Milwaukee Brewers Top 20 Prospects for 2013
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
ALL GRADES ARE PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE. No grade is final until January 10th, 2013
1) Wily Peralta, RHP, Grade B: Borderline B+. There's no question about his stuff, it's all a matter of command. If it is there, he is a very strong mid-rotation starter and perhaps more. My guess is that he'll be inconsistent, but with flashes of brilliance.
2) Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Grade B: I don't think his stuff is quite as good as Peralta's, but he's got a solid three-pitch mix, a deceptive delivery, and throws strikes. Seems ready for a full trial to me.
3) Victor Roache, OF, Grade B: Tough to rank and grade due to wrist injury, but his power upside is enormous and even without any pro data, he's the top offensive prospect in the system.
4) Clint Coulter, C, Grade B: I very much believe in the bat and expect him to hit for power with a strong OBP. His defense is very rough, but he's got the tools and work ethic for the position and just needs experience.
5) Johnny Hellweg, RHP, Grade B-: No surprise here, fireballing right-hander acquired in Zack Greinke trade with Angels has enormous upside as a potential upper-level starter or closer, but he's got to lower his walk rate.
6) Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Grade B-: Former University of Texas ace and 2012 number one pick had decent year in the Florida State League (11-6, 3.53, 99/46 K/BB in 153 innings) but is looking more like a reliable inning-eater than a future star.
7) Mitch Haniger, OF, Grade B-: Solid college outfielder from Cal Poly with above-average power and a good arm, should fit well in right field. Profiles as a regular, though probably not a star.
8) Scooter Gennett, 2B, Grade B-: Keeps hitting .290-.300 with doubles power, a few steals, a low walk rate, while gradually improving his defense at second base. Needs a year of Triple-A and is another guy who could be a decent regular, but not a star.
9) Hunter Morris, 1B, Grade B-: Persistent theme: chance to be a regular, but not a star. Morris showed better pure hitting skills to go with his plus power in Double-A, hitting .303/.357/.563 with 28 homers. His defense has improved too, but scouts don't seem to think the batting average will carry forward and still worry about his strikeouts.
10) Ariel Pena, RHP, Grade B-: Another component of the Greinke trade, Pena throws very hard and has a good slider, but gets into trouble when he leaves his pitches too high in the strike zone. He sagged after the trade and is something of an enigma. You can draw a scenario where he becomes a number three starter, or one where he becomes a closer, or one where he becomes nothing.
11) Tyrone Taylor, OF, Grade B-: Second round pick has excellent tools and showed more polish than expected in rookie ball, has a chance to hit for power and average and steal bases as an across-the-board threat.
12) Mark Rogers, RHP, Grade C+: Eligible for this list by one inning. When healthy, Rogers can dominate. He just has a very hard time staying healthy.
13) Hiram Burgos, RHP, Grade C+: 25-year-old from Puerto Rico came out of nowhere to go 10-4, 1.95 with a 153/49 K/BB in 171 innings, 128 hits allowed at three levels, finishing with a strong run in Triple-A. Scouts seem skeptical, respecting his pitchability but doubting that his stuff will hold up over the long run. I tend to be optimistic and think he's got a shot at doing what Michael Fiers did last year, keeping in mind that we don't yet know if Fiers was a flash in the pan.
14) Khris Davis, OF, Grade C+: Has a multi-year track record of strong hitting including .350/.451/.604 in an injury-abbreviated season in 2012, but scouts don't like him much, pointing to mediocre tools, his age (25) and a long swing. In a way he is a hitting version of Burgos or Fiers. He clearly deserves a shot in the majors and while we shouldn't expect him to duplicate those minor league numbers, I will be surprised if he does not turn into a useful role player.
15) Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Grade C+: Like Thornburg and Jungmann, Nelson is a recent college draft pick with solid stuff who has generally pitched well but didn't dominate. Key here will be getting his walks down, 37 in 46 Double-A innings is too many.
16) Drew Gagnon, RHP, Grade C+: Here's another one, third round pick in 2011 out of Long Beach State with three pitches (low-90s fastball, curveball, changeup) and decent command who has pitched well without genuinely dominating. Like the others, he's got a shot at being a mid or back rotation starter.
17) Caleb Gindl, OF, Grade C+: Tweener type looked frustrated early in 2012, repeating Triple-A despite having had a good season there in '11, but he turned things around in the second half and finished strong. Looks like a fourth outfielder with a touch of power.
18) David Goforth, RHP, Grade C+: Here's another live-armed college guy from a major program (Mississippi, seventh round, 2011). Throws quite hard in short stretches but secondary stuff needs work, did not dominate Midwest League (4.66 ERA ,93/63 K/B in 151 innings).
19) Jorge Lopez, RHP, Grade C+: Extremely projectable high school draftee in 2011 from Puerto Rico. I was very high on him pre-season but he was rawer than expected and spent the summer working on his mechanics in rookie ball.
20) Cameron Garfield, C, Grade C+: Struggled with knee injury for two years but finally got healthy, hit .298/.385/.524 in 66 games in Low-A, but it was his third try at that level. Turns 22 in May and defense remains rather rough, but he will shoot up the lists if he duplicates this performance.
OTHER GRADE C+: Nick Bucci, RHP; Logan Schafer, OF.
OTHERS: Orlando Arcia, SS; Jed Bradley, LHP; Kentrail Davis, OF; Adam Giacalone, 1B: Kyle Heckathorn, RHP; Damien Magnifico, RHP; Chris McFarland, 2B; Casey Medlen, RHP; Matt Miller, RHP; Michael Olmsted, RHP; Jose Pena, OF; Chad Pierce, RHP; Josh Prince, OF; Nick Ramirez, 1B; Yadiel Rivera, SS; Jesus Sanchez, RHP; Cody Scarpetta, RHP; Josh Stinson, RHP; Michael Strong, LHP
There is a whole lotta Grade B-/C+ in this system, and after the first six or seven picks you can logically order this list in about a hundred different ways. Take all those guys, dump their names in a box, pull them out at random, and you could make a logical case for however they come out. I expect Brewers prospect lists from the various sources are going to look very different from each other, especially any list that is foolish enough to go past ten slots.
The main weakness in this system is lack of future star power. There are a lot of guys who should be solid contributors, decent regulars or productive role players. That's especially true on the pitching side, with a bevy of possible 3/4/5 starters and relief options. Peralta should be the best of the bunch and he's ready now. Hellweg has the highest upside but I don't particularly trust his control. Jed Bradley looked very good last April but fell apart in May and never recovered; he would be a fast-riser candidate if he gets his health back, but that's a big if. Tommy John recovery case Scarpetta and fireballing Damien Magnifico also have upside in the Grade C category.
On the hitting side, the 2012 draft brings in four very interesting bats with Roache, Coulter, Haniger, and Tyrone Taylor. The first three of those guys could/should develop into power/OBP sources, with Coulter having tremendous value if he can stay behind the plate. Taylor hit .387/.436/.667 in rookie ball despite being supposedly raw. In the Grade Cs, keep an eye on Jose Pena, who has contact issues and is a year older than Taylor but who has significant power potential. Pena and Orlando Arcia (who was hurt all year) are products of the Latin American program who could thrive under the right conditions. Chris McFarland is another tools guy to watch.
Overall, the Brewers system is not in the elite category but is not devoid of material. It could look a lot better a year from now if Roache, Coulter, etc., make good on their potential in 2013.