The 2016 Milwaukee Brewers Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: After peaking as the #3 book among all baseball books on Amazon last year, my new book, The 2016 Prospect Digest Handbook, is on sale! Check it out here!

And for those wondering what CALs are, here’s an article on the Comparison And Likeness program I designed.

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1. Orlando Arcia, SS                                                  
Born: 08/04/94 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Jorge Polanco, Jose Pirela,

Francisco Lindor, Odubel Herrera, Reegie Corona

Height: 6-0 Weight: 165 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 A 486 14 5 4 0.251 0.314 0.333 0.081 7.2% 8.2% 84
2014 19 A+ 546 29 5 4 0.289 0.346 0.392 0.102 7.7% 11.9% 113
2014 19 A+ 546 29 5 4 0.289 0.346 0.392 0.102 7.7% 11.9% 113
2015 20 AA 552 37 7 8 0.307 0.347 0.453 0.146 5.4% 13.2% 126

Background: “Arcia’s one of the biggest sleeper prospects in all of baseball.” That’s how I concluded the write-up on the 6-foot, 165-pound shortstop out of Venezuela. In last year’s book I ranked Arcia as Milwaukee’s #1 prospect – ahead of a surging Clint Coulter, in front of the club’s most recent first round pick, 12th overall, Kodi Medeiros,  and besting toolsy center fielder – and another personal favorite – Tyrone Taylor. Well, Arcia isn’t a sleeper prospect anymore – not after his dominant showing in the Southern League. After making his debut in the Dominican Summer League at the age of 16, Arcia would eventually miss his entire sophomore campaign as he recovered from a broken ankle. And this is where the front office made one of the boldest moves imaginable when it comes to player development: when Arcia returned to full health for the start of 2013, Milwaukee pushed the then-18-year-old up to the Midwest League – despite (A) being one of the youngest players in the level, (B) completely bypassing all the stateside rookie and short-season leagues, and (C) having missed a full season of action.

Arcia responded by hitting .251/.314/.333, a showing that appears far less impressive without the proper context.

He would earn another aggressive promotion up to High Class A the following season, hitting .289/.346/.392 en route to topping the league average production mark by 13%. And then he set the baseball world ablaze…

Arcia took off like a bat-out-of-hell to open the 2015 season: he slugged .409/.468/.545 in the season’s opening month and was sporting an impressive .341/.393/.495 by the time the end of May rolled around. He cooled off a bit in June (.247/.267/.361), but rebounded to hit .305/.341/.459 over his final 59 games. He finished the year with a .307/.347/.453 triple-slash line with career bests in doubles (37), triples (seven), homeruns (eight) while swiping 25 bags and topping the league average mark by 26%.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

Consider this little comparison between 19-year-old middle infielders in the FSL:

  • Player A:        .302/.340/.391 with a 112 wRC+
  • Arcia:              .289/.346/.392 with a 113 wRC+

 

Player A is none other than one of the most dynamic young shortstops in baseball right now – Starlin Castro. You get the sense that Arcia’s offensive game is just going to explode once his body begins to catch up with his level of competition. Above-average speed, improving power that could top out in the 15-HR range and a ton of youth; add it all up and Arcia’s one of the biggest sleeper prospects in all of baseball.

Just to add some additional context to his 2015 numbers, consider the following:

  • Among all hitters with 400+ plate appearances, Arcia’s overall production, 126 wRC+, was the best showing among all 20-year-olds in the Southern League. It also bested a couple offensively-minded 20-year-old top prospects as well (Nomar Mazara and J.P. Crawford).

So here’s where we stand with Arcia after his wildly successful 2015 season: he’s still showing above-average speed with a below-average walk rate, but the power has blossomed – and is still blossoming – into double-digit homer territory. Add in defensive value, and Arcia has a chance to peak as an All-Star caliber shortstop – perhaps as soon as 2017.

