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Prospect Sleepers

Joseph Zarr did a great job covering some names during his Undervalued, Undersold and Underhyped series, but in honor of the first minor league lineups of spring being released, I thought I would throw out my own thoughts and encourage everyone else to post who they think could be on the verge of a breakout this season.

I'm doing mine in tiers, from regulars sleepers to "Hey, we're still here"

Tier 1

Hitter: Gregory Barrios, SS, likely headed to Carolina

Both by fielding percentage and Fangraphs' scouting report, probably the most advanced defender among the large group teenage complex league infielders last season, Barrios also boasts several other desirable traits. Last season his swinging strike rate was low and he was a balanced hitter both in terms of LD/GB/FB and in terms of using the whole field. There is only one things that prevented him from moving into the Areinamo tier where I know longer even consider him a sleeper (although others might): a lack of power. He barely managed to top .05 in ISO. If he can develop even consistent doubles power during his age 19 season, he becomes a very interesting prospect.

Starter: Patricio Aquino, likely headed to Carolina

Coming into last season, the Brewers had a starting pitcher coming off an age 19 season in the ACL in which he struck out a ton of hitters while posting a walk rate that, while not absurd still might be characterized as elevated. The Brewers were impressed enough to give him a late season shot at Carolina. This season the Brewers have another pitcher who, were it not for an injury that struck just as the Brewers started handing out late season promotions, likely would have fit that mold to a T. So here is my prediction: while there might be similar occasional bumps in the road with control, Aquino solidifies his place as a prospect to watch this season the same way that his predecessor, Alexander Cornielle did last year.

Reliever: Justin Yeager, likely headed to Biloxi

The Brewers, as most teams probably do, have a fair number of relief prospects who fall into the big time stuff, sketchy control category. And while Yeager isn't at Abner Uribe's level, he fits comfortably in the next tier. It sounds like the fastball-slider combo is legit enough to make the 12+ K/9 he posted last year repeatable. If he can make control gains this year, he could become a big part of what I hope will become a deep corps of relievers between the Brewers and triple-A in the near future so, you know, they don't have to deal legitimate prospects for bullpen filler anymore. 

Tier 2

Hitter: Juan Baez, SS, likely headed to ACL

As I don't really get to watch many games (and in the case of DSL guys, none of us do), I rely on two things for the guys under the radar enough to not have much in the way of scouting reports: stats and organization signals. Baez's stats might not jump off the page. He wasn't even a league average hitter in the DSL. His walk rate was a touch low for the level. But he had the second lowest strikeout rate among Brewers DSL'ers with at least 100 plate appearances, so he makes good contact. He also had some premium organizational signals. He was second in plate appearances among all DSL'ers behind only top-20 prospect Luis Lara, so they gave him a ton of at-bats, especially for a low-bonus guy. He also had the most starts on either DSL team at shortstop. In a league where almost every infielder signs as a shortstop, this guy who signed as a catcher if I remember correctly was the one they most wanted to see at the most important defensive infield position. Oh, and unless I missed someone, he joined Lara and Johan Barrios as the only ones of last year's DSL'ers mentioned in the first set of spring training lineups.

Starter?: Brian Fitzpatrick, likely headed to Carolina

It's kind of fitting that Fitzpatrick pitched only 3.2 innings after getting drafted last season. Between Tommy John surgery, the COVID season and another injury, he pitched fewer than 50 college innings. The things that are intriguing about Fitzpatrick, though: 1. He was good last year when healthy for Rutgers. 2. He was borderline dominant during Cape Cod league stints the last two summers. 3. He is a 6-7 lefty. Really, though, Fitzpatrick is standing in here for the entire bizarre group of pitchers the Brewers picked between rounds 5 and 20. You've not only got the injury guy, but also the D-2 guy, the 5-year JUCO guy, the academically ineligible in his draft year guy and a pair of guys who broke out only after transferring. It is eclectic, high variance, and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Reliever: Jeison Pena, likely headed to Wisconsin

Basically, take Yeager's write-up and make him a level or two lower and five years younger. Outside of a brief, disastrous stint at Wisconsin, Pena struck guys out everywhere he went last season. He struck out nearly 40% of the hitters he faced in the ACL and then topped 30% in Carolina. The problem was, after limiting walks pretty well in the ACL, they jumped considerably in Carolina. The good news is, he has a lot of time to work the command issues out. Reaching high-A in his age-19 season, Pena was the youngest player to pitch for the Timber Rattlers last season, and if he starts in Wisconsin this season he will almost assuredly be the youngest pitcher on the Timber Rattlers' opening day roster. The Brewers have shown a lot of confidence in him as well, not just with last season's promotions but also with having him skip the DSL and start off stateside the previous season.

