-bats to really see what he could be. However, the chances of his 5-tool abilities reaching the majors in September look very strong.
3) LHP Josh Hader (Last Ranked #4): In his last two outings since the previous ranking, Hader has tossed two decent outings at Triple-A Colorado Springs by giving up 3 runs in each while striking out a total of 12 batters (to 5 walks). The thing to really watch with him is his strikeout rates, and he’s maintaining at least one strikeout per inning (currently 11.09 K/9). But now that he’s pitched in 11 starts in each Double-A and Triple-A, we do see a major trend going on: his lengthened pitch counts. His final start for Biloxi was the only game in which he threw over 90 pitches in a game. For Colorado Springs, Hader has hurled over 90 pitches 6 times – signifying that the organization has been letting him loose on opponents. While I’d like to see the trend continue, it’s only a matter of time that Hader gets restrained once again to keep his arm from wearing down. If he does come up in September, he’ll probably stick to the bullpen to preserve that notion.
4) RHP Luis Ortiz (Last Ranked #5): In his first two outings for his new club, Ortiz tossed 6.2 innings with 6 strikeouts and 6 hits while giving up only one earned run in 111 total pitches. While he too has been given a strict pitching limit to start, Ortiz has shown some nice upside as a 20-year old. Pitching against players who are on average 4.3 years older than him, he’s managed to get out of a couple of tough jams to strand almost 89% of baserunners.
5) OF Brett Phillips (Last Ranked #3): It’s unclear as-to what’s been going on with Phillips, but he did tune his game up compared to last rankings after posting a .250/.292/.610 slash in 48 plate appearances. He’s still well within reach of a 15-15 season with 21 games left on the Shuckers’ schedule – a combination he could bring to the table for the Brewers in a couple seasons. That 31.2% strikeout rate is the scariest thing about his numbers this season; other than that, he’s still managed to be an above-average hitter this season.
I decided to place both Ortiz and Hader higher on the list because of their seasonal performances and future positional logjams. While I think all three will see time in a Brewers uniform, Phillips has a more uphill battle against the myriad of other outfield prospects alongside Braun, Santana, and possibly Keon Broxton (barring success). At the beginning of the season, Phillips looked as if he would become the future centerfielder for the next few seasons – a place that many now believe could be filled by Broxton for the near-future and Brinson for the next few years. If they place him at the corners (where he’s suspiciously played 14 times in the last 21 games), Braun and Santana could be locks for next year if injuries or trades don’t derail the two of them. Though these ranks are never solely based upon the statistics, their numbers have given us some promise regarding their abilities as starting pitchers. At this point, fitting in two fairly-close top prospects along with Braun, Broxton, and Santana into 3 spots will be a lot harder than fitting in 2 pitching prospects into the 2-4 spots in the rotation that could be up for grabs in the next two seasons.
6) OF Corey Ray (Last Ranked #6): While Brinson and Phillips could be implemented into the major league squad by next season, Corey Ray could eclipse them all as a top-option in 2018. The last two weeks have allowed us fans to see some of Ray’s solid eye discipline (.328 OBP, .108 points higher than his AVG the last two weeks) and gap and over-the-fence power – seen in his three home runs, four doubles, and one triple. See, small sample sizes can be fun to look at!
7) OF Trent Clark (Last Ranked #7):
After having three multi-hit games out of his first four this month, Clark has upped his traditional average and on-base with his .267/.343/.677 since his return from the DL on he 25th of July. However, he’s dipped in terms of more modern numbers (104 wRC+, .324 wOBA, 9% walk-rate, all lower than his season averages). Nonetheless, he’s been coming along nicely for Low-A Wisconsin, and should be ready for the next test come 2017.
8) SS/2B Isan Diaz (Last Ranked #10): Just when we all though Isan Diaz may finally have hit his peak in the month of July, he continues his upwards trend with an even better start to August (.370/.491/1.209 slash with 5 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, and 11 walks). He won’t be ready until 2018, but the heavy-hitting middle-infielder is clearly eager to face the next test in his very young and promising career.
