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The younger brother of Twins outfielder Oswaldo, Arcia enhanced his standing as one of the top shortstop prospects in baseball with his performance at Double-A Biloxi in 2015. He established personal bests in nearly every offensive category, while continuing to display impressive defensive skill and played for the World team in the Futures Game. Beyond his on-field performance, Arcia became a team leader while playing much of the season at age 20. The Shuckers played the first 54 games of the Southern League season on the road while awaiting the completion of their new ballpark in Biloxi, Miss., and Arcia and his teammates rose to the occasion by claiming the first-half Southern Division crown. He raised his performance to a new level in the SL playoffs, when he hit .400 (12-for-30) with three homers, three doubles, a triple and 10 RBIs in eight games for the league runners-up. He made the SL postseason all-star team after clubbing a league-leading 37 doubles and hitting .307 to rank fifth in the batting race. He also finished among the SL elite with 157 hits (second), 52 extra-base hits (third), 74 runs (fifth) and 68 RBIs (fifth), and he led all SL shortstops in assists (376) and double plays (82). Arcia has a confidence that is easy to see, maturity beyond his years and the instincts that only come naturally in being at the right place at the right time. His defensive skills are beyond reproach, and he could likely excel defensively in the major leagues right now. He has the range, hands and arm strength teams seek in a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, with tremendous instincts and flair for making big plays at key times. SL managers voted Arcia the best defensive shortstop and the best infield arm in the circuit. But it was at the plate that Arcia showed the most growth in 2015, though he still is too aggressive at times for his own good and does not draw enough walks (5.4 percent) to produce a high on-base percentage. As a result, he'll likely be a streaky hitter. He has gap power with enough pop to be dangerous at the top of the lineup. Arcia does most of his damage against fastballs and, therefore, sees lots of breaking pitches, which contributed to one skid in the middle of the season. Arcia rebounded from his slump to hit .300/.336/.451 with 24 extra-base hits, 17 steals and 40 strikeouts in his final 60 games. His swing still gets long at times, but he has become better at making adjustments as he matures as a hitter. He is a threat to steal at any time with plus speed on the basepaths, and has stolen at least 20 bases in all three of his years in full-season ball. Arcia likes coming to the plate with games on the line, a sign of his growing confidence in his offensive game. The rebuilding Brewers will establish Arcia's time line for reaching Milwaukee, but he will certainly be their starting shortstop at some time in the near future, and he has all-star potential. He could probably begin the 2016 season in the majors and hold his own, but the Brewers will take things slow unless they surprisingly find themselves in contention. With Jean Segura still manning shortstop in Milwaukee until further notice, Arcia probably will begin the 2016 season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, a hitter's haven. When he does arrive at Miller Park, Arcia could be the first homegrown impact player developed by the Brewers since Ryan Braun arrived in the majors in 2007.
The Brewers have harbored high expectations for Lopez since making him a second-round pick in 2011, and he made progress at high Class A Brevard County in 2014. That was nothing compared with his breakthrough 2015 at Double-A Biloxi in which he won Southern League pitcher of the year honors. He led the league with 12 wins and a .205 opponent average, while ranking second in ERA (2.26) and third in strikeouts (137). Lopez throws three pitches for strikes, including a dynamic, high-70s curveball that he unleashes with plus downward tilt. He can spot the pitch in the zone or bury it as a chase pitch. Lopez's velocity has gradually increased since being drafted, and he now pitches at 92-94 mph and can reach back for 97 when needed. He locates down in the zone and has average control. His third pitch is an effective changeup that is deceptive because he repeats his delivery and arm slot. Success breeds confidence, and Lopez displayed plenty of both in 2015, which he finished as a September callup. He will join the rotation at some point in the next two seasons and profiles as a No. 2 or 3 starter.
The Brewers were surprised to find Clark available at No. 15 in the 2015 draft. They ponied up $2.7 million, the second-highest bonus in club history,. Clark's first pro season nearly ended in his second game after he crashed headfirst into the center-field wall chasing a flyball; he escaped with a minor concussion and two black eyes. Clark has an unusual way of holding the bat, using more of a golf grip than a traditional baseball grip, but he makes it work. He is polished and mature for his age, showing bat speed, a real understanding of hitting and leadership skills. He understands the strike zone and is tough to whiff. At times, he can be too patient and take good pitches, but he became more aggressive as his debut progressed. Clark should develop power as he matures and gains experience. He worked on shortening a swing that got long at times and did a good job of keeping his bat in the hitting zone longer. He is an above-average runner who steals bases with relative ease and shows plus range in center field. He adds accuracy to solid arm strength, which should deter baserunners from testing him. A potential five-tool talent, Clark looked so smooth in a 12-game trial at Rookie-level Helena that he probably will head to low Class A Wisconsin at the outset of 2016.
