With Baseball America’s Top 10 Brewers prospect rankings arriving tomorrow, I couldn’t help myself from thinking about a top prospect list going into 2017. Though there will be a much longer list coming out periodically as the off-season winds down, we felt as though this was a good time to drop the biggest and loudest prospect rankings out now.
NOTE: As the prospect list goes further down, the evaluations get much more difficult – so there is plenty of room for debate and interpretation that may make some prospects more favorable to people than others. So with that in-mind, I’ll be placing them in categories, which will be more telling of what the prospect is/could be.
Potential Game-Changers (8): These prospects have the highest chance at becoming the next big players in Miller Park, barring any setbacks.
1) OF Lewis Brinson: Though the 6’3″ outfielder got off to a slow start with the Texas Rangers, he exploded onto the scene after being dealt to Milwaukee in the Lucroy/Jeffress deal. Hitting to the tune of a .382/.387/.618 line through his final 89 at-bats, Brinson features 30 home run, 30 steal potential. Though his 4.5% walk-rate this season left much to be desired, he has a career 9.2% rate prior to this season and is the most legitimate 5-tool prospect the Brewers have. ETA: 2017
2) LHP Josh Hader: After dominating in the Arizona Fall League last year, numerous outlets touted him as a top-100 talent. With a moving fastball that consistently hits the mid-90’s and a wipeout slider, the southpaw struck out 161 batters in only 126 innings of work. He tore through Double-A Biloxi (11 starts, 57 IP, 0.95 ERA, 73-19 K-BB) and threw some solid outings in Triple-A Colorado Springs despite inflated numbers – though he owned a 4.74 ERA in 38 innings (64-25 K-BB) away from Colorado Springs. He flashes strikeout stuff on a consistent basis (11.5 K/9), but he’ll still have to hone his changeup and his overall command to reach his mid-rotation/No. 2 ceiling. ETA: 2017
3) OF Corey Ray: With the fifth overall selection in the 2016 draft, the Crew went with Ray – a former classmate of Bucks forward Jabari Parker at Simeon High School in Chicago. The 21 year-old left-hander already features gap-to-fence power and impressive speed with his 5’11”, 185 lbs. frame – as seen in his 20 extra base hits (58 total this season) and nine stolen bases in just half a season. Like Brinson, Ray is a rare five-tool player that could end up being a 25-25 player if he hits his sky-high ceiling. Though we didn’t see a full season from him, Ray could become one of the top prospects in the game with a strong showing in 2017. ETA: 2018
4) RHP Luis Ortiz: Yet another product of the Lucroy/Jeffress trade with Texas, Ortiz could be considered one of the more solid prospects in terms of his high-floor. Just 20 years of age, the right-hander owns above-average command of his arsenal: a 92-97 mph fastball that maintains velocity into the later innings, a plus-slider, and an average changeup. He didn’t strike many out since the trade (16-10 K-BB in 23.1 IP), but his easy delivery and command allowed him to maintain a 1.93 ERA through his six starts for Double-A Biloxi. As long as the team monitors his 230-lbs frame, Ortiz could be another mid-rotation starter down the line. ETA: 2018
5) SS/2B Isan Diaz: Quite possibly one of the more popular prospects on the list in terms of 2016, Diaz exploded onto the scene in his first season with the Crew. The third player that came over in the Segura/Wagner deal, the 20 year-old middle infielder smashed a total of 59 extra base hits (20 HR, 5 3B, 34 2B) while walking 12.3% of the time in 135 games played. His power and plate discipline combination is rare for a player his position and age, and he looks primed to take a jump in rankings next season. He too has a long road ahead of him, but a left-handed bat that can slug 25+ home runs up the middle should make him a top-90 prospect candidate in major outlets come next season. ETA: 2018
