We kick off our annual series today taking a look at the Brewers organizational depth at each position, beginning with first base, a position the Brewers have struggled to fill since Prince Fielder departed in free agency following the 2011 season.
The revolving door at the position has seen the likes of Juan Francisco, Adam Lind and Chris Carter come and go with varying degrees of success, but the team hopes they’ve found their answer for the next several season with the offseason signing of Eric Thames to a three-year contract.
A strong showing by Thames would be quite welcome as first base is one of the weaker positions throughout the system with no clear front-runner down on the farm poised to take the reigns.
Should Thames falter for the Brewers, they have a pair of options who will likely be just a call away at Triple-A Colorado Springs in Garrett Cooper and Art Charles.
Cooper, 26, was a sixth round pick out of Auburn in 2013 and though he has yet to achieve the big-time power numbers you look for from a first baseman, he has steadily risen through Milwaukee’s system, reaching Triple-A last season and posting a career .292 average through four minor league seasons.
Charles, 26, was selected by the Brewers from Cincinnati in the minor league phase of December’s Rule 5 Draft after spending last season playing indy ball. He is more of a prototypical first baseman, generating power with his left-handed swing, including 29 bombs over 96 games for the New Jersey Jackals in 2016.
Former Indiana Hoosier Dustin DeMuth is another option worth keeping an eye on after reaching Double-A Biloxi last season. More of a line drive hitter, DeMuth has played second and third base but saw the majority of his time at first between Biloxi and Brevard County last season.
A bit further away is 2016 23rd round pick Ronnie Gideon who put together a strong debut at rookie level Helena last year. The 22-year-old slugger from Texas A&M tore through the Pioneer League with a 1.010 OPS while racking up 20 doubles and 17 home runs in 59 games.
The Brewers used their 14th round pick in 2015 to select 21-year-old Tyrone Perry out of Lakeland High School in Florida, and were able to sign him away from an offer to Florida State University.
The biggest issue with Perry has been his ability to get on the field as he continues to battle his weight, but when he is at the plate he shows an advanced feel for hitting with a keen eye and the ability to generate plus power thanks to his better than average bat speed and strong lower half.
If he can improve his conditioning and stay on the field, he could move to the head of the first base class.
OTHERS TO WATCH
The remaining first base options worth noting include a pair of 2016 draftees without a defined position in Chad McClanahan and Gabriel Garcia and a pair of International prospects in Venezuelan Nicol Valderrey and Dominican Juan Ortiz.
McClanahan, Milwaukee’s 11th round pick, turned down an offer to Arizona State to sign with the Brewers and saw time at both first and third base last season while Garcia, the Brewers 14th round selection out of Puerto Rico, saw most of his time at first, though there is some hope that he could move behind the plate.
Valderrey, 20, struggled mightily after coming stateside last year, hitting just .220, but is still young enough to turn it around, while Ortiz, 22, split time between Helena and Wisconsin, rolling through the Pioneer League but struggling with inconsistent playing time in the Midwest League.