After the graduation of Keston Hiura and some prospects taking significant steps backwards in 2019, the Brewers system looks to be somewhat barren. They lack that high upside prospect, though there are a few who could fly onto radars before long (most notably a player who appears to unanimously be compared to current Milwaukee closer Josh Hader). Who are the names to know? Who could emerge and who should be ignored? Let’s take a look:
1) Brice Turang – Shortstop
ETA – 2021
Grade – B
The profile is impressive for a potential top of the order bat, who brings speed and an above average approach. He’s 44-for-51 in SB since being drafted 21st overall in 2018, showing that the speed and ability to use it is there. His approach was solid overall in ’19, as he split time between Single-A and High-A, though the performance stumbled after his promotion:
- Single-A (357 PA) – .287 with 2 HR and 21 SB
- High-A (207 PA) – .200 with 1 HR and 9 SB
Moving up against more advanced pitching his SwStr% “jumped” from 6.0% at Single-A to 9.6% at High-A though his walk rose from 13.7% to 16.4%. Playing as a 19-year old it’s not a red flag, as he needs time to acclimate himself to more advanced pitching. Now 20-years old (he turned 20 in November), he could be ready to take a significant step forward. He’s not going to be a source of power, but it’s an impressive skill set that can make an impact.
2) Tristen Lutz – Outfielder
ETA – 2021
Grade – B-
Selected 34th overall in 2017, Lutz is your prototypical player who has significant power but could struggle to make consistent contact. We are still watching for the power to fully translate onto the field, as he’s hit 13 HR each of the past two years but produced less extra base hits in general at High-A in ’19:
- Single-A (2018) – 49 extra base hits (33 doubles, 3 triples, 13 HR)
- High-A (2019) – 40 extra base hits (24 doubles, 3 triples, 13 HR)
Already 21-years old, his 15.8% SwStr% is something that needs to be monitored closely. Could it rise upon his promotion to Double-A, leading to a strikeout rate he can’t overcome? It’s going to lead to a potentially poor average, especially if his power never fully develops and without the speed to maintain an elevated BABIP (.343 BABIP in ’19 led to a .255 AVG). There’s potential, but there are a lot of ifs that need to be answered.
3) Ethan Small – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2021
Grade – C+
The Brewers selected him in the first round in 2019, taking the gamble that his velocity will rebound. Reports are that it hasn’t fully recovered from 2017 Tommy John surgery, currently sitting in the low-90s. If he can add a few mph on his fastball his ability to miss bats (20.9% SwStr% in 21.0 IP after being selected) and elite control would play up that much more.
As is Small isn’t an overly impressive prospect, though he could still be a successful innings eater at the back of the rotation. If he does add some velocity? His grade would likely move into the “B” range, making him an intriguing name to monitor.
4) Mario Feliciano – Catcher
ETA – 2021
Grade – C+
After entering the year with 7 career HR Feliciano exploded for 19 HR over 482 PA at High-A (and also got a 3 game stint at Double-A). He added 25 doubles and 4 triples, showing that the power is for real. While he hit .273 at High-A, the question is going to be whether or not he can make consistent contact to be able to tap into the power regularly.
At High-A he posted a 28.8% strikeout rate vs. 6.0% walk rate, courtesy of an ugly 19.7% SwStr%. He played the year at 20-years old and does have the added pressure of working a pitching staff, but it’s an ugly number that has the potential to get worse as he advances up the system. He needs to refine that approach, and it’s not a guarantee that he does.
5) Antoine Kelly – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2022
Grade – C+
When someone is consistently compared to current closer Josh Hader, it’s going to grab your attention. He has a long ways to go before he reaches that type of level, but it seems that it’s unanimous that he will earn the title of closer of the future before long. The 20-year old is listed at 6’6” and reports have him touching 100 mph with his fastball (his velocity sits lower when working as a starter, which is one of the reasons the expectations are for a move to the bullpen). For now they could continue to work him as a starting pitcher, but long-term the move should be made and that will allow him to move quickly through the system.
The Next Five:
6) Zack Brown – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C) – A year ago Brown had thrust his name onto our attention, after showing strikeouts (8.31 K/9), control (2.58 BB/9) and groundballs (56.0%) at Double-A. He was promoted to Triple-A for 2019, with the thought that he could arrive in the Majors for a team that is always looking for help in the rotation. However he took a notable step backwards across the board in 116.2 IP last year:
- Strikeouts – 7.56 K/9 (courtesy of a 9.4% SwStr%)
- Control – 4.94 BB/9
- Groundballs – 52.8%
Those “skills” led to an ugly 5.79 ERA, and while it’s easy to blame it on the baseball he needs to show improvements back towards his Double-A numbers. There’s a chance that he ultimately transitions to the bullpen, but for now the Brewers will continue to work him as a starter and see if he can rediscover his form.
7) Eduardo Garcia – Shortstop (Grade – C) – If there’s a player who could really move up these rankings in 2020 it’s Garcia, who missed the bulk of 2019 due to a fractured ankle. An impressive defensive shortstop, at 17-years old he already has a solid approach and could develop into a 10/10 player or better (maybe he matures into 15/15 or more, though it’s too early to know for sure). He’s a long way from arriving, but the upside is there.
8) Aaron Ashby – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C-) – He needs to find his control (BB/9 of 4.29 split between Single-A and High-A), but a 9.64 K/9 and 48.8% groundball rate shows promise. The strikeout rate regressed after the promotion (11.80 K/9 to 7.62 at High-A), which is something that needs to be watched, though his 10.9% SwStr% does offer a little bit more upside. It’s not an elite number, and it could regress further against more advanced hitters, though his deceptive delivery could allow the stuff to play up a little bit more.
9) Corey Ray – Outfielder (Grade – C-) – Ray brings power and speed, but an ugly strikeout rate is going to continue to limit his upside. In 2018 he posted 27 HR and 37 SB, but it came with a 29.3% strikeout rate. A finger injury plagued him in 2019, so maybe that’s a reason for the struggles, but in 230 PA at Triple-A he hit a pathetic .188 with 7 HR and 3 SB. His 38.7% strikeout rate is ugly, and his 22.0% SwStr% doesn’t give the impression that an improvement can come. Even at Double-A in ’18 he had a 17.5% SwStr% and at 25-years old can we really expect things to suddenly click?
10) Joe Gray – Outfielder (Grade – C-) – The second round pick in 2018 has plenty of tools, though he’s struggled to show them on the field (including hitting .164 with 3 HR and 3 SB over 129 PA at Rookie Ball last season). He’ll turn 20-years old before the start of the season and there’s a chance he figures it out and starts to put it together. The upside puts him on the list over prospects like Jacob Nottingham or Lucas Erceg, but there are significant questions.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: