Even as the Brewers continue to surprisingly pace the NL Central ahead of the defending World Series champion Cubs, they are still a team focused on the future. Over the last few years, the Brew Crew have accumulated a stocked farm system in their rebuilding efforts. With the Brewers top pitching prospect RP Josh Hader and top batting prospect OF Lewis Brinson called up to the big league squad for stints in June, the future is now for Milwaukee.
Hader, the third best prospect in the Brewers system and the 32nd best in the MLB, wasn’t pitching particularly well for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in Triple A ball, but his raw talent was enough to warrant a June call-up for the 23 year-old. Colorado Springs’s elevation is not pitcher-friendly, which could have caused the inflated 5.37 ERA. However, Hader’s 51 strikeouts in 52 innings pitched was encouraging enough for the Brewers to tab him for bullpen reinforcement. While he has only received 6.1 innings in the bigs, Hader has four strikeouts and has only given up one hit. With veteran lefty reliever Brent Suter struggling thus far, Hader’s role could increase as he gets more big league experience.
Though Brinson, the Brewers’ top overall prospect and the 13th best in the majors, was sent back down to Colorado Springs two days ago after the activation of OF Ryan Braun from the disabled list, he will likely find his way back to a major league roster spot this year. The crown jewel of the package the Brewers received last year from the Rangers in the Jonathan Lucroy trade, Brinson is a rare athlete who has the ability to both hit home runs and steal bases at a high rate. The Florida native had a hot bat in Triple A, batting .328 with seven home runs, but couldn’t seem to figure out major league pitching in his brief call-up. Brinson played in 10 games for the Brewers, failing to hit a home run and hitting just .097. Unless injury or suspension bites the outfield during the summer, don’t expect to see Brinson in a Brewers jersey until the active roster expands to 40 late in the season.
The Brewers’ outfield is looking to be one of the best in baseball in five years, as OF Corey Ray looks to join Brinson in the future. Ray is the Brewers’ second-best prospect and the 22nd-best in the MLB, though is far from big league-ready. Though Ray is 22 years-old, he played college ball at Louisville rather than going pro early, which explains his stationing at high Class A Carolina. While he has a healthy 18 stolen bases thus far, his .262 batting average needs to improve if he is to move up in the ranks as a contact hitting/speedster.
Another player to watch is SP Luis Ortiz, who also came over in the Lucroy deal. The Brewers’ fourth-best prospect and 52nd in the league, Ortiz could jump Triple A ball entirely come the September roster expansion. Stationed at Double A Biloxi currently, Ortiz has maintained a healthy 3.14 ERA while racking up 54 strikeouts in 57.1 innings. If he continues to pitch as well as he has, expect Ortiz to be moving up in the ranks.
With a number of lower-ranked prospects excelling at the minor league level as well, such as OF Brett Phillips, this rookie class will have a big impact on the final outcome of the Brewers’ season. While the Brewers have shocked many with their success this year, it will be less surprising to see them doing even better in the future with their pipeline of talent.