Here is Reviewing the Brew’s annual list of the Brewers top prospects for 2015:
1. Orlando Arcia SS
The 20 year old Arcia broke out offensively at Brevard County this past season, putting up a .289/.346/.392 batting line in 127 games for the Manatees. He shows great speed, rated 87 (of 100) by Baseball Cube, and stole 31 bases last season. His true calling card is his defense, and he should continue to show his above average range and arm strength as he continues to climb towards the majors. He has shown a solid approach at the plate so far, posting an 8.2% walk rate and only an 11.2% strikeout rate in his two minor league seasons. Has yet to show much power, but makes contact at a high rate. Keith Law (insider subscription required) pegs Arcia as a player who could hit .300 with 15 home runs, which would make him a perennial All-Star candidate at shortstop.
2. Tyrone Taylor OF
The 21 year old Taylor played mostly at Brevard County last season, and also made a 5 game cameo at AA late in the season. He put up another solid season, similar to his 2013: .278/.331/.396 line in 130 games for the Manatees, stealing 22 bases in 28 attempts. He makes contact at a high rate, with a low 12.7% career strikeout rate. Hit 36 doubles last season, and hopefully a few more of those start to clear the fences as he matures, but he’s unlikely to ever be a major power threat. Could improve his patience, walking at a 7.5% rate so far in his career, and his patience is rated only 33 by Baseball Cube. Taylor is an elite athlete, and with his top-flite speed and good instincts he should develop into a strong defensive centerfielder.
3. Clint Coulter C/OF
The 21 year old Coulter struggled in his first abbreviated taste in Appleton in 2013, but he was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year in 2014 after hitting .287/.410/.520 with 22 home runs for the Timber Rattlers. Coulter has shown excellent on base ability so far as a pro, walking at a 15.3% rate, but has also exhibited the high strikeout rates (24% in 2014) that often come with the raw power he’s displayed. He was moved from behind to the plate to right field in order to try and get him on the fast track to the majors, as his bat will carry him much further than his defense.
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4. Corey Knebel RHP
The 23 year old Knebel was acquired earlier this offseason from the Rangers in the Yovani Gallardo trade. He has been almost unhittable in the minors, posting a 1.66 ERA, 104 strikeouts, and a 4.38 H/9 mark in 76 minor league innings since being drafted in 2013. Knebel has struggled with walks to this point, putting up 3.79 BB/9 in the minors. Knebel made his major league debut last season, posting a 6.23 ERA in 8.2 innings, though his FIP was tremendous at low 1.63. Knebel was shut down towards the end of last season with a UCL sprain, but avoided Tommy John surgery and has been throwing pain free, which gives him a strong chance to break camp in the Brewers bullpen. Knebel throws a plus fastball that averaged 94.36 MPH in 2014 as well as a plus curveball. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches, but is still average. Knebel’s hard stuff and ability to miss bats make him a strong candidate to be a closer in the future.
5. Monte Harrison OF
The 19 year old Harrison made a splash after being drafted by the Brewers with their supplemental pick in 2014, posting a .261/.402/.339 line in 180 at bats in the short season Arizona league while stealing 32 bases in 34 attempts. Harrison was rated as a first round talent before the draft, being hailed as one of the best athletes in the class. He has an amazingly strong arm in the outfield, and his plus speed should help him develop into a strong defensive outfielder. He needs to cut down his nearly 27% strikeout rate from 2014, but his 17.2% walk rate was impressive. He should develop above average power as his body matures, despite hitting only one home run last season. He is still very raw at the plate, but his potential to have five above average tools make him arguably the most exciting prospect in the system.
6. Devin Williams RHP
Williams, 20, pitched all of last season in the Pioneer league for Helena, posting a 4.50 ERA in 66.1 innings, with a 66/20 strikeout to walk ratio. He greatly improved his walk rate from his debut season of 2013 (from 5.7 BB/9 to 2.7 BB/9), and he will need to maintain that lower rate to succeed. Throws a plus fastball that sits in the low 90s, and adds an improving slider and chanegup. He could continue to add velocity as his body matures. Williams is still far away, but likely has the most potential of any pitcher in the Brewers system.
7. Jorge Lopez RHP
The soon-to-be 22 year old Lopez came into his own last season, drastically improving his walk rate, strikeout rate, and cutting his home run rate en route to be selected to the All-Star Futures Game. He put up a 4.59 ERA in 25 starts for Brevard County in 2014, posting a 119/46 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 137.1 innings. The lanky Lopez should add velocity to his plus fastball as he matures, and he mixes a solid curveball and an improving changeup with his low 90s heater.
8. Taylor Williams RHP
Williams dominated for the Timber Rattlers in 2014 (8-1, 2.36 ERA, 112/23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 107 innings) before coming back down to Earth slightly after a promotion to Brevard County. The 23 year old has shown a solid ability to miss bats and struck out nearly five batters to every one that he walked last season. He throws a plus fastball that can get up to the mid 90s, adds a good slider and a changeup that is coming along. The Brewers are grooming Williams as a starter, but his high effort delivery could lead him to transition to relief down the road.
9. Gilbert Lara SS
The Brewers gave the 16 year old Lara a club record $3.2 mil signing bonus last season, and for good reason. He has prodigious power and excellent bat speed, and has shown solid range and arm strength defensively. He could end up at shortstop or third base. He is so young, so raw, and has yet to even make his professional debut stateside. He is years away and definitely far from a sure thing, but he could be a potential star.
10. Taylor Jungmann RHP
Jungmann is the closest of all the Brewers prospects to making an impact in Milwaukee after his solid 2014 season. He posted a strong 2.77 ERA in 52 innings at AA, then followed that up with a solid 3.98 ERA in 101.2 innings at AAA. The 25 year old relies on his heavy sinking fastball for ground ball outs, mixing in a decent slider and changeup as well. He’s been good at keeping the ball in the yard (only 29 home runs in 446 career minor league innings) and saw a nice jump in his strikeout rate in 2014, but his command is still a work in progress after walking 4.1 batter per nine innings in AAA last season. Jungmann currently stands as the Brewers sixth starter, the first man to get the call if one of the starters goes down, and should eventually settle in as a number three or four starter in the Brewers rotation.
Kodi Medeiros and Jake Gatewood fall outside my top 10, despite being high picks in 2014. Both struggled in their pro debuts, albeit with small sample sizes. Medeiros posted a 7.27 ERA and 13 walks in 17.1 innings, though he did strike out 26 batters. Gatewood struggled to a .206/.249/.279 line in 222 plate appearances, with only 9 extra base hits and 32% strikeout rate, though his defense was better than expected. While both may have higher ceilings than players like Jungmann or Taylor Williams, I need to see better results from them in 2015 before they make my top 10.
Wei-Chung Wang gets my honorable mention. I excluded him due to his MLB service time, but I would’ve probably ranked him between 6-7 on this list if he were eligible. Despite being hit around in the majors, he was stellar during his “rehab” starts in the lower minors. In 26.1 innings between Rookie ball, low-A and high-A, Wang posted a 2.39 ERA with a strikeout to walk ratio of better than 5 to 1. He has excellent command of four pitches, and I think he could develop into a number 2 starter with some more minor league seasoning. I would like to see the Brewers challenge him with an assignment to AA Biloxi to start the season.