Top 30 Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers by Eric Longenhagen December 8, 2017 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH (stats-only) statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. Top Prospects Series 2018 2017 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Brewers Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Keston Hiura 21 A 2B 2019 55 2 Corbin Burnes 23 AA RHP 2019 55 3 Tristen Lutz 19 R OF 2020 50 4 Luis Ortiz 22 AA RHP 2018 50 5 Brandon Woodruff 24 MLB RHP 2018 50 6 Lucas Erceg 22 AAA 3B 2019 50 7 Trent Grisham 21 A+ OF 2020 50 8 Corey Ray 23 A+ OF 2020 50 9 Freddy Peralta 21 AA RHP 2019 45 10 Mauricio Dubon 23 AAA SS 2018 45 11 Marcos Diplan 21 A+ RHP 2018 45 12 Brett Phillips 22 MLB OF 2018 45 13 Cody Ponce 23 AA RHP 2018 45 14 Mario Feliciano 19 A C 2021 40 15 Jean Carmona 18 R SS 2022 40 16 Caden Lemons 19 R RHP 2022 40 17 Adrian Houser 24 MLB RHP 2018 40 18 Taylor Williams 26 MLB RHP 2018 40 19 Phil Bickford 22 A+ RHP 2019 40 20 Jake Gatewood 22 AA 1B 2020 40 21 Kodi Medeiros 21 A+ LHP 2019 40 22 KJ Harrison 21 R C 2020 40 23 Jorge Lopez 24 MLB RHP 2017 40 24 Troy Stokes 21 AA OF 2019 40 25 Carlos Rodriguez 16 R OF 2022 40 26 Jacob Nottingham 21 AA C 2018 40 55 FV Prospects 1. Keston Hiura, 2B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from UC Irvine Age 20 Height 5’11 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/60 55/55 40/55 50/50 40/50 40/40 Hiura had elbow issues for much of his college career and didn’t throw as a junior at Irvine. He DH’d in games and only took grounders at second base during batting practice, lobbing balls away to teammates after fielding them. He displayed the feet and actions necessary for second base in these instances, but uncertainty remained about his future defensive home because of the clear issues with his arm. The best college bat in the 2017 draft class was perceived as risky. Hiura rakes. He’s not especiallly big, but his hands are strong and lightning quick. They help him generate above-average raw power, and Hiura’s feel for hitting is going to help him get to much of it. The AZL was no match for him after signing, and Hiura may not be tested until he reaches Double-A. He played second base for a few games at the end of the regular season but didn’t have an opportunity to throw during those games. He saw time at second during instructional league, but I didn’t see him make a max-effort throw. If his arm gets healthy and he’s fine at second base, Hiura projects to hit, hit for power, and play an up-the-middle position. He’s a potential All-Star. KATOH projection for first six years: 0.5 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 2. Corbin Burnes, RHP Video Drafted: 4th Round, 2016 from St. Mary’s Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 205 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 55/55 50/55 50/55 45/50 50/60 Burnes’ breakout 2017 campaign — which included a 1.05 ERA in 10 starts with Carolina and 2.10 ERA in 16 starts at Biloxi — came thanks to an improvement with his command. His stuff is similar now to what he exhibited in college. He sits 91-94, will touch 95, and liberally mixes in his two breaking balls while sending forth an occasional changeup against lefties. A new position on the rubber and a more evenly paced delivery helped Burnes pound away at the glove-side corner of the strike zone with precision. His slider’s movement and his fastball’s natural cut play well together there, both away from righties and down-and-in against lefties. His curveball flashes plus and can be located in the zone or beneath it, though Burnes doesn’t always get on top of the baseball when he throws it and it’s not yet consistent. The same is true for his changeup. He’s athletic, gets off the mound quickly to field his position and is highly competitive. Again, not much of this is new and I still don’t have any idea how Burnes lasted until the fourth round of the 2016 draft just based on his stuff and athleticism. He projects as an above-average big-league starter. KATOH projection for first six years: 3.6 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 50 FV Prospects 3. Tristen Lutz, OF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Martin HS (TX) Age 18 Height 6’3 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/50 50/55 20/50 50/45 40/50 60/60 Signed for just over slot as the 34th overall pick, Lutz had a tremendous summer in the AZL and Pioneer League, slashing .311/.398/.559 across those levels. While scouts like Lutz’s well-rounded collection of tools — and I do believe his ranking on my draft board in June was a little light — remember that Lutz was a bit old for his high-school class, is already 19, and was quite physically mature for Rookie-level ball. He projects, defensively, to right field because of his arm strength. I have his bat and game power projected to average, which would make him an average regular in an outfield corner. KATOH projection for first six years: 1.1 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 4. Luis Ortiz, RHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Sanger HS (CA) Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 240 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 60/60 45/50 45/50 50/55 Ortiz worked with his changeup more frequently in 2017, which may have caused his on-paper production to look less impressive than one might anticipate given his stuff. He sits 92-96 with his fastball and has terrific glove-side command of his plus slider. His changeup is fringey but plays well off of his heater, as both feature considerable downhill plane, and even right-handed hitters were offering at some of Ortiz’s better cambios in the dirt this year. He also has a slower curveball that he can throw for strikes as he pitches through the lineup a second and third time. Ortiz is a high-volume strike-thrower with a 7% career walk rate. He’s quick to home from the stretch (1.4 seconds with his bigger leg kick, 1.2 with the slide step), which helps him control the running game and, overall, is pretty polished for his age. (He pitched all year at Double-A, age 21.) I say it every time I write Ortiz up, because El Guapo deserves to be immortal, but Rich Garces is the body comp here, and Ortiz will need to keep his weight in check — which he’s done to this point, to his credit — as he ages. He’s had some health issues, including a hamstring injury in 2017, but profiles as a strike-throwing mid-rotation starter. KATOH projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph [/accordion_widget] 5. Brandon Woodruff, RHP Drafted: 11th Round, 2014 from Mississippi St Age 24 Height 6’4 Weight 215 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 55/55 55/55 45/50 50/55 Woodruff was called up in June but tweaked his hamstring prior to his first start. He missed a month. In August, he was back up in Milwaukee and allowed just four runs in his first four big-league starts combined before sputtering in September. He posted a 4.81 ERA in 43 innings, seven short of graduating off the list. Woodruff’s fastball ranges from 92 to 98, always with a bit of sink and run, but especially in the lower end of that range. It’s his best pitch and he has competent command of it, generally locating to his arm and glove side, although without surgical precision. Woodruff also throws a hard slider and changeup. His slider is superior, sitting 84-88 with enough movement to miss bats off the plate away from righties but not always enough to compete for swings and misses in the strike zone. His changeup is firm and fringey, also 85-88. He’s a big-league-ready, sinker/slider fourth starter. KATOH projection for first six years: 2.5 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 6. Lucas Erceg, 3B Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Menlo Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 200 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 55/60 40/55 50/45 40/50 70/70 The imminently shiftable Erceg is pull- and uppercut-happy, a combination which caused him to record an infield-fly rate (when considering infield flies as a percentage of all batted balls) that sat in the bottom 20% among the Carolina League’s qualifiers hitters this year. That, combined with an overaggressive style of hitting, contributed to a down statistical year for Erceg, who hit .256/.307/.417 at High-A. There are a bevy of tools to like here, though. Erceg has above-average raw power (and the frame for a bit more), a plus-plus arm, and promising but unrefined bat-to-ball skills. Erceg’s hand-eye coordination and bat control are both suitable for an expansive, all-fields approach, but his swing — which is geared to lift the ball in the air to his pull side — is not. Scouts think the quality of his contact will improve if he becomes more selective and swings at pitches he can drive, not just ones he can hit. Erceg’s defensive footwork isn’t great, and it was a developmental focus during his Fall League stint. He has the athleticism and range to play third, though, and his arm gives him considerable margin for error. He still profiles as an average regular and possibly better, if his approach matures significantly. KATOH projection for first six years: 2.0 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 7. Trent Grisham, OF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Richland HS (TX) Age 20 Height 6’0 Weight 205 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/50 50/50 40/45 50/50 50/55 45/45 Grisham (who recently changed his surname from Clark) has been a divisive prospect since high school, when some scouts thought he was the best prep bat in his draft class and others were unmoved by most of his skillset. It’s been hard to get a read on Grisham in pro ball, as he has missed time with injury — he had a concussion in 2015 and dealt with nagging hamstring issues that derailed his 2016 campaign — and has an atypical build and hitting style. I think it works. Grisham’s wrists are loose, his high-effort swing fluid and more more controlled than it appears, and he has feel for all-fields contact. While Grisham’s strikeout rate held firm in 2017, his ground-ball rate plummeted, dropping from nearly 50% in 2016 to 38%. His hands are a bit more active during his set-up and his bigger leg kick better includes his lower half than his high -chool swing (open stance, strides closed with no leg kick) and 2016 swing (where he was more closed off). I like his chances to make more contact as he grows comfortable with this new, max-effort cut. Grisham possesses superlative patience and netted 98 walks at High-A in 2017, second in all of the minor leagues. He has average raw power and might produce game power a tick beneath it as his approach to contact produces lots of doubles in the gap. Once a fringe defensive center-field prospect, Grisham now projects to left field, as he’s only an average runner — his stolen base totals are a result of instincts, not pure speed — and has a fringe arm. He could be a plus defender there as his reads off the bat are quite good. These tools are all middling but represent a well-rounded game, and Grisham has potentially elite strike-zone awareness. He’s could be an above-average regular but, because because he’s limited to the outfield corners, the profile unravels if Grisham’s bat-to-ball skills don’t progress. KATOH projection for first six years: 1.8 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 8. Corey Ray, OF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Louisville Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 60/60 30/45 70/70 45/50 40/40 Ray was the No. 1 player on my 2016 draft board. Though several aspects of his game weren’t yet polished — his defense in center field, baserunning, and ability to get to his raw power — Ray was a tooled-up college performer who hit 15 homers and stole 44 bases (without being caught) as a junior at Louisville. Some scouts considered him this system’s best prospect last offseason and thought that he’d eventually get to most of his plus raw power while playing average defense in center and stealing 30 or more bases. Ray didn’t hit well in his abbreviated pro debut and then tore his meniscus in the fall. It required surgery, and his 2017 season started late as he recovered. I saw Ray during 2017 extended spring training and thought he was one of, if not the, best prospect still in Arizona at the time. He ground out long at-bats, hit for power, and looked better in center field than he had in college. Then Ray went to High-A Carolina and began what became a lost season, hitting .238 there with a 31% strikeout rate. He was a Futures Game and, later, Fall Stars Game participant more on pedigree than merit, as he hit .231 in the AFL. He is one of the more polarizing prospects in baseball right now. Ray’s footwork was tinkered with multiple times in 2017. In college, Ray had a simple, short stride back toward the pitcher. In the spring of 2017 it was a little slower and longer. By