Biloxi’s pitching and Brinson’s Power.

If you haven’t noticed, the rotation in Biloxi has gotten the AA Shuckers back into the post-season conversation. It’s tricky, but entirely possible that the Shuckers could get a berth. Here’s what would need to happen. Pensacola would need to come back from 3.5 games back in the Southern League’s South Division to win the 2nd half. The Blue Wahoos already took the 1st half crown. So the next team in the playoffs would be the 2nd best OVERALL record. That would open the door for the Shuckers, who are just 1.5 games back of the Mississippi Braves for the 2nd best record in their division. Additionally, the Shuckers play the Braves 6 more times (including tonight) before the season ends. So it’s very doable.

What’s led to this sudden climb from the Shuckers? Starting pitching. Luis Ortiz has been great, as has Taylor Jungmann. We all know that Brandon Woodruff is having an award filled season also, but now Jorge Lopez is turning the corner. This rotation is setting the tone for Mike Guerrero’s club. Credit as well to Chris Hook (pitching coach) as he’s proving how valuable he is working with guys like Jungmann and Lopez that struggled until they got to Biloxi this season.

Lopez went 7 scoreless last night before running into trouble in the 8th. He ended the night going 7.1 with just 2 ER allowed. He’s now allowed just 5 ER over his last 19.1 IP. Woodruff had been scratching his head after two rough starts in a row (this after perhaps having the best month of July on the mound as anyone in baseball). However, Woodruff delivered 8 shoutout innings on Wednesday night allowing just 2 hits while striking out 7.

Colorado Springs is happy to have Lewis Brinson back. In 3 games back from the DL, the #18 overall prospect in baseball has gone 6-10, 3 HR and 6 RBIs. He’s hitting .414 since being traded to the Brewers organization.

One other pitching note, Phil Bickford, acquired via the Will Smith trade, delivered a solid start for Brevard County on Wednesday. He went 6 innings and allowed just 2 ER. The depth on the mound right now for the Brewers should have fans very excited about the future.

Take Notice of Taylor Jungmann.

It’s time to pay attention to the rediscovered success of Taylor Jungmann. The right-hander, whom made a great 1st impression last year when he made his MLB debut, struggled to begin this season. He was sent down by the end of April to Colorado Springs to pitch in AAA. Jungmann’s struggles continued. He then went to Arizona, to clear his mind for a short time before pitching competitively again in AA for the Biloxi Shuckers. After a couple of tough starts at the beginning of his stint there, Jungmann has now settled in and has been downright dominant. His latest start, perhaps his best example yet. On Tuesday night, Jungmann went 8 scoreless innings while striking out 8 and allowed just 3 hits. He sports a 1.13 ERA in the month of  August.

Jungmann looks like he’s rediscovered the form that got him off to such a nice start in 2015. Here’s hoping this is the beginning of a really cool success story.

Hader’s (K)areer Day

Yesterday was a big day for LHP prospect Josh Hader. Still looking for his first AAA victory since his promotion to Colorado Springs earlier in the year, Hader struck out 12 batters over 6 scoreless innings. Round Rock features some big names also. Joey Gallo is one of the top left handed hitting prospects in baseball and of course we all are familiar with Carlos Gomez. The point is, Hader was dominating on the road against a lineup that featured MLB  players. So dominant that he only allowed 2 hits.

His last 6 starts have been really impressive. In 34.1 IP, he’s allowed just 11 earned runs for a 2.88 ERA. He has struck out 154 between AA and AAA this year, that’s 2nd in all of Minor League Baseball.

Coulter having success…

OF Clint Coulter extended his hitting streak to 10 games with the Shuckers on Thursday. He was hitting .471/.550/.706 with 10 runs, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 6 RBI and 3 walks in that span. The streak, sadly came to an end on Friday night as he went 0-3 with a walk vs. Mobile.

I traveled to Florida in May to talk with Clint while he was with Brevard County in the Florida State League. He’s one of the most physically impressive guys in the Brewers minor league system. He should project to have good power and he has a big arm (former catcher) that will suit him well, specifically as a right fielder. Now that he’s starting to get on base more and hitting for better average. This could turn into one of the better development success stories for the Brewers in 2016. Coulter struggled in Brevard County, hitting just .220 with 6 HRs. The Brewers felt he needed a change of scenery and a chance to start clean. They promoted him to AA Biloxi. What a decision that’s turned out to be. Coulter has been the Shuckers best player since his promotion. In 13 games, he’s collected 16 hits and is slugging at a .649 clip.

Here’s more on the Shuckers, who’ve also seen Luis Ortiz pitch exceptionally well since coming over in the Lucroy/Jeffress trade: 

New guys, Funny Guys and Young Guys…

It’s been almost two weeks since the Brewers traded Jonathan Lucroy, Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith for key pieces to their future in Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz, a PTBNL, Phil Bickford & Andrew Susac. Let’s look at the early results for these young men in the Brewers organization.

Brinson – Lewis Brinson is the #2 prospect in the Brewers organization according to MLB Pipeline and he’s the top prospect that’s not currently on the 25-man roster (Orlando Arcia is #1). He’s batting .439 with 4 doubles, a HR and 10 RBI. Also he’s swiped 4 bases. I talked with David Stearns on Friday and he said that he feels Brinson is fairly close to being MLB-ready. Certainly needs a bit more time at AAA but Brinson is already knocking on the door.

Luis Ortiz is a 20-year old right hander that also came over in the Lucroy/Jeffress trade and he’s begun his Brewers career in AA Biloxi. Management has decided to slowly ramp up Ortiz’s innings as August continues but he’s made two outings so far for the Shuckers. Ortiz has made two starts for the Shuckers and has worked a combined 6.2 innings without allowing an earned run.

