PHOENIX -- The Brewers are on the rise again after a couple of years near the bottom of MLB Pipeline’s system rankings, and they’re eager for a Minor League season to show it.
“I think without a season in 2020, there’s this excitement to get these guys out on the field and see them,” Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan said. “We got a little taste of it in the instructional league, but now that eyeballs are on an upcoming Minor League season, I think this will be a good recalibration to see where we’re at.
“We’ll see how much guys have adapted and progressed remotely. Getting back into games will be a positive for everybody.”
Flanagan expressed pride in how the Brewers’ player development officials came together in 2020 even though they were apart, staying in contact with players all over the world via Zoom or FaceTime or text or telephone. The aim was avoiding an entirely lost season for those players who were not lucky enough to get an invitation to the Brewers’ Alternate Training Site in Appleton, Wis. and/or to the Fall Instructional League in Phoenix.
Among those players were MLB Pipeline’s top Brewers prospect Garrett Mitchell, Milwaukee’s first-round Draft pick in 2020 whose first professional season was limited to four games in instructs after he overcame a minor quadriceps issue. Mitchell managed to bring a hot bat to his first big-league camp, where he stood out for constant loud contact in the Cactus League.
The top eight players on MLB Pipeline’s new Brewers Top 30 participated either in big league camp or in a concurrent Minor League-mini-camp, and six of those eight logged at-bats or innings in the Cactus League. Mitchell was easily the standout hitter, and Aaron Ashby, one of the trio of left-handed pitching prospects in Milwaukee’s Top 10, has been the standout pitcher, earning extra time as an active member of Major League camp.
“All of our young guys in camp, you can definitely see excitement,” Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines. When you have conversations with them, that’s literally all they talk about -- they’re so excited to have a season. And I think we probably aren’t sympathetic enough to what those kids lost out on in a year. When you talk to them, it’s a year of their life and development.”
Flanagan and other club officials are hopeful for a more normal year of player development in 2020. The Minor League seasons are scheduled to begin in early May, and the Brewers are happy to be back at a first-class Triple-A facility with their return to Nashville.
“In a normal year, you’re so excited to get Spring Training going anyway. It’s amplified so much now,” Flanagan said. “We want to make sure guys are ready to go, but not too amped. One comparison may be a player who missed a season because of injury and is excited to be back. Now, we’re all feeling that level of excitement and anticipation.”
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2020 preseason list to the 2021 preseason list:
Jump: Jeferson Quero, C (2020: 17 | 2020: 9) – The Brewers are as well-stocked with catching prospects as any club, and while Quero is the youngest in his development, he may be the one with the highest ceiling. Barely 18 years old (his birthday was Oct. 8), Quero stood out in the fall for spraying line drives all over the field and for an outspoken nature that drew in teammates and coaches alike. “He’s not afraid,” is how one player development official put it.
Fall: Joe Gray Jr., OF (2020: 18 | 2021: 30) – It seems unfair to drop a player following a year in which he didn’t even get the opportunity to perform, but Gray suffers because of a mix of prospect fatigue, the influx of draft picks and international signees in 2020, and because he was not among the prospects invited to the Brewers’ Alternate Training Site to further his development. Scouts are split on whether Gray will make enough contact. If he does, he could shoot back up the list quickly. If he doesn’t, he could prove another Jake Gatewood, who never could quite access all of his power.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 60 -- Brice Turang
Power: 60 -- Tristen Lutz
Run: 70 -- Garrett Mitchell (David Hamilton)
Arm: 60 -- Joe Gray Jr. (Garrett Mitchell, Mario Feliciano, Freddy Zamora, Jeferson Quero, Tristen Lutz, Jackson Brayan Chourio, Jesus Parra, Micah Bello)
Defense: 60 -- Garrett Mitchell (Carlos Rodriguez)
Fastball: 70 -- Abner Uribe
Curveball: 60 -- Zack Brown
Slider: 65 -- Aaron Ashby
Changeup: 60 -- Clayton Andrews
Control: 60 – Dylan File
How they were built
Draft: 20 | International: 9 | Free agent: 1
Breakdown by ETA
2021: 6 | 2022: 5 | 2023: 12 | 2024: 4 | 2025: 3
Breakdown by position
C: 5 | 1B: 0 | 2B: 0 | 3B: 1 | SS: 5 | OF: 10 | RHP: 5 | LHP: 4