When the Brewers acquired Jean Segura from the Los Angeles Angels in the 2012 trade of Zack Greinke it looked like they found their shortstop of the future. Segura got off to a hot start in 2013 and was named to the National League All-Star team, and while he was solid during his time with Milwaukee, he never quite reached that next level that the Brewers hoped to see. With top prospect Orlando Arcia just about ready for primetime, Milwaukee traded Segura to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the offseason, opening the door for their prized prospect. Arcia, who just turned 21 in August, was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year last season after a strong performance at Double-A Biloxi that saw him hit .307 and score 74 runs. He’s a legit option at shortstop with plus defense and his offensive game is becoming equally as impressive. He’ll start the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs but should get the call to Milwaukee at some point whenever the Brewers deem him ready.
The most likely option to keep Arcia’s spot warm until he’s ready is Jonathan Villar, whom Milwaukee picked up this past offseason from the Houston Astros in exchange for pitcher Cy Sneed. Villar, a 24-year-old out of the Dominican Republic made his big league debut with the Astros in 2013 and has spent parts of each of the last three seasons with Houston. In 53 games last season, Villar hit .284 and scored 18 runs.
Another option is 23-year-old Yadiel Rivera who made his major league debut with the Brewers late last season as a September call-up and was impressive in the Arizona Fall League. A ninth round pick of the Brewers in 2010, Rivera is a skilled defender who’s glove is more than major league ready. The questions with Rivera are in regards to his bat, as he’s hit just .244 throughout the course of his minor league career and he projects as more of a bench player.
At Double-A Biloxi, Javier Betancourt could see plenty of action at shortstop after being acquired from Detroit this past offseason. The 20-year-old from Venezuela hit .263 last season for the Tigers High-A affiliate in Lakeland, Florida and owns a .281 career minor league average. Also in the mix for the Shuckers could be Angel Ortega, a former sixth round pick of the Brewers in 2012 who spent last season with Brevard County. A defensive whiz, Ortega hit just .212 last season for the Manatees and could return to Brevard in 2016 if the Brewers go with Betancourt in Biloxi.
The Brewers used their fifth round pick last season on Blake Allemand out of Texas A&M. He appeared in 72 games between Helena and Wisconsin after signing, hitting .290/.340/.357 and should move up to Brevard County in 2016.
Isan Diaz, a key part of the Brewers return in the Segura trade, should be penciled in to the starting lineup at Wisconsin after putting together an outstanding 2015 campaign at Missoula where he hit .360 with 13 home runs on his way to being named as the Pioneer League’s Most Valuable Player. He may eventually wind up moving to second base, but should continue to get developmental time at shortstop as well.
Two of Milwaukee’s top shortstop prospects at the lower levels, Jake Gatewood, Gilbert Lara, will likely need to move off the position as they progress, but for the time being, are being given the opportunity to play some short as well. Gatewood saw time at both Helena and Wisconsin last season, hitting a combined .244 with 28 doubles, ten home runs and 57 runs batted in. Lara, who just turned 18 in October, hit .248 in 51 AZL contests last season before earning a late-season promotion to Helena.
Even further down the road, 19-year-old Ignacio Otano, a Dominican Summer League All-Star last season leads a young group of Latin American signees which also includes Luis Avila from Venezuela and Aaron Familia and Luis Manon from the Dominican Republic.
OVERALL: With prospects like Arcia, Lara, Gatewood and Diaz, the Brewers are loaded with talented young shortstops throughout their system, but the caveat here is that several of them, including Lara, Gatewood and Diaz could all find their long-term homes at a different position on the diamond. That’s not a big concern for Milwaukee however, as Arcia appears to be a very safe bet to lock down the position at the big league level for a long time.