For first-round Draft pick Garrett Mitchell and some other Brewers Minor Leaguers who lost their season to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s finally time to play ball.
The Brewers’ fall instructional league is underway in Phoenix with a 53-man roster. The Brewers’ squad played against the Giants on Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., the first of 25 games against other organizations.
Teams are following many of the same health and safety protocols that guided Major League players through their shortened season. From intake testing earlier this month through the final game on Nov. 12, the program covers about six weeks, an opportunity to make up for lost time.
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Players range in age from 17 to 26. In addition to games five to six days per week, the Brewers will have work groups each day to ensure that players get individual skill work.
For at least eight players, acquired by the Brewers in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be their introduction to Milwaukee’s system. That group includes four of the Brewers’ five 2020 Draft picks -- Mitchell, catcher Zavier Warren, outfielder Joey Wiemer and infielder Hayden Cantrelle -- plus Evan Reifert, a right-handed pitcher who went undrafted. Also participating are all three of the young pitchers acquired by the Brewers in an Aug. 31 trade with the Phillies: right-handers Juan Geraldo, Israel Puello and Brandon Ramey.
Of the Brewers’ five 2020 Draft picks, only second-rounder Freddy Zamora, isn’t on the roster. He is recovering from right ACL surgery, but he is at the complex with the other players, participating on a limited basis.
Warren, Wiemer and Cantrelle got at-bats over the summer in independent leagues, but Mitchell, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization's top prospect, did not. Instructional league, then, represents a restart for the 22-year-old product of UCLA.
“Mitchell was working out like the other players but doing it from afar and remaining in game shape,” Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan said. “This will be a good opportunity to get him a few games and get him around his future teammates.
“For players who missed out on their season, not having anything this year would have been tough. This allows them at a base level to get to know everybody they’re going to be working with, get to know our complex, but then also to get a little game action and put what they have been working on getting better at on display for us.”
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Teams got approval in early September to reopen their complexes for a fall program, according to Flanagan, and the Brewers moved quickly to assemble a roster. Some players live in the Phoenix area and commute to American Family Fields of Phoenix daily; others live in a nearby hotel under conditions similar to the ones that Brewers players experienced on the road on 2020 and at the alternate training site in Appleton, Wis.
A handful of the players experienced those protocols firsthand, including middle infielder Brice Turang, the club's No. 2 prospect who was at Appleton all summer.
“We’ve tried to replicate the things we thought worked really well and have a code of conduct that we will strictly enforce,” Flanagan said. “… No eating inside of restaurants. Mask-wearing is non-negotiable. They will be subject to testing several times each week. …
“Obviously, it is difficult. There are a lot of challenges, especially when you look at the ages of some of these kids and see they are 17 years old. We have to stress the seriousness of this, that, ‘Hey, this is no joke.’ If one guy lets his guard down for one evening and goes in a restaurant and picks up [the virus], that’s not going to be a good situation. That’s where it starts.”
Here are the initial participants:
Aaron Ashby (2018 Draft, fourth round)
Brock Begue (2019 Draft, 11th round)
Nick Bennett (2019 Draft, sixth round)
Victor Castaneda (2017, international free agent)
Luis Contreras (2019, contract purchased)
Jake Cousins (2019, contract purchased)
Jefferson Figueroa (2019 Draft, 32nd round)
Taylor Floyd (2019 Draft, 10th round)
Bowden Francis (2017 Draft, seventh round)
Rafael Garcia (2018, international free agent)
Juan Geraldo (2020, trade with Philadelphia)
Jackson Gillis (2019 Draft, 13th round)
Justin Jarvis (2018 Draft, fifth round)
Antoine Kelly (2019 Draft, second round)
Edinson Mejia (2018, international free agent)
Mario Perez (2018, international free agent)
Israel Puello (2020, trade with Philadelphia)
Brandon Ramey (2020, trade with Philadelphia)
Alexis Ramirez (2018, international free agent)
Evan Reifert (2020, undrafted free agent)
Arman Sabouri (2019 Draft, 12th round)
Quintin Torres-Costa (2015 Draft, 35th round)
Abner Uribe (2018, international free agent)
Michele Vassalotti (2017, international free agent)
Braden Webb (2016 Draft, third round)
Noah Zavolas (2018, trade with Seattle)
Jhonnys Cabrera (2018, international free agent)
Thomas Dillard (2019 Draft, fifth round)
Nick Kahle (2019 Draft, fourth round)
Darrien Miller (2019 Draft, ninth round)
Jeferson Quero (2019, international free agent)
Jose Sibrian (2015, international free agent)
Zavier Warren (2020 Draft, third round)
Hayden Cantrelle (2020 Draft, fifth round)
Cam Devanney (2019 Draft, 15th round)
Eduardo Garcia (2018, international free agent)
David Hamilton (2019 Draft, eighth round)
Gabe Holt (2019 Draft, seventh round)
Branlyn Jaraba (2018, international free agent)
Jesus Parra (2018, international free agent)
Brice Turang (2018 Draft, first round)
Jheremy Vargas (2019, international free agent)
Pablo Abreu (2016, international free agent)
Micah Bello (2018 Draft, second round)
Arbert Cipion (2018 Draft, ninth round)
Eduarqui Fernandez (2018, international free agent)
Joe Gray (2018 Draft, second round)
Tristen Lutz (2017 Draft, Competitive Balance Round A)
Luis Medina (2019, international free agent)
Garrett Mitchell (2020 Draft, first round)
Hedbert Perez (2019, international free agent)
Carlos Rodriguez (2017, international free agent)
Joey Wiemer (2020 Draft, fourth round)
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.