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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 sometime 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. 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 improving 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. He would likely fit well in right field, if he does need to eventually change positions. 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. 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.
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. Still, he struck out 161 batters to rank fourth in the minors. Hader has no trouble striking out batters from both sides of the plate with a live fastball in the 92-97 mph range and a filthy, 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. Because he is not afraid to pitch inside, righties cannot dig in on him. He still has bouts of wildness and must concentrate on his mechanics to avoid having those issues elevate his pitch counts. 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.
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 strict pitch counts. 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. He has shown a feel for working both sides of the plate and keeps the ball in the park. 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. 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 still is young and already has pitched at Double-A, and he could reach Milwaukee later in 2017 with a big year.
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 while he hit just .247 in 57 games, he showed above-average power. He joined low Class A Wisconsin late in the year for its playoff run. 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. Ray ended 2016 on a down note by having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after tearing his meniscus in instructional league. He should be ready to go 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.
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. 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 has an advanced offensive approach (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, and that's the position where he profiles best. Already one of the Brewers top position prospects, Diaz might be two years away form forming a double-play combination with shortstop Orlando Arcia. First, Diaz must contend with the high Class A Carolina League.
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 suffered strained hamstrings twice and spent extensive time on the disabled list, curtailing his action to 59 games. 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 lefthanded 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. 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.
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. After earning midseason all-star honors in the Florida State League in 2016, he climbed to Double-A Biloxi and continued to excel, even overcoming the July death of his older brother in an ATV accident back in Mississippi. He went 14-9, 2.68 overall and led the minors with 173 strikeouts to earn the organization's minor league pitcher of the year award. 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. Woodruff has a No. 3 starter ceiling and is ready for Triple-A Colorado Springs, which presents the Brewers with a conundrum. The harsh pitching conditions there have sidetracked prospects such as Josh Hader, Jorge Lopez and Taylor Jungmann, so a return to Biloxi is possible.
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, then went to the Giants at No. 18 overall 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. Bickford recorded a 2.69 ERA through 17 starts at two Class A stops in the Giants system prior to the trade, but he struggled to throw strikes at high Class A Brevard County. A power pitcher, 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 can become a near-average pitch. Bickford's main issue is maintaining his release point because he tends to drop his elbow and lose tilt on his slider. Coaches have worked with him to dial back his velocity in order to command his pitches. Because Bickford can be electric in short bursts, some project him as a reliever, perhaps even a closer. The Brewers plan to keep him in the rotation until he shows he can't handle it. He'll start 2017 serving a 50-game suspension following his second positive test for a drug of a abuse.
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. He 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 reliever in college, even closing 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. One scout who saw him 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 Brevard County in 2017.
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. 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. 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.
Dubon, a native of Honduras who moved to the U.S. in high school in hopes of pursuing a baseball career, has elevated the view of his ceiling and floor in each year of his pro career. The Brewers acquired him along with third baseman Travis Shaw and righthander Josh Pennington when they sent reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox at the 2016 Winter Meetings. Dubon lacks a single plus tool, but the sum of his parts suggests a valuable player. He has long showed an unusual ability to put the bat on the ball, with low strikeouts contributing to consistently high averages. More experience along with a solidifying frame have permitted him a growing ability to drive the ball, most strikingly when he demonstrated steady doubles power in Double-A Portland in 2016 after a mid-year promotion from high Class A Salem. His fundamentally sound approach in the field permitted him to play average to plus defense at shortstop, though his versatility (which has already seen him spend time at second and third base) will be cultivated, and he played center field in the Arizona Fall League. Dubon seems likely to open 2017 at Triple-A Colorado Springs, where his versatility will put him on the radar as a big league depth option.
The Brewers picked up Phillips, lefthander Josh Hader and two others in July 2015 when they traded Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Astros. Phillips suffered an oblique strain that forced him to miss much of 2016 spring training, and he started slowly at Double-A Biloxi and never recovered. His strikeout rate climbed to an out-of-character 30 percent and sent his average into a tailspin (.229), and the same problems manifested in the Arizona Fall League after the season. Though Phillips led the Southern League with 154 strikeouts in 2016, he also ranked among the league leaders with 16 home runs (fourth) and 67 walks (third). Previously known for his short, compact stroke, he got pull-happy and showed why an all-fields approach would probably better suit him. Defensively, Phillips grades as above-average in center field, with a cannon arm that profiles in right and discourages runners from taking liberties. If he can achieve better balance between his hit and power tools, he would profile as a table-setting corner outfielder with above-average speed and patience. He profiles as more of a fourth outfielder for some scouts because he lacks a carrying offensive tool. Had Phillips produced at Biloxi, he would have been a cinch to open 2017 at Triple-A Colorado Springs, but particularly after his AFL showing he faces a probable Double-A repeat. The Brewers believe he has too much talent and determination to fall out of favor.