The Astros initially balked at the idea of including Phillips in a deal for Carlos Gomez, but Houston relented when the Brewers added Mike Fiers to the package. Phillips began the 2015 season at high Class A Lancaster, a noted hitter's haven, where he hit .320 with 15 home runs in 66 games, though his power dried up at the Double-A level, where he hit only one homer in 54 games. Whether Phillips hits for power or not, he projects as a disciplined, top-of-the-order hitter. He shows good bat speed with a level swing geared more for line drives than loft. He gets in trouble when trying to pull the ball too much, but the lefthanded hitter generally hits to the middle of the field and hangs in well versus southpaws. Phillips has the range and arm to play center field, and he probably will play there for the Brewers, based on team need. His arm also plays in right field. While not a prolific basestealer, he runs well and has good instincts. Phillips suffered a badly bruised hand and thumb when hit by a pitch at Double-A Biloxi in the closing weeks of 2015, but he returned in time to hit .286 with five extra-base hits in eight games in the Southern League playoffs. The Brewers view him as the heir apparent in center field, and he could open 2016 at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
The Brewers dedicating their entire international budget to sign Lara for $3.1 million in July 2014. He made a big impression in instructional league after signing, showing plus power, then embarked on an assignment to the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2015. He wore down in the second half and slumped noticeably in the AZL, where the 17-year-old tended to lose focus and hit only one home run. Lara shortened his stroke in 2015 by concentrating on using his hands more, and not his entire body, to see how far he could hit a ball. He has tremendous power potential if he can keep his swing quick and direct, but he hit only one home run in the AZL. Lara also must improve his plate discipline after recording a lopsided walk-to-strikeout ratio. He has no real speed on the bases and is not a threat to steal. Given Lara's tall, physical build, scouts have pegged him as a future third baseman, but the Brewers will play him at shortstop for as long as they can. He has the range, above-average arm and smooth actions to play shortstop, and he could stay there unless he goes through a growth spurt. Given that Lara faded down the stretch in the AZL, the Brewers might push him only to Rookie-level Helena in 2016. That would require spending time in extended spring training, where motivation can be an issue, but Lara projects to be a bat-first player.
Selected 12th overall in the 2014 draft, Medeiros pitched to a 7.13 ERA over 18 innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League after signing. The Brewers gambled that he could handle the jump to low Class A Wisconsin in 2015, and they were right. Medeiros struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings and allowed Midwest League opponents to hit just .228, though he pitched just 33 innings in the second half as the Brewers regulated his workload. Medeiros does not rely on pure velocity to succeed. He pitches mostly in the low 90s but throws from a low arm angle and keeps the ball down consistently, as evidenced by the fact that he did not allow a home run in 93 innings. His fastball has good movement, life and sink, and he recorded an elite groundout-to-airout ratio of 3.14 that nearly led the MWL. Thanks in large part to an aboveaverage slider, Medeiros is tough on lefthanded hitters, who hit just .191 against him. He also mixes in an improving changeup that has a chance to be an above-average pitch. He is very athletic and solidly built, in part due to his lifelong passion for judo, and repeats his low-slot mechanics well. Many clubs believed that Medeiros would profile as a reliever because of his low arm slot. The Brewers believe his ability to keep the ball down and induce groundball contact will keep him alive as a mid-rotation candidate, and he's ready for high Class A Brevard County in 2016.
