2019 Milwaukee Brewers Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat

Image credit: Keston Hiura (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

To see the Brewers top 10, click here. 

Frank (Indianapolis, IN): 

    Even though you don’t get to vote, how many of these guys do you believe are worthy of making it onto BA’s top 100 prospects list?

Tom Haudricourt: OK, folks, let’s get this Brewers chat started. Well, for sure, Keston Hiura and Corbin Burnes are Top 100 worthy (I think my BA friends will agree). Not sure after that because I don’t know all the best prospects from the other 29 organizations.

J.P. (Springfield, IL): 

    Thanks for the chat, Tom. Have Diplan’s and Supak’s stock dropped much for you at this point? Who are you higher on between them?

Tom Haudricourt: Diplan has spun his wheels a bit but he’s also still young and has competed in some tough leagues at a young age, so not giving up on him. Supak appears on the rise, however, and you will see that when the full Top 30 comes out in BA’s Prospect Handbook. He is definitely one to watch.

Dan (NYC): 

    What can you tell us about lhp Quintin Torres-Costa? Does he have mid-rotation upside?

Tom Haudricourt: Unfortunately, he tore his UCL right at the end of the season and underwent Tommy John surgery, so his 2019 season is shot now. That’s too bad for both him and the organization because he was performing well at AAA, maybe even enough to warrant a September look. I have not heard much talk of him as a starter. I do believe his future in MLB will be in relief. Here’s hoping he has a problem-free recovery.

Chad (Dallas, TX): 

    Is there any chance of Hader returning to the rotation?

Tom Haudricourt: Hader was arguably the most dominating reliever in the majors last year so I don’t see that happen. He’s mostly a two-pitch pitcher — fastball/slider — so that works better out of the bullpen. Hader made 55 relief appearances last season and the Brewers were 48-7 in those games, so let’s not fix what ain’t broke, right?

Dan (Chicago): 

    What do you believe has gone wrong with Trent Grisham, and is it fixable?

Tom Haudricourt: That’s a very good question and I’m not sure I have a great answer. Injuries — in particular, leg injuries — have been a factor. Grisham also had that unusual bat grip as an amateur and has had to adapt to changes there. Let’s also remember that he has been challenged as one of the young players in every league in which he has played. But he’s got to get going in the right direction, and soon. There is a lot of OF competition in this organization.

G4 (Milwaukee): 

    Thanks for chat, Tom. Are there any low level arms in this system that project to be a quality starting pitcher down the road? Perhaps along the lines of Freddy Peralta in 2016.

Tom Haudricourt: Recent draft picks Aaron Ashby and Caden Lemons are a couple of young, lower-level pitchers to watch. Ashby, in particular, as a lefty who knows how to spin the ball, is intriguing to me. He is probably more advanced than Lemons, who is still raw and mostly projectable.

Bobby (Queens, NY): 

    What should we make of Cody Ponce at this point? Is he a potential big leaguer, and as a SP or RP?

Tom Haudricourt: The Brewers finally bit the bullet with Ponce last season and moved him from starting to relief. That tells us a lot. Ever since he was drafted, scouts have predicted his future in MLB is in relief. So, it appears that’s Ponce’s path now. He can let it fly in shorter bursts and probably fits that role better, so let’s see if this allows him to make a jump forward in 2019.

J.P. (Springfield, IL): 

    Are you at all surprised Gatewood wasn’t chosen in the Rule 5 draft? What’s next for him, and will he be in your top 30?

Tom Haudricourt: Gatewood is definitely in the Top 30. In fact, very close to the Top 10. I wasn’t really surprised that he was not taken in the Rule 5 draft because it’s so tough for position players to stick. Gatewood also is coming off a torn ACL that will put him behind at the outset of 2019, though injured players often are easy to keep as Rule 5 picks because the DL can be used for part of his big-league stay. Gatewood still has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, which when you think about it, does not separate him from many big-leaguers.

Zac (NYC): 

    Would it be completely crazy to put Hiura’s ceiling even higher than Altuve given his better power potential? Do you see him as a mid-season call up?

Tom Haudricourt: Wow, I hate to compare anyone to a hitter like Altuve, who is a 200-hit machine every season. But Hiura is definitely an advanced hitter at this stage. Most who have seen him consider him the best hitter drafted by the Brewers since they took Ryan Braun in 2005. He most definitely could be an in-season call-up, depending on what the Brewers do at 2B between now and Opening Day. Those moves always depend on the combination of need and player performance.

Zac (NYC): 

    How far behind Nottingham was Payton Henry? Who is more likely to stick behind the plate for the Brewers at this point?

