Dynasty Baseball

2021 Milwaukee Brewers Diamonds in the Rough

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Welcome to the sixteenth installment of my series, 2021 Diamonds in the Rough as we discuss the Milwaukee Brewers.

In this article, I will break down four prospects–two hitting and two pitching–from the Milwaukee Brewers farm system.

Last time out, I took a look at some of the Miami Marlins prospects.

In deep dynasty leagues, the ability to spot high-upside lower-ranked prospects before they become household names in the fantasy baseball community can make a big difference to the long-term success of your team.

To qualify as a diamond in the rough for this series, a player must be currently ranked lower than No. 15 on their team’s latest MLB Pipeline Prospect Rankings.

Check out our 2021 Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Rankings to help you dominate your leagues.

2021 Milwaukee Brewers Diamonds in the Rough

Hitters

David Hamilton, SS/2B (#27)

Bats: S | Throws: R
Tools: 45 Hit | 35 Power | 70 Run | 40 Field | 40 Arm
Age: 23
Highest Level: High-A
ETA: 2023

The Brewers drafted David Hamilton out of the University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX) in the 8th round (253 overall) of the 2019 MLB draft.

Hamilton boosted his draft stock significantly after a standout 2018 sophomore season at Texas. As a sophomore, Hamilton hit .291 with an excellent .404 OBP, five homers and 31 steals over 275 plate appearances. In addition, Hamilton displayed excellent plate discipline, compiling more walks (43) than strikeouts (40). However, Hamilton was forced to miss his junior season after suffering a ruptured achilles tendon during a scooter accident. Talk about a freak injury,

The Brewers liked what they saw enough to snag Hamilton in the 8th round and sign him at well above-slot. Hamilton returned in 2020 in the independent Constellation Energy League and picked up right where he left off at Texas. Despite being almost four years younger than his average competition, Hamilton hit .296 with a .430 OBP over 100 plate appearances.

In addition, Hamilton converted all 20 of his steal attempts over only 100 plate appearances. Further, Hamilton once again controlled the strike zone, compiled more walks (19) than strikeouts (16). That is a very significant stat for me in evaluating prospects.

According to Ben Badler of Baseball America, at 2020 instructs, Hamilton “was one of the Brewers’ top offensive performers, with positive reports who saw him there. Badler added, “it’s a nice [left-handed] swing, good bat-to-ball skills, controls the strike zone, good athlete, plus speed. How much power is he going to have is the consistent question with him. Hard to get a great read on him the last two years between his injury and the pandemic, but a lot of breakout signals for him heading into 2021.”

In the field, Hamilton projects as an up-the-middle defender. Per Baseball America, Hamilton “showed a solid-average arm and played steady defense at both middle-infield positions during instructs.”

Through the infant stages of the 2021 High-A season, Hamilton has continued to impress. In 2021, Hamilton has hit .283 with an above average .340 OBP and eight steals (in nine attempts) over fifty plate appearances. Further, in 11 games, Hamilton has started at second base four times and shortstop seven times. This mix bodes well for his defensive versatility and ability to rapidly ascend through the system. And, you guessed it, he’s got more walks (four) than strikeouts (three).

What Hamilton lacks in power, he makes up with his solid hit tool, advanced plate approach, and plus speed. Though Hamilton has yet to hit a homer in 2021, he has hit two triples and a double. Moreover, Hamilton has showed a knack for consistently barreling balls. Further, including 2021, Hamilton has not posted an OBP below .340 since his sophomore year at Texas.

During the young 2021 minor league season, Hamilton is already showing signs of living up to his breakout potential. Hamilton is already 23 years and per MLB Pipeline, “the Brewers like [Hamilton’s] makeup enough that they may push him aggressively despite the fact Hamilton [did not] take an at-bat as a pro [prior to 2021].”

This looks like a breakout waiting to happen and when we see that, we like to get in on the ground floor.

Korry Howell, OF (Unranked)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 45 Hit | 40 Power | 70 Run | 45 Field | 45 Arm
Age: 22
Highest Level: High-A
ETA: 2022

The Brewers drafted Korry Howell, an Iowa commit, out of Kirkwood Community College (Cedar Rapids, IA) in the 12th round (365 overall) of the 2018 MLB draft. In his final year at Kirkwood, Kirkwood posted an absurd .397/.476/.565 slash line and swiped 39 bases in 48 attempts.