mid-year he was employing a Sosa-ish toe tap. My notes from early in the Fall League indicate he had no stride at all; then, by the end of the AFL, he was back to something resembling what he was using early in the year, but with more emphasis on starting his weight on his rear leg. These changes seem subtle, but they’re difficult to incorporate on the fly versus pro pitching, and they explain some of why Ray struggled to hit this year. But there are other issues. Ray was not an especially selective hitter at Louisville, often taking what he was given and finding some way to poke the ball into play. Ray has continued this expansive approach, less viable in pro ball, and was hacking at pitches way out of the zone in the AFL. Ray’s wrists are a bit stiff and he extends a bit early, causing habitual lateness. He was swinging through 91-93 mph fastballs up and in during the Fall League. Ray did improve his defense in 2017 and continues to project as an average defender in center despite the occasional bad read off the bat. He’ll need more mechanical work in 2017 to become a competent offensive player, though. Some scouts want to see Ray employ a slasher’s approach to contact to limit swing-and-miss and take advantage of his speed. Others see his raw power and think every possible option that might allow it to play in games should be exhausted before such a change. Ray had never struggled before this year and was visibly frustrated throughout the summer and in the AFL. I believe in his athleticism and makeup enough here that I’m not out on Ray just yet, though his FV grade is a full 10 points below what is was on last year’s list, and I’ve pushed his ETA back to 2020 in anticipation of a long developmental process. KATOH projection for first six years: 0.7 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 45 FV Prospects 9. Freddy Peralta, RHP Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic Age 21 Height 5’11 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 60/60 55/55 40/45 40/50 Simply looking at Freddy Peralta’s numbers would lead you to believe that he’s some sort of arm-strength goof with little control of huge stuff. He struck out 34% of the hitters he faced in 2017 — only three starters (Kluber, Sale, and Scherzer) with 100 innings or more did that in 2017 — but had a 12% walk rate. In reality, Peralta is a 5-foot-11 righty who sits 89-92 and is able to thwart hitters with help from what might be one of baseball’s most unique release points. Peralta generates seven feet of extension, which is up in Tim Lincecum territory, and does so with a cross-body delivery that begins on the third-base side of the rubber. He also has a low arm slot and loose, whippy arm action that further adds to hitters’ confusion. The result is death to right-handed hitters, who have to deal not only with Peralta’s delivery but also an above-average slider that he locates away from them. It has enough depth and length to it that some scouts think it’s a curveball, and its shape varies often enough that some think he throws both, but it’s just a slider and it misses bats. Once you start realizing how odd Peralta’s delivery is, his on-paper command issues become more forgivable. It’s not easy to repeat a delivery that tests the upper bounds of one’s athleticism on every pitch. Peralta will spot his fastball and slider where the catcher requests semi-frequently, his worst struggles with control coming and going in waves, varying heavily from start to start. Some scouts don’t think he’ll throw enough strikes to start, others have a future 55 on his command. His changeup is universally panned and it, or a different third pitch, will need to develop if he’s going to start, command commeth or not. Peralta was in Double-A just three weeks after turning 21. He was added to the 40-man this offseason and could make his debut in 2018, likely in a relief role. Peralta’s freakishness makes his profile a bit unpredictable, but it mostly manifests itself in his how his fastball plays, a pitch that I’ve graded at plus despite its fringe velocity. Once we step back and examine his profile, independent of its weirdness, he grades out as a potential mid-rotation starter with a late-inning bullpen fallback. KATOH projection for first six years: 5.2 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 10. Mauricio Dubon, SS Video Drafted: 26th Round, 2013 from Capital Christian HS (CA) Age 22 Height 6’0 Weight 160 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 50/55 40/40 30/30 55/55 45/50 55/55 Dubon’s power output and walk rate both returned to Earth in 2017, disappointing that homebrew spreadsheet mark in your dynasty league. His scouting report remains the same, however. Dubon is difficult to strike out because of incredible hand-eye coordination (though his swing is long) and runs well enough to squeeze every bit of juice out of that skill, netting infield hits on dribblers and hustling for an extra double now and then. He saw a few games in center field in the 2016 Arizona Fall League but didn’t see time there this season, playing both middle-infield spots instead. His lack of power limits his ceiling and Dubon profiles as either a low-end shortstop or luxury utility man. He’ll be the first native Honduran to play in the big leagues and should get there in 2018. KATOH projection for first six years: 3.7 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 11. Marcos Diplan, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic Age 20 Height 6’0 Weight 160 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 60/60 55/60 40/50 40/50 It was a wildly inconsistent year for Diplan, who averaged 4.8 innings per appearance over his 26 outings. He walked four or more hitters in nine of them and posted a 5.23 ERA for the season. I saw Diplan early in the year. He was 91-94 with an inconsistent but plus-flashing slider and no command. He didn’t work himself into favorable counts and rarely had the opportunity to throw his changeup. Diplan looks a little heavier and less athletic than he did in 2016. His big-striding, high-effort delivery requires great athleticism to repeat, something Diplan wasn’t doing much of in 2017. He flashes three plus pitches, a fastball up to 95 with considerable extension, a tight slider with mostly vertical break, and a changeup that occasionally flashes significant arm-side fade. I consider him more likely to end up in the bullpen than I did a year ago because development of his command has stagnated. He has the stuff to be a high-leverage arm. Acquired from Texas in a 2015 trade for Yovani Gallardo, Diplan was added to Milwaukee’s 40-man roster this fall. KATOH projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 12. Brett Phillips, OF Video Drafted: 6th Round, 2012 from Seminole HS (FL) Age 23 Height 6’0 Weight 185 Bat/Throw L/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/40 55/55 45/50 55/55 50/55 70/70 Phillips was hitting .297/.369/.589 at Triple-A Colorado Springs when he was promoted for the first of three big-league stints this season. He was in Milwaukee for five games in June, 10 in July, and finally through all of September. Phillips was 10 non-September days and about 40 plate appearances away from exhausting rookie eligibility, the latter of which he might have accrued if he had gotten more playing time late in the year while he was rostered. Phillips hit well in his small sample of big-league at-bats, slashing .276/.351/.448 and reaching on each of his five steal attempts. xStats, which calculates expected stats based on batted-ball data, suggests that this was a mirage, as does Phillips’ .408 BABIP. Scouts aren’t sold on Phillips’ bat. He has a clunky leg kick and weight transfer that prevent him from turning on balls consistently, and he is violent about the head during his swing, exacerbating Phillips’ whiff-prone stiffness. He has struck out in 24% of his pro plate appearances and in 30% of his PAs the last two seasons. He projects as a 40 hitter, and his approach to contact will likely limit his game power output. But he does lots of other things. Phillips is an above-average runner and high-effort player who makes it work in center field despite lacking great instincts. He has strong hands and is able to poke balls out the other way on occasion. Most notably, Phillips has elite, game-changing arm strength and uncorked a throw in excess of 104 mph, according to Statcast, this year. Some scouts think Phillips’ patience, raw power, and ability to play center field will make him an average everyday player, but most think his inability to hit will limit him to a lesser role. KATOH projection for first six years: 3.5 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 13. Cody Ponce, RHP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Cal Poly Pomona Age 23 Height 6’6 Weight 265 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Cutter Command 60/60 50/50 40/45 55/60 45/50 Finally, a healthy season for Ponce, who had arm trouble in college and spent time on the DL in 2016 with forearm fatigue. He has starter’s stuff — a four-pitch mix that includes an average curveball and hard cutter/slider — and a workhorse build, but the violence in Ponce’s delivery and his injury history have many projecting him to the bullpen. This past season was a step in the right direction, and Ponce continues to project as a No. 4/5 starter. KATOH projection for first six years: 0.6 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 40 FV Prospects 14. Mario Feliciano, C Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Beltran Academy (PR) Age 18 Height 6’1 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 45/50 20/45 40/40 30/50 55/55 Tasked with an aggressive assignment to a full-season affiliate at age 18, Feliciano kept his head above water on both sides of the ball, slashing .251/.320/.331 despite being 3.2 years younger than the average regular in the Midwest League. His carrying tool is going to be the bat. Feliciano tracks pitches very well and can guide his barrel to various parts of the strike zone and spray contact to all fields. He’s not likely to grow into big raw power but could be a 55 or 60 hitter at peak. Defensively, Feliciano is raw. His receiving is promising for his age but not currently very good, and his arm strength is fringey. If those can be remedied — and Feliciano has above-average athleticism for catcher, so scouts think they will — he could be an everyday player. KATOH projection for first six years: 2.2 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 15. Jean Carmona, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Dominican Republic Age 17 Height 6’1 Weight 183 Bat/Throw S/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/40 45/55 20/45 55/50 40/55 60/60 Carmona began the year in the DSL, where he hit .302/.406/.447 before a brief promotion to the AZL. He turned 18 on Halloween. Carmona is physically mature for his age and body comps to Jean Segura. He made some spectacular plays at shortstop during his time in the AZL and, provided he doesn’t add too much weight into his 20s, he could be an above-average defensive shortstop at peak. Carmona swings hard and his swing has some natural loft. Its length was exposed during instructional league and Carmona needs to be more selective if he’s going to hit at all, but there are considerable physical tools here. Draft-eligible shortstops with a good glove and power potential, even ones with hit-tool volatility, are typically off the board in the first two rounds of a draft. 16. Caden Lemons, RHP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Vestivia Hills (AL) Age 18 Height 6’6 Weight 175 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 45/60 30/45 30/45 30/50 Lemons’ fastball velocity fluctuated throughout the year. He was mostly 90-93 during his senior spring but was touching 97. After he signed he was 89-92 and then 86-90 during instructional league, where focus was on his mechanics rather than results. The hope is that, as his rangy, thin frame fills out, Lemons’ fastball will not only settle but that it will grow into an elite offering. Hope and growth pervade the rest of Lemons’ projection. He has some slider feel — Lemons posted breaking-ball spin rates in the 2500 rpm range as an amateur — but it’s inconsistent. His changeup is even further behind. As one would expect for such a large young man, so too is his control, but Lemons is graceful and athletic for his size and should be granted lots of time to work through what will almost assuredly be a long developmental process. He is a high-upside lottery ticket. 