Every Thursday this season Bally Sports Wisconsin took a closer look at some specific young players in the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm system -- as well as noting others who might be stepping up -- measuring, highlighting and evaluating their progress.
For our 23rd and final edition of this year's Young Brewers Tracker, we offer our MVPs for Milwaukee’s minor-league teams as well as some notable players. For our purposes, we'll limit our picks to players who might still be considered a prospect.
Player of the year: OF Sal Frelick (1st round, 2021), Wisconsin/Biloxi/Nashville
Skinny: This wasn’t an easy decision, but Frelick gets the nod due to his overall play in 2022. He began the year at High-An and ended in Triple-A, combining to slash .331/.403/.480. His batting average led all Brewers minor leaguers and he was third in on-base percentage. He also ranked high in the system in doubles (28), stolen bases (24) and OPS (.883). He walked 52 times and struck out just 63. At Nashville, including postseason, through Wednesday, he’s reached base in 41 consecutive games. Let’s not forget the 22-year-old was drafted just last season – this was his first full year as a pro. This isn’t about who is the best prospect – more on that guy below – but who was the player of the year. In our minds, it was Frelick, a guy Brewers fans are seemingly going to love seeing play (and will be doing so in 2023).
Pitcher of the year: RHP Carlos Rodriguez (6th round, 2021), Carolina/Wisconsin
Skinny: Rodriguez didn’t pitch last season after being drafted out of Florida Southwestern State Junior College. Perhaps that makes the 20-year-old native of Nicaragua’s season even more impressive. Beginning the year at Single-A Carolina, Rodriguez posted a solid 3.53 ERA, 1.121 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 over 71 1/3 innings. Promoted to High-A Wisconsin, he flourished. In 36 1/3 innings over seven starts he allowed just seven runs (1.98 ERA) on 21 hits (5.2 H/9) with 45 strikeouts (11.1 K/9). In his second-to-last start of the year, Rodriguez tossed six perfect innings, fanning nine. His combined 1.059 WHIP was the best of anyone in Milwaukee’s farm system who pitched at least 50 innings.
OF Jace Avina (14th round, 2021), Brewers Blue/Carolina
The 19-year-old Avina, who didn’t play after being drafted last year, might be someone to keep an eye on. He tore up rookie ball, hitting .294/.436/.630 with 10 home runs in 36 games. Moved up to Single-A Carolina, in 28 games he slashed .245/.336/.471 with 11 extra-base hits among his 25 hits.
2B Tyler Black (1st round CBA, 2021), Wisconsin
An injury ended Black’s season prematurely -- however, he’s scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League. He was a standout in his brief time at High-A – he played mostly at Single-A Carolina after being drafted in 2021. In 64 games, Black slashed .281/.406/.424 with 13 stolen bases in 64 games.
OF Jackson Chourio, Carolina/Wisconsin/Biloxi
If you want to make the argument that Chourio, not Frelick, should be our player of the year, we won’t stand in your way. There’s no debate that he’s Milwaukee’s top prospect. Still only 18 years old, Chouriou advanced all the way to Double-A, although he went only 2-for-23 with 11 strikeouts at Biloxi. Again, he’s only 18. Chourio raked at Single-A Carolina, slashing .324/.373/.600 with 12 home runs. Upon promotion to High-A Wisconsin, where he was the league’s youngest player, he hit .252/.317/.488 with eight homers. Overall he hit .288/.342/.538 with 20 homers, 75 runs, 75 RBI and 16 stolen bases –and produced a lot of excitement about his future.
RHP Alexander Cornielle, Carolina/Wisconsin
Cornielle spent most of his season at Single-A Carolina, where the native of the Dominican Republic had a 3.19 ERA, 1.318 WHIP and 11.0 K/9 over 101 2/3 innings. He was promoted to High-A Wisconsin, where he made three starts, allowing just four runs in 17 1/3 innings (2.08 ERA) while striking out 21. With an overall lack of solid, young starting pitcher prospects in the system, Cornielle, who turned 21 in August, is someone to keep an eye on in 2023.
RHP Stiven Cruz, Carolina/Wisconsin
Like Cornielle, Cruz excelled when promoted to High-A Wisconsin. In fact, he was nearly unhittable. Cruz was promoted after pitching to a 4.60 ERA, 1.313 WHIP and 11.1 K/9 at Carolina. But then in four starts with the Timber Rattlers, the 20-year-old Nicaraguan allowed just one run – on a homer in his first outing – in 19 innings while giving up just six hits (2.8/9) and striking out 20. He finished the season with 14 consecutive scoreless innings while adding some intriguing expectations for next year.
C Jeferson Quero, Carolina/Wisconsin
Quero, who turned 20 in October, had a slow start to the season but eventually hit .278/.345/.412 at Single-A Carolina before being moved up to High-A Wisconsin. In 20 games with the Timber Rattlers he hit .313 with a .530 slugging percentage.
RHP Cam Robinson (23rd round, 2017), Wisconsin/Biloxi/Nashville
Maybe we have a soft spot for guys draft late who do well and move up in the system, but Robinson was lights out most of the year. At High-A Wisconsin he recorded a 1.45 ERA, 1.018 WHIP and 12.5 K/9 in 37 1/3 innings with 19 saves. Promoted to Double-A Biloxi, in 14 2/3 innings with the Shuckers he allowed just two runs (1.23 ERA) on eight hits (4.9 per 9 innings) with 16 punchouts and six saves. He struggled some at Triple-A Nashville, but did have 11.1 K/9. His overall numbers: 2.63 ERA, 1.154 WHIP and 11.6 K/9. Not bad for a former 23rd-round pick who played at three levels.
OF Esteury Ruiz, Nashville
Coming over from San Diego in the Josh Hader trade, Ruiz got a small taste with the Brewers this season. He had hit well in the Padres’ system and it was no different for him with Triple-A Nashville. In 37 games he slashed .329/.402/.459 and stole 25 bases (including a Sounds record five in one game). Overall, including his numbers in San Diego’s organization, he swiped 85 bags, to lead all minor leaguers.
SS Brice Turang (1st round, 2018), Nashville
Turang had an up-and-down season with long stretches of no extra-base hits followed by a flurry of power. He ended up producing career highs in doubles (24), homers (13), runs (89), RBI (78) and stolen bases (34). He had more steals than anyone in the Brewers system – and he was caught just twice. Turang continued to show a decent batting eye, walking 65 times. His final line: .286/.360/.412.
OF Joey Wiemer (4th round, 2020), Biloxi/Nashville
Our player of the year from 2021 had another strong season. Wiemer started at Double-A, where he hit 15 homers and stole 25 bases in 84 games. Promoted to Triple-A, he improved, posting a .287/.368/.520 slash line. His combined numbers in 2022: .256/.336/.456 with 21 homers, 81 runs, 77 RBI and 31 steals (with just three caught). Wiemer also recorded 13 outfield assists.