Have I only written about Brewers prospects here, and has it taken me four months to update? Dreadful!
With spring training winding down for the Milwaukee Brewers, it's time for some system fun: what will the system look like in midseason 2017? What will the system look like with graduates to the MLB, steps forward and backward in the minors, injuries, etc.? For this exercise, I have made a couple key assumptions: (a) there is no draft or international signing period for these purposes (nor are there any trades), and (b) players that make the MLB in 2017 will not be ranked as prospects. After all, if I'm saying "Jon Perrin will surprise as rotational depth and reach the MLB," it does not really matter if I think he's the 10th best prospect or 25th best prospect in the system; he made the show, and that places him leaps and bounds ahead of the system by making the MLB.
So, this is a pure internal logic measurement: what will the Brewers' own system look like with no additions, no subtractions, in 2017?
LINK: Brewers Projections:
(1) MLB Additions
Assume that a minor league system circulates around 210 players in a year -- approximately 30 players per level, seven levels (DSL / R / R / A / A+ / AA / AAA), including injuries. In this case, graduating even four players to the MLB in a season is solid; that's two percent of the system right there, advanced into primetime. Consider the case of the 2017 Brewers, then, where at least ten players could emerge from the minor leagues: we're talking about players like Lewis Brinson or Josh Hader, who fans love because they could be starting role prospects by midseason, and we're talking about players like Andrew Barbosa, who fit the Brewers' "maximize old players" strategy of recent vintage. There are so many players in between, from Michael Reed to Jorge Lopez, so on and so forth.
Yes, I like Jon Perrin, because he's an advanced profile, has a big frame (like Corey Kluber big), and frankly has the type of "mundane" profile that ranks him behind Luis Ortiz and Woodruff and Hader and Cody Ponce, etc., but could have us shaking our heads two years down the line (cue, "How did we miss Perrin?" features). Similarly, I've thought Ponce could be a fast-riser since draft day, and his big frame, big fastball, fastball/cutter-slider arsenal could carve up advanced minors bats to leap the righty to the bullpen or depth role in Milwaukee.
There's been a lot of hype surrounding Mauricio Dubon and Ryan Cordell, but I like both as 2017 roster additions because of their utility flexibility. I pegged both for September, but I would not necessarily be surprised if either grabs a bench role sooner than that. It's not clear to me that either Cordell or Dubon has a true starting ceiling or role in Milwaukee, but both have the kind of ceiling and profile that could lead to a Jarrod Dyson-type (sneaky depth that could find 75 percent of games started, and sneak near 10 career WAR. In fact, Dyson is actually one of the very best players in his draft class!). There could be real value to be found for Cordell and Dubon in this current MLB climate.
With these players graduated to the MLB, plenty of ranking space frees up:
A word on Corey Ray and Erceg, who I have ranked relatively low compared to much fan hype: both players are extremely talented, and have diverse skillsets that can promise a range of MLB roles. But they also have some serious question marks (as everyone on this list does); both could end up as MLB depth roles, Ray especially as a classic 'tweener outfielder (who could certainly have a tough time unseating Ryan Braun from LF if the bat does not materialize in such a way to make a LF profile enticing). Erceg's bat faced weak competition in Wisconsin, so this is simply a cautionary statement about watching that competition level in 2017; even a step back in 2017 does not necessarily dent his ceiling, but it could certainly bring the floor into focus a lot faster.
As an aside, I can't help but think about Rickie Weeks when I hear prospect hype. Now, Weeks had a successful MLB career, but it is worth questioning whether prospect hype derailed fan sentiment against the power/speed/discipline player. I always wonder about how the hype will affect sentiment about Ray or Erceg should they make the bigs; if both emerge as depth players, or perhaps as regulars that show shortcomings in their toolshed, will the hype derail fan sentiment against them as well? So, throughout 2017, say to yourself "Tweener Corey Ray" and "Depth Bat Lucas Erceg" in order to keep those expectations in check: there's a lot to like here, but neither of these guys are the sure thing (which is fine! They can still be very good professional baseball players without being the sure thing. Like Weeks.).
Rounding out the Top 15% of the organization (including the MLB graduates), there are a lot of fun players to emerge from Brewers prospect lists past...Joantgel Segovia was a BaseballAmerica Top 30 prospect entering 2015, and if that bat advances with his (hopeful) first full season, there's an exciting type of contact-defense-burner centerfielder that will be worth keeping an eye on. Taylor Williams has been a success in camp thus far in terms of showing off that heat, and while I see a post-Tommy John future as a reliever for Williams, it is worth emphasizing that some scouts viewed Williams as the best arm in the system three or four years ago. If that fastball/offspeed plays against competition, Williams could surge back into the RHP-arguments among Brewers fans.
Franly Mallen is another guy that I've liked from the get go, and even though it seems like he's been around forever, he's still only 20 and probably entering his first full season. Mallen is a guy that could serve many different futures now, but could especially see value rise in 2017 if a full season solidifies that floor for the middle infielder.
There's just too much to write about here. So much so that the Top 50 of the system just becomes a holding group, waiting for many of these guys to take the next step (or, waiting to see how others respond to injury). In 2017, many of these guys could answer questions about profile mismatch, be it Wendell Rijo (who's never really performed according to what some scouts have seen) or Kodi Medeiros (yep, he's only 21, I had to check twice, too) or Jake Drossner (who I could really swap with Quintin Torres-Costa), or about five other righties (I'd love to see what Nelson Hernandez can do to build off his zone control demonstrated in 2016).
By this point, I'm basically picking names from a hat in some sense. Here, I've added many of the Brewers' Independent and Minor League Signings, so this group reflects the "we like old guys" gamble for the 2017 system. Even here, there are some guys who could take off, be it Josh Pennington solidifying a ceiling, or Yhonathan Barrios coming back from injury.
What leaps out at me after graduating MLB prospects is how incredibly young this system is. I've written about this at BPMilwaukee, and it's worth repeating here: in terms of ranking, the system could really take a step back in 2018, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. This system will have infinite futures after those advanced prospects graduate, presenting GM David Stearns will his most important player development test.
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