It wasn’t all that long ago that the Brewers had one of baseball’s better farm systems. After ranking as MLB Pipeline’s No. 9 farm system going into the 2016 season, they shot up to No. 5 in ’17.
That, of course, was also the year that the Brewers emerged as a perennial contender and began to trade from their farm-system depth. By the start of the 2019 season, the Brewers had traded nine players from their 2017 Top 30, three of whom -- Lewis Brinson, the club’s top prospect in 2017, Isan Diaz and Monte Harrison -- they sent to Miami to get Christian Yelich, who has since won and finished as the runner-up for the National League MVP Award.
On top of those trades, the Brewers’ willingness to push some of their better prospects to the Major Leagues has led to the graduations of infielders Keston Hiura and Orlando Arcia, as well as pitchers Josh Hader, Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff.
As a result, the Brewers’ system is thinner now than at any point in recent memory -- so much so that they were the only team to not place a player on MLB Pipeline’s 2020 Top 100 Prospects list.
But even as they’ve depleted their system to keep their competitive window open, the Brewers have made a concerted effort to replenish their talent pool by adding athletic, up-the-middle players and potential fast-moving pitchers via the Draft and international market.
After taking middle infielders Hiura and Brice Turang with their first-round picks in the 2017 and ’18 Drafts, the Brewers shifted their focus to pitching in 2019, when they selected college left-handers Ethan Small and Antoine Kelly in the first and second rounds, respectively.
The organization also made a haul during the most recent international signing period by inking five players for $500,000 or more. That group includes outfielders Luis Medina, a 16-year-old slugger from Venezuela whose $1.3 million bonus was the largest given out by the Brewers in 2019, and Hedbert Perez, who signed for $700,000. Medina and Perez comprise a quarter of the eight international signees on this year’s Brewers Top 30 list, half of whom rank inside the top half of the list.
Overall, all but one player (Trey Supak) on this year’s Brewers Top 30 list was either drafted or signed by the organization. While that high total reflects the Brewers' willingness to trade from within in order to improve its big league roster, it also speaks to the their ability to identify and develop young talent. Specifically, eight of the club’s Top 10 prospects are products of the Draft -- all taken no later than the sixth round -- and five of the eight international signees on the list received a seven-figure signing bonus.
Here’s a look at the Brewers’ top prospects
- Brice Turang, SS/2B
- Ethan Small, LHP
- Mario Feliciano, C
- Tristen Lutz, OF
- Aaron Ashby, LHP
Complete Top 30 list »
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2019 preseason list to the 2020 preseason list:
Jump: Drew Rasmussen, RHP (2019: NR | 2020: No. 9) -- The Brewers bet on Rasmussen’s ability to return from a second Tommy John surgery when they took him in the sixth round of the 2018 Draft, and he did exactly that in ’19, flashing dominant stuff (96 K in 74 1/3 IP) while ascending from Class A to Double-A in his pro debut.
Fall: Braden Webb, RHP (2019: 12 | 2020: NR) – The 2016 third-rounder appeared poised to contribute in Milwaukee last season after a breakout campaign the previous year, but he struggled to throw strikes and regressed across the board in ‘19, prompting the Brewers to leave him off their 40-man roster in November.
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: 55 -- Brice Turang (Hedbert Perez)
Power: 55 -- Mario Feliciano (Tristen Lutz, Corey Ray, Luis Medina, Thomas Dillard)
Run: 60 -- Corey Ray (Brice Turang, Hedbert Perez, Carlos Rodriguez, Eduarqui Fernandez)
Arm: 70 -- Lucas Erceg
Defense: 60 -- Carlos Rodriguez
Fastball: 70 -- Drew Rasmussen
Curveball: 60 -- Zack Brown
Slider: 65 -- Aaron Ashby
Changeup: 60 -- Clayton Andrews
Control: 60 -- Dylan File
How they were built
Draft: 21 | International: 8 | Trade: 1
Breakdown by ETA
2020: 10 | 2021: 4 | 2022: 8 |2023: 5 | 2024: 3
Breakdown by position
C: 5 | 1B: 0 | 2B: 0 | 3B: 2 | SS: 2 | OF: 10 | RHP: 7 | LHP: 4