Taylor ranked as the system's No. 1 prospect a year ago after he paced the high Class A Florida State League with 36 doubles in 2014. He scuffled through an upand- down 2015 season at Double-A Biloxi, however, as he tinkered with his swing and never got hot. When at his best, Taylor drives the ball to the gaps and collects doubles. The Brewers sought to encourage more home-run production in 2015 by having Taylor stand more upright and stride into the ball, but his swing didn't always look comfortable. He is aggressive at the plate, often to a fault, drawing few walks but also limiting his strikeouts. He has decent speed on the bases but isn't a burner, nor is he a prolific basestealer, so he needs to continue to work on reading opposing pitchers. He is a true center fielder with good instincts and range and an average, accurate arm. Taylor has committed just five errors over the past two seasons and remains a reliable, fundamentallysound defender. The athletic Taylor took a step backward in 2015, but he will still be just 22 when he repeats Biloxi in 2016. He needs to find a consistent offensive approach he is comfortable with and stick with it. His glove buys him time to develop his bat, but some rival clubs see him as an extra outfielder.
Selected as a high school catcher in the first round of the 2012 draft, Coulter shifted to right field in 2015 and hit brilliantly at high Class A Brevard County in April, when he recorded a 1.078 OPS with six homers. His production tailed off in May, however, and he hit .232 with seven homers the rest of the way when his swing got too long and pull-oriented. Even so, Coulter led the Florida State League with 46 extra-base hits and tied for third with 13 homers. Coulter has a somewhat unusual approach at the plate with an exaggerated load and powerful cut that at times gets him out of whack and long with his swing. But it also allows him to generate immense power, and hit mistakes a long way. He knows the strike zone and doesn't give an inch at the plate--he got hit 18 times in 2015. Coulter failed to make enough defensive progress at catcher, so he took up the outfield in the 2014 Arizona Fall League. While his inexperience shows at times, his athleticism and strong arm--he recorded an FSL-leading 16 assists--should make him a playable right fielder. Speed is not a part of his game. Coulter will move up to Double-A Biloxi in 2016 to continue his progress as a right fielder. The Brewers still believe his offensive skills will make him an impact player in the big leagues, though his path is blocked by Ryan Braun, who is signed through 2020.
Ponce rocketed up draft boards in 2015, ranking as one of the top college arms in his class. The Brewers snagged Ponce in the second round, and he put together a fine pro debut. The 6-foot-6 Ponce aggressively pounded the strike zone with highoctane stuff, issuing few walks while not shying away from contact. He has the size and four-pitch mix that scouts look for in a starter, including an explosive fastball in the mid-90s and an effective cutter he throws in the upper 80s. His fastball doesn't have much movement, but Ponce aggressively works both sides of the plate to avoid hard contact. He mixes in an erratic, 11-to-5 curveball and at times a changeup. If he continues to work on the latter pitch, it will keep hitters off his fastball. He missed time early in his junior season with shoulder fatigue but profiles as a starter. Despite his formidable size, Ponce shows good athleticism on the mound. Because he pitched well in his debut, Ponce probably will begin 2016 at high Class A Brevard County. Some scouts consider him bullpen material, but the Brewers believe his repertoire and competitiveness will allow him to stay in the rotation.
Lacking a first-round pick in the 2013 draft, the Brewers made Williams the focal point of their class by choosing him with their top selection in the second round. He spent two seasons in Rookie ball before joining the low Class A Wisconsin rotation in mid-May 2015 after he worked through an arm issue in extended spring training. Williams has a live, loose arm and free-and-easy delivery. As he fills out his lanky, 6-foot-3 frame, he could sit more comfortably in the upper registers of his 92-95 mph velocity range. His fastball features good movement and downward action. Williams mixes in a plus changeup with deception and downward movement and an improved slider in the mid-80s. He lost his release point at times at Wisconsin, resulting in 19 wild pitches, and his walk rate ticked up to 3.6 per nine innings. He continues to work on repeating his delivery to improve his control, but the Brewers love his pitcher's body and athleticism. Williams had maturity issues at the outset of his career, so the Brewers have moved him cautiously, but he could be just a few small tweaks away from a breakthrough. He seems destined to begin 2016 at high Class A Brevard County as he reaches for a ceiling of mid-rotation starter.
