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  • Seven Brewers Prospects with Something to Prove in 2023


    Harold Hutchison

    Some Brewers prospects performed very well in 2022. Jackson Chourio and Jace Avina, for instance, have excelled. Other well-known prospects, though, have something to prove this year, as some big decisions are coming down the pike. So, what might some well-known prospects have to prove in 2023?

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    Ethan Small - LHP
    Ethan Small dominated most of his minor league career. Then came 2022, where his ERA ballooned to a career-high 4.46, plus a 7.71 ERA in two major league starts. Before 2022, his highest ERA was 2.06 in Nashville during the 2021 season. He rebounded when shifted to the bullpen after he gave up 14 runs in 8.1 innings over two starts, but the Brewers were hoping for a rotation mainstay with a first-round pick.

    Small has to prove that the rough 2022 season in the rotation was a fluke and not the real Ethan Small. If he can't put it together in a major league rotation, he could still be very valuable in the bullpen (he is cost-controlled for several more seasons), but it won’t be what many Brewer fans hoped for after Small dominated minor league hitters.

    Tyler Black - IF/OF
    Tyler Black was a huge offensive asset when he was on the field. He proved he could be more than just a second baseman by seeing time in center field, third base, and left field between the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Glendale Sky Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League.

    Black’s problem, though, was he was only in 64 of Wisconsin’s 149 games and 17 of Glendale’s 28. In other words, he played in less than half of the possible games for the two teams due to injuries. Black will need to stay healthy and play more often in 2023 to prove he can be a major league caliber player.

    Hendry Mendez - OF
    Mendez was signed for $800,000 – a significant sum of cash equivalent to a mid-second-round pick. He’s become a physical specimen with some unreal OBP skills. That’s all well and good, but he only posted a .244 batting average and a .318 slugging percentage, and he didn’t exactly set the basepaths on fire (7-for-15 in stolen base attempts). Mendez isn't prone to missing the ball - he walks nearly as often as he strikes out - but struggling to put good wood on the ball in the lower minors often translates to increased problems as the competition improves in A+ and AA ball.

    He needs to prove that he can bash the ball a lot more than a .244 average and hit more than five homers in 105 games, or he may be a bench asset at best.

    Jeferson Quero - C
    After his 2022 season, it seems odd to think Quero has something to prove in 2023, but he does. Quero needs to prove he will warrant a 40-man roster spot in December. He moved up the ladder and split time between Carolina and Wisconsin in 2022, posting better offensive numbers at A+ than in full-season A ball. He’s a promising prospect defensively behind the plate. But so was Mario Feliciano, who ultimately ended up on waivers and claimed by Detroit.

    Feliciano never seemed to get back on track after the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out by COVID-19. Quero may not deal with a season lost to a pandemic, but he is going to have to shake off the ghost of prospects past.

    Brice Turang - IF
    Turang rebounded in 2022 after struggling a bit at the plate in 2021. He also could end up the Brewers’ Opening Day second baseman due to the trade of Kolten Wong this offseason. Turang will need to prove he can handle major league pitching, which may require patience from the Brewers. During his time in the minors, he has needed time to adjust after being promoted mid-season in 2019 and 2021.

    Turang has defense, on-base skills, and speed. One can do far worse, but any first-round pick comes with lofty expectations.

    Hedbert Perez - OF
    Another one-time highly-hyped signing, Hedbert Perez, has shown he can hit for power. That said, even in a promising 2021, his on-base skills were low. In 2022, he was hardly above the Uecker line, although he improved slightly over his 2021 campaign. That said, Perez is at risk of becoming an organizational-type player, given the emergence of Chourio, Jace Avina, Sal Frelick, Garrett Mitchell, and Joey Wiemer.

    Perez signed in 2019 and missed out on playing during the 2020 season due to the pandemic. That said, he’s still only 19 years old, and there’s plenty of time for him to develop. But he has to show he’s not just a two-for-three when it comes to being a three true outcome player.

    Robert Gasser - LHP
    Gasser has pitched well throughout his minor league career. That said, he is the only remaining player the Brewers received in the Josh Hader trade last August, and that means the weight falls on him to prove he was worth trading the best closer in baseball during a pennant race. He split time between Biloxi, where he dominated, and Nashville, where he struggled some.

    That said, 2022 was Gasser’s first full minor league season, and he’s still pretty young (23). But when a fan favorite is traded, the guys who come back have to prove it was worth the deal.

