Looking back on the Milwaukee Brewers 2016 MLB Draft class
By Eric Treuden
In the 2016 MLB draft, the Milwaukee Brewers were able to land future Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes. Throughout the rest of the class taken by the Crew, just three players have made their big league debuts, with some not far behind.
The first-round pick by the Brewers landed them highly-touted outfield prospect Corey Ray. To date, Ray has appeared in just a single big league game after being recalled as one of the injury replacements for pitchers Brett Anderson and Josh Lindblom. Ray has fallen from grace somewhat since signing with Milwaukee. He ranked outside of the club’s top-30 prospects in 2021 after making it as high as #2 in both 2017 and 2019.
The second pick the Brewers made in the 2016 draft is Lucas Erceg. Erceg is a 26-year old corner infielder-turned-two-way-player, who has yet to crack the major leagues since joining the Brewers’ organization. Erceg has always been a relatively poor hitter; possessing double-digit home run power but lacking contact abilities and a refined eye at the plate.
In 2021 the Brewers made the decision to try him on the mound after he showed off an extremely strong throwing arm from third base. The results were not great, as Erceg posted a 6.61 ERA, striking out 45 and walking 35 in 47 innings across 22 appearances, but it was his first time on the mound since he was an underclassman in college. At the plate, Erceg managed to hit just .223 with seven home runs last season, further making his selection so high in the draft look like a flop.
With their third pick in the 2016 draft, the Brewers selected catcher Mario Feliciano, another player who had a cameo appearance in the big leagues last season. Feliciano, 23, has an okay bat that is very much still in development, but Prospects Live gave him a 55-power rating heading into last season.
The hope amongst the Brewers’ front office is that Feliciano can be the catcher of the future for this club. Feliciano’s value lies in his home run potential and his defense, which is also still developing. He received a 45 field-rating and a 55 arm-rating from Prospects Live. It will be interesting to watch his development in 2022 to see if he gets any closer to taking the next step.
In the third round of the 2016 draft, the Brewers selected right-handed pitcher Braden Webb with the 82nd overall pick. Webb, now 26, has yet to advance past the Double-A level in the organization, and may not have much of a role in the future plans of Milwaukee.
Corbin Burnes was the Crew’s fourth-round selection and he is one of the best homegrown stars the Brewers have ever seen. Burnes, 27, led the National League in ERA, ERA+, FIP, HR/9, K/9, and SO/BB last season on his way to the 2021 NL Cy Young Award. Burnes rose to prominence after making much-needed adjustments and is now to be viewed as one of the best pitchers in the major leagues.
After Corbin Burnes, the Brewers 2016 MLB Draft class gets noticeably weaker in the later rounds.
In the fifth round of the 2016 draft, the Brewers selected right-hander Zack Brown. Brown, 27, is still in the organization and could see some time in the big leagues in 2022. He has yet to succeed in Triple-A but that is likely where he will start off this upcoming season.
Payton Henry, a catcher selected in the sixth round by the Brewers, is the only other player to reach the big leagues from the 2016 draft to this point. Henry, 24, was traded to the Miami Marlins in exchange for John Curtiss at the 2021 trade deadline, where he made his big league debut and figures to see some action on the major league squad in 2022.
FanGraphs’ Roster Resource depth chart projections have the 18th round pick by the Brewers in the 2016 draft, Cooper Hummel, making the Arizona Diamondbacks’ big league squad out of Spring Training. Hummel, 27, offers extensive defensive versatility; making appearances at catcher, first base, third base, and each of the outfield corners last year. He possesses double digit homer potential and has decent speed on the base paths. He will be one to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Right-handed pitcher Thomas Jankins (13th round pick) and versatile infielder Weston Wilson (17th round) are the only other players of note from the 2016 draft. Both are expected to begin 2022 in the club’s Triple-A affiliate and have the outside chance at making appearances in the big leagues in the upcoming season, more likely in 2023.
The jury is still out on the rest of the prospects, but selecting a Cy Young winner in the 4th round makes this draft a very good one for Milwaukee. There’s still a good chance that Feliciano can reach his potential, and getting two productive regular players from one draft class is solid. It looks like the top picks of Ray and Erceg won’t reach their potential, but Burnes’ success more than makes up for it.