Saturday, February 8, 2020

2020 Carolina Mudcats Prospect Preview

2020 Carolina Mudcats Prospect Preview

In looking at recent drafts for the Brewer, they have done reasonably well in the first round and in later rounds.  However, you have to go back to 2010 (Jimmy Nelson and Tyler Thornburg) to find major leaguers with any degree of success that the Brewers drafted in the second or third round.  There are a couple (Monte Harrison and Mario Feliciano) that will likely be major leaguers.  The last few years they drafted big projects in the second and the third round that have been slow to develop.

Best Guess on Assignments

Position  Prospect  Assignment
SS Brice Turang Carolina with a chance to move up to Biloxi in the second half.
LHP Aaron Ashby Carolina most likey to start
LHP Scott Sunitsch Carolina or Biloxi
RHP Braden Webb If he is sharp in the spring, they could give him another shot at Biloxi.
RF Tristen Lutz Biloxi is likely
C Payton Henry Biloxi  
RHP Phil Bickford Biloxi
RHP Max Lezar Carolina
LF Je'Von Ward Wisconson to start, based on performance could move to Carolina in the second half.
LHP Ethan Small Should be ready to start in Carolina.
LHP Antoine Kelly Wisconson to start, based on performance could move to Carolina in the second half.
C Nick Kahle Wisconsin or Carolina to start. Should be in Carolina by the second half.
C / 1B Thomas Dillard Wisconsin or Carolina to start. Should be in Carolina by the second half.

Returning Mudcats Prospects

Brice  Turang (6'0" 173 lbs DOB 11-21-99 LR SS 2018 1st round pick) is the Brewers consensus top prospect. The fact that a 2018 high school player made it to High A the following year is impressive.  Turang was promoted to the Mudcats on July 8th and while he struggled with the bat, he was strong defensively and it was a learning experience for him.

Turang is a good athlete with above average speed, but it would be a surprise if he ever hits for power.  For someone so young, Turang has a high floor, but not an especially high ceiling.  He is a good bet to  be a major leaguer as a starter or utility player, but is unlikely to ever be an elite player. 

Either Carolina or Biloxi

Aaron Ashby (6'2" 181 lbs  DOB 5-24-98 LHP 2018 4th round) was certainly the most talented pitcher on the Mudcats roster in 2019.  Ashby was virtually untouchable in his first two starts with the Mudcats after getting promoted on June 8th (14.1 innings, 5 hits, 3 walks while striking out 16).  However, he came back to earth after that and struggled with consistency and seemed to wear down at the end of the season.

Ashby throws in the low to mid nineties with a plus curveball.  Adding a third pitch and improving his command are what Ashby needs to work on to be a major league starter.  

Scott Sunitsch (6'1" 205 lbs DOB 6-16-96 LHP 2018 18th round)  is a crafty lefthander that pitches from different angles.  Sunitsch struggled with inconsistency at Wisconsin in the Midwest League. He was either very good or pretty bad.  Sunitsch did get better as the end of the season, especially after getting promoted to Carolina on August 14th.

Sunitsch was a Senior signee for $5,000 out of Washington State.  The Brewers have had some success with overachieving college pitchers like Sunitsch, Noah Zavolas and Dylan File. Sunitsch's future may be as a loogy.

Braden Webb (6'3" 200 lbs DOB 4-25-95 RHP 2016 3rd round) has good stuff and poor control.  Webb finished 2018 on a high note after getting promoted to AA Biloxi at the end of the season (20 innings allowing 13 his and 10 walks while striking out 24).  However, after opening 2019 in Biloxi with fifteen walks in fifteen innings, Webb was demoted back to Carolina.  For the most part 2019 was a lost season for Webb who turns 25 in April.

It appears inevitable that Webb eventually moves to the bullpen where his plus fastball and curveball combination plays up.

Likely to be Promoted from Carolina to Biloxi 

Tristen Lutz (RF) - his 2019 stats (.255 / .335 / .755) in the Carolina League were virtually identical to his 2018 stats in the Midwest League (.245 / .321 / .742).  The Carolina League was a good challenge for Lutz especially at the beginning of the year.  He held his own and finished strong but did not dominate.  I don't think it is definite that Lutz begins 2020 with Biloxi in the Southern League, but if he does it will be a big challenge for him.

Lutz turned 21 in August and was the 34th pick in the 2017 draft (competitive balance) out of high school in Texas.  He has good size (6'2" 210 lbs) and moves pretty well.  Lutz is solid in right field with a good arm. Lutz has the skills to hit for a lot more power and whether he is able to hit for power will determine whether he becomes a major league regular.  I look for a power leap in 2021.

Payton Henry (C) -A prototypical back up catcher.  In 2019, Henry split catching and DH duties with Mario Feliciano until Feliciano was promoted to Biloxi at the end of the season.  It is quite possible that Henry and Feliciano split catching and DH duties again in 2020  this time for Biloxi.

Henry will be 23 in June.  He is never going to hit for a high average and he strikes out too much.  Henry does have some power.  Henry is solid behind the plate.  He threw out 38% of runners in 2019.

Phil Bickford (RH RP) - It has been a long journey for Bickford since the Blue Jays made him the 10th overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft.  Bickford did not sign with the Blue Jays and was the 18th overall pick of the 2015 MLB draft by the Giants.  Bickford was traded to the Brewers at the trade deadline in 2016 in the Will Smith trade.

Since coming over to the Brewers, Bickford has battled health on off the field issues. In 2017, Bickford only pitched 17 inning in the AZL.  In 2018, pitched 34.2 innings for the Mudcats with a 1.59 WHIP.  

