The cupboard is bare. There’s no depth. One of the worst farm systems in baseball. Can’t draft, can’t develop players.
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How long have Milwaukee Brewers fans been hearing phrases like this when it comes to their minor league system? In the early part of the century, the Brewers boasted one of the top farm systems in all of baseball, yielding MLB All-Stars like Ben Sheets, Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Corey Hart. This infusion of minor league talent, combined with a couple of well-timed trades, allowed the Brewers to make runs into the playoffs in 2008 and 2011 and win the second most games in the NL Central between 2005-2014. Since that run began, however, the minor league system fallen somewhat by the wayside – a combination of poor drafts, necessary trades of prospects, and a lack of player development took a toll on the Brewers’ rankings, as their farm dropped to among the worst in all of baseball.
Slowly but surely, the narrative in Milwaukee is changing. The Brewers made a concerted effort under the late Bruce Seid to start select high-ceiling talent at the top of the draft beginning in 2012, rather than the perceived low-risk, high floor type players they had targeted in previous seasons. The Brewers tabbed Ray Montgomery to take over as Scouting Director after Seid’s untimely death in late 2014, and Montgomery continued this strategy with his picks in the 2015 draft.
According to the 2014 end of season prospect rankings on MLB.com, the Brewers ended last season possessing just six total prospects with a grade of 50 on the 20-80 scouting scale (50 is considered an “average” grade – a good chance at playing in the major leagues), and only one in the MLB.com top 100 overall. The system was mostly made up of prospects that were considered too young and far away to be rated very highly; just five players ranked in the top 20 had appeared in AA or higher in 2014: Tyrone Taylor (5 games at AA), Taylor Jungmann, Johnny Hellweg (who underwent Tommy John), Jarret Martin (who underwent offseason surgery), and Hunter Morris (no longer in organization).
With MLB.com releasing their 2015 midseason top 30 for each team yesterday, the difference in the Brewers system is almost night and day. The Brewers are seeing breakout campaigns from several prospects, causing their ratings to jump significantly. Montgomery’s first draft was a smashing success as well, building on previous few seasons under Seid. Nine of the Brewers current top 11 prospects were chosen in the top two rounds of the draft since 2011 (Orlando Arcia and Gilbert Lara were international signees). 12 of the Brewers top 30 prospects have now played at AA or higher, giving them a significantly better stable of close to MLB ready prospects to call upon in case of injuries (as we have seen already this season). Milwaukee now boasts two top 100 overall prospects and 12 prospects graded at 50 or better, doubling both totals from last year and signifying that despite a trying 2015 season, brighter things are on the horizon for the Brewers.
1. SS Orlando Arcia || 20 years old ||2010 International Signee || AA || Overall Grade: 60
2. OF Trent Clark || 18 years old || 2015 1st Round || Rookie || Overall Grade: 55
3. OF Tyrone Taylor || 21 years old || 2012 2nd Round || AA || Overall Grade: 50
4. SS Gilbert Lara || 17 years old || 2014 International Signee || Rookie || Overall Grade: 50
5. OF Clint Coulter || 21 years old || 2012 1st Round || High-A || Overall Grade: 50
6. RHP Devin Williams || 20 years old || 2013 2nd Round || Low-A || Overall Grade: 50
7. RHP Jorge Lopez || 22 years old || 2011 2nd Round || AA || Overall Grade: 50
8. LHP Kodi Medeiros || 19 years old || 2014 1st Round || Low-A || Overall Grade: 50
9. OF Monte Harrison || 19 years old || 2014 2nd Round || Rookie || Overall Grade: 50
10. SS Jake Gatewood || 19 years old || 2014 Comp Bal Rd A || Rookie || Overall Grade: 50
11. LHP Nathan Kirby || 21 years old || 2015 Comp Bal Rd A || Low-A || Overall Grade: 50
12. RHP Tyler Wagner || 24 years old || 2012 Round 4 || AA || Overall Grade: 50
The Milwaukee Brewers have yet to make any trades to add impact prospects to their system before Friday’s trade deadline, but even if they don’t, the farm system has already improved by leaps and bounds this season. The cupboard is no longer bare in Milwaukee, and while there are still improvements to be made, the overall future for our beloved local nine is looking brighter by the day. Make sure to follow Reviewing the Brew for all the Brewers’ latest minor league updates!