Over the last decade, the Milwaukee Brewers have become notorious for their surplus of power hitters in their minor league affiliates. A large reason for that distinction has come through the draft, where they’ve been able to develop a collection of current sluggers at the big league level.
But if you took a quick peek at the present state of their minor league partners, however, odds are you’d respectfully disagree.
With a farm system looking to reload at this June’s draft, the Brewers have hardly any positional prospects who could push for a call-up in the immediate future, let alone any with exceptional power potential. However, there have been a few youngsters who’ve gotten off to a hot start this season, strutting their power as best they can. Just who are these youngsters and what qualifies them as a “slugger”? Let’s find out.
*All statistics through May 15, 2012
Height/Weight: 6’2″, 190 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2009, eighth round
Low-A: .248/.343/.440, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 20 R, .192 ISO, 129 wRC+ (146 PA)
One of the biggest speedsters in Milwaukee’s system, Chadwin Stang can also hit for a surprising amount of power. The 23-year-old outfielder proved in his first two professional seasons that he’s more than capable of barreling up the baseball on a regular basis.
While he’s certainly not a big home run threat (he has tallied just six career home runs to this point in his career), he’s accumulated 23 doubles and 14 triples. This season has been his best as far as power goes, already mashing three home runs and eight doubles for a .438 slugging percentage that ranks as one of the best among all Brewers prospects.
A solid overall talent, Stang’s power is nothing to write home about, so the fact that he makes this list mostly speaks to how very few sluggers are in Milwaukee’s system.
9. Gregory Hopkins
Height/Weight: 6’1″, 200 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2010, 24th round
Low-A: .302/.316/.457, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 18 R, .159 ISO, 124 wRC+ (134 PA)
A three-year starter at St. John’s University, Gregory Hopkins was a doubles machine during his collegiate career and also showed he can go yard every once in a while. The Brewers recognized his productivity and acted on it, selecting him in the 24th round of the 2010 draft.
His first two seasons were up-and-down as far as hitting for power goes. Hopkins swatted six home runs and 48 RBI for a .412 slugging percentage in his rookie 2010 season. He followed that up with seven home runs and 53 RBI in 2011, though he saw his slugging percentage drop to .333 with a concerning .104 ISO. He’s returned to his slugging ways this season in Low-A ball, already with three home runs and a solid .457 slugging percentage.
Hopkins has average power-hitting capabilities, and unless a severe spike in production is on the horizon, I wouldn’t put too much stock into his future with the organization.
Height/Weight: 6’0″, 201 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2011, 23rd round (Florida)
Low-A: .293/.330/.465, HR, 14 RBI, 15 R, .167 ISO, 131 wRC+ (107 PA)
Taken by the Brewers as a mid-rounder at last summer’s draft, Ben McMahan was never known as a power hitter during his days at the University of Florida. Moreover, he was never known as a very productive player altogether, garnering a career .253/.293/.358 line in his three seasons with he Gators. However, he’s quickly turned into a decent slugger in professional ball.
As a 21-year-old in the rookie ranks, McMahan amassed seven home runs and 10 doubles on his way to an impressive .519 slugging percentage and .204 ISO. An anxious hitter by nature, he drew just three walks all season and struck out in over 21 percent of his at-bats. He’s off to a fast start this season in Low-A ball, posting a .465 slugging percentage that ranks second-best among all Brewers prospects.
Height/Weight: 5’10”, 185 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2010, 44th round
Low-A: .238/.336/.429, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 14 R, .194 ISO, 121 wRC+ (146 PA)
One of the more versatile and well-rounded bats in Milwaukee’s system, T.J. Mittelstaedt by no means possess raw home-run power. The California native has proven, however, that he is more than capable of raking up the doubles and triples to compliment his raw speed in the field and on the bases.
Now in his third professional season, the Long Beach State product has compiled just 16 home runs but has amassed 30 doubles and 11 triples. His solid, yet not astounding power has led to a career .433 slugging percentage and .157 ISO.
Mittelstaedt has a very smooth and quick swing and despite being a bit undersized, I think his bat has enough to make an impact at the big league level, possibly as a utility infielder.
Height/Weight: 6’3″, 215 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2010, 14th round
High-A: .241/.329/.383, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 16 R, .147 ISO, 104 wRC+ (149 PA)
Taken in the 14th round of the 2010 draft after four productive seasons at Pacific University, Michael Walker has been one of the more underrated power hitters in the Brewers’ system since his rookie campaign in 2010, where he posted an impressive .413 on-base percentage and .434 slugging percentage in 74 games.
The very next season, the tall utility infielder socked 14 home runs and drove in 72, upping his slugging percentage to .455 and .182 ISO. He’s gotten off to a slow start in 2012 from a power standpoint, posting just a .383 slugging percentage and .143 ISO through 149 plate appearances against High-A Florida State League pitching.
Walker doesn’t hit for a very high average, so most of his production comes from his power. He’s an average talent all around, so the only way he could break through to the majors will be if his power develops more fully.
