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Saturday, February 17th 2018
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CCC covering the Milwaukee Brewers

Chasing October: Brewers Top Prospects #16-20

After an unexpected postseason push and significant improvements from several players, the Brewers look to be in a position of the utmost strength moving forward. Whereas just last offseason it appeared the farm system was their only source of hope, the Crew is now in the position to use that same system to bolster its existing playoff-caliber roster, whether that be through trades or call-ups. While some top prospects seemingly took steps back, such as outfielder Corey Ray and infielder Isan Diaz, others leapt forward, including pitcher Corbin Burnes and outfielder Monte Harrison. All levels of the Brewers system are flush with talent, giving the big league team a shot to “chase October” and achieve sustained success in the near future.

In this 4-piece series, we will dive into my personal ranking of the Brewers’ top-20 prospects. These rankings are determined based off a combination of video and statistical analysis, along with intuition gained from available scouting reports. Before we get to the rankings, let me tell you something: this system is DEEP. While the Brewers do have some standout prospects at the top like Lewis Brinson, the top-20 could easily be a top-40. Kudos to the Brewers for acquiring such a stockpile of talent.

Without further adieu, here are your first five prospects (#16-20):

  1. Trey Supak, P

Acquired along with Keon Broxton in exchange for former Brewers’ first baseman Jason Rogers, Supak broke out in 2017. With a 6’5” frame and some remaining projectability, Supak looks to be the kind of guy that could succeed as a mid-to-back of the rotation starter in the future. Featuring a duo of above-average pitches with his fastball and curveball, it is crucial he continues to develop his change-up in order to give him a three-pitch mix.

In 2017, Supak started with the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He dominated in eight starts, pitching to a 1.76 ERA and striking out 11.63 batters per nine innings. This performance earned him a promotion to Class A-Advanced Carolina Mudcats. While he struggled initially, he ended the year strong by spinning a 3.14 ERA over his final ten starts. His strikeout rate dropped to 7.09 K/9 in Carolina, but this can possibly be attributed to the level adjustment. It is still somewhat concerning nonetheless. Look for Supak to start 2018 back in Carolina, with a possible mid-season promotion to Double-A Biloxi if he succeeds and bumps his strikeout rate back up.

  1. Phil Bickford, P

Bickford is a prime example of how fast things can change. Acquired at the 2016 trade deadline with catcher Andrew Susac in exchange for relief pitcher Will Smith, Bickford was at the time widely regarded as a top-100 prospect. However, following a second suspension for drug use, a broken hand, and reports of declining fastball velocity, Bickford has descended fast in scouting circles. He already faced questions about his ability to remain as a starter due to his inconsistency before these issues surfaced. Despite this, I still believe the former first-round pick has the potential to regain his prior form and develop into a solid contributor for the Crew, whether that be as a back-end starter or a high-leverage reliever.

Bickford relies primarily on his fastball and slider, both above-average pitches. While his fastball had previously been reported to top out around 96 miles per hour (mph), he usually sits in the 90-92 range. His ability to remain as a starter will depend on making his slider more consistent and further developing his change-up. In limited action, Bickford pitched to a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings spanning five games in 2017. He posted a concerning 5.29 BB/9, but it is important to remember that this was his first in-game action since breaking his throwing hand. All the tools are there with Bickford – he just needs to put it all together in 2018 to re-cement his status as a legitimate prospect.

  1. Caden Lemons, P

As the Brewers’ 2nd round draft pick in 2017, Lemons is the epitome of a “projection” pick. Standing 6’6” and weighing in at 175 lbs., Lemons still has some ways to go in his physical development, and he is about as raw as can be on the mound. However, he reaches 97 mph with his fastball, and that is what the Brewers drafted him for. They hope that as he fills out his frame, he will add more velocity and possibly end up in the 100+ mph range when all is said and done. If he can do that while polishing two of his secondary offerings, the sky is the limit for Lemons. Some have compared his ceiling to current Mets’ flamethrower Noah Syndergaard should everything in his development go perfectly.

One area Lemons needs to improve most is his control. He struggles to locate, and his off-speed pitches are especially inconsistent. While he could simply overpower hitters with his fastball in the high school ranks, developing his trio of secondary pitches (curveball, slider, changeup) will be an integral step to achieving his lofty ceiling, as they currently lag far behind. Lemons pitched sparingly in 2017 (2.2 innings in rookie ball with a 6.75 ERA), so you can likely expect him to be in Rookie-level Arizona or Helena next season.

