After a lost 2020 minor league baseball season and then major changes across the MILB landscape in 2021, it’s great to have some stability in 2022, with all of Milwaukee’s affiliates returning. The AAA Nashville Sounds kicked off their season on Tuesday (April 5th). The AA Biloxi Shuckers, High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and Low-A Carolina Mudcats are all in action from Friday, April 8th.
This article gives a brief overview of each of the Brewers’ four full-season minor league affiliates, while we hope to do the same for the four short-season rookie affiliates (2 in Arizona, 2 in the Dominican Republic) in early June.
YOUR 2022 CAROLINA MUDCATS
Examining initial rosters throughout the organization, 2022 presents the usual elegant birthday pattern regarding the youngest players at each level…:
- MLB Milwaukee – Born 1998+: 1 – LHP Aaron Ashby
- AAA Nashville – Born 1999+: 1 – SS Brice Turang
- AA Biloxi – Born 2000+: 2 – 2B Felix Valerio, RHP Abner Uribe
- High-A Wisconsin: Born 2001+: 1 – C Darrien Miller
…that is until we arrive at the lowest level of full-season ball:
- Low-A Carolina: Born 2002+: 6!!!! – OF Hendry Mendez, 3B Jheremy Vargas, OF Hedbert Perez, C Jeferson Quero, SS Eduardo Garcia, RHP Miguel Segura.
Yes, youth reigns supreme for the Low-A Carolina Mudcats in 2022, with two 18-year olds and three 19-year olds as projected regulars in the starting line-up, along with one 20-year old starting pitcher.
While the cynic will say that these youthful promotions result from the removal of the High-Rookie level (remember the Helena Brewers / Rocky Mountain Vibes?), the reality is that those were short-season leagues. This crop of youngsters is ready to play today. Each of the six performed well in Rookie Arizona ball in 2021 (Perez .969 OPS, Quero .934, Mendez .885, Garcia .801, Vargas .707; Segura 1.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP) and deserve a chance at the next level.
Of course, these future stars are not the only exciting prospects in Carolina, as they’re joined by 2021 draft picks RHP Carlos F. Rodriguez (6th round), 2B Zack Raabe (8th round), RHP Brannon Jordan (9th round), and RHP Ryne Moore (18th round), along with IF Alberis Ferrer (.951 OPS in Arizona) and 1B Jesus Chirinos (.891 OPS in Arizona).
Let’s not forget who will coach these young men: 33-year old Victor Estevez, who is entering his 10th season in the Brewers organization, and spent the last six seasons managing in the Dominican Summer League. Go Mudcats!
Low-A Carolina Mudcats – affiliate 2017-present
- Manager Victor Estevez (promoted from DSL)
- Assistant Coaches: Drew Thomas (pitching), Ken Joyce (hitting), Jorge Ortega (coach), Benny Arroyo (athletic trainer), Jonah Mergen (strength and conditioning)
- Last Season: 67-53
- Stadium: Five County Stadium, Zebulon, North Carolina (opened in 1991; 6,500 capacity)
- Projected Regulars: C Jeferson Quero (5), 1B Jesus Chirinos, 2B Zack Raabe, 3B Jheremy Vargas (30), SS Eduardo Garcia (12), LF Micah Bello, CF Hedbert Perez* (8), RF Hendry Mendez* (15), DH (IF) Alberis Ferrer
- Bench: C Jose Sibrian, IF/C Luis Silva, OF Oswel Leones*, OF Arbert Cipion
- Projected Rotation: RHP Miguel Segura, RHP Alexander Cornielle, RHP Carlos F. Rodriguez, RHP Ryne Moore, RHP Brannon Jordan, RHP Edwin Jimenez
- Relievers: RHP Jeferson Figueroa, RHP Israel Puello, RHP Michele Vassalotti, RHP Trevor Tietz, LHP Pablo Garabitos, RHP Brandon Ramey, RHP Junior Montero, RHP Christian Tripp, LHP Karlos Morales, LHP Jakob Brustoski
- Injured/Other: IF Daniel Castillo, RHP Brailin Rodriguez, RHP Caden Lemons, LHP Josh Shapiro, LHP Jackson Gillis, RHP Juan Geraldo
- Youngest Players: Hendry Mendez (November 7, 2003), Jheremy Vargas (May 10, 2003), Hedbert Perez (April 4, 2003), Jeferson Quero (October 8, 2002), Eduardo Garcia (July 10, 2002), Miguel Segura (February 15, 2002)
- Biggest Surprise: Luis Silva is transitioning to become a catcher in his 5th year in the Brewers’ system!