Ceiling: 3.5- to 4.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016/2017

 

2. Brett Phillips, LF/CF                                                  
Born: 05/30/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Aaron Cunningham, Jake Marisnick,

Gregory Polanco, Josh Reddick, Dalton Pompey

Height: 6-0 Weight: 180 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 19 R 113 7 1 0 0.247 0.371 0.353 0.106 15.0% 18.6% 114
2014 20 A 443 21 12 13 0.302 0.362 0.521 0.219 8.1% 17.2% 148
2014 20 A+ 128 8 2 4 0.339 0.421 0.560 0.220 10.9% 15.6% 156
2015 21 A+ 322 19 7 15 0.320 0.379 0.588 0.268 6.8% 19.9% 159
2015 21 AA 145 8 4 1 0.321 0.372 0.463 0.142 5.5% 17.9% 134
2015 21 AA 98 7 3 0 0.250 0.361 0.413 0.163 14.3% 30.6% 120

Background: One of the top prospects in a heavily loaded Houston farm system, Milwaukee acquired Philips – along with polished lefty Josh Hader, enigmatic outfielder Domingo Santana, and right-hander Adrian Houser – from the Astros prior to the trade deadline in exchange for All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez and underrated veteran Mike Fiers. Phillips, a former sixth round pick out of Seminole High School in 2012, had a massive coming out party two years ago when he robustly slugged .310/.375/.529 with 29 doubles, 14 triples, 17 homeruns, and 23 stolen bases as he spent time between Quad Cities and Lancaster. The toolsy outfielder responded by mashing to the tune of .320/.379/.588 for 66 games – though those numbers drop to .297/.356/.528 once adjusted for the park, according to StatCorner – before earning a promotion up to the minors’ most daunting Challenge: Class AA.

And Phillips hardly missed a beat.

In his final 31 games in the Astros’ development engine, Phillips batted .321/.372/.463 en route to topping the Texas League offensive average by 34%. Milwaukee would send their shiny new prospect to their respective Class AA affiliate, the Biloxi Shuckers in the Southern League, for another 23 games.

Phillips would finish the year with an aggregate .309/.374/.527 – an eerily similar showing from the previous year.

Projection: Outside of once-in-a-generational talents like Bryce Harper or Mike Trout, if one would build an outfielder from the ground up it might resemble something similar to Phillips. He shows a tremendous eye at the plate, ranging from above-average to plus at time. He’s equipped with the rare combination of power and speed with a 20/20 big league season on the horizon. He handles lefties and righties well, makes consistent contact, and has handled older competition with aplomb.

And CAL seems to be a fan as well, comparing him to a quartet of potentially above-average big league outfielders in Jake Marisnick, Gregory Polanco, Josh Reddick, and Dalton Pompey.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016/2017

 

3. Jacob Nottingham, C/1B                                         
Born: 04/03/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Gary Sanchez, Tyler Marlette,

Luis Exposito, Alex Murphy, Juan Apodaca

Height: 6-3 Weight: 230 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 18 R 173 10 2 1 0.247 0.347 0.363 0.116 12.1% 22.0% 114
2014 19 R 200 10 1 5 0.230 0.307 0.385 0.155 9.0% 27.0% 98
2015 20 A 253 18 1 10 0.326 0.387 0.543 0.217 7.1% 20.2% 169
2015 20 A+ 258 15 1 7 0.306 0.357 0.468 0.162 5.8% 18.6% 123

Background: And this is how the A’s do it: Never afraid of taking calculated risks, Oakland signed a resurgent Scott Kazmir during the 2012/2013 offseason to a two-year deal; a year-and-a-half later the organization turned around and dealt the southpaw to the contending Astros for Nottingham and right-hander Daniel Mengden. Nottingham, a sixth round pick in 2013, was in the midst of a breakout season before being dealt; he batted .326/.387/.543 with 29 extra-base hits in 59 games in the Midwest League and continued to torch the California League for his final 17 games in the Houston franchise (.324/.368/.606). After his acquisition, the A’s kept him in the Cal League and he continued to mash: .299/.352/.409. His final 2015 triple-slash line: .316/.372/.505 with 33 doubles, one triple, and 17 homeruns.

Projection: One of the bigger risers in 2015, Nottingham always had a firm foundation in place prior to his coming out party: over his first two professional seasons he walked in 10.5% of his plate appearances and posted a solid-average .137 Isolated Power, both traits typically sought out by Oakland (and other analytically savvy front offices). Last season the patience took a little bit of a step backward, which isn’t too worrisome given his ability to make strong contact, and the power took another step forward. Defensively, he continues to split time from behind the plate and first base, but he’s been fairly valuable donning the tools of ignorance, having thrown out about 40% of would-be base stealers of the last two seasons. I like Nottingham, a lot actually. He has the skill set in place to be one of the top minor league backstops come this time next year.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

4. Kodi Medeiros, LHP                                              
Born: 05/25/96 Age: 20 Bats: L Top CALs: Robbie Ray, Frank Lopez,