A 19th-round pick out of high school, Hader already has been dealt twice at the trade deadline during his first four pro seasons. The Orioles traded him to the Astros for veteran righthander Bud Norris in 2013, and Hader shined in 2014 at high Class A Lancaster, a notoriously hitter-friendly venue, by going 9-2, 2.70 to claim the California League pitcher-of-the-year award. The Astros bundled him with outfielder Brett Phillips and two other prospects when they traded him to the Brewers for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers in 2015. Hader's lanky build and low three-quarter arm slot both resemble White Sox ace Chris Sale, though Hader doesn't have the same high-quality secondary stuff. His fastball usually sits in the low to mid-90s, and he reached the high 90s while pitching relief in the Arizona Fall League. Because of his lower arm angle, Hader's fastball has plus movement, and he's not afraid to work batters inside with it. However, his low slot makes it difficult for him to get on top of the ball, and thus his changeup and, especially, slider have been below-average. Hader's funky, deceptive delivery includes a slight pause that keeps baserunners honest. His reliance on his outstanding fastball combined with just ordinary control make him a possible bullpen candidate, but the Brewers will continue to develop him as a starter. After all, he pitched as well as ever after joining Double-A Biloxi in 2015, striking out 50 batters in 39 innings.
When the Brewers traded outfielder Gerardo Parra to the Orioles to acquire Davies in July 2015, the move went against their track record for trying to acquire big, hard-throwing pitchers. The slightly-built, 6-foot Davies is anything but that, but the club's analytics department rated him highly, so the Brewers made an exception. Davies had performed well at Triple-A Norfolk in the Orioles system, but after struggling to a 5.00 ERA in five starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs after the trade, Brewers weren't sure what to expect. But when Davies joined the rotation in September, he quickly found his confidence and finished on a roll with 15 straight scoreless innings. While he does not throw hard, averaging 87-90 mph with his sinking fastball, he knows what he's doing, using sound mechanics, precise location and a devastating changeup to keep hitters off balance. Davies pounds the lower portion of the zone with sinkers, hitting the corners, pitching to contact and inducing groundballs at an elite rate. His third pitch is a curveball that is average but effective. While Davies probably fits best at the back of a rotation, he doesn't hurt himself with walks or home runs and will receive a long look during 2016 spring training.
When the Brewers signed Orimoloye for $450,000 as a fourth-round pick in 2015 out of high school, they considered the Ontario product to be a raw, talented athlete who might take some time to get his feet on the ground. Much to their delight, he hit .292 with six homers and 19 steals in his pro debut before leaving early to play for Canada's national team in the 18U World Cup tournament in Japan. The native of Nigeria showed athleticism in his strong, 6-foot-4 frame that drew body comps with a young Dave Winfield. Orimoloye is very aggressive in the strike zone, preferring to hit the ball rather than walk, with good bat speed despite not always using his hands to his advantage. Despite his size, he is an above-average runner and aggressive in stolen-base situations. He is still raw defensively but had an average arm that should allow him to stay in right field. If Orimoloye continues to develop after an impressive pro debut, he has a chance to be an average hitter with plus power capable of holding down a corner spot. Given his early showing, a jump to low Class A Wisconsin seems possible in 2016.
Rather than keep the 19-year-old Harrison in extended spring training, where monotony can work against some players, the Brewers opted to push him to low Class A Wisconsin to begin the 2015 sea- son, knowing they could move him back to Rookie-level Helena in June if he struggled. Sure enough, Harrrison struggled, and not just a little bit. He hit .148/.246/.247 in 46 games with a strikeout rate of 42 percent, but once demoted to the Pioneer League, he took off, recording an .884 OPS through 28 games before experiencing a gruesome lower leg injury. Trying to put on the breaks after rounding third base, he incurred a left tibia fracture and dislocated ankle that required a metal plate and screws to repair. When healthy, Harrison is an exciting, athletic player to watch. He can be dynamic on the basepaths, using plus speed and daring to steal bases and go from first to third base in a flash. Harrison has plus bat speed with an advanced approach and plate discipline. His athleticism and speed also plays well in center field, where he chases down flies with ease. But he also has enough arm strength to play right field if his power develops. A lottery ticket at this stage, Harrison could be ready for spring training and probably will be given another shot at Wisconsin in 2016.
To say the least, Kirby's junior season at Virginia did not go as planned. After playing a key role in the Cavaliers' runner-up finish at 2014 College World Series, he missed much of the 2015 campaign with a strained lat muscle behind his pitching shoulder. Despite Kirby's absence, Virginia again advanced to the CWS championship series, and Kirby pitched the final two innings to clinch the school's first crown. Later came the news that Kirby signed with the Brewers as a sandwich pick for $1.25 million, instead of an agreed-upon, above-slot figure of $1,545,400 because of an undisclosed medical concern. He threw just 13 innings at low Class A Wisconsin before being diagnosed with a torn UCL and having Tommy John surgery that will force him to miss 2016. When healthy, Kirby throws a fastball that sits in the low 90s with good life, an above-average changeup and the late-breaking slider in the mid-80s he used to put away Vandy. That package gives him three above-average pitches that he can throw for strikes. He struggled at times at Virginia with his mechanics and command, but assuming his recovery goes as planned, he is an athletic lefty with correctable issues who could end up in the middle of a big league rotation.