The Brewers thought enough of Lara's offensive potential at age 16 to sign the Dominican shortstop for $3,097,500. In two years of Rookie ball, he has compiled a light .609 OPS with three home runs in the extremely hitter-friendly Arizona and Pioneer leagues. With below-average speed, Lara needs to drive the ball to have real impact. Big and strong, he has yet to translate his raw power to games because he hasn't gotten his swing mechanics together. Specifically, he lacks balance and plate discipline. The Brewers have worked with Lara to use his hands more, which could be the answer to tapping into his natural power. He has exceeded defensive expectations at shortstop, however, and has shown good range and arm strength, putting off thoughts of a shift to third base for now. Lara is going to take time to develop, obviously, but scouts believe he has too many physical tools not to break through at some point. He will need a big spring training to make the jump to low Class A Wisconsin.
The rebuilding Brewers went into 2016 knowing they would probably trade veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy, a free agent after the 2017 season. Milwaukee did in fact end up dealing Lucroy to the Rangers at the trade deadline in a deal that fetched top prospects Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. With the pending vacancy at catcher, they realized they had no young catcher on standby to replace Lucory, so they made a preemptive trade with the Athletics that sent slugger Khris Davis to Oakland for Nottingham and righthander Bubba Derby. The Brewers then aggressively assigned the 21-year-old Nottingham to Double-A Biloxi, where he had his hands full in the Southern League, one of the most unforgiving environments for catchers. He caught 98 games, one of the highest totals in the minors, and threw out a league-average 29 percent of basestealers. The Brewers believe Nottingham will develop into a home-run hitter because of his combination of physical strength and bat speed. He already is learning to drive the ball to all parts of the park. Overmatched at times in the SL, he struck out 30 percent of the time while drawing just 29 walks. Nottingham faces defensive questions because despite obvious arm strength, he still is raw in terms of receiving and blocking balls in the dirt. He might simply outgrow the position as well, which raises the possibility of a move to first base. Given Nottingham's youth, a return to Biloxi seems likely.
No prospect in the organization went backwards as much as Lopez did in 2016, and it was difficult to assign blame. Was it solely his fault or did the hitter-friendly conditions at Triple-A Colorado Springs do him in? Lopez's best pitch is a knee-bending curveball, and when he couldn't get it to break as much at high altitude in the Pacific Coast League, he failed to adjust and went into a deep funk. His command completely deserted him to the point that he issued an incredible 55 walks in 79.1 innings in Triple-A. It got so bad that the Brewers eventually removed him from that club, sent him to their training complex in Phoenix to regroup and then downward to Double-A Biloxi, where Lopez had been the Southern League pitcher of the year in 2015. Now, it remains to be seen if he can re-gather his mechanics and move forward again. When on top of his game, he features an explosive fastball at 92-95 mph and the aforementioned curveball with strong downward tilt. Lopez needs to work more on his changeup to gain more consistency and keep hitters off his fastball. It remains to be seen if 2015 was a season that Lopez never will be able to repeat, or if he can survive if sent back to Colorado Springs. The 2017 season will be telling.
The Brewers had high hopes for Ponce after a strong pro debut in 2015, when he was taken in the second round and signed for $1.1 million. But he developed arm issues in 2016 spring training and was held back in Phoenix for two months, then spent the rest of the season trying to catch up. Ponce's stuff backed up once he was assigned to high Class A Brevard County, which slowed his progress through the system. When healthy, the big-bodied, 6-foot-6 righthander has the stuff to succeed as a bulldog starter in the majors. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and he can reach 98 mph at times, with an effective cutter in the upper 80s he uses to battle lefthanded batters. Ponce needs to work on a changeup that he often throws too firmly, and he needs to find more consistency with his curveball. He uses his size to throw his fastball on a downward plan and induce groundballs and shows good command of all his pitches when in good health. Ponce has more athleticism than might be expected of a pitcher of his size and has an aggressive approach to pitching. The Brewers think he has the durability and stuff to remain a starter and advance to the big leagues in that role.
