While it’s true that Milwaukee’s organization may be lacking in top-end, can’t miss talent, they do have some nice depth and a handful of high ceiling players that could be worth keeping an eye on this season.
Outfielder Tyrone Taylor and pitcher Jimmy Nelson are at the top of most lists, with shortstop Orlando Arcia and outfielder Victor Roache getting plenty of mentions as well.
For the initial Miller Park Prospects Top 25 ranking of 2014, we decided to switch things up a little bit and gather a variety of opinions from some talented writers who follow the Brewers and their minor league system closely throughout the season.
Taking more of an NCAA poll approach, I reached out to our staff here at Miller Park Prospects as well as a group of individuals from other sites, such as Brewerfan.net, Brewers Farm Report, Milwaukee Next and more.
I asked each voter to submit their prospect rankings 1-25 and then we averaged out the results. 25 points were awarded for a first place vote and progressed down to 1 point for a 25th place vote
I’d like to offer up an extra special thank you to all who contributed. Our 12 voters this time around were: Brad Krause (@bkrause2), Chad Krause (@krause_chad), Chris Collins, Daron Jones (@DaronJonesUW), Dustin Mazurek, Jason Arndt (@BrewsFarmReport), John Kellog, Marcus Young (@DMarcus1Young), Mike Malcore (@mike_malcore), Sam Peterson, Seth Rogatzki and Trent Wright.
Here are the results of our poll, with the total number of votes notated behind each player.
1. Tyrone Taylor – OF (295) – In a tight race, Taylor nudged out Jimmy Nelson for the top spot on the list. He received 7 of 12 first place votes, based mainly on his young age and high upside.
Taylor, who just turned 20 in January, spent all of 2013 at Low-A Wisconsin, and held his own, batting .274/.338/.400. Already a solid gap-to-gap defender, Taylor has plenty of arm for center field and has flashed each of the five tools scouts look for at times. After a torrid month of June at the plate, he fell off a bit in July, but made the necessary adjustments and got back on track to finish the season. Many believe that Taylor is just scratching the surface of his potential and he has shown that he is a quick learner.
Taylor should start the 2014 season at High-A Brevard County. Continued success in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League would be a great sign for the youngster and reaching Double-A at age 20 would be a huge accomplishment for him.
2. Jimmy Nelson – RHP (293) – Nelson garnered the other five first place votes. Known as a workhorse pitcher with a heavy sinker that he keeps down in the zone, Nelson impressed the Brewers enough in 2013 to earn a September call-up. He allowed just one run over ten big league innings late in the season after posting a 3.25 ERA and striking out more than a batter per inning in 27 combined starts between Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Huntsville.
With the Brewers recent signing of Matt Garza, Milwaukee’s rotation appears to be close to set, and Nelson will likely return to Nashville to begin 2014. A big spring, a solid start to the season, or injury, could open the door for Nelson in Milwaukee’s rotation.
3. Orlando Arcia – SS (256) – Arcia beat out Victor Roache for the third spot in our rankings by a single vote. The 19-year-old shortstop spent 2013 at Class-A Wisconsin, where he hit .251 with four home runs and 39 RBI.
He first opened eyes as a 16-year-old, playing in the Dominican Summer League in 2011. Milwaukee thought highly enough of Arcia to bring him to the states in 2012 but a broken ankle, suffered while sliding in to second base during an extended spring training game, ended his season early.
Even after missing the 2012 season, the Brewers skipped Arcia over their two rookie league clubs and sent him to Wisconsin last season. He showed good strike zone recognition, drawing 35 walks, while striking out just 40 times in 486 plate appearances. At just 165 pounds, Arcia has quick hands that can generate some surprising pop at times. He should advance to High-A Brevard County to start 2014.
4. Victor Roache – OF (255) – A first round pick of the Brewers in 2012, Roache showed signs of re-gaining the monster power he displayed when he led the NCAA with 30 home runs in 2011. A broken wrist, suffered in February of 2012 cost Roache a year of development, and he showed some rust early on in his pro debut.
After an up and down start to the season, Roache caught fire in July, batting .303 with 8 home runs and 24 RBI. Over the season’s final 59 games, he hit .293 with 15 home runs. Roache has strong hands and wrists, and though he probably won’t hit for much average, the power is eye-opening. He’ll likely join Arcia and Taylor on a loaded Brevard County roster to begin 2014.
5. Devin Williams – RHP (234) – Milwaukee’s first pick in the 2013 draft, the Brewers feel like they landed a first round talent in the second round. Williams struck out 39 batters in 34.2 innings in his pro debut.
