I think it’s fair to say, when it comes the Brewers future, there are two main camps. One group believes they have the talent on the field to make one last run at the playoffs. The other group believes that time has passed and it’s in the team’s best interest to start rebuilding. It seems as though Mark Attanasio is in the former group. I think I skirt the line between the two, but if I had to choose it would be the latter group. That’s not exactly what this article is about though. I simply want to take a look at what the team could look like in 5 years if the Brewers continue pushing towards contention. The purpose being to see what the future might hold without an influx of talent. For this article we’re ignoring potential trades, free agency, the first-year player draft, and the foreign market. This is just a thought experiment and not meant to be definitive.
To do this I took a look at the prospects currently in the farm system, major league players with guaranteed contracts, and those whose careers are young enough that they could still be in their arbitration years. I excluded anyone that wasn’t under contract after 2017. This is of course partially subjective and likely entirely unrealistic. Some of these players may no longer be a part of the Brewers system in five years and it’s possible some of them never reach the majors. It’s also possible current players on the roster are extended past their existing contracts. I’m going to focus primarily on the starting positions except for the outfield and starting rotation. I’m also going to ignore the bullpen because the reliever game is a complete crapshoot. Here’s what I came up with:
Catcher: Clint Coulter-He’s here mostly out of necessity as he represents the only real prospect at this position. I’ve read that scouts like his bat, but to say he is raw behind the plate is the definition of an understatement. He’s young, so he’ll have every chance to improve but eventually he may have to move to first, third or right field.
First Base: Nicky Delmonico-He currently plays both first and third, but talent evaluators all seem to agree that he is limited defensively. The options at third are few so the Brewers will give him every chance to remain at third. If he does have to move, his power-lite bat doesn’t project well for first base. Also, he strikes out a lot and this is the low minors we’re talking about. I chose him over Hunter Morris, Sean Halton, and Jason Rogers because they seem to have as many if not more question marks and their sink-or-swim moments are approaching faster.
Second Base: Jean Segura-I’ve read about some scouts that believe his body type isn’t suited to shortstop long term. He’s been fine so far but with Arcia in the system I felt comfortable sliding Segura over. Scooter Gennett could still be under contract at this point, but I view him as a platoon or bench player. It’s possible after a few years as the Brewers’ primary second baseman they were able to trade him when he became expendable. Perhaps to the Cardinals who never really got their act back together after the fiasco that was their 2014 season. Hey, a guy can dream!
Third Base: Tucker Neuhaus-He is a solid defender at short but I’ve read that he’ll need to slot in at third base in the majors. He projects to be a plus defender there, so that’s good. I don’t really know anything about his bat, but I’ll take his defensive potential over Delmonico’s lack thereof.
Shortstop: Orlando Arcia-Finally, a player that is just fine where he is. The word here is that his defense is far ahead of his bat. He might not hit enough to be a viable starter, but his defense is plus. He's also quite young so he'll have plenty of time to work on improving his hit tool.
Outfield: Ryan Braun, Tyrone Taylor, Victor Roache, MitchHaniger-Taylor is arguably the best prospect in the system. He is talented enough to stick at center and has held his own offensively thus far in A-ball at the age of 19. Haniger plays center now but will have to move to right when he reaches the majors where he should provide above average defense. It’s uncertain whether his bat will play. Roache is going to be relegated to left field (or DH) but he has serious power. He’s just going to have to prove he can hit well enough to utilize that power in-game. Ryan Braun is Ryan Braun.
Designated Hitter: Khris Davis- “There is no DH in the National League!” –You. Whoa, calm down. I know there isn’t now. There will be eventually whether we like it or not. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened in the next CBA (The current one ends after 2016). Anyway, I included it for the fun of it. Khris Davis is kind of the perfect example of how the DH could be beneficial for the Brewers. He’s not a good defender, but his bat is intriguing. The same could be said about Victor Roache but we have less information on him so I left him in the OF mix.
Rotation: Devin Williams, W. Peralta, J. Nelson, T. Thornburg, J. Hellweg, Jorge Lopez, Taylor Jungmann-A lot of people criticize the Brewers farm system for its lack of impact. This is probably no more prevalent than in the starting rotation. Devin Williams is the only player on that list that projects to be a #2 starter. The rest are likely 3/4 starters at best and even that might be generous.
Most of these players are so far away we simply can’t count on them to actually reach the majors at all. On top of that, not many of them project to be much more than average players. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if everyone on your team is average then your team is, well, average. Average doesn’t make the postseason. Teams can fill in spots from free agency but the Brewers don’t have the money or the appeal necessary to bring in high level talent. With the length and AAV of those types of contracts, it’s often a bad idea anyway. They could make trades to bring that talent in like they did with C.C. Sabathia, Zack Greinke, and Shaun Marcum. That approach, however, inevitably leads back to the Brewers current conundrum of being somewhere between competing and rebuilding. It’s for these reasons I think it’s imperative for the Brewers to begin some form of a rebuild, and soon.