Medeiros pitched so well as a teenager in his first full season at low Class A Wisconsin in 2015 that the Brewers assumed he would do likewise at high Class A Brevard County in 2016. Instead he struggled with his control (63 walks in 85 innings), ran up high pitch counts, exited games early and finished with a 1.94 WHIP. It was not the step forward the Brewers envisioned for the 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft, but Medeiros didn't turn 20 until late May. When he has his mechanics together, he delivers pitches from a low three-quarters angle with a fastball in the 92-95 mph range with late movement and sinking action that results in lots of groundballs. He mixes in a plus slider that is death on lefthanded batters with tremendous lateral movement. Medeiros has worked to improve his changeup, which he also keeps down in the strike zone when on top of his game. He is athletic and mature for his age, and the Brewers believe he will continue to improve and remain a starter despite concern over his low arm slot. He will receive another run at high Class A in 2017 to prove his future is in the rotation and not the bullpen.
An athletic outfielder who toyed around at third base and shortstop at times while in the Rangers system, Cordell joined the Brewers after the 2016 minor league season as the player to be named in the Jonathan Lucroy deal. Milwaukee also picked up outfielder Lewis Brinson and righthander Luis Ortiz in that transaction. The Brewers plan to play Cordell exclusively in the outfield. They selected him off a short list even though he had suffered a high ankle sprain crashing into a wall the day after the Lurcroy trade was consummated and didn't play again. Cordell has good bat speed and developing power and made adjustments as he moved through the Rangers system. Though he hit just .264 at Double-A Frisco, he slammed 46 extra-base hits and ranked third in the Texas League with a .220 isolated slugging percentage. Cordell's strikeout rate rose accordingly and he won't be a huge source of on-base percentage. In addition to above-average power, he also possesses plus speed that makes him a threat on the bases and a gap-to-gap fly chaser in center field. He split his time at all three outfield spots at Frisco and has the arm to fill any of the positions. He is ready for Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2017.
Pennington represented one of themore intriguing Northeastern prep arms entering the 2014 season because of his 89-92 mph fastball that produced plenty of swings and misses. However, he blew out his elbow in the third start of his senior year, resulting in his availability in the 29th round. Pennington signed with the Red Sox for $90,000 and spent the 2014 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Boston traded him to the Brewers along with shortstop Mauricio Dubon and third baseman Travis Shaw at the 2016 Winter Meetings for reliever Tyler Thornburg. When Pennington returned to the mound in 2015, he did so featuring premium arm strength. He typically pitched at 94-99 mph in 2016 while dominating at times at short-season Lowell, where he recorded a 2.86 ERA with 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings. His secondary pitches remain raw and inconsistent, but the righthander shows the potential for an above-average curveball and average changeup, offering starter potential if he can harness those weapons and more consistently throw strikes. He walked 4.3 per nine in 2016. Pennington's delivery is sufficiently clean and repeatable, though he had surgery after the 2016 season to remove a bone chip from his elbow. If everything clicks, he has mid-rotation starter potential and a floor as a possible power reliever.
No one will ever know what Harrison would have accomplished in his first pro seasons had he stayed healthy. The 2014 second-round pick played just 74 games in 2015 because he slipped rounding third base at Rookie-level Helena and broke his left tibia and ankle. It took a metal plate and screws to repair but Harrison worked hard on his rehab and got ready for 2016. Playing at low Class A Wisconsin, Harrison suffered a broken hamate bone in his left wrist that sidelined him for two months. So one of the best athletes in the system had his development stalled twice, making 2017 a big year for him. When healthy, Harrison has excellent bat speed that should allow him to develop at least average power because of his physical strength. He has plus speed that makes him a threat on the bases and a powerful arm that plays at any outfield spot. Harrison does get long with his swing and has piled up too many strikeouts, but he merely needs to get at-bats and make adjustments. Harrison shined at 2016 instructional league and can develop into an impact player on both offense and defense if he can just stay on the field.
