The majority of the rosters for the Arizona Fall League have been announced. The Milwaukee Brewers will have seven players that will be in the AFL this year with a couple of big names.
The Milwaukee Brewers will join with the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Rockies, and Marlins to create the Salt River Rafters. The Arizona Fall League plays for six weeks beginning on October 10th.
The league serves basically as a top-prospect finishing school for all 30 teams. They send their best prospects to give the players an opportunity to prepare for the Major Leagues. The competition is beyond what the minor league regular season could offer.
Last year, Brett Phillips was the headlining prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers that played in the league, alongside Isan Diaz, Jacob Nottingham among others. Phillips and Nottingham both became AFL Fall Stars game last year. Though neither had particularly outstanding stats.
The majority of the roster for this year has been announced, but there are still a few names to be determined. Let’s start with the known players.
OF Corey Ray
Ray is the Milwaukee Brewers’ headliner this year and is the only Top 100 prospect the Brewers will send. As a first round pick in 2016, Ray had high expectations coming in. But he hasn’t really lived up to them so far.
This year, Ray hit .240/.312/.371 with seven home runs and 150 strikeouts in High-A Carolina. That’s not exactly the production the Brewers had in mind when they made him the fifth overall pick a year ago. He possesses a good power-speed combo. However, he hasn’t hit for much power this year. And with a batting average that low, he can’t effectively use his speed on the basepaths.
The AFL will provide an excellent opportunity for Ray to turn things around and show the Brewers that he can still be a part of the future outfield in Milwaukee. The potential is there, he just needs to find it.
3B Lucas Erceg
Erceg was also selected in the 2016 draft. Coincidentally, the Brewers second selection, right after Corey Ray. So the top two picks in 2016 are headed to Arizona.
Erceg came roaring out of the gates right after the draft. It was a hard pace to keep up and although his stats have regressed from his hot start. But he still had an overall productive season, hitting .258/.308/.419 with 15 homers and 79 RBIs. As the team’s 10th rated prospect, Erceg has performed well at High-A Carolina.
Erceg now will face the best overall talent in one place. Most of these teams are collections of top prospects. If he can continue to perform well against this top minor league talent, we could see him in Milwaukee sooner than expected
1B Jake Gatewood
Gatewood was the Milwaukee Brewers second pick in the 2014 draft. They selected him right out of high school as a shortstop. It took him a while to get going in his professional career but he broke out in a big way this season. Starting out in High-A, Gatewood finally figured things out with the bat and earned a promotion.
This season, he’s hit .270/.337/.444 with 40 doubles and 13 home runs across both Carolina and Double-A Biloxi. He had a big hitting streak earlier this season, and has continued his success beyond that. Though drafted as a shortstop, he since moved to third base. He fit more naturally there as a 6’5″ power hitter. But the emergence of Lucas Erceg last year has pushed Gatewood to first base where he has performed very well.
Given his breakout after a few years in A-ball, the Milwaukee Brewers want to see if this is something real. It will show if he could fit in the Brewers team in the future. He does strike out a lot, but he’s still only 21 years old and has a ton of power. He is the only prospect in the Brewers system that can play first base at the Major League level.
The four remaining Milwaukee Brewers on the Salt River Rafters will be pitchers. We don’t know who they are, but we know that they’re pitchers. So who could they be?
Last year, of the four Brewers pitchers in the AFL, none were highly regarded pitching prospects. Javier Salas, Josh Uhen, Tyler Spurlin, and Tayler Scott(who was traded to TEX for Jeremy Jeffress) were the pitchers in 2016. None of whom are currently not in the Brewers Top 30 list.
Perhaps the Brewers don’t want to send their top pitchers to this league as a way of protecting the talent they know they have. Maybe they’d rather use the AFL to see if some of their questionable arms have any future with the club.
One name to keep an eye on to go to the AFL is Adrian Houser. He became a Brewer in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers deal with Houston and underwent Tommy John surgery a year ago. He’s now fully healed and is pitching for the Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He pitched in two games for the Brewers back in 2015, prior to his injury and seemed ready to contribute long term at the time.
He’s back to full health. And a stint in the AFL would allow the Milwaukee Brewers to get an extended look at the final piece of the Gomez deal. Than can see what kind of mark Houser might make with the Crew.
Other names to possibly remember would be Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta. They are high performing and highly regarded prospects. Both put up incredible numbers with Carolina and Biloxi this year.
Perhaps a darkhorse candidate for the AFL would be Quintin Torres-Costa of the Biloxi Shuckers. He has quietly put together a decent season in Double-A. Brewers Farm Director Tom Flangan likes this kid and perhaps they’d like to see more of what he can do. The left handed Torres-Costa is a potential big piece in the bullpen down the road.
These names are pure speculation. We don’t know when the names of the pitchers will be announced, but David Stearns & Co. will make their decision soon. The Arizona Fall League is a great opportunity for players to showcase themselves against the best in the minor leagues. And perhaps put their names on the big league club’s radar.
With one of the top farm systems in all of baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers will have plenty of options to fill out this roster. Due to the higher emphasis is placed on prospect capital in today’s game, the AFL is more important than ever.