- C – Max McDowell – 22 yo
- 2.53/.620 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Wisconsin)
- 2016 stats: .270/.359/.345; .704 OPS; 21 doubles, 1 home runs; 21 stolen bases
Heading into the 2015 season, 2013 – 6th round draft choice Jacob Nottingham was a mere unknown to casual prospect fans. He wasn’t ranked inside several off-season Houston Astros top 30 lists. But that all changed after the 6’2″- 230 lb. righty exploded onto the scene in 2014 batting a combined .326 with 14 home runs and a 76 game P/A score of 3.93/.909 marking him an instant top catching prospect in Houston. The reason I say 76 game is because Nottingham was a surprise name in the late July 2015 trade that sent he and SP prospect Daniel Mengden to Oakland for veteran hurler Scott Kazmir. With HiA Stockton, Nottingham began to slow his 2015 dominance batting .299 with 9 doubles, three home runs in 43 games with the Ports. So, just when you’d think the Athletics were ready to introduce Nottingham as their catcher of the future in 2016, he was on the move again. This time to Milwaukee, in a February 2016 deal that sent power-hitting outfielder Khris Davis to Oakland. Despite Nottingham playing in his third organization in seven months, he again, leads the catching prospect pack. However, I think Milwaukee has a huge dark-horse on their hands in 2015 draft choice out of the University of Connecticut Max McDowell. He was described as “under-appreciated” because 13th round catchers don’t generally come as athletic, fast and powerful as McDowell showed. Well, all of those traits were on display in 2016. McDowell lead all Brewers catchers in doubles and his 21 stolen bases not only tied him for tops in the Brewers system overall, but also ranked first among all minor league catchers both American and National League. Did I mention, too, that McDowell is a superior defender and registered a 44 percent caught-stealing rate? From a UTR standpoint, I absolutely love what McDowell brings to the table. Yet, I don’t expect him to surpass Nottingham on the Milwaukee depth chart. But another season like 2016, mostly likely for the Brewers new HiA Carolina affiliate, he’ll make a huge leap forward and could become a marked man in trade discussions much like Nottingham was in 2015.
- 1B – Ronnie Gideon – 22 yo
- 4.10/.988 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Helena)
- 2016 stats: .321/.371/.638; 1.010 OPS; 20 doubles, 17 home runs
After spending his first six seasons with the Oakland A’s and Houston Astros, the Brewers signed first baseman Chris Carter to a free agent contract in January 2016. The 6’4″- 245 lb. righty responded by leading the National League with 41 home runs. Milwaukee surprisingly designating him for assignment and signed former Toronto Blue Jay, Seattle Mariner and Korean Baseball Organization star Eric Thames to a multi-year deal. Although Thames is under contract for the next three seasons with a 2020 club option, that doesn’t mean he will spend all that time in Milwaukee, as the Brewers first base vector is loaded with under-the-radar talent. And in 2016, there was no first-bagger who made as big a splash as 2016 – 23rd rounder Ronnie Gideon. Drafted as a junior out of Texas A&M, the 6’2″- 225 lb. righty was scouted having big offense, huge power projection and above average plate discipline. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. All Gideon did with Rookie Helena was bat .321, launch a Pioneer League leading 17 bombs, ranked second in the league slugging percentage (.638) to Rookie Orem Jordan Zimmerman‘s .639) and third in total bases with 143. However, Gideon’s plate discipline stumbled a bit. His three years with the Aggies he walked 36 times to 89 strikeouts. In his pro debut, Gideon walked only 15 times to 69 strikeouts. With first base a rather sneaky deep position in the system, it might help that Gideon has logged time behind the plate, in the outfield and at third base. Regardless of how you slice it, Gideon has a a lot to build upon and hopefully he can carry the momentum of his pro debut to (most likely) LoA Wisconsin in 2017.
