This is the third part in a series of posts recapping the seasons of the Milwaukee Brewers minor league affiliates.
After a number of years with a High-A affiliate in Florida, a shakeup of affiliates brought the Brewers minor league system to the Carolina League. Milwaukee took over the team formerly in the Atlanta Braves organization.
The Mudcats produced a solid 73-65 record in 2017, but the Carolina League’s playoff format wound up leaving them at home once the regular season concluded.
Carolina Mudcats 2017 Results
The month of April was a forgettable one for the Mudcats. After a strong 15-run effort in their opener against the Frederick Keys, Carolina dropped six of their remaining 10 games with them as they finished the first month with a 10-13 record.
Things got better as weather got warmer, though. An 18-11 record in May set the team up for a first-half Southern Division championship. However, they lost three out of four to the eventual first-half champion Myrtle Beach Pelicans in June, making the deficit too great to conquer.
The second half finish was perhaps the tougher pill to swallow. Despite producing an average 37-33 record in the second half, the Mudcats finished the season with a seven-game win streak as they pushed for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, the Down East Wood Ducks finished with a three-game win streak of their own, edging the Brewers affiliate by a mere one game.
Carolina Mudcats 2017 Offense
The Mudcats’ offense was stacked with some of the Brewers’ top prospects. Monte Harrison wound up being the team’s batting champion with a .278 average on the season. He even added 10 home runs and 16 stolen bases in just 59 games played. This propelled him to earn a coveted spot in the Arizona Fall League.
Another fellow AFL invitee was Lucas Erceg. He supplied the power for the Mudcats by hitting a team-high 15 home runs and bashing 33 doubles. His 81 RBI also easily led the team, helping him to play at Double-A and Triple-A down the stretch.
One other notable success story was that of Jake Gatewood. The former compensation-round draft pick broke out at the plate with a .779 OPS. He still struck out a ton, but his 11 homers and 36 doubles earned him a promotion as well.
Although there was a lot of good in Carolina, there were also some disappointments. The Milwaukee Brewers had Corey Ray and Trent Clark, both first-round draft picks, with the Mudcats in 2017. Despite their main tool being their ability to hit, both hit lower than .240 and had fewer than 10 home runs.
Their speed was ultimately unaffected though, as they stole 24 and 37 bases, respectively. Clark fortunately had an excellent on-base percentage (.360) to garner some value, but both of these prospects will need to produce more at the plate to warrant their high selection.
Carolina Mudcats 2017 Pitching
On the topic of former first-round draft picks, Kodi Medeiros managed to lead the team in innings pitched. He hurled 128.1 frames, although he could only manage a measly 8-9 record and a 4.98 ERA.
The biggest story of the rotation wound up being Corbin Burnes though. He shined in the Carolina League, sporting a 1.05 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in 10 starts. He ultimately earned a promotion to Double-A Biloxi as a result of this strong showing.
There were also some lower profile success stories here. Cody Ponce (3.38 ERA in 120 IP), Jordan Yamamoto (2.51 ERA, 113:30 K:BB in 111 IP) and Freddy Peralta (3.04 ERA, 78 Ks in 56.1 IP) all broke out to help the Mudcats rotation stay strong throughout the whole season. Zack Brown also added quality innings, going 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA in four starts.
Unquestionably, the top reliever in the bullpen was closer Nate Griep. Although he didn’t overwhelm anyone with strikeouts, “The Grim Grieper” logged 30 saves and produced a solid 2.37 ERA in 49.1 innings of work. Wuilder Rodriguez also put together a stellar season in relief, sporting a 1.63 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 60.2 frames by the season’s end.
Although they didn’t manage to make the Carolina League playoffs, lots of good things were brewing for the Mudcats. Heading into the second year in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, 2017 will be a tough year to top.