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Milwaukee Brewers Top-10 Fantasy Prospects

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The Brewers system is loaded with high-end talent both at the plate and on the mound, and it may well be the best in all of baseball.

MLB: All Star Game-All Star Futures Game Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Our Basis

With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.

Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat that must be rehashed every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the off-season, and so how we view a player may evolve significantly over time. We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.

The Tiers

The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing players between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers that do not have prospects for certain teams.

Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects

These prospects are expected to be in the top-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.

#1 - Josh Hader (LHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 22

ETA: 2017

Hader opened 2016 at Double-A, where he proceeded to put up video game numbers over the first two months of the season, to wit: 57 IP, 38 H, 19 BB, 73 K, 0.95 ERA, 1.00 WHIP. He earned a promotion to Triple-A in the second week of June, and endured a rude awakening, pitching to a 5.22 ERA in 69 IP at the level. His strikeout rate remained elite, at 11.5 K/9, but his walk rate increased by more than fifty-percent (a recipe for disaster when taken in conjunction with becoming more hittable). It isn’t surprising to see any pitcher struggle at Colorado Springs, though, and Hader did improve, slowly but surely, beginning in late July. And, most importantly, his elite stuff remained intact - and that includes a plus-plus running fastball in the mid-90, a plus-plus wipeout slider, and a change-up that flashes above-average at times. Hader has shown that he can pitch deep into games at this point; now he has to prove that he can make further adjustments to reach his ceiling as a number two starter.

#2 - Lewis Brinson (OF)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 22

ETA: 2017

There may not be a prospect who runs as hot and cold as Brinson, who finished 2016 by hitting .268/.305/.468 with 15 HR and 17 SB in 434 PA. That, as an overall line, feels about right for the free-swinging prospect with extraordinarily loud tools. However, it was also a tale of two seasons. Brinson batted .237/.280/431 with 11 HR and 11 SB at Double-A (prior to being sent to the Brewers for Jonathan Lucroy), and then exploded at Triple-A, hitting .382/.387/.618 with 4 HR and 4 SB in just 93 PA. He has now amassed 576 PA between Double-A and Triple-A, and sports a subpar 5.6% walk rate against an average-ish 20.7% strikeout rate. Better pitchers have been able to exploit that approach, garnering whiffs and surprisingly weak contact, and therein lies the risk with Brinson. He boasts plus to plus-plus marks in both power and speed, though, and has shown a knack for making adjustments. And for that he has one of the highest ceilings in the minors.

#3 - Corey Ray (OF)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 22

ETA: 2018

The Brewers took Ray fifth overall in this year’s draft, and few questioned his pedigree. Keith Law rated him as the best overall prospect in the class back in June (calling him “the best all-around college position player”), MLB Pipeline placed him sixth, and Baseball America had him seventh. Ray was aggressively assigned to High-A to start his professional career and he held his own, batting .247/.307/.385 (1% above league-average by wRC+) with 5 HR and 9 SB in 254 PA. He was regarded as one of the fastest players in the draft (he stole 44 bases in 48 attempts in college), and he has above-average raw power. Ray is a bit raw for a college draftee, but he is a true five-tool prospect with that could hit .280 or better with 20-plus home runs and 30-plus steals.

Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates

These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.

#4 - Luis Ortiz (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 21

ETA: 2017

This time last year, Michael talked up Ortiz as a future Tier 1 prospect, with the caveat that he’d be facing a significant challenge at High-A High Desert. Instead, Ortiz made short work of the level, pitching to the following line: 27.2 IP, 23 H, 6 BB, 28 K, 2.60 ERA, 1.05 WHIP. He advanced to Double-A on May 23, where he would spend the rest of his season (albeit in two different organizations, as he was the other big piece of the Lucroy deal). Ortiz was mortal at that level, posting a 3.29 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 63 IP, but he was never truly overmatched despite being the youngest pitcher in both the Southern League and Texas League. He attacks hitters with a mid-90s fastball, a sweeping slider that grades as plus, and a solid average change-up, which he combines with advanced command and control. His ceiling toes the line between the top and middle of a rotation.