  1. Jake Gatewood, 1B/3B

As a former supplemental first-round pick, Gatewood had not lived up to his billing entering 2017. That all changed when he unleashed a new and improved approach right out of the gate (see what I did there?). Always known as a power bat, Gatewood had been held back considerably by his extremely poor plate discipline. To illustrate, he walked just 3.4% of the time in 2016. Leap forward to 2017, and Gatewood improved that number nearly fivefold to over 15% in the month of April. While he regressed over the course of the season to finish at a sliver under 9%, he still displayed significant improvement.

Gatewood exhibited his well-noted raw power in 2017 as well. He doubled 40 times to supplement his 15 home runs, slugging .441 on the year. While that may seem low to some, both Carolina and Biloxi are considered to be relatively difficult hitting environments (Carolina especially), and Gatewood is still growing into his in-game power. He needs to cut down on his concerning strikeout rate (28% on the year), and if he can reduce that to the low 20’s, Gatewood could really break out in 2018.

In the field, Gatewood made the transition from third base to first base in order to accommodate prospect Lucas Erceg in Carolina. He grades out as above average at first base and probably right around average at third base with a “plus” arm, so the positional versatility should help his future fit with the big-league club.

  1. KJ Harrison, C/1B

Selected in the 3rd Round of the 2017 MLB Draft, Harrison can flat out rake. After hitting .313/.382/.498 as a Junior, he slashed .308/.388/.546 in his first taste of professional baseball at Rookie-Level Helena. With 10 home runs and 14 doubles in just 46 games, Harrison boasts a nice blend of power and contact ability that is hard to come by, especially for a potential catcher (we’ll get to that use of “potential” in a second). In addition, Harrison sports a good approach, walking over 10% of the time. The only place he seemingly needs significant work is his strikeout rate (25%).

Harrison in the field is another story. After primarily playing first base and DH-ing in college, the Brewers surprisingly drafted him as a catcher, a position he had played only sparingly since high school. The early reports from Helena were not pretty, as he struggled to control the running game and his receiving skills lagged far behind his peers. He ended up throwing out 26% of potential base-stealers, but he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to stay behind the plate. Becoming at least average defensively would significantly increase his value, as catchers with his type of bat are rare. He would still provide value at first base due to his hitting ability, but Harrison as a catcher is much more tantalizing.

The Piña Puzzle

If you would have told me last year that the Brewers were going to be playoff contenders in 2017, I would have laughed at you. I am sure a number of you felt the same way. In and with that, if you would have told me Manny Pina would be a key piece to that playoff chasing team’s puzzle, I would probably have thought twice before talking sports with you again. Well, if you were that person who predicted both of these things, you more than likely have super powers and I would appreciate it if you could use those powers to fix some things in society instead of settling for random sports insights.

Pina started off as a catcher in the Texas Rangers organization in 2004 and was traded to the Kansas City Royals organization in 2009. When he was 24, Pina was called up to the Royals and played in 4 games. He was called up the next year as well and only participated in 1 game and was granted free agency at the end of the year. Manny then signed with the Seattle Mariners in 2013, but was stored in the minors and traded to the Detroit Tigers in that same season. Finally, Pina found himself a home. In 2015, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers as a “player to be named later” along with Javier Betancourt for Francisco Rodriguez. Manny spent the front half of the 2016 season with Milwaukee’s AAA affiliate, Colorado Springs, but was called into action when former all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy was traded to the Texas Rangers.

Manny played sparingly in the back half of the 2016 season for the Brewers. He appeared in 33 games as he split time with Martin Maldonado who is now with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Pina hit a respectable .254/.346/.394 with 2 home runs and 12 RBI in 81 plate appearances, but the 29 year old catcher was not viewed as an integral part of the Brewers’ roster going forward. In fact, there were rumblings about the Brewers looking elsewhere at the catcher position. In the same year Pina was called up to the Brewers, the club traded for Andrew Susac from the San Francisco Giants who was viewed as useful player for the future. Along with that, the Brewers made a straight swap of the aforementioned Martin Maldonado for fellow catcher Jett Bandy. If that was not enough to doubt Manny getting playing time, all-star Matt Wieters was available on the free agent heap and the Brewers were rumored to be in on the sweepstakes.

156 games later, Andrew Susac is on the MLB roster, but is there because of September call-ups, Jett Bandy hit .206 over 59 games, and Matt Wieters is a Washington National. Through all of that, 30 year old rookie catcher Manny Pina has played in 107 games and has hit .279/.324/.424 with 9 home runs, and 43 RBI. On the defensive end, Manny is 10th in the MLB in defensive wins above replacement, 4th in least amount of passed balls, and 1st in catcher pickoffs. He has bolstered himself as a solid part of the lineup and a very good defensive catcher.

