TOP PROSPECTS OPENING THE SEASON WITH THE SKY SOX
In a season where the Colorado Springs Triple-A roster is loaded with prospects seeking their first big-league taste, The Gazette's Brent Briggeman details the top five to track.
Lewis Brinson, OF
Acquired: In 2016 trade that sent Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to Texas.
Rundown: A first-round pick in 2012, the 22-year-old five-tool center fielder has long been viewed as a potential star (he entered last year rated as the No. 2 prospect in Texas' system), and that perception only intensified when he dominated in a 23-game promotion to Colorado Springs at the end of last season. He hit .382 with a .618 slugging percentage in that stretch and is returning now as the Brewers' top prospect biding his time before his first big-league call-up.
Quote: "I think there's some things I need to work on. The Brewers definitely have a plan for me. I want to be 100 percent ready when I go up there. I have some things to work on and this is the perfect place to do it."
Ryan Cordell, OF
Acquired: In 2016 trade that sent Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress to Texas
Rundown: A bit more advanced in age than his fellow Sky Sox prospects, the 25-year-old Cordell has also seen his power advance over each of his three professional seasons. He hit 19 home runs in 107 Double-A games last year to go with 12 stolen bases. He's an athletic outfielder who has played multiple positions, including infield, but who is likely to settle into left or right field this year and see if that power can continue to develop.
Quote: "Obviously a lot of good things tend to happen for hitters in a park like this at this elevation, but I'm going to try not to worry about that and just play my game.
I've heard coaches say you don't hit home runs, pitchers throw home runs. So, you can't try to hit home runs if they're not throwing them."
Josh Hader, RHP
Acquired: In 2015 trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston.
Rundown: Hader, who turns 23 on Friday, ranked fourth in the minor leagues with 161 strikeouts last year and rocketed to consensus status as a top-40 prospect in baseball (Baseball America ranks him No. 2 on the Brewers). He struggled to a 1-7 record with the Sky Sox last year, but he improved as his time in Triple-A went on and he still posted 88 strikeouts in 69 innings at the level. His career minor-league numbers include a 3.03 ERA, .212 opponents batting average, 1.19 WHIP and 10.3 K/9. In its projected 2020 Brewers lineup, Baseball America lists him as the team's ace.
Quote: "Everybody wants to get in the big leagues. And everybody wants to stay in the big leagues as well. So everybody's doing everything they can to make sure they better themselves and they're prepared every day and when they get that call they're ready for that big stage and to stay there."
Brett Phillips, OF
Acquired: In 2015 trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston
Rundown: Phillips, 22, is fighting a drift toward becoming a true three-outcome hitter (home run, walk, strikeout). He hit 16 home runs last year in Double-A, but batted just .229 and struck out 154 times in 124 games. A strong-armed outfielder with above-average speed, he knows if he can utilize his pitch recognition (67 walks last year) and apply self-discipline to avoid chasing bad pitches, he has the tools to fit in a big-league outfield and thrive.
Quote: "I cannot allow myself to get in the box and say, 'I'm going to hit this ball 450 feet.' Get in the box, hit what's given to me and not chase out of the zone."
Brandon Woodruff, RHP
Acquired: 11th round of 2014 draft out of Mississippi State
Rundown: Woodruff's was the Brewers' minor league Pitcher of the Year last year after leading all minor-leaguers with 173 strikeouts. High-A opponents hit just .205 against him in eight starts, and over 20 Double-A starts he held opponents to a .211 mark. Rated by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in the organization, he's listed by the publication as having the system's best fastball.
Quote: I don't back down and just let hitters know I'm coming right at them. I think that gets early swings and early contact and early outs and I can have some quick innings. That's my mentality is just going right after guys."