Milwaukee Brewers 2022 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat
Ben Badler: Hi all. It’s my first official day back from some time off after I became a dad a few weeks ago. Not a lot of sleep, but I'm excited to be back here and chatting with you. Let's get started.
- With all the recent trades of pitching prospects, what is the state of the pitching depth in the system after Aaron Ashby and Ethan Small?
Ben Badler: It’s a little lean. The setback for Antoine Kelly hurts. Adding Russell Smith and Logan Henderson in the draft this year helps. Abner Uribe throws 103 mph, but he’s a bullpen arm who will need to throw a lot more strikes.
- How many top 100 prospects do the Brewers have, if any? Love the podcast! Thank you.
Ben Badler: Thanks! I promise Carlos and I will record an episode again soon now that I’m back. For me, Ashby for sure will be in the Top 100. Then Turang, Frelick, Mitchell are all back of the Top 100 bubble candidates. Black, Hedbert and Quero aren’t there yet, but they’re all breakout candidates who could climb in there later on.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Going down deep in the minors (ACL Blue or Gold) name one unheralded position prospect that you have your eyes on.
Ben Badler: Hendry Mendez. He just barely missed the top 10. He’s not as dynamic of a player as Jackson Chourio, limited to a corner, but he has an innate knack for barreling the ball with the frame to grow into more power. He will have to learn to generate more loft with his swing, but the ability to manipulate the barrel and make a ton of contact is impressive.
- Ben, something is off. Turang is ranked #2 with a 55 grade, but if you add up his 5 grades you get an average of 51, and he has no one tool above 55 grade and most would argue the most important grade power, is his lowest grade a 40. However Mitchell is ranked #4 also a 55 grade, but the average of his 5 tools is a 60, he has three tools 60 or better and one 80 tool. You cant argue one is closer to MLB as they are less than a year age difference. Then to make matters worse, Hedbert Perez is ranked #6 and I have seen some dynasty rankings having him as a top 15 overall prospect, vs Turang Fantrax has listed #310 out of 400. How do you justify all of this?
Ben Badler: Because a player’s value isn’t the sum of his five tools divided by five. Nobody would weight the value of a player’s hitting ability as equal to his arm strength. And while plate discipline does tie into a player’s hit grade, it doesn’t directly account for that either. You can have a player with 60 raw power, 70 speed and a 70 arm who never turns into an everyday player if he can’t hit. Now you can certainly make a case to put Mitchell above Turang because of Mitchell's physical upside and the raw tools if he’s able to cut down on his swing-and-miss and adjust his swing so that his power translates in game situations, or if you're really down on Turang's ability to drive the ball with any impact. But we don’t forecast and rank players just by adding up their raw tool grades.
- What is Antoine Kelly's health situation? Is he still close to a top 10 prospect?
Ben Badler: He came back this summer and it was apparent he was still feeling the effects of the thoracic outlet surgery. He was still showing a power fastball from the left side, his slider was hit or miss, but he was also really, really wild. Some of it was physical, but it just seemed like some of it was also a mental hurdle coming back from the operation. He’s not too far off from the top 10, but he’s the biggest wild card in the system because he looked so electric in 2020 when he was healthy, but now there’s a huge added risk factor to his profile.
DJ (Madison, WI):
- How would you rate the Brewers international scouting and signing efforts as compared to their MLB peers over the past few years (i.e. below average, average, above average)?
Ben Badler: They changed things up around 2018, which because of how fast the market moves with players committing so early, that means you’re really looking more at 2019 since they’ve implemented a new approach. That 2019 class looks strong with Hedbert Perez and Jeferson Quero being two of the best players overall from that year. The 2020 class that signed in January, Jackson Chourio is in their top 10 and looks really good, and Hendry Mendez was another one of the best prospects in the DSL. I think it’s been a strong couple of classes for them in Latin America.
