Recent Risers.

A few names in the Brewers’ MiLB system are performing very well despite not being found on the Top 30 prospects list. Here’s a rundown of a few guys that are currently surging:

Wisconsin Catcher Mitch Ghelfi has been in a ridiculous hot streak. The former Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panther has a current 11-game hitting streak and is 28-50 over that span. His average is up to .330 on the season.

Colorado Springs OF Kyle Wren has reached in 29 of his last 31 games. Wren has played in 35 games in AAA this year and is hitting .367 while swiping 11 bases.

Brevard County 1B Dustin DeMuth has been out of control since the season reached June. From June 1st on, he’s hitting .341. DeMuth was the starting 3B for the Indiana Hoosiers team that made the College World Series in 2013 with current Chicago Cub Kyle Schwarber and Red Sox prospect Sam Travis.

These three guys are worth keeping an eye on.

Other notes:

2016 Draft Picks Corey Ray and Lucas Erceg are off to good starts. Ray went just 2-21 in his first 5 games but has gone 16-51 since then. Erceg was recently promoted from Helena to Wisconsin and played in his first game at class A on Wednesday night, he went 3-6 in his debut.

Yesterday we posted about Cody Ponce. Well, he started last night for Brevard County and garnered the win. His line? 5 IP, 5 H, 0 ER – He’s now given up 1 ER in his last 22 IP.

 

 

Ponce is worth watching.

Part of my gig here with the Brewers allows me to travel around to our Minor League affiliates and visit and observe some of the Brewers’ top prospects. I really enjoy this part. In May, I visited Brevard County and had the chance to chat with RHP Cody Ponce. The big right hander out of Cal-Poly Pomona is a big personality. He smiles and laughs and genuinely enjoys the game. Keep in mind, I was meeting Ponce while he was in the midst of rehab. That’s a frustrating spot for any young guy to be in, but you’d never have noticed it. He’s a cool customer. He’s a large man too, although I think I already alluded to that (6-6, 240) . Here’s his draft profile from last year:

If you haven’t noticed, Ponce is on quite a roll right now and is solidifying himself as one of the top young arms in the Brewers’ system. Joe Ayrault and his staff have been conservative with how much they’ve asked of Ponce since coming back from forearm tightness that delayed the start to his 2016 season. After pitching just 2 and 3 innings in his first handful of starts, Ponce has thrown 17 innings over his last 3 starts and allowed just 1 earned run while striking out 25 and walking 1. Those numbers will play.

Ponce is 22 and even though he’s only been in the system for a little over a year, he could be a quick riser if he can keep himself healthy.

Brewers acquire 2 Red Sox Prospects…

The Brewers sent Aaron Hill and cash to the Red Sox late this afternoon for minor league SP Aaron Wilkerson and INF Wendell Rijo. Hill certainly was a nice addition this past offseason as he came, along with Chase Anderson and Isan Diaz in the Jean Segura/Tyler Wagner deal with the Diamondbacks. Hill performed well both at 3B and at the plate (specifically after the calendar flipped to May) but also is a true veteran that was a nice clubhouse presence. There never seemed to be much doubt though, that he’d eventually be traded for some future pieces. Here’s the skinny on the return for the Crew:

Aaron Wilkerson had Tommy John surgery in college while pitching at the NAIA level, he went undrafted and ended up pitching in Independent baseball until the Red Sox discovered him. He’s 27 years old and has struck out 54 over 48 innings for Pawtucket in the International League at the AAA level. His 2.44 ERA is also impressive. He owns a 4-pitch mix (FB, CB, CH & SL) and his velocity is in the low 90s. Here’s a great story on the newest Brewer from the Boston Herald: Aaron Wilkerson’s Story

Wilkerson will begin in Colorado Springs.

Wendell Rijo is more of a true prospect in terms of age and development. He’s 20 years old and was placed in AA to start the year (a fairly aggressive placement) and struggled. Now he’s back in High A and will begin his Brewer path in Brevard County. Here’s a look at Rijo:

Rijo is from the Dominican Republic and joins a deep stable of middle infield talent in the Brewers’ system.

