Note: Stats reflect July performances unless otherwise noted.
Colorado Springs Sky Sox (AAA)
Record: 64-43, 15-12 in July
MVP: Mauricio Dubon (.304/.354/.511, 17 RBI, 6 SB)
July has been a turbulent month for the Sky Sox. They have permanently lost two of their top hitters to trades (Garrett Cooper and Ryan Cordell), while top prospects Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips have bounced back and forth between Colorado and Milwaukee. In addition, the Sky Sox gained Keon Broxton from the Crew, as he had been sent down to work through his offensive struggles, but he now finds himself back in Milwaukee to resume his duties as their starting centerfielder.
The Sky Sox offense continued to be elite in July. Besides Mauricio Dubon, this lineup boasts numerous potent contributors. Utility infielder Ivan De Jesus hit .361/.407/.494; organizational depth outfielder Kyle Wren hit .337/.414/.459 with 11 stolen bases; and, despite the merry-go-round of call-ups they have experienced in July, outfielders Brett Phillips (.364/.438/.691, 4 HR, 13 RBI in 14 games) and Lewis Brinson (.414/.468/.671) have been incredible when in the line-up. Brinson currently resides with Milwaukee, but could see himself back in Colorado if he struggles.
The pitching staff has remained steady throughout the month; they will benefit greatly from the return of top-100 prospect Brandon Woodruff after his DL stint. Former first-rounder Taylor Jungmann faced some trouble after a good month of July, pitching to a 5.40 ERA in five starts. Bubba Derby has been solid since being called up from Double-A Biloxi, achieving a 1.12 WHIP and holding hitters to a .211 batting average, both indicating his performance has been better than the 3.81 ERA he sported for the month. Additionally, Angel Ventura proved solid in four July starts, going 3-2 with a 4.15 ERA. Wei Chung Wang (1.69 ERA) anchored the bullpen and now finds himself in Milwaukee after a call-up.
This team continues to be the cream of Milwaukee’s minor league crop in terms of success. They should challenge for a Pacific Coast League title come September; however, it will be interesting to see if they can handle the stresses of an ever-changing lineup that has lost two huge contributors.
Biloxi Shuckers (AA)
Record: 53-54, 12-17 in July
MVP: Aaron Wilkerson (3-1, 2.25 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 31 K in 32 IP)
The Shuckers offense, already thin on production, lost arguably their two biggest contributors in shortstop Mauricio Dubon (promoted to Triple-A) and outfielder Michael Choice (sold to the KBO League). Accordingly, they do not have much left. One bright spot was speedy outfielder Johnny Davis, who hit .322/.361/.426 with 10 stolen bases. He lacks the power to be anything more than an on base guy, but he boasts elite speed that could help him find a spot on an MLB roster in the future. The struggles continued for former first-round pick Clint Coulter (.204/.257/.387) and top catching prospect Jacob Nottingham took a nose dive after a successful month of June, hitting .152/.278/.303. The Shuckers should benefit from the recent promotion of outfield prospect Troy Stokes Jr. to their roster, a power-speed threat who hit .289/.387/.500 in 24 games with Class-A Advanced Carolina in the month of July. Outfielder Tyrone Taylor, a former top prospect in the organization, also returned from the DL near the end of the month and should soften the blow of losing Michael Choice.
The pitching staff turned in several quality performances during July. Starters Corbin Burnes, Aaron Wilkerson, Luis Ortiz, and Freddy Peralta form the crux of a rotation that dares to be matched by any other in the Southern League. Ortiz dazzled in his final two starts of the month, allowing 5 hits, 1 run, and striking out 13 batters over 13 innings pitched. Aaron Wilkerson dominated in a complete game two-hitter on July 23rd. Freddy Peralta continued to rack up the strikeouts, punching out 41 batters in 31 and 2/3 innings while pitching to a 2.56 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and .179 batting average against. And finally, breakout pitcher Corbin Burnes ran into some trouble in his final two starts of the month, but still finished with a 3.24 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in five starts. In Ortiz, Peralta, and Burnes, this Shuckers team has three starters that the organization is very high on, and we could see those three in the big leagues in some capacity as soon as later next year, whether it be in the bullpen or the rotation. Nick Ramirez continued to be the jewel of the bullpen, as the lefty pitched to a 0.54 ERA and 0.66 WHIP in 16.2 innings of relief, holding opposing batters to a .155 batting average.
