Milwaukee Brewers: Minor League players to watch.

The Milwaukee Brewers minor league system is loaded. Here are a few players who could be poised for breakout/bounce-back years.

The top end talent of the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system is well-known. A fair amount of ink has been spilled about Lewis Brinson, Josh Hader, and last years breakout star Isan Diaz. The Brewers also have a fair amount of depth in the minors. Be it players coming off down years or injury. Or players that finally figure it out. Here are some players to keep an eye on in 2017.

Monte Harrison 

Harrison is rated as the Brewers number 16 prospect per MLB.com. Drafted with the 50th pick overall in the 2014 draft, Harrison has as much upside as any other outfielder in the Brewers system (that is saying a lot, the brewers have no shortage of high-end outfield prospects). His biggest issue has been staying healthy. The 22-year-old has an overall 50 prospect grade (80-20 scale) and has a very well-rounded skill set. If he can avoid injury, he should be poised for a breakout year.

Jorge Lopez 

Lopez ranks 14 on the MLB list, though he used to rank much higher. 2016 was an unmitigated disaster for Lopez. He started the season in AAA and put up a 6.81 ERA and 6.30 FIP. The run environment in Colorado Springs certainly did not do him any favors. Walking 6.24 batters per 9 innings did not help much either. Lopez did show improvement after being sent to AA, he cut his walk rate, and pitched to the tune of a 3.97 ERA and 3.81 FIP. Not great numbers, but moving in the right direction. He still possesses an above average fastball and a pretty 12-6 curve. If he can reclaim his 2015 form (and avoid the state of Colorado), he could still be a solid asset for the crew.

Cody Ponce 

Ponce is beloved by scouts, he is incredibly strong and has a hulking 6’6″ 240 lb frame. He ranks as the Brewers number 11 prospect.  Ponce pitched well at A+, striking out 8.63 per 9 with a 3.21 FIP, he did have some bad luck with a .345 BABIP which lead to his 5.25 ERA. Three above average pitches (fastball, cutter, curve) make me think he can stick as a starter. If he continues to perform at the AA level he will be on the fast track to the big leagues.

Brett Phillips 

Phillips stock has fallen slightly, but that may be due to the infusion of talent to the Brewers system. He has dropped to the Brewers number 7 prospect per MLB, he dropped out of the top 10 completely per Baseball America. Phillips numbers were solid but unspectacular in his second tour in AA. He still put up a 113 wRC+ and walked at a 13% clip. Couple this with a 70 grade arm and a 60 run tool and you have a solid major league regular. Playing in Colorado will inflate his offensive numbers next year but I envision Phillips reclaiming some of the lost shine on his prospect status (if it was ever lost to begin with?).

Others to watch

A handful of others had breakout years in 2016, if they can sustain success two years in a row, they should shoot up the prospect charts as well. Players like this Include, Brandon Woodruff, Lucas Erceg,  and Mauricio Durbon.   Also I would be remiss to not mention Cory Ray, the number 5 overall draft pick last year. He struggled with an aggressive assignment (and run suppressing environment) at A+. His prospect pedigree would suggest he will improve with more exposure to minor league pitching.

The Brewers rebuild effort is starting to graduate players to the Major League level, how these players perform in 2017 could go a long way to open the window of contention sooner rather than later.

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