MILWAUKEE -- Prospects Lewis Brinson and Josh Hader were among five Brewers farmhands added to the club's 40-man roster on Friday, the deadline to protect Rule 5 Draft-eligible players.
Besides Brinson, an outfielder ranked 14th overall on MLBPipeline.com's list of top prospects, and Hader, the Brewers added outfielders Brett Phillips and Ryan Cordell and right-hander Taylor Williams to what is now a full 40-man roster. The Brewers filled the final spot in a separate move on Friday, claiming outfielder (and Milwaukee native) Adam Walker off waivers from the Twins.
Among the players left unprotected, and thus available to the 29 other teams if they are willing to keep them in the Majors throughout the 2017 season, are former Rule 5 Draft pick Wei-Chung Wang, outfielders Kyle Wren and Tyrone Taylor (Milwaukee's No. 26 prospect), former first-round Draft pick Clint Coulter and three participants in this year's Arizona Fall League: pitchers Tayler Scott, Tyler Spurlin and Josh Uhen.
"These are always tough decisions," general manager David Stearns said. "We're in a fortunate spot right now where we have some good Minor League players, and so we had to pick the group we thought was both most deserving and, frankly, most likely to get picked by other organizations. That's part of the strategy that goes into these types of decisions."
Here's a look at the players who were added:
Age: 22 (turns 23 May 8)
Prospect ranks: No. 1 Brewers, No. 14 in Top 100
Finished 2016: Triple-A Colorado Springs
Key stat: 1.036 OPS in 130 Triple-A PAs
After Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy vetoed a trade to Cleveland, general manager David Stearns had two and a half days to find an alternative and quickly shifted back to Texas, a longtime Lucroy suitor. The final deal was Lucroy and closer Jeremy Jeffress for Brinson, right-hander Luis Ortiz and a player to be named later, who wound up being Cordell. Brinson had been playing at Double-A Frisco in the Rangers' system, but he was promoted to Colorado Springs by the Brewers. He thrived there to the tune of a .382/.387/.618 slash line in 23 games. Brinson will probably begin 2017 in Colorado Springs, but the fact he can play center field could accelerate his path to Miller Park.
Age: 22 (turns 23 April 7)
Prospect ranks: No. 3 Brewers, No. 33 in Top 100
Finished 2016: Triple-A Colorado Springs
Key stat: 0.95 ERA in 11 Double-A starts in '16
Hader, one of the prospects acquired in the '15 trade that sent Carlos Gómez and Mike Fiers to the Astros, has quieted a lot of the questions about whether he will stick as a starter. He's positioned to follow in the footsteps of former Brewers prospects like Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann and Zach Davies, who began a year at Triple-A near the front of the line before earning an in-season callup.
Age: 22 (turns 23 May 30)
Prospect ranks: No. 7 Brewers, No. 62 Top 100
Finished 2016: Double-A Biloxi
Key stat: Career-high 67 walks in '16
Another prospect from the Gomez trade, Phillips' improved walk count helped salvage a down season at the plate. After compiling 64 extra-base hits with a .901 OPS during a '15 season split between the Astros' and Brewers' chains, the left-handed-hitting Phillips totaled 36 extra-base hits while slashing .229/.332/.397 with a career-high 154 strikeouts in 517 plate appearances at Biloxi. The '17 season will be a big one for Phillips, who is well above average defensively but will try to reassert himself with the bat.
Age: 24 (turns 25 March 31)
Prospect ranks: No. 17 Brewers
Finished 2016: Double-A Frisco
Key stat: Career-high 19 home runs in '16
A right-handed hitter, Cordell has some experience in the infield, but Brewers officials view him as an outfielder with great raw power and the potential to be an elite baserunner. He missed the final month of the '16 season with a high right ankle sprain sustained in a collision with the outfield wall, but he was healthy in time for the fall instructional league.
Age: 25 (turns 26 July 21)
Prospect ranks: Outside of Brewers' Top 30
Finished 2016: DNP
Key stat: 4.89 K:BB in last healthy season
Williams is an interesting add. He was a bright spot during '15 Spring Training, wowing the likes of Ryan Braun with a fastball/slider combination that drew comparisons to All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. But he may have done too much, too soon, developing an elbow injury that would linger deep into the season and require Tommy John surgery. That led to two full lost seasons. Williams, however, impressed enough in the fall instructional league to earn 40-man roster protection, despite the fact he has yet to pitch above A-ball.
"He proved that he was healthy," Stearns said. "His velocity came back to where it was pre-surgery, and we thought it was in our best interest to protect him and make sure he stays a Brewer."