Milwaukee Brewers

Original Published Date: October 9, 2015

Over the past several years, the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system has been a bottom ten, maybe even a bottom five system in the game.  No more.  With the emergence of Orlando Arcia as an elite prospect and the Carlos Gomez trade that landed them outfielder Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana, the Brewers have several players in the upper minors that should be able to help the big club as soon as next season.

There is also depth in the system, particularly in the outfield, with Clint Coulter, Michael Reed, Tyrone Taylor and 2015 first round draft pick, Trent Clark.  All have a very good chance to become major league players with Clark in particularly having a chance to become an impact player at the top of the lineup.  The pitching is a little thin, but Jorge Lopez and Devin Williams are also legitimate prospects with mid-rotation upside.

1. Orlando Arcia (SS)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 165 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2015 AA 512 74 8 69 23 .307 .347 85.7 5.4 .343

Orlando Arcia took a huge step-up this season and has become one of the finest young shortstop in the minor leagues, ranking number 19 overall on our mid-season Top 50 list.  He more than held his own as the second youngest positional player in the Southern League by posting an .800 OPS, which ranked in the Top 30 of the entire league.  While he’s currently blocked by Jean Segura, he’s the superior defender and there is logic for moving Segura to second or even third, which should open the door for Arcia to make his major league debut sometime in 2016.

Scouting Report:  Orlando Arcia shows impressive barrel control for someone who just turned 21-years-old.  His 86% contact rate was indeed impressive in the Southern League, but even more so when you realize he was over four years younger than most of the players in the league.  While he shows some anxiousness at the plate, he does have good strike zone awareness and as he gets more comfortable, an 85% contact rate combined with a 10% walk rate and speed to support an above-average BABIP should bode well for a 300-level hitter.  While Arcia lacks leverage in his swing, he does have enough bat speed and natural strength to hit five to eight home runs per season.

Arcia is far from a burner as I clocked him at 4.22 seconds in a game in the Spring of 2014.  However, he’s a smart runner and gets good jumps that should allow him to steal 20 bases annually as he progresses through the system.  Finally, he’s an above-average defender, showing good lateral quickness and enough arm-strength to make the difficult throw from the hole.

While none of Arcia’s tools are what you would consider loud, he can really hit and guys that can hit, find their way to the major leagues.  That should happen sometime in 2016 and when it does, he has an excellent chance to become a mainstay at the top-of-the-lineup for Milwaukee for years to come.

Fantasy Impact:  From a fantasy standpoint, Arcia’s profile is similar to that of Francisco Lindor.  He should hit at the top of the lineup, get on-base at a high rate with plenty of runs scored.   The upside is 20 stolen bases with below-average power.  It’s the lack of power that will hold him back from becoming an elite fantasy contributor but the total package puts his realistic ceiling at a Top 10 fantasy shortstop.  While we rarely use the word “realistic” in these capsules, it fits Arcia as he can really hit and that reduces the risk profile.

2. Brett Phillips (OF)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 180 Bats: Left Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
2015 A+,AA 505 104 16 77 17 .309 .374 76.2 7.8 .377

Taken in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by the Houston Astros, Brett Phillips was moved at the trading deadline as the key component in the Carlos Gomez trade.  It was a great pull by the Brewers as Phillips not only has the tools to become a first division center fielder, but the kind of makeup that gives him a good chance to reach that ceiling.

The makeup is easy to see as he plays all-out on every play.  He’s one of those guys that you cheer for when he’s on your team and you’re annoyed when he’s on the opposing team.  As a comparison, I liken him to Kevin Kiermaier with a grade better hit-tool.  He’s that level of defender with the bat speed to project above-average power.

Scouting Report:  You have to evaluate the total package that Brett Phillips brings instead of his individual tools to understand the full impact of his talent.  First, he makes very good contact as was demonstrated by his 77% contact rate in 2015.  In general, he has a good approach at the plate but he can get overly anxious which leads to expanding the strike zone and some weak contact.  He’s a plus runner, but the speed hasn’t shown up on base paths as he’s only stolen 52 bases in 345 games in the minor leagues.  You do see the speed in the outfield as he can really track it down in a hurry.  What’s missing is the ability to read pitchers and just gaining confidence.  I think it will come in time with a chance for Phillips to steal 20 stolen bases annually.

The power has always been the big question.  In 2014, he popped 13 home runs in 384 at-bats in Quad City and another 15 in 291 at-bats in Lancaster this year.  However, after his promotion to Double-A, the power hasn’t shown up.  His swing is more gap-oriented and during batting practice, he never sells out to hit home runs.

