With the minor-league season coming to a close, it is time for the final “Minor League Review” of the season. August saw all Brewers’ affiliates play competitive baseball, and while only one affiliate (Colorado Springs) will make their league’s playoffs, Biloxi and Carolina made valiant pushes down the stretch. Let’s take a look at the individual performance of each team, starting with Triple-A:
Colorado Springs Sky Sox (AAA)
Record: 14-13 in August, 78-55 Overall
MVP: Nate Orf (.366/.430/.677, 11 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR)
After already losing Garrett Cooper and Ryan Cordell to trades in the month of July, the Sky Sox took an even bigger hit with the minor league season-ending injury to top prospect Lewis Brinson. Despite this, Colorado Springs locked up their first postseason berth in 20 years. On offense, Brett Phillips continued his domination of Triple-A pitching, hitting .326/.406/.506. The catching duo of Rene Garcia (.383/.400/.468) and Tyler Heineman (.357/.449/.548) provided some surprising firepower. However, most impressive was second baseman Nate Orf, who hit .366/.430/.677 on the month. Mauricio Dubon (.218/.287/.295) struggled in his second full month of Triple-A ball, with the wear and tear of a full season possibly contributing to his slump.
On the mound, the Sky Sox have now lost two of their top starters in Paolo Espino (traded to Texas for cash considerations) and Brandon Woodruff (will be called up to join the big-league rotation for September). This means the Sky Sox will rely on Taylor Jungmann (2-1, 1.50 ERA in five starts), Bubba Derby (3-0, 3.80 ERA in four starts) and Angel Ventura (1-1, 3.68 ERA in four starts) to anchor their rotation down the stretch into the playoffs, along with Junior Guerra (2-1, 1.52 ERA in five starts) if the Brewers do not recall him to provide depth for the September playoff push. In the bullpen, Wei-Chung Wang continued to lead the pack, giving up two runs over nine innings of relief, and will likely be recalled to Milwaukee. Wily Peralta also turned in seven scoreless relief appearances, although he did post a K/BB ratio of 7-to-6.
Biloxi Shuckers (AA)
Record: 16-11, 68-65 Overall
MVP: Freddy Peralta (1-1, 0.40 ERA, 33K)
The Shuckers turned in an excellent month as they pushed towards the playoffs, but their bid ultimately turned out to be too little, too late, as they are eliminated from playoff contention. With their roster bolstered by the promotions of outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. and infielder Jake Gatewood, an offense once devoid of difference makers became quite the opposite. Gatewood continued his breakout season by hitting .256/.293/.474 in his first taste of Double-A pitching, while also beginning to play both first and third base. It will be important for Gatewood to maintain the plate discipline he developed at Class A-Advanced Carolina, as he drew only four walks on the month. Stokes performed well in his first full month since being promoted, hitting .250/.342/.420 with 4 HR and 7 SB. His power-speed profile could make him an interesting fourth outfielder on the big-league squad in the future. Clint Coulter displayed improved plate discipline by walking 14 times en route to a .375 OBP, but still struggled to a .231 batting average. Jacob Nottingham continued his nosedive at the plate while on occasion showing flashes of the offensive talent that made him a standout prospect, hitting .167/.342/.383, with August marking the third month that he has hit under .170. Tyrone Taylor struggled as well after returning from injury, putting up a .190/.271/.405 line in 12 August games.
Several members of the impressive pitching staff continued to perform at a high level. Corbin Burnes highlighted his month with eight innings of two-hit ball on August 21st, putting an exclamation point on his breakout season that will almost certainly culminate in being named Brewers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He posted a 1.91 ERA over five August starts. Freddy Peralta continued to mow down hitters, striking out 33 hitters in 22 and 1/3 innings of work while achieving a 0.40 ERA and holding opponents to a .105 batting average. If Peralta can reduce his walks (4.7 BB/9 on the season) he could be a dangerous piece of Milwaukee’s future. Aaron Wilkerson came off his brilliant July to put up a solid line of 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA. The Shuckers also benefitted from the relief performances of Nick Ramirez and Taylor Williams. Ramirez continued to absolutely deal in his first professional season on the mound, pitching his way to a 3-0 record and a 1.86 ERA in 19 and 1/3 innings out of the pen. The Brewers will have to add him to the 40-man roster this offseason or risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft, where another MLB team would most likely give him a shot given his success this year. Williams returned from a long layoff in late July and early August to spin six scoreless appearances spanning eight innings, holding opponents to a .095 batting average in the process and striking out ten. Williams could be a surprise add to the Brewers’ September squad, as he resides on the 40-man roster and could benefit from gaining MLB experience in low leverage situations.
