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Orlando Arcia
Orlando Arcia
Brace Hemmelgarn, Getty Images

Milwaukee Brewers Top 20 prospects for 2016

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 2016 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.


Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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.

(This list was revised February 14, 2016)

1) Orlando Arcia, SS, Grade A-: Age 21, breakout season, hit .307/.347/.453 with 25 steals in Double-A while showing Gold Glove-caliber defense. Bat should continue to improve steadily, not likely to be a big home run guy but should hit doubles, triples, steals, batting average, OBP, plus defense.

2) Jorge Lopez, RHP, Grade B+:
Age 22, breakout season in Double-A, 12-5, 2.26 with 137/52 K/BB in 143 innings, 105 hits. Tremendous skill growth compared to the projectable raw guy he was four years ago. Throws three pitches for strikes, number three starter type and maybe more eventually.

3) Brett Phillips, OF, Grade B+:
Age 21, acquired from Astros in Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers trade, hit .309/.374/.527 with 16 homers, 14 triples, 17 steals between High-A and Double-A. Needs to tighten strike zone (44 walks, 120 strikeouts) but multi-tools, multi-skills, lefty bat is hard to beat and I expect more home runs will come in time.

4) Jacob Nottingham, C, Grade B+/B: Age 20, acquired from Astros in Scott Kazmir trade, hit combined .316/.372/.505 with 17 homers, 33 doubles, 33 walks, 99 strikeouts in 465 at-bats between Low-A and High-A. Another power masher who makes better contact than many young sluggers. Receiving needs work, gives up too many passed balls but arm is solid and he threw out 38% of runners on the season. Bat looks real to me and there’s hope for the glove. Traded from Oakland to Milwaukee in Khris Davis trade in February 2016.

5) Josh Hader, LHP, Grade B+/B:
Age 21, another part of Gomez/Fiers trade, posted 3.03 ERA with 119/35 K/BB in 104 innings in Double-A, 87 hits. I must be the high guy on him but he looks like one of the top LHP in the game to me, track record backs it up and he is not a soft-tosser, hitting mid-90s. Command can still wobble but secondary pitches seem to be developing well. Another mid-rotation candidate or at worst a power reliever.

6) Isan Diaz, SS-2B, Grade B/B+: Age 19, hit .360/.436/.640 with 13 homers, 34 walks, 65 strikeouts in 272 at-bats in Pioneer League in Arizona Diamondbacks system, acquired in late January in Aaron Hill/Jean Segura trade. Explosive bat speed provides unusual power from 5-10, 185 body, adequate defender at shortstop but likely winds up at second base in the long run. I want to see him in full-season ball but could be a special bat.

7) Trent Clark, OF, Grade B:
Age 19, 2015 first round pick, hit .309/.424/.430 with 25 steals, 39 walks, 44 strikeouts in 207 at-bats in his debut. Speed, patience, defense, standout polish for his age are all big positives. More power may come.

8) Gilbert Lara, SS, Grade B-:
Age 18, hit .240/.285/.321 with 14 walks, 53 strikeouts in 246 at-bats in Arizona and Pioneer rookie leagues. Brewers spent entire international bonus budget on him in 2014, expecting an extremely high upside bat with questionable position. Instead his defense at shortstop turned out to be quite decent but the bat did not have the advertised polish. Star-caliber physical tools, young, but a long way off and has work to do.

9) Clint Coulter, OF, Grade B-:
Age 22, hit .246/.329/.397 with 30 doubles, 13 homers, 46 walks, 92 strikeouts in 499 at-bats in High-A. Not as good as 2014 but this was still decent production for context in a difficult league for a right-handed power bat, ranked third in Florida State League in homers and did a decent job learning the outfield, strong arm.

10) Devin Williams, RHP, Grade B-:
Age 21, posted 3.44 ERA with 89/36 K/BB in 89 innings in Low-A, 75 hits, low-to-mid-90s fastball, breaking ball and change-up need more polish but he’s made progress, very athletic, decent control but command needs work. Another number three starter possibility down the line.

