2017 Milwaukee Brewers Top 10 Prospects

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1. Lewis Brinson, of
2. Josh Hader, lhp
3. Luis Ortiz, rhp
4. Corey Ray, of
5. Isan Diaz, ss/2b
6. Trent Clark, of
7. Brandon Woodruff, rhp
8. Phil Bickford, rhp
9. Lucas Erceg, 3b
10. Marcos Diplan, rhp

In the first full year of their large-scale rebuild, the Brewers had two primary goals.

First, they wanted to be as competitive as possible under the circumstances and ignore all the preseason chatter about tanking. Considering how few experienced players were on the transitional 2016 squad and how many players (50) were used, the Brewers exceeded most expectations with a 73-89 record.

The second objective was to identify as many keepers as possible. Much of the rebuilding plan revolves around the vastly improved farm system, but the Brewers hoped to find others in the big leagues who could be contributors as well.

Beyond Ryan Braun—the last man standing from the 2011 National League Central champs—manager Craig Counsell and his staff found players to take into next season.

Shrewd offseason trade pickup Jonathan Villar, who moved from shortstop to third base during the season, led the majors with 62 stolen bases and led Milwaukee with a .369 on-base percentage, 168 hits, 79 walks and 92 runs scored. Infield rover Hernan Perez and center fielder Keon Broxton carved out roles for 2017.

Rookie righthanders Zach Davies and Junior Guerra made such an impact that they are penciled into the Milwaukee rotation for the foreseeable future.

The Brewers made a pair of trades on Aug. 1 that reshaped the top of the system.

Milwaukee shipped all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer Jeremy Jeffress to the Rangers for outfielder Lewis Brinson and righthander Luis Oriz, a pair of first-round picks from 2012 and 2014. The Brewers also snagged 2015 first-round righthander Phil Bickford plus catcher Andrew Susac from the Giants for reliever Will Smith.

The Brewers will look to keep the rebuilding process on track in 2017, but they were satisfied with progress made in 2016.

“At this stage, you have to set incremental goals for yourself, for your organization,” first-year general manager David Stearns said. “We’ve achieved some of those goals, and so we should feel proud of that.

“But we recognize we have a lot of work to do to get to the ultimate stage of . . . competing for a division championship every single year.”

The success of the rebuild will depend on how many prospects develop into big league regulars. Shortstop Orlando Arcia, the system’s preseason No. 1 prospect, debuted in August. The Brewers expect others to follow suit in 2017.

Beyond the many prospects acquired in trades, the Brewers also used the fifth pick in the 2016 draft to select Louisville outfielder Corey Ray, who jumped straight to high Class A Brevard County.

After the season, the Brewers announced a reorganization of their scouting department. Tod Johnson moves up to scouting director, replacing Ray Montgomery, who becomes vice president of scouting.

1.  Lewis Brinson, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: May 8, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HS—Coral Springs, Fla., 2012 (1st round). Signed by: Frankie Thon (Rangers).

Batting: 60
Power: 60
Speed: 60
Defense: 55
Arm: 60
Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.

Background: The Rangers selected Brinson with the next-to-last pick in the first round of the 2012 draft, and he broadcast his power-speed ability in five years in the Texas system. He had scuffled at Double-A Frisco in 2016, however, before the Brewers acquired him (and Luis Ortiz) from the Rangers at the trade deadline for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress. Some of Brinson’s struggles were related to a shoulder issue that forced him to the disabled list for a month in June. The Brewers opted to elevate him to the hitter-friendly environment at Triple-A Colorado Springs, and he thrived more than anyone could have anticipated by recording a 1.005 OPS in 23 games. High altitude or not, that showing was a huge confidence boost for both Brinson and the organization, and it put him in position to challenge for a spot on the major league roster in 2017. He quickly inherited No. 1 prospect status in the Brewers system after the promotion of shortstop Orlando Arcia to Milwaukee, which coincided with the trade.

Scouting Report: Brinson has worked hard to reduce his strikeout rate since whiffing 38 percent of the time in his full-season debut at low Class A Hickory in 2013. He trimmed that rate to 20 percent in 2016. Brinson has the coveted combination of speed and power, and he projects to be at least an average hitter. It is difficult for pitchers to get a fastball past Brinson, who has great bat speed, but he has trouble laying off breaking balls out of the zone and continues to work on plate discipline. He still needs plenty of work in patience, as evidenced by his two walks in 93 plate appearances at Colorado Springs. He has learned to use the whole field and is not as pull-conscious as he was earlier in his career. Some scouts question whether Brinson will be able to remain in center field, where he continues to work on his routes and throwing accuracy. He has good gap-to-gap range and arm strength, and the Brewers prefer to keep him in center until proven he needs to move to a corner. Brinson clearly has the raw tools to be an impact player, but it’s up to him to make the most of them, especially on offense. His overall skill set will serve him well in the outfield, but he might not be cut out to bat near the top of the order unless he improves his walk rate.

