The Milwaukee Brewers invited nine of their minor-league prospects to spring training on Wednesday, increasing their number of non-roster invitees to 14.
Players on the 40-man roster automatically are invited to camp but these prospects have not reached that status yet. Topping the list is second baseman Keston Hiura, rated the No. 1 prospect in the Brewers’ system and a fast-rising star after being named MVP of the Arizona Fall League.
Also invited are third baseman Lucas Erceg, who opened eyes in the Brewers’ camp with his power in 2017; catcher Payton Henry; outfielder Corey Ray; right-hander Zack Brown; infielder Nate Orf, and right-handed pitchers Bubba Derby, Jon Olczak and Miguel Sanchez.
Hiura, a first-round draft pick in 2017, split 2018 at Class A Carolina and Class AA Biloxi, batting .293 with 34 doubles, 13 home runs, 43 RBI and .821 OPS. He dominated the Arizona Fall League, batting .323 with five homers and 33 RBI in 23 games, with a .934 OPS.
Henry’s invitation is an indication of how highly he is regarded by the Brewers after playing for low Class A Wisconsin in 2018. He is only 21 but is considered a player to watch with solid defense, leadership skills and budding power (10 homers in 337 at-bats).
Ray and Brown were the organization’s player and pitcher of the year for 2018, respectively, after huge seasons with Biloxi. A first-round draft pick in 2016, Ray was the most valuable player of the Southern League, slugging 27 home runs with 75 RBI, 37 stolen bases, 128 hits and .804 OPS. Brown was that circuit’s top pitcher, going 9-1 with a 2.44 ERA in 22 games for Beloit, including 116 strikeouts in 125 2/3 innings.
Erceg is considered one of the Brewers’ Top 10 prospects but had a somewhat tough 2018 season at Biloxi (.688 OPS) after being beaned early in the year. He has monstrous power, however, as the Brewers learned in camp two years ago.
Derby, acquired with catcher Jacob Nottingham from Oakland in the Khris Davis trade in February 2016, made considerable progress last season at Class AAA Colorado Springs, where he was 6-5 with a 4.49 ERA in 31 games (16 starts) while playing in a tough pitching venue.
Orf has been one of the top performers for years in the Brewers’ system and made his big-league debut in 2018, hitting a home run against Minnesota for his first hit. Olczak had a huge year in relief at Biloxi, going 10-3 with a 1.44 ERA and four saves in 42 appearances.
Sanchez split 2018 between Carolina and Biloxi (with one appearance at Colorado Springs), going 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in 34 relief outings, with 95 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Phoenix on Wednesday, Feb. 13, with the first official workout the next day. Position players will report on Monday, Feb. 18, with the first full-squad workout the following day.
The first exhibition game will be on Saturday, Feb. 23, against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa. The first home game in their remodeled stadium in Maryvale will be on Tuesday, Feb. 26, against the San Diego Padres.