While the Milwaukee Brewers have been one of the worst teams in the major leagues this year, it has been a banner year for their minor league system. The Brewers’ AA affiliate in Biloxi finished runner up in the Southern League championship and the organization saw 12 players make their major league debuts. The system was strengthened by a strong draft, some deftly executed trades, and the breakout seasons experienced by many prospects already in the organization. The Brewers farm system was considered to be one of the worst in baseball just over a year ago should now be ranked somewhere in the top third of the league.
To create our top prospect list, each of the writers at Reviewing the Brew created their own top 10 prospect list. Players were then assigned a point value based on their spot in each writer’s rankings, with the number one spot being worth 10 points, number two worth nine points, and so on. The players were then ranked by the highest point totals, which are shown in parentheses next to their rank. Here is RtB‘s 2015 end of season top 10 prospect list:
1. (50 pts) Orlando Arcia || SS || Age: 21
6’0″ || 165 lbs || B/T: R/R || Level: AA
Arcia was named the Brewers’ minor league player of the year, won a minor league gold glove at shortstop, and is ranked among the top 30 prospects in all of baseball. He was a unanimous choice by RtB as the organization’s top prospect after hitting .307/.347/.453 in 129 games while leading the Shuckers to the SL Championship. Arcia combines an above average hit tool with great speed and plus defense, and saw his gap power develop well this year. He looks like he’ll become a legitimate starting shortstop at the MLB level.
2. (45) Brett Phillips || OF || Age: 21
6’0″ || 180 lbs || B/T: L/R || Level: AA
Phillips was the headliner of this summer’s blockbuster trade with Houston. He hit .309/.374/.527 with 16 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 120 games between high-A and AA this season. He didn’t show much of a home run stroke in his first experience at AA, but still managed 23 extra base hits in 54 games at that level. Phillips should have the speed to stick in center and a strong arm that will play anywhere. He has shown above average tools across the board and has a good shot to develop into a 15+ HR/15+ stolen base threat as an everyday player at the MLB level.
3. (35) Trent Clark || OF || Age: 18
6’0″ || 205 lbs || B/T: L/L || Level: R
Clark fell to the Brewers as the 15th overall selection in this year’s draft. He has an unorthodox, golf style grip when he swings, but he makes it work for him as his hit tool is his strongest in his toolbox. He hit .309/.424/.430 in 55 games between Arizona and Helena this year, slugging 15 extra base hits and walking nearly as many times (39) as he struck out (44). He is a good baserunner who stole 25 bags (76% success rate) this season. He’s still pretty far away, but Clark was named by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Arizona League this season.
4. (24) Jorge Lopez || RHP || Age: 22
6’3″ || 190 lbs || B/T: R/R || Level: MLB
No pitcher improved his stock more in the Brewers’ system than Lopez, who won the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year. His changeup caught up to his sinking fastball and curveball as a legitimate offering, and he posted a 2.26 ERA in 143.1 innings in Biloxi this year (falling .01 runs short of the league ERA title – won by teammate Tyler Wagner). He can still lose his command at times, but he strikes out plenty of hitters and is a ground ball machine. He made two starts for the big league club in September and could compete for a spot in the rotation as soon as next season.
5. (22 – tie) Tyrone Taylor || OF || Age: 21
6’0″ || 180 lbs || B/T: R/R || Level: AA
Taylor was voted by the staff as the number five prospect in the system, but at this point it’s probably fair to say that is based on his tools more so than his results on the field. Taylor’s .260/.312/.337 line in 128 games for Biloxi this year looks pretty underwhelming – until you consider that he’s still just 21 and was more than three years younger than league average and has some room for growth and improvement. Taylor’s hit tool is still considered above average and he makes plenty of contact, striking out in just 10.9% of his plate appearances this year. He doesn’t have a very high power ceiling and doesn’t walk enough to be a true on-base threat, so most of his value will be built around his plus speed and center field defense.
5. (22 – tie) Gilbert Lara || SS || Age: 17
6’2″ || 190 lbs || B/T: R/R || Level: R
The Brewers aggressively skipped assigning Lara to the DSL and sent him straight to the Arizona League as a 17 year old, and the young shortstop held his own against much older competition. He started running out of gas towards the end of the season, and finished with an overall .240/.285/.321 line in 63 games between Arizona and the Pioneer League. Lara was better than expected at shortstop and he has also started working out at third base, but he has the arm to play either position. His loudest tool is his plus raw power, which the Brewers hope he will start tapping into in game situations as he matures.
7. (20) Devin Williams || RHP || Age: 21
6’3″ || 165 lbs || B/T: R/R || Level: A-
More from Reviewing the Brew
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- Brewers: Where Does Devin Williams Stand In NL Reliever Of The Year Race?
The Brewers knew they were getting somewhat of a project when they drafted Williams, but the risk started to pay some dividends this season with a strong performance in Appleton. Williams posted a 3.44 ERA/3.28 FIP in 89.0 innings, striking out 23.5% of hitters he faced. His control still needs polishing but his 9.5% walk rate is certainly manageable. He generates a below average amount of ground balls. Williams has a repeatable delivery, can hit 95 MPH with his fastball but could add more velocity as his frame fills out, and both his slider and changeup have the chance to develop into solid-average offerings.
8. (18) Kodi Medeiros || LHP || Age: 19
6’2″ || 180 lbs || B/T: L/L || Level: A-
Medeiros was somewhat of an unknown after the Hawaiian native was chosen in the first round of last year’s draft, but he exceeded expectations in Appleton this season. Challenged with an assignment to the Midwest League, the lefty posted a 4.44 ERA/2.96 FIP in 93.1 innings pitched, striking out 23.5% of batters he faced. He didn’t allow a single home run all season and induced ground balls to nearly 66% of hitters. Everything he throws has movement, and his plus slider is his best of three pitches that could be average or better. His funky delivery and command issues could eventually lead to a transition to relief, but for now he should continue to work and develop in the rotation.
9. (12) Clint Coulter || OF || Age: 22
6’3″ || 222 lbs || B/T: R/R || Level: A+
Last year’s minor league player of the year, the Brewers moved Coulter from behind the plate to the outfield prior to the season in order to help fast track his offensive development. Coulter started the year hot but was eventually stymied by the unfriendly run-scoring environment of the Florida State League, finishing the year with a .246/.329/.397 line and 13 home runs. His offensive performance was still well above league average, however, and he was more than a year and a half younger than league average. He didn’t post the elite walk totals that he did in 2014, but his 16.2% strikeout rate was a career low. Coulter’s plus power is his biggest weapon, and making consistent contact will help him tap into that. He showed off a strong arm in the outfield with 11 assists in his first season.
10. (9) Zach Davies || RHP || Age: 22
6’0″ || 160 lbs || B/T: R/R || Level: MLB
Davies is a high-floor, low-ceiling type prospect and came to the Brewers as a mostly finished product, ready for his trial in the back-end of the major league rotation. He relies on changing speeds and terrific command to throw hitters off balance; he doesn’t have a ton of velocity and his plus changeup is his best offering. Davies performed well in his six start audition down the stretch for Milwaukee, posting a 3.71 ERA/3.31 DRA and 0.7 WARP in 34.0 innings across six starts. He won’t strike out many guys but he does generate an above average rate of ground balls. Davies probably has the inside track on the fifth starter spot heading into 2016, and should be a dependable #4 pitcher in anyone’s starting rotation before all is said and done.