I focused on the 2000 and 2001 in the first two installments of this series. Since only two and a half years have passed since the 2002 draft, I don't think enough time has passed to fairly assess how good of a job Jack Zduriencik and his scouting department did since the players haven't had three full seasons under their belt yet. However, enough time has passed to identify the players that have stepped up, and those that have not.
Please feel free to review the first installment here:
And the second installment here:
The 2002 Draft
One of the biggest factors of the 2002 draft was the signing of draft and follow candidate Manny Parra. I covered Parra in the previous installment since he technically was a member of the 2001 draft class, however his signing had a bigger impact on the 2002 draft since the $1.55 million dollars that was necessary to sign him took away from the Brewers draft budget to sign several of their other top picks. The previous two years the Brewers scouting department had signed 32 of their top 40 picks, and no player within the first 10 rounds went unsigned. In 2002, the Brewers had two of their top 10 picks slip through their fingers and attend college, but they did use the draft and follow process effectively to sign three of their top 20 picks during the spring of 2003, which resulted in the team signing 15 of those top 20 picks, which matched the number of signees in the top 20 from the year before.
So far, so good
This category will cover the players that so far look to be very astute picks. The list is highlighted by Prince Fielder, who may have more star potential than any other draftee under Jack Zduriencik's tenure as scouting director.
First rounder Prince Fielder drew concerns from scouts concerned that he may be better suited playing for an American League team with the added benefit of the designated hitter. Those concerns focused on his weight, conditioning and Fielder's shaky defense at first base given his inability to play anywhere else on the field.
Those concerns weren't enough to dissuade Jack Zduriencik and his staff from taking Fielder with the seventh overall pick. In an interview I conducted with Jack Zduriencik, he told me that he and his scouting staff felt that Fielder was the best hitting prospect in the nation available for the 2002 draft. Fielder has made them look good by hitting for power and average while also showing his advanced approach at the plate by walking 183 times and striking out only 227 times in 1,257 professional at-bats.
As for his weight, Fielder hired his high school coach upon signing with the Brewers to be his personal trainer. He has worked hard to stay in great physical condition, and anyone that has seen him in person likely would wonder where those previous concerns came from. Defensively, Fielder told me in a previous interview that he never had anyone show him the proper way to play first base. With that instruction, Fielder has made very good progress improving his adeptness at first in an effort to become a well-rounded player.
Fielder started his career with a bang, getting an infield single in his first professional at-bat, only to hit a game-winning home run later in the same game. Playing for Ogden in the Pioneer League, Fielder hit .390 with 10 home runs in just 146 at-bats. That dominance caused him to be bumped up to Beloit to finish the season. Fielder didn't post the same impressive numbers, largely attributed to a pulled groin, but he continued to show he had a flair for the dramatic, hitting a home run in his first game for the Snappers.
Re-opening 2003 back in Beloit, Fielder spent the entire season in the Midwest League posting extremely impressive numbers with a .313 batting average while slugging 27 home runs. That season caused him to be promoted past high-A High Desert to AA Huntsville for the 2004 season. While he didn't hit as well as he did in the past at AA, he continued to show his plate discipline while slugging 23 home runs in a pitcher's league.
Fielder will open 2005 at AAA Nashville, and should spend the entire season there. He doesn't have to be placed on the 40-man roster until after the 2005 season, so unless he completely dominates AAA pitching, Fielder likely won't see Milwaukee until 2006. With his advanced approach, Fielder could adjust relatively quickly to big league pitching, and should hold down first base with great productivity for years to come.
Sixth rounder Khalid Ballouli might have finished higher than high-A High Desert if it wasn't for a few nagging injuries during his second and third seasons as a pro. He has pitched effectively at three levels in the Brewers system, and could move up quickly as a college draftee out of Texas A&M if he stays healthy.
Ballouli started his professional career in 2002 with Ogden in the Pioneer League. He tossed just under 60 innings posting a respectable 4.37 ERA. Most impressive was his strikeout to walk ratio of 65 to 11, showing his control and ability to blow batters away.
In an injured-shortened 2003 season, Ballouli logged 56.1 innings with a 4.15 ERA with the Beloit Snappers. He continued to show his power & control by striking out 45 batters versus 14 walks.
2004 called for Ballouli to test his resolve at hitter's haven High Desert. He continued to post a good strikeout to walk ratio of 128 to 34 in 137.2 innings of work, but like so many pitchers that are subjected to pitching at High Desert, he gave up 182 hits while posting a 5.97 ERA. 23 of the hits he gave up were home runs, so he will need to focus on keeping the ball down in the zone.
Ballouli has a good low-90s fastball and a pretty good breaking ball. While he pounds the strike zone he does tend to give up quite a few base hits, with 320 hits allowed in 253.2 pro innings. His ceiling probably is no greater than a number four or five starter, and could provide needed pitching depth in the next two or three years.