17. Adrian Houser, RHP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2011 from Locust Grove HS (OK) Age 24 Height 6’4 Weight 228 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 60/60 40/45 45/50 Houser had Tommy John surgery during the summer of 2016 and didn’t return to game action until late in 2017. While rehabbing in Arizona, Houser spent time with fellow 2011 Oklahoma high-school draftee and Diamondbacks righty Archie Bradley. During that time, scouts noticed a change in his physique and on-mound demeanor. Houser now attacks hitters with a mid-90s fastball that sat 93-97 in my looks at him in the fall. He liberally mixes in a plus 12-6 curveball. I didn’t see any cutters — something Houser threw frequently in 2015 when he made his major-league debut — and only a few, firm, upper-80s changeups. If Houser is going to continue to develop as a starter, the changeup will need to improve and/or the cutter will need to return. If Milwaukee plans on fast-tracking him as a reliever, all the ingredients are already here and he could be ready shortly. KATOH projection for first six years: 1.2 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 18. Taylor Williams, RHP Video Drafted: 4th Round, 2013 from Kent St Age 25 Height 5’11 Weight 195 Bat/Throw B/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 60/60 60/60 40/40 40/40 A fourth-rounder in 2013, Williams was viewed as a relief-only prospect coming out of Kent State but exceeded strike-throwing expectations the following year and had a bit of a breakout. He was sidelined by an elbow injury during 2015 spring training, but the Brewers tried a PRP injection and rehab to remedy it instead of surgery. It failed, and Williams needed Tommy John, which he had that fall. Because of the timing of the surgery he missed two full seasons and then finally picked up some innings during 2016 fall instructs, during which his fastball sat 94-98. In 2017, Williams struck out 36% of hitters he faced at Double-A Biloxi and earned a September call-up. He sits 95-98 and has a plus slider at mostly 85-86 mph. His command might limit his role to the middle innings, but Williams has high-leverage stuff. KATOH projection for first six years: 0.5 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 19. Phil Bickford, RHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2015 from Southern Nevada Age 21 Height 6’4 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 50/55 50/55 40/45 40/50 Bickford made just six appearances in 2017, all in the AZL. He was suspended 50 games for a second positive test for a drug of abuse and then missed another two months recovering from surgery to repair two broken fingers (ring and pinkie) on his throwing hand. When he returned, his stuff had not. His fastball was 87-90 for some scouts who saw him in the AZL, then 90-93 when I caught him during the summer, and then back down in the upper 80s again during instructional league. He had plus fastball-command projection as an amateur and flashes an above-average slider but hasn’t had the opportunity to develop a third pitch due to injury and suspension. His command evaporated late in 2016 and was rusty late this summer. His stock is hanging on by a thread, but he’s also a bounceback candidate for 2018, as his 2017 struggles can be attributed to a complete lack of playing time. KATOH projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 20. Jake Gatewood, 1B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Clovis HS (CA) Age 21 Height 6’5 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/30 70/80 30/50 40/30 45/55 55/55 Gatewood’s stock is up despite his continued tumble down the defensive spectrum to first base (though I think he looks pretty good there), which is now his most frequent home. He nearly tripled his walk rate (up from an abhorrent 3% in 2016) and posted a season-long OBP over .305 for the first time in his career. Gatewood quieted down some aspects of his swing but still has enough natural strength to drive the ball. He tallied 40 doubles and 15 homers in 2017. Even with Gatewood’s elite raw power, it’s unlikely that he develops a combination of patience and contact to profile at first base. As such, he looks likely to become a power-over-hit bench bat, provided he can continue being serviceable at third. KATOH projection for first six years: 0.4 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 21. Kodi Medeiros, LHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Waiakea HS (HI) Age 21 Height 6’2 Weight 180 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command 50/55 55/60 40/45 40/45 While Medeiros’s control took a step forward in 2017, his low arm slot and lack of a third pitch continue to render it likely that he becomes a reliever. His fastball sits 91-94 — up from the 90-92 scouts saw from Medeiros as he was wearing down last year — and he’ll flash a plus slider, but his arm slot allows righties to see the ball early and he doesn’t yet have a viable changeup to disrupt their timing. He could be a dominant LOOGY, especially if his fastball plays up out of the bullpen, as I have it projected. KATOH projection for first six years: 1.0 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 22. KJ Harrison, C Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Oregon St Age 20 Height 6’0 Weight 208 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/40 55/60 30/50 30/30 30/45 45/50 Though he was a high-school catcher in Hawaii, Harrison matriculated to Oregon State and was relegated to first base by the presence of Cleveland’s 2016 third-rounder, catcher Logan Ice. As a freshman, Harrison looked like he had the bat to go in the draft’s top 10 picks, especially if he were to return to catching. His sophomore and junior years were colored by erratic plate discipline and strikeout issues. Even as a junior Harrison didn’t catch very much, and it was a struggle for decision-making eyes to get a look at him behind the plate this year. He fell to the third round. Harrison looked predictably raw behind the plate during the rest of the summer and into fall instructional league. In a vacuum, Harrison wouldn’t project as a catcher. But because he hasn’t done it full time for several years, I think more patience is prudent. He has the raw arm strength to catch but needs to accelerate his transfer, improve his throwing accuracy, and refine his ball-blocking ability. Harrison’s timeline to the big leagues is elongated by all of these developmental hurdles, but his ceiling is quite high if he can clear them. KATOH projection for first six years: 0.2 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 23. Jorge Lopez, RHP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2011 from Caguas MA (PR) Age 24 Height 6’3 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command 60/60 55/55 50/50 35/40 Lopez was sent back to Double-A after Triple-A Colorado Springs wreaked havoc on his curveball and confidence in 