I’m worried about the Brewers. I think their future is bleak if they don’t begin a rebuild or start thinking outside the box when it comes to competing now. Recently I took a look at what Ithink the Brewers are going to do this winter. Next I wrote about what I would do instead. Then to put that in perspective I wrote about what the Brewers could look like in 5 years. Still, I think that I haven’t fleshed out my concern well enough. In an effort to more fully understand the Brewers predicament, I decided to take a look at the better prospects in their system with relation to when the Brewers can be expected to call them up. I also noted which players would be leaving through free agency (that does not include arb-eligible players that could be non-tendered).
Departing Free Agents: Corey Hart, Yuniesky Betancourt, Mike Gonzalez
Jimmy Nelson- SP: He saw some time in Milwaukee this year but showed he’s not quite ready. He will open 2014 at AAA and is likely the first called up for a spot start or injury replacement. He has the ceiling of a mid-rotation start, but could be more of a back-end guy. He could be in the starting rotation as soon as 2015.
Johnny Hellweg- SP: Like Nelson, he spent some time in Milwaukee but still needs time to polish his stuff. He’ll be starting at AAA in 2014 and could pitch for the Brewers either out of the rotation or in the pen by mid-season. He has frontline potential, but if he can’t improve his control he could wind up in the bullpen as a high leverage reliever. If he can make the rotation full time, it’ll be in 2015.
David Goforth- RP: During the regular season he started in A+ before converting to relief in AA. He pitched out of relief in the AFL as well. He has a shot to break camp with Milwaukee in the spring, but it’s more likely his relieves for AAA, possibly as their closer. I think there’s a good chance we’ll see him with the Brewers at some point in 2014. He has high leverage potential and should open 2015 with Milwaukee.
Michael Blazek- RP: Acquired from the Cardinals for John Axford, he provides a similar profile to Milwaukee’s former closer. He has a big fastball that allows him to strikeout a lot of guys, but he can be pretty wild. If can get that under control, he could be a pretty solid reliever. He has a chance to make the club out of Spring Training in 2014, but I think it’s more likely he relieves for AAA. Like Goforth, if he can, he should open 2015 with the Brewers
Ariel Pena- SP/RP: He started for AA but wasn’t terribly effective. His high strikeout rate is accompanied by a high walk rate. I expect he’ll be converted to the pen sometime soon, but he may start for either AA or AAA earlier in the 2014 season. Because I think Goforth, Blazek, and others are higher on the reliever depth chart I doubt we’ll see him get called up unless he really turns things around or the Brewers are in a dire situation. It’s possible he gets a September call-up out of the pen. If he does turn it around for himself, he could pitch at the back-end of a rotation someday, but I think middle relief is more likely.
Hunter Morris- 1B: He is Milwaukee’s top first base prospect but that’s more a condemnation of the Brewers’ farm system than an endorsement of Morris. He struggled at AAA in 2013 and will have to repeat the level in 2014. With 1B as wide open as it is, he’ll have a solid chance of getting a call-up at some point. At the very least I expect we’ll see him in September. If he’s going to have a chance to stick with the Brewers it’s probably going to be at first in a platoon, perhaps in 2015.
Departing Free Agents: Aramis Ramirez (if option declined), Yovani Gallardo (if opt declined), Tom Gorzelanny, Nori Aoki
Taylor Jungmann- SP: Jungmann was supposed to have frontline potential, but has shown none of that talent so far. His fastball is several miles slower than when drafted and he hasn’t had very good strikeout numbers. In 2013 he pitched poorly in AA. He went to the AFL but a groin injury sidelined him for most of it. It’s possible he opens 2014 in AA again, but I think they’ll have him start in AAA. I expect he’ll spend the entire year there. If all goes well, we could see him in Milwaukee sometime in 2015 but it’ll be as a back-end starter.
Damien Magnifico- RP: Magnifico has a big time fastball. I’m talking triple digits. He’s starting right now, likely to allow him to work on his secondary pitches. He’ll open 2014 in AA. He may continue starting or the Brewers might begin his conversion to the pen. If they do that it’s possible he could split time between AA and AAA. At the very least he should make it to AAA by 2015 and then he’s just a phone call away from the majors.
Mitch Haniger- RF: He spent the regular season between A and A+ before going to the AFL. All things considered he had a pretty good season. It’s likely he’ll start 2014 in AA and could end it in AAA. Regardless, in 2015 he should begin in AAA and could be a mid-season call-up for the Brewers. He has the potential to be a solid average regular in right field. Short of that he could be a solid back-up capable of playing all three outfield positions. If he pans out, he could be the starting right fielder in 2016. There is a slight chance that he could tear through AA and AAA in 2014 and be a threat for the starting job in 2015, but I think that’s being overly optimistic.
Nicky Delmonico- 1B/3B: Delmonico was acquired from the Orioles for Francisco Rodriguez. He split the season between the Orioles and Brewers’ minor league A+ affiliate. The Brewers are hoping he can stick at third base but if he can’t he’ll have to move to first. His defense is fringy at third base and his bat is fringy at first base. He’ll probably spend all of 2014 at AA. In 2015 he should start at AAA and could be a midseason call-up. If all things go perfectly for him, he’ll be the starting 3B for Milwaukee in 2016. It’s probably more likely he ends up at first base or in a utility role.