Height/Weight: 6’5″, 245 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2009, 13th round
Double-A: .267/.350/.410, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 9 R, .137 ISO, 95 wRC+ (120 PA)
Picked up in the 13th round of the 2009 draft, Sean Halton has never been and will likely never be known as a home run threat. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he shouldn’t be deemed a power hitter.
Now in his fourth season in Milwaukee’s system, the cumbersome 24-year-old has amassed just 25 career home runs, none of which have come at more than 10 per season. Yet, he’s managed just shy of 23 doubles and a .431 slugging percentage per season. His most impressive campaign came in 2010 in Low-A ball, where he drove in 88 runs and posted a .123 ISO.
Halton is a seasoned minor leaguer at this stage of his career. And while he’s still only 24 years old, his future with the organization remains up in the air.
4. Khris Davis
Height/Weight: 6’0″, 195 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2009, seventh round (Cal State Fullerton)
Double-A: .328/.451/.448, HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, .119 ISO, 168 wRC+ (82 PA)
Selected by the Brewers early in the 2009 draft after pounding the ball at Cal State Fullerton, Khris Davis got minimal opportunities to strut his power stroke in ’09. That all changed in 2010, when the speedy outfielder socked 22 home runs with 72 RBI, garnering a .499 slugging percentage and .219 ISO in 555 plate appearances against Low-A Midwest League pitching.
The followed up his stellar 2010 campaign with a combined 17 home runs and 84 RBI last season between High-A and Double-A ball. That same season, he garnered a .474 slugging percentage and .173 ISO. Before hitting the disabled list with a leg injury last Friday, Davis was enjoying a very nice season in Double-A ball.
Davis has good overall power, but he likely won’t be too much of a home run threat at the big league level. I’d say he has a better chance at being a doubles and triples hitter once fully developed.
3. Caleb Gindl
Height/Weight: 5’9″, 205 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2007, fifth round (Pace HS)
Triple-A: .164/.203/.310, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 9 R, .149 ISO, 29 wRC+ (123 PA)
Drafted as a stocky but slightly undersized prep outfielder in 2007, Caleb Gindl has disproved the belief that shorter players can’t hit for power. The 23-year-old Pensacola, Florida native has proved to be one of Milwaukee’s most productive power-hitting prospects.
Gindl’s productive ways began during his rookie 2007 season as an inexperienced 18-year-old, where he swatted five home runs and 22 doubles for an eye-opening .580 slugging percentage in rookie ball. Since then, all he’s managed to do is average 14 home runs, 27 doubles, a .453 slugging percentage and .162 ISO each season.
He’s gotten off to a slow start at Triple-A this season, most notably due to an expansion of his strike zone and subsequent poor plate discipline. However, he’s a very solid all-around player with good power. I would expect him to compete for the Brewers’ everyday center field spot by the end of next season.
2. Brock Kjeldgaard
Height/Weight: 6’5″, 235 pounds
Drafted/Signed: 2005, 34th round
Double-A: .192/.295/.385, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 6 R, .192 ISO, 93 wRC+ (61 PA)
A toolsy prospect originally drafted as a pitcher in 2005, Brock Kjeldgaard has been arguably Milwaukee’s most steadfast slugger on the farm since making the transition to first base in 2008. That year, he posted a very solid .225 ISO in 343 plate appearances at the rookie ranks, and has since averaged at least 20 home runs through last season.
At 6’5″, 235 pounds, Kjeldgaard’s towering frame and long arms allow him to cover the plate well. He doesn’t draw a lot of walks or hit for a good average, so his slugging prowess is where his production largely stems from. He has pretty good speed given his size, as he managed to rack up 108 doubles and 10 triples during his time in the system.
Now 26, Kjeldgaard still has time to make an impression to management. However, given that he’s labored at the plate this season at the Double-A level and has yet to reach Triple-A, I wouldn’t read too much into his future with the Brewers. He’s a solid minor league hitter, but doesn’t look to be much of a slugger in the bigs.
1. Hunter Morris
Height/Weight: 6’4″, 205 pounds
Double-A: .303/.357/.470, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 17 R, .167 ISO, 135 wRC+ (143 PA)
A power-hitting highlight reel during his college days at the University of Auburn, Hunter Morris has established himself as Milwaukee’s most projectable slugger on the farm. He found quick success during his rookie season in Low-A ball, posting a .436 slugging percentage and .186 ISO. He’s only continued to post gaudy numbers since then.
Against High-A Florida State League pitching last season, Morris mashed 19 home runs and 28 doubles on his way to a .461 slugging percentage, warranting a late-season call-up to Double-A ball. Though it came in just 17 plate appearances, Morris posted a scintillating .353 ISO and .706 slugging percentage to finish up his 2011 campaign.
While he’s struggled to match his past slugging numbers to start this season—along with a concerning strikeout rate north of 18 percent—he’s still without a doubt Milwaukee’s top power hitter on the farm. It should be interesting to see what management plans to do with him given that Mat Gamel’s future is in deep question.