Milwaukee Brewers Top 20 Prospects for 2014
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 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated 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.
1) Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Grade B: Needs further command sharpening but his stuff seems solid enough to me, looks like a future number three or strong four starter. At worst he would slot in relief. Seems like the best bet among the starters the Brewers have in the high minors with more dominance potential than Taylor Jungmann or injury-plagued Jed Bradley and has better command than Johnny Hellweg.
2) Victor Roache, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Enormous power and hit much better in the second half after finally recovering from wrist problems. Questionable defense and high strikeout rate preclude higher grade until we see him against better competition, but has the most impact potential among Brewer bats.
3) Tyrone Taylor, OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Great athlete with solid baseball tools, a more balanced player potentially with better defense and speed than Roache but without the same power impact.
4) Devin Williams, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+. 2013 second-round pick from a Missouri high school has first round arm and athleticism, still rather raw of course. Could develop into a number two starter. . .or fizzle in A-ball. Still ranks well in this system due to high-upside but will need time to develop.
5) Clint Coulter, C, Grade B-: Borderline C+. This may seem a generous ranking given his struggles (.244/.314/.400 but with poor numbers in Low-A) in ‘13, but the tools that made him a ’12 first-rounder are still there and injuries were a problem last year. With better health I think he can unlock the bat, but we’ll still need to see about his position.
6) Orlando Arcia, SS, Grade C+: Borderline B-: I love the glove, excellent defensive tools and more reliable than the typical 19 year old shortstop. Bat is weak at this point but I think it is developable given his knack for contact. I would not expect big numbers in the Florida State League, but seems like a guy with long-term value.
7) Mitch Haniger, OF, Grade C+: Borderline B-: No glaring strengths, but no huge weaknesses, does a lot of things reasonably well, good fielder with moderate power, could hit .260 with a decent OBP. Personification of a Brewers prospect.
8) Johnny Hellweg, RHP, Grade C+: Would rank a few notches higher if the only thing that counted was radar gun readings, but his command is horrendous. 81 walks in 126 innings in Triple-A is more telling than his pretty 3.15 ERA at Nashville.
9) Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Grade C+: Well he eats innings well and gets grounders, but mechanics and overall command slipped and resulted in unattractive 82/73 K/BB in 139 innings in Double-A. Still has a shot as a fourth starter.
10) David Goforth, RHP, Grade C+: Another potential fourth starter with sinker, cutter and curve, although many prefer him as a reliever long-term and he performed well in that role in the Arizona Fall League. Should open the year in Triple-A.
11) Tucker Neuhaus, 3B, Grade C+: Did not hit well in rookie ball, but I will cut him some slack given age (he is still just 18), second-round status, good defensive tools for third base, and impact potential. It is almost nothing but potential at this point, but it is there.
12) Taylor Williams, RHP, Grade C+: From this point on you could rank these guys in just about any order with valid logic behind the decision. Fourth round 2013 pick from Kent State is undersized (5-11) but can hit the mid-90s and usually throws strikes. Could easily move ahead of guys like Jungmann and Goforth if he maintains command at higher levels and if he proves to have the durability to start.
13) Tyler Wagner, RHP, Grade C+: Wasn’t Tucker, Taylor, Tyler, Nick a BBC drama from the 1970s? This University of Utah product gets little attention but he posted a 3.01 GO/AO in Low-A last year, with a solid 3.21 ERA, ate 149 innings with a 116/56 K/BB. Would like to see more strikeouts and he’s yet another fourth/fifth starter candidate, but worth noting since he doesn’t get much attention.
14) Nick Delmonico, 1B-3B, Grade C+: Borderline C. Quite a few people seem to like this guy but he can’t play third base and there will be a lot more pressure on his bat at first base. Good power, will take a walk, but batting average may get unacceptably low at higher levels.
15) Jason Rogers, 1B, Grade C+: Borderline C. This guy gets no attention at all but that could be a mistake. He is a 25-year-old 260-pound first baseman/emergency outfielder and a former 32nd round pick. But he earned a spot on the 40-man roster with a fine offensive track record, career .283/.368/.446 hitter, knocked 22 homers last year, controls strike zone well, posted 144 wRC+ in 2012 and 136 last year in Double-A. There could be something very interesting in this bat.
16) Hunter Morris, 1B, Grade C+: Borderline C. Morris will rank ahead of Rogers on every other prospect list due to his draft pedigree, but he’s only five months younger than Rogers and hasn’t been as productive due to weaker plate discipline and more serious contact issues. Hit 24 homers in Triple-A but wasn’t promoted to the majors for September. Neither Rogers nor Morris offer much defense, both are slow slugger types, but Rogers has a more consistent track record, strikes out less, and they are not that far apart in age. I will go where the numbers lead me in this case and put Rogers ahead.
17) Ariel Pena, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C. Geez talk about frustrating. Great arm, strikes people out at a good clip, but command problems and tendency to leave pitches high in the strike zone hold him back. Better off in relief perhaps?
18) Michael Ratterree, OF, Grade C+" Borderline C: Pioneer League MVP never lived up to potential during four-year career at Rice, but he could be a bargain as a 10th rounder if early returns are any indication (.314/.395/.585 12 homer). Need to see him at higher levels but the tools have always been here.
19) Barrett Astin, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline C: Could rank at 14 if you want, but he’s basically another boring Brewers pitching prospect who is a back-end starter or reliever down the line.
20) Damien Magnifico, RHP, Grade C: Johnny Hellweg part two, although five inches shorter and more injury prone.
OTHERS: Michael Blazek, RHP; Jed Bradley, LHP; Hiram Burgos, RHP; Rodolfo Fernandez, RHP; Drew Gagnon, RHP; Omar Garcia, OF; Brooks Hall, RHP; Andrew Hillis, RHP; Hobbs Johnson, LHP; Jorge Lopez, RHP; Jose Pena, OF; Michael Reed, OF; Yadiel Rivera, SS; Kevin Shackelford, RHP; Wei-Chung Wang, LHP.
The problems with the Brewers system are well-known. There is almost a complete lack of impact talent here, and the guys who have the physical ability to be impactful (Coulter, Roache, Hellweg, Williams) have significant questions they need to answer. There are some players with upside and some players with polish, but it is hard to find anyone who has both. This is true both on the mound and in the field. They’ve made steps to add more upside types the last two drafts while still looking for role players and sleepers in the middle and later rounds, but it just hasn’t worked out yet.
Heck, even their names are boring.
Looking for positives, they do have several of the grade C+/C types who could be useful role players, and there are some guys who would be interesting sleepers in any organization (Rogers, Wagner). The situation could look better a year from now if Roache maintains his second half momentum and Coulter gets back on track.
I don’t know if this is the worst farm system in the game. The Angels are pretty bad too, and I won’t have a final ranking on that until all the organization reports are complete. But it sure isn’t a good system at this point and has to be in the conversation for worst. Something needs to change.
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