When the Brewers traded first baseman Adam Lind to the Mariners after the 2015 season they did so with an eye toward the future. They acquired three pitchers, all 19 years old at the time, in Peralta, Carlos Herrera and Daniel Missaki. Peralta was considered the most advanced of the three and went out and proved it in 2016 with an all-star showing at low Class A Wisconsin that earned him a bump to high Class A Brevard County. The epitome of an undersized righthander, he makes up for it with a repertoire and presence on the mound to still project as a starter. Peralta shows a fastball in the low 90s that tops out at 94 mph with a smooth, clean and repeatable delivery. He mixes in a slider and changeup that have a chance to be at least average in the majors--the change could be above-average--and throws strikes with all three. Peralta's changeup has deceptive arm speed and keeps hitters off his hard stuff. He struck out batters at an elite rate in the Midwest League--77 in 60 innings--but still issues too many walks. Because of Peralta's youth, the Brewers have plenty of time to develop him as a starter. He faces a return to high Class A.
While many pitching prospects struggled in the hitter-friendly conditions at Triple-A Colorado Springs, Barnes prospered in 2016. That's because a pitcher with a devastating sinker with great movement and a sharp-breaking slider can succeed at high altitude by inducing ground balls and piling up strikeouts. Barnes recorded a 1.21 ERA in 17 relief appearances, forcing the Brewers to call him up in early June. He went on the disabled list in late July with an elbow issue and did not return until September, but he made a favorable impression. Barnes sits in the mid-90s with his fastball while reaching 97 mph at times. He also relies on a high-80s cutter, the pitch that allowed him to elevate his game. Barnes uses a sharp-breaking slider in the mid-80s effectively against righthanded batters when ahead in the count. He is a bulldog type with great lower body strength who throws strikes consistently enough to be used in high-leverage situations. Barnes flourished after moving to the bullpen at Double-A Biloxi in 2015. He gained the confidence of Brewers manager Craig Counsell in 2016 and will be a member of the bullpen in 2017.
The Brewers knew that because of his swing-and-miss tendencies, Gatewood would be a high-risk prospect when they drafted him in 2014. He wowed amateur scouts with his power displays, but has struggled to make contact as a pro, whiffing 345 times in 285 games for a 30 percent rate. The Brewers also figured the 6-foot-6 Gatewood would grow out of the shortstop position, and that happened quickly as he physically matured. At low Class A Wisconsin in 2016 he played third base and first base, and the latter might be his position for the future. Gatewood stumbled badly in the Midwest League in 2015 but rebounded to hit for above-average power with 14 home runs and 33 doubles in 2016. He showed a free-swinging plate approach, however, with few walks and many strikeouts contributing to a .240 average and below-average hit tool. Gatewood has tremendous bat speed and plus power potential. He has good athleticism for his size and a strong-enough arm to play third base but is going to need time to develop his skills at the hot corner. He must find a way to be more selective at the plate and shorter to the ball to keep his strikeouts within an acceptable range. He will head to high Class A Brevard County in 2017.
Burnes was not highly recruited and ended up at St. Mary's, where he prospered under head coach Eric Valenzuela, a mentor to such future major leaguers as Brian Matusz, A.J. Griffin and Sammy Solis. Burnes got better each year and picked up velocity on his fastball, which reached 97 mph in the Cape Cod League in 2015. He served as St. Mary's ace as a junior and the Brewers stayed on him until the 2016 draft and popped him in the fourth round. Burnes throws his fastball in the 91-93 mph range and touches 95 when he needs it. He still needs work on his secondary pitches but has a promising slider and also mixes in a curveball and changeup. Some worry that Burnes throws with maximum effort and that his arm action is too quick, which could land him in the bullpen at some point. But he has maintained his velocity deep into starts, and as long as he holds his mechanics together the Brewers believe he has a future as a starter. Burnes certainly has the frame to handle a solid workload. After three outings in the Rookie-level Arizona League he joined low Class A Wisconsin and held opponents to a .200 average with a 1.26 WHIP at that level. The Brewers think he will only get better with experience and move steadily through the system.
Though taken in the second round in 2013, the Brewers always have thought Williams had first-round talent. Because of maturity issues and a few health setbacks, it has taken him a while to deliver on that projection. Williams spent two seasons in Rookie ball before his full-season debut in 2015. He returned to low Class A Wisconsin in 2016 after staying behind in extended spring training to work through a shoulder issue. Williams still has the potential to be a solid major league starter, but he's on a slower than average development track. His fastball sits in the low 90s with good life and touches 95 mph at times. As Williams matures and his lanky 6-foot-3 frame fills out, the Brewers believe his velocity will sit in the mid-90s. He has a mid-80s slider that he sometimes gets under but has a chance to be an average pitch, along with an improving changeup. Williams focused on better command after issuing too many walks in 2015 and leading the Midwest League with 19 wild pitches. He is very athletic and should improve at repeating his delivery. The Brewers still think Williams has the talent to make a big leap at some point.