Howell continued to turn heads in his professional debut in the 2018 Arizona League. In 2018, Howell hit .311 with a .398 OBP, 15 runs, six RBI and 12 steals (in 16 attempts) over 119 plate appearances. Further, Howell displayed solid plate discipline. Howell compiled a 14/24 walk-to-strikeout ratio to go along with an average 20.2 percent strikeout percentage and an above average 11.8 percent walk percentage.

However, Howell fell off a bit in 2019 against stiffer competition at Class A. Howell hit a weak .235 with only two homers and posted an awful 28.1 percent strikeout percentage over 335 plate appearances.

Yet, there were also few silver linings to Howell’s relatively disappointing sophomore season. First, though Howell struggled at the plate, he still managed a passable .329 OBP and an above average 11.8 walk percentage. In addition, Howell’s plus-plus speed was once again on full display. Over 91 games, Howell swiped 19 bases (in 27 attempts).

Through 18 games at High-A in 2021, Howell has been one of the hottest hitters in the minors. Howell has hit .288 with an excellent .400 OBP and seven steals (in eight attempts). But the real story here is the power surge. In 2019, Howell has smashed six homers and racked up 20 runs and 12 RBI over 80 plate appearances. Further, Howell has posted a monster .621 SLG and an excellent 177 wRC+ over 80 plate appearances. Moreover, Howell raised his Isolated Power (ISO) from an awful .082 in 2019 to an excellent .324 in 2021.

Though Howell had not hit for much power prior to 2021, Howell focused on strength training during the long offseason and the results have been evident immediately. According to Howell, “I got in the gym, heavily. I knew that was one thing I had to focus on, was overall just getting stronger, because I wasn’t at the weight and as strong as I needed to be to be as competitive and as consistent as I want to be.”

In the field, Howell played primarily shortstop at college and during his 2018 debut. However, the Brewers have focused on moving Howell to the outfield. After not starting a game in the outfield in 2018, Howell played almost 84 percent of his games in 2019 in the outfield, with all but one appearance coming in center field.

Howell is a supreme athlete and though his arm is fringe average, his speed and athleticism will play in center field. Further, if Howell can develop versatility to play both infield and outfield positions, it could help accelerate his path to the majors.

After hitting only two homers over 454 plate appearances in 2018 and 2019, Howell has already hit six homers in only 80 plate appearances in 2021. Howell has always been more of a speed threat, but the combination of solid plate discipline, blossoming power and potential defensive versatility makes him a true breakout candidate.

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Pitchers

Dylan File, RHP  (#26)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 50 FB | 50 CB | 55 SL | 45 CH | 60 CNTRL
Age: 24
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2022

The Brewers drafted Dylan File out of Division II Dixie State University (St. George, UT) in the 21st round (624 overall) of the 2017 MLB draft.

At Dixie State, File won Pacific West Conference freshman of the year in 2015 and co-pitcher of the year in 2017. In addition, File compiled a 20-4 record and a 3.12 ERA. While he displayed solid control, he only managed 193 strikeouts in 245 innings. For reference, that equates to a below average 7.1 strikeouts per nine inning.

In File’s first full professional season in 2018, File posted a 3.96 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 114/28 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 136.1 innings. File demonstrated his signature command, posting a near excellent 4.9 percent walk percentage. However, he also demonstrated improved strikeout stuff, posting an average 20 percent strikeout percentage.

In File’s second full professional season in 2019, File basically boosted his numbers across the board. Across Class A and Double-A, File compiled a 3.24 ERA, 1.136 WHIP and 136/22 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 147 innings. Not only did File lower his already superb walk percentage to an absurdly low 2.6 percent, but he also boosted his strikeout percentage to an above average 23.1 percent.

Per MLB Pipeline, in 2019, File led all Brewers minors league pitchers in wins (15) while ranking second in innings (147) and fourth in strikeouts (136).

Notably, File excelled after a mid-season promotion to Double-A. In 14 starts, File posted a 9-2 record with a 2.79 ERA, 1.136 WHIP over 80.2 innings. In addition File compiled a solid 73/15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Moreover, File held hitters at Double-A to a significantly lower batting average (.241) than hitters at Class A (.272).

File was also clutch in the playoffs, tossing a gem to get within one win away from the Double-A Finals. He went 8.1 innings and allowed only one run, two hits, one walk and racked up six strikeouts.

File has a very solid four-pitch mix, consisting of a low 90s mph fastball, a swing-and-miss high 70s mph slider, a mid 70s curveball and a low 80s mph changeup. Both of the slider and curveball possess above average potential. Further, though File’s fastball was not particularly overpowering, his stuff plays up due to effective tunneling and elite control. In fact, according to Baseball America, for both 2020 and 2021 File was rated as having the best control in the Brewers system.

