Milwaukee Brewers 2021 Top MLB Prospects Chat
Let's talk Brewers prospects! On the heels of today's new Top 10, Ben Badler answered questions below.
Ben Badler: Hey everyone. We were able to get a ton of new information on Brewers prospects from the alternate site, instructional league and even some independent ball this year, especially a really interesting wave of recent international signings and young draft picks at the lower levels. So thanks for joining me and ask away on anybody... let’s get started.
Logan Field (MI):
- Great work Ben! Could you explain the Turang vs. Mitchell debate. I've seen a lot of people who prefer Mitchell and others prefer Turang. Was the 1 vs. 2 close? Did Mitchell's diabetes affect the 1 vs. 2 debate? Also, would you say Turang and Mitchell are top 100 prospects in all of baseball? Any other brewers in top 100 consideration? Thanks as always and excited to see your future work!
Ben Badler: It’s close. You can make a reasonable argument either way on Turang vs. Mitchell. You have better raw tools and explosion with Mitchell, but I have greater confidence in Turang’s pure hitting ability, better strike-zone discipline and the way his swing works overall compared to some of the adjustments I think Mitchell will have to make. Add in the uptick in exit velocity numbers that Turang was showing at the alternate and that helped give him the edge.
Ben Badler: They’re both good candidates to be in the back of the Top 100. And the only Top 100 candidates in the system. Hedbert or Kelly have the upside where they could jump into that mix at some point next year, but not yet.
Nick (Eau Claire, WI):
- Why did Antoine Kelly jump both Ashby and Small? I thought that was interesting.
Ben Badler: Kelly was their most impressive pitching prospect at the alternate site. Small looked as expected, Ashby was down at the alt site as he got ramped back up and then was much better at instructional league. But Kelly has the best stuff of the group, he was holding 93-97 mph throughout his starts and touching 98 with maybe more to come, finishing hitters with a plus slider and flashing an average changeup, although he didn’t execute that pitch as consistently as his slider. So he’s younger than those two, he has better stuff, not the same pitchability as Small, but the results have been good.
Ben Badler: Kelly’s one spot ahead of Small on the list, but he’s really in a tier above him, where I think you can debate him vs. Hedbert for the 3 spot in the system.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Who would be a sleeper position player candidate that was on the AZL or the defunct Pioneer league Rocky Mountain teams in 2019.
Ben Badler: I like Carlos Rodriguez, although he might be a little too famous to be a sleeper. A lot of the best sleeper or potential breakout position players at their lower levels are guys from their DSL, 2019 international class or some recent draft picks who haven’t played. I’m going to cheat a little bit with my answer here because I think it adds more value and say David Hamilton, their 8th-rounder from 2019 who didn’t play that summer because of his ruptured Achilles tendon. He hit well in the Constellation Energy League over the summer, then he went to instructs and was one of the Brewers’ top offensive performers, with positive reports from scouts who saw him there. It’s a nice LH swing, good bat-to-ball skills, controls the strike zone, good athlete, plus speed. How much power is he going to have is the consistent question with him. Hard to get a great read on him the last two years between his injury and the pandemic, but a lot of breakout signals for him heading into 2021.
- Given the state of the MLB roster today, who from the farm is most likely to contribute to the 2021 season in Milwaukee?
Ben Badler: You're most likely looking at bullpen arms and some pitchers with a chance to fill in as back-end starters. Drew Rasmussen and Justin Topa are both prospect eligible. Clayton Andrews could come up and contribute in a relief role with some pinch-running, defensive replacement utility. Dylan File and Alec Bettinger were added to the 40-man, probably open at Triple-A with a chance to break in next year. I don't see an impact starter coming though, and there's a lack of hitters at the upper levels who project to be league average or better players.
- What's Brice Turang's ceiling? Do you ever see him developing 50 power? Just looking for an update on him-thanks for your time!
Ben Badler: I think his power can get there. It’s an optimistic bet, but we saw a trend up in his hard hit rate this year with him getting stronger and adjusting his approach to try to drive more pitches in damage counts. And we see players with his barrel skills and contact frequency exceed their early-career power projections once they get into their prime years.
- Hiya, Ben, and thanks for chatting. With none of Corey Ray, Tristen Lutz or Zack Brown -- formerly high-ranked prospects in this system -- cracking the Top 10 this year, it feels like that trio, in particular, is battling some prospect fatigue as well as a lack of development. How close were any of them to making this list, and what is the likelihood one (or more) of them finally figures it out enough to become a capable big league contributor? Or should they all more or less be written off by now?
Ben Badler: None of them were really close this year. Brown was eligible for the Rule 5 draft, and for the second year in a row, every team passed. I think we could see him up at some point in 2021, most likely in relief, but he has tumbled quite a bit.
Ben Badler: Ray is 26 now, the same strengths he’s had since his amateur days with his athleticism, power and speed, but the same holes and terrifying strikeout rates that don’t seem to be moving in the right direction. Wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up elsewhere.
Ben Badler: Lutz is still interesting because he’s still 22 and has moved fairly quickly. It’s 55 raw power, he’s strong and athletic for his size, but he has a high swing-and-miss rate in the zone and chases too much off the plate. Those are limiting factors for him that make it hard to project him as an everyday guy, but his age gives him more time to address those concerns.
- Will Mitchell’s diabetes realistically hinder his development and his overall chances to be an impactful MLB player? I couldn’t find history on this, so I apologize if it’s a softball. Thanks.
Ben Badler: I don’t think so. Wasn’t a factor for me in his evaluation.
- How did Herbert Perez look at the ATS against older competition? What is his ETA? How does he compare to other fast-moving prospects from Latin America in recent years?
Ben Badler: Well, he looked like a 17-year-old kid at the alternate site. Held his own and you could see the tools, athleticism and talent for his age, but pretty much everyone he was facing there was 4-10 years older than him, including some pitchers who went up to the varsity team. And the Brewers were heavy on pretty good LHPs there between Kelly, Small, Ashby, Perdomo, which is both a difficult challenge and a cool developmental opportunity for their lefty hitters like Hedbert and Turang. When he went to instructs after the alt site, he was still one of their youngest guys in camp, but he was one of their best offensive performers there.
Ben Badler: ETA is tough to peg for a kid who signed at 16 and hasn’t played an official game yet. But I do think he has a good chance to play in Low-A next year as an 18-year-old, which would be the start of a fast track.
Nick (Eau Claire, WI):
- Who is this Jeferson Quero fellow and why the big jump?
Ben Badler: One of the biggest risers in the system over the last 18 months. Not a huge bonus signing but we ranked him as a top 50 international signing from the 2019 class and the No. 4 catcher signing. He just keeps trending up. Safe bet to stick behind the plate and a chance to be a plus defender between his blocking, receiving, quickness, arm strength and all the intangibles you love having from the position. And I know it sounds strange to say for a kid who hasn’t played an official game yet, but he is building a pretty good track record of hitting going back to Tricky League and DR instructs last year, then again this year at US instructs, and there’s some damage when he connects. The ranking I suspect will be more aggressive relative to others that might not know him as well, but I thought about putting him even higher and I could easily see him making another jump up the rankings next year once everyone gets to see him. We could be talking about him along the lines of Keibert Ruiz with the Dodgers at some point.
- Hi Ben, thanks for the chat! As hard as it was to evaluate prospects in 2020 it seems like Antoine Kelly was able to show enough to increase his status. Do the Brewers think his secondary stuff will let him stay in the rotation (I see he's listed as the #3 2024 projected SP.) How likely is it he ends up like another electric lefty the Brewers moved to the pen to be more than a one inning difference maker?
Ben Badler: He's definitely going to develop as a starter through the minors. I see starter attributes with his three-pitch mix, improved feel for pitching this year, with solid strike-throwing even though his fastball command needs to improve. He basically has no full-season experience yet, so there's still some chance he ends up in that relief role if he stumbles at higher levels, but I see him as starter.
- Lots of “could be’s” and “has a chance” in your write up on Hedbert Perez. Understandable, given he has no pro experience. How confident in him are you, based on pedigree and performance at alt site and instructs? Time to jump on the hype train, or best to wait and see?
