Top LineupC – David Fry – Even though I predicted it, the Milwaukee Brewers surprised many by signing free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to a 1 year-$18.25M contract this past January. They probably surprised even more by winning the N.L. Central last season, and the Grandal signing shows that they are truly riding the wave of success and want to stay in the playoff hunt. Yet they did so last year with Manny Pina as their primary backstop. Having the power-hitting Grandal gives the position a big boost and Milwaukee may now have the best 1-2 punch of catchers in the National League. But the good depth doesn’t stop there. Light hitting defensive stalwart Erik Kratz finds himself ready to jump into action from AAA and 2013 – 6th rounder (of Houston) Jacob Nottingham is ticketed for AAA Colorado Springs as well, but could see increased time at first base just to keep his bat fresh. So, let’s dig deeper, zero in on that UTR frame of mind and focus on the season 2018 – 7th round selection David Fry had. Drafted out of Northwestern State University (LA), Fry played second base his freshman and sophomore seasons, but suffered an arm injury prior to his junior year. The 6’0”- 195 lb. righty played a little third base before settling in as the Demons regular catcher, despite rotating between catching and first base. Regardless of where he played defensively though, he hit, as Fry finished his collegiate career with a .301 batting average, 31 home runs, 156 RBi and 2018 Southland Conference Player of the Year honors his senior season. Milwaukee assigned Fry to Rookie Helena, where he batted .315 (collecting 70 hits) and led the team in doubles (15), home runs (12), RBi (57), on-base percentage (.406), SLG% (.563), OPS (.963), and total bases (125). Fry also earned end-of-the-season 2018 Pioneer League All-Star team honors at catcher. Fry concluded 2018 with an early-September promotion to LoA Wisconsin, batting .222 in only two games. Fry is an advanced bat, but moving forward it’s hard to tell what his direction will be defensively. No matter where, Fry is a real hitter, a 7th round steal and UTR gold. He should spend all of 2019 back in LoA Wisconsin. 1B – Chad McClanahan – Going back to the “surprised many” sentiment, it’s a bit mind boggling when you look at the recent carousel the Cleveland Indians have had surrounding first base. They’ve interchanged veterans Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Santana, Yonder Alonso and now Jake Bauers heads into the 2019 season with Kevin Plawecki acting as Bauers’ backup. Yet, had Cleveland just employed a bit more patience, they could have avoided that revolving door and just held onto Jesus Aguilar, who, over the last two seasons has a .271 batting 51 home runs, 160 RBi, 120 runs scored after Milwaukee claimed Aguilar off waivers. Understand however that this is all tongue-in-cheek. One can’t perfectly predict what can happen statistically, but wow, you’d have to say that Aguilar’s contribution was crucial to the Brewers success last season. Looking downward though, Milwaukee lacks true blue-chip options at the position. Sure, you could point the dial to Jake Gatewood, but boy-oh-boy, the strikeouts are alarming, plus does he hit for enough average and power? Let’s add 6’5”- 200 lb. Chad McClanahan to the mix. Milwaukee drafted the lefty slugger out of Brophy College Preparatory (Phoenix, AZ) in in the 11th round in 2016. The organization got a great athlete with big power upside, average speed and good defense, and assigned him to the AZL for his rookie year. In his first two seasons, McClanahan batted a meager .224 with only six home runs, 44 RBi and 55 runs scored. Last season, he went back to Rookie Helena (after finishing the 2017 season there) and made big improvements, logging a .301 batting average with eight home runs, 14 doubles and 35 RBi in 49 games. An early-August promotion to LoA Wisconsin put a halt to his solid season, as he posted a .171 average and only three extra base hits in 21 games. Obviously he has work to do with the bat, especially if he wants to succeed as he ascends through the ranks. For 2018 however, he made a decent mark. But with Jesus Aguilar under team control until 2023, his free agency year, Milwaukee has plenty of time to iron out any underbelly first base issues. 