As they did with fellow 2014 prep pick Monte Harrison, the Brewers decided to push Gatewood to low Class A Wisconsin to begin 2015. Like Harrison, Gatewood struggled mightily, striking out more than one-third of the time and flashing little of the power that made him a must-watch during showcase events before he was drafted. It didn't help that he suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of action for a couple of weeks. Once he retreated to Rookie-level Helena in June, Gatewood looked more like himself, slugging .476 in 212 at-bats. The Brewers knew Gatewood was a high-risk/high-reward player when they drafted him, but now faces a possible move to third base, which happens to be a position of greater need in an organization stocked with young shortstops. The Brewers gave Gatewood a look at the hot corner during instructional league but stopped short of saying the move would be permanent. To take full advantage of his power upside, he will have to improve his all-or-nothing approach. In the field, he has good hands and a strong arm but already has grown a couple of inches since being drafted. Speed is not a big part of his game. The Brewers will remain patient with Gatewood as they wait for his power to develop, probably at Wisconsin in 2016, and they view third base as a viable fallback option.
When Reed showed up for spring training in 2015, he looked like a different player. After a winter of football-style workouts--his father Benton played defensive end and appeared briefly in the NFL--he transformed his body into a much stronger version, and he used that added strength to his advantage by getting off to a strong start at Double-A Biloxi. Injuries held Reed back in previous seasons but he stayed healthy in 2015 and hit his way to Triple-A Colorado Springs with an .801 OPS and 30 extra-base hits in 93 games with the Shuckers. He returned to Biloxi to help in the Southern League playoffs, then received a callup to Milwaukee in mid-September. The Brewers continued to press his development with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League. With a good eye at the plate and discipline to lay off pitches, Reed has been one of the better on-base percentage players in the system since he was drafted. He has the speed to handle center field but with a plus arm and budding power potential, Reed is a great fit in right field. He has shown good speed and instincts on the bases. He appears destined for the Pacific Coast League in 2015 and could be on target for a long big league career, perhaps as an extra outfielder.
Diplan helped pitch the Rangers' Dominican Summer League team to a championship in 2014 at age 17, which caught the eye of Brewers scouts. Milwaukee insisted that he be included as one of the three players coming back in the January 2015 trade of righthander Yovani Gallardo to Texas, and Diplan's showing at Rookie-level Helena in his U.S. debut showed why they are so high on him. Though undersized and still a teenager, Diplan has a big arm and showed great poise on the mound. His fastball sits at 90-94 mph, and he went as high as 98 during his time in Helena. His sharp-breaking slider already is a plus pitch and he didn't hesitate to use his changeup at any time in the count. Diplan gets out of whack at times with a herky-jerky delivery and overthrows, but in general shows good control of all of his pitches. Some have pegged him as a reliever in the future, but the Brewers believe with continued work and experience he can start. Diplan shows savvy on the mound at a young age and is an athletic performer who has taken well to instruction and shown he can make adjustments. He has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter in the big leagues and could begin 2016 in the rotation at low Class A Wisconsin.
Wagner won the Southern League ERA title (2.25) in 2015 while going 11-5 and recording a 1.15 WHIP at Double-A Biloxi, but he had major issues in three starts for the Brewers,. He depends on precise control and keeping the ball down to be successful, and he had excelled in those areas in pro ball since coming out of Utah in 2012 as a closer. The Las Vegas prep product depends heavily on a low-90s sinker that has good life and results in many groundball outs. He also uses a sharp-breaking slider in the 84-86 mph range that is a strikeout pitch against righthanded batters. Wagner uses his adequate changeup to try to keep lefthanders honest. He has excellent mechanics out of a low three-quarters arm slot, with command and deception, and repeats his delivery well. The Brewers are intent on finding groundball pitchers in homer-friendly Miller Park, so Wagner should get more chances to show he deserves consideration for the rotation. He generally is calm on the mound and hard to fluster, traits that will be important in 2016 as he advances to the pitching nightmare known as Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Houser had a whirlwind 2015 season, pitching for four clubs including the Brewers as an unexpected September callup from Double-A Biloxi. One of four prospects acquired from the Astros in July 2015 in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers trade, he pitched much better after coming to the Milwaukee organization. Houser made a couple brief scoreless relief outings for the Brewers before finishing the year in the Arizona Fall League. He throws a fastball with good sink and tail away from lefthanded batters that sits in the 92-94 mph range and sometimes registers a bit higher. Big and strong, Houser maintains his velocity deep into starts and has a sound, repeatable delivery. He has worked on improving his slider, normally his best secondary pitch, but also flashes a curveball and effective changeup. Some scouts believe Houser's ceiling in the majors will be as a reliever, but the Brewers think he has back-of-the-rotation potential.