6) OF Brett Phillips: The headline piece in 2015’s Gomez/Fiers trade with Houston, Phillips has struggled to put up the same numbers as he did with his prior organization. Despite the unimpressive .229/.332/.397 line in 516 plate appearances, he maintained his above-average 113 wRC+ while smashing 16 home runs and owning 36 extra-base hits (101 total). His strikeout rate rose over 12% since his arrival in the system (29.8% this season), but if he can return to the 18-22% range he should maintain his solid potential ceiling. The 6’0″, 185 lbs. left-handed swinger has the ability to provide 20-20 potential at his peak. He could play either center field or right field, but many believe he’ll stick in right due to the numerous CF candidates (Brinson, Ray, Broxton, etc.) and his 70-grade throwing arm. ETA: 2017
7) RHP Phil Bickford: Coming over in the trade with San Fransisco over the summer’s trade deadline, the 6’4″ right-hander had a tremendous season as a starting pitcher. His 22 total starts (23 appearances) saw him post a 2.92 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and a 10.1 K/9 in 120 innings pitched. He features an electric fastball that can reach the upper-90’s, as well as a low-90’s sinking two-seam fastball. In terms of secondary offerings, he own a changeup that has been consistently improving from year-to year to pair with a very solid slider when his mechanics are in order. Overall, he has two major downsides that make scouts question his ability: he typically gets out of sync with his mechanics (which forces the slider to lose its touch), and he sometimes struggles to maintain a consistent arm slot. A third issue has resurfaced, as he was saddled for his second positive drug test in his career (suspension of 50 games). If he can come back and continue to show improvement as a starter (while steering clear of more suspensions), he could really have some exciting potential. But even if he doesn’t, he has similar potential to Josh Hader as an electric late-inning option. ETA: 2018/2019
8) OF Trent Clark: 2015’s top draft selection, Trent Clark has quietly produced at a positive clip in his first year-and-a-half despite being over 2 years younger than his competition. With an unorthodox golf grip on the bat, Clark draws solid hard-contact rates along with some power that could translate into 15-20 home runs at his peak. He also features above-average speed to pair with his plate discipline – seen in his career .384 OBP. Still only 20, Clark will have a long trek to the majors, but he could ultimately land in left field despite playing in center field for most of his career. ETA: 2019
Impact Prospects (9….dropping a hint at what is to come): Prospects such as these have a chance to become something really solid down the line, though they have lower or riskier ceilings/floors than the ‘Game Changers’. On average, they have the highest chance at being major league regulars compared to lower-tiered prospects.
9) RHP Marcos Diplan: Though many believed the Yovani Gallardo trade has bore very little fruit thus far, Diplan has quietly built upon his ‘top-international prospect in 2013’ name so far in his career as a Brewer. Though he’s fairly small for a starter (6’0″, 160 lbs.), the now-20 year old put up a 3.02 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and a 129-50 K-BB ratio in 113.1 innings pitched split between Low-A Wisconsin and High-A Brevard County. Despite the small stature, he owns a 90-94 mph fastball that has been clocked as high as 98 on the radar gun. Paired with the fact that he is still growing into his adult frame, he could sit in the mid-90’s for his career barring any injury. Pair the that with an advanced power slider and a solid changeup despite it being the least effective pitch in his arsenal. Some scouts commend his work ethic and mentality on the mound, and his efforts should certainly pay off down the road as a mid-tier starter. ETA: 2019
10) SS Mauricio Dubon: Acquired in the Tyler Thornburg trade at the Winter Meetings, Dubon made some serious strides with his game in 2016. He posted a phenomenal .323/.379/.461 line in 549 plate appearances split between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, adding 46 extra base hits (31 2B, 9 3B, 6 HR) and swiping 30 bags in 37 tries. He’s been noted to have excellent hand-eye coordination and a quick bat through the zone – proven by his 13.4% K-Rate (usually 20% is average). He boasts above-average-to-average tools across the board with exception to his power, and the 6’0″ right hander looks to be a very nice depth option behind Orlando Arcia – most likely rolling over to second base. He also played center field in the Arizona Fall League. ETA: 2018