John Lepore | February 7th, 2019
Continuing our series, let’s take a look at the NL Central champs from last year. The Milwaukee Brewers are obviously in win-now mode, but their starting pitching may be a little light. More on that in the Team Preview coming next month. For now, let’s dive into the top guys they have in their system. We may actually see a couple of them this season.
2B – R/R – 5’11 190lbs – 08/02/1996 – 1st Rd pick (9th) in 2017 (MIL)
Hit 70 | Power 60 | Run 50 | Arm 45 | Field 50 – ETA 2019
Keston Hiura can hit. He was viewed as the most polished bat in the 2017 draft after leading Div-I in hitting with a .442 average at UC-Irvine. At two stops in the minors in 2018, Hiura slashed .293/.357/.464 with 13 HRs and 15 SBs in 123 games. He has great bat speed and has excellent bat-to-ball skills as evidenced by his 18.2% strikeout rate last season once he got to Double-A. His 34 doubles last year also portend an increase in power as the ball jumps off his bat. His game is solid everywhere else. While he may not win Gold Gloves at second base, he has good footwork and solid hands to be an above average fielder.
The question about Hiura when he entered the draft centered around his elbow. While doctors have said that he won’t likely require surgery, the Brewers decided to have him rest it by DHing him after they drafted him. He has played second base since and showed no issues. While his elbow may be fine in the long run, his arm will never be anything more than average. But, honestly, he plays second and if he hits like he should, he will be a cornerstone for a long time.
OF – L/L – 6’0 195lbs – 09/22/1994 – 1st Rd pick (5th) in 2016 (MIL)
Hit 40 | Power 55 | Run 70 | Arm 40 | Field 45 – ETA 2019/2020
Corey Ray is second on this list although people may look at the tools rating and say that he doesn’t grade well overall. The power/speed combo is there. The character is there. And he has shown improvement as after he moved up last year. Ray had 27 HRs and 37 SBs at Double-A Biloxi in 135 games. He improved his FB% from 35.9% to 42.6% and improved his Pull rate from 37.3% to 44.7%. This is a product of clearing his hips sooner to maximize his power and be more aggressive instead of flailing at pitches. While his defense is not great due to bad jumps and indecision, he makes up for it with his speed.
The main problem with Ray is that he misses too many pitches. His K% was 29.3% last year at Biloxi and his SwStr% was 17.5%. The issue with that is pitch recognition and swinging through too many strikes. He reworked his swing and still actually improved his K rate (31.0% at Single-A in 2017). If he continues to improve his bat-to-ball skills (because when he does hit the ball it screams) there is no doubt Ray can be in the majors possibly as soon as next year.
OF – R/R – 6’3 210lbs – 08/22/1998 – 1st Rd pick (34th) in 2017 (MIL)
Hit 45 | Power 70 | Run 45 | Arm 55 | Field 45 – ETA 2022
Tristen Lutz profiles as a prototypical power-hitting right fielder. He had a full season at Single-A Wisconsin last year and played in 119 games and while he only hit 13 HRs, he hit 33 doubles in 503 PAs. He increased his FB% from 33.3% in Single-A to 39.9% last season which should help his power numbers moving forward. His arm plays in RF as it grades above average and his fielding is adequate as long as his bat is there.
The power is raw and will take time to show in-game. He needs to work on shortening his swing and pitch recognition. His center-cut batted balls were only at 21.7% last year which means he is getting fooled or guessing correctly. His long swing leaves holes and although he can muscle a ball away with decent plate coverage and strength, that won’t cut it at the higher levels. And although his K% of 27.6% is bearable if the power comes, that is something he will have to work on to avoid it ballooning towards 35 or 40 as he progresses through the system.
SS – L/R – 6’1 170lbs – 11/21/1999 – 1st Rd pick (21st) in 2018 (MIL)
Hit 40 | Power 40 | Run 60 | Arm 55 | Field 60 – ETA 2022
Brice Turang is a very good fielder with good contact skills. While his plate discipline is impressive for a kid who just turned 19 (31/34 BB/K rate), he lacks pop with only one HR and six doubles in 192 PAs in rookie ball last year. He sprays the ball around the field and seems to take what the pitcher gives him. He stands with a wide base and has a short stride and stroke which allows him to wait on the pitch. His arm is above average and may gain a little more strength as he builds up. His fielding skills are very good with solid footwork and excellent reactions.
Turang will likely never be a power guy. He could sell out a bit more for some power as his body fills in but it would take major changes to his approach. He already hits the ball on the ground at a 2:1 ratio and does not make hard contact. There is time to adjust and find a happy medium and he does have some speed with 14 SBs last year. As long as he can put the bat on the ball and play excellent defense at a premium position then he could have a long career in the majors.
SS – R/R – 6’0 160lbs – 07/19/1994 – 26th Rd pick (773rd) in 2013 (BOS)
Hit 55 | Power 40 | Run 55 | Arm 55 | Field 50 – ETA 2019
Mauricio Dubon came over from Boston with Travis Shaw for Tyler Thornburg in what may have been the best trade the Brewers ever made. At Triple-A over the last two years, he hit 10 HRs and had 13 SBs in 358 PAs. We said that Turang was a contact hitter? Dubon has him beat with a 4.5% BB rate and a 14.8% K rate. While the power is ahead of his younger SS counterpart, he is also older and likely not to fill out too much more. His fielding is above average and he will likely get a shot at SS with the big club.
Dubon is going to be 25 this year and at this point, he is what he is: A solid contact guy with doubles power, a little speed, and can play good defense. He tore his ACL last season in May and will be back for spring training but will likely start the season at Triple-A. Considering the Brewers woes last year at the middle infield spots, he should get a look at SS but will probably see work at second and even in the outfield. From what I’ve seen he profiles more as a super-utility guy in the future anyway.
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