As stated prior, the sum of the parts are better than the individual tools that Phillips brings to the table.  The ceiling is a plus defender, a .280 plus batting average with 12 to 15 home runs and 15 to 20 stolen bases hitting in two-hole of a lineup.

Fantasy Impact:  Phillips is going to be a nice contributor to your fantasy team but will not be a star.  The ceiling is a top 40 outfielder with batting average and runs being his biggest area of strength.  That will make him a good roto-league contributor but Points League owners might want to look elsewhere.

3. Clint Coulter (OF)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 A+ 499 63 13 59 6 .246 .329 81.6 8.1 .275

The Brewers drafted Clint Coulter in the first round (29th pick) of the 2102 first year player draft as a catcher but moved him to the outfield to start the 2015 season.  It was the smart thing to do as Coulter really struggled behind the plate and while he doesn’t project to be a plus defender in right, he should be serviceable with a plus arm to help make up for a lack of foot-speed.   While he didn’t have a tremendous statistical season in 2015, he did hit 13 home runs in the Florida State League which was good for second in the league.

Scouting Report: Coulter’s carrying tool is plus raw power that has translated well into in-game power.  The swing does have a hitch in it but he’s worked hard to control the number of strikeouts and was successful in 2015 as he posted an 82% contact rate.   As with many power hitters, he has very good plate patience and should be able to post a 10% plus walk rate as he moves through the system.

Coulter has below-average foot-speed but that has not deterred him from trying to steal bases.  So far, he’s been caught as many times as he’s been successful.

Fantasy Impact:  From a fantasy perspective, it would have been nice if Coulter would have maintained catcher eligibility.  However, that was not meant to be and his batting average could become a problem for fantasy owners.  While there is 25 plus home run potential, it could also come with a .250 batting average.  The Brewers will continue to work with him on eliminating his hitch and become more direct to the ball and if that happens, the ceiling goes up.

4. Trent Clark (OF)

2016 Age: 19 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 205 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2018
2015 R,SS 207 39 2 21 25 .309 .424 78.7 15.5 .383

With the 15th pick in the 2015 first year player draft, the Brewers selected toolsy high school outfielder Trent Clark.  He took very well to his first taste of professional ball, slashing .311/.421/.432 across the AZL and Pioneer League.

Scouting Report:  Clark was well known to evaluators as he was a mainstay on the amateur showcase circuit for years.  At 6-foot and 205 pounds, Clark is not your typical gangly teenager and in fact has the body of a more mature player.  He has plus bat speed with natural strength that should allow him to hit for solid-average future power (15 plus home runs).  While the swing can get a little long, he does make good contact with an excellent understanding of the strike zone.  To round out the tools, he has current plus foot-speed but most evaluators feel that he’ll only be an average to above-average runner once he matures.

Fantasy Impact:  With his bat speed, contactability, and strike zone awareness, Clark has a chance to be a plus hitter with good, but not spectacular secondary skills.  Those skills should make him an ideal leadoff or number two-hole hitter, resulting in plenty of runs scored.  The ceiling is a .280 plus hitter with 15 home runs and 15 to 20 stolen bases.

5. Michael Reed (OF)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: Solid Reg
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
2015 AA,AAA 439 62 5 70 26 .269 .371 74.7 13.9 .340

Taken in the sixth round of the 2011 first year player draft, Michael Reed continued his climb through the minor league system by successfully navigating Double-A.  He showed a similar statistical profile in 2015 as he did in 2014 with an impressive strikeout-to-walk rate, the ability to steal bases with 24 in 31 attempts and very good defense.  He did struggle in his limited exposure in Triple-A but with Brett Phillips a level-behind, Reed should be next in line to grab the starting center field role in Milwaukee.

Scouting Report:  Reed has very good overall tools but nothing that grades out as plus.  He does have a very good approach at the plate and has improved his contact throughout his minor league.  While he does have good size at 6-foot and 190 pounds, his swing is more conducive to double-power as oppose to over-the-fence power.  In fact, his statistical line in both High and Double-A show the results of his approach.  In similar at-bats, he doubled 20 times and hit five home runs, while legging out five triples in both levels.  It helped give him a respectable slugging percentage, but unless he adds more loft in his swing, the ceiling is likely 8 to 12 home runs annually.

