Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/15/14
I’m a little concerned about the overall depth of the Brewers system but the Top 15 list filled out a little bit better than I expected it to. There are a number of pitching prospects that appear capable of developing into solid big league starters, which should be welcomed news in Milwaukee considering how thin the big league staff is at this time.   #1 Tyler Thornburg (P) Age G GS IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR 23 8 3 22.0 8.18 2.86 42.4 % 4.50 7.09 -0.5 Questions about Thornburg’s ability to remain a starter have been raised since he entered pro ball. He’s a shorter right-hander and has some effort to his delivery but, to this point, he’s been durable by providing more than 130 innings in each of the past two seasons. The Texas native is a hard thrower. As a starter, he works in the 89-94 mph range but has hit the upper-90s as a reliever. He flashes a good changeup and a solid curveball. Thornburg, 24, has steadily moved through the system since being selected in the third round of the 2010 amateur draft out of Charleston Southern University. He made 13 starts in double-A and then another eight in triple-A in 2012. He also made his MLB debut with eight appearances (three starts) but an ideal situation would allow the right-hander to return to triple-A to open 2013. With the big league rotation as thin as it is, though, Thornburg has a decent shot at opening the year in the starting rotation.   #2 Taylor Jungmann (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 22 26 26 153.0 159 7 5.82 2.71 3.53 3.62 The Brewers selected two highly-regarded college arms in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft. Selected 12th overall, Jungmann’s value to date has far exceeded that of fellow first rounder Jed Bradley, who fell on hard times last season. Jungmann, selected out of the University of Texas, spent the entire year in high-A ball and provided a workman-like 153 innings. At 6’6” 210 lbs, the Texas native is built like an innings-eater. Although he looks like a fire-baller, Jungmann struck out just 99 batters in 2012 and was a pitch-to-contact guy. He induced twice as many ground balls as fly balls. Jungmann has a solid fastball that can touch 94 mph. He also shows a promising curveball but is still working on developing his changeup, which will help him against left-handed hitters (splits: .309 vs LHH, .224 vs RHH). He has shown above-average control but is still working on his command. I spoke to a talent evaluator familiar with Jungmann and he stated, “Taylor is a different breed. Last summer he was working on one thing… He was working on his breaking ball most of the year, not worried about consequences or numbers… and if you look at his K-rate the last month that’s where you’ll see his strikeouts as it became more effective… because he started to get a better feel with that pitch.” The depth in the big league rotation is far from impressive and there aren’t many arms ahead of Jungmann in the minor league system. He’ll move up to double-A to open 2013 and will be a welcomed addition at the major league level as soon as he’s ready. His ceiling appears to be that of a mid-rotation workhorse.   #3 Wily Peralta (P) Age G GS IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR 23 6 5 29.0 7.14 3.41 55.3 % 2.48 2.65 0.8 I’ve always been a little more lukewarm on Peralta’s future than most but he’s big league ready — something very much needed in Milwaukee right now — and he should provide a ton of innings as a durable No. 2 or 3 starter. The right-hander averaged more than 95 mph on his fastball at the big league level, which is higher than he typically worked at as a starter in the minors when he was more in the 90-95 mph range while touching the upper 90s. He also leaned heavily on his 85 mph slider but will need to mix in his changeup a little more consistently as the scouting reports circulate throughout the league. As mentioned, Peralta is ready to assume a role in the big league starting rotation. He held his own at the big league level in five late-season starts and will open 2013 looking to pick up where he left off. After seven seasons in the minors, the Brewers are ready to reap the rewards from the Dominican native’s lengthy development. If he continues to maintain his higher velocity and continues to sharpen his secondary stuff, Peralta could be an impact arm.   #4 Jim Henderson (P) Age G GS IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR 29 36 0 30.2 13.21 3.82 42.3 % 3.52 1.95 1.0 Henderson came out of nowhere to dominate big league hitters in 2012, not unlike fellow Brewer — and Canadian — John Axford. The former 26th round draft pick from 2003 didn’t reach the majors until 2012, his 10th pro season. Henderson spent parts of five seasons in double-A. The right-hander pitched 30.2 innings at the big league level and struck out 45 batters. He also showed improved control. Henderson, 30, can overpower hitters with a heater that averages 95 mph and a plus slider. No spring chicken, the Calgary native should settle in as the Brewers’ key set-up man in 2013 and is a solid back-up to Axford. After four organizations and a decade in the minors, the right-hander is a perfect example of why clubs rarely turn their backs on hard-throwing pitchers.   #5 Clint Coulter (C/DH) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 18 214 51 3 5 37 40 3 .302 .439 .444 .418 Coulter was the club’s first round draft pick in 2012 and an excellent talent to acquire that late in the round (27th overall). He has a chance to be an above-average offensive catcher, but there are doubts about his ability to stick behind the plate — which is why he slid so far. Coulter, 19, had a very impressive offensive debut by hitting .302 in 49 rookie ball games. He also walked as much as he struck out (37 BB, 40 K). After such a strong start to his career and his advanced approach for his age, Coulter should open 2013 in A-ball. Although he needs to sharpen his defense, most notably his receiving and footwork, Coulter is a born leader and a contact I spoke with said he has “off-the-charts make-up and work ethic.” Coulter has a strong arm and could really shut down the running game if he can improve his mechanics. A high school wrestler, he may need to change his workout routine to become more flexible behind the plate. The talent evaluator I spoke with has faith that Coulter could stick behind the plate — although he also got worked out in the outfield after signing. “After seeing the transformation from really, really raw in the early summer to pretty darn clean with quality receiving skills in instructional ball, I would have to say his game defensively from receiving to throwing is now looked at as a catcher in the future. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.” The prospect is still about three to four years away from reaching the majors, in the base-case scenario, but he could be ready to take over for big league incumbent Jonathan Lucroy right around the time the veteran gets expensive. Coulter has the chance to develop into an all-star, offensive-minded backstop.   #6 Johnny Hellweg (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 23 37 23 152.2 132 8 6.66 4.83 3.24 4.29 A behemoth on the mound standing 6’9”, Hellweg can deliver upper-90s fastballs. His breaking ball shows promise but it’s inconsistent. He also has a changeup that rarely gets used. Hellweg’s command and control both need work and he walked 75 batters in just under 140 innings in 2012. The right-hander was acquired last year during the Zack Greinke deal that also sent pitcher Ariel Pena and infielder Jean Segura from the Angles to the Brewers. He had a solid 2012 season in double-A and followed up the year with a decent performance out of the bullpen during the Arizona Fall League. A late-game relief role may be in his future due to his control issues and lack of reliable secondary stuff. For now, though, Milwaukee desperately needs starting pitcher depth so he’ll probably be given every opportunity to stick with his current role.   #7 James Nelson (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 23 30 29 149.1 119 7 8.56 4.58 3.13 3.62 Like Taylor Jungmann near the top of this list, Nelson has a big strong frame and projects to develop into an innings-eater in the middle of the starting rotation. Like his fellow pitching prospect he also induces a high number of ground-ball outs thanks to a good downward plane on his pitches. The Florida native split 2012 between high-A and double-A ball. His command deserted him when he reached the upper levels and he walked 37 batters in 46.0 innings. He also struggled to consistently throw strikes in the Arizona Fall League. The right-hander has a decent fastball and works in the low-90s but can touch 96-97 mph. He also has a slider and changeup. When I watched him pitch, Nelson showed good sink on his heater and induced a ton of ground-ball outs. He relied heavily on his fastball but he showed a late break on his slider. Nelson’s frame is a little thick through the middle and he doesn’t look overly athletic. He works quickly and has an easy delivery but it has some different parts to it and isn’t the smoothest so it’s easy to understand how his command and control can get out of whack. He also seemed somewhat easy to rattle and may need to strengthen his mental approach. Nelson will almost certainly return to double-A after his issues at that level in 2012. He has an outside shot at being assigned to triple-A, though, if he comes out strong in the spring. He could be ready for the majors by the end of 2013 or mid-2014.   #8 Mark Rogers (P) Age G GS IP K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA FIP WAR 26 7 7 39.0 9.46 3.23 39.6 % 3.92 3.81 0.6 The fifth overall selection during the 2004 amateur draft, injuries came very close to ending his career when he missed all of 2007 and 2008. As it stands, the right-hander is set to finally secure a position in the Brewers’ starting rotation at the age of 27. He has a decent shot at developing into a No. 3 starter and he’ll look to avoid a continuous battle with the disabled list, similar to Rich Harden’s career. Rogers still has very good stuff, including a fastball that I saw regularly hit 96 mph. He also throws an above-average slider and curveball both of which he can lean on too heavily when he struggles with his fastball command. The rookie throws an occasional changeup, as well. Rogers throws with a high-three-quarter arm slot and, despite that, struggles to create a downward plane on his pitches and works up in zone too often, allowing hitters to place good swings on offerings.   #9 Scooter Gennett (2B) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 22 573 156 30 5 28 71 11 .293 .330 .385 .330 A left-handed hitting second baseman, Gennett has always hit for a high average because he isn’t afraid to use the whole field and has a low-maintenance swing. He won’t ever be a home run hitter but he has some gap power. When I saw him play, though, his swing looked a little long. Gennett is a slightly-above-average runner with instincts but stealing bases isn’t a huge part of his game. He has some work to do against southpaws and could end up as a platoon player or bench player if the improvements don’t happen. Gennett’s defense skills are average at second base. He could eventually expand his defensive skills to include third base and shortstop but he’s not going to be able to handle the latter position for any extended period of time. Incumbent big league second baseman Rickie Weeks is firmly entrenched at the position so Gennett has a significant roadblock ahead of him. The prospect should spend the bulk of 2013 in triple-A unless an injury occurs to Weeks or a bench spot opens up.   #10 Ariel Pena (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 23 26 26 146.2 135 19 8.59 3.99 3.93 4.43 Acquired along with shortstop Jean Segura and fellow pitching prospect John Hellweg during the Zack Greinke trade with the Angels in 2012, Pena struggled after moving over to the Brewers organization. The right-hander saw his control all but disappear. He walked 23 batters in 32.1 innings after allowing just 42 free passes in 114.1 innings earlier in the season with the Angels. Pena’s struggles continued this winter in the Dominican Winter League. When he’s going well, Pena shows low-to-mid-90s velocity on his fastball. He also flashes a plus slider, although it’s inconsistent. His changeup is rarely used, suggesting he could end up in the bullpen — especially when you see his delivery, which is far from smooth and has some effort to it. Because he hasn’t looked good since coming over in the trade, Pena could end up returning to double-A in 2013 . He could not only push his way to triple-A but he could also make his MLB debut this coming season.   #11 Hunter Morris (1B) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 23 666 180 46 29 47 137 3 .296 .350 .535 .398 Morris enjoyed his time in the double-A Southern League in 2012 by hitting more than .300 with 28 home runs and 113 RBI. The 24-year-old first baseman mashed for the first time in his pro career and has a smooth left-handed swing, although it can get long. His power dried up for his Arizona Fall League appearance and he managed just seven extra base hits (one home run) in 21 games. Part of Morris’ offensive issue is that he has an aggressive approach at the plate and could stand to wait for better pitches to drive with authority. When I watched him play, he often jumped on the first pitch. He also struggles against good left-handed pitching. Despite his strong season, questions persist regarding his big league power potential but he should continue to hit for a solid average. He’ll move up to triple-A to begin 2013 and remains the first baseman of the future for Milwaukee but his immediate future depends on what the club does with Corey Hart, who moved from the outfield to man first base in 2012.   #12 Victor Roache When the year began there was almost no hope that Roache, 21, would be available to the Brewers with one of the last picks in the first round. Unfortunately for the slugging prospect, though, he broke his left wrist, which required significant repair during surgery and caused some clubs to back off of him during the draft. A contact I spoke with said the potential reward outweighs the risk with Roache. “There is always some concerns when an injury of this kind happens… Will he get back to full strength and how long will it take?” he said, adding, “Leading up to the injury he was evaluated as a premier power bat with his other tools being quality and athletic enough to play at a corner outfield position.” When healthy, Roache provides plus power potential. The remainder of his game though — both on offense and defense — is average. He projects to develop into a prototypical corner outfield slugger with a modest batting average and significant number of strikeouts. Because he didn’t play after signing, Roache may begin the year in A-ball but a strong spring could push him to high-A or double-A.   #13 Mitch Haniger (OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 21 58 14 4 1 7 13 1 .286 .379 .429 .371 Haniger, 22, was popped by Milwaukee with the 38th overall selection of the 2012 amateur draft. He’s a very good defender with average potential in center field but his strong arm suggests he could eventually move to right field if his range further diminishes. Either way, he provides some depth in a system that lacks high-ceiling outfield prospects. A talent evaluator stated that he views Haniger as a five-tool player. “He has natural loft strength in a leveraged approach. Like any newly drafted player Mitch just needs at-bats… and just feel he needs to continue to adjust to better pitching as he advances…” he said. “Mitch has five tools as we feel he has the instincts to stay in center field, yet the arm to move to right field if someone moves him off there. Offensively he has the ability to use the whole field for both average and power.” Because he has a tendency to swing and miss too much, the right-handed hitter could struggle to maintain a strong batting average. Upon signing, Haniger was assigned to A-ball, although he appeared in just 14 games. The Cal Poly alum could move up high-A to begin 2012 and is about two to three years away from challenging for a starting role in Milwaukee.   #14 Tyrone Taylor (DH/OF) Age PA H 2B HR BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG wOBA 18 83 29 9 2 6 11 6 .387 .434 .667 .478 Taylor has a massive ceiling but his floor remains quite low. Taken in the second round of the 2012 draft out of a California high school and signed away from a commitment to Cal State Fullerton, the outfielder is raw because he also focused on football as an amateur. Taylor is a solid center field although he may eventually move to a corner spot. He has above-average speed that plays well both in the field and on the base paths. He got off to a fast start to his pro career when he played at two levels and hit .387 in 18 total games with surprising power and a good eye. A contact I spoke with was impressed with Taylor’s first taste of pro ball. “[Tyrone] flashed strong offensive potential in his first minor league season. He has a knack for getting the barrel on the ball and shows very good hand eye coordination. He also has very good plate discipline and can work a walk. He has the ceiling to be a front of the order hitter with potential to hit for power in the 20 home run range.” Although he was impressive in a small-sample size, Taylor could be held back in extended spring training in 2013. A strong spring, though, could vault him to full-season ball. He’s probably about four to five years away from the majors but is an intriguing player to watch. He could be a three- or four-tool prospect.   #15 Damien Magnifico (P) Age G GS IP H HR K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP 21 9 1 21.2 21 2 10.38 6.23 5.82 4.17 Magnifico became well known as an amateur for his ability to hit triple digits on the radar gun. The University of Oklahoma alum pitched out of the starting rotation in college but should permanently move into the more fitting relief role in pro ball. Although he can easily hit 100 mph, Magnifico is better off when he takes a little off and works down in the strike zone with more movement on his heater. He’s working to develop his slider and changeup, although he really only needs one to develop into an average, or better, pitch now that he’s in the bullpen. A talent evaluator I spoke with said that Magnifico showed signs of improvements with his secondary stuff during the fall instructional league. “He was dominant in his short-inning looks in instructs where he reached triple digits often and [showed] flashes of a plus slider.” A relief role could help accelerate Magnifico’s timeframe but he’ll need some time to develop his pitches and sharpen both his command and control (He walked 15 batters in 21.2 IP in his debut). It’s possible that Milwaukee may have him pitch out of the starting rotation for a little while to get as many innings as possible. He has the ceiling of a eighth- or ninth-inning reliever, depending on the improvements he makes.
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