2016. There, he began a transition to the bullpen that much of the industry has awaited for some time. He sits 93-97 out of the bullpen with an above-average, low-80s curveball and plus-flashing, upper-80s changeup, for which Lopez lacks much feel for locating. His command is comfortably below average. Lopez has late-inning stuff, but his command and on-mound makeup could limit him to low-leverage innings. KATOH projection for first six years: 1.0 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 24. Troy Stokes, OF Video Drafted: 4th Round, 2014 from Calvert Hall HS (MD) Age 21 Height 5’8 Weight 182 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/45 55/55 40/45 55/55 45/50 40/40 A muscular 5-foot-8, Stokes packs quite a punch and has above-average pull power. Because of his size, his swing is equally as compact as it is lofty, and he’s able to be short to the baseball while also lifting it into the air. Stokes lacks bat control and doesn’t square balls up as frequently as scouts would like to see, leading to many pop ups, and his pull-heavy approach to contact means he might be solved at upper levels, but he’s got an interesting power/patience combination and some speed, so even if scouts aren’t yet confident that he’ll hit enough to play a corner-outfield spot every day, he does enough to comfortably project to some kind of bench role. KATOH projection for first six years: 1.3 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph 25. Carlos Rodriguez, OF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela Age 16 Height 5’10 Weight 150 Bat/Throw L/L Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 20/40 20/30 60/60 45/60 50/50 Listed at a minuscule 5-foot-10, 150 on the Milwaukee instructional-league roster, Rodriguez spent much of his first stateside autumn struggling to match the physicality of the other instructional-league prospects. He’s small but has a frame that promises viable big-league strength, and international scouts considered his bat to be among the class’s more advanced. Rodriguez can really fly and tracks down balls in the gaps that seem destined for extra bases. He’s a plus runner and potential plus defensive center fielder. If his glove develops as expected, he need not do much with the bat to play every day. Rodriguez ranked No. 5 overall on this year’s July 2 Sortable Board and signed for just over $1.3 million. 26. Jacob Nottingham, C Video Drafted: 6th Round, 2013 from Redlands HS (CA) Age 22 Height 6’2 Weight 230 Bat/Throw R/R Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/30 60/60 30/40 30/30 30/40 60/60 Despite a second straight season with an OPS below .700, Nottingham improved his catching while becoming a bit more patient and a bit less strikeout prone as a hitter. He’s still a below-average receiver and lacks great mobility, but his ball-blocking improved a bit, and scouts think he has a better chance of catching than he did last offseason. Nottingham has plus raw power and he got to a little bit more of it in 2017 than the prior season. He’ll still need to polish up his receiving but is looking like a potential backup. KATOH projection for first six years: 3.1 WAR KATOH Likelihood of Outcomes Graph ***** Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)Josh Pennington, RHP, 0.4 KATOH – Acquired from Boston along with Travis Shaw, the 22-year old Pennington already has two surgeries under his belt. He needed Tommy John ahead of the draft in 2014 and had bone chips cleaned up early in 2017, pushing his Brewers debut into June. A healthy Pennington sits 94-97 with a plus-flashing curveball that spins in at 2700 rpm, and he’s a competent strike-thrower. At a slight 6-foot, Pennington’s delivery is of the high-effort variety, which, combined with his injury history, makes for strong relief risk. He has a chance to develop late-inning stuff, but he’s far from the big leagues and has multiple injury red flags. Larry Ernesto, OF – In spite of his above-average speed, Ernesto will likely begin his career already relegated to an outfield corner due to the presence of Carlos Rodriguez at Milwaukee’s lowest levels. He might hit enough to play there, though, as his unique, long-legged frame appears projectable, and he showed promising feel for airborne contact in my looks at him this fall. Ernesto is a switch-hitter and both swings, especially his left-handed cut, have some length to them. That will need to get ironed out, and it may take a while as there are two swings to develop here. Ernesto, who is from the Dominican Republic, ranked 24th on my July 2 big board and signed for $1.7 million. I thought he was one of that class’s better power-hitting prospects. Jon Perrin, RHP, 1.8 KATOH – A 27th-rounder out of Oklahoma State, Perrin continued to exceed expectations in 2017 by posting a 2.91 ERA at Double-A Biloxi in just his second full season. He was 88-92 last year but was 90-94 and touching 95 in the Fall League. He throws strikes and works down in the zone with his fastball and a bevy of middling secondary pitches — including a slider, curveball, and changeup. All of Perrin’s secondary offerings are fringe to average, which limit his ability to miss bats, and he projects as a competent fifth or sixth starter, a great outcome for such a late college draftee. Gabriel Garcia, CIF, 0.4 KATOH – A 2016 16th-rounder out of Broward Community College, Garcia has a quiet, comfortable approach to hitting and sound ball/strike and breaking-ball recognition. He’s short to the baseball but lacks premium bat speed and raw power, which makes his first-base/third-base defensive profile somewhat problematic. For now, he projects as a corner-infield bench bat, but Garcia is just 19 and beginning to build a promising statistical resume. While undoubtedly buoyed by the hitter-friendly Pioneer League, he’s a career .300/.411/.499 hitter across the two lowest levels of the minors. Brendan Murphy, LHP – Signed for a slightly overslot $500,000 as the 114th overall pick in 2017, the 6-foot-4 Murphy isn’t as physically projectable as he is projectable because of his cold-weather, Midwestern background. The Illinois prep lefty’s fastball sits in the upper-80s but might improve if Murphy’s arm action does, and he has feel for creating movement on his changuep. As he’s bit stiff, Murphy’s command and breaking ball are both fringey and in need of development. He’s a potential back-end starter. Zack Brown, RHP, 0.6 KATOH – A fifth-rounder from 2016 out of a Kentucky program that always seems to have underperforming