Milwaukee Brewers: 2017 Under-the-Radar Pitching Prospects

stevenjewell
Feb 21, 2016; Maryvale, AZ, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitchers and catchers walk on the field during spring training camp at Maryvale Baseball Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2016; Maryvale, AZ, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitchers and catchers walk on the field during spring training camp at Maryvale Baseball Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Milwaukee Brewers farm system features many pitchers with huge potential. Unfortunately, that pushes other solid prospects out of the public eye.

Let’s take a look at some noteworthy prospects you may not hear much about given the Milwaukee Brewers deep farm system.

Pitchers returning from injuries:

Nathan Kirby and Taylor Williams both missed 2016, with the latter also sitting out for the entire 2015 season.

Williams is now 25 years old, having not pitched with a Brewers minor league affiliate since the 2014 season, when he reached High-A Brevard County.

Between injuries, Williams threw in spring camp in March 2015. Observer Ryan Braun reportedly told the righty that he “might have the best stuff of any pitcher in camp.”

In his 2014 season, Williams posted a 2.72 ERA between Low- and High-A, with an excellent 137:28 K:BB ratio in 132 1/3 innings pitched.

When healthy, Williams reportedly has a plus fastball and a solid slider with a decent changeup. That repertoire could make him a starter, though his small stature and injury history likely pushes him toward the ‘pen.

Williams could begin 2017 anywhere between rookie ball and Double-A, depending on how he looks in spring camp.

Nathan Kirby has missed almost as much time, throwing just 12 2/3 professional innings in 2015 prior to his injury.

The former first-round pick reportedly has a solid three pitch mix and good command. He still has real promise as a starter, and a 23 year old in Low-A ball isn’t uncommon.

If that’s where he begins 2017, don’t be surprised if he quickly climbs through the system. That goes for Williams, too.

Three young righties netted for Adam Lind:

In December 2015, the Milwaukee Brewers traded Lind to the Mariners for three right-handed teenagers.

Freddy Peralta, Daniel Missaki, and Carlos Herrera all showed great K:BB numbers prior to the trade.

Peralta has the highest upside of the three, with a fastball that touches the mid-90s. He also tosses solid secondary pitches, a changeup and a slider.

MLB.com’s scouts feel he has the command and stuff to remain a starter long term, though his 5’11” stature and walk rates raise concerns.

Peralta posted an excellent 10.6 K per 9 innings between Low- and High-A in 2016, but also walked 4.0 batters per 9.

Still, Peralta was three years younger than the average pitcher in the Florida State League, so he has plenty of time to continue to refine his command.

Peralta doesn’t turn 21 until June, so be patient as he continues through the system. If a slower ascension through the ranks means he remains a starter, it’ll be more than worth the wait.

Daniel Missaki is the next prospect in terms of regard, a relatively soft-tossing (high-80s, low 90s FB) righty who relies on solid command of four pitches.

Missaki missed all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, but he shone in rookie and Low-A ball in 2014 and ’15, respectively. Between those years, the 20 year old combined for a 93:21 K:BB ratio in 93 innings pitched.

Pitchers who rely on command are tricky to judge in the lower minor leagues. Typically the time to watch them closely is when they attempt the jump to Double- and Triple-A.

Still, allowing sub-.600 OPSs to opponents in back-to-back years is worth keeping an eye on, even in small samples.

The trade’s least heralded prospect is probably Carlos Herrera. The 19 year old is the tallest of the bunch, standing at 6’2″ according to Baseball Reference. Of course, BR also has the teenager listed at a rail-thin 150 pounds.

I’ve seen reports that list him as high as 170, but adding mass to his frame will be a crucial aspect of his development either way. The young righty pitched for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic as a 16 year old.

At that time, Herrera’s fastball reportedly topped out around 90 miles per hour. He’s a similar case to Missaki, a player who doesn’t throw hard, but gets the job done.

