Spring training provides glimpse of Brewers' future

February 22, 2017

PHOENIX -- Corey Ray, Lewis Brinson and Jacob Nottingham, tucked in the corner of the Milwaukee Brewers clubhouse, are among the top prospects in baseball but still have a ways to go before breaking camp with the team.

Still, getting an invitation to big league camp, even if it's just for a few weeks, is a big step in the developmental process.

"Often times, the pressure of making the team isn't there in your first camp," manager Craig Counsell said. "That's a good thing. It's almost a positive in that regard because it lets you take a deep breath."

Brinson, an outfielder, is considered Milwaukee's best prospect. He hit .382 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in 23 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs last season after he was acquired in the trade deadline deal that sent All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Texas.

"Eventually, we all want to be here," Brinson said. "Getting to know our future teammates, it's pretty cool."

Josh Hader was among Houston's top prospects when he was dealt to the Brewers as part of a package for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers in 2015.

Like many pitchers, Hader struggled with the thin air of Colorado Springs, going 1-7 with a 5.22 ERA in 14 starts last year. Being part of the core group of young talent the Brewers are counting on to lead them back to contention is a point of pride for the 22-year-old left-hander.

"I think it's something we're all embracing," Hader said. "All of us have one goal in mind and that's to get to the playoffs and win a World Series for the Brewers. It's definitely something to look forward to, even now.

Along with the veterans, the Brewers' prospects can also turn to one of their peers for guidance.

Shortstop Orlando Arcia was invited to camp for the first time last year and made his major league debut in August. Though he only has two months of experience, he is looking forward to helping his former -- and possibly future -- teammates get comfortable.

"There are a lot of young guys with a lot of talent here for the first time." Arcia said through translator Carlos Brizuela. "I just try to help them as much as they've helped me. I try to give them support and help them out as much as I can because they're going to be here soon, too."

Their presence gives Counsell an opportunity to watch their progress with his own eyes, instead of relying on reports from Milwaukee's baseball operations staff.

But the focus, Counsell said, shouldn't be on impressing teammates and coaches.

"It's making sure they all have their eyes and ears open," Counsell said. "When you get around a lot of new people, you get around people who are more experienced than you and often, frankly, better than you so you can learn new and better ways to do things. That's the important thing, I think. The rest of it is just going out and playing and enjoying it."

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