- 2B – Trey York – 22 yo
- 3.39/.785 – PAG/APPA – (AZL – 3.40/.769; HiA Brevard County – 3.29/.920)
- 2016 stats: .289/.393/.345; .704 OPS; 14 doubles, 1 home run; 15 stolen bases
Looking at the 2016 Milwaukee Brewers top prospect list, there seemed to be a bare cupboard when it came to housing any impact middle infielders. That was until the Brewers swung a January 2016 deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, sending relief pitcher Tyler Wagner and centerpiece shortstop Jean Segura for starting pitcher Chase Anderson, veteran second baseman Aaron Hill and star middle infield prospect Isan Diaz. Diaz was the immediate impact middle infielder the Brewers needed, as the second base (and short stop) vector didn’t offer as much breadth like several other positions in the organization. However, despite the 3.46/.796 P/A season Diaz recorded this season at LoA Wisconsin, the 2016 draft produced another intriguing hitter in 9th round draftee Trey York. Although York had a rough year defensively (11 total errors), the senior second baseman from East Tennessee State debuted in accordance to his scouting report: he’s an advanced hitter, has pop in his bat and possesses plus-plus speed. In his four-year career at ETSU, he batted .309 with 25 home runs, 51 stolen bases and 152 runs scored. After he was drafted, he debuted in the Arizona League and led the AZL squad in runs scored (28), hits (49), doubles and walks (29). York was promoted to HiA Brevard County in late August, and in seven games with the Manatees, he held his own, batting .333 with three extra-base hits and a stolen base. I know York will always carry that “too old for the level” stigma. Kids like him can’t avoid it, but I really like him. I’m anxious to see what York will do in his first taste of full season ball. His scouting report shows that he should straighten out his defensive woes, the power will come and you can never slump speed. I’d add York to your deep, deep level prospect watch list.
- 3B – Lucas Erceg – 22 yo
- 3.75/.864 combined – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Helena – 4.35/.983; LoA Wisconsin – 3.38/.789)
- 2016 stats combined: .327/.376/.518; .895 OPS; 17 doubles, 9 home runs; 9 stolen bases
When Jim and I created our own hitting and pitching metrics, our hope was to get through our UTR OAS lists without listing any top prospects. We prefer those fresh names. Thos names that are unfamiliar, but shouldn’t be if you will. But the inclusion of players who top most major publication’s top prospect lists is proof that “our kids” can belong in the prospect discussion, and not be ignored. Well, with the Brewers, I made it to third base and the pure UTR streak ended, as Lucas Erceg earned this years OAS distinction. And I’ll let it be known, I really like this kid. The Brewers selected the 6’3″- 200 pound lefty in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft out of Menlo College (Atherton, CA) and immediately assigned him to Rookie Helena of the Pioneer League. He began his collegiate career at Cal University, but after two years of questionable behavior off the field, he flunked out. He transferred to NAIA’s Menlo College and all he did was bat .308, slug 20 home runs, drive in 56 runs, and find his way onto the top of Milwaukee’s draft board. Oh, and Erceg also served as Menlo’s closer, whose fastball sat in the mid 90s. Erceg spent his first 26 games as a pro with Helena and batted .400 with two home runs, 17 runs scored and 22 RBi’s before a mid July promotion to LoA Wisconsin. He slowed down a bit, but the power emerged giving the organization a glimpse of what Erceg could/can do at the higher levels. I expect the Brewers to start Erceg back in LoA to begin 2017. However, I could be displaying my conservative side. Maybe they challenge him with an assignment to Milwaukee’s new HiA Carolina affiliate; and if he shoots out of the gate, a move to Double-A Biloxi would/could be in order. After all, the path to Miller Park is pretty clear. The Brewers desperately need someone like him to fill the prospect hole at third base despite the early December trade that sent major league closer Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox for newly appointed third baseman Tyler Shaw (and two others). Regardless, I believe Erceg is their future. He possesses enough game to make it to the majors as early as (possibly) late 2018.