At 24, Bickford put things together out of the Mudcats bullpen during the second half of 2019.  Beginning on July 9th, Bickford pitching 26 innings the rest of the year, allowing no runs, only 9 hits and 6 walks while striking out 39.  This is a player that could be in the Brewers bullpen in 2020 if he is healthy and clean.   

New 2020 Mudcats Prospects

Max Lazar  (6'3" 185 lbs DOB 6-3-99 RHP 2017 11th round) had an respectable 2018 in the hitter friendly Pioneer League and followed up that up with strong statistics in 2019 with the Timber Rattlers in the Midwest League (79 innings allowing 67 hits and 15 walks while striking out 109).

Lazar was a overslot draft choice that signed for $475,000.  He is not the hardest thrower but looks like he can still add some weight so there may be some projection left.  Lazar has excellent fastball command and his change up and curveball are improving.    

Je'Von Ward (6'5" 190 lbs DOB 10-25-99 LF LR 2017 12th round) it is a big jump for a hitter to go from the friendly confines of the Pioneer League to full season in the Midwest League and Ward struggled in 2019.  Ward is a long limbed project that is a good all round athlete that is looking to translate his athleticism to the diamond.   

Ward was another overslot pick by the Brewers in the 2017 draft that they signed for $475,000 in the round after they selected Lazar. The upcoming year is a big one for Ward who will be looking to make progress as he repeats the first part of the year in the Midwest League and hopes to do well enough to get promoted to Carolina in the second half. 

2019 Notable Brewers Draft Picks

The Brewers gave up a several of their best prospects to acquire Christian Yelich, who has been one of the best players in baseball and led the Brewers to the playoffs two years in a row.  In addition, Josh Hader, Keston Hiura and Brandon Woodruff have graduated and become productive major leaguers.  The Brewers farm system is currently pretty bare and they are looking to rebuild both through the draft and international signings.

Round  Pick Player Age Position School Bonus
1 28 Ethan Small 22 P Mississippi State $1,800,000
2 65 Antoine Kelly 19 P Wabash Valley Col $1,025,100
4 133 Nick Kahle 21 C Washington $325,000
5 163 Thomas Dillard 21 C Mississippi $400,000
6 193 Nick Bennett 21 P Louisville $244,900
7 223 Gabe Holt 21 CF Texas Tech $450,000
8 253 David Hamilton 21 SS Texas $400,000
9 283 Darrien Miller 18 C Clovis HS $297,500
10 313 Taylor Floyd 21 P Texas Tech $139,700
11 343 Brock Begue 20 P Cuyahoga CC $125,000
12 373 Arman Sabouri 20 P California $125,000

Ethan Small, Messing with Timing/Leg Hang.

Ethan Small (6'3' 214 lbs DOB 2-14-97 LHP) was spectacular in 2019 in college and as a pro.  Combined he threw 133 innings with 204 strikeouts and only allowed 69 hits and 33 walks.  

Small had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2017 season.  He is not the hardest thrower, but has an unusual delivery with a pause in the middle that throws hitters off balance.  Small is one of the prospects in the Carolina League that I am most excited about seeing in 2020.


Antoine Kelly (6'6" 205 lbs DOB 12-5-99 LHP) for the second year in a row, the Brewers spent a high draft pick on a JUCO southpaw pitcher.  Kelly is very tall, raw and throws hard. If the Brewers develop Kelly as a starter, it may take awhile.   It may be that Kelly is better suited for a relief role, but it has the potential to be a back of the bullpen role.

Nick Kahle (5'10" 210 lbs DOB 2-28-98 RR C) quite a few 2019 PAC 12 catchers could be in the Carolina League this year.  Kahle is likely good enough defensively to stick at catcher.  

As  a Junior, Kahle walked 25%, which was more than twice as much as he struckout. 

Thomas Dillard (6'0" 230 lbs DOB 8-28-97 SR C/1B) for some reason, Dillard is listed as a catcher although he was mostly a leftfielder in college and a 1st basemen as a pro.  He caught a total of three innings with Wisconsin in the Midwest League.  

Dillard reminds me of former Brewer draft pick, KJ Harrison, who was in the Carolina League in 2019 for the Potomac Nationals.  There are batting skills, but the lack of defensive skills are going to make major league success challenging. 

One Down the Road to Monitor

The Brewers had been aggressive the last few years in the international market and they spent a few high draft picks on very young projects.  To date the results have not been great.  

Some of the noteworthy players in the lower minors include Carlos Rodriguez (2017 IFA), Hedbert Perez (2019 IFA), Joe Gray (2nd round 2018), Micah Bello (2nd round 2018), Pablo Abreu (2016 IFA), Alexis Ramirez (2017 IFA), Luis Medina (2019 IFA), Jesus Parra (2018 IFA), Jeferson Quero(2019 IFA), Ernesto Martinez (2016 IFA), Caden Lemon (2nd round 2017), Brendan Murphy (4th round 2017), Nick Egnatuk (5th round 2017), Eduarqui Fernandez (2018 IFA) and Larry Ernesto (2017 (IFA).

Eduardo Garcia (6'2" 160 lbs DOB 7-10-02 SS RR 2018 IFA) signed on his 16th birthday, Garcia is strong defensively with offensive potential.  Garcia fractured his ankle after an encouraging start to the DSL.  

Garcia will likely play in the AZL this year and could move up prospect rankings quickly with more game exposure.

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