It didn't shock the Brewers when Kirby needed Tommy John surgery after throwing just 13 innings in his pro debut in 2015. He missed much of his junior year at Virginia with a strained lat, and then a post-draft physical turned up elbow issues that reduced Kirby's bonus to $1.25 million. The Brewers planned for him to pitch at low Class A Wisconsin until his elbow forced him to stop, which happened sooner than later. Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the entire 2016 season. Kirby still wasn't ready to face hitters in game action in instructional league but is expected to be ready to go at the outset of 2017. When healthy, he pitches in the low 90s with his fastball, but it has good action and plays better because of his arm angle and ability to pitch to both sides of the plate. His mid-80s slider is a strong secondary pitch, though some wondered if using it so often in college led to the arm issues. Kirby also features an above-average changeup with good deception, giving him a solid three-pitch mix that should allow him to remain a starter. His combination of athleticism and stuff should allow him to move quickly once healthy and make it to the majors as a mid-rotation starter.
Because of Orimoloye's impressive skill set and growth potential when drafted at age 18, the Brewers thought he was a steal in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. A native of Nigeria whose family moved to Toronto when he was 10 months old, Orimoloye made the Brewers feel even better about the pick when he posted an .838 OPS in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Things didn't go nearly as well in 2016 when Orimoloye recorded a .617 OPS at Rookie-level Helena in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League. He has tremendous raw tools, including power, arm strength and speed, but he needs experience, both at the plate and in the field. He lacks polish in all areas of the game because he just hasn't played that much baseball, but he did show a patient approach and stole 18 bases in 22 tries in the PL. As with most young hitters, Orimoloye needs to strike a balance between passivity and aggression at the plate. Once his game comes together, Orimoloye projects to be an impact player in right field. The Brewers believe he has untapped potential and hope he can handle the jump to low Class A Wisconsin in 2017.
Catching has been a positional weakness in the Brewers organization for years, so the new front office regime put an emphasis on building backstop inventory in the 2016 draft. The Brewers made Feliciano one of their first picks. An offensive-minded catcher, he showed a good feel for hitting at the young age of 17 with budding power and good hands. Feliciano didn't draw many walks in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, but he didn't strike out much either and certainly did not look overmatched at the plate. He is very athletic and moves well behind the plate and on the bases. Feliciano has above-average arm strength and the tools to develop into a solid defender with more work and experience. Some scouts question Feliciano's long-term future behind the plate, but the Brewers intend to give him the development time to stick there because of his potential for at least average hit and power ability.
The Brewers knew signability could be an issue with McClanahan, who let it be known that he planned to attend Arizona State if his bonus demand was not met. The Brewers selected him in the 11th round and moved on to signing other players but kept money in reserve for a late run at him. Even though they paid a substantial penalty, Milwaukee went over their bonus pool to sign McClanahan for $1.2 million, which is second-round money. A physical specimen who might still grow some, McClanahan has tremendous upside and certainly didn't lower the bar when he homered in his first pro at-bat in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He struck out frequently in his debut and lacked plate discipline, but he hit for above-average power. He projects as a slightly below-average runner. While his offense shows considerable promise, McClanahan is not a lock to remain at third base. His arm is strong enough but some believe he'll move to first base or possibly the outfield, where his athleticism could play. However it plays out position-wise for McClanahan, his offensive potential excites the Brewers.
The Brewers weathered injuries to the major league outfield in 2016, presenting an opportunity for Reed to move up and seize the day--but he seemed to be struggling at Triple-A Colorado Spring every time a chance arose. He remained in the Pacific Coast League all season before finally receiving a late-September callup when center fielder Keon Broxton was lost with a broken wrist. Reed is a physical player with a football background who approaches the game with the aggressiveness and intensity of the other sport. Known for a good eye at the plate and plus patience, he ranked fourth in the PCL with 74 walks in 2016, though he hit just .248 with well below-average power. He also struck out about a quarter of the time. Reed is an above-average runner who shows good instincts on the bases. That speed serves him well in center field, but he mostly played right field in 2016, where his arm strength is an asset. At this point, Reed's ceiling appears to be extra outfielder with on-base ability and speed, though as a righthanded hitter, he will need to shine in those areas to elevate himself above lefthanded candidates for the bench.