Top Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers

Kiley shares his rankings, reports & videos of the top prospects in the Brewers system, led by Jimmy Nelson.

Links & Disclaimer

See my Top 100 Prospects list and the AFL content index for previous scouting reports and videos from every team in the league. For draft fans, here's my ranking of the top prep prospects for the draft. I'm currently doing an updated college rankings series right now but ranked my top 50 overall prospects for the draft back in August. See all of my previous rankings at the rankings index

For an explanation about how to use asset values, how I grade players and their tools, what order I'll be breaking down each organization and what players are eligible to be ranked, see this primer of the minor league org prospect rankings series. Also, check out the Prospect Rankings Central for more information.

Covered in the primer is the cut-off for players to qualify for this list. mong the young, MLB-ready pieces that will be included in the MLB rankings because they're too old/experienced for this list: SS Jean Segura, 2B Scooter Gennett, LF Khris Davis, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Tyler Thornburg, LHP Will Smith and recent Rule 5 pick LHP Wei-Chung Wang.

System Overview

The Brewers have a truly awful system that may be the worst in baseball and is definitely in the bottom few. It hasn't been helped by a generally successful big league team that gives the amateur staff low draft picks, not much in the way of over-slot bonuses and little investment in the international market. The all-in approach Doug Melvin has taken with the big league club has maxed out the payroll and cleared out the system for short-term fixes like CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke.

The Brew Crew have arguably the weakest personnel situation in baseball with a weak system and middling big league talent, led by Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez, retail-priced veterans and a big question mark in left field with a huge contract. In the draft, the Brewers have ended up with a lot of relievers and a few back-end starter types and have mixed college and high school without much success overall, though there are some intriguing prospects on the list that could take could have breakout seasons.

The three previous farm systems came from the top, middle and bottom thirds of the league: the Phillies at $200 million, the Rays at $280 million the Royals at $340 million. The Brewers definitely fall in the lower tier with the weakest system yet, valued at $130 million. Click on a player's bold/hyperlinked name to see previous articles, including scouting reports and video.

It's worth noting that I recently broke the Brewers new commitment to international spending with an early verbal deal for July 2nd with Dominican 3B Gilbert Lara for $3.2 million. He would, at age 16, already go in the top 5 of this list, with some similar skills to Roache, but a little less raw power, more positional value, and a better chance to hit (and obviously at a much younger age). I'd put Lara in between Arcia and Roache and value Lara at $9-10 million, so a $3.2 million bonus is a bargain, as it always is (and always will be) in the amateur world.

1. Jimmy Nelson, RHP

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 24.8/AAA, 6'4/245, R/R

Drafted: 64th overall (2nd round) out of Alabama in 2010 for $570,600 bonus

PV/FV: 40/50, Asset Value: $21.8 million

Fastball: 60/60, Slider: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 45/45+

Nelson has steadily made progress after going in the 2nd round in 2010, but still has some work to do to rise above the reliever projections that have hung with him for years. He's got an okay delivery, is an okay athlete with okay command and an okay changeup. Those things need to take a step forward to reach his #3 starter upside, but Nelson will turn 25 during the season, so it seems more reasonable to expect a back-end starter or power reliever. His bread-and-butter is a plus 92-94 mph fastball that hits 96 and a plus slider in the mid-80's. Nelson's good breaking ball and fringy changeup point to being tough on righties immediately, a good skill to have in relief should Milwaukee break him in there.

45 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $6 - $12 million)

2. Tyrone Taylor, RF

2014 OD Age/Level: 20.2/Hi-A, 6'0/185, R/R

Drafted: 92nd overall (2nd round) out of CA high school in 2012 for $750,000 bonus

Quick Take: Athletic kid is still learning baseball after a standout prep football career, but 2013 season in Lo-A (.274/.338/.400) beat expectations. Taylor is a plus runner with an average arm that can stick in center and, despite an aggressive approach, has the bat speed and some pop to project as a league-average bat if he continues improving.

3. Mitch Haniger, RF

2014 OD Age/Level: 23.3/AA, 6'2/210, R/R

Drafted: 38th overall (sandwich round) out of Cal Poly in 2012 for $1,200,000 bonus

Quick Take: Right fielder is fringy runner, average defender with above average arm strength and flashes above average power, mostly to his pull side. He's more of a doubles guy in games right now, but his advanced age is forcing the Brewers to advance him quickly. After holding his own in Hi-A and the Arizona Fall League in 2013, he could be on the fast track with a strong 2014 in AA.

4. Orlando Arcia, SS

2014 OD Age/Level: 19.7/Hi-A, 6'0/165, R/R

Signed: IFA, Venezuela in 2010 at age 16 for $95,000 bonus

Quick Take: Arcia signed late as one of the youngest players in his July 2nd class, had a solid DSL showing, then missed all of 2012 with a broken ankle. That's why it was a surprise that he played all of 2013 in a full-season league, but he surprisingly held his own at age 18. He has a chance to be an above average defender at shortstop with an above average arm but is just a solid-average runner. Arcia has a good stroke that's geared for contact, rarely strikes out, and could still add some weight to enhance his gap power.

