While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers.
Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our 16th farm system overview will be of the Milwaukee Brewers. We’ll rank their top six prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.
#1: LHP Ethan Small
Height: 6’3″ Weight: 214 lbs
Drafted: 28th Overall- 2019
Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 50 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 52.5
Overall Grade: 53
With a low 90s fastball and an “okay” curveball, Ethan Small doesn’t exactly the prototype of a traditional first-round pick, but he definitely gets the job done. With deception that is described as “70-grade” by Fangraphs, not only does his fastball play up in terms of perceived velocity, but his changeup can be very difficult to hit. Also, since he does a good job repeating his delivery and commanding the strike zone consistently, I’m not worried about his long-term durability as a starting pitcher, even though he’s already had one Tommy John surgery. Small doesn’t have one clear strength, outside of his deception, and thus doesn’t have much upside. Yet, he’s as sure of a bet as one can be to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter, though due to his age, that’ll need to happen very soon.
#2: LHP Aaron Ashby
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 181 lbs
Drafted: 4th Round- 2018
Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 65 Third Pitch: 52.5 Command: 47.5
Overall Grade: 52.5
In a way, Aaron Ashby may be the opposite of Small. Whereas Small pitched in the SEC at Mississippi State, the 21-year-old Ashby was drafted in the fourth round out of Crowder Junior College in Missouri, where he led Division I JUCO in strikeout rate (18.8 K/9), per MLB Pipeline. So far, he’s been able to maintain his reputation as a high-end strikeout pitcher in the minor leagues, as his breaking ball is one of my favorite pitches of any minor league pitcher, while his overall three-pitch mix is more than adequate. The major concern for Ashby moving forward will be with his command, as his walk rate was over 4.00 last season, and his funky delivery can be difficult to repeat. Still, his overall “stuff” is off the charts, and when that’s the case, there’s a likely chance that you can end up as a #3 starter in the future, a la Robbie Ray. That’s actually a great comparison for Ashby, and it’ll be fascinating to see if he and his polar opposite (Small) can be a big part of Milwaukee’s rotation of the future.
#3: SS Brice Turang
Height: 6’0″ Weight: 173 lbs
Drafted: 21st Overall- 2018
Hit: 55 Power: 45 Field: 55 Arm: 55 Speed:60
Overall Grade: 52.25
Heading into his senior year of high school, Brice Turang appeared to be the favorite to be the #1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft. However, he didn’t dominate the way he was expected to, and that, combined with sign ability concerns, caused him to slide to the 21st overall pick. With his elite plate discipline and above-average defense, there is no doubt in my mind that he’s a future everyday shortstop. Yet, at the same time, his power has been non-existent from the left side so far, which lowers his ceiling significantly, which isn’t what you’d imagine from a player who just turned 20-years-old. I could see Turang slotting in as Milwaukee’s starting shortstop in a year or two, but whereas many prospects have the type of untapped potential that excites their team’s front office, I’m not sure he that second gear. In other words, guessing he ends up a solid player, but nothing more than that.
#4: RHP Zack Brown
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 180 lbs
Drafted: 5th Round- 2016
Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 47.5
Overall Grade: 51.5
Coming off an impressive 2018 campaign in Double-A in which he posted a 3.37 xFIP, it appeared to be nearly a lock that Zack Brown would make his debut in the Brewers rotation in 2019. Instead, he had as disastrous of season as one could have, struggling mightily to the tune of 5.59 xFIP; he struck out less batters (7.56 K/9), while his walk rate (4.94 BB/9) nearly doubled. With his fastball-breaking ball combination, I’m definitely surprised he hasn’t found more success striking batters out, though at the very least, he continued to induce ground balls (52.8%) at a high rate. Meanwhile, since his command was strong (2.58 BB/9) prior to 2019, I’m not ready to give up on his ability to be a big-league starting pitcher. It’s important not to overreact to one poor season, but in Brown’s case, was his atrocious 2019 statistics a sign of things to come? Regardless, he’s certainly heading into a make-or-break year in 2020.
#5: OF Tristen Lutz
Height: 6’2″ Weight: 210 lbs
Drafted: 34th Overall- 2017
Hit: 45 Power: 55 Field: 47.5 Arm: 60 Speed: 50
Overall Grade: 50.725
The Brewers selected second baseman Keston Hiura with the 9th overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft, and after he immediately made a difference when promoted to the majors this season, it’s safe to say that their investment in him has worked out tremendously. When it’s all said and done, will the same be true for Tristen Lutz. Milwaukee the outfielder out of high school with the 34th overall pick, mostly based on his upside and raw power. Since then, the 21-year-old has posted a weighted-runs-created plus (wrc+) of at least 110 at each level, but nevertheless, it’s safe to say he hasn’t exactly dominated yet. For whatever reason, he’s yet to maximize on that power, and since he strikes out at such a high rate, that’s very concerning. Sure, his walk rates are adequate, but since he also is a below-average defender, his power is his calling card, and to this point, it hasn’t happened. Right now, I see him as a future fourth outfielder, though he still has tremendous potential and still has time to make good on it.
#6: C Mario Feliciano
Height: 6’1″ Weight: 195 lbs
Drafted: CBB (75th Overall)- 2016
Hit: 50 Power: 47.5 Field: 47.5 Arm: 55 Speed: 40
Overall Grade: 49.1
Speaking of upside, young catching prospects are always volatile, and that’s the perfect way to describe Mario Feliciano. The 21-year-old was a very nice swing, but with plate discipline concerns, along with not enough power production so far, his offensive outlook isn’t a certainty at the moment. However, it’s the Puerto Rican catcher’s defense that’ll ultimately dictate his fate; it’s a work in progress at the moment, and although he has the tools to be a strong defender behind the plate, I can’t confidently say that he’ll be even average in that area. In a few years, Mario Feliciano may be one of the top young, all-around catchers in the MLB. At the same time, he could end up being a bust, which is the risk with him. Milwaukee’s player development has generally been strong, so hopefully, we can see him learn to translate his tools to on-field production.
Best of the Rest
- Devin Williams was the Brewers’ representative at the 2019 Futures Game, and projects as a future reliever with his excellent fastball-breaking ball combination. After posting a 2.81 xFIP in Double-A and making his major-league debut, he’ll likely have a role in Milwaukee’s bullpen this year, and in the future.
Farm System Overview
The fact that they only had six prospects that qualified for consideration for their farm system ranking tells you all you need to know- the Brewers currently have, in my opinion, the worst farm system in the MLB. Small and Ashby look like future #3 starters, while Turang should be an everyday shortstop, but it’s clear that they don’t have an ascending star in the minors at the moment, and that’s problematic. Outside of Hiura and Brandon Woodruff, they don’t have any other young starting pitchers or position players to build around Christian Yelich, which they need considering the 2018 MVP just agreed to a massive nine-year extension with them. I’ll never doubt David Stearns and Milwaukee’s front office, but right now, I’m concerned about their long-term health as an organization.