When many fans think of the Brewers’ prospects, they think of only the top names. Brinson. Hader. Ray. Diaz.
However, thus far in the season we have seen tremendous performances from many of the Brewers’ second tier prospects. Actually, to call them second tier really is a disservice. In any other system, they would probably be top-15 prospect caliber players. In a Brewers’ system that is just brimming with talent, they unfortunately get the short end of the stick. That’s not to say that they won’t find themselves shooting up the prospect rankings come the midseason updates, especially if they keep performing the way they are.
Two of these prospects are former priority draft picks that are finally coming into their own, and the other is a draft pick from last year showing that he should have gone much higher. We’ll start with possibly the most impressive of the bunch: Jake Gatewood.
Jake Gatewood, 1B Carolina Mudcats (Class A-Advanced)
After being drafted 38th overall by the Brewers in 2014 out of high school, everyone knew he would need some time to adjust; it just wasn’t expected to take two and a half years. After struggling immensely since signing, Gatewood has finally come into his own as a 21-year old. Through 27 games, he’s hitting .333/.439/.583 with 5 home runs and 13 RBI. That’s quite the contrast to his .240/.268/.391 line from last year. Lauded for his above average raw power, Gatewood is starting to show it off in game more consistently.
Gatewood’s approach at the plate receives the most credit for his resurgence. He has made significant alterations to his batting stance, most notably dropping his hands to create a more level swing path and utilizing a leg kick to improve his timing and rhythm. In addition, Gatewood started using contact lenses in the offseason, as his eyesight had slightly deteriorated. All of this has allowed him to succeed at the plate. A key indicator of the effect of these changes cannot only be seen in his slash line, but also in the amount of walks he has drawn thus far. In 126 games during 2016 Gatewood walked 18 times; in 27 games during 2017, he’s walked 18 times. Amazing what a couple of slight adjustments can do for a player, eh?
Monte Harrison, OF Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Class A)
Harrison was a product of the same draft class as Gatewood, going 50th overall to the Brewers in the 2nd Round. Always heralded for his extremely athletic ability, injuries have bogged Harrison down for much of his time in the Brewers’ system. Now that he’s finally healthy, he is showing that he can translate that athletic ability into baseball skills. Thus far, through 23 games for the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Harrison is hitting .286/.348/.571 with 6 home runs and 15 RBIs. Compared to his .221/.294/.337 slash line last year, Harrison has turned his fortunes around and is looking like the prospect everyone thought he was coming out of the draft.
Harrison possesses four above average tools with his power, speed, arm, and fielding ability. Even with a log jam of outfield prospects in the Brewers’ minor league ranks, there is always a spot for a player with that type of potential. Standing at 6’3”, 220 lbs., Harrison currently mans centerfield for the Timber Rattlers, and there’s no reason to believe that he can’t stick at that position going forward. If he ends up not, he would make an outstanding right fielder. The key for Harrison will be consistency, as he has never made it through a full season before. If he can avoid injury, look for him to continue to produce and shoot up prospect rankings following the year, in addition to a possible mid-season promotion to Class-A Advanced Carolina.
Corbin Burnes, P Carolina Mudcats (Class-A Advanced)
Since the Brewers selected Burnes in the 4th round of last year’s draft, he has been absolutely dominant. Between rookie ball and Class-A Wisconsin last year, he pitched to a 2.02 ERA while holding batters to a .185 average and striking out 41 in 35 and 2/3 innings of work. He’s right back at it again this year with Class-A Advanced Carolina, as he currently boasts a pearly 1.32 ERA and is holding batters to a .183 average. He surely is letting teams regret letting him slip down to the 4th round.
If he keeps pitching this effectively, a midseason promotion to Double-A Biloxi is certainly on the table. Numerous Brewers’ pitching prospects in their Top 30 could end up in the bullpen, such as Marcos Diplan, Freddy Peralta, and Phil Bickford, but Burnes looks like a lock to remain a starter. He has a four pitch mix, and should be able to improve at least one of his secondary pitches to offer a second plus pitch to go along with his fastball.
These three players look poised to continue their breakout success, and hopefully can ride it to the MLB in the next couple of years. Get excited Milwaukee; I have a feeling this is just the beginning of something special.