Williams athleticism and big arm are what stand out. His fastball sat mainly in the low 90’s in the AZL last season, but he has room to grow and touched 95 at times in high school. He also features an above average change-up as a secondary pitch. Extended spring training and an assignment to short-season Helena would make sense for Williams in 2014, though a jump to Wisconsin shouldn’t be ruled out either.
6. Mitch Haniger – OF (231) – The third of Milwaukee’s three first-round draft choices in 2012, Haniger opened some eyes this fall, playing against some top notch competition in the Arizona Fall League. After having his first season cut short by a torn PCL, Haniger returned to Wisconsin to begin the 2013 season. He made quick work of Midwest League pitching and was promoted to Brevard in May.
A polished hitter, who could develop more power as he continues to grow, Haniger can play all three outfield positions. His strong and accurate arm fits the profile of a right fielder, but he can go and get the ball in center field as well. After his strong fall performance, it appears Haniger will start 2014 at Double-A Huntsville. How he handles the jump will go a long way towards helping the Brewers figure out where the 23-year-old fits in to their future plans.
7. Taylor Jungmann – RHP (229) – When the Brewers selected Jungmann in the first round in 2011, many expected him to be on a fast track to Milwaukee.
Through 52 career minor league starts, he hasn’t been the dominant starter some had hoped for, but he’s been solid, going 21-16 with a 3.91 ERA.
With a big frame and a high-effort delivery, the concern for some, is that, while Jungmann has gotten outs, he hasn’t missed a lot of bats. Jungmann figures to be an innings eater at the back of a big league rotation, and after 26 starts at Double-A Huntsville in 2013, he should begin 2014, just a step away, at Triple-A Nashville.
8. Johnny Hellweg – RHP (225) – It’s all about consistency will Hellweg. When he’s on, he’s on and when he’s not, he’s not. The 6’9” righty went 12-5 with a 3.15 ERA at Triple-A Nashville en route to being named the Pacific Coast League’s Pitcher of the Year. That success earned him a pair of big league call-ups in 2013. Unfortunately, he did not enjoy the same success at the Major League level.
In eight appearances for the Brewers, Hellweg struggled mightily, going 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA. His future may be in the bullpen where his already high-90’s fastball could add a tick or two. The more innings that Hellweg can get, the better, so the Brewers will probably leave him in the rotation for now, and a return to Triple-A Nashville to start the season makes sense.
9. Hunter Morris – 1B (211) – A year ago, many were calling Hunter Morris the Brewers first baseman of the future. But the Brewers search for a first baseman this offseason led them to veterans Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds, so it appears they do not feel Morris is ready for the job yet.
After winning the Southern League MVP in 2012, Morris again put up solid power numbers in 2013 at Triple-A Nashville, slamming 24 home runs and totaling 53 extra-base hits. His average dipped however, and he struck out in over 20% of his plate appearances. Morris should return to Nashville to begin 2014, but with the murky situation at first base in Milwaukee, could get his shot with a strong start to the season.
10. Clint Coulter – C (174) – Another of the Brewers first round picks in 2012, Coulter battled through a series of injuries in 2013. After beginning the year at Wisconsin, and struggling both offensively and defensively, Coulter never got on track.
Many believe that Coulter would benefit greatly from moving out from behind the plate, but unlike the Brewers short-lived experiment with Brett Lawrie as a backstop, Milwaukee appears committed to developing Coulter as a catcher. Though the Brewers say he’s made progress, Coulter’s defensive struggles were evident in 2013. He allowed too many passed balls and struggled with fundamentals, but was able to make up for some mistakes with his big arm.
At the plate, Coulter appeared over-matched at times in Wisconsin and he can get pull-happy at times. But he will also crush mistakes and flashes big time power potential. A hard worker with great makeup, Coulter should have a return trip to Wisconsin in his future.
11. Nicky Delmonico – 3B (163) – Delmonico was acquired from Baltimore in a mid-season trade for Francisco Rodriguez. He played in just 21 games at Brevard County following the trade, and at just 21-years-old could see a return trip to the Florida State League in 2014.
12. Tucker Neuhaus – 3B (162) – Neuhaus was the Brewers second, second-round pick in 2013. In 51 games in the AZL he hit .231. The 18-year-old is raw, but is certainly worth keeping an eye on. He figures to spend time in extended spring training before joining one of the Brewers short-season squads in 2014.
13. David Goforth – RHP (153) – Perhaps no player is on a faster track to Milwaukee than Goforth. A potential closer-in-the-making, his fastball sits between 94-97 mph and he has touched 99 at times. After splitting 2012 between Brevard and Huntsville, Goforth could start 2014 in the Nashville bullpen.
14. Ariel Pena – RHP (146) – Acquired from the Angels in the Zack Greinke trade, Pena shows flashes at times, but struggles with consistency. A hard thrower, he needs to keep the ball down to have success and after 27 Double-A starts in 2013, could find himself in the mix for a rotation spot in Nashville in 2014.