Eduardo Sanchez, Jack Flaherty, David Holmberg

Height: 6-2 Weight: 180 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 17.7 0 2 7.13 4.94 13.25 6.62 28.0% 14.0% 1.02 48.3%
2015 19 A 93.3 4 5 4.44 2.96 9.06 3.86 23.5% 10.0% 0.00 60.9%

Background: Hailing from paradise – quite literally – Milwaukee grabbed the fireball-slinging southpaw out of a Hawaiian high school with the 12th overall pick in the 2014. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound southpaw was the seventh hurler taken that year, though he was just the second prep lefty. Medeiros had a fairly positive debut in the Arizona Summer League two years ago, sans a horrific start against the Dodgers’ farm team. He would finish the year with 26 strikeouts in 17.1 innings. Milwaukee opted – unsurprisingly given their precedent with past top prospects – to push Medeiros up to the Midwest League for the start of 2015. And as one of just seven teenage arms to throw 90+ innings in the league, Medeiros would finish his first taste of full season action by fanning 23.5% and walking 10.0% of the total batters he faced en route to finishing with an impressive 2.96 FIP.

Projection: Here’s how the wiry southpaw stacks up against all other hurlers to throw at least 90 innings in either Low Class A league:

  • His strikeout percentage, 23.5%, ranked 12th.
  • His 2.93 FIP ranked the 7th lowest.
  • His strikeout rate, 9.06 K/9, ranked as the 9th highest.

And perhaps the single best statistic: his generated a 61.5% groundball rate last season.

Again, that’s for hurlers with at least 90 innings in either the Midwest or South Atlantic Leagues. One of the knocks on the promising lefty coming out of the draft was his low arm slot, perhaps creating an advantage for right-handed bats that will inevitably see the ball longer. But so far righties haven’t had too much success against Medeiros: they batted a lowly .241/.339/.285 against him last season. His control still has a bit to go, but Medeiros looks like a potential mid-rotation-caliber arm.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

5. Jorge Lopez, RHP                                               
Born: 02/10/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Jeanmar Gomez, Jason Adam,

Jon Moscot, James Houser, Kyle Lobstein

Height: 6-3 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A 117.0 7 8 5.23 4.67 7.08 3.69 17.9% 9.4% 1.00 62.3%
2014 21 A+ 137.7 10 10 4.58 3.88 7.78 3.01 20.4% 7.9% 0.78 64.3%
2015 22 AA 143.3 12 5 2.26 3.36 8.60 3.27 24.0% 9.1% 0.57 83.5%

Background: The system’s pitching equivalent of Orlando Arcia, Lopez had his own breakout season in Class AA in 2015. A second round pick out of Caguas Military Academy in Puerto Rico in 2011, Lopez looked a bit underwhelming during his first two professional seasons: he tossed only 12 innings during his debut in the Arizona Summer League and followed that up with some up-and-down moments as he split his 2012 season between the Dominican and Arizona Summer Leagues. But the front office began to challenge the 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander a year later as they pushed him up to Wisconsin in the Midwest League; he finished with an unsightly – or downright ugly – 5.23, the second consecutive season in which he posted an ERA in the 5.00s. Undeterred, however, Milwaukee continued to challenge Lopez as they bumped him up to Brevard County in 2014, and his number started to tick upward: 137.1 IP, 119 K, 46 BB, and a 3.88 FIP.

And that trend continued all the way through last season with The Shuckers.

In 24 starts in the Southern League, Lopez set career bests in innings (143.1), ERA (2.26), FIP (3.36), strikeout percentage (21.7%), and strikeout-to-walk percentage (14.9%). He would also toss another 10 innings in Milwaukee in two late-season starts as well.

Projection: Lopez has quietly built a strong case to be included in the team’s depleted Opening Day rotation, one that currently includes Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann, Zach Davies, and Matt Garza. When he’s at his best, Lopez pumps his sinking fastball in the low- to mid-90s – which has generated groundball rates hovering around 50% in the minors – to go along with a low-80s curveball, and hard changeup. He has the look of a potential #3/#4-type arm.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

6. Trent Clark, CF                                                        
Born: 11/01/96 Age: 19 Bats: L Top CALs: Aaron Hicks, Cornelius Randolph,

Jesse Winker, Royce Consigli, Brandon Diaz

Height: 6-0 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 18 R 52 0 0 1 0.310 0.431 0.381 0.071 17.3% 15.4% 119
2015 18 R 200 7 6 1 0.309 0.422 0.442 0.133 15.0% 18.0% 154

Background: For the third consecutive time the Brewers grabbed a promising high school prospect in the opening round – though it should be noted that this doesn’t include 2013 when the club didn’t own a first round pick. Clark got off to an impressive start in his burgeoning professional career, hitting a combined .309/.424/.430 between his stops in the Arizona Summer and Pioneer Leagues.