Now the question remains: Is Manny Pina the catcher of the future? The knock against him is that he is 30 years old, but Pina does not have a lot of mileage on him. In fact, he is actually considered a rookie this year based on service. His ability to throw runners out, let alone, keep them honest through his ability to pick them off have proved as a major tool in his success this year. As mentioned before, he leads the MLB in catcher pickoffs and he is 10th in the NL in DWAR. These are extremely important numbers at the catcher position as it essentially puts a stop sign up for runners who may be thinking about stealing. He is no slouch at the plate either. On top of the stats that he has put out this year, Pina has come up with some timely hits over the course of the year with the most noteable being a Bill Hall-esque 3-run bomb on Mother’s’ Day to put the Brewers on top.

Manny Pina is an enigma. He goes from being a guy who was on the verge of being cut from the club, to being the primary catcher and flourishes in that position. He becomes the “next man up” for a team that was worried about the position. He may be a stop gap solution, but he may also be the future. Ultimately, Manny Pina has developed from a career minor leaguer into a legitimate starting option at the catcher position. As I said before, if you predicted this was going to happen, don’t hide those talents under a bushel.

The Brewers’ Blueprint to a Competitive Rebuild

Baseball and Milwaukee go hand in hand. Ever since Bud Selig brought the sport back to the Cream City, his Brewers have provided an integral source of civic pride and enjoyment. In the summer months, Miller Park drums as the city’s collective heartbeat. In the winter, it stands as a reminder of the thrills and excitement yet to come.

“Yet to come.”

With the Brewers’ recent rebuilding efforts, words like those have held a heightened emphasis over the past two years. A clear majority of the focus surrounding the club centers around future success and achievement. While valid, what if I told you that the “yet to come” is already here?

The Brewers entered 2017 with the most modest of expectations. Many Vegas sports books pegged the team at just around 70 wins, and with sound reasoning. The Brewers appeared to lack effective starting pitching, with Jimmy Nelson coming off a rough campaign and Wily Peralta taking not steps, but full strides, backwards. Add in a line-up ravaged from trades and a bullpen without any clear order, and you see a team that seemed to be a shoo-in for last place in the division.

So, what changed? How did this group go from a filler-year squad to a legitimate playoff contender?

Rebuilding has become somewhat of a sports culture phenomenon over the last few years. Without the financial firepower to retain homegrown talent long term or to acquire top-flight players in free agency, small market teams must sell off their current on-field assets to acquire potential prospects and avoid a sunk cost. Multiple years of futility usually follow, a drastic example being the Houston Astros. After committing to rebuilding, they experienced three straight seasons of sub-60-win baseball from 2011-2013 before finally breaking through to the playoffs in 2015. Now, the Astros look to be a serious threat for the 2017 World Series crown.

The Brewers’ rebuilding project started at the 2015 trade deadline, as they traded several key players for minor league prospects. In the process of shedding their major-league assets, the Brewers acquired current contributors Domingo Santana, Josh Hader, Zach Davies and Brett Phillips. In the following offseason, the teardown continued and the Brewers brought in Jonathan Villar, Keon Broxton and Chase Anderson among others. The early results, for a year and a half of a hardcore “rebuilding” organizational mentality, are simply astounding.

Rebuilds are not supposed to work this fast. Many pegged 2019 as an arbitrary goal of when to expect the Brewers to compete. Yet the Crew entered the All-Star break leading the NL Central and rolled into September still firmly in the playoff hunt.

The difference between the timeline of the Brewers’ rebuild and a more traditional timeline like that of the Astros’ lies in the specific returns targeted by the Brewers during trades. Think of all those prospects the Brewers have acquired as “lottery tickets,” which is an accurate moniker for unproven minor-league talent. For many rebuilds, you hit on a couple of these tickets each year and then subsequently acquire more with your remaining expendable assets. Eventually, you field a team full of those successful lottery tickets accumulated over time, along with a sprinkling of effective free agent signings. For the Astros, this process took over four seasons. However, with the Brewers, they have seemed to hit the jackpot. Nearly all their tickets resulted in “winning numbers” right away.

What was the ideal return that the Brewers believed would result in “winning numbers,” and therefore a winning team? A package of prospects close to being major-league ready. This type of player (“lottery ticket”) inherently comes with less risk due to the fact that they have proven themselves over multiple levels of the minor leagues. The headlining returns of every big deal the Brewers pulled off resided in the upper-levels of the minors prior to being traded. In some cases, the Brewers’ targets were already at the major-league level, such as the acquisition of third baseman Travis Shaw. Add in the outstanding job of the Brewers’ scouting department in finding players they considered to have breakout potential and it became the perfect solution. This strategy allowed minimal time to pass between competitive cycles with the Brewers still having a surplus of remaining high-level prospects lurking in the minors and ready to significantly contribute over the next several years.