2B – Keston Hiura – Let’s make this short and sweet, All future at second base talk begins and ends with Keston Hiura. Not even UTR aside. Hiura played only 50 games in HiA (Carolina) before a promotion to Double-A Biloxi, and he still obliterated his HiA-down-through-the-DSL competition. The #20 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s 2019 Top 100, Hiura is as polished a bat that there is in the minors and there might not be a prospect who carries a better overall game than Hiura. You’ve read this several times before in select player bios, but if you’re in a league that houses minor leaguers and Hiura is sitting in free-agency, grab him immediately. He’s a middle-of-the-order, major league star in waiting and once he hits the majors, will keep the Brewers second base job secure for the foreseeable future. 3B – Eddie Silva – I’m a Travis Shaw owner in mine and Jim’s shared N.L.-only fantasy baseball league. Ironically, he owns Lucas Erceg, the #8 overall prospect and top listed third baseman in MLB Pipeline Brewers 2019 Top 30. Erceg spent all of last season with Double-A Biloxi so he wasn’t UTR eligible, but he kept his top organizational third baseman crown secured by clubbing 21 doubles, 13 home runs and driving in 51 runs for the Shuckers. Jim and I both chronically preach how depth is key in fantasy, so (again) in UTR speak, we wonder who will be eyeing up either recently signed Brett Lawrie or maybe this year’s UTR OAS Eddie Silva. Truth be told, Erceg is probably the closest Milwaukee has to a full-blown prospect making an impact at third base, but Eddie Silva made a solid case in 2018, despite being older for the levels he played in. Milwaukee signed the undrafted Silva in late June 2018 out of Florida International, where in his red-shirt junior season, he led the Conference USA with 16 home runs and ranked second in the league in slugging percentage (.686). The Brewers assigned the 5’11”- 180 lb. righty to Rookie Helena, where he crushed Pioneer League pitchers with a .361 average, 11 doubles, a home run and 17 RBi in only 20 games. The organization game him a quick hook, sending him to LoA Wisconsin in late July. As a Timber Rattler, he didn’t really slow down. He hit .321, added five more home runs, drove in 20 and scored 16 runs in 33 games. In the field, Silva seems more suited to play second base based solely on his fielding percentages, but with Hiura entrenched at second base above, we had a find a way to get Silva on our list. SS – Brice Turang – In the same sense in which Keston Hiura was a part of this year’s OAS list, thus is the case for our shortstop choice Brice Turang. The 2018- 1st rounder out of Santiago HS (CA) came to the system boasting above-average athleticism, advanced ball-to-bat skills and plus-plus speed. Milwaukee assigned the 6’1”- 165 lb. lefty to the AZ, where he played only 13 games, but batted a cool .319 with two doubles, stole eight bases and scored 11 runs. The organization wasted no time sending him to Rookie Helena in early August. He hit .268 including his first pro home run, stole six more bases, and for the season, he walked a combined 31 times versus 34 strikeouts. He may not hit for much power, but with good bloodlines, he’s a potential star in the making. LF – Je’von Ward – With an outfield of Ryan Braun, Lorenzo Cain and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Christian Yelich, you’d think that would be enough to keep guys like us excited. It does, yes, but from our point of view, when you also have outfield prospects like Corey Ray, Tristen Lutz, Joe Gray and Troy Stokes Jr. waiting in the wings, it’s almost laughable thinking about the embarrassment of outfield riches sitting inside the Brewers organization. Well, in true UTR fashion, let’s pile on and conclude this year’s Milwaukee Brewers UTR OAS; by adding three more outfielders that had attention-getting seasons in 2018, and provided enough for us to keep an eye on moving forward. We’ll start with 2017 – 12th rounder Je’von Ward. Milwaukee drafted Ward out of Cerritos HS, just southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Ward came to the organization with great athleticism, a quick bat, good raw power, solid speed and an average arm. The now 19-year-old was assigned to the Arizona League to start his career, where he posted a .276/.326/.325/.651 slashline with six doubles two stolen bases and 15 runs scored in 32 games. Nothing eye-popping, but enough to earn him a promotion Rookie Helena this past season. And the Brewers saw more of the prospect that they drafted. He hit .307, scored 40 runs, 13 doubles