Note: Stats reflect June performances unless otherwise noted.
With the Brewers’ starting to make more and more moves within the organization, the minor league system has become more tantalizing and important than ever before. Just in June alone, five of the club’s top-30 prospects (according to MLB.com) have seen time in the majors. Let’s take a look at how the Brewers’ stockpile of homegrown talent is faring.
Colorado Springs Sky Sox (AAA)
Record: 49-30 overall, 20-10 in June
MVP: Garrett Cooper (.366/.443/.683, 6 HR, 24 RBI)
Summary: In June, the Sky Sox continued their early season surge towards the top of the standings. They lead the Pacific Coast League in winning percentage (.620) and look to be one of the most talented teams in all of minor league baseball. With the recent promotion of highly-regarded prospect Mauricio Dubon, ranked #9 in the Brewers’ system according to MLB.com, this team could be getting even more dangerous.
One cause for concern for the club could be the uncertain status of many of its top players. Outfielders Lewis Brinson (.362/.422/.672, 4 HR, 16 RBI) and Brett Phillips (.257/.316/.514) both experienced call-ups this month, and top pitchers Josh Hader and Brandon Woodruff seem to be in the big leagues for good. While this is good for the Brewers, it may hurt the success of the Sky Sox down the road.
Otherwise, the team seems to be a well-oiled machine. Ivan De Jesus remains a key contributor, accumulating a .967 OPS in June, with Michael Blazek (2-2, 3.72 ERA) and Taylor Jungmann (4-1, 1.61 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) anchoring the rotation. Bubba Derby could provide some additional rotational firepower, as he went 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in two spot starts and could see a full-time promotion to Triple-A.
Biloxi Shuckers (AA)
Record: 40-37, 13-12 in June
MVP: Corbin Burnes (2-1, 1.53 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 32 K in 29.1 IP)
Summary: While the Shuckers lost arguably their best player to Triple-A in Mauricio Dubon, they gained a new one in starting pitcher Corbin Burnes. Burnes dominated in five June starts for Biloxi, and continues his breakout as a premier pitching prospect. Top prospect Luis Ortiz displayed his potential in three June starts by pitching to a 1.31 ERA, and Aaron Wilkerson (2-1, 3.45 ERA) remained steady.
Nick Ramirez proved to be perhaps the biggest story out of Biloxi in June. Converted from first base to pitcher in the offseason, he played both sides of the ball extremely well throughout the month. He went 2-0 in 8 relief appearances totaling 18.1 innings, achieving a pristine 0.49 ERA. In addition, he has hit 2 home runs in pinch hit, including a grand slam. Anyone else think this is the second-coming of Brooks Kieschnick?
Some of the Shuckers’ hitters have begun to show life after a slow two months. Catcher Jacob Nottingham has rebounded after a rough start, hitting .317/.391/.533 with 2 HR and 11 RBI. Former first-rounder Clint Coulter hit .268/.321/.479 with 4 HR and 14 RBI, and shortstop Blake Allemand slashed .333/.370/.524.
The Shuckers could see some of the Brewers top prospects at Class-A Advanced Carolina join the roster later this month, with outfielder Corey Ray and pitcher Cody Ponce looking at potential promotions based on their trajectory and performance.
Carolina Mudcats (Class-A Advanced)
Record: 41-36, 13-13 in June
MVP: Lucas Erceg (.326/.362/.463, 2 HR, 20 RBI)
Summary: Even though this team houses several of the organization’s top prospects, they have to some degree failed to live up to the hype thus far in the season. Jake Gatewood has cooled off after his torrid start (.207/.295/.359), Isan Diaz has slumped dramatically (.129/.279/.171), and Corey Ray has dropped off somewhat (.230/.330/.368). Trent Clark has shown some improvement, posting a solid slash-line of 247/.411/.384, and Monte Harrison has proven formidable for the level in the six games since his call-up from Class-A Wisconsin, hitting .250/.333/.458 in an extremely small sample size.
The pitching staff certainly took a hit with the promotions of the staff ace Corbin Burnes and the always electric Freddy Peralta. This was supposed to be offset by the addition of Trey Supak from Class-A Wisconsin, but he has struggled thus far (1-2, 6.67 ERA in 6 games). Cody Ponce has been the rock of the staff, going 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA, and Jordan Yammamoto has been a close second (1-1, 3.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP). On the back-end, closer Nate Griep has been dominant, saving six of seven opportunities in June to bring his season total to 16, sporting a 1.93 ERA on the year as a result.
It is easy to read this information as slightly pessimistic, but it should be taken in the exact opposite way. The Mudcats are nowhere near playing to their potential, and they are still hanging in the hunt for first place in their division. If the prospects mentioned above start firing on all cylinders, and other intriguing prospects like Troy Stokes and Marcos Diplan find their form, this team could easily cruise to a second-half title and a playoff berth.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class-A)
Record: 30-47, 7-21 in June
MVP: Zack Brown (2.66 ERA in 5 games, 3 started.
Summary: It was very difficult to find an MVP for this team, let me be honest. Ronnie Gideon was second-place, and that’s with a .239 average in June. The Timber Rattlers simply do not boast the talent the rest of the organization does, especially considering many of last year’s top draftees (Ray, Erceg, Burnes) have moved up the ladder quickly. They should get a boost once the first wave of promotions occurs for the recently drafted players. Expect first rounder Keston Hiura to highlight that group once he completes the throwing program set out for him with the Arizona League Brewers.
Ronnie Gideon (.239/.329/.537, 5 HR) and Tucker Neuhaus (.225/.281/.388, 4 HR) led the offense, with 2016 5th-rounder Zack Brown leading the way for the pitching staff with a 2.66 ERA in five games (three starts).
The Timber Rattlers at this point should focus on developing the potential that exists. Players like Tucker Neuhaus, Demi Orimoyle, and Mario Feliciano have considerable ceilings, and the experience is what matters at this point, not the win/loss columns.