The collection of talent populating the Sky Sox roster – and sprinkled throughout Milwaukee’s system – can be traced in large part to a sell-off mode that set the stage for the big league club’s rebuild.
Is it possible that the Triple-A level could see the opposite with that rebuild so far ahead of schedule that the Brewers lead the NL Central?
Colorado Springs manager Rick Sweet won’t pretend to read the mind of general manager David Stearns, but he could certainly foresee a situation where a move could be made to enhance the contending team in Milwaukee.
“It’s just fun to be on the other end,” Sweet said. “About three years early.”
Stearns was hired in October 2015 and quickly set to work selling off big-league assets to build for the future. Carlos Gomez, Adam Lind, Jonathan Lucroy, Francisco Rodriguez and Jean Segura are among the players Stearns has dealt. Some of the players gained in return – Chase Anderson, Keon Broxton, Manny Pina and Jonathan Villar among them – are filling key roles for the first-place Brewers.
But it’s in the minor leagues, particularly here in Colorado Springs, where the results of those trades are most pronounced.
Top prospect Lewis Brinson (.306/.391/.510), slugging outfielders Brett Phillips (.297/.366/.593) and Ryan Cordell (.290/.362/.484) as well as touted pitcher Josh Hader (3-4, 5.58 ERA) were acquired through deals and are a big reason the Sky Sox entered Sunday 31-21 and with a three-game lead in their division.
The Brewers own five of the top 60 prospects in baseball according to MLB.com (led by Brinson at No. 13), and three were brought in through trades (the others were first-round picks).
“It’s cool to be part of an organization that’s winning games,” said Cordell, who came over from Texas in a trade for Lucroy last year. “You want to be part of organizations that are making playoff pushes and are trying to get there.”
How members of the current Sky Sox roster will factor into that playoff push remains to be seen. There are plenty of hitters – including 1B Garrett Cooper (.345/.392/.561) – who could provide a boost. The pitching staff includes prospect Brandon Woodruff, who could help, and others like Tyler Cravy and Brent Suter who already have and likely will again.
“That major league club, they’re playing well, but there’s still room for them to get better and improve and grow, and we’ve got a lot of players here who are going to be a part of that,” Sweet said.
“Right now, they’re in first place, they want to stay in first place. They’re going to play the best people, whether they are up there or here. I’m sure if they were looking to trade to get better up there, they would do that. But if they’re going to get better than what we already have, they’re going to get some pretty good players. We’ve got a lot of very good players up there and here.”
The Sky Sox (31-21) host Round Rock (27-30) for a four-game series starting Monday. Here’s a look at a key prospect to track while the Express are in town:
Ronald Guzman, 1B
Rated by MLB.com as the No. 4 prospect in the Texas system and No. 5 among all first basemen, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Guzman grew into his power stroke last year. Signed in 2011 as a 16-year-old, Guzman cracked 15 home runs in 101 Double-A games last year before earning a Triple-A promotion. He’s hitting .294/.360/.426 this year.