Therein lies why the ultimate “success” of the 2017 should not be judged upon the Brewers making the playoffs. With a plethora of elite talent remaining in the minors, the Brewers have pulled what many think is impossible for a small-market team: being playoff caliber before reaching the climax of their competitive potential. 2017 is not an “all-in” type of season like 2008 or 2011. 2017 is a rebuilding year in its purpose, yet has been a competitive year in its results. Those two usually do not coincide, which makes the 2017 Brewers one of the most intriguing teams in recent memory. The “yet to come” has arrived prematurely and is still in its beginning stages. With expectations at the outset of 2017 close to nil, the progression shown throughout the year and its corresponding successes are a treat none of us expected. This exciting realization should be the main takeaway at the culmination of the season, regardless of a playoff berth or not.

Even after reading this, many fans’ attitudes will still be “playoffs or bust.” Why? Because Milwaukee and baseball go hand in hand. This is about more than wins and losses to many. It is about identity, pride and passion. Brewers’ fans have packed Miller Park to the tune of over 31,000 fans per game, greater than the Washington Nationals, Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros, all division leaders in larger markets than Milwaukee. These Brewers’ faithful want some return on their investment of time, energy and emotion. Those of you that feel this way, I simply ask you to stay patient. The Brewers are still in the process of rising, and they are not even near their ceiling yet. This team could push into the playoffs this year. They could miss by a sliver. Either way, this season has provided a glimpse into just how bright the future is for your Milwaukee Brewers.

 

Brewers Week In Review: September 4-10

Well, this is getting interesting.

In a year of up-and-down weeks, the Brewers likely had their most up-and-down week this past week against a pair of division foes. First up was the Reds, the team who currently resides in the cellar of the NL Central. The Brewers proceeded to get swept in what may have been their ugliest series all year. Then came a three-game set at Wrigley Field against the division leading Chicago Cubs. The Brewers did not get swept this time around. In fact, they gave the Cubs a taste of the same medicine they had tasted just days earlier, handing the team from the North Side a sweep and pulling within just two games of the Cubs in the tight race for the division.

Now, let’s take a look at the week ahead for the Crew.

The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming series: vs. Pittsburgh (9/11-9/13) and @ Miami (9/15-9/17)

Pitching probables vs. Pittsburgh: Steven Brault (0-0, 5.79 ERA) vs. Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 1.52 ERA); Gerrit Cole (11-9, 3.93 ERA) vs. Brent Suter (2-2, 3.55 ERA); Tyler Glasnow (2-6, 7.45 ERA) vs. Chase Anderson (9-3, 2.93 ERA)

Pitching probables @ Miami: TBD vs. Adam Conley (6-7, 5.23 ERA; TBD vs. Odrisamer Despaigne (0-3, 4.38 ERA); TBD vs. TBD

Weekly Awards

Rollie Fingers Award for First-Team All-Swagger (player that went out “balls to the wall”)

Winner:

No one specific person will get this award this week, as the team as a whole showed a lot of swagger, specifically in knocking off the Cubs in Chicago. Going into a series where they needed at least a series win, they came through with a rather convincing sweep, in the process showing their rivals to the south that they are in no position to go away anytime soon.

The Robin Yount Award for Pure and Utter Dominance (Most Dominant Player)

Winner: Hernan Perez

Over the past few weeks, the Brewers offense has been called several things by the Milwaukee faithful on social media, including “anemic”, “pathetic” and “garbage”. However, a certain game this week changed that (at least for now). On Saturday, the Brewers dropped 15 runs on the Cubs on their way to a 15-2 victory to take game two and provide the catalyst for their eventual series sweep. A big part of that game was Hernan Perez, who drove in 5 runs, including a 2-run shot which wrapped around the foul pole. Even outside of that one specific great performance, the Crew’s utility man had a solid series in general, going 2-for-3 in his other appearance on Sunday.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Anthony Swarzak/Corey Knebel

Okay, I really couldn’t decide between these two as to who deserved this award more. Because of this, at the end of the day, I decided that they both deserved it. The Crew’s shutdown 8th/9th inning combo had a great series against Chicago, combining for 4 innings pitched and 8 strikeouts without walking a single Cubs batter.

