Milwaukee Brewers: Does Jake Gatewood have a Major League future?

Matthew Dewoskin
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 15: High School Home Run Derby Champion, Jacob Gatewood hits during the Chevrolet Home Run Derby on July 15, 2013 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 15: High School Home Run Derby Champion, Jacob Gatewood hits during the Chevrolet Home Run Derby on July 15, 2013 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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Milwaukee Brewers prospect Jake Gatewood arrived with great fanfare after he was selected as the 41st overall pick in the 2014 draft. He recently turned 22 and he’s only just tasted Double-A action. Does he have a future on the 25-man roster?

Jake Gatewood looked like he was headed off top prospects lists after a rough start to his professional career. His first three seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers organization saw three different positions, a strikeout rate over 29% and a walk rate under 6%. He may have turned around his career with a solid 2017 season in High-A and Double-A.

What went right for Gatewood?

Wearing contacts for the first time apparently helped with Gatewood’s plate discipline. Gatewood wore contact lenses in 2017 and the results showed up in his walk totals. He posted a 9.1% walk rate at High-A and an 8.0% walk rate in Double-A. Gatewood’s previous high was 7.6% in 2014 at Rookie ball.

His prodigious power also showed up more in box scores. Between the two levels he spent 2017 at, Gatewood blasted 15 homers in 570 total plate appearances.

He also still has the same long, lean build that still allows for scouts to project even greater power production. He also reached double digits in stolen bases for the first time in his professional career.

What’s still concerning?

He may still lack a position. An important aspect of player development is finding a position and sticking to it. Gatewood switched from shortstop to third base to first base and back to third base before his 23rd birthday. He played third base with the Biloxi Shuckers at Double-A and in the AFL. Third makes a lot of sense for Gatewood because his throwing arm is rated as his strongest tool. He made four errors there in 35 games in 2017 after making 24 in 93 games in 2016.

The swing and miss is still in his swing, but that comes with the power. He’s going to post a strikeout rate over 25% at just about every level he’s going to play at. The strikeouts come with the power production.

What does the future hold?

Jake Gatewood only just turned 22 and still has a lot of development. It’s clear to see why he was considered a top talent when he was drafted, but the concerns that existed then are still present. Gatewood is probably going to start the season with Carolina again, but he won’t stay there nearly as long as he did in 2017 if everything goes right. It’s clear that he can succeed at the High-A level, and is ready for the challenge of a full season at Double-A.

Next: What happened with the Carolina Mudcats in 2017?

The walk rate needs to crack double digits, the power has to continue to show up, and Gatewood needs to get comfortable at third base. The talent is clearly there to one day reach the 25-man roster at the Major League level, but 2018 is going to be a key year in Gatewood’s career. If he can handle Double-A, he’ll wear a Milwaukee Brewers uniform sooner rather than later. If not, he may never make it.

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