While having fun comparing the 2002 and 2016 Brewers squads, a commenter made a point worth investigating: if one is “high” on the 2016 Brewers, chances are they are high on the low-cost (and therefore generally low-risk) acquisitions of ex-prospects / relatively young players with remaining potential (if only given a second chance!). I have been selling this line throughout the offseason, because I think it is a welcome breath of fresh air after a series of veteran-heavy clubs failed to live up to their collective expectations. The idea of acquiring a bunch of kids and letting them play is as refreshing as it gets in this case. However, there is definitely a second side to this offseason, which I gather some fans are focusing on: the Brewers have a bunch of guys who might not amount to anything. In terms of risk, this may not matter (for the Brewers did not surrender terribly much to acquire these players, and they also further bolstered the lower minors in some deals), but it also may not produce a competitive club. The criticism is that the Brewers are upselling potential.
So, which side of the coin should one focus on? Let’s take a look at scouting reports, rather than statistics, to weigh the risks and strengths of potential for these Brewers. Below are the main 40-man roster position player prospects / second-chancers, alongside their scouting profiles and a relevant scouting comparison (where available).
|Brewers Youngsters||Scouting Drawback||Scouting Strengths||Scouting comp?|
|Domingo Santana||Strongest question mark is about contact through strike zone||Combination of extreme-patience & power / arm suited for RF||Jermaine Dye|
|Jonathan Villar||Inconsistencies throughout development / “plate presence” shortcomings||Speed & arm|
|Rymer Liriano||Raw tools need to be further developed / plate discipline questions||Moderate power / speed combo potential||Raul Mondesi (Paywall)|
|Ramon Flores||True defensive “tweener” (not a true corner OF or CF potential)||Extreme plate discipline & advanced approach / capable 4th OF|
|Garin Cecchini||Completely shifted plate approach in advanced minors / glove may not stick @ 3B (power may not play at 1B)||Potential for extreme discipline / contact / speed approach when right|
|Keon Broxton||Raw tools need to be further developed||Extreme speed & defensive strengths / Cited as strongest baserunner in Pirates org.|
|Orlando Arcia||Some questions about strike zone discipline & aggressive plate approach combo||Potentially elite defense with gap power at the plate||Best Player in the Southern League / Omar Vizquel|
|Michael Reed||“tweener” in terms of starting vs. 4th OF role / power may not play at corner||Strong arm / extreme patience / strong speed combination||Nori Aoki|
|Yadiel Rivera||Question marks about impact at the plate||Strong defensive infielder / capable utility & depth option|
Looking at the reasons that some of these players wound up in Milwaukee, it’s easy to dwell on the negatives. Perhaps Garin Cecchini indeed pressed himself out of his plate approach, but even if he could hit, he might be stuck in some land between 3B-1B-LF-RF. Flip that coin, and perhaps the youngster becomes a speedy corner-depth option. Jonathan Villar was all-kinds-of-blocked-and-surpassed by veterans and other prospects in Houston, and his spotty results align with questions of consistency in his approach. Even that spotty MLB record shows some penchant for power, and some for speed; don’t spit at even 10 HR / 10 SB potential at SS. Rymer Liriano faces that same cry about inconsistencies and raw tools. However, when one recalls that Raul Mondesi worked as a 200+ HR / 200+ SB option in his first eight full seasons, it’s easy to see why a front office might continue to gamble on Liriano putting things together (I’m glad it’s the Brewers, in this case). Concerns about Domingo Santana’s contact rate have been well-advertised, but the big impact outfielder is also showing an ability to adjust at the MLB level. Stay tuned here. Of course, Brewers fans are also so familiar with their surging 2015 prospects from within the Milwaukee farm that they may also tend to dismiss these guys, too, “because it’s Milwaukee.” Nevermind that there are legitimate MLB strengths for Orlando Arcia, Michael Reed, and Yadiel Rivera.
Across the board, even for the “depth players” that may not have “starting profiles,” the Brewers still assembled a squad of players that generally are regarded as having advanced approaches at the plate (and then some speed once they’re aboard). Even if these guys struggle to meet their strongest projections, it is also worth questioning whether their discipline has improved the overall chances for the team. After all, if the Brewers can compound discipline and speed up-and-down their batting order and bench, perhaps they will be more likely to sweat some runs out of opposing pitchers and defenses.