Let’s imagine it’s 2020, and the Brewers are only allowed to create lineups from players they had as prospects prior to the 2015 season. That means that though Ryan Braun is signed through 2020, he isn’t available to this hypothetical team.
No doubt this list will look ridiculous five seasons from now as players inevitably fizzle out, but today it’s just a (hopefully) fun exercise to identify the best players at certain positions.
I will not be switching players from one position to another for convenience sake, excluding the most interchangeable swap between corner outfield spots.
So we’re starting in a place of obscurity, but don’t fret, Weisenburger is pretty good. Originally drafted by the Crew in the 34th round (#NeverWasteAPick) of the 2011 draft, Weisenburger is regarded as a gifted defender, ranking as the top defensive catcher in the system for both 2013 and 2014 according to Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt. Unfortunately I can’t find these rankings for 2015.
Weisenburger complemented his defensive prowess in 2014 with a passable .255/.364/.351 slash line between AA and AAA. These numbers are very reminiscent of his career performance, consistently showing little pop (10 career HR), but good on-base skills (.355 OBP).
If these numbers translated to the Majors, which of course they shouldn’t be expected to, the 26 year old would be a decent option behind the plate. Of course the catcher would be 31 at the time of Opening Day 2020, but he’s far enough ahead of the other options that this makes little difference.
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(Fallback- Parker Berberet)
1B- Jason Rogers
I know what you’re thinking: “Go with a (2020) 33 year old Matt Clark!” or “Man this team is going to be old and terrible”. The former was a somewhat tough decision where I really can’t be right. The latter is true of much of the infield. But Rogers is one year younger than Clark and can play third base adequately.
Clark has hit 20+ home runs in his last five minor league seasons, but Rogers has a better walk/strikeout ratio and (referring back to Haudricourt and Baseball America) was awarded the player with the best strike-zone discipline in the Brewers MiLB system several years in a row.
(Fallback- Mick Clarmirez)
2B- Nick Shaw
Another (future) 30+ year old. Shaw makes up for no power (career .336 SLG) with outstanding plate discipline (.373 OBP), despite being just average with the bat. It’s hard to say how good his range is at the keystone without word from scouts but his .981 Fld% is advanced for the minor leagues. In fact, he has played 12 more games at shortstop than second, posting a .957 Fld%. Shaw spent the last two full seasons with AA Huntsville.
(Fallback- Gregory Munoz)
3B- Gilbert Lara
YOUTH! Lara is so young he could still be in the minors at the start of the 2020 season, at the ripe age of 22. Lara is currently a shortstop by trade, but a move to the hot corner is planned, though he is far from a lock to remain there either.
He’s all potential as of now, and most of that potential lies in excellent raw power. Lara has not yet played an inning in the Brewers system.
If Lara proves too young for the job, the job would be (Fallback- Taylor Smith-Brennan)’s in my opinion, though he is also pretty far from the Bigs. Like many of his hypothetical teammates, Smith-Brennan is adept at drawing walks and has shown decent pop (.231/.367/.418, 29 HR in 911 PA).
There could be major concerns about him defensively, however, as he has just a .904 Fld% at the corner and has thus seen time at first. The highest he has reached in the system in Low-A Wisconsin.
SS- Orlando Arcia
The Brewers top prospect should be hitting his stride as a 25 year old by the time the 2020 season rolls around, and should be a couple seasons into his Major League career. He is reportedly a noteworthy asset on the basepaths and has a great feel for shortstop. He should be above-average with the bat as well, slashing .289/.346/.392 in High-A in 2014.
(Fallback- Yadiel Rivera)
LF- Clint Coulter
Speaking of players both hitting their stride and being a couple years into their MLB service time, Clint Coulter will be 26 years old in 2020. Coulter took home the Brewers MiLB Player of the Year honors in 2014, when he slashed .287/.410/.520 with 22 HR.
His average should drop over time, particularly after a .326 BABIP last season, but he has good power and walk rates. Coulter is an ex-catcher playing right field for the first time this year but management has been encouraged by his early performances.
It was probably about time the Crew gave up on Coulter as a backstop, but this team would look better if he wasn’t taking up a corner outfield spot.
CF- Tyrone Taylor
Tyrone Taylor is Orlando Arcia in the outfield. He plays great defense at a premium position and has above-average offense with gap power. Taylor relies on a high average as he doesn’t walk much, and is above average on the bases. He should be a mainstay in the Brewers lineup by 2020 and will be just 26 for that season’s Opening Day.
RF- Monte Harrison
Harrison is just 19 years old, with one professional season under his belt, but he could quickly jump to the top of the Brewers prospect list if he performs as some feel he will in 2015. Harrison is currently a center fielder where he could stick, but his best tool is his plus plus arm (clocked at 97 MPH), which would play up in right field.
His offense should be good enough if he is moved to a corner. He has plus power and speed, and stole 32 bases in 50 games with Rookie Arizona, and was caught just twice. He didn’t show his power in the small sample (.339 SLG), but he did show excellent patience (31 BB, .402 OBP).
CI- Taylor Smith-Brennan
UT- Yadiel Rivera / Luis Sardinas
Honestly a toss up at this point. Rivera has more pop than the none that Sardinas displays, while Sardinas is a plus base-runner; Rivera is average. Neither walks much and Rivera strikes out too often.
Both players are true shortstops and project as utility guys anyway, though in a very optimistic world they could both be defense-first regulars. Sardinas (21) is a year younger than Rivera and a year further through the farm system (AAA), but that should matter little five years from now.
Backup C- Parker Berberet
It’s worth noting that Berberet is one year Adam Weisenburger’s junior and has similar minor league numbers (.706 OPS) and great caught stealing stats (37%), but he has just 560 PA over the last two seasons between Low and High-A. Durability issues and aging at the backstop don’t mix.
4th OF– Michael Reed
Reed has spent most of his time in right field in the minors, but Haudricourt says he has the speed for center, where he would ideally play sparingly. Reed has a Nori Aoki-type .264/.376/.369 slash line, with too little power to be seen as an everyday player under most–but certainly not all–circumstances. Reed will be 27 for the 2020 season.
5th OF- Kyle Wren
If the Brewers five years from now are anything like that of today, they want their 25th man to be a solid defender. They would get that from Wren, a quick outfielder who can play all three outfield positions, though his arm would be weak for right field.
Wren has a .300+ batting average in the minor leagues, but virtually no home run power. He doesn’t walk or strikeout much, and he’s likely a Major League fourth outfielder, but no more.
This is tricky because it requires me to either imagine the lesser prospects continue to succeed or bury them in my lineup. I think for the sake of the exercise I should do the former.
1. Nick Shaw
2. Tyrone Taylor
3. Jason Rogers
4. Clint Coulter
5. Monte Harrison
6. Orlando Arcia
7. Gilbert Lara
8. Adam Weisenburger