KATOH Projects: Milwaukee Brewers Prospects

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Last week, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Milwaukee Brewers. In this companion piece, I look at that same Milwaukee farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Brewers have the top farm system in baseball according to KATOH, largely due to their recent rebuilding efforts.

There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Orlando Arcia, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 14.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 60 FV

Arcia has been on the prospect radar for a few years now, but his stock has risen significantly over the past year or so. He’s been posting impressive strikeout and stolen-base numbers since his age-16 season in 2011. Though, prior to last year, he did so with minimal power. After mastering Double-A last year to the tune of .307/.347/.453, Arcia is now one stop from the show. Given his performance, there’s little reason to think he won’t be at least be a solid regular.

Orlando Arcia’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Asdrubal Cabrera 11.6 13.3
2 Alex Gonzalez 14.2 8.3
3 Erick Aybar 13.8 14.4
4 Juan Castro 10.7 0.1
5 Jose Lopez 18.5 6.1
6 Jimmy Rollins 13.2 25.6
7 Troy Tulowitzki 7.6 28.6
8 Alberto Callaspo 14.5 7.3
9 Reid Brignac 10.4 1.7
10 Damion Easley 6.6 9.1

2. Ramon Flores, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 7.4 WAR
Dan’s Grade: Cistulli’s Guy

Flores is a very interesting case. He’s not quite fast enough to play center and lacks the power of a prototypical corner outfielder. What he does do, however, is control the strike zone extremely well: he rarely strikes out and has walked at an above-average clip. And while his power may be fringy, he’s made the most of it the last couple of years by hitting 18 homers in 155 games. These skills enabled him to hit .308/.401/.454 as a 23-year-old in Triple-A last year and .247/.339/.443 at the same level in 2014. Due to his underwhelming tools, most scouts peg him to be a future fourth outfielder. KATOH, on the other hand, thinks he’s one of the top prospects in the minors. His fringy tools might prevent him from hitting his KATOH forecast, but he wouldn’t need to get much better to make for a steady — albeit unexciting — everyday left fielder.

Ramon Flores’ Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Roger Cedeno 9.5 3.6
2 Felix Pie 6.5 1.7
3 Bobby Abreu 7.5 30.8
4 Tony Tarasco 5.2 1.4
5 Gregor Blanco 3.3 7.4
6 Shawn Green 6.2 21.4
7 Ray Lankford 3.7 21.3
8 Michael Brantley 6.0 15.4
9 Darin Erstad 4.0 21.9
10 Karim Garcia 11.5 1.2

3. Jacob Nottingham, C ( Profile)

KATOH Projection: 6.8 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40 FV

After an underwhelming two years in a Rookie ball, Nottingham broke out in a big way last year, slashing .309/.364/.493 in 122 games between the Houston and Oakland organizations. He had a wee bit of trouble making contact, as evidenced by his 20% strikeout rate, but he made up for it by hitting for loads of power. An 850-plus OPS from a 20-year-old in full-season ball is impressive in and of itself, but it’s Nottingham’s defensive position — catcher — that makes his KATOH forecast elite. He isn’t a slam dunk to stick at catcher, however. So, to give you a sense of what KATOH would think of a first baseman version of Jacob Nottingham, I ran his numbers with his position set to first base. The verdict is… 2.2 WAR. That’s not an irrelevant prospect, but not a particularly notable one, either.

Jacob Nottingham’s Mahalanobis Comps (Catchers)
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Josh Phelps 5.5 2.3
2 Jason Townley 4.1 0.0
3 Jeff Mathis 7.5 0.8
4 Ben Davis 5.0 4.7
5 Javy Lopez 6.1 13.9
6 Craig Wilson 5.1 6.4
7 Ronny Paulino 6.3 4.2
8 Ryan Christianson 7.6 0.0
9 John Buck 5.6 3.7
10 Raul Casanova 4.3 1.1

Jacob Nottingham’s Mahalanobis Comps (First Basemen)
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Jason Stokes 2.0 0.0
2 Brian Dopirak 2.5 0.0
3 David Ortiz 1.5 10.1
4 Thomas Pittman 3.3 0.0
5 Daryle Ward 2.2 0.0
6 Mike Carp 2.5 2.4
7 Jon Tucker 1.3 0.0
8 Brad Nelson 2.1 0.1
9 Oreste Marrero 0.5 0.1
10 Alejandro Freire 0.7 0.0

4. Brett Phillips, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 5.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

A former sixth-round pick, Phillips broke out in 2014 by hitting .311/.375/.522 with 23 steals in Class-A ball. He built on those improvements last season by hitting a loud .310/.377/.534 between High-A and Double-A with 17 steals. Phillips’ high strikeout totals are a knock against him, but his remarkable power/speed combination yields a favorable KATOH projection.