Tom Haudricourt: As you will see when the Top 30 comes out, VERY close. The Brewers love Henry for everything he brings to the table, including obvious leadership qualities. His star is on the rise in the organization, as much if not more than any other prospect. A few years from now, the Brewers’ catching combo could be Nottingham and Henry at the big-league level.

Clayton (Galveston): 

    Is Chris Young a good comp. for Corey Ray? (Lots of Ks but always flirting with 30/30.)

Tom Haudricourt: I wonder if the best comp for Ray might be his mentor, Curtis Granderson. They both have pop, speed and swing-and-miss in their games. If Ray has the kind of career Granderson has had, the Brewers would be thrilled. I can tell you from talking to Ray that he is a chip off the Granderson block when it comes to personality and charisma. So, that’s a good start.

Moe (Denver): 

    How close was Jake Gatewood to the Top 10?

Tom Haudricourt: He is in the next five, I will tell you that. But I don’t want to spoil the exact number before the Top 30 comes out in the BA Prospect Handbook.

Clayton (Galveston): 

    Would Phil Bickford crack the Top 30? Or is he even really a prospect at this point? Also, what happened to him? Seems a lot of folks were really high on Bickford for awhile but now he’s rarely talked about.

Tom Haudricourt: Bickford has had many issues since coming to the Brewers from SF in the Will Smith trade. Chief among them has been health. And when he has pitched, he has struggled. So, difficult to say where Bickford stands in terms of being considered a prospect at this point. It’s difficult to even say if he’s a starter or reliever (he did both in 2018). Let’s see what happens in 2019.

Angie (Chicago): 

    Hey thanks for the chat! I already ordered my handbook and can’t wait to get it! Trent (Clark) Grisham: will he ever get it figured out? What’s his realistic ceiling?

Tom Haudricourt: As noted earlier, Grisham has to get going. First-rounders, even those playing at young ages at every level, are expected to do more. Hard to say what his ceiling is now because he has yet to put together a big season. Maybe 2019 will be the start.

Nathan Kirby (I dunno, where am I?): 

    I’m not going to make it, am I? Give me the truth, doc, I can take it!

Tom Haudricourt: We’ll never know how different it would have been for Kirby if not for the severe arm injuries he has endured, beginning with Tommy John surgery soon after being drafted. Let’s not forget he missed all of 2016 and 2017. It takes time to come back from that kind of absence. He just turned 25 and is a LHP, so you never close the book until you have to. I would say 2019 is a very big year for him.

Jack (North Shore): 

    Aloha! Why did Brice Turang fall so far in the draft? And what’s his ceiling? Thanks for the chat and mahalo, my friend!

Tom Haudricourt: From what I’ve heard, Turang’s performance fell off as a senior, costing him draft spots. Some called it “prospect fatigue,” which is an interesting concept. In other words, he had been on the scouting radar for so long, from such a young age, that he couldn’t continue to live up to such lofty expectations. Whatever the reason, the Brewers couldn’t believe he was still on the board when their turn came up at No. 21. The fact that they went nearly $400,000 over slot tells you how much they wanted him. As you can see by his ranking, his ceiling is very high.

Warren (New London): 

    Keston Hiura reminds me of Todd Walker, who was a good major league player but not the star that had been predicted because he couldn’t play second base very well and didn’t have the power you want at first base. How worried are you that the same could happen to Hiura?

Tom Haudricourt: If we were worried about such things, we wouldn’t rank him No. 1.

Fred Vincy (Connecticut): 

    The Kratz-Pina duo doesn’t look too impressive. Odds Nottingham seizes at least part of the starting job by mid-summer?

Tom Haudricourt: Nottingham got his first taste of the majors last year, which was a good thing. It shows the Brewers think he was ready to at least back up, so he’ll go back to Class AAA in 2019 and be ready for his next opportunity. Nottingham has worked hard on his catching and it shows. He also has good offensive upside. In other words, he’s in a good spot to get the call when opportunity arises.

Ben (Ca): 

    Thanks for chatting with us. How far off the top ten was Mario Feliciano? Seems like 2019 is something of a make or break year for him. What would a “make” year look like in your opinion?

Tom Haudricourt: Feliciano was not real close to the top 10 but this is a young kid just getting his career going. He just turned 20 in November and is playing the toughest position on the field, so I don’t see 2019 as “make or break” by any means. Far too early for that designation.

Norm Chouinard (Connecticut): 

    Been really looking forward to asking this question. Is their any support in the scouting community or the Brewers org that Clayton Andrews can be a useful big leaguer. He is fun to watch.