In 130 innings between the Dominican Summer League and rookie ball in 2015 and ’16, Herrara struck out 122 batters while walking just 25. In both leagues, he was at least two years younger than the average pitcher.

Overall, these three pitchers still have the projectability that led GM David Stearns to pull the trigger on the Adam Lind trade.

A Pair of Hawaiians

Jordan Yamamoto and Kodi Medeiros faced off in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I baseball tournament in 2014. That’s a really long name for a tournament.

Since then, they’ve each been drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers, and jostled for favor as the better prospect. Medeiros came in as the big name, the organization’s first round pick in 2014. That same year, the Crew selected Yamamoto in the 12th round.

Both performed better in 2015 than their stats showed, but Medeiros’ .228/.322/.274 opponent slash that year solidified his spot as a top Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect.

In 2016, however, Medeiros took a major step back in High-A, posting a 5.93 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 63 walks in 85 innings. This setback, in addition to the Brewers recent influx in talent, has pushed Medeiros out of many Brewers top prospect lists.

Meanwhile, Jordan Yamamoto tossed 134 1/3 innings with the Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, striking out 152 and walking just 31. The 6 foot righty held opponents to a .661 OPS, even with a tough-luck .346 BABIP working against him.

Both pitchers are worth watching in 2017, Yamamoto for his upward trajectory and Medeiros for his upside.

Despite his struggles in 2016, Medeiros’ stuff can’t be ignored; he owns a plus fastball and slider that moves so much it breaks commentators.

Triple-A(rms)

Aaron Wilkerson and Wei-Chung Wang are knocking on the proverbial Major League door. Wilkerson posted a hard-luck 6.42 ERA after the Aaron Hill trade that brought him to the Milwaukee Brewers.

In spite of an excellent 57:16 post-trade K:BB ratio (and 3.87 FIP), the unfriendly confines of the Pacific Coast league swallowed him up.

All told, Wilkerson tossed 147 innings between AA and AAA in 2016 for a 3.73 ERA. He avoids free passes, and at 27 years old, looks ready for a shot at a Major League roster.

I honestly think Wilkerson would perform better in the Majors than he did in the Pacific Coast League. After all, in 48 innings (pre-trade) in the AAA International League in 2016, he allowed just 41 hits (7.7 per 9 IP). In 54 2/3 innings in the PCL, that number jumped to 67 (11.0 per 9 IP).

If you’d like to read more about the Pacific Coast League’s well-earned, anti-pitcher reputation, there’s a great article here.

Wei-Chung Wang doesn’t get much attention as a Brewers prospect for one reason: technically he isn’t one. After he was selected by the Brewers in the Rule 5 Draft in December 2013, Wang spent the required number of days on the Crew’s Major League roster in 2014 to lose his rookie status (and remain in the organization).

Now Wang looks just about ready for the Show after a solid 2016 season between AA and AAA.  In 2015, Wang posted a 3.54 ERA in HIgh-A, but struck out just 5.9 batters per 9 innings.

The lefty came back even better last year, bumping his K-rate to 7.7 per 9 innings, while keeping his walk rate down. Wang has now eclipsed 130 innings pitched in back to back seasons, making him a solid bet to hold down the back of a Major League rotation once he is ready.

Wang throws a fastball in the low 90s, complemented by a solid curveball and a plus changeup. That third option helps him hold off right-handed hitters, and will be a crucial tool if Wang is to remain a starter at baseball’s highest level.

Wang has logged just six starts in AAA, but owns a 3.94 ERA with 28 strikeouts and just two walks in those appearances. If he isn’t on the Major League roster in April, watch his numbers in Colorado Springs. He should join the team in a meaningful role in 2017.

Did I miss any promising pitching prospects? Yes. Also keep an eye on the likes of Jon Perrin, Trey Supak, Bubba Derby, and Braden Webb. Also Zack Brown, Josh Pennington, and Tristan Archer. As you can see, the Milwaukee Brewers system is loaded with players with noteworthy talent. So much talent that I have to give up on listing them all.

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