In a weird way, I actually enjoyed doing this year’s Brewers list. It’s still a modest system overall, but there were several players I liked that I wasn’t able to fit on this list. The top of the list is littered with quality mid-rotation arms and the back half of the list could be made up of high ceiling long shorts or low ceiling, fringy MLB guys. I opted for a mix of those two.
1. Wily Peralta – RHP (Last Year’s Rank: 1)
I spent a lot of time debating Peralta and Thornburg in the top spot this year. I finally settled on Peralta because I have a stronger belief in his ability to maximize his potential for a longer period of time. Peralta is built to eat inning at a high-quality level with tremendous stuff and improving pitchability. He should max out in the middle of a big league rotation and could be a long term workhorse for the franchise.
2. Tyler Thornburg – RHP (5)
On Thornburg’s side of the debate for the top spot, I think he offers more electric raw stuff. His pure velocity is very similar to Peralta but it jumps on hitters in a more explosive fashion because of the deception in his delivery. Thornburg has made a believer out of me regarding his ability to stick in a rotation and if his breaking ball continues to progress, he could settle in as another mid-rotation caliber arm with extreme competitiveness.
3. Clint Coulter – C (NR)
I’m pushing my chips in on Coulter right up front. His offensive potential is monstrous with some pro scouts being so impressed during his debut that they thought he could get to 7 raw power and 6 game power. There are open questions about his ability to stay behind the plate, but there were improvements made in his debut and while he will need considerable work to stick he has the work ethic and intelligence to make it happen. This ranking is predicated on his ability to stick behind the plate, but he would still be a very interesting prospect if moved off the position.
4. John Hellweg – RHP (NR)
Hellweg is an enormous guy, standing 6-foot-9 with very long arms and legs. His length helps his already impressive velocity play up from the mid-90s range. His curveball is a potential plus pitch with more consistency, though his change-up remains below average and lags behind his primary offerings. Fans of Hellweg’s see a number three starter while others are convinced he is destined for the bullpen, albeit in a high leverage role.
5. Taylor Jungmann – RHP (2)
A lower ceiling prospect, Jungmann also brings a high floor and a tremendous amount of certainty to the table. His fastball works in the low-90s with varying movement that he can change at will. His breaking ball also varies from more of a traditional curveball to a slider, though some scouts felt he got caught in between the two too often in 2012. He pounds the strike zone with all three pitches and looks like a back-end starter that can log plenty of innings on his 6-foot-6, 210 pound frame.
6. Jorge Lopez – RHP (8)
The Brewers have been aggressive with length in their pitching prospects in recent years, and Lopez is another in that group. Still very thing with a highly projectable body, he already shows low-90s velocity at his best and could continue to add more as he improves his overall strength and conditioning. His curveball has serious potential, allowing some scouts for two easy plus pitches down the line. It takes a lot of dreaming to see Lopez’s long term future, but he could be a mid-rotation starter if everything comes together.
7. Mitch Haniger – OF (NR)
Haniger was the brewers supplemental round pick in 2012 and debuted with a strong showing right out of the gate in Low-A. He doesn’t have flashy tools but he knows how to play and puts his tools to good use in game situations. Scouts project him to hit .270-.275 with a pretty solid belief in his ability to hit 18-20 home runs a year at his peak. He profiles well in right field defensively and could be a decent regular if he puts it all together.
8. Jimmy Nelson – RHP (12)
There are a wide range of opinions about Nelson’s long term projection but believers in his ability think he can be a workhorse starter that slots in the fourth spot in a rotation. He sits in the 93-95 mph range with his fastball, showing plenty of angle and reaching back for 97 or 98 when he needs it early in starts. His slider is a plus pitch and he also has a useable change-up. His command of the strike zone can waiver at times but he showed enough improvement in that area to allow scouts to see him settling into a rotation long term.
9. Hunter Morris – 1B (NR)
Morris isn’t a sexy prospect but he will have a big league future. He has a knack for hitting, barreling the ball to all fields with authority. He shows an ability to lift the ball and drive it over the fence and his approach allows him to maximize his power in game situations. Morris is a poor defensive first baseman and has no other prospects defensively, forcing him to mash his way to a chance and he will have to continue to rake to stick long term, but he has a chance to do just that.
10. Victor Roache – OF (NR)
Just looking at the raw power and the type of powerful athlete he is, I should like Roache more. He can blast balls out of any part of any park with ease and had some of the best raw power in the 2012 draft. That said, there are major questions about his hitting ability and he may not realize enough hit tool utility for his power to play at a functional level in the big leagues. With my own personal observations of Roache, I need to see him against professional pitching, particularly more advanced pros, to become a true believer in his long term potential.
11. Ariel Pena – RHP (NR)
Pena was the third piece to the Zach Greinke deal, coming as the lesser known prospect in comparison to Jean Segura and John Hellweg. He has a strong right arm that can pump fastballs consistently in the 90-94 mph range, and run it up to 95-96 mph when he needs a little more. His change-up is often described by scouts as being a “hard” change with tons of movement and bat-missing potential. His breaking ball is behind his change-up but shows some promise as well. Pena struggles to throw strikes and looks more and more like a reliever with each passing season.
12. Logan Schafer – OF (7)
Schafer is more of a grinder type that gets points for his in-game effort and proximity to reaching his big league ceiling. He plays the game hard and maximizes his modest tools. He can hit a little bit and shows enough strength to get the ball into the gaps with ease. He handles all three outfield spots well defensively and could be a versatile piece to a big league roster.
13. Tyrone Taylor – OF (5)
Taylor is a big time athlete taken in the second round of the 2012 draft. He showed surprising hitting ability in his debut summer and earned some believers among scouts that were expecting an extremely raw player. He fits the middle-of-the-diamond profile with plus-plus speed and easy plus defensive potential. He should also be able to put his speed to use on the bases. He has strength in his frame but his power profile remains a question and his bat needs to be tested against better competition, making him a huge risk.
14. Scooter Gennett – 2B (6)
Gennett has consistently drawn praise as a little guy that can hit, and he did that again at Double-A in 2012, hitting .293 in 133 games. He doesn’t have a ton of power in his bat and is an aggressive swinger, making him a batting average-driven player that must hit to have value. He holds his own at second base and could carve out a career as a solid little player (no pun intended), but not much more.
15. Orlando Arcia – SS (11)
Arcia had a chance to soar up this list after ranking #11 on last year’s Top 15, but an ankle injury delayed that ascension. He shows the glove work to stick at shortstop and possibly become a plus defender down the line, while also showing promise offensively. He could explode in 2013 and may be another of baseball’s highly intriguing shortstop prospects.