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    The weight does not fall on Gasser to prove it was worth trading Hader. They received Contreras and everybody knows it, if anything there is less pressure on Gasser since they received an All Star for Hader in the end.

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    damuelle
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    Yeah, it seems like a big year for Hedbert Perez, who was being raved about during the 2020 non-season. He’s suddenly entering his 5th year in the organization, even though he didn’t officially debut until 2021.

    I’ll also be watching a lot of the guys in their 6th season: Clayton Andrews, Micah Bello, Justin Jarvis, Joe Gray Jr., Pablo Garabitos, Arbert Cipion, Branlyn Jaraba, Eduarqui Fernandez, Eduardo Garcia…

    And let’s hope 2020 2nd round pick Freddy Zamora, likely AA Biloxi’s starting SS to open this season assuming he’s healthy, regains his 2021 form after a lost 2022.

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    Mendez, Quero, and Turang all proved a great deal in 2022 if we all step out of our chancyphile lens and into reality for a second.  I suppose I can see a case for Turang having to prove himself ,once again, at the major league level this season, but ‘22 went a long way in showing his value.  Also, Gasser shouldn’t have any pressure put on him to prove anything in regards to “being the return for Hader”.  Gasser will go out in 2023 and be the exciting pitcher that he has been in the past. 

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    6 hours ago, Outlander said:

    The weight does not fall on Gasser to prove it was worth trading Hader. They received Contreras and everybody knows it, if anything there is less pressure on Gasser since they received an All Star for Hader in the end.

    I don't think the weight falls entirely on Gasser but from a fan perspective, trade trees don't extend very far. To the casual fan, they look at the loss of Josh Hader and see Robert Gasser as the only remaining chip in the system, which probably puts an undue and unfair burden on him, at least a bit.

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    Black and Zamora are in the same boat - they've shown flashes but can't seem to stay healthy.  Mitchell was the same way coming up through minors and is now with the big club so obviously there's hope.

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    "He’s a promising prospect defensively behind the plate. But so was Mario Feliciano, who ultimately ended up on waivers and claimed by Detroit."

    Quero is an advanced defender behind the plate, Feliciano was always a bat first prospect who needed to figure out the actual catching part.

    Outside of being teenage Brewers catching prospects the two have very different profiles.

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    18 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    I don't think the weight falls entirely on Gasser but from a fan perspective, trade trees don't extend very far. To the casual fan, they look at the loss of Josh Hader and see Robert Gasser as the only remaining chip in the system, which probably puts an undue and unfair burden on him, at least a bit.

    Totally disagree, they traded Ruiz straight up for an All Star that won't be a free agent for a number of years. If the casual fan even knows who Robert Gasser is they know who Contreras is.

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    1 minute ago, Outlander said:

    Totally disagree, they traded Ruiz straight up for an All Star that won't be a free agent for a number of years. If the casual fan even knows who Robert Gasser is they know who Contreras is.

    Maybe. I just don't have a lot of faith in the casual fan, who often yell about a "quick hook" that's common in pretty much all of baseball or people who yell "BUNT" in the second inning.

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    1 hour ago, ARobsBrewCrew said:

    Mendez, Quero, and Turang all proved a great deal in 2022 if we all step out of our chancyphile lens and into reality for a second.  I suppose I can see a case for Turang having to prove himself ,once again, at the major league level this season, but ‘22 went a long way in showing his value.  Also, Gasser shouldn’t have any pressure put on him to prove anything in regards to “being the return for Hader”.  Gasser will go out in 2023 and be the exciting pitcher that he has been in the past. 

    Mendez has a swing that generates a negative launch angle on average, and he's not a speed merchant, to say the least.

    Quero did well in Carolina, but so did Feliciano, who sputtered at the higher levels and eventually got the DFA. Still a long way to the majors, and who knows what might happen? It's the ghost of past catching prospects, really, that haunts Quero.

    Turang's got to show he can hit major-league pitching, or at least draw lots of walks. For the most part in his career, he has, but early 2021, with the jump to AA, he struggled a bit. I don't think Kolten Wong was traded for Abraham Toro to be the 2B, I think it was to clear the way for Turang.

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    3 hours ago, ARobsBrewCrew said:

    Mendez, Quero, and Turang all proved a great deal in 2022 if we all step out of our chancyphile lens and into reality for a second.

    Let's all try to stick to the topic and not old grudges. I'm not picking on you in particular, I've just received a lot of complaints about personalities becoming bigger than the community and it's something we all need to work on. God only knows I'm guilty of it myself in the past, I just don't have the history here to show it.

