The Milwaukee Brewers finished 16 games below the .500 mark in the 2016 season. That record left them a distant 30.5 games behind the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs.
Even the National League Wildcard spots were nowhere in sight. The Brewers were 14 games behind the playoff slots. It was a third losing campaign in the last four seasons for the Brew Crew.
While the Brewers have not been contenders for a while and don’t figure to contend in the coming 2017 season, there is hope for the future.
The Milwaukee farm system was ranked 6th by Keith Law in his most recent MLB organizational rankings back in January. The organization came in 8th at Baseball America in their rankings released three weeks ago.
In his evaluation, Law highlighted two primary reasons for the Brewers high organizational ranking: strong recent drafts and good returns in trades.
“The Brewers’ rebuild has been overshadowed by the presence of three contenders in the division, but they’ve done a good job restocking the system in the last 18 months with two strong draft classes and huge returns on trades of veterans.” ~ Keith Law
LUCROY DEAL BRINGS TOP PROSPECTS
One of those “huge returns” received in a deal came at last summer’s trade deadline. The Brewers sent all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy and pitcher Jeremy Jeffress to the Texas Rangers.
In return the club received prospect outfielder Ryan Cordell and pitcher Luis Ortiz. The latter is now the Brewers’ #4 ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline.
The third prospect received in that deal is the biggest piece. Outfielder Lewis Brinson is a legitimate power-speed combination player. He is now Milwaukee’s top-ranked overall prospect.
Brinson was selected by the Rangers with their first round pick at 29th overall in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of Coral Spring High School in Florida.
He rose through the Texas minor league organization over the ensuing five years, excelling at each stop. Last year, Brinson was slowed by a shoulder injury prior to the trade. He still managed double-digit home run and stolen base totals while with the Rangers system.
MILWAUKEE OUTFIELD MAY BE IN TRANSITION
Brinson is now in camp with the Brewers, and has shined thus far this spring. In 28 plate appearances over his first 11 games, Brinson is hitting for a .286/.355/.571 slash line. He has two homers and seven RBI thus far.
Given health, Milwaukee is set across their starting outfield. Veteran superstar Ryan Braun is in left field, speedy Keon Broxton in center, and 24-year old Domingo Santana in right.
Brinson will likely start the season at AAA Colorado Springs, a hitter’s paradise that should allow him to build confidence and pad his statistical resume.
The Brewers were very close to a trade last summer involving Braun. The 33-year old does not figure to be around when the club is ready to contend. He is again likely to be a hot topic of trade rumor conversation as this coming season moves along.
BRINSON CLOSING IN ON BIG LEAGUES
Brinson is getting close to making his big league debut. He has a quick bat, plus power, can run the bases. Defensively, he can cover tons of ground in the outfield. A couple of more months of work at the AAA level working on pitch recognition, and he should be ready.
Kyle Lobner at The Milwaukee Record wrote on Brinson prior to spring training. He quotes the soon-to-be 23-year old on his prospect status, and his big league aspirations.
“I tell everybody all the time that I’m honored to be on prospect lists and be considered one of the best players in the minor leagues. It’s pretty cool to get that notification, but at the same time I want to not be a prospect anymore…It’s all good and dandy now, but the ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues.”
It could come due to a Braun trade, an injury to someone, or simply his own play forcing the issue over one of the other outfielders.
But it would be no surprise to see Brinson in Milwaukee before this season is out. The hope of the Brewers and their fans is that he is just beginning a long, exciting career.