15. D’ Vontrey Richardson – OF (115) – After sitting out the 2012 season, Richardson stepped right in and handled the Florida State League without missing a beat. An amazing athlete, with all of the tools that scouts drool over, the 25-year-old Richardson, is at an advanced age, and 2014 will be a huge year for him. He should begin at Double-A Huntsville and if he handles the jump, could become one of the top prospects in the Brewers system.
16. Jorge Lopez – RHP (102) – Lopez showed flashes of why Milwaukee drafted him in the second round of the 2011 draft last season. Pitching at Low-A Wisconsin, his fastball sat in the low to mid-90’s and he showed a big curveball that drops off the table. He struggles with his command at times, but when he’s on, it’s easy to get excited about him as a pitching prospect. Lopez did enough at Wisconsin last season to warrant a trip to Brevard County to begin 2014.
17. Jason Rogers – 1B (92) – Seemingly always under the radar, Rogers just continues to hit his way through the minor leagues. Rogers has shown the ability to hit for both average and power. He has deceptive speed and has seen time in the outfield as well. He should begin the season at Triple-A, but the Brewers may have a bit of a log-jam at first base in Nashville, so Rogers may rotate between first base, DH and outfield.18. Michael Reed – OF (76) – The 21-year-old Reed had a big season at Low-A Wisconsin in 2013, batting .286 in 118 games. He has the ability to play all three outfield spots and showed good speed, swiping 26 bases. He should join Taylor and Roache in the outfield at Brevard County to begin 2014.
19. Yadiel Rivera – SS (61) – Rivera is one of the slickest fielding shortstops around and could have a big league future thanks to his defense alone. He still has work to do at the plate, as he sports just a .237 career minor league average, but with Arcia pushing him, he should climb to Double-A Huntsville to begin 2014.
20. Damien Magnifico – RHP (57) – Magnifico suffered from issues with blisters last season, but when healthy, he’s the hardest thrower in the Brewers system. He struggles with his control at times and his fastball, clocked over 100mph at times, is relatively straight. His future may be in the bullpen, but he figures to start in the Brevard County rotation in 2014.
21. Tyler Wagner – RHP (51) – Wagner was one of the Brewers bigger surprises last season. After working as a reliever in college, he adjusted well to the starting rotation at Wisconsin. A groundball pitcher with a low-90’s fastball, Wagner offers a power slider that he uses as a strikeout pitch. He should join Magnifico in the Brevard rotation to begin 2014.
22. Hiram Burgos – RHP (37) – Burgos is not a hard thrower, but he knows how to pitch and get hitters out. He made six starts at the big league level last year, and could be in the mix for the fifth starter’s spot in 2014, though a spot in the bullpen, or a return to Nashville seems more likely.
23. Jed Bradley – LHP (36) – It’s been a nightmare couple of seasons for Bradley since being drafted in the first round in 2011. He has struggled to repeat his delivery at times, resulting in command issues, and he missed the final 2+ months of the 2013 season. There’s still hope for the big lefty, however, and he could find himself pitching in his hometown of Huntsville during the team’s final season there.
24. Tyler Cravy – RHP (33) – In his fifth season in the Brewers system, Cravy broke out in 2013 at Brevard County, going 4-2 with a 2.04 ERA in 25 appearances. The Brewers thought enough of him to send him to the Arizona Fall League and he should start 2014 at Double-A Huntsville.
25. Drew Gagnon – RHP (31) – Gagnon had an up-and-down 2013 season, highlighted by throwing seven no-hit innings against Bradenton in May. He moved up to Huntsville in June and struggled to a 4-9 record with the Stars. He should return to Huntsville to start 2014.
Others receiving votes: David Denson – 1B (30), Kentrail Davis – OF (20), Nick Ramirez – 1B (18), Brent Suter – LHP (18), Michael Ratterree – OF (15), Brooks Hall – RHP (15), Garrett Cooper – 1B (15), Taylor Williams – RHP (13), Chris McFarland – 2B (12), Andy Hillis – RHP (11), Barrett Astin – RHP (11), Cameron Garfield – C (9), Clint Terry – LHP (7), Gian Rizzo – RHP (6), Kevin Shackelford – RHP (5), Renaldo Jenkins – 2B (2), Anthony Banda – LHP (1), Elvis Rubio – OF (1), Luis Ortega – RHP (1)
On Thursday, we’ll delve a little deeper in to our rankings, with a Top 25 roundtable, as several of our voters were kind enough to share their thoughts on their rankings, and then we’ll follow that up, over the weekend, with a Top 25 mailbag to answer some questions that our readers may have. If you’d like to submit a question for the mailbag, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.