Continuing Disciples of Uecker‘s prospect coverage, we’re highlighting all of the prospects throughout the Brewers’ organization that merit some extra attention. This series will serve as a primer for our forthcoming “Top Prospect List,” to be revealed at the end of these features (the goal was something like a Top 50, but recent trades and transactions have exploded that). These features should hopefully provide details on some prospects that may not be listed on year-end / 2016 lists, and also to add substance to the “prospect list” process. We’ve broken the prospects down into four groups: Young Arms, Young Position Players, Advanced Arms, and Advanced Position Players. For reference, any prospect that is likely to begin the 2016 season at high-A or below we considered “young.” Today we’ll look at the organization’s Young Arms.
RHP Jon Olczak || 2016 Age: 22 || 2015 Draft – 21st Round
Normally a late-round collegiate reliever wouldn’t generate much excitement, but it’s hard to overlook Olczak’s dominating performance after being drafted this past June. The six-foot, 180 lb righty split 2015 between rookie-levels Arizona and Helena and struck out a ridiculous 38% of opposing batters that he faced, which was the top mark across the entire organization. His bottom-line results were nearly as impressive: a combined 2.28 ERA and 2.74 FIP in 27.2 innings pitched.
Olczak doesn’t attack hitters with tremendous velocity, but according to scout Chris Kusiolek, he does feature a three pitch mix of a fastball (92-93 MPH), curveball (74-77 MPH), and changeup (82-83 MPH). He’s been successful by demonstarting terrific control in his limited pro sample size, walking just 6.2% of hitters he faced and posting an 8.60 K:BB ratio. Olzcak was slightly older than his competition in rookie ball, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can continue to punch out hitters at such astounding rates once he reaches the more advanced Midwest League. It’s also worth noting that the Brewers have shifted collegiate relievers to the rotation as professionals (see Tyler Wagner), so there’s the possibility that the club could pursue that avenue with Olczak, as well.
RHP David Burkhalter || 2016 Age: 20 || 2014 Draft – 6th Round
Burkhalter was the All-NELA Big School Pitcher of the Year during his senior year and was committed to Louisiana-Monroe at the time he was drafted by the Brewers in 2014. Fortunately for the club, Burkhalter chose to forgo his scholarship and turn professional in part because ULM had fired their baseball coach prior to the draft. He was considered somewhat of a project, but was praised by Baseball America for his “lean, projectable, and athletic build” and a low-90s fastball.
The Brewers aggressively assigned Burkhalter to low-A Wisconsin this season despite being in just his age-19 season, and the 6’3″ right hander held his own against competition that averaged three years older than him. He posted a 3.51 FIP in 101.0 innings and he allowed just nine home runs all season long. He’s shown an advanced feel for the strike zone, walking just 5.1% of batters in 2015, and he get his fair share of swings-and-misses (21.7% K rate), as well. He’s likely punched himself a ticket to Brevard County to begin next season at age 20 and should continue to get the opportunity to prove himself as a potential starter.
LHP Kodi Medeiros || 2016 Age: 20 || 2014 Draft – 1st Round
When the Brewers selected Kodi Medeiros at #12 overall in 2014, scouts were split on the young Hawaiian. He was praised for having a chance at three plus pitches from the left side, but many also questioned his unorthodox delivery and stamped the “future reliever” tag on him before he even threw a professional inning.
Similar to Burkhalter and several others from Bruce Seid’s final draft class, Kodi was assigned to Appleton to begin the season. It’s hard to argue that he was the most successful of that bunch. Kodi posted an excellent 2.96 FIP in 93.1 innings pitched, striking out 23.5% of opposing hitters. He induced ground balls at an incredible 65% rate and didn’t allow a single home run all season long.
I had the opportunity to watch Medeiros pitch in June, when the Timber Rattlers and Beloit Snappers faced off in their annual showdown at Miller Park. He pitched 5.2 innings that day an allowed only one hit, striking out seven. Medeiros touched 96 MPH with his fastball, but generally sat closer to between 91-94 MPH. His slider, however, is as devastating as advertised. He generated several whiffs with the pitch, which has incredible horizontal movement thanks to Kodi’s low three-quarters arm slot. It has legitimate plus-plus potential.
Medeiros’ changeup still needs further polish before it can be considered a weapon, and his command (10% BB rate in 2015) could use some refinement, as well. Still, he’s shown considerable promise and was ranked as the 16th best prospect in the Midwest League this season according to BA. The Brewers will certainly continue to give him every opportunity to succeed as a starter and he’ll most likely begin 2016 in the Florida State League.
RHP Marcos Diplan || 2016 Age: 19 || 2013 International Signing (Dominican Republic) [Rangers]; traded to Brewers in January 2015
Diplan, a native of the Dominican Republic, was one of the most highly regarded J2 arms in the 2013 international class. He signed with the Rangers for a hefty $1.3 mil bonus as a 16 year old. Diplan pitched the 2014 season in the Dominican Summer League, but was brought stateside to begin 2015 following his trade to Milwaukee.
As an 18 year old in the Pioneer League, Diplan was one of the youngest pitchers on the circuit. He was also one of the best. His 3.75 ERA ranked 10th among pitchers with at least 50 innings (he threw 50.1 innings in 13 games). Diplan posted one of the top strikeout rates in the league as well, sending down 25.7% of opponents via the K. He was named to the All-Star team for his efforts and Baseball America ranked him as the 4th best prospect in the league.
Former Brewers’ farm director Reid Nichols told Michael Schwarz of BP Milwaukee in June that Diplan “has a big arm,” but that he still needed to learn how to pitch down in the zone. He’s been praised by his Helena manager as “a good kid, grounded and very coachable.” Despite his small stature, Diplan can touch 95 MPH with his fastball, though he tends to sit in the lower 90s. He could still add a few miles per hour as his body matures. His fastball projects as plus and his curve is a good secondary offering, but he still needs work on his changeup if he’s to make it as a starter in the big leagues. His control will also need some polishing, as he’s walked over 12% of hitters so far as a professional.
Diplan was viewed by some as a “throw-in” or “lottery ticket” in the Gallardo trade, but he has the highest upside of any of the players Milwaukee received. It’ll take some time, but Marcos has all the tools to succeed as a starting pitcher in the major leagues if he can put it all together.
Others of note:
RHP Cody Ponce
RHP Devin Williams
RHP Miguel Diaz
RHP Freddy Peralta
RHP Carlos Herrera
RHP Carlos Luna
RHP Gentry Fortuno
LHP Quintin Torres-Costa
LHP Jake Drossner
RHP Karsen Lindell
RHP Angel Ventura
Injured (May Miss 2016):
LHP Nathan Kirby (Tommy John surgery)
RHP Taylor Williams (Tommy John Surgery)
RHP Daniel Missaki (Tommy John Surgery; probably more likely to return during 2016)