    On the other hand, thanks for reminding me that I need to address this now that it's after the holidays.

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    1 hour ago, clancyphile said:

    Mendez has a swing that generates a negative launch angle on average, and he's not a speed merchant, to say the least.

    "Willie Mays Hayes" without the "Willie Mays" is the new baseball efficiency.

    If he puts it in the air again, he does pushups.

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    1 hour ago, clancyphile said:

    Quero did well in Carolina, but so did Feliciano, who sputtered at the higher levels and eventually got the DFA. Still a long way to the majors, and who knows what might happen? It's the ghost of past catching prospects, really, that haunts Quero.

    Feliciano’s breakout at A+ (129 wRC+) came during his age 20 season and was accompanied by a 6.0 BB% and an alarming 28.8 K%.

    Quero just finished up his age 19 season split between A/A+ and while he didn’t hit quite as well with only a 116 wRC+ he showed a much better plate discipline profile with a 7.4 BB% and 18.8 K%.

    I don’t think anyone is haunted by anything, but to carry out the analogy I’d wager Quero ends up more helped along by the ghost of Maldonado past than he ends up spooked by the spectre of Feliciano (or other catchers with completely different profiles).

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    38 minutes ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

    "Willie Mays Hayes" without the "Willie Mays" is the new baseball efficiency.

    If he puts it in the air again, he does pushups.

    Mitchell can get away with hitting a lot on the ground - he's got speed, as we've seen through the minors.

    Mendez doesn't have speed, but could be a very good power hitter. Here's what Brewer Fanatic's prospect profile says:

    Quote

    Adjectives that have been used to describe Mendez’s swing include “quirky” and “unconventional” due to a bit of a downward cut that generates a lot of groundballs. Mendez already hits the ball hard, and has physical projection to add raw power. Driving the ball in the air more often will need to be a focus as Mendez develops and ultimately a swing adjustment may be necessary.

    In this case, make Mendez do push-ups every time he hits the ball on the ground.

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    damuelle
  • Brewer Fanatic Contributor
  • Posted

    Mendez was one of eight hitters playing his age 18 season in Low-A ball last year, so as long as he can be league average in High-A this year with a decent K rate and flashes of pop, we’ll keep dreaming big things:

    - Jackson Chourio - .973 OPS
    - Edwin Arroyo - .899 (actually lower as this doesn’t include ~20% of his PAs after late season trade)
    - TJ White - .784
    - Cristian Santana - .745
    - Carter Jensen - .745
    - Hendry Mendez - .675
    - Pedro Pineda - .639
    - Daniel Vazquez - .490

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    I hope it isn’t self-indulgent, but I am going to split my reply in two: the guys included and then the guys I might have.

    Quero: As others have pointed out, the Feliciano comp is flawed. With Feliciano the question was will he develop enough to stick at catcher. With Quero it seems to be will he develop enough to win a gold glove. I can understand the rule 5 reasoning, but given that catchers with offensive upside and big league ready defense is one of the few categories of hitters who routinely get picked, I think he would have to have a disastrous 2023 not to be added. The added pressure will come in later seasons by the early starting of the option clock.

    Mendez: He spent his 18 year old season entirely in A ball. Chourio might have spoiled us, but that is pretty rare. Does he have to get the ball in the air more? Sure. But he will be given time. Honestly you could include just about any prospect at that level given that reasoning, including Avina, whose K rate is unsustainable.

    Disagree with the Gasser reasoning (if people realize Ruiz isn’t in the system now, they know why. The forgetfulness won’t strike for a couple of years.) I don’t disagree with Turang, though. He needs to show the long extra base hit drought was the fluke, not the power surge at the end of the season.

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    A lot of the guys I would include are probably a bit further down the prospect list.

    Felix Valerio: Between his youth, past performance and underlying numbers, I have little doubt Valerio will bounce back offensively. He needs to prove, however, that he can handle second base defensively, especially in a post-shift baseball world.

    Victor Castaneda: The results have been OK, the peripherals middling. I think he gets moved to the pen this year and must show his stuff plays up there.

    The year five or six guys: There are a lot of plus athletes who are likely to start in high or low A on Damuelle’s list. Joe Gray, Eduardo Garcia, Micah Bello, Eduarqui Fernandez … Time is starting to run low.

    Cam Devanney: This is based on circumstance. After getting passed up in the Rule 5 draft, Devanney needs to show his 2022 isn’t just a case of success because he was an older prospect repeating AA. I think he makes the bigs at some point this year, but because of his age, he needs to back up his 2022 success more than most of last year’s breakouts.

