The Brewers have an exciting young team and there is more impact talent on the way.
The Graduate: Josh Hader, LHP: You don’t often receive a promotion to the Majors when your ERA is 5.37 but the Brewers knew Hader had a chance to help by shifting from the rotation to the bullpen. It was an astute move and he threw 47.2 innings in The Show and allowed just 25 hits. He overpowered big league hitters with his fastball-slider mix and struck out 68 batters. To have success in the Majors as a starter, though, Hader will have to throw more strikes; he walked almost as many hitters as he allowed hits to in 2017: 22 walks to 25 hits. He’ll also want to continue to polish his changeup. Even if he sticks in the ‘pen, the left-hander has a chance to be an impact arm for the Brewers.
First Taste of The Show: Brandon Woodruff, RHP: Selected in the 11th round of the 2014 draft, Woodruff moved swiftly through the minors and had a respectable big league debut in ’17. He showed above-average control and flashed a plus slider. His fastball sat at 94 mph but he needs to improve the command of it, while also polishing his changeup if he wants to be more than a No. 4 starter. He has the frame to be an innings-eater for the Brewers and should have the inside track on a spot in the 2018 rotation for a club that could be a playoff contender if it builds off of its 2017 successes.
The Stud: Lewis Brinson, OF: Acquired from the Rangers in 2016, Brinson has shown some nice adjustments over the past two seasons and is now a true five-tool threat. Early in his career he had a lot of swing-and-miss in his game but he’s lowered his strikeout rate significantly. In 503 plate appearances in 2013 Brinson struck out 38% of the time but lowered that number each year and sat at 18.2% at triple-A in 2017 before his promotion to The Show. The speedy outfielder doesn’t steal a ton of bases but he has 20-20 potential if so motivated. The Brewers have a fair bit of outfield depth so Brinson is not guaranteed to start the 2018 season in the Majors but, if he does, he should provide above-average defence in left field or center.
The Draft Pick: Keston Hiura, 2B: Perhaps the best hitting prospect in the draft, Hiura raked in pro ball with a .371 batting average over two levels — including 27 games in A-ball. He has power but his swing is more geared to line drives and he absolutely stung the ball in low-A (26% line-drive rate). Hiura, 21, will need to tighten up his strike zone a bit after walking just 6% of the time and striking out at a clip of 21% in low-A. An elbow injury that may eventually require Tommy John surgery looms over Hiura but the club will try to heal the injury through rest and rehab.
The Riser: Corbin Burnes, RHP: Burnes was a solid college performer who lasted until the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He looks like a steal now after reaching double-A in his first full season of pro ball. He has a low-to-mid 90s sinking fastball that generates lots of ground balls but his secondary offerings are still developing. He also has some violence to his delivery but walked just 36 batters in 145.2 innings in 2017. He has a good pitcher’s frame and could develop into at least a No. 3 starter if either his curve or change can improve enough to serve as a reliable off-speed offering to his fastball-slider.
The Tumbler: Trent Clark, OF: Selected 15th overall in 2015, Clark’s development has been modest due to his questionable approach at the plate. The ultra-toolsy player has plus speed but he has just enough power to mess with his head. He tries to hit the ball out of the park too much; his speed is more than enough to impact the game. Over the past two years, he’s averaged a 25% strikeout rate. On the plus side, he has some patience and walked 17% of the time in 2017, which helped him nab 37 bases. Clark, 20, is by no means a lost cause given his age but he needs to starting making more contact.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.