Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 Topps is Coming, but I'm Still Cracking 2016 Bowman Draft

The checklist for 2017 Topps is out. Well, I take that back. The checklist is not out, but the list of cards in Series 1 is. There are two pretty strange inclusions in the Brewers list of players. First off, we have Chris Capuano. Capuano pitched okay last season for the team in 16 appearances -- a 1-1 record, a 4.12 ERA in 24 innings -- but that should not have merited inclusion in the 2017 Topps set as a Brewer. That's especially true because Capuano did not pitch after May 25.

The other strange inclusion is Will Middlebrooks. The now 28-year-old Middlebrooks is no longer a prospect and is now four years removed from looking like a competent major-league hitter (his 2012 rookie year in Boston is looking like a fluke). Middlebrooks appeared in 10 games and got 31 plate appearances for the Brewers last year and has already signed with the Rangers for 2017 -- yet he got a card. Just 24 Brewers had more plate appearances last year, including six starting pitchers.

Why do these two get cards? Is it because they appeared in the major leagues before with more "important" teams (Middlebrooks with the Red Sox, Capuano with the Mets, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees)? Is it because Will Middlebrooks is married to Jenny Dell and she demanded he get a card?

I'd rather see Brent Suter -- the 27-year-old Harvard grad whom the Brewers selected in the 31st round of the 2012 draft -- get a card than either of these two. Suter appeared in 14 games and threw 21.2 innings, including 2 wins and a 3.0 K/BB ratio. The fact that he's a genuinely nice guy does not hurt either -- at least he has been in my interaction on Twitter with him. 

Anyway, all that is just to prove that Topps can't win with me. Include fringe players, and I complain as to which fringe players are included. Overlook my guys, and feel my wrath. Right? 

Topps/Bowman did not overlook the Brewers, though, in the recent 2016 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects release. The Brewers were well-represented -- though, once again, there were some head-scratching inclusions. I signed up for the charity case break for this product through Crackin' Wax (I feel like I should call him "my old friend" by this point). I got all the Brewers, of course, and plenty of first-round pick Corey Ray out of Louisville. 

Let's see the chrome cards of these guys. 

Mario Feliciano was the Brewers second-round pick out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. He's a decent-sized catcher (6'1", 195 pounds) and just turned 18 years old on November 20. MLB Pipeline ranked him the 28th best prospect in the Brewers system as of the end of the season. 

Braden Webb was the Brewers third-round draft choice. He was an oddity -- a college freshman (at South Carolina) who was eligible to be drafted because he took two years off after high school and Tommy John Surgery. He was the Gamecocks Saturday pitcher, and he was named the National Pitcher of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He did not make the Brewers top 30 prospects on MLB Pipeline. 

I guess perhaps because of his injury history and the fact that he pitched 102 innings at USCe, the Brewers did not have him pitch in games last year. So yes, we know that photo above is 100% a Photoshop job.

Ryan Cordell was the player to be named later in the Jonathan Lucroy deal with Texas. Cordell will be 25 on Opening Day this year, and he has spent the past two years at Double-A. He was the Rangers 6th best prospect; he's the Brewers 18th best prospect. He has a little pop and a little speed, but he'll need to get to Colorado Springs and show something quick. The Brewers have enough OF to stock a trout pond with them.

Corbin Burnes was the Brewers 4th round pick in 2016 out of St. Mary's College of California. He made it to the Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last year. He's got good stuff -- scouts say he has a low- to mid-90s fastball with an elite breaking ball and a good changeup. He struggled a little bit in Low-A with his control -- 5.0 BB/9 -- but he could move up reasonably quickly. He's rated as the Brewers 20th overall prospect.

Say hello to the guy that MLB Pipeline on Wednesday called the best LHP prospect in baseball, Josh Hader. The dude has crazy hair and a consistent 93-97 fastball, and in the past has been compared to Chris Sale. The Brewers got him in the Carlos Gomez trade to Houston. Thanks, Houston!

As of the end of last season, Hader was the Brewers third-best prospect. 

Trent Clark was the Brewers first round pick in the 2015 Draft, and received a $2.7 million bonus for it. He's made a couple of trips to the DL last year due to hamstring troubles, which limited his at-bats last year at the age of 19. He's a true center fielder, but he's projected to be able to hit enough to play a corner.  

MLB Pipeline rated him the Brewers sixth-best prospect at the end of 2016.

Marcos Diplan is a pitcher the Brewers got as part of the Yovani Gallardo trade with the Rangers. He's a Dominican who pushed all the way through full-season baseball at the age of 19 last year. He dominated the Midwest League in 70 innings -- 1.80 ERA and just 6.3 hits allowed per nine while walking 4.1/9 innings and striking out 11.4 per nine innings. He got hit a bit in the Florida State league after that, but he was 4 years younger than his competition there.

MLB Pipeline slots him in as the 12th best Brewers prospect.

Luis Ortiz is another Rangers refugee, having come over from Texas in the Lucroy trade. He's had some injuries -- a groin muscle pull last year, for instance. That injury question is the big question over his potential.

MLB Pipeline's write-up for Ortiz says that he has the stuff to profile as a possible number 2 starter if he can stay healthy. On that potential, he finished the year as the Brewers 4th best prospect.

Oh, Silly Billy Philly. Phil Bickford was listed as the 5th best prospect in the Brewers system at the end of last year. However, he will be cooling his jets on the sidelines for the first 50 games of the 2017 season for testing positive for a "drug of abuse" -- probably marijuana, which he tested positive for in June of 2015 as well, apparently. He was the focal point of the Will Smith trade with the Giants last year.

A little bit of the luster is off Brett Phillips's prospect sheen after last year. He only slashed .229/.332/.397 at Double-A Biloxi and struck out 154 times. Still, he will not turn 23 until May 30 this year, so I would anticipate that he makes the move to Triple-A Colorado Springs. He dropped from being the 2nd best prospect in the Brewers system to being number 7 at the end of the year. He fell behind Trent Clark and Josh Hader, and Corey Ray slotted in ahead of him.

Speaking of Corey Ray: the Brewers first-round draft pick in 2016 and the 5th pick overall out of the University of Louisville, MLB Pipeline rated him the Brewers 2nd best prospect. He had surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee after the season ended. 

He has a gun in the outfield, and he runs well enough to play center. He may not, though, have the instincts on balls in center (according to "some scouts").

All in all and as you can see, the Brewers were rightfully well-represented in the 2016 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects set. If I had to nitpick a bit, I would wonder where the number 1 Brewers prospect -- Lewis Brinson -- is. I might also wonder where 46th overall pick Lucas Erceg is -- he could move up quickly in the system since he's practically the only third-base prospect in the system at 17th overall. 

Still, that is nitpicking. It was fun to get a huge stack of cards of multiple players from a case break from a new product for a change. Many thanks go out to "Topher" and his wife "Literal Quirk" for all the hard work they put in to make these breaks a success.


  1. I often wonder why players to be free agents are included in series 1. Eovaldi has a Yankees card, but everyone knew he was a free agent. Why include him?

    Great Draft pickups!

  2. Man, I really love the Brewers' farm system. I listened to my favorite podcast today, Effectively Wild, and one of the guys couldn't stop dropping names of solid prospects.

    1. I am with you on that. The way David Stearns has rebuilt - or rather, built up -- the farm system is fantastic. The only thing potentially missing is a superstar, I suppose. Those aren't easy to find.