- SS – Isan Diaz – 20 yo
- 3.46/.796 – PAG/APPA – (LoA Wisconsin)
- 2016 stats: .264/.358/.469; .827 OPS; 34 doubles, 20 home runs
I was hoping that within Milwaukee’s shortstop prospect list, there would be a super sleeper who’s stat line would secretly eclipse that of this year’s OAS choice. Upon scanning this year’s stats, that was a mere pipe dream. Before the late January 2016 trade that brought Arizona Diamondbacks star infielder Isan Diaz to Milwaukee, the middle infield vector was rather bare with the exception of budding superstar shortstop Orlando Arcia. Now that the 6’0″- 165 lb. Arcia is a fixture in the major league lineup, Diaz stands alone as the premiere middle infielder in the system; and his 2016 stat line proved it. With the exception of triples and stolen bases, the 5’10”- 185 lb. lefty not only led all shortstops, but all prospects Triple-A and down, in doubles, home runs, runs scored (71), and RBi’s (75). So, the question remains, where will Diaz play? With Arcia entrenched at shortstop for possibly the next decade, you’d think that Diaz is destined for a shift to second base. I can see it happen. Over his 252 game minor league career, Diaz boasts a higher fielding percentage at second (.954) and he does as at short (.939). Milwaukee Brewers fans have a lot to look forward to as Arcia and Diaz could possibly form quite the majestic double-play duo for years to come.
- LF – Zach Clark – 20 yo
- 3.37/.721 – PAG/APPA – (AZL)
- 2016 stats: .252/.314/.409; .724 OPS; 6 doubles, 2 home runs; 6 stolen bases.
When it comes to UTR, the phrase, “All good things must come to an end” doesn’t really apply. There’s always a player out there who is defying the odds and making a name for himself when some people don’t even know it to begin with. However, when it comes to certain positions, mostly for an All-Star list, sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. Unfortunately in 2016, our own UTR criteria and Milwaukee’s left field index fell short in comparison to the positions you see above. Six-time All-Star and 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun is signed through the 2020 season with a club option in 2021. Good thing, because that gives the organization plenty of time to develop at the position. What’s exciting is that former UTR OAS Breakout selection Kyle Wren heads the list when using fundamental statistics, but again, our age criteria (25) squeezes him out of UTR contention. This leads me to the law of averages. And 2016 – 19th rounder Zach Clark. The 6’2″- 200 lb. righty was drafted out of Pearl River Community College. Clark transferred there after spending one season at SE Louisiana State where he logged only 9 at-bats in 10 games. While at PRCC, Clark played mostly shortstop, saw time in the outfield and even pitched for the Wildcats, but regardless of the position, the bat played. He hit .325 and led the team with 11 home runs, 41 RBi’s and 23 stolen bases. This prompted Clark to commit to the University of Alabama, but he chose instead to become a pro. Milwaukee assigned Clark the Arizona League. He only saw 30 games of action and ranked within the top ten in every statistical category but one. I have a gut feeling the Brewers may test Clark in 2017 with an assignment to LoA Wisconsin. His debut P/A score indicates to me that he has a LOT more to offer.
- CF – Joantgel Segovia – 20 yo
- 2.71/.626 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Helena)
- 2016 stats: .294/.370/.327; .697 OPS; 7 doubles, 2 stolen bases.