During 2020 instructs, File impressed team brass and displayed increased velocity at the alternate training site. According to MLB.com, File underwent a “pretty intense” velocity program and “[s]uddenly, the low range of his pitch was higher than his peak velocity from [2019], settling in between 92-95 mph.

That earned him a spot on the Brewers 40-man roster in November, with a chance to debut in 2021. However, File underwent surgery on February 4 to repair a stress fracture in his right elbow. He expected to miss three and a half to four months from the date of surgery with the injury. That would put File on track for a return around mid-season.

Though File lacks the pedigree of a high-end prospect, I smell a breakout brewing. File has consistently displayed elite control with above-average command on all four of his pitches. If File can maintain the uptick in velocity his showed at instructs once he regains full health, his stock could soar in 2021.

Noah Zavolas, RHP  (Unranked)

Bats: R | Throws: R
Tools: 45 FB | 50 CB | 50 SL | 50 CH | 60 CNTRL
Age: 25
Highest Level: AA
ETA: 2022

When in doubt, go with a Harvard guy. In the words of Class-A Carolina manager Joe Ayrault, “I mean the kid went to Harvard. He studies the advance reports, gets after it, goes with his strengths and can attack the weaknesses as well. It’s very impressive to watch.”

It also does not hurt that Zavolas is originally a Jerry Dipoto guy.

The Seattle Mariners drafted Noah Zavolas out of Harvard University in the 18th round (538 overall) of the 2017 MLB draft. According to Baseball America, fellow Harvard alumnus Brewers general manager David Stearns had targeted Zavolas in the draft but his efforts were thwarted by Dipoto and the Mariners.

About a year and a half later, Stearns and the Brewers got their guy. The Brewers acquired Zavolas from the Mariners when the teams swapped outfielders Ben Gamel and Domingo Santana in December 2018. Ironically, Zavolas is the only player from the deal remaining on the team by which he was acquired.

Zavolas made a name for himself as a senior at Harvard in 2018, when he threw the school’s first no-hitter in 17 years on the way to winning Ivy League pitcher of the year honors. Interestingly, whereas Zavolas served as a reliever his first two years and started exclusively in his final two years at Harvard, Zavolas pitched exclusively as a reliever for Seattle after being drafted in 2018.

Across two levels (Class A and High-A) in 2018, Zavolas pitched 19 games in relief with a 3.03 ERA and sparkling 1.086 WHIP over 38.2 innings. In addition, Zavolas secured two saves and posted a very solid 41/11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

However, after being traded to Milwaukee, the Brewers started Zavolas in each of his 22 games in 2019. The results were a smashing success. In 2019, Zavolas fired 133 innings and posted a 2.98 ERA and a 1.135 WHIP, with a 102/23 strikeout-to-walk ratio, including a complete game shutout. Further, Zavolas posted an elite 4.3 percent walk percentage, which was good for second amongst High-A pitchers in 2019 behind Paul Richan of the Cubs (3.9 percent).

Though Zavolas struggled in his first two starts at Double A in 2021, Zavolas bounced back with a quality start in his third outing on May 23. Zavolas tossed six strong innings, allowing only one run, three hits, and three walks with three strikeouts. The only run scored came on an infield single. In addition, Zavolas retired eight of the last nine batters he faced.

The separating factor for Zavolas is his ability to throw all of his pitches consistently for strikes. His arsenal consists of an 88-91 mph fastball, 77-80 mph curveball, 81-84 mph slider, and 80-82 mph changeup. While Zavolas throws mostly fastballs and curveballs, he effectively mixes in his slider and changeup to keep hitters off balance.

Zavolas possesses an intriguing four pitch mix with elite control. I think that he will continue to develop his slider and changeup now that he is starting full time. Moreover, each of his offerings has average or better potential. After a long layoff in 2020, Zavolas is not getting the attention he deserves after his impressive 2019 season. That may change after a few more starts like his third outing.

To once again quote Class-A Carolina manager Joe Ayrault, “[Zavolas’] work ethic, his intelligence, his stuff…[a]cross the board, it’s a great guy to have on your team.”

 



To uncover more high-upside lower-ranked prospects, you can access all of the articles for other teams in my 2021 Diamonds in the Rough series here.


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About Matt Wiener

Matt is based in New York and is passionate about fantasy baseball and New York sports. He is a fan of the Yankees, Giants, Rangers, Knicks, St. John's, and Ohio State. You can follow Matt on twitter at @mattydubbz13.

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