Ben Badler: Comes with the territory when we’re evaluating 17-year-old players, especially before they’ve played in official minor league games. I am confident the information we have on him is accurate; I’ve seen him in person and we have multiple years of reports on him from different scouts with good judgment on prospects, whereas the 2019 signings who didn’t come over for instructs there’s more uncertainty on where they’re at right now. I’m pretty excited, obviously, and I think a lot of people are, but also realistic that there's a lot of risk inherent in any player his age, especially given what happened this year in baseball/on Earth. If I was another team making a trade with the Brewers, he would be one of my priority targets.
- Can you give us an update on Eduardo Garcia? Could be make a Perez like jump in the rankings next year now that he is healthy?
Ben Badler: Just missed the top 10, could easily climb in there next year. He barely played in the DSL in 2019, but what he showed when healthy was good as far as gaining weight in a good way and his defensive actions at shortstop. Then he went to the alternate site this year, was understandably over his head there given his age, lack of experience and level of competition there. But he had already stayed in Arizona after the pandemic hit, so I think the Brewers wanted to bring him there just to get him in a semi-competitive development environment for the summer. Looked more comfortable at instructs, though it wasn't like it dominated there. Makes it a little harder to get a read on him, but if you're high on him it's because you're buying into a player who can stick at a premium position with easy actions, smooth hands, fluid defender with a chance to hit, although I have more uncertainty with him at the plate.
- What nuggets did you glean from the alternate site, instructs, etc.? Any particular prospects stand out? Off-the-Top-10 guys with some helium?
Ben Badler: A lot of the guys who trended positively at those camps are in the top 10. Turang hit well at the alternate site, the better exit velos helped him. Kelly helped his stock the most among their starting pitchers at the alternate site, big velocity from the left side and used his plus slider effectively to miss a lot of bats. Hedbert and Quero were two of the best young standout players from instructional league. Ashby was still feeling his way back at the alternate site after the shutdown, then was one of their standout arms at instructs, with some important caveats that he was throwing in shorter bursts and was one of the older players there with experience up through High-A. I want to see him do it against better hitters, but it's a good way to finish out the year.
Ben Badler: Outside the top 10, I mentioned David Hamilton earlier, he was definitely a bright spot in his return. And Abner Uribe, whose velocity continues to climb and has touched 101 mph. Another notable name from instructs was Jheremy Vargas, a 2019 shortstop from Venezuela. He was the youngest player in camp at 17, it's not big tools or anything flashy, but he's a really high baseball IQ player, instinctive on both sides of the ball, makes a lot of contact with a good eye for the strike zone, not much power.
Ben Badler: Micah Bello was also a pleasant surprise for people I talked to at instructs. Don't think it moves the needle a ton for his stock, but he did perform well at the plate and in the field.
Ben Badler: And I'd throw Clayton Andrews in there too from his time at the alternate site. He got up to 95 mph there, working more 89-93 mph, with a plus changeup that gets hitters out front early. He's 5-6 but he's super athletic and with good defensive instincts in the outfield. Not huge upside, but pretty good for a 17th-round pick who should come up at some point next year.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Name a standout, in your opinion, that will be on the mound for Carolina or Wisconsin next year that spent 2019 with a short season team.
Ben Badler: Kelly would be the easy answer. If he goes out and dominates next year, he’s going to put himself into the Top 100 mix by midseason. The two others to watch are Abner Uribe and Alexis Ramirez. Uribe signed a couple years ago for $85K when he was 18 and touching the low-90s, but his fastball has exploded, sitting mid-to-upper 90s, topping out at 101 mph. Staying healthy and throwing strikes have held him back. I think more than likely he’s a long-term reliever, but he has definitely been an arrow-up arm.
Ben Badler: Ramirez I suspect also has a good chance to go to Low-A next year. Another guy where his fastball has taken off since signing a couple years ago, up to 97 mph now. Still a lot of work to do on his control and feel for pitching, but a pretty good get for $10,000.
Kevin (Chatsworth, CA):
- 2 part Who just missed top 10? Who’s your favorite under the radar guy?
Ben Badler: Eduardo Garcia and Carlos Rodriguez were close. You could make a case for jumping either of them into the top 10. Rodriguez has some tweener risk, but he has excellent hand-eye coordination and a good track record of hitting at the lower levels, I just wish he were either more selective, had more of a surefire CF profile or had more power if he goes to a corner.
