The Milwaukee Brewers first big trade is upon us! Open the flood gates!
On the Brewers end of things, Hill started the year slowly, looking more like a liability than a future trade asset at third base. Since May 1, however, Hill has slashed .323/.408/.481 with 7 home runs in 219 plate appearances, while offering solid defense at the hot corner.
The addition of cash in this trade likely helped the Brewers’ front office barter for better prospects, a smart move for an organization with a low payroll-to-budget ratio that wants to build up young talent. But enough about what the Brewers gave up.
Seniority rules, so let’s begin with Wilkerson, a 27-year-old right-handed pitcher with an interesting career path. Wilkerson went undrafted out of college, and pitched in independent ball for parts of two seasons before being picked up by the Red Sox in 2014.
Since then, the tall righty has worked his way steadily through the club’s minor league system, pitching in both AA and AAA in 2016, to the tune of a 2.73 ERA and an excellent 102:25 K:BB in 92 1/3 innings pitched.
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According to Sox Prospects, Wilkerson features a four-pitch mix, with an 88-90 mile per hour fastball that tops out at 92.
This report may show us why Wilkerson was available in this trade despite such good numbers at the highest level of the minor leagues. For starters, Wilkerson has had a nontraditional trip through the Sox’s farm and is older than an organization would prefer for a player just now approaching the top end of the minors.
Secondly, at least according to the aforementioned source, Wilkerson features no above-average offering to rely on. However, Wilkerson has consistently posted high strikeout numbers and low walk rates throughout the minor leagues, all the while remaining a starter and frequently pitching deep into games.
Wilkerson was also featured among FanGraphs top Red Sox prospects as “Cistulli’s Guy,” a role reserved for intriguing, under-the-radar types. He was likewise consistently featured on Carson Cistulli’s “The Fringe Five,” a series in which Cistulli keeps readers updated on whom he considers the “most compelling fringe prospects” in baseball.
Wendell Rijo is remarkably dissimilar to Wilkerson. Both spent time in AA for the Portland Sea Dogs, yet Rijo is a little over six years Wilkerson’s junior. In fact, the 20 year old has consistently been among the youngest players in his league as he has progressed through he minors.
Rijo’s time in AA this season was a struggle, but given his age, the Brewers can feel free to return the young second baseman to High-A if they see fit.
On the scouting end of things, Rijo received high marks from Baseball America for his advanced hit tool, and both BA and John Sickels of Minor League Ball noted a large step forward in the young man’s defensive ability at the keystone.
In spite his age, Rijo has been an above-average hitter at every level (until AA this season), and while his offense may have to carry him, Rijo offers a steady –if unremarkable– skill set that looks promising as he reaches for the higher levels of the minor leagues.
Overall, I think David Stearns has once again made the most of a trade asset. While Hill has been red-hot over the last two months, he offered the Brewers nothing beyond 2016.
Wilkerson and Rijo each have Big League promise despite vastly different minor league timelines and ceilings.