Sometimes it almost seems unfair. When I scan over all the players and stats of a particular position, despite UTR criteria keeping us within the HiA and down spectrum, Jim and I still have to take a look at the entire organization to try and get a sense of what the path might hold for our UTR kids. For example, Milwaukee’s centerfield landscape is one of great abundance, whose primary nucleus of talent sits in the high minors. And the list starts with former stud Texas Ranger, and new stud Milwaukee Brewer Lewis Brinson, who led all organizational centerfield prospects in several categories including hits (103) doubles (24), stolen bases (17), runs scored (63), slugging percentage (.468), OPS (.773) and total bases (190). In other words, the Brewers centerfield of the future. So, this leaves several others behind him; and that list is still a “who’s who” among Milwaukee prospects. 2016 – 1st rounder Corey Ray, 2012 – 6th round draft pick Brett Phillips, 2014 – 2nd round pick Monte Harrison (who I wish would just stay healthy for Pete’s sake) and 2015 – 1st rounder out of Richland HS (TX) Trent Clark. So, I bet you’re wondering, “Who’s left?” Well, I’ll admit, it’s tough sometimes facing the top prospect music when reporting on UTR kids, but this season I really liked 2014 mid-July free agent signee Joantgel Segovia. In fact, the young Venezualan has put together a pretty nice resume so far in his pro career. In 145 total games, he averages a 2.97/.678 P/A score. Now, you can’t argue with a Segovia’s .338 career batting average. .410 on-base percentage and .790 OPS. However, I’d love to see Segovia drive more extra base hits and steal more bags. Defensively over his career, he’s posted a higher fielding percentage in right than in center. But his bat profiles better in centerfield. It’s simply a blessing and a curse to have so many blue-chippers playing one position in an organization. From a UTR standpoint, it’s sometimes just fun to watch the underbelly try and work their way through the pack.
- RF – Jay Feliciano – 20 yo
- 2.92/.741 combined – PAG/APPA – (DSL – 2.78/.641; AZL – 2.95/.765)
- 2016 stats combined: .245/.307/.435; .742 OPS; 10 doubles, 7 home runs
I’m going to be flat-out honest with readers. Choosing minor league free-agent signee Jay Feliciano as this year’s Brewers right field OAS was strictly a formality. That’s not to say he didn’t have a nice season. He posted decent P/A numbers, a rather respectable slash line and ranked second among all organizational right fielders in extra-base percentage and APPA. However, I made it a point this off-season to expand my vision. Despite talking about/promoting only UTR kids, I wanted to scan the entire organizational situation of each defensive position to help fans get a gauge from the bottom up, not just the top down like major publications do. This leads me to the player who ranked first in my overall rankings, not UTR. Somehow I feel justified; that the deep-rooted UTR in me says that the guy I firmly believe could be the right fielder of the (near) future is in fact someone who’s yet to play a single game in a Brewers uniform. A prospect very near and dear to my UTR heart, as we go all the way back to his 2013 rookie season in the Rangers organization, 2013 – 11th round draft pick, Ryan Cordell. After the 6’4″- 195 lb. righty’s debut season, where he posted a 2.84/.695 with Short Season Spokane, he was chosen as a UTRMinors Breakout Selection heading into 2014. And boy did he respond. Cordell batted a combined .318 with 13 home runs, 21 stolen bases and a .914 OPS with LoA Hickory, then HiA Myrtle Beach. He also posted a staggering 4.01/.939 P/A score which led all Rangers outfielders that season. The 2015 season saw a small slow down, but Cordell still mashed out the production with 18 doubles, 18 home runs, a .270 batting average and a 3.58/.791 P/A score over two levels (HiA Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco). Cordell spent all of 2016 with the Rough Riders and in 107 games registered a 3.54/.852 P/A score. Cordell posted his best extra-base percentage, doubles and home runs total to date in Triple-A. So, tell me why he isn’t within the circle of top prospect discussion? It defies me. Texas does possess some of (if not THE top) American League’s best prospects. So, it’s not surprising the Rangers made Cordell a part of the trade that sent All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy (and reliever Jeremy Jeffress) to Texas for stud prospects Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Cordell (who was the incorrigible “PTBNL” in the deal). But Cordell’s career minor league numbers are similar, and in some cases better, than some of those who already have jobs in the majors, which I expect Cordell to have, maybe as early as 2017. Cordell’s case is UTR at its core. Don’t be afraid to take him as a late round flier in the minor league portion of your drafts. If he doesn’t work out, it didn’t cost you anything. If he does, then I’ve done my job.