Milwaukee Brewers: Rookie league affiliates 2017 review

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 03: Keon Broxton /

This is the fifth and final segment in a series of posts recapping the results of the Milwaukee Brewers minor league affiliates.

Now that we’re done covering Triple-A through Low-A, let’s move on to the rookie league affiliates for the Milwaukee Brewers! All in all, the three rookie teams had mixed results over the course of the season. However, there were plenty of individual performances that warrant a second look.

Rookie League Affiliates 2017 Results

The top rookie affiliate in the Brewers organization is the Helena Brewers of the Pioneer League. However, their record certainly didn’t reflect their standing in the organization. The Brewers quickly fell to the bottom of the pack with a five-game losing streak to start the campaign. They wound up finishing dead last in both the first and the second half of the season.

Next on the docket, we have the Arizona League (AZL) Brewers (what an original name). The AZL Brewers fared much better than their counterparts in Helena, as the former even won the first-half division crown. However, they faltered down the stretch and wound up being eliminated by the AZL Cubs in the first game of the playoffs.

Finally, the third rookie affiliate is the Dominican Summer League (DSL) Brewers (seriously, is rookie ball just against separate team names?). The Brewers also share a team with the Cleveland Indians known as…the DSL Indians/Brewers. Unfortunately, neither team show much life, as they both stumbled to the finish line well below .500.

Rookie League Affiliates 2017 Offense

Despite their record, Helena had quite a few offensive stars. The Pioneer League squad wound up having three hitters (with at least 100 at-bats) bat .300 or higher: ninth-round pick Dallas Carroll (.336), third-round pick KJ Harrison (.306) and 2016 draftee Gabriel Garcia (.300). Competitive Balance pick Tristen Lutz also swatted 31 hits in 93 at-bats (.333). Helena also had plenty of power, as both Harrison and 22-year-old outfielder Jay Feliciano both tallied double-digit home runs.

In the AZL, the biggest story was first-rounder Keston Hiura. The UC-Irvine product ravaged the rookie-league hurlers with a .435 batting average and a 1.339 OPS before receiving a promotion to Low-A Wisconsin.

On the opposite end of the draft board, 36th round pick Kenny Corey swung a hot bat in Arizona. He produced a .371 batting average with 13 doubles before heading up to Helena for the second half. 29-round catcher Brent Diaz also got a call up to Helena midway through the season after putting up a .987 OPS.

The DSL Brewers lacked the offensive firepower of the other rookie affiliates. Their top hitter was 17-year-old shortstop Jean Carmona who batted a relatively temperate .302 with seven triples. 18-year-old Aaron Familia acted as the primary run producer for the team with his five home runs and 38 RBI. Although their bats fell silent, their legs worked fine, as they averaged roughly a steal per game. Outfielder Francis Florentino paced the field with 14 thefts.

Rookie League Affiliates 2017 Pitching

Poor pitching was the main culprit behind Helena’s rough season. Outside of Andrew Vernon‘s 8.1 scoreless innings, no one on the roster sported an ERA below 3.00 (or was relatively close to doing so, for that matter). Nelson Hernandez led the team in starts and innings pitched, but his 5.22 ERA left much to be desired. Eighth-rounder Jayson Rose was the highest draft pick on the roster, but even he could only muster a 5.97 ERA in 31.2 frames. All in all, the pitching in Helena was hard to watch.

The AZL pitching staff also had their fair share of difficulties. Brendan Murphy and Bowden Francis (the top two draft picks on the roster for most of the year) got eaten up in their pro debuts, logging  6.19 and 8.10 ERAs, respectively. Second-rounder Caden Lemons didn’t fare much better in his 2.2 innings of work, as he gave up a pair of hits and two earned runs. Joaquin De La Cruz found success in 42.2 innings (2.53 ERA, 46 strikeouts), but he was one of the few bright spots in this staff.

Just like the DSL offense differed greatly from the other affiliates, so did the pitching. Freisis Adames headlined the staff with a 3.13 ERA and an 80:21 K:BB in 74.2 frames. Jose Parra and Michele Vassalotti turned in ERAs below 3.00 to create a formal rotation. In the bullpen, Jesus Brea settled into the closer’s role, notching 10 saves to go with his 2.43 ERA. It seems that the arms of the DSL squad were the main reason this team didn’t lose even more games.

Next: Top five moments of 2017

As is the case with other minor league teams, the team’s record simply isn’t that important. What is important is that young players are transitioning from amateur to professional baseball smoothly. The rookie-level affiliates certainly had some struggles this year, but many players already showed off the potential that could have them playing at Miller Park a few years down the road.