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Prospect to Watch: Cody Ponce, Pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers

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Graduations, trades move Ponce up the ladder

MLB: Winter Meetings Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers are certainly trending up.

Somewhat reminiscent of the lightning fast rebuild that took place in New York with the Yankees, Houston Astros architect Jeff Luhnow’s disciple David Stearns has made quick work in bringing back the Brewers.

Hired at age 30, Stearns has facilitated brilliant acquisitions from the Jonathan Lucroy trade, the Tyler Thornburg deal and stealthily plucked reclamation project Eric Thames from Korea.

To the surprise of everyone not lying about it, the Brew Crew rallied to 86 wins in 2017 and missed the Wild Card round by a single game.

This off-season has seen the blockbuster additions of outfielder Christian Yelich via trade, Lorenzo Cain in free agency and has the 2018 team built as contenders.

Quite the turnaround from a team many predicted would lose 100 games the year before.

Pitching is still a rather large need for manager Craig Counsell’s club, and while the trade market for relegated fourth outfielder Domingo Santana could go a long ways in solving this, the minor league system offers arms of promise.

Past the top tier of Luis Ortiz, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, Cody Ponce could play a big part in the future of the Brewers’ pitching staff.

Ponce, 23, was drafted in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Division II Cal Poly in Pomona. Through three pro seasons, he has 212 strikeouts and just 56 walks.

Brad Krause / Krause Sports Phot

John ranked him 18th on his 2017 Milwaukee list, but six players above him have been traded or graduated. The 2018 list will be up soon and Ponce could emerge as a top ten candidate.

He began 2017 where he finished 2016, at High-A, faring much better on the back end (3.38 ERA in 22 starts over 120 innings) than he did in his first trial (5.25 ERA in 72 innings).

Moving on up to Double-A Biloxi in the last month of the 2017 season, he greeted the all-important level warmly. In three starts, the 6 foot 6 right-hander allowed just three earned runs in 17.2 innings.

2018 will bring him back to Double-A and if he continues with that kind of success, he could be in Triple-A at age 24 by late summer.

He is indeed going to be 24 in April and that’s not a very attractive age for prospect mavens, but Ponce could ascend quickly with time as a bullpen option.

Many suspect his long-term outlook is indeed in the pen, but let’s not rule out the back of the rotation just yet. The Brewers rotation is short on impact arms, but not on arms themselves. That leaves the bullpen as a prime entry point for a prospect like Ponce.