talent, Brown sits 92-96 — he can sink it or blow a four-seamer past hitters — with a plus curveball, and his changeup has promising movement and deception caused by his delivery’s violence, but he lacks feel for locating hit. Brown projects in relief due to the violent nature of his delivery and its effect on his command. He turns 23 next week and spent much of 2017 at Low-A. Ernesto Martinez, Jr., 1B – Martinez’s father still plays Division I baseball in France, at age 44. Ernesto, Sr. played pro ball in Cuba until 2006, then left for France’s Templiers de Sénart, where he still catches. Ernesto Jr. moved from Cuba to France shortly after a strong showing in a U-15 World Championship tournament that also featured Royce Lewis. He played with his father on France’s 2017 WBC qualifier team then signed with Milwaukee in May. He’s massive (listed at 6-foot-6, 225 on the instructional-league roster), well built, and very explosive for his size. He has a plus arm but does not yet have full control of his body on the baseball field, and his defensive footwork and feel for hitting are both very raw. He’s already got plus-plus raw power and has top-of-the-scale raw power projection, but you really have to dream on the bat to see him hitting at all, let alone to get to all that power. But he can do stuff like this and like this. Ooh la la, indeed. Let’s keep an eye on this young man. Carlos Herrera, RHP, 1.2 KATOH – Herrera came over from Seattle with Freddy Peralta in the Adam Lind trade. He’s a skinny, 20-year-old, low-slot righty whose brand of funk was too much for the Pioneer League to handle. He struck out 30% of hitters he faced there, utilizing a three-pitch mix (low-90s, changeup, curveball), and that rate was halved after his promotion to Low-A in July. He has a chance to have multiple average pitches (and I think the curveball could be better than that), but he probably profiles in relief because of the arm slot. Je’Von Ward, OF – At 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, Ward has a Division I wide receiver’s measureables and body comps to Domonic Brown. While broad-shouldered, the rest of his frame is slight and difficult to project, but he’s almost certainly going to add lots of weight as he matures. He’s an above-average runner underway but takes time to reach top speed and Ward will likely occupy a corner-outfield spot as his frame begins adding some unknown quantity of mass. With that mass should come considerable raw power. Whether or not he can tap into it is up for serious debate, but the industry was skeptical enough about Ward’s bat that he fell all the way to round 12, where got got an overslot $400,000. He’s a malleable physical-projection lottery ticket for Milwaukee’s staff to assist in developing. Demi Orimoloye, OF – While he remains an impressive physical specimen, Orimoloye’s feel for hitting has made zero progress in the last year. He doesn’t use his lower half well, nor does he generate much hand separation. Moreover, his offspeed recognition remains poor. He’s an above-average runner at a hulking 6-foot-2 and has plus raw power, and some scouts are still hopeful the bat will come. Tangible improvements will be a necessary in 2018. Yeison Coca, SS – Acquired as the Player to be Named Later from Boston in the Tyler Thornburg deal, Coca spent 2017 in the AZL slashing .238/.281/.262. He’s much more comfortable as a right-handed hitter, where his hands are more explosive and his weight transfer and timing (though still mediocre) are better than his lefty swing, which also has excessive length. He’s a capable defensive middle infielder with a lot of work to do on the bat. There’s some feel to hit here, and I think Coca will improve, but his 5-foot-10, 155-pound frame might mean he only maxes out in a utility role. Jesus Lujano, OF, 0.5 KATOH – Lujano, who turns 19 in February, is a speedy, compact little outfielder with above-average bat speed and hand-eye coordination. Lujano’s swing is a little long, but it doesn’t play as such because of his size. His physical projection is limited, as is the projction on his power, but he runs well enough to get reps in center field and, realistically, projects as a bench outfielder. Quintin Torres-Costa, LHP, 0.8 KATOH – A 35th-rounder out of Hawaii in 2015 (please note Milwaukee has four players from the islands on this list), QTC struck out 107 hitters in 80 relief innings this season. He’s a low-slot lefty with an upper-80s fastball and long, wiping slider. His stuff doesn’t look as though it should be that effective, and it will continue to be tested by a full season in the upper minors, but he was effective in the Arizona Fall League. Even a LOOGY would be a great outcome for a 35th-rounder. Devin Hairston, SS – Milwaukee’s sixth-round pick out of Louisville, Hairston is small (listed at 5-foot-8, 175) but well built and has rare explosiveness and athleticism. He’s an erratic hitter, prone to swing and miss, and fell to the sixth round despite his physical abilities because of it. He does a little bit of everything (some raw power, speed, the occasional spectacular play at shortstop) except hit. Antonio Pinero, SS – This 18-year-old Venezuelan shortstop was one of the prospects with whom Boston was forced to part after MLB revealed improprieties in the club’s international-market dealings in in 2016. Pinero signed with Milwaukee for $375,000 later that year. He has terrific defensive hands and actions, average range and arm, and is adept at reigning in errant throws and applying acrobatic tags on would-be base-stealers. Scouts like his chances of staying at shortstop despite middling range and arm strength, and some think he’ll become more explosive as he matures and have his glove projected to plus. A switch-hitter, Pinero is stronger with the bat from the right side of the plate but lacks any modicum of raw power and might not hit enough to be more than a fringe big leaguer. His physical development, and how it aids his hitting, is key. Thomas Jankins, RHP, 0.5 KATOH – A 13th-rounder out of Quinnipiac in 2016, Jankins had a strong year in the Midwest League, posting a 3.62 ERA and 5% walk rate. His fastball only tops out in the 90-91 range, but he has a plus changeup right now and can throw it, as well as his average breaking ball, for strikes. He mixes in his secondaries liberally, keeping low-level hitters off of his fastball. Jankins’ lack of velocity will be tested as he moves up but, especially for a small-school arm from the northeast, there are