Swarzak: 2 holds (19, 20), 2 IP, 4 K

Knebel: 2 saves (33, 34), 2 IP, 2 H, 4 K

If the Brewers are going to be able to make their way back from the depths into a playoff spot, the pitching staff is going to be key, as is the back end of the bullpen.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

Lewis Brinson (Brewers No. 1 Prospect; MLB.com’s #13 overall): .331, 22 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 11 SB (76 games) Currently out with hamstring injury

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .272, 15 2B, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 7 SB (58 games played with CS)

Lucas Erceg (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .400, 2 2B, 2 RBI (3 games)

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 12 Prospect): .305, 23 2B, 10 3B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 9 SB (105 games with CS)

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 3 Prospect; MLB.com’s #75 overall): 4-7, 4.01 ERA, 94.1 IP, 79 K, 37 BB, 1.23 WHIP, .227 Opponent AVG

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 7 Prospect): 3-3, 2.10 ERA, 85.2 IP, 84 K, 20 BB, 1.00 WHIP, .212 AVG

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 18 Prospect): .239, 4 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB (23 games)

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect; MLB.com’s #63 overall): .238, 29 2B, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 24 SB at A Adv Carolina (106 games)

Keston Hiura (Brewers No. 5 Prospect; MLB.com’s #88 overall): .333, 11 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI, 2 SB at A Wisconsin (27 games)

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): 3-4, 4.60 ERA, 72.1 IP, 57 K, 28 BB, 1.29 WHIP, .241 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 25 Prospect): .251, 16 2B, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 10 SB at A Wisconsin (104 games)

Brewers Week In Review: 8/28-9/3

Before we get into this edition of the Week In Review, the Brewers find themselves in a bit of a playoff race (not sure if you’ve heard or not). Here’s how they stack up (standings as of 9/3)

Standings Update:

National League Central

  1. Chicago Cubs: 75-61
  2. Milwaukee Brewers: 72-65 (3.5 GB)
  3. St. Louis Cardinals: 69-67 (6.0 GB)
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 65-72 (10.5 GB)
  5. Cincinnati Reds: 58-79 (17.5 GB)

National League Wild Card Standings:

1st Wild Card: Arizona Diamondbacks 79-58 (+6.5 games)

2nd Wild Card: Colorado Rockies 72-64

Milwaukee Brewers 72-65 (0.5 GB)

St. Louis Cardinals 69-67 (3.0 GB)

Miami Marlins 67-69 (5.0 GB)

Pittsburgh Pirates 65-72 (7.5 GB)

Well, they did it. After 13 games against some of the best that MLB had to offer (and the Giants), the Brewers have weathered the storm. After series wins against the Dodgers, Rockies and Nationals, the Crew escaped what was, according to some, a possible nail in the coffin may have become a major shot in the arm for a team that very much needed one headed into the season’s final 25 games.

The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming series: @ Cincinnati (9/4-9/6) and @ Chicago Cubs (9/8-9/10)

Pitching matchups @ Cincinnati: Chase Anderson (8-3, 2.96 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (4-7, 7.51 ERA); Zach Davies (16-7, 3.85 ERA) vs. Robert Stephenson (3-4, 5.52 ERA); TBD (likely Jimmy Nelson) vs. Luis Castillo (2-7, 3.32 ERA)

Pitching matchups @ Chicago Cubs: TBD vs. John Lackey (11-10, 4.74 ERA); TBD vs. TBD; TBD vs. TBD

Weekly Awards

Rollie Fingers Award for First-Team All-Swagger (player that went out “balls to the wall”)

Winner: Keon Broxton

His game-saving catch on Randal Grichuk and his reaction afterwards… that is all.

The Robin Yount Award for Pure and Utter Dominance (Most Dominant Player)

Winner: Domingo Santana

Who else could this award have gone to after his monster performance on Sunday to lead Milwaukee to a 7-2 victory, and crucial four game series win over, the Washington Nationals. Now, had Manny Pina gotten just a little more power on his swing on Saturday night to walk things off in his first at-bat back, he would have had a chance at this award. However, Santana takes it home as he continues to excel and truly live up to his first name on Sundays.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Zach Davies

On July 25th, I said on a Cream City Central Bumpers entry (go subscribe now) that we as Brewers fans would see the Zach Davies of old that night against the Nationals. In that game, the baby-faced pitcher would do just that (7.2 innings, 3 hits, 7 strikeouts, 3 walks). Little did I know at that time that he would save the jewel in his 2017 crown for the best of them all, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Davies, or as he was known in this game “Bat Boy”, was simply outstanding against the boys in blue. He pitched 7 innings of shutout baseball against one of the top offenses in the game while only allowing 3 hits and striking out 7 hitters without walking a single one. What better time for the Zach Davies of 2016 to come out again than when the Brewers need him most.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

Lewis Brinson (Brewers No. 1 Prospect; MLB.com’s #15 overall): .331, 22 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 11 SB (76 games) Currently out with hamstring injury

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .274, 15 2B, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 7 SB (56 games played with CS)

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 12 Prospect): .305, 23 2B, 10 3B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 9 SB (105 games with CS) September Call-Up

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 3 Prospect; MLB.com’s #78 overall): 4-7, 3.99 ERA, 90.1 IP, 78 K, 33 BB, 1.20 WHIP, .226 Opponent AVG

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 7 Prospect): 3-3, 2.10 ERA, 85.2 IP, 84 K, 20 BB, 1.00 WHIP, .212 AVG

