A day after refusing to join one contender, Jonathan Lucroy is heading to another. The Milwaukee Brewers shipped their highly sought after catcher to the Texas Rangers, along with closer Jeremy Jeffress. While it was a fantastic pull for the Rangers as they make a run for the American League pennant, it didn't come at a small cost.
While they weren’t able to get highly coveted Joey Gallo, the Brewers — whom have been slowly rebuilding their farm system since this past offseason — added two fine pieces from the Rangers organization. The Rangers No. 2 prospect, Lewis Brinson and No. 3 prospect, Luis Ortiz are now part of the Brew Crew.
Brinson is having a down year — especially after he exploded in his brief Triple-A debut last year — by his standards, but there is simply no denying the natural tools and skill set the 22-year old brings to the table. The only problem was that he was very raw when he came to the pros. He has since seemed to have worked out the swing mechanics that plagued him early on and is learning how to be a well-rounded outfielder, not reliant upon his speed to make up for mistakes.
Brinson’s full season debut in Hickory back in 2013 had the prospect world salivating after he posted a 20/20 season with 21 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 31 attempts. The issues were with his aforementioned swing, as he struck out 191 times in 503 plate appearances, a staggering 38 percent of the time. There was no way Brinson would succeed as a hitter if he didn’t smooth out his swing and improve his patience at the plate.
He took small steps towards that goal in 2014, cutting his strikeout rate to 24.8 percent striking out 96 times in 387 plate appearances over two levels. He raised his average and on base percentage as well, behind a nice .288 average. 2015 would see Brinson break out.
A solid performance at High Desert was encouraging, but breakout seasons in the California League are not uncommon. Brinson proved his was for real, performing well in a 28-game stint at Double-A before an eight game promotion to Triple-A Round Rock. He went 17-for-30 with a home run, walking more times than he struck out.
Brinson plays well enough in centerfield that he should stick there, especially with plus speed and an above average arm. If he can avoid the nagging leg injuries that have slowed him down and continue to refine his swing, the Brewers have acquired themselves an All Star.
Luis Ortiz has been a teammate with Brinson at each level since he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft, selected 30th overall out of high school. He had completely dominated at every level until his promotion to Double-A this past May.
Ortiz — who possesses that projectable frame that we all love, standing at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds — had a solid 2014 debut. After five starts in the Arizona League in which he posted a 2.03 ERA while striking out 15 and walking just three over 13.1 innings, the big right-hander headed to full season ball in Hickory.
He would make 13 starts in 2015, but would spend much of the season on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle. His numbers were quite impressive when he did pitch, however, finishing 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA with a beautiful 46:9 strikeout-to-walk rate.
A quick stint in the California League would see Ortiz quickly jump to Double-A Frisco, where he has been a bit more hittable resulting in an uncharacteristic 4.08 ERA. He has been a bit unlucky with a .352 BABIP against him resulting in a career worst BAA, but his control has been as on point as it has ever been, issuing just seven walks in 39.2 innings, a 1.59 walks per nine.
(video courtesy of Star Telegram)
That has been Ortiz’s calling card, good command behind an arsenal that he can maintain the velocity and action of well into his starts. He has a mid-90s fastball and a slider that comes across in the 80s that most feel are ready for prime time. His command and control are impeccable. The two questions surrounding Ortiz are the development of other secondary offerings and his stamina. He is currently at his career high in innings pitched at 67.1. A history of arm injuries and the lack of that 100 inning season are certainly concerns, but his stuff is undeniable.
The Brewers have improved the top of their farm system tenfold over the past few hours with the earlier Will Smith trade that brought Phil Bickford to Milwaukee. You can make the argument that they have just added three of their best six prospects in their entire system, joining Orlando Arcia, Josh Hader and Corey Ray atop their charts.
Milwaukee had a good deadline. It may be a few years, but they are set to reap the benefits soon enough.