already several big-league ingredients here. Braden Webb, RHP, 0.4 KATOH – A 2016 third-rounder out of South Carolina, Webb is deceptive, has a big overhand curveball and fading changeup. They project to average, while his fastball plays a tick above. The effort in Webb’s delivery (which makes it so deceptive) also eats away at his ability to repeat. Thus, he projects in relief. Tyler Webb, LHP, 2.1 KATOH – Webb was Rule 5’d and returned by Pittsburgh from the Yankees and then traded to Milwaukee mid-year for Garrett Cooper. He’s a changeup specialist with beautiful arm action and a fastball in the 89-92 range. His slider is average. Scouts either think he’ll be a versatile 11th or 12th arm on a pitching staff or that the lack of velocity relegates him to 40-man depth. Payton Henry, RHP, 0.1 KATOH – A bat-first catching prospect, Henry’s thick frame and fringe arm already have many scouts projecting him out from behind the plate and over to first base, where his issues with contact become more worrisome. He has plus raw power though, and if he can stay behind the plate he could be an everyday big leaguer. Michele Vassalotti, RHP – A 17-year-old Italian righty who posted a 1.63 ERA as a 16-year-old in the DSL, Vassalotti sits 90-93 and throws strikes with three pitches. He’s physically mature for a teenager, and his lower arm slot might cause platoon issues down the road. Let’s hope he’s a sign that baseball is growing in Italy, where there is currently too much relaxing and enjoyment of fine foods. Bubba Derby, RHP, 1.2 KATOH – A junk-balling 5-foot-10 righty who was part of a very entertaining NCAA regional team in 2015, Derby mixes his pitches well and throws a high volume of strikes but lacks the stuff to be much more than upper-level rotation depth. He pitched his way to Triple-A in 2017. Trey Supak, RHP, 1.4 KATOH – Supak sits 88-92 with command of an average curveball. That has allowed him to carve up the lower levels of the minors, but scouts are skeptical about his ability to do it at upper levels and have him projected as rotation depth. Karlos Morales, LHP – A 25th-round pick out of South Hills High School in California, Morales impressed scouts in his brief pro stint after signing. His frame is mature and Morales sits at only 88-92 — and even lower, 87-90, during instructional league — but the pitch has natural cut and Morales has command of it to both sides of the plate, as well as a potential above-average curveball. His changeup is below average. He profiles as a lefty reliever. Francisco Thomas, SS – A prominent amateur shortstop from Puerto Rico, Thomas participated in some of the more prominent high-school showcases in the country during his draft year. He has prominent plate discipline and defensive ability but is missing the physicality he showed pre-draft and packs little punch with the bat. Chad McClanahan, 1B, 0.1 KATOH – Signed away from a commitment to Arizona State with a $1.2 million bonus, McClanahan is a huge target at first base (he played third base in high school), and his frame has significant projection. His swing is very long and, even if more power comes, that might need to be remedied for him to clear the high offensive bar at first base. Devin Williams, RHP – Williams needed Tommy John in March, the latest in a long list of injury issues that have limited his innings over the last four years. When healthy, he sits 89-93 and will touch 96 with an average slider. If he can get healthy, he could be fast-tracked in relief. Gilbert Lara, SS, 0.0 KATOH – It was another fruitless year for Lara, who got $3.1 million on the international market in 2014 and looked incredible during his first stateside instructional league. He hasn’t hit in three full pro seasons now. He still has big raw power and arm strength, though. Cooper Hummel, C, 3.2 KATOH – Hummel had great peripherals at Low-A Wisconsin, posting a 15% walk rate and 17% strikeout rate. His catching has improved, but he lacks the arm strength for the position and scouts are skeptical about his bat playing elsewhere. Cistulli’s Guy Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV. Nate Orf, 2B, 0.5 KATOH If the Brewers had actually played like a rebuilding club in 2017, it’s possible that Nate Orf would have made his major-league debut this past season. He produced the second-most offensives runs on Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs while also recording the majority of his defensive starts on the more challenging side of the defensive spectrum. Had the Brewers entered September situated 10 or 15 games behind the second Wild Card spot, they would have had sufficient leeway to give a 27-year-old performer some exposure to the majors. As it turned out, though, almost of Milwaukee’s games mattered. Instead of carving out room for fringe prospects, the team actively sought out improvements, acquiring Neil Walker in mid-August. Orf finished the season where he began it. Nevertheless, he features some promise. Orf made a lot of contact in 2017 while also getting the ball in the air frequently, rendering him (along with Rhys Hoskins) one of the Matt Carpenters of the minor leagues. Meanwhile, he produced above-average defensive numbers, according to the methodology employed by Clay Davenport. That combination of skills is uncommon. System OverviewThis system remains strong despite lackluster statistical performances by several high-profile prospects at High-A. And even those down years might not be so bad as they appear: Matt Eddy’s research at Baseball America reveals that the Mudcats’ home park features the least-favorable run-scoring environment in the Carolina League, a factor that probably had some impact on player performance. It’s likely that several (if not all) of those guys bounce back. Considered in tandem with the breakouts by Burnes, Harrison, and Peralta; what appear to be two early-round hits by the amateur department (now lead by Tod Johnson); and a strong July 2 group, it’s fair to say this system has improved — in terms of depth, if nothing else. The Brewers seems resolved to pursue high-ceiling amateur talent, even if they’re incurring extra risk to do so, which is logical in light of the market and the club’s challenges with attracting a star on the open market. The Brewers were awarded a compensation pick in the 2018 draft’s second comp round. It’s pick No. 74 overall in a draft that looks deep on high-school pitching, and I think picks in this range are a little more valuable this year than they are on average.