Departing Free Agents: Aramis Ramirez (if ‘15 opt was picked up), Yovani Gallardo (if ’15 opt was picked up) Kyle Lohse, Marco Estrada
Jorge Lopez- SP- Lopez has the potential to be a solid middle of the rotation starter. He pitched in A-ball with mediocre results. He’s young and I expect the Brewers will move him through the system at a slow pace. If that’s true he should open 2016 in AAA. It so far away it’s hard to tell if he’ll see any time in Milwaukee at all, but it’s possible he gets a spot start or a call-up in September. The best case scenario for Lopez is probably as a regular starter somewhere in the middle of the 2017 rotation.
Jed Bradley- SP/RP- Bradley, like Jungmann, was supposed to have #2 potential. Unfortunately he has been even more disappointing than Jungmann. He’s only made it as far as A+, which he repeated in 2013. Health and durability is a big question for him. He pitched 107 innings in 2012 and only 78 in 2013. The earliest we could see him is probably mid-season in 2016, but it might be as a reliever. If he reaches his full potential, he can probably serve as a 4 or 5 starter for the Brewers in 2017.
Victor Roache- LF: He was dealing with a broken wrist when drafted so he didn’t play in 2012. He spent all of 2013 in A-ball. Considering the injury he played reasonably well, but it’s going to slow his progression through the minors. If the Brewers keep him on the slow track all the way through the minors, he’ll first reach AAA at the start of the 2016 season. In that scenario he could be a mid-season call-up the same year. It’s possible he starts moving through the system more quickly and if that’s true he could fight for a starting spot at the major league club in 2016. Again, I think that’s being pretty optimistic and it’s more likely 2017 is his first full year. He has massive power, but he needs to figure out how to hit well enough to utilize that power in-game. He could be an above average left fielder.
Departing Free Agents: Jonathan Lucroy (if option declined), Carlos Gomez
Devin Williams- SP: He has the highest ceiling of any Brewers pitching prospect. He could be a #2 starter. He’s quite young so his arrival is surely going to be a long way down the road. He’ll move through the lower minors slowly but could accelerate once he reaches AA. The earliest he would reach AAA would be 2016, but I wouldn’t expect to see him in Milwaukee that year. If he really pitches well he could have a chance to open 2017 with the Brewers, but it’s more likely he’ll be a mid-season call-up.
Orlando Arcia- SS: An injury has slowed his progression. He’s very young so he’ll move through the system slowly anyway. He’ll play 2016 at AAA and could be the starting shortstop for the Brewers in 2017. It might all depend on his bat as he’s likely to be a plus defender at the position.
Tyrone Taylor- CF: Another young player, he may be the best prospect in the system. He has the potential to be an above average center fielder. Because he is so young and Carlos Gomez should be entrenched at the position, I expect the Brewers won’t feel the need to rush Taylor. He’ll open 2016 at AAA, but probably won’t see any time at the major league level unless it’s as a September call-up. He has an excellent chance to be the starting center fielder in 2017.
Clint Coulter- C: Hey look! It’s the Brewers only catching prospect. He has a long journey ahead of him and he will have to vastly improve defensively to stay behind the plate. I expect the Brewers to give him every chance to do so. It may be slow going, but he’s young and it’ll be worth it if he can remain as a catcher. I’m not sure when he’ll reach AAA, but he could open 2017 there. In the best case scenario, he gets a midseason call-up and is starting in 2018.
Tucker Neuhaus- 3B: He’s another young guy that could be an above average starter at his position. Currently playing shortstop, he’ll likely move to 3B before he reaches the majors. He should open 2017 in AAA but could get a call-up. If things go well, he could be the starting third baseman in 2018.
The first thing I find striking is how far away potential starting position players and, to a lesser extent, starting pitchers are. Nelson and Hellweg are the first up and their first full season would come in 2015. Morris could be the starting first baseman, but I think he'll need a platoon partner. It looks a bit better in 2016 when Hainger and Delmonico have a chance to open the season with the Brewers. They will fill areas of need, but neither will be more than average at their positions. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. Jungmann is there too, but I’m not too thrilled with his potential anymore. Things start to look better in 2017. Jorge Lopez could be exciting if he can be a #3 starter. Roache and especially Taylor could be above average, but the outfield might be crowded with Braun, Gomez, Haniger, Khris Davis, Logan Schafer, and Caleb Gindl all possibilities. Of course there are worse things than having an excess of talent. It’s not until 2018 that we see a large influx of quality starting talent. Devin Williams, Orlando Arcia, Tucker Neuhaus, and Clint Coulter could all be looking at their first full years.
The second thing I notice is there isn’t a lot of very good talent before 2017. Nelson, Hellweg, Haniger, and Delmonico all provide intriguing options, but not a one of them projects to be above average. All of them may in fact be well below average. Nelson might only be a back-end starter. Hellweg may not be a starter at all. Both Haniger and Delmonico (along with Morris) may only work as utility players. There are several relievers with high leverage potential, but they’re still just relievers. Lopez and Roache could see the majors in 2016, but that would be mid-season and that’s not something you can count on when you’re constructing your team in the offseason.
So many of the Brewers really good prospects are so far away. A decent portion of the current major league roster is either aging or leaving through free agency before then which will make it harder to compete over the next few years. It only makes sense to stock the farm system with prospects that can start helping around 2016-2018. They’ll only have so many opportunities to do that. I’m worried that they’re going to waste those opportunities on a slim chance at making the post-season, leaving them with an ever sliming opportunity to compete in the future.