Brett Phillips’ Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Melky Cabrera 3.4 12.1
2 Andrew McCutchen 4.1 40.3
3 Brandon Moss 2.2 3.0
4 Edgard Clemente 4.7 0.0
5 Dan Peltier 3.8 0.0
6 Austin Jackson 3.7 18.0
7 T.J. Staton 5.6 0.0
8 Rich Butler 6.2 0.0
9 Carlos Gonzalez 2.8 19.0
10 Rondell White 4.8 19.8

5. Josh Hader, LHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 4.8 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50 FV

Although he was a 19th-round pick, Hader’s performed at every minor-league stop. He was especially good last year, when he pitched to a 3.10 FIP with a 29% strikeout rate at Double-A. He pitched even better after he came over from Houston at the deadline. Only seven pitching prospects have a better KATOH projection than Hader.

Josh Hader’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Seung Song 3.6 0.0
2 Mike Drumright 3.2 0.0
3 Scott Linebrink 4.1 4.2
4 Jordan Zimmermann 3.2 17.6
5 Wascar Serrano 2.8 0.2
6 Jason Bell 3.4 0.0
7 Duff Brumley 3.1 0.0
8 Livan Hernandez 4.2 19.1
9 Joey Nation 3.5 0.0
10 Ricky Nolasco 3.9 14.4

6. Isan Diaz, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 4.3 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50+ FV

Diaz hit .360/.436/.640 in Rookie ball last year, making him arguably the best hitter at that level. However, while his overall batting line was unequivocally great, it’s unclear if he’ll have the same level of success in the high minors. His 2015 performance was largely due to a .434 BABIP, which disguised the fact that he struck out relatively often. Diaz’s 21% strikeout rate wasn’t terrible, but most successful big leaguers whiff much less frequently in the low minors. There’s a lot to like, but Diaz also has a lot to prove.

7. Zach Davies, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.5 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45+ FV

Davies doesn’t throw particularly hard, but still managed to post average-ish strikeout and walk numbers in Triple-A last year. That’s no small feat coming from a 22-year-old. He also induces plenty of ground balls, which helps him keep his home-run totals in check. Davies isn’t overly very exciting, as a starting pitcher who’s big-league ready, he’s a low-risk prospect.

Zach Davies’ Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Ricky Bones 4.5 4.2
2 Dicky Gonzalez 2.3 0.1
3 Dave Borkowski 3.3 1.1
4 Allen Watson 3.5 3.5
5 Kevin Mulvey 2.9 0
6 Butch Henry 2.3 7
7 Livan Hernandez 4.1 17.2
8 Matt Perisho 2.7 0.6
9 Chad Gaudin 4.4 4.4
10 Dana Eveland 4.5 2.9

8. Javier Betancourt, 2B (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.5 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 35+ FV

Betancourt’s a glove-first middle infielder who — despite being one of the youngest players in his league — didn’t embarrass himself in High-A last year. Although he hit for very little power, his .263/.304/.336 batting line was perfectly acceptable for a middle infielder. Furthermore, his 8% strikeout rate suggests he’ll perform similarly well against high-minors pitching.

9. Clint Coulter, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.5 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 40+ FV

Coulter broke out in a big way in 2014, when he hit .287/.410/.520 with 22 dingers in Low-A. He hit a less impressive .246/.329/.397 in High-A last year, though he did cut down on his strikeout rate. Coulter’s moved from catcher to the outfield, but his bat might be able to carry him.

10. Michael Reed, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

Reed split last season between Double-A and Triple-A before making a late season cameo in Milwaukee. He hit .270/.377/.408 in the minors on the strength of a 15% walk rate, 35 doubles and seven triples. His 21% strikeout rate was a tad high for someone with middling power, but as Dan pointed out in his writeup, more power may be on the way.