Ben Badler: For under the radar, there's Jesus Parra, who was a late arrival for instructs, so he didn't get to play much there. He was extremely young for a 2018 international signing, played nearly all 2019 DSL as a 16-year-old, had a big second half there, and just turned 18 at the end of August this year. Grown into a big, physical player (6-3, 220) with patience, power and a plus arm for third base.
- Can you go over the catching depth in the system, not limiting yourself to Zavier Warren and Jeferson Quero?
Ben Badler: They have those two, Feliciano and then Nick Kahle, their fourth-rounder from 2019, is the other one who stands out for me. Swing works well, good plate discipline, chance to be a high OBP catcher, but will need to show more power against better pitchers. Heard a lot of good things about his defensive improvements particularly with his throwing after he signed last year, and that feedback kept coming back from instructs this year too.
Ben Badler: Dillard qualifies as a catcher for now, but I'm not sure that conversion is going to stick and the lost minor league season doesn't help. Henry is a good defensive catcher, long way to go for his bat to catch up.
- Recently the Brewers have taken a chance on developing bat first prospects like Thomas Dillard and Zavier Warren as catchers. Do you think they have a confidence in their ability to teach the defensive aspects of catching, or do factors like the looming likelihood of an automated strike zone make catcher defense less relevant going forward?
Ben Badler: The automated strike zone is a factor and they do believe in their ability to develop catchers (a conversion is a different animal, but they've already seen good progress from Kahle behind the plate). Plus in both cases you have players who have a catching background, which plays into it too. And it's tough to make that conversion in your 20s, but with Warren, he's a player with the attributes to make that conversion, but if not I still like him as a third base prospect, so there's a safety net for him to fall back on if catching doesn't take.
jeff (KC Missouri):
- HI and thank you in advance...where do you think the Brewers system may rank...is it still bottom?
Ben Badler: Bottom 10 group. We're working through the exact placement now as we go over each system in depth.
- Excited about Jeferson Quero- I know it's way early, but how about a "dreamers comp"? Jorge Alfaro with better defense?
Ben Badler: He's definitely a better defender than Alfaro was at the same age. Alfaro was a really athletic catcher with two big, big tools in his arm strength and raw power. Quero has a strong arm (not at Alfaro's level), but he's much better than Alfaro was at blocking, receiving, not letting the ball get to the backstop, and with better contact skills.
Allen (Portland OR):
- Which of the Brewers would be on an “All Star” team comprised of NLC prospects? Love the chats! Thanks
Ben Badler: That's a good question. Would probably need to look at it more carefully, but you could argue Turang at shortstop (I would take him over Jose Garcia), if you put Nick Gonzales at second base and put Oneil Cruz somewhere else he's more likely to play, although I wouldn't put him at third because you have Ke'Bryan Hayes there. Dylan Carlson has to take one of the outfield spots, then you have Mitchell, Austin Hendrick, Brennen Davis, but Mitchell probably makes it as the best CF. You can make a case for Kelly in the NL Central prospect rotation. That would probably round it out for the Brewers' reps.
William Ashley (Memphis,TN):
- Is the difference between #1 and #2 based more on future value or closeness to MLB/proven skills?
Ben Badler: It's based on their projected MLB value, but part of that projection is based on Turang's performance in pro ball last year and at the alternate site this year.
Nick (Eau Claire, WI):
- What Brewers prospect who is not in the top 100 of all prospects is the most likely to make that jump this upcoming season?
Ben Badler: Perez and Kelly, and that chance to climb into the Top 100 next year is what jumped them to 3 and 4 on the list. Someone like Mario Feliciano has more track record of performance at higher levels than Perez and is a safer bet to get to the big leagues, but I don't expect him to ever be a Top 100 guy, and the potential magnitude of impact with Hedbert is much bigger.
Ben Badler: Thanks for all the questions. I believe we are posting five Top 10s this week with rankings for 18 teams already up on the site. Thank you all so much for subscribing to BA and helping support what we do. I can't wait to be able to get back to traveling again and seeing all these players in person in games next year when it's safe to do so. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.