Carolina Mudcats (Class A-Advanced)
Record: 14-14 in August, 69-65 Overall
MVP: Monte Harrison (.304/.355/.515, 5 HR, 9 SB)
Things are finally starting to click for the Mudcats on many levels, but they likely will come up just short of the playoffs. Third baseman Lucas Erceg enjoyed an outstanding month, hitting .296/.384/.480. With his resurgent second half, it looks as though he is prepared to start in Double-A Biloxi at the outset of 2018. Outfielder Monte Harrison continued his push for Brewers Minor League Player of the Year by posting elite numbers in just his second full month at the level and achieving a 20-20 season. Corey Ray started to come alive but faded down the stretch, hitting .236/.300/.355, which is still a solid improvement over his July performance. Catcher Cooper Hummel mashed his way to a .273/.356/.442 line. However, this month was no different than any other in terms of disappointments, which in August turned out to be middle infielder Isan Diaz and outfielder Trent Clark. Limited by injury, Diaz struggled to a .161 average, while Clark took a step back from an impressive July to post a .186 average. Clark still drew his usual abundance of walks, but he needs to start swinging the bat better to begin to reach his ceiling as a first round pick.
On the mound, the Mudcats were led by Jordan Yamamoto. He tallied a 4-1 record in five starts to go along with a 2.03 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. August marked Yamamoto’s second straight month with a sub-3.00 ERA, and he seems prepared to start 2018 in Double-A Biloxi’s rotation. Zack Brown continued his impressive debut month with the team by going 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA. After his stellar month of July, Trey Supak continued to pitch well, sporting a 3.86 ERA in August. The same could not be said for Kodi Medeiros after his standout July, however, as he struggled to a 7.83 ERA over his five appearances (four starts) during August. It is starting to appear that his full-time conversion from starter to reliever could be looming sooner rather than later.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class-A)
Record: 14-15 in August, 57-77 Overall
MVP: Thomas Jankins (3-2, 2.35 ERA)
While not succeeding in the win column this season, some players have shown considerable talent in spots, and August was no exception to that sentiment. At the plate, first baseman Ronnie Gideon led the way with a .260/.318/.450 line. First rounder Keston Hiura was shut down mid-month with a hamstring injury after hitting .283/.352/.370, cooling off after a scorching start to his professional career. His advanced approach and hit tool should allow him to move through the system quickly, although he will need to develop a defensive home. Although not displaying much power, catcher Mario Feliciano’s ability to hit for average is impressive for an 18-year-old, as he slashed .284/.356/.309. He will grow into his power as his body matures. Third baseman Dallas Carroll performed well after being promoted from Rookie-Level Helena, batting .260/.339/.396. While the results are there, he likely won’t be anything more than an organizational depth player in the long run.
Some members of the pitching staff continued to display their talent and potential. Thomas Jankins once again was the ace of the staff after a dominant July, going 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA in six games. Josh Pennington remained strong after his mid-season return from injury, achieving a 1-1 record with a 2.02 ERA and 0.74 WHIP in four limited starts, his best being August 11th when he struck out nine in five scoreless innings. Lefty Drake Owenby pitched to a 2.31 ERA in six games (three starts), holding opponents to a .173 batting average. He is a sleeper candidate to make a splash next year, and will likely move up to Class A-Advanced Carolina.
So that’s a wrap on the 2017 Minor League Review. Check back throughout the month for an end-of-season top-20 Brewers prospects series!