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    13 hours ago, CheeseheadInQC said:

    A lot of the guys I would include are probably a bit further down the prospect list.

    Felix Valerio: Between his youth, past performance and underlying numbers, I have little doubt Valerio will bounce back offensively. He needs to prove, however, that he can handle second base defensively, especially in a post-shift baseball world.

    Victor Castaneda: The results have been OK, the peripherals middling. I think he gets moved to the pen this year and must show his stuff plays up there.

    The year five or six guys: There are a lot of plus athletes who are likely to start in high or low A on Damuelle’s list. Joe Gray, Eduardo Garcia, Micah Bello, Eduarqui Fernandez … Time is starting to run low.

    Cam Devanney: This is based on circumstance. After getting passed up in the Rule 5 draft, Devanney needs to show his 2022 isn’t just a case of success because he was an older prospect repeating AA. I think he makes the bigs at some point this year, but because of his age, he needs to back up his 2022 success more than most of last year’s breakouts.

    Devanny flashed good numbers in 2019, then seemed to be readjusting when he jumped from Rookie ball to AA in 2021 after 2020 got wiped out.

    In 2022, his OPS was higher in Nashville (small sample) than Biloxi. Quite frankly, I could see him as a cheap RH 3B/SS depth option for the Crew - maybe even making a Luis Urias trade possible.

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    11 minutes ago, clancyphile said:

    Devanny flashed good numbers in 2019, then seemed to be readjusting when he jumped from Rookie ball to AA in 2021 after 2020 got wiped out.

    In 2022, his OPS was higher in Nashville (small sample) than Biloxi. Quite frankly, I could see him as a cheap RH 3B/SS depth option for the Crew - maybe even making a Luis Urias trade possible.

    Is Urias not already a cheap 3B/SS, with a 110 ish OPS+? Surely, although prospects are great and cheap, but I cant see a team hoping to roll the dice in the playoffs even considering this. In fact with Miller, Toro, Urias, Turang fighting over 2 positions, he may be surplus to requirements and on the trade block himself. The only other player I can se joining that mix is an experienced head, someone to add some clubhouse stature

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    I love the smell of prospect discourse in the morning, it smells of Victory.

    I'm going to simply play the game of 'Seven Prospects with Something to Prove' - knowing full well, my personal opinion is: every prospect has things to prove - to themselves and their organizations - every season. Love being along for their rides!

    (1) Freddy Zamora: What exactly was that performance pre-injury? What was 2021 in relation to 2022's extremely rough pre-injury performance? Lots to look forward to in 2023.

    (2) Felix Valerio: Can he convert his contact rate into more productivity? Given his defensive limitations, he really 'needs' to develop and maximize that very capable bat. And, man, when he is on point he really can rake.

    (3) Carlos Rodriguez (OF): Man, he was crushing it in High-A. He really seemed to turn a corner of consistency and then, boom, just like that the injury. Can he find that form again and keep growing?

    (4) Wes Clarke: I realllllly loved Clarke's season as a whole. His bat really evolved. His family support is awesome. He will take over the Thomas Dillard role in Biloxi now that Dillard was released (sigh). He plays a competent 1B/DH/spot fill C. Can he take another step?

    (5) TJ Shook: A dominant start to his High-A season led to a deserving promotion to the Southern League where he saw mixed results. Can he start this year like he began 2022? I would say his season as a whole was open-ended. Can he continue to develop the movement of his pitches? He has the size, the frame, and all the ability. I am hoping for big things.

    (6) Nick Bennett: Was there a pitcher in the system who teased signs of dominance more than Bennett in the Southern League muggy air? He has an interesting delivery and truly dominates in spells. Can we get more Big League consistency?

    (7) Joe Gray Jr.: Beloved in the clubhouse. An awesome personality and persona. Incredibly athletic but down-to-Earth. Can he move beyond the weird purported eye issues and fine-tune his approach at the plate? We know he can thrive in the OF. We have yet to see a consistent means of production and true threat at the plate. 

     

    Honorable Mentions: Je'Von Ward, Ernesto Martinez, Max Lazar, Israel Puello, Ryne Moore, Darrien Miller

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    I'd add Tristan Lutz to the list.  Probably his last shot to prove it with the Brewers since he will be a free agent after the season.  His star has faded but he still has a shot as a 4th/5th OF that can mash LH pitching.  Strong OF arm.  He has value and could be useful to complement all the LH OFs this team has.

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