- What is the level of concern about Garrett Mitchell's struggles to hit after being promoted to double A last year?
Ben Badler: He had some starts and stops to his season while he was in Double-A, which sounds more like nagging health stuff rather than any serious injuries, so he never seemed in rhythm there. That could be part of it, but the concerns scouts have about the way his swing works and his approach that doesn’t allow his plus raw power to fully materialize in games is the same as it was coming out of UCLA. If that wasn’t a risk factor with him, we would be talking about a top 25 overall prospect in baseball, so there’s still a lot of upside, but he’s going to have to address that aspect of his game for everything to click.
- Hi Ben. Thank you for chatting today. I am a big Hedbert Perez fan. What is causing him from not being higher on the list? He had a very good year last year. Also, what is the reasoning for the Garrett Mitchell slide? His performance this past year? Thank you, I love all your work and the podcast!
Ben Badler: I touched on Mitchell above, but with Perez, it’s mostly just the talent of the players ahead of him—the emergence of Ashby, the additions of Frelick and Black to the system—more so than anything Perez did. Black, Perez and Quero are all in the same value band. You could make a reasonable case for those three players in any order—I know some scout would have Quero over Perez—but I went with the greater certainty I have in Black’s pure hitting ability, especially now that it looks like Perez probably will not be a center fielder long term.
- What are your thoughts about Joe Gray? He had a solid year, what does he have to do to crack the top 10?
Ben Badler: Still skeptical, but vastly improved from where he was at this time last year. He’s still an impressive athlete and you can hang a 6 or close to it on his speed, arm strength and raw power, he plays good defense in center field. Then he hit well in Low-A, but when he got to High-A and the AFL, the holes in his swing and his pitch recognition issues were exploited more. That’s my concern going forward with him, but he plays a premium position, his tools are among the best in the system and he’s in a much better place than he was coming into the year.
- What is Freddy Zamora's long-term outlook? Thought he might crack the back half of the top 10 after his big time On-Base frequency in his pro debut
Ben Badler: Got mixed reviews on him. He also had significant splits where he was kind of rough through June but hit quite well the rest of the way, and he's coming off not playing at all in 2020 because of the knee injury, so there are reasons to be optimistic. He can handle shortstop, he has the contact skills and plate discipline you alluded to, but it's very light contact for a 22-year-old college pick. There are some things to like, but he has to get stronger to do more damage on contact.
- Thoughts on Felix Valerio? Looks like he could be a nice sleeper
Ben Badler: I agree. He is a little guy, no tools that are going to jump out at you, and defensively he has work to do just to become an average defender at second base. But he uses his small strike zone to advantage, doesn't chase much and manipulates the barrel well to get on base at a high clip. Then he showed some surprising pop for his size with a little more loft to his swing this year. I can't say I feel comfortable projecting him as an everyday player right now, but he pushed himself into their top 30 this year.
- Who should we keep an eye on for a breakout in 2022?
Ben Badler: Hedbert Perez, Jeferson Quero and Jackson Chourio I think all have Top 100 upside. Beyond the top 10 prospects in the system, I think Hendry Mendez, Russell Smith and Logan Henderson are all guys to watch as players who could be top 10 in the org next year.
Jim (Niagara Falls):
- The Hedbert write-up is concerning with respect to his build. How much of his increased mass is of the good kind vs the bad kind? Interesting to compare Hedbert and Julio Rodriguez, one is changing from speed / power threat to power threat only that plays corner OF, and the other is changing to a speed / power threat that plays CF from power only.
Ben Badler: It’s mostly good weight. He’s a workaholic and he’s still a good athlete. He has just gone from a slender kid who lacked strength before signing to a much more strong, muscular build with more power but also a higher probability that he does go to a corner rather than stay in center field. So you’re betting more on the hit/power combination now, but it’s a loose, easy swing with good bat speed from the left side and the power for a corner. He had an exit velo up to 111 mph this year as an 18-year-old... I’m betting we’ll see him up a few ticks from there within a few years.