9) RHP Cody Ponce (Last Ranked #8): I like Cody Ponce. I like the his physical size, I like his 3-4 pitch mix, and I love his competitiveness. Because of all this, I took a sigh of relief during his last start to possibly see his rough patch come to an end after he gave up only one earned run in 6 innings of work. But this bottom-10 trio of Ponce-Diaz-Bickford is really difficult to make out, as they could all go at either spot (the reason why the Brewers system is so good). But for this ranking, Diaz makes it way too difficult to keep Ponce ahead even though he’s got one of the biggest frames in the organization.
10) RHP Phil Bickford (Last Ranked #9): Bickford has stayed with the other newly-acquired prospects by posting solid numbers in his first two starts (9.2 IP, 2.79 ERA, 1.138 WHIP, 15-3 K-BB). Though the numbers are skewed due to his masterful 10-K outing, Bickford continues to prove to doubters that he could have a future as a big-league starter. We’ll need to see some more from him in a Manatees uniform before we can really mark him ready for Double-A Biloxi, but he’s trending in a good direction.
11) RHP Devin Williams (Last Ranked #12): Though Williams gave up 5 runs in 5.1 innings on the 8th of August, he was called up to High-A Brevard County and tossed 4 innings in relief on the 13th, striking out 5 and giving up only one run. The athletic right-hander’s smooth delivery and solid progress this season warrants at least a small bump in rankings.
12) LHP Kodi Medeiros (Last Ranked #11): Giving up 6 runs in just 5 innings in his last two starts won’t help those seasonal numbers at all – and neither will the 6-1 BB-K ratio. Though he gets bumped one spot, it isn’t solely because of the two poor outings. At this point in time, Williams appears to be a little more on-track compared to Medeiros in terms of panning out as a starter. But there’s still plenty of time for the 20-year old southpaw to prove himself before the Crew’s development team implements “Plan B” (‘B’ conveniently meaning ‘bullpen’).
13) C/1B Jacob Nottingham (Last Ranked #13): It’s a little difficult to see OF Khris Davis smash his 30th home run of the season for another team – especially when the headline name is underwhelming in the minors. With the recent acquisitions of Andrew Susac and Michael McKenry paired with the recent offensive success of Martin Maldonado, the pressure on Nottingham to succeed grows less-and-less. For Nottingham, it’s an opportune time to regroup, relax, and regain some confidence at the plate.
14) 3B Lucas Erceg (Last Ranked 16-20): Erceg exploded onto the scene with his stellar offensive play the minute he got drafted, but has since cooled in the month of August (.245/.302/.812 slash in 53 PA’s). These numbers shouldn’t be too alarming – he’s still hit four doubles and three home runs this month out of 12 total hits, so the power is still playing a big factor. If he can maintain that hit tool through his voyage to the majors, he could be the future of 3B for the Crew beyond Villar.
15) SS Gilbert Lara (Last Ranked #15): Lara made me eat some of my words from the last ranking by going 13-for-33 in the first half of August with only 3 K’s in 37 plate-appearances. He too could make a play at 3B for the future with his power bat, but Lara’s still only 18 years old and has a long ways to go before he could be considered a top-option anywhere.
Just Out Of Range (In Order): RHP Brandon Woodruff, OF Michael Reed, RHP Marcos Diplan RHP Jorge Lopez, RHP Freddy Peralta
Others To Keep in Mind (21 and Beyond): OF Demi Orimoloye, INF Jacob Gatewood, C Clint Coulter, OF Tyrone Taylor OF Victor Roache, OF Kyle Wren, RHP Miguel Diaz, RHP Bubba Derby, RHP Damien Magnifico, RHP Miguel Diaz, RHP Jon Perrin, RHP Trey Supak, 2B Wendell Rijo, INF Franly Mallen, OF Troy Stokes, RHP Corbin Burnes, LHP Brent Suter
Injured Names: OF Monte Harrison (currently rehabbing at Rookie Arizona League), RHP Taylor Williams, LHP Nathan Kirby, OF Rymer Liriano, RHP Adrian Houser