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 18 Prospect): .259, 4 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB (21 games)

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect; MLB.com’s #66 overall): .236, 28 2B, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 24 SB at A Adv Carolina (110 games)

Keston Hiura (Brewers No. 5 Prospect; MLB.com’s #91 overall): .333, 10 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI, 2 SB at A Wisconsin (26 games)

Lucas Erceg (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .256, 33 2B, 15 HR, 81 RBI at A Adv Carolina (127 games); Called up to AAA Colorado Springs

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): 3-4, 4.60 ERA, 72.1 IP, 57 K, 28 BB, 1.29 WHIP, .241 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 25 Prospect): .251, 16 2B, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 10 SB at A Wisconsin (103 games)

 

Brewers Minor League Review: August

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)

Summary:

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)

Summary:

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)

Summary:

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)

Summary:

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!

The Intangibles Orlando Arcia Brings to Milwaukee

It is no question that this Brewers season has been an interesting one. From beginning the season projected to be basement dwellers, to leading by 5.5 games at the all-star break, to now a couple games back at the beginning of September, its safe to say this season has been a roller coaster.

There have been players like Domingo Santana, and Jimmy Nelson who have pleasantly surprised the ball club. Additionally, new acquisitions like Travis Shaw and Eric Thames who have made the front office look like they have a magic 8 ball hidden somewhere. That aside, there has been one player that has stood out and has brought life to the organization, Orlando Arcia.

Just off of his 23rd birthday, the young Venezuelan has flashed the leather all over the field since his debut. However, it is not just his defensive skills that have made their mark on Milwaukee. His average has risen to the .270-290 range for the last few months, and he is beginning to find power he rarely had down in the minors.

There is still more to Arcia’s game that makes him special, it’s the intangibles, or as they say,

“The things you can’t coach” –every coach ever.

Initially the first thing you notice, the energy he brings inside the clubhouse is incredible. The Brewers are a young team trying to exceed expectations, and it is beginning to seem like the leader of the pack is the young shortstop.

Another thing that stands out about El Niño’s defense is that he often calls off teammates on fly balls, even if the pop up isn’t close to him. At first glance it seems like that’s because he’s a gold glove caliber player, but it goes deeper than that. It shows that he not only is acknowledged as a great player by his teammates, but they trust him to make that play. Bottom line, they trust him as a leader, and that is something you can’t put a price on.

He is also the life at the end of “the gauntlet” for every homerun hit by the team, as he screams at the batters and/or splashes water in their face as they make their return to the dugout. If you have been asleep all season and haven’t seen this, it looks somewhat like this,

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Orlando is so into this, even if he is on the base paths when one of Counsell’s Crushers smacks one, he will run to the end of the gauntlet to celebrate accordingly. Can’t coach that.

Finally, he interacts with fans; he is a 23-year-old kid who is just having fun out there.Exhibit A, the ice cream incident:

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It may seem dumb, but it shows the fans of Milwaukee that this guy has a personality behind that smile, and it is only a matter of time before he could be the face that this franchise as been desperately waiting for.

Brewers Week In Review: 8/21-8/27

The toughest part of the season thus far for the Brewers has come and gone and, all told, things went pretty well. The Crew escaped Colorado, San Francisco and Los Angeles with a 5-4 record. There was some good (series win over Dodgers, pitching looked good) but also some bad (series loss to San Fran, falling victim to AT&T Park and Dodger Stadium dimensions). However, the road ahead gets no easier. The Crew’s reward? An always tough Cardinals squad that remains just 2.5 back of Milwaukee’s second spot despite recent struggles, as well as the NL East-leading Washington Nationals. If the Brewers can close in further on Chicago over the next six games, perhaps some scoreboard watching would be in order? We shall see.

For now, though, let’s catch a look at the week ahead.

The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming series: vs. St. Louis (8/29-8/30) and vs. Washington (8/31-9/3)

Pitching probables vs. St. Louis: Luke Weaver (2-1, 2.31 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (6-7, 4.67 ERA); Carlos Martinez (10-9, 3.48 ERA) vs. Chase Anderson (7-3, 2.87 ERA)

Pitching probables vs. Washington: Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 2.40 ERA) vs. Zach Davies (15-7, 3.91 ERA); Tanner Roark (11-8, 4.63 ERA) vs. Jimmy Nelson (10-6, 3.75 ERA); TBD vs. Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 1.62 ERA); Max Scherzer (13-5, 2.21 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (6-8, 4.77 ERA)

Weekly Awards

Rollie Fingers Award for First-Team All-Swagger (player that went out “balls to the wall”)

Winner: Hernan Perez

With a west coast trip brings some California swagger. Add to that all the pageantry that came with the inaugural Player’s Weekend, and you have several candidates for this award. However, Hernan “Pan Blanco” Perez takes home this award this week. He hit the most important home runs in some time for the Brewers with a third inning solo shot off of Yu Darvish that helped propel the Brewers to the series win, the first team do accomplish such a feat over the Dodgers since June 5-7 when Washington took the Brooklyn transplants down.