The Future: While Keon Broxton got a foot in the door in center field for the Brewers over the final two months of 2016, Brinson is guaranteed to get a good look in spring training. The Brewers have stockpiled young center fielders in recent years—whether they be draft picks Trent Clark and Corey Ray or trade pickups Brinson and Brett Phillips—but only one can play there at a time. Brinson has the most experience of the group, but his arm strength and power potential also would play in a corner.

Frisco (AA) .237 .280 .431 304 46 72 14 6 11 40 17 64 11
Colorado Springs (AAA) .382 .387 .618 89 14 34 9 0 4 20 2 21 4

2. Josh Hader, lhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: April 7, 1994. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 172. Drafted: HS—Millersville, Md., 2012 (19th round). Signed by: Dean Albany (Orioles).

Background: One of four players acquired from the Astros in the July 2015 trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston, Hader drew raves from scouts with a sensational showing in that year’s Arizona Fall League. He breezed through 11 starts at Double-A Biloxi in 2016 before encountering trouble at Triple-A Colorado Springs, a hitter’s haven.

Scouting Report: Hader struck out batters from both sides of the plate with a live fastball in the 92-97 mph range and a sharp-breaking slider he throws from a low three-quarters arm slot. With the low arm angle and funky delivery, deception is a big part of his game. Hader made it even harder to track his pitches by moving to the first-base side of the rubber, and he changed the grip on his slider to give him more command of the high-80s breaking ball. If Hader ever finds consistency with his changeup, he’ll be almost completely unhittable, but he has struggled to stay on top of the pitch.

The Future: Hader has front-line starter’s stuff but must improve his changeup and control to reach his ceiling. Now that the Brewers have added him to the 40-man roster, he will compete for a big league job in spring training.

Biloxi (AA) 2 1 0.95 11 11 0 0 57 38 1 19 73 .194
Colorado Spring (AAA) 1 7 5.22 14 14 0 0 69 63 5 36 88 .245

3. Luis Ortiz, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 22, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 230. Drafted: HS—Sanger, Calif., 2014 (1st round). Signed by: Butch Metzger (Rangers).

Background: Ortiz dealt with a forearm injury as a high school senior that forced him down the board to the Rangers at No. 30 overall in the 2014 draft. Texas dealt him along with 2012 first-rounder Lewis Brinson to the Brewers in the Jonathan Lucroy deal at the 2016 trade deadline. Milwaukee assigned Ortiz to Double-A Biloxi, where he recorded a 1.93 ERA in six starts while working on pitch counts.

Scouting Report: With a large, physical frame, Ortiz maintains his mid-90s velocity throughout his outings and also throws an above-average low-80s slider that has tight, late break. He has tried to incorporate his changeup more often, and it is an improving pitch with average potential. Using a smooth, three-quarters delivery that he repeats consistently, Ortiz pounds the bottom of the strike zone and has at least average control. Durability is the obvious concern because of his history of health issues, including a strained flexor muscle that cost him two months in 2015 and a strained groin in 2016 that cost him a couple starts.

The Future: Ortiz has the stuff and touch to be mid-rotation starter, but he has to commit more to conditioning and stay off the disabled list. He could reach Milwaukee later in 2017.

High Desert (HiA) 3 2 2.60 7 6 0 0 28 23 4 6 28 .221
Frisco (AA) 1 4 4.08 9 8 0 1 40 47 3 7 34 .296
Biloxi (AA) 2 2 1.93 6 6 0 23 26 2 2 10 16 .280

4. Corey Ray, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 22, 1994. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Louisville, 2016 (1st round). Signed by: Jeff Simpson.

Background: The Brewers selected Ray with the No. 5 overall pick in 2016 and signed him for $4.125 million, the largest bonus in club history. He put his combination of power and speed on display at Louisville with 15 home runs and 44 stolen bases. The Brewers aggressively assigned him to high Class A Brevard County, a brutal hitter’s park, and showed above-average power.

