This is Part 3 of a series of stories previewing the 2016 Brewers, which has already covered their bounceback candidates and newcomers, and moves now to prospects. The series will also look at lineup and bullpen possibilities, as well as details for fans planning their own visits to Maryvale Baseball Park. It culminates Friday, when Brewers pitchers and catchers formally report for the start of Spring Training.
MILWAUKEE -- By dismantling their Major League team over the past seven months, the Brewers have transformed a farm system that ranked in the bottom third of baseball into one that ranks near the top, with four players in MLBPipeline.com's list of the game's Top 100 prospects. It is new farm director Tom Flanagan's task to turn them into something more than potential Major Leaguers.
"It's definitely a very exciting time," said Flanagan, a longtime Brewers staffer who was promoted to farm director on Nov. 13. "I go back to my days as assistant scouting director, where the big league club scuffled there in the early 2000s. Working on the scouting side, you could almost see it coming. You could see the talent assembling in the Minor Leagues.
"This may be a parallel. We have a ways to go, certainly. We need to continue to add more players. But there is a good foundation in place now that can be built upon."
This is not a list of the Brewers' top prospects (the most updated version is available here). Rather, it is a sampling of prospects who are particularly newsworthy for 2016, either because they are new to the organization or have a chance to impact the Major League club.
SS Orlando Arcia: The Brewers cleared a path to the Major Leagues for their consensus No. 1 prospect when they traded shortstop Jean Segura to the D-backs in January, but first, Arcia will have to spend at least a few months in Triple-A. Besides the obvious service time considerations -- by delaying Arcia's ascension until late May or early June, Milwaukee gains an extra year of club control later -- Arcia has yet to take an at-bat above Double-A Biloxi, where he hit .307/.347/.453 in his age-20 season in 2015. He is also a sensational defender, so his promotion to the Majors is not a matter of "if," but a matter of "when."
RHPs Jorge Lopez and Zach Davies: Heading to Spring Training, the Brewers' projected starting rotation includes Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann, Matt Garza and Chase Anderson, in some order. The next line of defense is headed by a pair of the club's Top 30 Prospects. Lopez is No. 8 on MLBPipeline.com's most recent Brewers list and No. 57 in baseball, while Davies is No. 10 on Milwaukee's list. Both made successful Major League debuts last September.
OF Rymer Liriano and 3B Garin Cecchini: Both are former Top 100 prospects seeking bouncebacks after being acquired by the Brewers in minor trades. Liriano was blocked in San Diego by trades for Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton, but he will get a chance to win a big league job with the Brewers, perhaps in center field. Cecchini was blocked in Boston by free-agent acquisition Pablo Sandoval, and he went on to have a poor season at Triple-A Pawtucket. He will battle another former Red Sox prospect, Will Middlebrooks, for Milwaukee's third-base job. Liriano and Cecchini currently rank No. 21 and 22, respectively, on the Brewers' prospect list.
IF Yadiel Rivera: Rivera, 23, is No. 19 on Milwaukee's prospect list. He has spent the past few seasons in Arcia's shadow, but he remains an intriguing prospect in his own right. He doesn't possess Arcia's offensive upside, but he is a Major League-caliber defender capable of playing all over the infield, a skill that makes him valuable to a team undergoing a rebuild. Rivera is in the mix at shortstop, though newly acquired Jonathan Villar is the projected starter. Rivera could also figure into the mix at third base if Middlebrooks and Cecchini are unable to engineer comebacks.
CF Brett Phillips and LHP Josh Hader: Two high-ceiling players acquired from the Astros last July for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers, Phillips and Hader will begin the 2016 season in the Minor Leagues, but they have a chance to rise. Phillips, the Brewers' No. 2 prospect, is a candidate to be the team's center fielder of the future, and he should rise to Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2016. Hader, meanwhile, is No. 14 on the Brewers' prospect list, but he has created as much buzz as any player short of Arcia thanks to a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. His funky delivery may wind up being best in relief, but for now the Brewers will continue to develop Hader as a starter.
C Jacob Nottingham, SS Isan Diaz, 2B Javier Betancourt: This trio represents the top prospects acquired in new general manager David Stearns' offseason trades. Nottingham, No. 15 on the Brewers' prospect list, came from the A's in the Khris Davis deal; Diaz, No. 16, was part of the trade that sent Segura to the D-backs; and Betancourt, No. 23, came from the Tigers for Francisco Rodriguez. All of the newcomers are younger prospects, so they will need time to develop in the Minor Leagues. But they are worth watching as they adapt to a new organization in 2016.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.