The Robin Yount Award for Pure and Utter Dominance (Most Dominant Player)

Winner: Domingo Santana

So, with no one really jumping off the page this week in terms of dominance, I went with the person who performed the best in the team’s wins, even though he did perform pretty well in one of their losses too. That man is Domingo Santana (yeah, it was a somewhat boring week). Hopefully, the Crew can return to their offensive ways in this coming week and make the next award winner much more dominant.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Corey Knebel

Well, should we really consider renaming this award? Put me down as a maybe, but Knebel has certainly found himself in this spot a lot, as he does here. The Crew’s main man in the ‘pen had plenty of opportunity this week, as he notched saves 27, 28 and 29 as well as racking up 5 strikeouts in just 3 innings pitched, including a pair in both outings against the league’s best in Los Angeles. A man who has sometimes looked more like a reincarnation of K-Rod and his “15 minutes of terror”, this week showed a Knebel who seems to have found his footing again and can be a reliable part of the Brewers’ playoff hopes.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

Lewis Brinson (Brewers No. 1 Prospect; MLB.com’s #15 overall): .331, 22 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 11 SB (76 games) Currently out with hamstring injury

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .273, 14 2B, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 7 SB (51 games played with CS)

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 12 Prospect): .309, 23 2B, 10 3B, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 9 SB (103 games with CS)

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 3 Prospect; MLB.com’s #78 overall): 4-7, 3.99 ERA, 90.1 IP, 78 K, 33 BB, 1.20 WHIP, .226 Opponent AVG

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 7 Prospect): 3-3, 2.18 ERA, 82.2 IP, 82 K, 17 BB, 0.97 WHIP, .209 AVG

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 18 Prospect): .275, 4 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 SB (17 games)

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect; MLB.com’s #66 overall): .242, 28 2B, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 24 SB at A Adv Carolina (106 games)

Keston Hiura (Brewers No. 5 Prospect; MLB.com’s #91 overall): .347, 9 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI, 2 SB at A Wisconsin (24 games) Currently on 7-day DL

Lucas Erceg (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .257, 32 2B, 14 HR, 77 RBI at A Adv Carolina (124 games)

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): 3-4, 4.60 ERA, 72.1 IP, 57 K, 28 BB, 1.29 WHIP, .241 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 25 Prospect): .252, 16 2B, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 9 SB at A Wisconsin (101 games)

King of the Diamond- Week of 8/14-8/20

If this is your first time checking out King of the Diamond pieces, here’s what you can look forward to seeing:

Every week we will look at which Milwaukee Brewer stood out from a game changing performance, or provided consistent production over the previous week. We will do the same for one other player within the NL Central (Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, Pirates).

The Brewers put together a solid week, sweeping the Pirates in a two-game series and taking two out of three in Colorado. The series win against the Rockies was huge as it showed the Crew could compete on the road with a playoff contender. They now look ahead to a series with the Giants and a pivotal weekend series against the Dodgers before returning home on August 29th.

King of the Diamond- Jesus Aguilar

Image result for jesus aguilar

Jesus Aguilar picks up this week’s Diamond award after crucial, game-changing performances against the Rockies. Despite only playing in three games last week, Aguilar homered three times in two games played against the Rockies, including a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning to seal a 6-3 game two victory. Aguilar wasn’t done yet, as he rounded the bases twice more the following day in an 8-4, series clinching win. He has struggled for quite some time, and it would appear that he has overcame his extended drought at the plate. Aguilar may not be an every day player for the Crew, but he deserves at-bats as the playoff race continues to heat up.

King of the Diamond- Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

Image result for anthony rizzo

The Cubs split a four-game series with the Reds to begin the week but finished it off with a sweep of the Blue Jays. Anthony Rizzo’s hot bat earns him our divisional Diamond award this week. Playing in every game last week, Rizzo went 12-for-28 with two home runs and 13 RBI’s. The first baseman performed in the clutch and continues to be a vital starter for the Cubs as we move into the latter part of August. The Cubs own a two-game lead over the Brewers and 3.5 games on the Cardinals, who appear to be fading.

 

 

Brewers Week In Review: 8/14-8/20

Milwaukee entered the middle of August needing some big wins to keep pace with the Cubs near the top of the NL Central, and it’s safe to say they got them. After a 2-game series win over Pittsburgh at Miller Park, the Brewers began their critical 9-game road trip out west with a visit to Colorado and, beneficially, Coors Field. The environment brought some aid to the Crews’ struggling offense, as power hitters shined and players both tenured and new recorded much-needed base hits. With series against San Fran and L.A. on the horizon, will the Brewers’ hot streak continue?