Reed is an above-average runner with good instincts on the base paths and that has led to 99 stolen bases in 435 professional games.  That said, in 38 games in Triple-A this year, he only attempted one stolen base attempt; in which he was successful.  Finally, he’s a solid defender with excellent route running ability and enough arm to profile as a right fielder.

Fantasy Impact:  In my respects, Reed is a fantasy sleeper as his ability to hit and defend should give him a chance to find regular playing time in the major leagues.  However, with Brett Phillips breathing down his neck and with slightly better tools, he might struggle to find playing time.

6. Tyrone Taylor (OF)

2016 Age: 22 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht: 6-0 Weight: 185 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017
2015 AA 454 48 3 43 10 .260 .312 87.9 6.2 .288

Tyrone Taylor was the top prospect in the Brewers organization last year and his drop is partially based on the performance of other players in the system, but also a season that saw Taylor not really progress.  In 127 games in Double-A, he posted a .256/.309/.334 slash line with a very good 54K/31BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Scouting Report:  When you lay eyes on Taylor, it’s hard not to be impressed with the athleticism. At 6-foot and 185 pounds, he moves very well, has premium bat speed and excellent hand-eye-coordination. His contact rate of 88% is indeed impressive but the contact just wasn’t very explosive as he posted a very poor slugging percentage of .334.

The swing is compact and short to the ball and the bat speed points to solid pop with future average power projection.   However, it’s just hasn’t shown up in-games yet.  Will it?  I still believe it will.  He also is a poor base stealer, stealing 10 of 18 bases.  It was disappointing as he does have plus foot speed.  In summary, there are solid raw skills with Taylor, they are just not showing up yet in the box scores.

Brett Phillips and Michael Reed are now clearly ahead of Taylor on the Brewers depth chart.  It happens, but Taylor still has the raw tools to be a solid-regular contributor at the major leagues and therefore is still very much a legitimate prospect.

Fantasy Impact:  For deeper Dynasty Leagues, Taylor is a buy-low candidate.  He can hit, has plus foot-speed and enough bat speed to hit for average power at the highest level.  While he might be blocked, players with his tool-set find a way to get playing time.  The ceiling is still a .270 hitter with 12 to 15 home runs and 15 to 20 stolen bases.

7. Domingo Santana (OF)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht: 6-5 Weight: 225 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014
2015 AAA 354 75 18 77 2 .333 .426 69.5 13.1 .439

Traded along with Brett Phillips and Josh Hader for Carlos Gomez, Domingo Santana seems to be getting lost in prospect circles.  The lack of love started when he got his big league chance in 2014 and went hitless in 18 plate appearances with 14 strikeouts.  In his defense, the Astros were looking for a spark and promoted him too quickly and the then 21-year-older just wasn’t ready.   In his second stint with Houston, it was better but 17 more strikeouts in 41 plate appearance and young Domingo Santana has been moved to the Clearance Section for many prospect watcher.

I get it…but it’s not right.  Santana has plus raw power with an idea of the strike zone that given time, he should develop into a solid-regular, or at worst, second division big leaguer.

Scouting Report:   At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Santana is a big guy with big raw power but with that size will come plenty of swings and misses.   The 30% strikeout rate that he’s demonstrated in his seven minor league seasons proves the point.  However, he also hit 107 home runs which is basically the player the Brewers should expect.  The upside is a corner outfielder with 20 plus home run potential with a below-average batting average but an acceptable on-base percentage because of his knowledge of the strike zone.  A .240/.320, batting average/on-base percentage feels like a reasonable baseline.

Fantasy Impact:  Santana has similar fantasy upside to fellow Brewers outfielder Khris Davis.  Davis’ hit tool is a grade better but Santana’s on-base skills are superior.   That should make Santana ownable in most 15-team mixed leagues as a fourth outfielder with a slight upgrade for points-leagues.

8. Jorge Lopez (RHP)

2016 Age: 23 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-4 Weight: 165 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 AA 143.1 105 36 9 3.27 8.60 2.26 1.10

Taken in the second round of the 2011 first year player, Jorge Lopez is starting to show the skills that enticed the Brewers to take him the number 70th overall pick.  In 24 starts in Double-A, Lopez pitched to a 2.26 ERA, striking out almost a batter an inning, while walking 3.27 per nine.  He should start the 2016 season in Triple-A and assuming he stays healthy, should see Milwaukee at some point during the year.