The question with Rivera always has revolved around his offensive potential, because his glove has been big league-ready for years. Beyond being a gifted, natural shortstop with long, fluid strides, good hands, a strong arm and great instincts, he also can play second and third base. Rivera did make some noise with his bat in 2015 at Double-A Biloxi. He hit a wall after a promotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, struggling in the second half of the season and during a September callup. . With Orlando Arcia expected to be the shortstop in the near future, and Rivera lacking any offensive tool that grades as even average, he would appear to fit best in a utility role, though the Brewers' offseason trade for Jonathan Villar could put that outlook in jeopardy. Rivera will compete with Villar for that role and likely return to Triple-A.
In the early weeks of his first big league camp in 2015, Williams looked quite impressive. He may have overdid things trying to impress the coaching staff, however, because his elbow began bothering him once reassigned to minor league camp. Williams remained in extended spring training as the season began, but when physical therapy and a platelet-rich plasma injection weren't successful, he succumbed to Tommy John surgery in August. The timing could not have been worse for Williams, because it will force him out of action for all of 2016 as well. By the time he returns to the mound in 2017, he will be approaching his 26th birthday. When healthy, Williams flashes a fastball in the mid-90s and can tough 98 mph, with a plus slider and effective changeup. He pounds the strike zone, issuing few walks while keeping the ball down and in the park. He is athletic and fields his position well and knows what he's doing on the mound. Because of his smallish, 5-foot-11 frame, some have projected him to a relief role.
Flores made a slow, steady climb through the Yankees system and made his major league debut on May 30, 2015. Traded to Seattle in the Dustin Ackley deal in July, Flores broke his right ankle two weeks after the trade. The Brewers acquired him in a November deal for middle infielder Luis Sardinas. An average runner and grinder, Flores provides a mix of patience on-base skills, as shown by his career .363 OBP. His below-average home run power and corner defensive profile (though he can fill-in in center) give him a fourth-outfielder profile. Flores likely will start 2016 in Triple-A Colorado Springs and could see sporadic time in the big leagues throughout the year.
The Brewers knew Roache was a high-risk/high-reward gamble when they made him the 28th overall pick in 2012, but his uncommon power ultimately persuaded them to take the plunge. They did so despite the fact that he had suffered a major wrist injury as a Georgia Southern junior. Sure enough, Roache struggled in his first two years as a pro with low batting averages and high strikeout totals while hitting enough home runs to make things interesting. Sent back to high Class A Brevard County to open the 2015 season, Roache began figuring some things out and moved to Double-A Biloxi at midseason. Roache still struggles with plate discipline and doesn't walk enough, but with power in such high demand, the Brewers will keep sending him out there to see if he develops a more well-rounded offensive game. With modest range and an average arm, he is limited to left field. Roache does get high marks for his work ethic and makeup, so if he increases his contact rate, he could be a regular corner outfielder in the majors.
Diaz landed firmly on the Brewers' prospect radar in 2014 with a strong showing in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Despite his smallish size, he showed a big arm with a fastball consistently in the mid-90s and a high strikeout rate. The Brewers expected more big things in 2015, but Diaz suffered an avulsion fracture in his pitching elbow before getting out of spring training. He had surgery in mid-March and didn't get into a game until the end of July. Still just 21, Diaz has time to get back on track. When healthy, he features a live, loose arm with an explosive fastball that gets on hitters in a hurry. His No. 2 pitch is a slider he throws in the high 70s and keeps hitters off his heater. He has worked on a changeup that needs refinement and more differentiation in velocity from his fastball. Diaz throws from a high three-quarters arm slot and at times has issues repeating his delivery. The Brewers would love for Diaz to see time at low Class A Wisconsin in 2016 to see if he can develop his changeup and remain a potential starter.