Michael Reed’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Ray Sadler 2.1 0.1
2 Tuffy Rhodes 3.2 0.9
3 Wayne Busby 1.1 0.0
4 Goef Tomlinson 2.3 0.0
5 Jon Hamilton 1.0 0.0
6 Mike Darr 0.9 2.6
7 Franklin Gutierrez 1.9 13.1
8 Angel Pagan 1.7 9.1
9 Eric Young Jr. 2.0 4.0
10 Chris Magruder 1.6 0.8

11. Jorge Lopez, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.9 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50 FV

Lopez posted a sparkling 2.26 ERA in 24 regular-season starts at Double-A, and somehow managed to top that figure with a 2.16 mark in the playoffs. His 3.36 FIP suggests he got a bit lucky, but even so, a 24% strikeout as a 22-year-old bodes very well for his future.

12. Kodi Medeiros, LHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.8 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

At first glance, Medeiros’ 2015 looks unremarkable. He posted a 4.44 ERA in Low-A, with a good chunk of his appearances coming in relief. However, his 2.96 FIP suggests he was much better than his ERA. Medeiros can stand to improve his walk rate, but he misses plenty of bats and didn’t allow a single homer last year. Not bad for a guy who opened the year as an 18-year-old.

13. Tyrone Taylor, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.8 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45+ FV

Taylor hit an underwhelming .260/.312/.377 in Double-A last year, but struck out in just 11% of his trips to the plate. He’ll likely need to develop more power to get by. That said, he’s only 22, so it’s conceivable that more power might be on the way.

14. Keon Broxton, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.7 WAR
Dan’s Grade: Unranked

Broxton popped 10 homers and 40 steals in the minors last year. Yet, despite his minor-league success, Broxton’s age (26) and high strikeout numbers make him something of a long shot to succeed in the big leagues. Broxton has nice tools, but is more than a little old to be striking out over one-quarter of the time against minor-league pitching.

15. Trent Clark, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.5 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 55 FV

The Brewers took Clark 15th overall out of high school, and he debuted by hitting .309/.424/.430 in Rookie ball with 25 steals. Clark posted an awesome triple slash, but relied heavily on walks and BABIP, while strikeout and power tend to be the more predictive metrics. Even so, KATOH’s intrigued, and I anticipate it will be even more intrigued after Clark spends a year in full-season ball

16. Rymer Liriano, OF (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 2.0 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Liriano hit .291/.375/.466 with nearly 40 steals between Double-A and Triple-A in the past last two seasons, including a .292/.383/.460 clip last year. Liriano hits for power, runs well and draws the occasional walk, but struggles to make consistent contact. He struck out in 24% of his trips to the plate in Triple-A last year, and he’s whiffed well over 20% throughout his minor-league career. KATOH’s never particularly high on high strikeout guys, which explains it’s pessimism towards Liriano.


1-2 WAR Prospects
Rank Name Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
17 Freddy Peralta RHP 1.8 Unranked
18 Gilbert Lara SS 1.5 40
19 Yadiel Rivera SS 1.4 35+
20 Kyle Wren OF 1.4 40
21 Jorge Ortega RHP 1.3 Unranked
22 David Burkhalter RHP 1.1 Unranked
23 Manny Pina C 1.1 Unranked
24 David Denson 1B 1.1 40
25 Colin Walsh 2B 1.0 Unranked
26 Jacob Gatewood SS 1.0 40

Freddy Peralta posted a 2.33 FIP and 29% strikeout rate in Rookie ball, but is only 6-foot even. Jorge Ortega spent 2015 at the High-A level, where he pitched to a sparkling 2.41 ERA and a similarly impressive 3.09 FIP. Strangely, he struck out less than 13% and walked less than 2%. Former 6th rounder David Burkhalter pitched successfully as a 19-year-old swingman in Low-A. Manny Pina is already 28, but hit .305/.379/.461 in Triple-A last year. He could conceivably make for a useful backup catcher. Rule 5 pick Colin Walsh produced a .302/.447/.470 slash line in Double-A, but is already 26. Kyle Wren is the son of Han Solo former Braves GM Frank Wren. He has speed and makes contact, but has hit for almost no power.


Remaining 45+ FV Prospects
Name Position KATOH WAR Dan’s FV
Monte Harrison OF 0.8 50
Cody Ponce P 0.7 45
Devin Williams P 0.9 45+

Monte Harrison hit a terrible .148/.246/.247 with a 42% (!) strikeout rate in Low-A, though he redeemed himself a bit following a June demotion to Rookie ball. Cody Ponce had a strong debut in Low-A, but wasn’t great considering he was a 21-year-old college draftee. Devin Williams was more good than great as a swingman in Low-A.

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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wily momember
7 years ago

about a month ago i checked b-ref to see what kyle wren’s middle initial was, and was mildly irritated to see that it is “P”

so close