After seeing 2020’s minor league season cancelled, Brewers prospects finally have a chance for development at the team’s instructional league.
Plenty of things looked different in the world of Major League Baseball in 2020 for Brewers players and fans, from a shortened 60-game season to various rule changes. But at least the majors even had a season with which to look different.
With all the changes in baseball across baseball last season due to the Covid-19 pandemic came, unfortunately, the cancellation of the minor league baseball season. That meant no development opportunities for hundreds of players who didn’t make their teams’ 60-man player pools.
But time for development has finally come for many minor league players and prospects in the form of fall instructional leagues. Most recently used as a tool for some extra one-on-one instruction for some of the younger players in the organization, this year’s version will give work to a wider variety of each team’s prospects and even see some games between instructional league rosters.
MLB Pipeline published a series of updates recently on each MLB team’s instructional league progress. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from Mike Rosenbaum’s piece on the Brewers’ “instructs” team and what they could mean for the organization.
1st-round pick Garrett Mitchell slow out of the gates with injury
Of all the prospects who headed down to Brewers instructs, Garrett Mitchell, Milwaukee’s 20th overall pick in the 2020 draft, was one fans were waiting to hear news about the most. Unfortunately, Mitchell’s action so far has been limited per Rosenbaum.
"Unfortunately, a minor quad injury that Mitchell suffered just before the start of instructional camp has prevented him from appearing in any games. He’s still managed to make the most of his first pro experience, though, earning glowing reviews from his new organization."
Mitchell, as well as the other four college players the Brewers drafted, had the double whammy of not only missing out on any potential minor league action due to the cancelled season but also having most of his college season cut short due to the pandemic. Hopes were that he’d finally get some game action again at instructs, but for now that will have to continue to wait.
Catching talent abundant in the Brewers system
Of the Brewers’ 27 offensive players down at instructs, seven of them are catchers, and that list doesn’t even include their top two catching prospects, Mario Feliciano and Payton Henry. Two who have looked the most impressive are a player who spent one whole game at catcher in the minors for Milwaukee in 2019 and another who wasn’t even a member of the organization that year.
"Thomas Dillard (5th round, 2019) and Zavier Warren (3rd round, 2020) were both drafted as catchers even though neither caught regularly in college. Though targeted primarily for their natural hitting ability, the Brewers also felt that both players possessed the requisite athleticism and physical tools needed to move behind the plate, viewing it as opportunity to maximize their offensive value. The early returns on Dillard, who spent the summer at the alternate training site, have been positive, and the club feels similarly based on what they’ve seen from Warren this fall."
Catching depth is a strength for the Brewers organization these days and the presence of Dillard and Warren only reinforce that point. It’s also what potentially makes a player like Henry, the No. 16 prospect in the Brewers system per MLB Pipeline, one of a few prospects who could possibly be traded.
Top Brewers shortstop prospects impressive early on
Another area where Milwaukee has added significant depth in recent years is at the shortstop position. In fact, the Brewers have two, Brice Turang (No. 2) and Eduardo Garcia (No. 8), among their top ten prospects and, naturally, they have been among the most solid players at instructs.
"Brice Turang and Eduardo Garcia, the two highest-ranked infielders in Milwaukee’s system, benefitted greatly from their time at the alternate site before reporting to instructional league, where, according to Flanagan, they’ve “looked like they’re coming into Spring Training after playing winter ball.”"
Just like at catcher, being loaded with shortstops means the Brewers have backup at the position if they want to swing an offseason trade from a position of depth. That could mean an unlikely blockbuster trade that includes Turang, or perhaps one that has been rumored here and there in recent offseasons like moving Orlando Arcia.
It may not be a minor league season, but Brewers prospects finally get a chance to play the game they love with instructional league taking place. We’ll get more updates out to you as they become available.