YOUR 2022 WISCONSIN TIMBER RATTLERS
What’s the best record for a Brewers’ full-season affiliate? The Brevard County Manatees’ 79-48 season in 2009? Well, that’s probably the mark the 2022 Timber Rattlers are aiming for, at least until some key players are inevitably promoted. There is talent and proven production throughout the roster.
We start with the outfield, where the team has #1 prospect Sal Frelick accompanied by two players who are probably under solid consideration for promotions to AA already: #13 prospect Joe Gray Jr. (.854 OPS in 479 PAs in Low-A and High-A in 2021) and #21 prospect Carlos D. Rodriguez (.684 OPS in 382 PAs in High-A as the youngest player on the roster for most of 2021).
Every other player in the projected lineup had a stellar 2021 (see Darrien Miller, Ernesto Martinez, Zavier Warren, Wes Clarke), is a top prospect (#6 Tyler Black, #17 Warren), or was a high 2021 draft pick (Black 2nd round, Ethan Murray 5th round).
Let’s not forget the projected starting pitchers, where we have a healthy Antoine Kelly (#14 prospect – 2.84 ERA in 2019), 2021 2nd round pick Russell Smith (#16 prospect), a finally healthy Max Lazar (2.33 ERA in 2019), just-turned-22 Justin Jarvis and two more experienced hurlers (TJ Shook, Brandon Knarr).
Throw in a bullpen led by #26 prospect Cam Robinson (2.45 ERA in Carolina last year) and record-breaker James Meeker (55 innings unearned run streak in 2020-2021) squad is stacked.
Manager Joe Ayrault, who coached many of these players in Low-A Carolina in 2021, makes the move up to High-A Wisconsin this season as they aim for on-field excellence and quick promotions to AA Biloxi. Mr. Ayrault has been with the Brewers since 2010, managing clubs in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and now Wisconsin. Win ‘em all, Timber Rattlers!
High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – affiliate 2009-present
- Manager Joe Ayrault (promoted from Low-A)
- Assistant Coaches: Will Schierholz (pitching), Nick Stanley (pitching), Liu Rodríguez (coach), Andrew Staehling (athletic trainer), Connor McCarthy (strength and conditioning)
- Last Season: 59-60
- Stadium: Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium, Appleton, Wisconsin (opened in 1995; capacity 5,900)
- Projected Regulars: C Darrien Miller*, 1B Ernesto Martinez*, 2B Tyler Black* (6), 3B Zavier Warren^ (17), SS Ethan Murray, LF Carlos D. Rodriguez* (21), CF Sal Frelick* (1), RF Joe Gray Jr. (13), DH (C) Wes Clarke
- Bench: C Alex Hall^, IF Antonio Pinero, IF Yeison Coca^, OF Tristan Peters*
- Projected Rotation: LHP Antoine Kelly (14), LHP Russell Smith (16), RHP Max Lazar, RHP Justin Jarvis, RHP TJ Shook, LHP Brandon Knarr
- Relievers: RHP Cam Robinson (26), RHP Tyler Gillies, RHP Kent Hasler, RHP James Meeker, RHP Cristian Sierra, RHP Joey Matulovich, RHP Robbie Baker, RHP Miguel Guerrero, RHP Zach Mort, RHP Brady Schanuel
- Injured/Other: OF Je’Von Ward*, LHP Arman Sabouri, RHP Jhoan Cruz, OF Pablo Abreu, RHP Bryce Milligan
- Youngest Player: Darrien Miller (March 10, 2001)
- Biggest Surprise: Elder statesmen Hasler, Schanuel, and Mort are back for another go-round in High-A
YOUR 2022 BILOXI SHUCKERS
The 2021 season must have felt like an out-of-body experience for Biloxi fans, who’d seen their perennially winning ballclub experience its first-ever losing season. Starting with an opening day rainout and a doubleheader loss the next day, last year’s Shuckers appeared out-manned and out-gunned much of the season, sometimes only having ten healthy position players to select from.
