If there was any good team in the Brewers’ system to pay attention to in the 2015 season, it was the Biloxi Shuckers. They started out the season on the road for the first 54 games as it certainly made headlines making ESPN magazine to get their home ballpark ready for the season. Although, that was the way to have a down season, the Shuckers went 78-59 overall and even went to the championship. They didn’t win, but names like Orlando Arcia, Jorge Lopez, and now former Brewer Tyler Wagner were some of many to put one of very few good notes on the 2015 Brewers season. So, with the 2016 season just about to get under way, let’s take a look at the 2016 Biloxi Shuckers players to watch for and see if they’ll be just as much fun to watch.
OF Brett Phillips
2015: HOU (HiA) – 291 PAs .320/.379/.588 15 HRs / 53 RBIs 22 BBs / 64 Ks
(AA) – 134 PAs .321/.372/.463 1 HR / 18 RBIs 8 BBs / 26 Ks
MIL (AA) – 80 PAs .260/.361/.413 0 HRs / 6 RBIs 14 BBs / 20 Ks
Coming over in the Gomez/Fiers trade last year, Brett Phillips has been an exciting name to watch out for right as Spring Training began. Although, injuries have gotten in the way, he’s expected not to be with the Shuckers for the overall season and being with Colorado Springs to start the season wouldn’t have been a surprise according to Baseball America. But, the Brewers may have looked at his time in Biloxi in only 23 games with a .250/.361/.413 line and just thought he needed more time in Double-A. Plus, although his power was shown with 15 HRs in Hi-A, he only had 1 in AA. So, hopefully like most players that get traded, he’ll soon become acclimated to the Brewers organization and he’ll be up with the AAA team, Colorado Springs in no time.
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OF Tyrone Taylor
2015: (AA) 454 PAs .260/.312/.337 3 HRs / 43 RBIs 31 BBs / 55 Ks
OF Tyrone Taylor ranked as the Brewers’ top prospect in BA’s Prospect Handbook, but his numbers dropped compared to 2014 in the HiA level with a line of .278/.331/.396. His biggest problem seems to be his over-aggressiveness at the plate as he went down to #7 in BA’s rankings this year. Taylor’s plus side is that he’s very good on defense as he’s had only 5 errors in the past two seasons. Being consistent on this side of his game has gotten him to take more time in the farm system. While Phillips is expected to strive and go up in the system, Taylor is expected to take his time and have a rebound type year. Other clubs even see him as an extra outfielder, so this year may define what he’ll be for the Brewers in the upcoming years.
LHP Josh Hader
2015: HOU (AA) – 65 IP / 3.17 ERA / 69 Ks / 24 BBs
MIL (AA) – 39 IP / 2.79 ERA / 50 Ks / 11 BBs
Josh Hader was also part of the Gomez/Fiers deal during the trade deadline along with Brett Phillips. Near the top 10 at #11 in BP’s Prospect Handbook seems to show the Brewers did pretty well in getting some high ranked prospects in the deal. While by now many fans know of Phillips (if it is pearly due to his laugh), fans will hope to get the same type of numbers this season as striking out 50 batters in 39 innings was pretty impressive. He’s not a power pitcher as his fastball is in the low to mid 90s and his changeup and slider rank below average. Although, numbers are solid thus far, it’s still possible he could turn into a bullpen pitcher as he seems to rely on his fastball too much.
C Jacob Nottingham
2015: HOU (LoA) – 230 ABs .326/.387/.543 10 HRs / 46 RBIs 18 BBs / 51 Ks
(HiA) – 71 ABs .324/.368/.606 4 HRs / 14 RBIs 3 BBs / 10 Ks
OAK (HiA) – 164 ABs .299/.352/.409 3 HRs / 22 RBIs 12 BBs / 38 Ks
Nottingham came to the Brewers as part of the Khris Davis deal in the off-season. As his numbers show he’s expected to be a great hitter as he’s got raw power and a quick bat, but he’s got much to work to do if he wants to stay in the catcher position. He threw out 38 percent of basestealers in 2015 and committed 19 passed balls in 89 games. Like many catchers, he’s got a solid arm, but lacks concentration at times. BA’s Prospect Handbook compared him to the taste of Mike Napoli, so fans can’t complain so much if he gets to that level at some point in his career.
OF Victor Roache
2015: (AAA) 290 ABs .238/.266/.303 1 HR / 28 RBIs 10 BBs / 53 Ks
(AA) 184 ABs .277/.345/.375 1 HR / 16 RBIs 17 BBs / 30 Ks
Roache continues to be a big question mark for the Brewers as that’s exactly what he was when they drafted him in 2012. With his major wrist injury out of the draft, there was much risk, so the Brewers are still waiting to see if his contact improves the most. Plate discipline/walks are also an issue as a .266 OBP in AAA just won’t cut it. But, if anything, the Brewers still are encouraged by his work ethic and hope this will be the year his contact rate makes a turn.
LHP Hobbs Johnson
2015: (AA) 117 IP / 3.84 ERA / 94 Ks / 77 BBs
The report on Johnson seems to be quite simple. When he throws strikes, he can be dominate (.219 opponent avg). But, when he can’t, things go south as his walk rate stormed from 2.6 to 5.9 per 9 innings. He must develop a second pitch as when his fastball isn’t going, the curveball or changeup are not effective. If a second pitch isn’t developed, it’s possible he could end up taking a spot in the bullpen.
LHP Wei-Chung Wang
2015: (A+) 139.2 IP / 3.54 ERA / 91 Ks / 39 BBs
(AAA) 6 IP / 0.00 ERA / 5 Ks / 0 BBs
Wang did not have a ranking this year in BA’s Prospect Handbook, but the Brewers still think there is lots to look forward to in the SP as a Rule-5 pick in 2014 on a pitcher to keep on the roster for a full year means you take the player in high regards. In 2015, he was ranked as high as #6 on BA’s Prospect Handbook and top 5 if you go by Steamer projections on Fangraphs. But, all stats seemed to get worse in the 2015 season as in 2014 going through 3 systems (Rk-A+), he was impressive having a 26.1 IP, 2.39 ERA, 22 Ks and 4 BBs. So, the hopes were high. But with numbers up/rising prospects/trades for top prospects, it’s understandable Wang went down the list. Brewers’ fans are hopeful his AA numbers match up much more like his 2014 numbers and at least advance him to AAA in 2017.
Resource for stats/info: Baseball America’s 2016 Prospect Handbook