#5 - Isan Diaz (SS)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 20

ETA: 2019

Diaz made his full-season debut last year, and it couldn’t have gone much better. The 20-year-old slashed .264/.358/.469 (43% above-average) with 20 HR, 11 SB, and a 12.3% walk rate for Single-A Wisconsin. His 25.2% strikeout rate stands out, but that mark is a product of his selectivity at the plate more so than a glaring hole in his swing. In fact, Diaz has plus command of the strike zone and a plus hit tool. Despite the twenty bombs, some suggest that he has below-average power that will limit him to the low double digits at the highest level. With an almost universal consensus that he will end up at second, Diaz’s ability to hit for power is the key to his fantasy and real world value. From my perspective, it’s easy to see him hitting .280 with 20-plus home runs and a handful of steals at his peak.

#6 - Trent Clark (OF)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 20

ETA: 2019

Clark was the Brewers’ first pick (15th overall) in the 2015 draft, and he entered the 2016 season as a consensus top-hundred prospect. This ranking was the product of his highly advanced approach for a high school pick, as well potential for a plus-plus hit tool, average power, and above-average speed. The fact that he hit .309/.424/.430 with 2 HR and 25 SB in 252 PA in rookie ball helped, as well. His full-season debut did not go as well, as he hit just .231/.346/.344 and spent the better part of two months on the disabled list. Even so, there are silver linings - particularly the fact that he was one of the five youngest players at the level, and his production was about 10% above-average in the pitcher friendly Midwest League. The aforementioned tools were on full display when he was on the field, and evaluators have labeled his bat speed as elite. It may take a few years, but he could be a .280-plus hitter with 15-plus home runs and 15-plus steals.

Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters

These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats, like 12 and 14 team leagues.

#7 - Phil Bickford (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 21

ETA: 2019

When this list was being constructed, Bickford was on the borderline of Tier 2 and Tier 3 due to his relatively high beta. The 21-year-old has a low-90s running fastball that garners a plus grade on the strength of the deception in his delivery and his command of the offering, and his slider is a true swing-and-miss pitch. He has the build (6’4”, 200-plus pounds) that suggests future durability, and he has shown the ability to hold his stuff deep into games. Why the high beta, you ask? His change-up is a below-average at present, and he has not shown much feel for it, even in short bursts. And his ability to work on the pitch will be hindered this year, as he was suspended for 50 games for his second positive test for a drug of abuse. This is not the platform to discuss a player’s personal issues, but the lost repetitions are simply something that cannot be ignored with a pitcher that many feel should be fast-tracked to the Majors as a reliever.

#8 - Brett Phillips (OF)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 22

ETA: 2017

At first blush, 2016 looks a bit like a lost season for Phillips. He hit .229/.332/.397, and struck out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances. The 16 HR and 12 SB look nice, but that batting average is frightening at best. Of course, there’s more to a prospect than his slash line - and the process often means more than the results. Phillips’ production was 13% above league-average, per wRC+, and he battled a lingering oblique strain throughout the season. His performance cratered in July, when he hit just .144/.284/.206. We can’t just ignore that ... but he did hit .252/.343/.439 in the other four-plus months. There are holes in his swing, but the 22-year-old has an advanced, patient approach (as evidenced by a 13% walk rate), above-average to plus power, and above-average to plus speed, and should contribute in every fantasy category at his best.

#9 - Marcos Diplan (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 20

ETA: 2019

Diplan stands out for his size; or, more accurately, his lack thereof. The 20-year-old is listed at 6’ and just 170 pounds, and there are few starting pitchers of that size at any level. However, his stuff is far from undersized, as Diplan features an explosive low to mid-90s fastball and a plus power slider. His change-up is something of a work in progress, but it shows promise (particularly when paired with his strong command profile). Diplan amassed 113.1 IP this year, nearly doubling his previous career-high of 64.1, and he wore down as the season went on (he posted a 5.46 ERA August after posting a 2.21 ERA over the first four months). He nevertheless finished the season with 10.2 K/9 and a 48.5 GB%, and has a mid-rotation ceiling.

#10 - Brandon Woodruff (RHP)

Age on Opening Day 2017: 24

ETA: 2017

If I were to pick a single player in the Brewers’ system to reach his ceiling, it would be Brandon Woodruff. The 2014 11th round pick pitched to the following line, split between High-A and Double-A: 158 IP, 121 H, 40 BB, 173 K, 2.68 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 50% GB. He led the minors in strikeouts, and his 4.13 K/BB was the fifth best at Double-A. Woodruff has clean, repeatable mechanics, above-average command, a plus sinking fastball that sits in the low-90s, an above-average slider, and an average change-up - basically everything that you could ask for in a third starter. He may not rack up prodigious strikeout totals in the Majors, and his injury history at Mississippi State will follow him for some time, but Woodruff is the real deal.