with two home runs and stole 13 bases. You’d think that by looking at his stats, they seem a bit pedestrian so far. But when you note that he was one of the overall minor league leaders in ground ball rate, yet look at his scouting profile, that you get the idea that he could be huge breakout waiting to happen. CF – Carlos Rodriguez – The July 2017 International free agent signee out of Venezuela spent his debut season inside the Dominican Summer League, then moved state side for a short five game stint with the AZL Gold squad. With the DSL Brewers, the 5’10”- 150 pound lefty led the team in hits (70), batting (.323), RBi (32) and total bases. After 56 games, the organization gave Rodriguez a well-earned promotion to the AZL and although he played only five games, he didn’t slow down, posting a .350 average. He’s a no-power, high contact type hitter with great bat speed and speed on the base paths as well as in centerfield. He played 31 games in center, committing zero errors. Rodriguez turned 18 in December, so he still has a ton of development in front of him, but if 2018 was even a small glimpse of what Rodriguez is capable of, he might be one of the more interesting teenaged prospects the system has going. RF – Alwinson Valdez – Ending the Brewers OAS with another teenager, Milwaukee signed the 17-year-old Dominican Republic native for $80K during the July 2017 International free agent signing period. He (naturally) started his career in the Dominican Summer League, and after starting the season 2-22 (.091), he finished the month of June in mediocre fashion with a .242 average, yet collected only three extra-base hits in the whole month of June. His bat came alive in late July, where he batted .327 and finished the month with six home runs in six games. Valdez cooled off in August, but for season he led the DSL roster in home runs (7), ranked third in total bases and drew 30 walks to 60 strikeouts. A lot can be said about raw, teenaged prospects Like Valdez and Rodriguez playing well in their debut and/or sophomore seasons. But sometimes, (sadly), not a lot is said about raw, teenaged prospects performing well in their debut or sophomore seasons. You just can’t ignore it. You can’t, because how many times have we, as baseball fans, seen a #1 draft pick fade into thin air because they just couldn’t get the job done on the field, while kids who overplay their scouting reports get ignored because they come with little or no pedigree. Not here. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. Hall-of Fame catcher Mike Piazza was a 62nd round draft pick as a favor from Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda to Piazza’s father.Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. LHP Cam Roegner – (18)/ Triple-A Colorado Springs
** Roegner just slid into the Brewers 2017 UTR-OAS roster at #5, and took the huge step getting the top spot this season. The 22nd round pick in 2016 was one of the best pitchers in the Carolina league, but unfortunately was one of the oldest at 25 years-old. He cruised through HiA Carolina with the only outstanding stat line being a 28.2 scoreless streak. He finished 9-5 with a 2.16 ERA over 108.1 innings, striking out only 97, and 1.15 WHIP. He took his lumps with promotions to Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A Colorado Springs. A pitch-to-contact type possesses a 87-91 fastball within his 4-pitch mix. Roegner could be a diamond in the rough, but needs to prove he can excel at the higher levels.
2. RHP Bowden Francis – (15) / HiA Carolina
** After 10 innings with the AZL Brewers in his debut season, the 7th round pick in 2017 advanced to HiA Carolina last season. Francis didn’t post inspiring numbers across his stints at Wisconsin and Carolina.
3. RHP Braden Webb – (14.5) / AA Biloxi
**Webb also didn’t post decent numbers in 2018, but did show flashes during his brief end-of-the-season stint at Biloxi. The 3rd round pick in 2016 has three possible plus pitches with a mid-90’s fastball/curveball combo and a split-change. The lack of control is keeping him back with a possible ceiling as a #2-3 starter. He walked 56 batters over 1002 innings at HiA Carolina.
4. RHP Christian Taugner – (13.5) / HiA Carolina
5. RHP Alec Bettinger – (13.5)/ HiA CarolinaTop 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained
1. RHP Rodrigo Benoit – (10) / HiA Carolina
2. LHP Clayton Andrews – (7) / LoA Wisconsin
3. RHP Miguel Sanchez – (5) / AAA Colorado Springs