11) Monte Harrison, OF, Grade B-:
Age 20, hit just .148/.246/.247 in 162 at-bats in Midwest League but .299/.410/.474 in 97 at-bats in Pioneer League combined for 20 steals in 74 games before going down with ankle injury. Explosive power/speed combination and terrific athleticism, flashes baseball skills, was overmatched early due to contact issues. Extremely high Andrew McCutchen-like physical ceiling, but also high risk.

12) Cody Ponce, RHP, Grade B-: Age 21, second round pick in 2015 from Cal Poly Pomona, posted 2.29 ERA with 40/9 K/BB in 51 innings in pro debut between Pioneer and Midwest Leagues, throws strikes with low-90s fastball and impressive cutter, sometimes throws harder, needs work on off-speed pitches (curve, change) but has a chance to be a solid starting pitcher. Could move more rapidly if used in the bullpen.

13) Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Grade B-
: Age 19, 4.44 ERA with 94/40 K/BB in 93 innings in Low-A, 79 hits. Other sources like him better than I do, so your mileage may vary. 2014 first-rounder, lively fastball and slider and gets grounders but command needs work and has not pitched up to his reputation yet. Very young of course.

14) Zach Davies, RHP, Grade B-:
Age 22, acquired from Orioles for Gerardo Parra, 3.30 ERA with 102/45 K/BB in 128 innings in Triple-A, 3.71 ERA with 24/15 K/BB in 34 innings in the majors. Best pitch is change-up, doesn’t throw hard with fastball that just barely scrapes 90, excellent pitchability. Could last a while as a number four starter.

15) Adrian Houser, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, another component of Gomez/Fiers trade, 4.43 ERA with 110/41 K/BB in 120 innings between High-A and Double-A, finished very strongly after the trade (2.92, 32/6 in 37 for Biloxi). Another guy with a low-90s fastball who usually throws strikes and has made progress with sharp curveball, change-up.

16) Marcos Diplan, RHP, Grade B-:
Age 19, could be top pitching prospect in the system 10 months from now, 3.75 ERA with 54/21 K/BB in 50 innings in rookie ball, 47 hits, not tall at a listed 6-0 but lively stuff with 90+ fastball, promising breaking stuff, developing change-up. Could break through as soon as command improves.

17) Demi Orimoloye, OF, Grade B-/Grade C+:
Age 18, born in Nigeria, schooled in Canada, fourth round pick in 2015 draft. First round tools with 20/20 potential, hit .292/.319/.518 with 19 steals in rookie ball but with just three walks, 39 strikeouts in 137 at-bats. Star-caliber physicality but needs lots of refinement as a hitter. High risk, high reward.

18) Michael Reed, OF, Grade C+:
Age 23, hit .269/.361/.410 with 73 walks, 26 steals in 439 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Everyone likes his speed/walks combo and his hustle but unless he shows more power I think he is a tweener/fourth outfielder, albeit a good one.

19) Tyrone Taylor, OF, Grade C+:
Age 21, hit .260/.312/.337 with 10 steals, 31 walks, 55 strikeouts in 454 at-bats in Double-A. If I am the high guy on some of the players above, I must be the low guy on TT. Good tools but production just isn’t enough to be a regular at this stage. Like Reed I think he is a fourth outfielder.

20) Jake Gatewood, SS, Grade C+:
Age 20, another bat with enormous upside but holes in the game, hit just .209/.275/.316 in 55 games in Midwest League, but .274/.331/.476 in 54 games in Pioneer League, fanned combined 133 times in 389 at-bats. May have most raw power of any player in the system but strike zone judgment a big problem.

21) Nathan Kirby, LHP, Grade C+:
Age 22, compensation pick in 2015, University of Virginia ace will miss season with Tommy John surgery. Number two starter upside if he fully recovers.

Javier Betancourt, 2B; Ariel Pena, RHP; Wei-Chung Wang, LHP; Taylor Williams, RHP

Jacob Barnes, RHP; Yhonathan Barrios, RHP: Miguel Diaz, RHP; Ramon Flores, OF; Damien Magnifico, RHP; Yadiel Rivera, SS; Victor Roache, OF; Troy Stokes, OF; Angel Ventura, RHP; Kyle Wren, OF

Like the Cleveland Indians, the Brewers farm system has improved very quickly. There is a ton of upside here but also some polished arms. I will be in the comments thread discussing the organization.