2012 was a positive season for an improving Milwaukee Brewers farm system, with four draft picks in the first two rounds and two top pitching prospects coming into the picture.
Unlike in years past, General Manager Doug Melvin spent 2012 acquiring prospects. After trading away prospects Brett Lawrie, Matt LaPorta, Jake Odorrizi, and Jeremy Jeffress for big league pitching talent within the previous four years, Melvin instead traded Zack Greinke – whom the Brewers received in exchange for Odorrizi and Jeffress, among others – to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Milwaukee’s now-starting shortstop Jean Segura and starting pitchers Johnny Hellweg (number 7 on our list) and Ariel Peña (number 15).
The Brewers selected catcher Clint Coulter (number 11) and outfielders Victor Roache, Mitch Haniger, and Tyrone Taylor (numbers 10, 16, and 17, respectively) with their first four picks.
Many new faces emerged across the farm system, as well: Shortstop Yadiel Rivera displayed much of his raw talent in low-A ball, outfielder Khris Davis continued to post flashy numbers, and starting pitcher Hiram Burgos vaulted toward the top of the rankings with one of the best seasons in all of minor league baseball.
Milwaukee’s farm system doesn’t yield any Jurickson Profar’s or Gerrit Cole’s, but there is an increasing amount of depth to it, particularly at starting pitcher and in the outfield. I could easily see seven or eight of the names on this list playing for the parent ballclub as soon as this season.
The staff of Reviewing the Brew each ranked their top 15 prospects which combined to form the top 20 prospects according to the site. Following each player’s name in parentheses are how each staff member ranked the player. The order goes: (Ben, Justin, Curt, Lou, Colin)
20. OF Khris Davis (–,12, –, –, –)
Scouting Report: Davis, the 2010 Brewers MiLB Player of the Year, has put up impressive numbers over from
rookie ball to Triple-A, but his ceiling looks to have been reached. His power numbers should decline and strikeout rates pile up with his long swing over a full season with Nashville. Another season with crazy offensive output from Davis could land him a chance in spring or October of 2014.
19. SS Yadiel Rivera (–, 7, –, –, –)
Scouting Report: Rivera, a 20 year-old shortstop from Puerto Rico, is still coming into his own defensively and at the plate. He could become a plus defensive player with sound mechanics at the plate and slightly more power than recent Brewers prospects Alcides Escobar and Jean Segura. Rivera’s skills are raw and he’s very much still coming into his own.
18. RHP Donovan Hand (9, –, –, –, –)
Scouting Report: Ben was the only one to rank Hand, an experienced reliever in the system, explained his ranking: “He’s someone who could very well be with the Brewers either this year or next. He’s a career 3.60 ERA pitcher, 27 wins, 25 losses, average strikeout rate, but definitely someone to keep in mind. He’s done well in Triple-A the past two season so maybe we’ll see him sooner than later.”
17. OF Tyrone Taylor (–, 15, –, 11, –)
Scouting Report: The Brewers took Taylor as a second rounder in last summer’s draft. A high school running back, his speed and natural athleticism are evident. He’s only 19 years old and will advance through the levels just based on potential. He hit .385 in rookie ball last summer.
16. OF Mitch Haniger (–, –, 12, 13, –)
Scouting Report: Haniger was taken in the first round, 38th overall, last summer. He finished the season in Low-A ball and held his own, OPSing .808. Plays like a pro with good instincts and a wide stance that produces a lot of pop. Not a ton of speed mixed with a strong arm projects him as a big league corner outfielder.
15. RHP Ariel Peña (11, –, –, –10)
Scouting Report: Pena, the third return in the Zack Greinke deal, throws a 98-mph fastball and a low-90s sinker. Was tearing it up with double-A Arkansas in the Angels system before struggling down the stretch with Huntsville. Hopefully his big arm can make him a four or five starter down the road.
14. LHP Jed Bradley (–, –, 13, 15, 8)
Scouting Report: Even after a rough, rough first pro season, I’m still optimistic on Bradley, a first round selection in 2011 out of Georgia Tech. Command and road starts were the issue for him with Brevard County; the word is that it was a learning season for Bradley. Now that he’s adjusted to the pro game, hopefully he can show his major league potential.
13. RHP Michael Olmsted (7, –, –, –, 6)
Scouting Report: Ben and Colin were both very high on Olmsted, whom the Brewers signed to a minor league deal. He’s a physically imposing (6-6, 245) guy with huge strikeout numbers who posted a sub-2.00 era over the last two seasons. Wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him trotting out from the Miller Park bullpen in 2013. Related: he has an epic mustache.
12. RHP Jimmy Nelson (–, 9, 10, 9, 12)
Scouting Report: A guy with a large, Olmsted-like frame, Nelson has the potential to be a workhorse guy. One of lots of minor leaguers the Brewers are hoping pans out (some of them have to, right??). Mid 90’s heater and a sharp slider resulting from his frame. Needs to address command issues, but emerged in 2012. My man Alec Dopp interviewed him recently, definitely go and take a look at that.
11. C Clint Coulter (–, 8, 4, 14, 14)
Scouting Report: After being taken in the first round last summer, Coulter first impressed me in a mid-game Fox Sports Wisconsin interview in the booth. He’s a talented all-around catcher with above-average pop who already has a season of rookie ball under his belt. Good eye, comes across as a lover of the game, especially for a 19-year-old. Obviously, I was really high on Clint.
10. OF Victor Roache (–, 5, 9, 8, –)
Scouting Report: Roache is a muscular guy and it shows in his power numbers. Arguably the biggest power hitter in last year’s draft (taken one pick after Coulter), he’s projected to possibly be a 30-homer guy some day. Not a defensive nor a speed guy, he’ll make the bigs as a big hitter. Watch out: he rocks the number 28, just like a previous Brewers slugger.
9. OF Caleb Gindl (6, 14, –, 6, 11)
Scouting Report: A stocky left-handed power hitter, Gindl has produced well over the last two seasons with Triple-A Nashville. He has 66 homers over the last four minor league seasons. He’s been given plenty of AB’s in spring training with the Brewers and seems to be stuck in that almost-ready fringe. Only issue for me was a low-to-medium ceiling in an already-crowded outfield.
8. RHP Hiram Burgos (8, 7, 8, 10, 15)
Scouting Report: Hey, look! Someone we all ranked! Burgos was nowhere near these kinds of lists before 2012 but an explosive 2012 – he was named Brewers MiLB Pitcher of the Year – catapulted him from A-ball to Triple-A, where he pitched 46.1 innings. He’s a crafty pitcher with upper 80’s velocity mixed with a good change, cutter, and slide piece. A good start to 2013 mixed with someone’s struggles in Milwaukee, and we could see Burgos in 2013; if not, I still think it’ll be sooner than later.
7. RHP Johnny Hellweg (12, 11, 7, 12, 4)
Scouting Report: The second piece of the Greinke deal, Hellweg is an intimidating figure on the mound at 6-foot-9. Good delivery mixed with the height makes his mid-90s fastball look even faster. He’s been impressive as a starter, though five of his seven appearances after the trade came from the ‘pen. High K-rates to go with high walk rates. Needs to polish up a bit before being big league ready, though I ranked him one higher than Burgos based on a higher ceiling.
6. RHP Taylor Jungmann (10, 6, 5, 7, 7)
Scouting Report: A Longhorn and the Brewers’ first pick in the 2011 draft, Jungmann, 23, had a positive first-year campaign. He’s already polished and has the makeup of a two or three starter in the near future. Some scouts project him to arrive in Milwaukee for a glimpse by the end of 2013. Has a good fastball coming off a 6-6 frame, but his off-speed stuff might be even more effective. Needs to continue to get ground balls to counteract low strikeout figures.
5. 1B Hunter Morris (4, 3, 6, 5, 9)
Scouting Report: Morris tore it up in Double-A Huntsville last season and will be big league ready soon. His power bat has developed and he turned into a doubles machine while with the Stars. Named Brewers MiLB Player of the Year. A solid bet for first baseman of the future and, with the injury to Corey Hart, it’s tempting to see what he could do in limited time right now. Non roster invitee for big league camp this year.
4. CF Logan Schafer (3, 13, 11, 2, 2)
Scouting Report: As I wrote, I’m very high on Schafer this year and hope for him to replace the void left by Nyjer Morgan in this year’s Brewers outfield (in production, that is, and not in noise level). He’s a speedy guy with great range fit for a center fielder and defensive instincts. Can be a left handed pinch hitter who handles the bat well and doesn’t strike out often. MLB-ready. Produced in limited action during a late season playoff push for Milwaukee. In retrospect, he was probably too low on my list.
3. 2B Scooter Gennett (5, 4, 3, 4, 5)
Scouting Report: The 5-9, wiry middle infielder plays like a spark plug. He can be a plus hitter in the majors but needs to sharpen up his defense. Is crowded out and being kept in Triple-A by Rickie Weeks. When Weeks’ contract expires, it will be interesting to see if the Brewers go with Gennett. Looks like a left-handed slap hitter, but shows surprising gap power.
2. RHP Tyler Thornburg (2, 2, 2, 1, 3)
Scouting Report: After what we saw in 22 innings with the Brewers in 2012, there’s no doubt that Thornburg can be a big league starter. He’ll be vying for a spot in the starting rotation this spring. Generates good velocity on his fastball for his Tim Lincecum-like size and possesses a mean power curve. Gave up eight homers in his time in the majors, which should be fixed with time. Not an incredibly high ceiling, but, in a farm system full of questions, Thornburg seems to be a viable number four starter down the road.
1. RHP Wily Peralta (1, 1, 1, 3, 1)
Scouting Report: Peralta can embarrass hitters at the highest level with a mid-90’s fastball, arm-action change, and a lethal slider. No doubt in my mind that the nearly-unanimous number one on the list is big league ready. Can’t see him not making the Opening Day roster; there’s not much left to develop in the minors with Peralta. Projects to be a workhorse middle of the rotation starter down the line.
Also receiving votes: Fautino De Los Santos, Kyle Heckathorn, Jesus Sanchez, Hector Gomez, Nick Bucci.
Comments? Questions? Concerns? Queries? Posers? Leave them below! Who did we miss? Follow @ReviewngTheBrew on Twitter and/or the author (and most active Twitterist of the staff), Curt Hogg. Be sure to like us on Facebook, too, for constant updates.