Isan Diaz is on a roll…

Wisconsin TimberRattlers SS Isan Diaz has officially caught fire since the weather turned in Wisconsin. After a slower start to the season, he was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the Month for June. Hitting .316 with 15 extra base hits and 14 walks. On top of that, he’s continued this red-hot stretch in July with a 2-4, 2B, HR effort last night against Cedar Rapids.

I traveled to Appleton to see him play last week. He’s an impressive guy physically. I think you can expect above average pop from his bat for a middle infielder as he progresses throughout the different levels of professional baseball. He has good, quick feet in the field and a good enough arm to stay at short stop. I would not be shocked, however, if he ends up at 2nd base at some point in the coming years. The Brewers are stacked with SS in their system and a better path to the big leagues may exist at 2B for Diaz.

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Diaz is tearing up the Midwest League over his past 5 weeks.

Diaz is also a very interesting story, born in Puerto Rico but moving to Massachusetts and graduating high school from there, he’s multilingual. That should help him in clubhouses as a valuable teammate in the future. I came away from my visit incredibly impressed with not just Diaz, but the wealth of prospects in Appleton. Jake Gatewood has made some great strides while learning a new position and young arms like Marcos Diplan, Devin Williams and Freddy Peralta – among others – all have very bright futures in my opinion.

A potpourri of information…

The draft is complete, a healthy chunk of the selections signed and many of them have begun their professional careers. It’s an exciting time throughout every MLB farm system. Let’s start with some big news on the prospect front:

LHP Josh Hader has been selected to the MLB Futures Game in San Diego. The rising prospect has split his time between AA Biloxi and AAA Colorado Springs so far this year and has been downright dominant. In Biloxi, Hader pitched to a .95 ERA while striking out 99 in 77 innings. He’s had one tough outing with the Sky Sox at AAA but otherwise continued his success since his promotion.

MLB Futures Game Rosters

Speaking of Biloxi, The AA affiliate and the Brewers have extended their Player Development Contract through 2020. Here’s more on that:

Brewers, Shuckers extend PDC

This is important because the world of minor league baseball and affiliations is a constantly turning carousel. Finding the right market to embrace your franchises’ prospects while providing the proper environment to develop them in, is not always easy. Biloxi has been a tremendous partner to the Brewers and it’s truly been a great partnership.

Corey Ray was in Milwaukee this past weekend and showed off his physical tools in the batting cage at Miller Park.

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1st round draft pick Corey Ray with Area Scout Jeff Simpson and VP of Amateur Scouting Ray Montgomery

He’s an impressive young man and will begin his career at high A Brevard County. Ray possesses the maturity and experience to potentially move through the system rather quickly. For more on Ray, check out this video linked in our Brewers on Tap TV page:

Brewers on Tap TV

Another draftee, Lucas Erceg has turned heads in his short time in Helena. The 3B is hitting .421 with 5 extra base hits and has reached base in all 9 games he’s played in so far.

 

Day 2 Draft Update…

The Brewers finished up the 2nd day of the draft and added a handful of college pitchers to their stable.

After wrapping up the first day with Puerto Rico product Mario Feliciano, a catcher that is very highly regarded as a hitter at the plate and has good athleticism according to scouting reports, the Brewers made 8 selections on Friday.

The organization opened Friday with three straight college arms. RHPs Braden Webb of South Carolina in the 3rd round, Corbin Burnes of St. Mary’s in the 4th round, and Zack Brown of Kentucky in the 5th round.

VP of Amateur Scouting Ray Montgomery seemed to be very excited that all three were available when the Brewers were selecting. Brown is an intriguing arm, a big fastball and the potential to have a plus breaking ball, but really struggled this season in the SEC pitching to an ERA of 6.08. He had a strong sophomore campaign in 2015 though, when he pitched to a 3.48 on Friday nights for the Wildcats.

The 6th round saw the Brewers take a high school catcher from Utah in Payton Henry. He has very good power potential. Henry will be blessed with, just like Feliciano, the ability to work with Brewers catching instructor Charlie Greene. Jonathan Lucroy told me today that Greene is the best there is and both of these young guys will have a great chance to develop in the system.

The Brewers went back to a college arm in the 7th with LHP Daniel Brown from Mississippi State. Brown has good stuff from the left side with low-to-mid 90s fastball and good natural movement on his pitches. He’s under 6 foot, so he may eventually end up in the bullpen. But it’s quality arm, no doubt.