Scouting Report: Ray has tremendous bat speed and makes hard contact consistently, which is why he hit for both average and power at Louisville. He uses the entire field and has shown improved plate discipline and pitch recognition, though he still chases breaking balls off the plate. He has plus speed and uses it well on the bases, stealing with abandon. Ray played mostly right field in college, but the Brewers believe he has center-field tools and played him there in his pro debut. He has average arm strength and at least solid-average range.

The Future: Ray ended 2016 by having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after tearing his meniscus in instructional league. He should be ready in spring training and faces a probable return to high Class A and in-season move to Double-A Biloxi. The Brewers view him as an impact outfielder who could be big league ready at some point in 2018.

Brevard County (HiA) .247 .307 .385 231 24 57 13 2 5 17 20 54 9
Wisconsin (LoA) .083 .313 .083 12 2 1 0 0 0 0 3 4 1

5. Isan Diaz, ss/2b | bba_video_icon_red

Born: May 27, 1996. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS—Springfield, Mass., 2014 (2nd round supplemental). Signed by: Mike Serbalik (Diamondbacks).

Background: The Brewers made Diaz their primary target when they traded Jean Segura to the Diamondbacks after the 2015 season. Diaz was coming off an MVP performance in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in which the 5-foot-10 shortstop led the circuit with a .640 slugging percentage. Milwaukee assigned him to low Class A Wisconsin in 2016 and he mashed 20 home runs to lead the Midwest League as a 20-year-old.

Scouting Report: The lefthanded-hitting Diaz has plus bat speed and great hand-eye coordination, resulting in lots of hard contact and the ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field. He ranked second in the MWL with 72 walks but is learning to find a middle ground between discipline and natural aggression (he also ranked second with 148 strikeouts). A fringe-average runner, Diaz has good instincts on the bases and gets good jumps to compensate. With merely average range and arm strength, he began playing second base more frequently in the second half of 2016.

The Future: Already one of the Brewers’ top position prospects, Diaz might be two years away from forming a double-play combination with shortstop Orlando Arcia. First, Diaz must contend with the high Class A Carolina League at the organization’s new affiliate in Zebulon, N.C.

Wisconsin (LoA) .264 .358 .469 507 71 134 34 5 20 75 72 148 11

6. Trent Clark, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Nov. 1, 1996. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HS—North Richland Hills, Texas, 2015 (1st round). Signed by: K.J. Hendricks.

The Background: The Brewers regarded Clark as a steal when they selected the prep center fielder 15th overall in 2015, and after signing for $2.7 million he hit .309/.424/.430 at two Rookie-level stops. Assigned to low Class A Wisconsin in 2016, he failed to build on that success because he couldn’t stay healthy. Clark strained hamstrings twice and played just 59 games.

Scouting Report: Clark entered pro ball with an unorthodox, golf-style batting grip in which he positions his thumbs along the bat, and after experimenting with a traditional grip he stuck with what works. That’s because his short swing produces consistent hard contact. He keeps his bat in the zone a long time and should develop average power with more experience. A good athlete who possesses above-average speed, Clark shows instincts on the bases and in center field, though hamstring issues had an obvious effect on his range. If he moves to a corner, his fringe-average arm would fit better in left field. Not only is he an advanced young hitter but Clark also shows leadership skills at a young age.

The Future: Because Clark spent so much time on the DL in 2016, he might have to repeat the Midwest League. With so many center fielders ahead of Clark on the depth chart, the Brewers can afford to be patient. He has the potential for five average or better tools.

Wisconsin (LoA) .231 .346 .344 221 27 51 15 2 2 24 37 68 5

7. Brandon Woodruff, rhp

Born: Feb. 10, 1993. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Mississippi State, 2014 (11th round). Signed by: Scott Nichols.

Background: Beset by injuries at Mississippi State, Woodruff fell to the Brewers in the 11th round of the 2014 draft, then produced modest results in two pro seasons before breaking out in his third. He climbed to Double-A Biloxi and continued to excel, even overcoming the July death of his older brother in an ATV accident. He went 14-9, 2.68 overall and led the minors with 173 strikeouts.

Scouting Report: Woodruff pitched in the low 90s early in his career but cleaned up his mechanics and pitched regularly at 93-94 mph in 2016 with good movement and sink. He benefitted greatly by increasing his tempo and rhythm, which allowed him to repeat his delivery more consistently. Woodruff also features an above-average slider and an average changeup to round out a starter’s repertoire. He had control issues in college but has thrown strikes as a pro. With a bulldog approach and groundball tendencies he has a floor as high-leverage reliever.

The Future: Woodruff has a No. 3 starter ceiling and is ready for Triple-A Colorado Springs. The harsh pitching conditions there have sidetracked prospects such as Josh Hader, Jorge Lopez and Taylor Jungmann, so a return to Biloxi is possible.