Tier 3

Hitters: The catching duo of Jhonnys Cabrera and Blayberg Diaz, likely headed to Carolina/ACL

I've written a fair amount about these guys before, but to sum it up: The words "patient to a fault" would be an apt description of Cabrera in the early going of the 2022 ACL season. He was flirting with a .500 OBP despite having a .100 batting average. And that .100 batting average wasn't bad luck. He struck out that much. It seemed for a while like he was as likely to get hit by a pitch as to put the ball in play. Then he started to get a bit more aggressive and the loud contact started to come with it. He still struck out too much, but on the plus side, his swinging strike rate seemed more indicative of a 25% strikeout guy than a 33% one. On Diaz, he had a good walk rate, solid strikeout rate, great caught stealing percentage, popped a few home runs but couldn't buy a hit. Some of that may have been due to a line drive rate that Fangraphs lists as 8%. He had three homers but only one other extra base hit. Last season wasn't pretty, but the statistical profile suggests there may still be something there.

Hitter: Zack Raabe, second base, likely headed for Wisconsin

Remember everything I wrote about Barrios? Make him four years older and a second baseman instead of a shortstop and you have the conundrum facing Zack Raabe. Lots to like about the statistical profile: Lots of walks, fairly low strikeouts, low swinging strike rate, lots of line drives. The problem is, his ISO in Carolina was .056 and he has yet to hit is first pro home run. He has to find some measure of at minimum doubles power, but if he does, a lot of the other tools were there. You might think tier 3 is low for a recent top-10 round pick who didn't look lost during his first full season, but Raabe is here because he has to prove a lot fast just to get consistent playing time. He is probably looking at a stint as the sixth infielder at Biloxi with the four other non-first basemen in the group all making Fangraphs' top 39 list.

Pitcher: Brailin Rodriguez, likely headed for Carolina

With very little fanfare toward the end of the 2021 season Rodriguez became the first pitcher to play for a Brewers A-ball team during his age-18 season in at least 15 years. He promptly missed the next season with injury. Assuming that he is back to being healthy, here is hoping that he displays the promise that caused the Brewers to promote him in 2021 over several other older, safer options.

So those are my sleepers. Who do you think is poised for a breakout season?

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almost included Raabe in my own lists. He's a really solid role player who you know is going to do everything fundamentally sound, Everything you discuss there is accurate - he will need to tap into some form of gapper or XBH potential to carve a better niche for himself in the organization. I really would like him to get opportunities as the regular lead-off bat in 2023 - off the top of my head, I felt like that was an under-utilized part of his game last season.

Very exciting Tier 1 list there. I am excited to see all these guys in action and give you the low downs in my reports ☺️

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C-Darrien Miller.  12 hr, 6 sb, .381 obp in 89 A+ games at 21 is impressive, if he can bring the average up a bit there is some high quality prospect in him.

Position- Luke Adams. 6'4" 210 pound HS prospect who lasted to the 12th round. He can play 3rd and could even pitch (not that he probably will). In a system without any true 3B he could move quickly from outside top 30 to top 15 in no time.

Position- Quinton Low, Like Adams a 13th round pick (but in 2021)  with some pitching potential (11 ip 1 run 16 k's 5 bb). 6'6" with power and plate disipline and no other legit 1B prospects in the system. Maybe his future as a pitcher is the only thing that would slow him down.

P- Cameron Wagoner, reports were that he was throwing 97-98 last year with a solid repitiore. He pitched well in Australia this offseason. There is some Woodruff, Burnes, Nelson type feel to him in my opinion.

RP- Jeison Pena. 64k's in 46 innings across 3 levels (up to A+) at 19. I haven't found a reliable scouting report on what and how hard he throws but I am guessing his stuff is legit. Also at 6'1" 165 I am guessing there is a bunch of muscle to add to put even more mph's on.

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3 hours ago, jay87shot said:

RP- Jeison Pena. 64k's in 46 innings across 3 levels (up to A+) at 19. I haven't found a reliable scouting report on what and how hard he throws but I am guessing his stuff is legit. Also at 6'1" 165 I am guessing there is a bunch of muscle to add to put even more mph's on.

Fangraphs has him reaching 96, sitting 92-94 on his fastball with a “future-plus” slider

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Guy I think will really take next step in Carolina this season is Daniel Guilarte. Will be only 19 for the entire season. Last year he was steady as rock and consistent. He has good build to him at 6'0 160. Hit .306, walked at a 13.5% clip. K'd 21.5%. His Iso was low at .065 with no homers. His gb rate was 64% which is very high. Interestingly he pulls the ball 43% of the time and goes oppo 41% of the time. 

His tools grade out promising from mlb pipeline

Hit: 50 | Power: 40 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45.

Proud member since 2003 (geez ha I was 14 then)


FORMERLY BrewCrewWS2008 and YoungGeezy don't even remember other names used

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How bout Ryan Middendorf as a sleeper. Can’t stop thinking about his performance in the AFL championship game and against some pretty good hitters.

His walks at Biloxi were a little alarming, but could have just been the step-up in competition and trying to nibble too much.

Assuming he starts the year back with Biloxi. 


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