Through two months of baseball, it is clear that the Brewers’ rebuilding project is moving along quite nicely. Cumulatively, Brewers’ minor league affiliates possess the 7th best winning percentage among all MLB teams, and house several players that profile as future big league talent while turning in excellent performances. The Brewers’ minor league system has not garnered this much attention since stars like Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, and Ryan Braun were coming through the ranks. Let’s look at what each affiliate has done through the first two months of the season.
Colorado Springs Sky Sox (AAA)
MVP: Brett Phillips (.297/.369/.588, 10 HR, 39 RBI, 6 outfield assists)
Summary: The Colorado Springs Sky Sox were ranked as one of the top ten overall minor league teams prior to the season starting, and after April and May it is easy to see why. The Sky Sox sport one of the top records in the minors and boast a plethora of top talent. Their offense is headlined by the standout outfield trio of Lewis Brinson (.304/.395/.481), Brett Phillips, and Ryan Cordell (.302/.368/.515, 6 HR, 29 RBI), supplemented by first baseman Garrett Cooper (.354/.402/.584, 8 HR, 44 RBI). The success of Phillips and Cooper is especially impressive given that their numbers are very similar on the road away from Colorado Springs, if not better. Cordell and Brinson, on the other hand, have struggled away from the launching pad of Security Service Field, with Brinson being plagued by injuries as well. Furthermore, their rotation is bolstered by the Brewers’ top two pitching prospects: Josh Hader and Brandon Woodruff. While Hader has struggled in the thin air of Colorado, he has still turned in some masterful performances. Woodruff, on the other hand, has acclimated well, pitching to a 6-3 record with a 3.04 ERA in 10 starts, to go along with 50 strikeouts and a career low walk rate. This team could see multiple players called up to the major-league squad, but has the talent to still compete for a Pacific Coast League title nonetheless.
Biloxi Shuckers (AA)
MVP: Mauricio Dubon (.298/.349/.379, 28 SB, 2 HR, 19 RBI)
Summary: After struggling mightily to begin the season, the Shuckers have started to hit the ball and produce on offense. What this team lacks in power it makes up for with its speed; the Shuckers have stolen 56 bases thus far in the season. Led by Dubon and a breakout campaign by Javier Betancourt on offense (.290/.338/.427, 3 HR), the Shuckers also boast a solid pitching staff rooted in top prospects Luis Ortiz (2-3, 3.71 ERA, 40 K), Taylor Williams (0-2, 1.16 ERA, 30 K) and Jorge Lopez (3-3, 4.96 ERA, 52 K). While Lopez’s ERA may seem discouraging, he seems to be falling victim to unlucky situations, as his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, considered by many to be a better indicator of pitching performance than ERA) stands as 2.75. The Shuckers also house some interesting bullpen pieces that could contribute to the Brewers in the future, such as Bubba Derby (2.92 ERA, 33 K in 37 IP) and converted first baseman Nick Ramirez (2.19 ERA). This Shuckers team doesn’t have the same can’t-miss talent as Colorado Springs, but have all the pieces to still make a run.
Carolina Mudcats (Class-A Advanced)
MVP: Corbin Burnes (5-0, 1.05 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 56 K)
Summary: Similar to the Sky Sox, the Mudcats were ranked as a top-10 minor league squad headed into the season. After a slow start, the Mudcats have come into their own in May, going 17-11. Jake Gatewood’s breakout (.306/.380/.518, 7 HR, 20 2B) has led the offense, along with first round pick Corey Ray (.269/.333/.410, 10 SB) and Isan Diaz (.245/.329/.447, 9 HR, 33 RBI). This offense could be even more potent if not for the early season struggles of top-10 prospects Lucas Erceg (.216/.259/.342) and Trent Clark (.224/.348/.358). On the pitching side, the Mudcats boast one of the most talent-laden staffs in the minors. Corbin Burnes has pitched so well that he has earned himself a promotion to Double-A Biloxi, but the effect on the Mudcats should be minimal, as he will be replaced by the recent promotion of Class-A Wisconsin stud Trey Supak. Cody Ponce (5-4, 3.14 ERA, 48 K/6 BB), Freddy Peralta (0-2, 3.38 ERA, 62 K in 40 IP) and Marcos Diplan (2-2, 5.50 ERA, 42 K) round out the elite level of the staff, along with previous first round pick Kodi Medeiros. Diplan has been hampered by some blow up starts, and has been effective in the majority of his starts. This team has the talent to continue their winning ways, and could reasonably have a couple players on their roster that contribute to the Brewers by the end of 2018.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class-A)
MVP: Trey Supak (2-2, 1.76 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 53 K in 40 IP)
Summary: Much like the Shuckers, the Timber Rattlers have faced their offensive struggles early in the year. Monte Harrison (.254/.342/.451, 8 HR, 29 RBI) and 18-year-old catcher Mario Feliciano (.271/.356/.387) have led the offense, supplemented by contributions from Tucker Neuhaus (.237/.289/.469) and Demi Orimoloye (.230/.289/.431, 12 SB). Supak has been the pitching staff’s ace, and it will be interesting to see who steps up due to his promotion to Class-A Advanced Carolina. One possibility is Thomas Jankins, the Brewers’ 13th round draft pick from last year. He has pitched to a 3-3 record with a 4.39 ERA thus far and has had some next level outings, such as going 7 and 2/3 innings of one run ball on May 17th. Another bright spot on the pitching staff has been 27-year-old converted catcher Parker Berberet, who in his first action on the mound has worked as a long reliever with a 2.70 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. The pitching staff will likely be helped later in the year by some college arms after the completion of the MLB draft, in addition to some potential promotions from standouts at Rookie-level Helena once their season gets rolling.
That wraps up this month’s minor league roundup. Be sure to check back next month!