The Brewers then added to their already deep pool of prospects in the middle infield with HS short stop Francisco Thomas and East Tennessee State 2B Trey York.

With the final pick of day 2, the Brewers selected another college LHP in Rice’s Blake Fox. If anything, he has the coolest pick off move in history.

Fox is a big guy at 6-4, 225. That frame says starting pitcher, at least to begin for Fox. He pitched to a 2.72 this past season in 16 starts. Fox played for one of the all-time greats in Wayne Graham at Rice, so you know his baseball IQ is high.

Day 3 tomorrow will conclude the draft. The Brewers seem to be getting high marks for their selections so far.

Brewers select 3B Lucas Erceg with #46

The Brewers have made their 2nd selection of the MLB amateur draft tonight and it’s 3B Lucas Erceg from Menlo College. Erceg had good power numbers in college and began his career playing for Dave Esquer at Cal. He transferred to NAIA Menlo College for his 3rd season.

Erceg’s power and arm make him a nice piece as a corner infielder.

Brewers select Corey Ray at #5

The Milwaukee Brewers selected Louisville outfielder Corey Ray with the 5th pick of the MLB amateur draft. Ray is a centerfielder that has plus speed and hit for power (15 home runs) while playing in the always tough ACC. He is a Chicago kid that has struck up a close relationship with Mets’ right fielder Curtis Granderson, whom he says has helped mentor him on and off the field. The Brewers’ really like his overall makeup and have continued a trend of acquiring “up the middle” talent. Ray will play center field in the Brewers’ system. Ray is also very determined to be a great defender, “I’m guaranteeing that I will work as hard as I possible can to become an elite defender,” he said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday night. All in all, this is a very exciting pick and adds to a now very talented crop of prospects in the outfield within the Brewers’ organization (Brett Phillips, Trent Clark, Monte Harrison, David Denson, Michael Reed and others). Two more picks for the Brewers yet tonight. Stay tuned.

 

Draft Day.

Today is the first day of the Amateur Draft and it is always an exciting time around ever organization. The Brewers have 3 picks today, #5, #46 & #75. Hard to tell which direction the Brewers will go with the #5 pick as plenty can happen in the first 4 ahead of them. I talked with GM David Stearns earlier this week and he told me that the top priority is and will be to acquire the best overall talent available. Forecasting need is very challenging when you are drafting for 3-5 years down the road.

This is Stearns’ first draft at the top of the baseball operations for the Brewers. He’s very excited about it and will have plenty of help in the room. Assistant GM Matt Arnold and VP of Amateur Scouting Ray Montgomery & his staff have all been preparing for these next few days for a LONG time.

Last year’s first round pick, Trent Clark, hit his first home run last night for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Clark just came back from injury and wasted little time to make his presence felt. 2014’s 1st round pick Kodi Medeiros has battled some back issues for much of this season at Class A Advanced Brevard County. I had a chance to visit with him at Space Coast Stadium last month and his spirits were high and he is very confident that he is on the right track.

Here’s a primer from MLB.com on the draft:

MLB Draft Projections

 

All-Stars.

All-Star teams have been announced in the Southern League (AA), Florida State League (A Advanced) and the Midwest League (A). The Brewers are well represented at all levels.

Southern League selections from Biloxi were:

1B Garrett Cooper, LHP Josh Hader (recently promoted to AAA Colorado Springs), C  Jacob Nottingham, LHP Stephen Peterson, OF Brett Phillips and OF Kyle Wren.

Florida State League selections from Brevard County were:

OF Johnny Davis, C Dustin Houle, SS Angel Ortega and RHP Brandon Woodruff (recently promoted to AA Biloxi)

Midwest League selections from Wisconsin were:

RHP David Burkhalter, OF David Denson, SS Isan Diaz, RHP Marcos Diplan, 3B Jake Gatewood, C Mitch Ghelfi, C Max McDowell and RHP Freddy Peralta.

Additional Notes:

In AA, Jacob Nottingham has a 6-game hitting streak. He’s 9-23 going into Wednesday night’s games during that streak. He’s also hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games and sports a batting average of .315 since May.

In A, Blake Allemand has reached base in 19 consecutive games. He’s hitting .458 during this stretch that at one time included going 8-8 at the plate.

 

 

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