Scouting Report:  When he was drafted, the 6-foot-4, 165 pound Lopez was the epitome of raw projection.   As he’s filled out, the fastball has settled into a 92 to 94 MPH offering with good movement and the ability to pitch in the bottom of the zone.  His curve ball is a classic 12 to 6 offering that he’s able to throw for strikes and is currently his big swing and misses pitch.  His third pitch is his change-up that has improved greatly this year.  It lacks consistent and the type of movement that will miss bats, but from first hand observers, it’s improved enough to give hope that it will be an average future offering.

While Lopez doesn’t have the arsenal to be a front-line starter, he’s stuff should get bats out at the big league level.  With his ability to pitch down in the zone and produce a high rate of ground balls, a ceiling of a number four or more starter is possible.

Fantasy Impact:  Lopez should see Milwaukee next year and therefore needs to be on the radar of all deep fantasy league owners.  For Dynasty League owners, he should be considered for all teams with minor league rosters with 200 to 250 minor league slots.  The ceiling is a 3.50 to 3.75 ERA with seven to eight strikeouts per nine.

9. Devin Williams (RHP)

2016 Age: 21 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 165 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2018
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2015 A 89.0 75 34 3 3.64 9.00 3.44 1.25

In the Spring of 2013, the Brewers decided to sign Kyle Lohse thus forfeiting their first round draft pick in that June’s first year player draft. In the second round, they took high school right-hander, Devin Williams as the 54th overall player.  The 6-foot-3, 165 pound high-school right-hander has the ideal projectable body that clubs are seeking in the upper rounds of the draft.

This past season Williams pitched well in his first taste of full season ball.  In 89.0 innings, he posted a 3.44 ERA with a 9.00 K/9 and a 3.64 BB/9.  The Brewers did monitor his workload very carefully and limited his overall innings.

Scouting Report:  Williams has a live arm with his fastball sitting in the low-90’s and touching the mid-90’s on occasion.  He throws a lot of two-seamers and when he can locate, it’s a quality pitch.  His out pitch is an 81 to 83 MPH slurve, but his change-up took a nice step-up this year.  It’s a nice three-pitch mix that should play as a number four starter at the highest level.

Fantasy Impact:  Williams should be owned in Dynasty Leagues that have 250 to 300 minor leaguers.  He’s still very young and given his athleticism, he could still add a grade to his fastball.  If he does, the ceiling is a top 50 pitcher in fantasy.  However, you have to risk-adjust him given his age and level and only roster him if you have the room.

10. Monte Harrison (OF)

2016 Age: 19 Ceiling: All Star
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 220 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2019
2015 A,SS 259 38 5 24 20 .205 .310 61.4 9.2 .310

Monte Harrison was our 2015 emerging prospect but struggled mightily in his aggressive assignment to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the Midwest League to start the season.  In 46 games, he batted .148 with 77 strikeouts and 14 walks.  Once the Pioneer League started, the Brewers moved him to Helena and he performed much better.

While it would have been great for Harrison to have hit the ground running with the Timber Rattlers, forcing a promotion or two, but it didn’t happen.  That’s ok…Harrison was only 19-years-old and despite the incredible tools in his bag, he’s still very raw with a long way to go.

Scouting Report:  Harrison has bat speed, raw power, crazy arm strength (rumors are that he hit 98 MPH from the bump in high-school), and 80-grade running speed.  The problem is he has a very raw and under developed hit-tool.   He’s the classic lottery ticket.  If it all clicks, he’s an all-star in the mold of Carlos Gomez.  If it doesn’t, he might not get out of Double-A.

Of course the million dollar question is…will it click?  Nobody can answer that question for sure, but the Brewers do have a decent track record in developing hit-tools.  What is true is that every organization needs players like Harrison in their system.  Stars help win pennants and he has star potential.

Fantasy Impact:  As with major league organizations, every Dynasty League needs one or two high ceiling uber-talented kids on their squad.  If Harrison is on the waiver wire, you should pick him up.  I won’t even write down his ceiling…it could be obscene.

2016 Emerging Prospect

Gilbert Lara (SS)

When it’s all said and done, Gilbert Lara might have the best major league career on this list; and there are some very good players on this list.  Signed last July from the Dominican Republic for an impressive $3 million dollar signing bonus, Lara has tremendous bat speed with the ceiling of plus in-game home run power.  His approach is currently very aggressive with too much swing and miss, mostly because he tries to crush everything.  However, at 17-years-old, there is plenty of time to refine the swing and the approach.  If it all comes to together, it could be special.

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