Projection: Obviously, the sample size is still quite limited, just over 250 plate appearances, but Clark showcased an impressive offensive toolkit during his debut: a tremendous eye at the plate to help utilize his above-average to plus-speed, gap-to-gap power (he slugged seven doubles, six triples, and one homerun), and a strong hit tool. He’s likely to spend his 2016 season in the Midwest League where we’ll have a better feel for his status as a (potential) top prospect.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

7. Devin Williams, RHP                                               
Born: 09/21/94 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: Torey Deshazier, Jake Newberry,

Eduar Lopez, Tyler Cravy, Alexander Santana

Height: 6-3 Weight: 165 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 18 R 34.7 1 3 3.38 4.01 10.13 5.71 24.7% 13.9% 0.00 68.5%
2014 19 R 66.3 4 7 4.48 4.02 8.95 2.71 23.2% 7.0% 0.68 64.0%
2015 20 A 89.0 3 9 3.44 3.28 9.00 3.64 23.5% 9.5% 0.30 69.4%

Background: Combined with Kodi Medeiros, David Burkhalter, Angel Ventura, and Cy Sneed, Williams helped the Timber Rattlers form one of the better – and deeper – rotations in the lower levels of the minors last season. A 2013 second round pick out of Hazelwood High School, home to former big leaguer Kyle McClellan, Williams hasn’t been thrust through the system as quickly as some of his counterparts. He opened his career up in the Arizona Summer League three years ago, posting a solid 39-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34.2 innings. But the club opted to push him only up to the Pioneer League the next season instead of sending him straight into Low Class A – a decision that was more likely than not precipitated by his control issues. And it proved to the right decision: he walked 20 in 66.0 innings of work with Helena while averaging a punch out per inning.

He finally made it up to the Midwest League last season. And he shined.

Like Medeiros and Burkhalter, Williams offered up a promising 89-to-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 89.0 innings. He finished the year with a 3.44 ERA and a slightly better 3.28 FIP.

Projection: Continually offering up an above-average ability to miss bats, Williams has proven on back-to-back occasions that his control issues three years ago were just a tiny blip on the map. Since walking 5.7 BB/9 in 2013, he’s averaged a solid 3.25 BB/9. Williams is another mid-rotation caliber arm, sliding between Medeiros and Burkhalter.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

8. Michael Reed, OF                                                
Born: 11/18/92 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Brandon Nimmo, Robbie Grossman,

Shane Peterson, Aaron Hicks, Daryl Jones

Height: 6-0 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 20 A 539 23 13 1 0.286 0.385 0.400 0.114 13.2% 20.0% 125
2014 21 A+ 457 20 5 5 0.255 0.396 0.378 0.123 17.1% 17.3% 130
2015 22 AA 377 20 5 5 0.278 0.379 0.422 0.144 14.1% 21.2% 129
2015 22 AAA 148 13 2 0 0.246 0.351 0.381 0.135 13.5% 20.9% 100
2015 22 MLB 6 1 0 0 0.333 0.333 0.500 0.167 0.0% 50.0% 123

Background: An on-base percentage dynamo, the speedy Texas-born outfielder continued to ride his wave of high walk rates into another solid, some would say underrated, season. After looking lost and overmatched during his first two professional seasons, Reed established himself as a solid prospect during his 2013 stint in the Midwest League when he batted .286/.385/.400. He followed that up with an even better showing in High Class A the following season – at least in terms of overall production as measured by Weighted Runs Created Plus – when he hit .255/.396/.378 with a 130 wRC+. Reed spent the majority of last year in Biloxi, but made brief stints in the PCL and an even shorter tenure as a late season call-up in Milwaukee.