Brevard County (HiA) 4 1 1.83 8 8 0 0 44 33 3 10 49 .205
Biloxi (AA) 10 8 3.01 20 20 1 0 114 88 4 30 124 .211

8. Phil Bickford, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: July 10, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: JC of Southern Nevada, 2015 (1st round). Signed by: Chuck Fick (Giants).

Background: Drafted 10th overall by the Blue Jays in 2013, Bickford didn’t sign and went to Cal State Fullerton. After a big summer in the Cape Cod League, he transferred to the JC of Southern Nevada for 2015 but tested positive for marijuana. Despite that, Bickford was taken by the Giants at No. 18 in that year’s draft. The Brewers acquired Bickford plus catcher Andrew Susac when they sent reliever Will Smith to San Francisco at the 2016 trade deadline.

Scouting Report: Bickford struggled to throw strikes at high Class A Brevard County and pitched to a 3.67 ERA in his first 27 innings for the Brewers. He can reach 95 mph with his high-spin, four-seam fastball and sits comfortably in the low 90s with a two-seamer that has good sink. His slider is an above-average pitch when he stays on top of it, but at times it becomes too slurvy. He made progress with his changeup and it could become near-average. Bickford’s main issue is maintaining his release point.

The Future: Because Bickford can be electric in short bursts, some project him as a two-pitch, high-leverage reliever, perhaps even a closer. He tested positive for a drug of abuse this offseason for a second time and was suspended for 50 games.

Augusta (LoA) 3 4 2.70 11 11 1 0 60 49 2 15 69 .220
San Jose (HiA) 2 2 2.73 6 6 1 0 33 21 3 12 36 .186
Brevard County (HiA) 2 1 3.67 6 5 0 0 27 26 1 15 30 .252

9. Lucas Erceg, 3b

Born: May 1, 1995. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Menlo (Calif.), 2016 (2nd round). Signed by: Joe Graham.

Background: The Brewers viewed Erceg as a steal in the second round of the 2016 draft and quickly signed him for $1.15 million. He was firmly on Milwaukee’s radar after a strong sophomore season at California, and he remained there even after he became academically ineligible and enrolled at NAIA Menlo College near his home in San Jose. The competition obviously wasn’t as strong at Menlo, but the Brewers focused on Erceg’s solid offensive and defensive tools.

Scouting Report: Erceg did not disappoint in pro ball by hitting .400/.452/.552 in 26 games at Rookie-level Helena to earn a promotion to low Class A Wisconsin. He hit for average and power in his debut and should grade as at least average in both departments. Erceg doubled as a closer at Menlo and has the arm to show for it, helping his case to remain at third base. He is athletic with good hands. In an organization lacking in blue-chip third-base prospects, Erceg already stands out and is expected to move steadily up the ladder.

The Future: One scout who saw Erceg compared him with the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter in terms of body type, athleticism and a lefthanded bat with some pop. He will tackle high Class A in 2017.

Helena (R) .400 .452 .552 105 17 42 8 1 2 22 8 16 8
Wisconsin (LoA) .281 .328 .497 167 17 47 9 3 7 29 12 38 1

10. Marcos Diplan, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 18, 1996. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2013. Signed by: Willie Espinal/Mike Daly (Rangers).

Background: The Rangers ponied up $1.3 million to sign Diplan out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, then bundled him with two other prospects to acquire Yovani Gallardo after the 2014 season. Diplan pitched at two Class A levels for the Brewers in 2016 at age 19 and would have claimed the low Class A Midwest League ERA title (1.80) had he the required number of innings.

Scouting Report: Though 6-feet and a bit undersized, Diplan has a big arm and great feel for pitching for such a young player. He ranges from 92-96 mph with late life on his fastball and also features a slider that has been a plus pitch for him. Diplan continues to work on a changeup that will be important in remaining in a starting role. He needs to reduce his walk rate but otherwise excels at missing bats, limiting hard contact and keeping the ball on the ground. Command should come because he maintains consistency in his delivery. Diplan shows poise and mound presence not often seen in such an inexperienced pitcher.

The Future: Reaching high Class A Brevard County as a teenager is a good sign for Diplan’s future, and he should reach Double-A at age 20. He could be a No. 3 starter if everything breaks right.

Wisconsin (LoA) 6 2 1.80 17 11 0 1 70 49 3 32 89 .191
Brevard County (HiA) 1 2 4.89 10 6 1 0 43.1 47 4 18 40 .276

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