MILWAUKEE -- There is a lesson to be learned from MLB Pipeline’s choices for the Brewers’ Minor League Hitter and Pitcher of the Year: Prospect development takes patience.
Outfielder Trent Grisham was named the system’s top hitter and right-hander Trey Supak its top pitcher by the MLB Pipeline crew after both players enjoyed breakout seasons in 2019. Grisham modified his timing and slugged his way all to the Major Leagues by the end of July. Supak twice pitched to within one out of a no-hitter for Double-A Biloxi to earn a promotion to Triple-A.
To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.
“Both of those guys entered our organization at very young ages,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “Trent was a relatively young player out of the Draft as a high school hitter. Trey, we acquired shortly after he was drafted out of high school. And high school players take patience. It is very easy to forget that these guys are always young for their level and they’re playing against players who are a year, two, three older than them. When you’re 21, 22, 23 years old, that makes a big difference.”
That was certainly the case for Grisham, Milwaukee’s first-round pick (15th overall) in 2015 out of suburban Dallas. Grisham was touted for his keen eye at the plate and known for an unconventional golf-style grip of the bat, but while he posted consistent on-base numbers in his initial professional seasons, he didn’t slug until this year, after Brewers coaches and analysts suggested an effort to push his contact point out over the plate, where he can hit for more power.
Grisham took the advice and implemented it, slashing .300/.407/.601 between Double-A Biloxi and Triple-A San Antonio, saving his best work for the higher level, where he posted a 1.247 OPS.
Even in an inflated offensive environment, it was eye-opening.
“It started with moving my contact point to the front,” Grisham said when he arrived in the Majors on Aug. 1. “With that, I started playing better and better, and I just got more and more confidence. And now that’s really what I’m relying on -- confidence in myself and just going out there and playing.”
Said Stearns: “Trent came into pro ball with an advanced feel for hitting and an advanced understanding of the strike zone. Those are two things that are really difficult to teach. When he started with that foundation, the player development goal became allowing him to take advantage of those strengths. I think we finally got to the point this year that we were able to deliver the message in a way that Trent was able to fully grasp it. He was at a point in his career where he was ready.”
Supak’s rise was steadier. Acquired with Keon Broxton in the December 2015 trade that sent utility man Jason Rogers to Pittsburgh, Supak made it to Double-A before his 21st birthday in '18 and split this season between Biloxi and San Antonio. He was the Double-A Southern League’s Pitcher of the Year despite making only 20 starts before a promotion, going 11-4 with a 2.20 ERA and a Southern League-best 0.87 WHIP and .192 opponents' average.
It was much tougher at the Triple-A level, where Supak posted a 9.30 ERA in seven starts spanning 30 innings.
“The jump from the Southern League to the [Pacific Coast League] is about a big a jump right now as you can possibly make,” Stearns said. “You go from an environment that generally favors pitchers to an environment that is a crazy hitter-friendly environment right now. There is an adjustment period. But Trey had a phenomenal year. Led a very good Double-A team. He deserved the promotion to Triple-A and we’re looking for him to build off what he did this year.”