Casey J (Bothell, Wa):
- Hi Ben, congrats on the kid. I was wondering what you think about Ethan Small's future, especially in relation to Aaron Ashby? Both future rotation stalwarts? What separates the two, for you. I feel like Small is somewhat "underrated" generally, for lack of a better term, and I was wondering why that might be. Stuff?
Ben Badler: Thanks! Ashby’s stuff just has an extra gear to it that Small doesn’t have. Small’s changeup is better—that’s a legit plus pitch—but Ashby has a superior fastball, much better breaking stuff and Small’s strike-throwing ability wasn’t as sharp as expected this season. I do think Small can settle in as a solid back-end starter if he can develop a more reliable breaking ball, but Ashby has a chance to be a mid-to-front rotation type guy.
Joey Wiemer (Biloxi):
- Does Baseball America buy into my 2021 season? What’s my outlook at the major league level?
Ben Badler: I’m starting to buy in. I say that as someone who did not like that pick coming out of the draft. He had big tools, athleticism and physicality, but I thought his swing was all over the place, and it wasn’t great performance at Cincinnati either. But he has done a better job in pro ball of streamlining his swing, even if he still has his critics there, but it works for him, he has kept his strikeouts in check, and he’s getting to his power. You can find evaluators who believe in him who think he can be a plus regular in right field, and you can just as easily find folks who think he doesn’t belong in the top 10.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Super power guy Alex Binelas has gone off to the Red Sox in the trade for Hunter Renfro - would he have been a candidate for a high prospect ranking if he were still in the Brewer's organization?
Ben Badler: Would have likely been in the 15-20 range. Big big power, but also some swing holes and defensive limits.
Ben Badler: David Hamilton is the guy I think could sting more to lose. Maybe he ends up a utility type, but I’m a fan of his contact skills, plate discipline and speed.
- Hi Ben, Congrats! Tristan Lutz finally busted out late in 2021. Has his outlook rebounded a bit?
Ben Badler: Not really. He's a strong dude and his raw power is right up there among the best in the organization, but it's a lot of rough edges to iron out as a hitter.
- Mitchell vs Frelick. Who has bigger upside and who is closer to the majors?
Ben Badler: Mitchell has more upside, Frelick is the safer bet. They're probably starting Mitchell in Double-A and Frelick in High-A, so Mitchell probably gets there first if he stays on the field consistently, but Frelick is a better pure hitter, so he could end up getting lapping him.
DJ (Madison, WI):
- Who is likely to be the best defensive center fielder between Garrett Mitchell and Sal Frelick.
Ben Badler: Speed and range are similar, I'd give a slight edge to Mitchell who has more experience there and a stronger arm.
- How does brewers pitching lab play into tool/impact evaluation. With Woodie, Burnes, and Peralta all exceeding the projected upsides as prospects, does that put higher belief in the ashby/small?
Ben Badler: I try to evaluate each player independent of the organization he's in so that we're just evaluating the player himself. He could get traded, a team could bring in new coaches or overhaul its development philosophy, so I try to be organization agnostic. That said, if a team or an individual coach/scout in particular has a demonstrated track record of success in a certain area, either in terms of what they have helped produce or having been historically correct on players in our previous discussions, I am more apt to give them more consideration if they feel a player is getting underrated or otherwise feel strongly about a player.
Ben Badler: Looking back to last year, there already was some of that happening with Ashby, but with obvious caveats that there was no minor league season and it was all coming out of instructional league from a 22-year-old facing a lot of teenage hitters. With hindsight, it was a legit breakout happening, and a lot more reasons to be even more bullish now.
Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions. It's crunch time for us on the Prospect Handbook, which I hear makes an amazing Christmas gift and is available now for pre-order on our site if you want to add a few to your cart. West division team prospect rankings coming this week, talk to you all again soon!