Well, that one-year nightmare is over! Your star-studded, winning Shuckers are back in 2022, led by #2 prospect Joey Wiemer (27 homers in 2021), #3 prospect Garrett Mitchell (1.128 OPS in High-A in 2021, before struggling in AA with injuries), and experienced, highly capable starting pitching.
In all, the 2022 Biloxi squad has eight ranked prospects, including the exciting 21-year old Felix Valerio and 2020 2nd round pick Freddy Zamora in the middle infield and Mr. On-Base Percentage Gabe Holt at third base. But don’t sleep on tier two prospects like 1B Thomas Dillard (18 home runs in 2021) and OF Tristen Lutz (60 power rating according to MLB.com entering 2021).
Now let’s admire the starting rotation: #25 prospect Victor Castaneda, experienced southpaw Andy Otero (2.10 ERA in Biloxi last year), Carlos Luna (2.33 ERA in High-A/AA last year), Justin Bullock (2.98 ERA in Low-A/High-A before struggling in AA), with Nick Bennett (6th round 2019 pick) and 29-year old Tyler Herb (152.1 AAA innings under his belt) rounding it out.
If the opposition keeps it close, their reward is the buzzsaw of #19 prospect Abner Uribe (103mph fastball) and #23 prospect Taylor Floyd (84 strikeouts in 56 innings last year).
Manager Mike Guerrero leads the squad again in 2022, where he’s been posted since 2016. Guerrero has been managing in the Brewers organization since 1996. Go get ‘em, Shuckers!
AA Biloxi Shuckers – affiliate 2015-present
- Manager Mike Guerrero (returned)
- Assistant Coaches: Nick Childs (pitching), Chuckie Caufield (hitting), Michael O’Neal (coach), Matt Deal (athletic trainer), Grant Kastelan (strength and conditioning)
- Last Season: 45-69
- Stadium: MGM Park, Biloxi, Mississippi (opened in 2015; capacity 6,067)
- Projected Regulars: C Jakson Reetz, 1B Thomas Dillard^, 2B Felix Valerio (11), 3B Gabe Holt* (27), SS Freddy Zamora (10), LF Tristen Lutz, CF Garrett Mitchell* (3), RF Joey Wiemer (2), DH (1B/3B) Ashton McGee*
- Bench: C Brent Diaz, C Nick Kahle, IF Cam Devanney, OF/IF Noah Campbell^
- Projected Rotation: RHP Victor Castaneda (25), LHP Andy Otero, RHP Carlos Luna, RHP Justin Bullock, LHP Nick Bennett, RHP Tyler Herb
- Relievers: RHP Abner Uribe (19), RHP Taylor Floyd (23), RHP Robbie Hitt, RHP Arnaldo Hernandez, RHP Lucas Erceg, RHP Zach Vennaro, LHP Scott Sunitsch, RHP Luis Contreras, RHP Harold Chirino, RHP Nash Walters
- Injured/Other: C Jason Lopez
- Youngest Players: Felix Valerio (December 26, 2000), Abner Uribe (June 20, 2000)
- Biggest Surprise: #19 prospect Abner Uribe is skipping High-A to join AA Biloxi
YOUR 2022 NASHVILLE SOUNDS
Having used a whopping 76(!!) players in AAA Nashville in 2021, I guess the Brewers felt they might as well start with half of that amount in 2022, as the initial roster has an incredible 38 players.