It’s also believed that the PTBNL will be a significant piece from the Rangers’ system. So that should be exciting when it develops after the season.

Phil Bickford went 4.2 innings in his first start for A Advanced Brevard County. The right-hander gave up 2 runs and struck out 5 in the outing. He makes his second start for the Manatees tonight at Dunedin.

Expect to see Andrew Susac on the Major League roster before the year is over.

Changing the topic for a second. If you haven’t seen the Tim Dillard (Reliever with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox) MiLB Network videos yet, you’re missing out.

Check out his twitter profile: @DimTillard

Dillard is genuinely one of the funniest guys in baseball. His creativity combined with the clubhouse downtime that baseball provides – equals sheer brilliance.

Finally, I’d be wrong to not include an update on a few young guys that are putting together impressive seasons. 1st is Isan Diaz. He very well may be in line for some postseason honors if he keeps things up at his current pace. He’s currently on a 12-game hitting streak and is batting .344 in the second half of the season for the Wisconsin TimberRattlers. His 18 HRs lead the Brewers minor leagues and his 69 RBI are equally impressive.

Ronnie Gideon is still hitting at a hot pace in Helena. Currently on a 15-game hitting streak, Gideon has 9 doubles, 7 HR and 18 RBI during the span. He has as much natural power as about anyone in the Brewers organization.

Finally, be on the lookout for some arms that get the nod tonight on the Brewers minor league schedule. LHP Brent Suter with Colorado Springs, Brandon Woodruff with Biloxi, Phil Bickford with Brevard County and Corbin Burnes with Wisconsin. All have put together impressive seasons so far.

 

A Big Day.

Without question, yesterday was one of the biggest days during the Brewers transition to this young roster and future rosters. Perhaps the biggest news came in the moments after the first game of the Brewers series with the Padres here in San Diego. The Brewers announced that top prospect Orlando Arcia will be called up today and be making his debut at SS tonight. This is a big night for Brewers fans. Arcia is, perhaps, the face of the Brewers future and that future begins tonight.

Arcia played 100 games for Colorado Springs, hitting .267 with 19 doubles, 8 HRs and 53 RBIs. Make no mistake about it, though, Arcia will make his biggest impact with his glove. He has tremendous range, quick feet, incredible instincts and a very good arm. He’s going to be an exciting player in the field. He turns 22 on Thursday and is immediately the youngest player on a NL roster. Jonathan Villar will play 3B tonight.

Our last entry took a look at the Brewers Top 30 Prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Wow, has that changed in the last 24 hours. With the Brewers moving Jonathan Lucroy, Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith at the trade deadline, the minor league system got an influx of talent. Let’s start with the two prospects (there will also be a player to be named after the completion of the minor league season) returned for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress being sent to Texas. The Rangers sent OF Lewis Brinson (their #2 prospect) and RHP Luis Ortiz (their #3 prospect). Brinson is a toolsy outfielder that will probably play in centerfield primarily but can play all 3 spots. He has speed, power and a very sufficient arm. He has played at AA Frisco in the Texas League up until the deal was made. The Brewers have assigned him to Colorado Springs and he will begin his AAA career.

The addition of Brinson gives the Brewers great outfield depth in the minor leagues. Remember, they also have top 10 prospect Brett Phillips in AA Biloxi, 2016 1st rounder Corey Ray in High A Brevard County, and 2015 1st rounder Trent Clark in A Wisconsin. That doesn’t even include other prospects like Demi Orimoloye and Michael Reed.

Luis Ortiz will be beginning in Biloxi and is a big guy. He is 6-3 and 240 pounds with a big fastball that can touch the upper 90s while sitting in the mid 90s and a slider that has drawn rave reviews. He also throws a changeup.

Ortiz will join a rotation that includes Taylor Jungmann and Brandon Woodruff in Biloxi.

The Will Smith trade brought back the Giants’ top prospect in RHP Phil Bickford. Pickford will report to Class A Advanced Brevard County. Bickford has twice been a first round pick and possess a fastball that can sit in the mid 90s.

This was a big coup for David Stearns and the front office. Even bigger, the fact that they were also able to pry young catcher Andrew Susac away from the Giants. Susac will begin in AAA Colorado Springs – but will get opportunities with the big league club in the future as he already has spent time in the bigs with the Giants.

When all the dust settled. Here’s the new Brewers’ top 30: New Top 30

As you can see, there’s been another wave a talent making its way into the system. The future looks very bright. The Brewers now have 8 of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball.

 

New Top 30 and Other Notes

MLB Pipeline has released its revised top 100 prospect list and their team-by-team top 30s. The Brewers have 5 prospects in the top 100: #13 Orlando Arcia, #37 Corey Ray, #45 Josh Hader, #76 Trent Clark and #78 Brett Phillips. Quite a few new faces entered the Brewers’ top 30 list also as the 2016 draftees found their way into the mix. Besides Ray, Lucas Erceg, Corbin Burnes, Chad McLanahan, Mario Feliciano & Braden Webb also claiming status in the rankings. Here’s the entire list: MLB Top 30 – Brewers

Another name that is on the list and likely climbing is RHP Brandon Woodruff. The Biloxi Shucker is in the midst of an incredible season between A Advanced and AA. On Friday night he threw another 7 innings of scoreless baseball while surrendering 3 hits and striking out 10. He’s now pitched 24.1 consecutive scoreless innings.

Additionally, I was in Helena earlier this week and EVERYONE was raving about Lucas Erceg’s ability and work ethic during his short time with Helena. It sounds like he’s on a mission to keep rising through the system. Helena has some intriguing prospects. I particularly like Franly Mallen. Impressive young man that can hit and showed great range at 2nd base. And by the way, what an incredible back drop for a baseball game.

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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.

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