The Brewers felt good about the progress Johnson made in 2014 at high Class A Brevard County, where he was one of the more productive starters in the Florida State League. He improved his secondary pitches and showed great command of his sinker. More of the same was expected when Johnson moved up to Double-A Biloxi in 2015, but he experienced control issues and had trouble making adjustments. When he did throw strikes, Johnson controlled hitters (.219 opponent average), but his walk rate rose alarmingly from 2.6 to 5.9 per nine innings. Without fastball command, Johnson struggles because his curveball can be spotty, and it diminishes what usually is an effective changeup. Expect Johnson to return to Biloxi in 2016 to try to get back on track. The Brewers like his bulldog approach and mental toughness on the mound, but without a reliable second pitch he could be destined for the bullpen.
Pena has kicked around the organization since July 2012 when he joined the Brewers in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Angels. He finally reached the big leagues in September 2015. Milwaukee has had trouble deciding if Pena's future is in the rotation or bullpen. He threw well in relief during spring training 2015, so the Brewers dispatched him to Triple-A Colorado Springs in that role. Partly out of desperation, the Brewers moved him to the rotation and he began to dominate. Always possessing a big arm but finding command fleeting, Pena threw more strikes and continued to throw just as hard. He pitched at 92 mph and hit 94 while working as a starter. When Pena is in control of his mechanics and delivery, hitters have a difficult time catching up to his fastball. He also throws a hard, late-breaking slider but struggles to take velocity off the ball to keep hitters honest. With his power arm and limited repertoire, Pena continues to profile as a reliever, and at age 27 in 2016 it's high time to settle on a role.
When the Brewers acquired Wren, the son of former Braves general manager Frank Wren, in a minor league deal with the Braves after the 2014 season, they figured he profiled, at worst, as an extra outfielder because of his speed and superb defensive skills in center field. How much he would hit was open to question, but Wren had on-base skills, if zero pop in his bat. Wren's best tool is his speed, and he stole 36 bases in 2015, which plays both on the bases and the outfield because of plus instincts. He knows his limitations offensively and, therefore, focuses on getting on base, be it via bunting, drawing a walk or punching a groundball through the infield. Wren has good bat control and does not strike out much. His arm is below-average but accurate. He appears to be a candidate to begin 2016 season at Colorado Springs.
When the Brewers sent Aramis Ramirez to the Pirates to acquire Barrios in July 2015, the converted position player appeared to be merely a warm body. As a converted shortstop, Barrios was in his third season as a reliever. He reached Triple-A Indianapolis for the first time before the trade but struggled there with a low strikeout rate (5.2 per nine innings) and high WHIP (1.72). Barrios improved dramatically at Double-A Biloxi, recording a career-best 3.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and received a September callup. Throwing hard is certainly not an issue for Barrios, who sits at 95-97 mph with little effort and decent mechanics for a novice pitcher. What surprised the Brewers more was how effective he was with a changeup he threw in the 86-88 mph range. Barrios mixes in a slider on occasion, but his changeup is by far his best secondary pitch. He hasn't been a big strikeout pitcher yet despite throwing so hard, but he does keep the ball down and limit flyballs, which gives him a chance at Miller Park.
The Brewers shifted Magnifico to the bullpen after two years at high Class A Brevard County, when he posted a combined 1.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his new role, he converted 20 of 22 save opportunities and allowed a .210 opponent average. Magnifico threw 100 mph coming out of college but didn't always know where the ball was going. He learned to dial his fastball down a bit, and with refined mechanics he throws it mostly in the mid-90s now. His two-seamer has good sink and Magnifico mitigates his low strikeout numbers with an extreme groundball rate. His No. 2 pitch is a hard slider he throws in the mid- 80s, and he rarely throws his fringe changeup as a reliever. Competitive and aggressive, he thrived with games on the line and got better as the season progressed. Magnifico has below-average control when his delivery gets out of whack, and he doesn't have a reliable out pitch against lefthanded batters, which was exposed in the Arizona Fall League. Added to the 40-man roster in November, Magnifico will continue his development as the closer at Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2016.
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