The Milwaukee Brewers no longer have one of the best farm systems in baseball. After rounds of trades and big acquisitions, the top level of the farm is depleted. But despite losing the top layer, the system is still deep with players who have a shot at MLB roles in the future. With a deep system, comes some huge decisions.
This year, Brewers have nearly 40 players eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The draft is designed as a way to prevent teams from piling up minor league players who may have otherwise gotten to the big leagues with another organization. Here is how a player becomes eligible:
- Players who signed when 18 or younger are eligible for the draft after five years.
- Players who signed when 19 or older are eligible after four years.
- Player is not on the 40 man roster.
(According to the rules, it’s how old a player was on the June 5th immediately preceding his signing.)
During the draft, any other MLB team with an open 40-man spot can pick these players and add them to to their roster. The player must stay on that team’s 25-man MLB roster for the whole next season (including minimum of 90 days on the active roster, not the DL), or be offered back to the original team at a slight cost. The Brewers can protect a player by adding them to their 40-man roster.
Every player eligible for the draft is listed down below by position groups and in alphabetical order. Top prospects are bolded.
C: Carlos Leal, Max McDowell,
IF: Blake Allemand, Luis Aviles Jr., Jake Gatewood, Julio Mendez, Tucker Neuhaus, Nate Orf
OF: Jay Feliciano, Nic Pierre, Joantgel Segovia, Troy Stokes Jr., Dillon Thomas
RHP: Tristan Archer, Rodrigo Benoit, Phil Bickford, Jesus Brea, Bowdien Derby, Nattino Diplan, Conor Harber, Preston Gainey, Nate Griep, Nelson Hernandez, Carlos Herrera, Alec Kenilvort, Cody Ponce, Jon Olczak, Dan Reynolds, Wuilder Rodriguez, Tyler Spurlin, Trey Supak, Josh Uhen, Devin Williams
LHP: Jake Drossner, Nathan Kirby, Brad Kuntz, Drake Owenby, Quintin Torres-Costa, Christian Trent
Jake Gatewood, 1B (#10)
Gatewood was having one of his best pro seasons, then in July, he tore his ACL. The corner infielder is finally showing his power, with an easy stroke that leads to doubles and homers. His injury and lack of control at the plate will likely steer clear for now.
Trey Supak, RHP (#13)
Supak’s addition to the 40-man roster is all but certain. Over 137.2 IP, the big righty pitched to a 2.48 ERA across two levels. There’s a good argument to be made for him getting a chance on the big league roster next year, he’ll need to be on the 40-man for that to happen.
Troy Stokes Jr., OF (#15)
Stokes is one who deserves to be protected, but it doesn’t seem likely that he gets added to the 40-man roster. His offense wasn’t as good this year as it was in 2017, but he won a Rawlings Gold Glove. Still, the Brewers have plenty of outfielders and only so many can go on the 40-man.
Cody Ponce, RHP (#17)
Ponce is another candidate for protection on the 40-man roster. Teams are more likely to take a risk on pitchers than hitters and Ponce has a decent ceiling that could help a rebuilding team. Ponce has a career 3.77 ERA and has shown versatility in the role he can take on. The Brewers tried him in long appearances out of the pen in Biloxi, where he pitched to a 3.57 ERA over 40.1 innings, compared to a 4.94 ERA in 54.2 innings as a starter. That’s the type of pitcher the Brewers seem interested in, and a relief role can help his low 90’s fastball, above-average cutter and curve play up.
Carlos Herrera, RHP (#28)
Carlos Herrera is one of the top prospects who likely go unprotected as there should be little risk that anyone takes him. Herrera spent a second season with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, pitching to a 5.46 ERA. Advanced metrics like DRA (4.47) and FIP (4.87) say he pitched better than that, but not much better. His fastball sits in the low 90s and his curveball is his best secondary pitch, but none of his pitches are good enough for him to survive hidden on a major league roster.
Quintin Torres-Costa, LHP
Torres-Costa was the most likely player to be protected alongside Trey Supak. He’s a high-leverage lefty reliever who pitched to a 1.31 ERA over 55 innings with 65 Ks. Unfortunately, Torres-Costa just recently went under the knife for Tommy John surgery. If Milwaukee hides him on the 40-man, it’d be on the 60-day DL. He wouldn’t be eligible for the 60-day until February, meaning he’d clog up a spot on the 40-man roster. Once on the 60-day, he’d start accruing major league service time and earning a major league salary.
Bowdien Derby, RHP
Derby has been a reliable starting pitcher in the Brewers’ system since he was acquired in the Khris Davis trade. His best pitch is a changeup that keeps hitters off balance. He’d serve well as a flex pitcher, but the Brewers may not have room for him on the 40-man. If anyone were to be claimed by another team in the Rule 5 draft, Derby might be the most likely for a team that needs to fill the back end of their rotation.
Jon Olczak, RHP
Olczak was one of the most dominant relievers in the Milwaukee Brewers’ system in 2018. Pitching in Carolina and Biloxi, Olczak allowed just nine earned runs over 58.1 innings while striking out 63. Whether Olczak is protected depends on if the Brewers’ front office believes he’ll be able to have an impact in the major in 2019.
Phil Bickford, RHP
The prize return in the Will Smith trade, Bickford has been a disappointment at best since joining the Brewers. He’s lost his elite velocity and now works in the low 90s on a good day. Although the Brewers paid a big price to get Bickford, it’s hard to imagine they’d put him on the 40-man to protect him, especially since he hasn’t left high-A since joining the club.
Devin Williams, RHP
Williams was once regarded as a top prospect in the Brewers’ farm. A year ago, he underwent Tommy John Surgery and returned just this year. While recovering, Williams pitched 34 innings and had a 5.82 ERA. Although the results were poor, Williams has some great tools and still has value. There’s potential Milwaukee protects him.
Nate Kirby, LHP
Kirby was once a top draft prospect, but after three years of injury problems, there’s few people who still regard him highly. The potential that he could become a valuable asset is still there, but it’s hard to imagine Milwaukee using a roster spot on a pitcher who’s rarely been active since joining the club.
Nate Orf, UTL
The legend of Nate Orf grew ten fold last year as the Brewers needed help in their middle infield. When Orf came up, he barely produced and wasn’t the help that the Brewers needed. I can’t see the Brewers protecting the utility player, especially with Mauricio Dubon set to return from an ACL surgery.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus