Brewers Minor League Affiliates Give Hope for the Future
By almost every measure and no matter where you set the endpoints, the Brewers are hot right now. Sunday’s come-from-behind win to complete a sweep of the Mets finished off a 5-1 homestand, improved their record to 8-4 in May, 11-6 in their last 17 games and 21-17 overall, reaching four games over .500 for the first time since 2014.
The contending Brewers, however, weren’t supposed to be the story this season. Before spring training there was a common narrative that most of the players on this roster were simply placeholders until the next generation of stars finished navigating their way through the minor leagues and took their place. They may not be receiving as much attention as we expected, but it’s worth noting that the organization’s top prospects are doing their part to keep the rebuild progressing.
While the Brewers were mounting their comeback on Sunday the High-A Carolina Mudcats were working on one of their own: They scored two in the bottom of the ninth inning to walk off with an 11-10 win over Winston-Salem and get back to .500 on the season. With that victory, all four Brewers full-season affiliates enter play on Monday at or above .500:
AAA Colorado Springs: 21-11
Even after a loss on Sunday the Sky Sox still have the best record in all of the AAA level, coming in percentage points ahead of the International League’s Durham Bulls and Lehigh Valley IronPigs. They’re also seven games better than they were at this point a year ago.
Top prospect and outfielder Lewis Brinson had a quiet day at the plate Sunday but is still batting .327 with a .398 OBP and .515 slugging, which is excellent but lags slightly behind teammate and fellow outfielder Ryan Cordell’s .325/.400/.581 start. Similarly, top pitching prospect Josh Hader lowered his 2017 ERA to 4.20 with one run allowed over five innings on Sunday but has had to compete for attention with teammates Brandon Woodruff and Paolo Espino, who have a combined 2.65 ERA over 78 innings of work with 74 strikeouts and 14 walks.
AA Biloxi: 19-18
The Shuckers came up just short on Sunday, trailing 6-0 in the early innings but closing the gap to 6-5 against Mississippi. Nonetheless, they deserve a lot of credit for overcoming a tough start: They fell to 7-13 on April 26 and are 12-5 since.
Offensive numbers are low across the Southern League this season, but Biloxi still ranks near the bottom of the league with their .225 team batting average, .309 on-base percentage and .337 slugging. Their pitching has been very good, however, ranking second in the eight-team league with a 3.24 ERA. Jorge Lopez had a disaster start on Sunday that ballooned his ERA to 4.42, but he’s still struck out 42 in 38 2/3 innings on the season.
High-A Carolina: 19-19
Like Biloxi, Carolina has also endured some hot and cold stretches as a team: They opened the season with six wins in their first ten games but then went just 7-14 in their next 21, including getting swept in a pair of doubleheaders. They’ve now won five straight to get back to .500 for the year.
Infielder Isan Diaz was the Brewers’ Minor League Player of the Year in 2016 and picked up right where he left off in 2017, batting .286 with a .351 on-base percentage and .504 slugging and leading the team with seven home runs. His exploits have been overshadowed a bit, however, by the prospect redemption story of Jake Gatewood. The latter had two hits on Sunday to extend his hitting streak to 23 games, and his .984 OPS (on-base plus slugging) is more than 275 points higher than his best professional season to date.
On the mound 2016 fourth round pick Corbin Burnes has been fantastic, posting a 1.13 ERA through his first 40 innings with 35 strikeouts and 13 walks. Burnes has a 1.55 ERA as a professional to date and has yet to lose a game.
Low-A Wisconsin: 17-16
Like Carolina, the Timber Rattlers are riding a hot streak right now that has propelled them back to (and above) the .500 mark, winning five of six on a road trip through the Midwest League’s Eastern Division that wrapped up on Saturday.
Many of the players that helped Wisconsin reach the postseason in 2016 have moved on, but two holdovers have been a big part of their early successes: Center fielder Monte Harrison has played in 32 of the team’s first 33 games (missing just one contest after being hit in the face by a pitch) and has an .841 OPS while playing excellent defense in center field. Meanwhile, Trey Supak has a 2.40 ERA through his first 30 innings and has recorded 42 strikeouts, setting new single-game professional highs in K’s in each of his last three appearances.
We haven’t been hearing as much about the Brewers down on the farm as we might have expected, as the better-than-expected MLB team rightfully dominates the conversation. It’s worth noting, however, that the prospects down on the farm continue to take steps to ensure that this organization’s best days are yet to come.