Our initial 2017 prospect rankings came out on Wednesday, and that, of course, sparked a lot of debate and questions from our readers. So I picked out a handful of those questions and will take a stab at answering them in our first installment of the Minor League Mailbox for 2017.

You guys have Jorge Lopez higher than any other ranking I’ve seen so far. Is there still hope for him as a prospect? – Mike

Lopez was the Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2015, was decent after getting sent back to Biloxi last year and was outstanding in winter ball. So really the only place he struggled was at Colorado Springs. I tend to think that says more about Colorado Springs than it does about Lopez. Location is going to continue to be key with him but as long he’s able to locate his pitches and throw strikes, he’s got the stuff to pitch in the big leagues. I’m looking for a bounce back year from him, though I do fear sending him back to Colorado Springs will result in more of the same. The guys at Baseball America did a great podcast the other day talking about the Brewers system, and the point was brought up that Lopez has had a pretty heavy workload with winter ball and now the World Baseball Classic coming up, so I do have some concerns as to how much work he can handle, but I still have plenty of hope for him and see a bright future.

Is Jake Gatewood still a legit third base prospect for the Brewers or do you see him moving to first base permanently? – Rene

Gatewood’s moved around the diamond since being drafted by Milwaukee. He started at short, then saw time at third and first in 2016. I think his most value comes at third base and he did show some improvements there as the year went along. I feel like the move to first base was more of a way to keep his bat in the lineup once Lucas Erceg joined Wisconsin last year so hopefully Gatewood gets the chance to continue to develop at third. I also think he’s athletic enough that the Brewers could try him in the outfield if third base doesn’t pan out for him, but the organization has so much depth in the outfield that I think he becomes most valuable if he shows he can stick at third base.

I feel like Troy Stokes gets overlooked a bunch as a prospect. Why is that and how close did he come to making your list? – Michael

Stokes was very close to making our list. In fact, we actually ranked to 50 for our Prospect Preview book, which should be out soon, and Stokes checked in at #41, so he just missed. He’s a solid outfielder but I don’t think there’s any one tool that stands out with Stokes. He hits, runs well, has a little pop, can play multiple positions, but just lacks any one tool that jumps out at you. Players like Victor Roache and Clint Coulter came in slightly ahead of Stokes despite some of their struggles for that very reason. They have plus power in their bats and while that might not ultimately translate, the potential reward is greater. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that Stokes has a better shot of making it to the big leagues, I just think he projects as more of a fourth or fifth outfielder than an everyday starter.

With so many outfield prospects, do you expect to see any of them in Milwaukee to start the season? – Henry

Of the players we have ranked, I would say Michael Reed has the best chance to open the season with Milwaukee as a reserve outfielder. Lewis Brinson will likely get the call at some point, but not to open the season. Though they don’t have prospect status anymore, Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana are both talented youngsters who should start the year in the outfield with Ryan Braun. I see Kirk Nieuwenhuis as being the fourth and if Milwaukee decides to keep a fifth, that could be Reed. Another factor that will play into things is the versatility of a player like Hernan Perez. His ability to play the outfield may allow the Brewers to keep just the four true outfielders on their roster.

Of the Brewers non-roster guys, who do you think has the best shot at making the opening day roster? – Jake

I think the best shot for a non-roster invitee to crack the squad would be in the bullpen and I see several names there who could be considered. David Goforth has gotten some experience the last couple years and 6’8″ lefty Andrew Barbosa will be intriguing to watch after his winter ball performance. Forrest Snow and Ryan Webb are both players I’ll be watching, but the one I’m most excited to see again is Yhonathan Barrios. He was pumping it up into the high-90’s before missing all of last season with a houlder injury, but if he’s fully healthy and returns to form, I could see him becoming not just a bullpen arm, but a key late-inning contributor as the season goes along.

Thanks, as always, for all the great emails. If you have questions about any of the Brewers prospects, feel free to email us at millerparkprospects@gmail.com or tweet us @BrewersMPP and we will pick a few of your questions to use in next month’s edition.