5. Victor Roache, LF

2014 OD Age/Level: 22.5/Hi-A, 6'1/225, R/R

Drafted: 28th overall (1st round) out of Georgia Southern in 2012 for $1,525,000 bonus

Quick Take: Roache required some projection to go in the 1st round out of college, as he missed almost all of the 2012 season with a serious wrist injury. His 2013 season started predictably slow, but finished with a flourish as Roache's plus-plus raw power started to show up in games again. The concern here is that Roache is backed into a corner profile-wise: fringy arm and run tools limit him to left field while pitch recognition limits him to no better than a 50 bat (.260 average).

6. Devin Williams, RHP (Video)

2014 OD Age/Level: 19.5/Lo-A, 6'3/165, R/R

Drafted: 54th overall (2nd round) out of MO high school in 2013 for $1,385,000 bonus

Quick Take: Williams took a huge step forward in the October before his draft spring, working 90-93 at the WWBA tournament in Jupiter. He's still pretty skinny and his velocity can dip in later innings, but he hit 95 during the spring, has had an above average changeup all along and his slurry curveball improved to show average potential. There's #3/4 starter upside if it all comes together, but Williams still needs to grow into his frame and repeat his delivery more consistently.

7. Jorge Lopez, RHP

2014 OD Age/Level: 21.1/Hi-A, 6'4/170, R/R

Drafted: 70th overall (2nd round) out of PR high school in 2011 for $690,000 bonus

Quick Take: Lopez is a scout's favorite with a super athletic, loose and projectable 6'4/170 frame. He ran track and is the type of pitcher that tends to meet his ceiling more often than those with Hellweg's or Nelson's physique, so I'll be the high guy on this one. Lopez has a solid full-season debut in 2013 and though his 7 K's per 9 was a bit low, his heavy ground ball rate, projectable fram and age forgive some of that. His low 90's sinker and curveball that's above average at times are joined by a changeup that's average at times; there's breakout potential and mid-rotation upside if it all comes together.

40 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $2 - $5 million)

8. Johnny Hellweg, RHP: 6'9 righty was part of Zack Greinke deal and gets tons of plane due to his size but also has trouble repeating his delivery and has below average command for the same reason, with a disastrous MLB stint in 2013; the stuff is good, with a heavy 93-96 mph sinker that hits 98 mph but his changeup and curveball are both average at best.

9. David Goforth, RHP: 25-year-old reliever is 6'0 at best but is knocking on the door at AAA, recently moved to relief where he fits best long-term, and his fastball hits 98 mph but the his cutter and slider are both solid-average at best and his command is fringy.

10. Taylor Williams, RHP: 2013 4th rounder Williams doesn't have classic top prospect size at 5'11/165 and the rock-solid college starter will likely fit best as a reliever; in short stints, he comes after hitters with an aggressive approach, a 91-95 mph fastball and an above average mid-80's slider.

11. Clint Coulter, C: Coulter was the Brew Crew's first round pick in 2012 out of a Washington high school, but had a disastrous first full season, lasting just over 100 AB's in Low-A before being sent back to extended spring; he's a below average receiver with above average arm strength and raw power.

12. Tyler Wagner, RHP: The 2012 4th rounder out of Utah was old for the Midwest League in 2013 but posted otherworldly ground ball rates with a sinker that's hit 96 headlining a three-pitch mix; he was still being stretched out as a starter after closing in college.

13. Tucker Neuhaus, 3B (Video): Neuhaus went in the 3rd round last summer out of a Tampa-area high school and flashed big potential in the fall, before injuries sidelined his spring: above average power and bat speed with enough quickness to stick at third.

14. Taylor Jungmann, RHP (Video): Plus fastball/slider combo has slowly regressed to average as some predicted when short-armer's arm action was fiddled with; he's still 6'6 with some feel, sink and three pitches, but there's just #5 starter upside.

15. Kevin Shackleford, RHP: 6'5/215 righty is a sleeper to watch after going in the 21st round in 2010 out of Marshall; huge ground ball rates and above average stuff have him rushing through the system with a chance at the bigs in 2014.

16. Yadiel Rivera, SS: 6'2/175 shortstop has a chance to stick at the position and more power than you expect, but unfortunately has nothing else to offer as the hitability and bat speed are lacking and the speed isn't a separator.

17. Nick Delmonico, 3B (Video): Delmonico comes from a baseball family, has advanced instincts for the game and signed for $1.525 million out of high school, but the tools are more ordinary than you'd expect; he's a fringy third baseman with average power and length to his swing that hampers contact.

18. Michael Reed, RF: Reed signed for $500,000 out of a Texas high school in 2011 and had a nice full-season debut with a .385 OBP and 36 XBH's, but 108 K's and only 1 HR; he's a dual-sport guy who is still learning the game so there should be more coming.

19. Hunter Morris, 1B: The 6'4/215 first baseman has above average power from the left side but scouts' projection that he doesn't have enough enough bat to profile everyday have been borne out; Morris looks like just an extra bat.

20. Barrett Astin, RHP: 2013 3rd rounder out of Arkansas is a solid prospect as a starter with solid-average stuff and ground balls, but has had much more success in relief where the stuff ticks up and he'd get to the big leagues faster.

Sleeper: Austin Ross, RHP

There were a couple contenders for this list, including polar opposite RHPs Drew Gagnon and Ariel Pena, along with recent July 2nd signees RF Jose Pena and SS Franly Mallen, but I'm gonna roll with Ross as my sleeper. Ross is newly back from Tommy John surgery and has shown above average stuff in short stints, likely fitting in relief long term but being stretched out as a starter first.

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