Let’s take a moment to look at the week ahead.

The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming series: @ San Francisco (8/21-8/23) and @ Los Angeles Dodgers (8/25-8/27)

Pitching probables @ San Francisco: Zach Davies (14-6, 4.26 ERA) vs. Chris Stratton (1-2, 4.91 ERA); Jimmy Nelson (9-6, 3.74 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.79 ERA); Matt Garza (6-7, 4.81 ERA) vs. Matt Moore (4-12, 5.54 ERA)

Pitching probables @ Los Angeles: Chase Anderson (7-2, 2.83 ERA) vs. Kenta Maeda (11-5, 3.88 ERA); Zach Davies (14-6, 4.26 ERA) vs. Alex Wood (14-1, 2.30 ERA); Jimmy Nelson (9-6, 3.74 ERA) vs. TBD

Weekly Awards

Rollie Fingers Award for First-Team All-Swagger (player that went out “balls to the wall”)

Winner: Neil Walker

The new guy makes his way into the awards section of the Brewers Week In Review. Since coming to the Crew, Neil Walker has played great, hitting 9-for-20 with 1 home run and 5 RBIs. Also, to be honest, there really wasn’t anyone else that I could think of to put in this spot, as everyone just played solid baseball rather than go “balls to the wall” so to speak. However, that is not to say in the slightest that Neil Walker doesn’t deserve the heck out of this award.

The Robin Yount Award for Pure and Utter Dominance (Most Dominant Player)

Winner: Jesus Aguilar

Until the last two games of the Rockies series, this award may have gone to one Neil Walker. However, I mean, come on. How can you beat two home runs, both of which turned out to be crucial in terms of insurance for the Brewers in their series win, the award has to go to Aguilar this week. Not only was this the best week of the season for Aguilar, it may just have given him the edge over Eric Thames when it comes to the battle of first basemen for the rest of the stretch run.

The Ben Sheets Award for Best Heat (Best Pitcher)

Winner: Chase Anderson

Just like two weeks ago, the Ben Sheets Award goes to a pitcher who waited a long time for his next opportunity to come. This time, it’s Anderson. Making his first appearance following a serious oblique injury in June against Cincinnati, the right-hander impressed. While he was on a limited pitch count (threw just 73 pitches in 5 innings), he was often dominant in shutting down Colorado’s potent offense, giving up just two hits and one run while striking out four and notching his seventh win of the year. While he did struggle with walks and the bullpen did make things a bit… interesting near the end, Anderson did get the job done in his return, one which came just in time for Milwaukee in their pursuit of a playoff push.

Prospect Update

AAA: Colorado Springs

Lewis Brinson (Brewers No. 1 Prospect; MLB.com’s #15 overall): .331, 22 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 11 SB (76 games) Currently out with hamstring injury

Mauricio Dubon (Brewers No. 9 Prospect): .268, 13 2B, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 7 SB (46 games played with CS)

Brett Phillips (Brewers No. 12 Prospect): .316, 23 2B, 10 3B, 19 HR, 76 RBI, 9 SB (98 games with CS)

AA: Biloxi Shuckers

Luis Ortiz (Brewers No. 3 Prospect; MLB.com’s #79 overall): 4-6, 4.00 ERA, 83.1 IP, 75 K, 32 BB, 1.19 WHIP, .220 Opponent AVG

Corbin Burnes (Brewers No. 7 Prospect): 3-3, 2.20 ERA, 69.2 IP, 72 K, 10 BB, 0.95 WHIP, .217 AVG

Jake Gatewood (Brewers No. 18 Prospect): .289, 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB (10 games)

 

A: Carolina Mudcats/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Corey Ray (Brewers No. 2 Prospect; MLB.com’s #67 overall): .239, 25 2B, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 23 SB at A Adv Carolina (100 games)

Keston Hiura (Brewers No. 5 Prospect; MLB.com’s #92 overall): .347, 9 2B, 2 3B, 15 RBI, 2 SB at A Wisconsin (24 games) Currently on 7-day DL

Lucas Erceg (Brewers No. 10 Prospect): .246, 29 2B, 13 HR, 70 RBI at A Adv Carolina (118 games)

Trey Supak (Brewers No. 16 Prospect): 3-4, 4.81 ERA, 67.1 IP, 55 K, 26 BB, 1.31 WHIP, .244 AVG at Adv A Carolina

Mario Feliciano (Brewers No. 25 Prospect): .249, 14 2B, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 9 SB at A Wisconsin (94 games)