Tom Haudricourt: Well, you know the height thing (5-6) doesn’t help. But I’ve seen him pitch on TV and he is fun to watch. And the Midwest League hitters sure didn’t like facing him, did they? So, here’s what you do. You keep moving him up and keep giving him chances to prove the height thing won’t stop him. If he keeps getting it done, you keep giving him chances. Everyone is pulling for him, that’s for sure.

Norm Chouinard (Connecticut): 

    Did the Pride of Quinnipiac, Thomas Jankins, make the top 30?

Tom Haudricourt: Let’s not spoil the Top 30 fun for later. But I will say this: Mr. Jankins had some very impressive outings for Class AA Biloxi last year. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy so he’ll have to keep working at it. But there’s obviously talent there and know-how.

Aaron (Miami, FL): 

    Can you give your thoughts on Caden Lemons and Marcos Diplan? Completely different pitchers but Lemons has great size, pitched pretty well this year, and finished the season strong. Whats his ceiling if he puts it together? Diplan i’ve been pulling for to one day get an opportunity for a long time. Will he get a cup of coffee next year?

Tom Haudricourt: We’ve talked about both in this chat so I’ll just say that both have a chance to make the majors. Lemons is just getting going and has great projectability. Diplan has had to prove his smaller stature is not a hindrance in terms of being a prospect and has done so for the most part. He pitched the entire 2018 season at age 21, so let’s not forget how young he is.

Cathy (VT): 

    Other than Daniel Brown, do the Brewers have close to big league ready young pitchers who could contribute in the 2019 bullpen?

Tom Haudricourt: Brown hasn’t pitched above Class A ball so let’s not get ahead of ourselves there. In terms of helping the 2019 bullpen, let’s not forget that Corbin Burnes moved from a starting role to relief and made a huge impact in 2018, so anything is possible when you have the talent. Maybe the Brewers will do likewise with Braden Webb or Trey Supak, who otherwise have the stuff and trajectory to be starters in the big leagues. Josh Hader is Exhibit A for how things can change.

Jack (Gloucester, VA): 

    According to Baseball Reference Burnes has exceeded his prospect status so who would replace him in the top 10? Gatewood??

Tom Haudricourt: We at Baseball America use MLB rookie eligibility as the guideline for prospect status. For pitchers, the cutoff is 50 innings. Burnes has pitched only 38 innings, and therefore retains rookie status for 2019, which is why he is in our Top 10.

John (NJ): 

    What did you make of Corey Ray’s season? If only he could cut down on the strikeouts, 27 homers and 37 swipes is a damn nice season. Do you think he can hit for average down the road, or are we looking at a 4th outfielder?

Tom Haudricourt: Strikeouts are something to be concerned about but not let’s face it, nobody worries much about them at the big-league level anymore. Ray has a unique power-speed combination, so starting at the MLB level is not out of the question. But, if he becomes a productive fourth outfielder, nothing wrong with that. You need more than three to get through a season.

Jerry (Eau Claire): 

    Corey Ray appears blocked at least for the immediate future. Either they move Broxton and Santana, or move Ray for other needs (sp?). What does your crystal ball tell you?

Tom Haudricourt: I would say that Broxton and Santana, who both are out of options, are more likely to be traded in the near future than Ray, unless we’re talking about a blockbuster deal for a star player.

Bob (WI): 

    Freddy Peralta is in the no man’s land between prospect lists and established MLB player. How does the organization view him going forward? It seems like maybe Burnes and Woodruff have passed him on the queue for a rotation spot. Does that make him a multi-inning reliever or do the Brewers still beleive in him as a starter?

Tom Haudricourt: I would argue with your “no man’s land” designation for Peralta. That kid was very impressive as a rookie. He only got in trouble when he walked hitters. No team really hit the kid. And he’s only 22. The Brewers definitely still believe in him as a starter. Say what you want about throwing mostly fastballs but hitters didn’t square them up very often. If he hadn’t exceeded rookie limits lat year, he’d be very high up in our Top 10.

Mike R (Lockport, NY): 

    Do Leugim Castillo and Chad McClanahsn make the book ?

Tom Haudricourt: One is a “yes” and one is a “no,” but don’t want to spoil that fun before the Prospect Handbook comes out. So, I think this is going to do it for our Brewers Top 10 prospects chat today. Thanks so much for all of the interest. Hope these answers are helpful. Take care and don’t forget to order the Handbook. The work that goes into it always amazes and impresses me. And Happy Holidays to one and all!

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