Is this madness? Don't roster limits exist anymore? It seems fair to say that there’s some wiggle room on the usual AAA roster limits to start the season, similar to how the MLB rosters are expanded for April. At a minimum, the expanded rosters should allow some veteran players to earn a paycheck and show their stuff while exploring other opportunities at home and abroad.
As we saw last season, which included a club-record tying 15-game winning streak, the AAA squad directly benefits from the major league club’s win-now mentality, as Brewers’ General Manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell make sure that there’s solid depth in Nashville to draw from when necessary.
For 2022, this includes interesting veterans like RHP Josh Lindblom (still earning $3 million from his MLB contract), RHP Luis Perdomo (444 1/3 innings for the Padres from 2016-2020), LHP Rex Brothers (57 games for the Cubs last year), 2019 All-Star OF David Dahl, former top prospect 1B Jon Singleton (13 homers as a 22-year old Houston Astro in 2014), 1B Tyler White (12 homers for Astros in 2018) and OF Abraham Almonte (1326 MLB PAs from 2013-2021 for six clubs).
And of course, paired with the veterans are several top prospects with the intent of becoming the next Robin Yount, including #4 prospect 22-year old SS Brice Turang, #7 prospect and 2019 1st round pick LHP Ethan Small, #20 prospect, 23-year old C Mario Feliciano, #22 prospect RHP Alec Bettinger and #24 prospect RHP Dylan File.
Finally, there are a few more 40-man MLB roster guys set to yo-yo back and forth to the big league club, hoping one of the promotions becomes permanent, including IF/OF Pablo Reyes, OF Corey Ray, C Alex Jackson, RHP Miguel Sanchez, LHP Angel Perdomo and RHP JC Mejia.
Managing the Sounds again in 2022 is the venerable Rick Sweet, who entered the season with 2,101 career managerial wins to rank him 10th in minor league history. This is Sweet’s 10th year in the Milwaukee organization and 35th season coaching professional baseball.
Though the constant roster churn may require Nashville fans to “keep their head on a swivel,” it should also mean they have a winning club to support. Enjoy!
AAA Nashville Sounds – affiliate 2005-2014, 2021-present
- Manager Rick Sweet (returned)
- Assistant Coaches: Jeremy Accardo (pitching), Al LeBoeuf (hitting), Ned Yost IV (coach), Sean Isaac (development coach), Jeff Paxson (athletic trainer), Myles Fish (assistant trainer), Andrew Emmick (strength and conditioning)
- Last Season: 70-58
- Stadium: First Horizon Park, Nashville, Tennessee (opened in 2015; capacity 10,000)
- Projected Regulars: C Mario Feliciano (20), 1B Jon Singleton*, 2B Jamie Westbrook, 3B Pablo Reyes, SS Brice Turang* (4), LF Abraham Almonte^, CF Corey Ray*, RF David Dahl*, DH (1B) Tyler White
- Bench: C Alex Jackson, C Brian Navarreto, IF Mark Mathias, IF Andruw Monasterio, IF/OF Weston Wilson, OF/1B Dustin Peterson, OF Garrett Whitley, OF Jonathan Davis
- Projected Rotation: LHP Ethan Small (7), RHP Alec Bettinger (22), RHP Dylan File (24), RHP Josh Lindblom, RHP Caleb Boushley, RHP Jason Alexander
- Relievers: RHP Miguel Sanchez, LHP Angel Perdomo, RHP JC Mejia, RHP Luis Perdomo, RHP Trevor Kelley, RHP Luke Barker, RHP Thomas Jankins, RHP Hobie Harris, LHP Rex Brothers, RHP Connor Sadzeck, RHP Peter Strzelecki, RHP Moises Gomez, RHP Zack Brown, RHP J.T. Hintzen, RHP Matt Hardy
- Injured/Other: RHP Noah Zavolas, RHP Clayton Andrews, RHP Ray Black
- Youngest Player: Brice Turang (November 21, 1999)
- Biggest Surprise: 38 Players on the roster!!
With three solid minor league squads nearly certain to compete for a spot in the post-season playoffs and a Carolina team full of young talent, there is plenty for fans of Brewers prospects to cheer for in 2022.