Projection: Speed, incredibly strong walk rates, and enough power to keep most pitchers honest. It’s really a dangerous combination for opponents. Reed is sporting an incredible 14.1% walk rate for his career. The hit tool isn’t particularly strong, but the power’s been slowly coming along. His yearly ISOs since 2013: .114, .123, and .141. Add it all up and you’re talking about a potential better than average big league regular.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016/2017

 

9. Josh Hader, LHP                                                      
Born: 04/07/94 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Randall Delgado, Luke Jackson,

Jordan Walden, Edwin Diaz, Johnny Barbato

Height: 6-3 Weight: 160 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 19 A 85.0 3 6 2.65 3.93 8.36 4.45 21.4% 11.4% 0.42 67.6%
2013 19 A 22.3 2 0 3.22 4.05 6.45 4.84 17.2% 12.9% 0.00 73.3%
2014 20 A+ 103.3 9 2 2.70 4.10 9.75 3.31 26.6% 9.0% 0.78 74.5%
2014 20 AA 20.0 1 1 6.30 4.87 10.80 7.20 25.5% 17.0% 0.90 65.2%
2015 21 AA 65.3 3 3 3.17 3.47 9.51 3.31 24.2% 8.4% 0.69 70.4%
2015 21 AA 38.7 1 4 2.79 2.81 11.64 2.56 32.9% 7.2% 0.70 76.1%

Background: Proving yet again that minor league awards and organizational recognitions are meaningless, Hader was named the California League Pitcher of the Year and Houston’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year after his successful 2014 season. And then he was traded by the Astros a handful of months later as part of the package for All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez. Hader spent all of last season hurling games in Class AA, despite changing organizations. In a combined 104.0 innings, Hader posted a 119-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with a 3.03 ERA. For his career the 6-foot-3, 160-pound southpaw out of Old Mill High School has averaged 9.9 punch outs and 3.8 walks every nine innings spanning his four-year career.

Projection: At 6-foot-3 and barely a dried plantain slice above 160 pounds, Hader’s consistently missed a whole lot of bats – no more important that the 10.3 K/9 he fanned last season in Class AA, the minors’ most important level. The control is subpar, but it’s not too far off from being average. He looks like a solid bet to develop into a #4-type arm. And there’s a chance he takes another step into a legitimate #3. He could be an Erik Bedard if everything breaks the right way.

One final note: CAL is incredibly impressed by Hader by comparing him to Randall Delgado, Luke Jackson, Jordan Walden, Edwin Diaz, and Johnny Barbato.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2016

 

10. Zach Davies, RHP                                                      
Born: 02/07/93 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Jonathon Niese, Eduardo Rodriguez,

James Parr, Randall Delgado, Jameson Taillon

Height: 6-0 Weight: 160 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A+ 148.7 7 9 3.69 3.28 7.99 2.30 21.3% 6.1% 0.61 66.3%
2014 21 AA 110.0 10 7 3.35 3.30 8.92 2.62 23.4% 6.9% 0.65 70.3%
2015 22 AAA 101.3 5 6 2.84 3.08 7.19 2.93 19.3% 7.9% 0.36 77.1%
2015 22 AAA 27.0 1 2 5.00 4.45 7.00 4.00 16.4% 9.4% 0.67 70.5%

Background: On July 31st, 2014, the Brewers flipped underrated southpaw Anthony Banda and first round bust Mitch Haniger to the Diamondbacks for Gerardo Parra. One year later, to the day, Milwaukee flipped the quintessential league average outfielder to the Orioles for right-armed stick-figure known as Zach Davies. Originally taken in the late, late rounds of the 2011 draft, Davies, who stands an average 6-foot but weighs in at an Olive Oyl-esque 160 pounds, has quickly – and quietly – moved up the minor league ladder. The rail-thin starter made his pro debut in the Midwest League a year after being selected in the 26th round; he would average 7.2 punch outs and 3.6 walks per nine innings. He would follow that up with an even better showing in the Carolina League in 2013: 148.2 IP, 132 K, 38 BB, and a 3.28 FIP. He would eventually make stops in the Eastern, International, and Pacific Coast Leagues over the next two seasons before making a six-start debut in Milwaukee.

Projection: Fringy upper-80s fastball highlighted by his strong pitchability and a trio of secondary offerings (cutter, changeup, and curveball), Davies hasn’t really shown anything but success in professional baseball, including his six-game stint with the Brewers. He obviously won’t throw it by anyone, but he does everything else well enough. CAL is obviously a big fan, comparing him to Jonathan Niese, Eduardo Rodriguez, Randall Delgado, and Jameson Taillon.

Ceiling: 1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

 

 

Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.