Carolina Mudcats (Class-A Advanced)
Record: 55-52, 14-15 in July
MVP: Trey Supak (2-1, 2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, .210 batting average against)
Despite being stocked with top prospects, especially on the offensive side, the Mudcats continued to struggle to play to their potential in July. Outfielder Trent Clark led the offense with his patient eye at the plate (.240/.360/.423, 10 SB). Outfielder Monte Harrison adjusted well after his promotion from Class-A Wisconsin, hitting .238/.315/.438 with four home runs. Infielder Isan Diaz improved from his horrendous June, hitting .266/.405/.383. However, three prospects were shadows of themselves: Jake Gatewood, Lucas Erceg, and Corey Ray. After a resurgent June, Erceg slid back down to a .230 average for the month, but still managed a .452 slugging percentage. He will need to improve his plate discipline, as he garnered only five walks in 113 at-bats. Gatewood, while not wholly unimpressive, hit .255/.311/.382, a far cry from the vast improvement he displayed at the plate over the first two months of the year. Finally, Corey Ray has been absolutely lost lately, hitting .193/.265/.307 for the month. For the fifth pick in last year’s MLB Draft, that line is extremely concerning, especially given that this is Ray’s second taste of Class-A Advanced. These three need to improve, especially Erceg and Ray who are considered to be part of the future core.
The picture looks a bit brighter for the club’s top pitching prospects. Kodi Mederios showed marked improvement. A .183 batting average against and a 0.98 WHIP accompanied his 4.04 ERA, offering hope that he is finally getting back on track and just running into a bit of bad luck. Trey Supak seems to have adjusted to Class-A Advanced after a second month at the level, going 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA in six games (four starts). Nate Griep has continued to shut down the ninth inning, giving up no runs in eight appearances and accumulating four saves. On the contrary to these success stories, Marcos Diplan went 2-2 with a 5.16 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP. As one of 2016’s breakout performers, Diplan’s showing this year has been disappointing to say the least.
This team still has time to live up to their potential, but it is concerning how pronounced and prolonged the struggles of some of their top prospects have been. Hopefully it all comes together soon.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class-A)
Record: 43-63, 12-15 in July
MVP: Thomas Jankins (3-0, 0.86 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, .164 batting average against)
This team is starting to turn it around. Aided by the addition of 2017 first-rounder Keston Hiura (.408/.420/.592), this is starting to look like a dangerous lineup. Weston Wilson has anchored the middle of the order, hitting .305/.365/.524 with 4 HR and 22 RBI. Tucker Neuhaus (.288/.338/.485) is starting to show the promise that made him a 2nd Round draft pick. The offense also will be aided by the promotion of outfielder Zach Clark, who hit .263/.370/.432 at Rookie-Level Helena before his recent call-up. Contrary to all this success, catcher Mario Feliciano has taken a huge step back, hitting .192/.263/.288 over the month. The long season seems to be wearing down the 18-year-old catcher, which everyone knew was a strong possibility going into the year. In addition, shortstop Devin Hairston, this year’s sixth round draft choice, has labored to a .163/.281/.225 in his introduction to professional baseball.
The arms have fallen into line as well. Zack Brown carried over his standout performance from June, going 2-2 with a 2.10 ERA and 36 strikeouts in six games. Thomas Jankins was the most impressive of the bunch, absolutely tearing apart the Midwest League. 19-year-old Carlos Herrera (2-0, 2.21 ERA, .136 batting average against) pitched extraordinarily well given that this is his first action above rookie-level ball. Josh Pennington (4.26 ERA) is showing well in his first action this season after coming off the disabled list. While this team’s staff does not have the hype of some of the other Brewers’ affiliates, they are quietly making quite a statement with their success.
Rookie-Level Players to Watch
KJ Harrison, Catcher (.327/.462/.442)
Dallas Carroll, Third Baseman (.336/.418/.525)
Nic Pierre, Outfielder (.346/.386/.474)
Payton Henry, Catcher (.248/.378/.505)
Tristen Lutz, Outfielder (.297/.366/.594)
Joaquin De La Cruz, Pitcher (3-0, 2.53 ERA, 37 K)
Je’Von Ward, Outfielder (.265/.294/.306)