Ballouli is poised to spend the 2005 season at AA Huntsville, and if he stays healthy and pitches well he could be promoted to AAA Nashville, and could even be a candidate to pitch a spot start with the Milwaukee Brewers similar to Chris Saenz last year. Ballouli wasn't added to the 40-man roster, so he will be available to all teams in the Rule 5 draft in early December.
Walker almost fell under the next category, "time to step up," but will fall here because he did enjoy a productive 2004 season. Drafted in the ninth round, Walker is a very athletic left-handed pitcher that also enjoyed success in high school as a quarterback. He tossed just 36.2 innings during his first two seasons with the Arizona Brewers, slowed by nagging injuries. Walker did post a respectable 4.48 ERA during that time, and an even more respectable 36 to 14 strikeout to walk ratio.
Starting the 2004 season with the Helena Brewers, Walker managed to stay healthy, pitching 56.2 innings as a piggy-back starter. In that time he maintained his high strike out totals with 47, but walked 21 batters and allowed 61 hits, leading to a 5.62 ERA. The Pioneer League is an offense-driven league, but Walker will need to cut down on the number of baserunners he allows.
Walker's strikeout totals are a tribute to his stuff, and he could make a name for himself at low-A ball next season if he continues to progress while staying healthy. Similar to 2001 draftee Greg Moreira, the Brewers may feel inclined to push Walker a little bit if he continues to post good numbers at West Virginia next season.
12th rounder Callix Crabbe's progression in the system has been a pleasant surprise. The switch-hitting Crabbe immediately made a name for himself during his debut season, in which he hit .328 in 250 at-bats at Ogden in the Pioneer League. He didn't hit as well at Beloit in the Midwest League the following year, posting a .260 batting average, but bounced back in 2004 hitting .291 for High Desert at the high-A level.
Generously listed at 5'8", Crabbe has been able to generate a surprising amount of pop in his bat. He had 44 extra base hits in 2004 for the High Desert Mavericks, which included 11 triples, and overall he has 100 extra base hits in 1,255 professional at-bats. In addition to his ability to hit for average and a little bit of power, Crabbe has also displayed a disciplined approach at the plate, with 156 walks drawn in that time.
Crabbe also brings the added dimension of speed to his game, with 81 stolen bases to his credit in 110 attempts. While he has been erratic defensively, committing 57 errors in 196 games at second base prior to 2004, he significantly cut down his errors this past year (21 errors in 132 games).
Crabbe's emergence has made second base one of the strongest positions in the Brewers farm system. That's bad news for Crabbe, who is sandwiched by Rickie Weeks ahead of him and the surging Hernan Iribarren behind him. Junior Spivey and Keith Ginter are holding the spot down for Weeks at the big league level, while 2004 draftee Steve Sollmann adds depth. Basically, Crabbe could get lost in the shuffle, but for now he will take his skills to Huntsville to open the 2005 season.
Barnes was drafted out of high school in the 18th round of the 2001 draft by the New York Mets before he was drafted by the Brewers in the 15th round of the 2002 draft, both times as a right-handed pitcher. A talented two-way player, Barnes starred at the plate at Manatee Community College which caused the Brewers to sign him as a draft and follow candidate during the spring of 2003 as a third base prospect.
After hitting just .241 in 195 at-bats for the Helena Brewers during the summer of 2003, the Brewers decided to move Barnes back to the mound to take advantage of his arm, particularly his plus curveball. At Manatee CC, he was used mostly in relief using that curveball and a good high 80s to low 90s fastball.
So far, the move seems to be a wise one for the Brewers. Barnes opened the 2004 season in extended spring training to get used to the idea of pitching again before joining the Helena Brewers when the Pioneer League's season began in mid-June. He pitched very well at Helena, displaying great control (55 strikeouts to 9 walks in 40.2 innings of work) while posting a 3.98 ERA. That success prompted the Brewers to bump Barnes up to Beloit, and while he didn't pitch nearly as well, he should be poised to start the 2005 season with one of the Brewers single A clubs, and will continue to move up as long as he continues to exhibit the same kind of control.
No Brewers pitcher enjoyed the breakout season that LHP Dana Eveland did in 2004. Drafted in the 16th round in 2002, Eveland signed during the spring of 2003 as a draft and follow candidate.
Eveland started the 2003 season with Helena in the Pioneer League, and was used exclusively as the team's closer after already pitching a full season in junior college. He excelled in that role, recording 14 saves in 19 appearances, posting a 2.08 ERA and a dominating 41 to eight strikeout to walk ratio over 26 innings of work.
Opening in Beloit to begin the 2004 season, Eveland was moved back to the starting rotation. He continued to display his superior command by walking only 24 batters over 117.1 innings, while striking out 119 batters and posting a 2.84 ERA. That success led to a promotion to AA, where Eveland continued to pitch well in four starts with the Huntsville Stars.
When Eveland is at his best, he pitches in the low-90s with good life on his fastball. He has touched the mid-90s with his heater, and can also cut his fastball that tends to act like a slider. Eveland also throws an improving changeup, and overall does a good job changing speeds and controlling the strike zone.
Up until this point in time, the only negative surrounding Eveland is his weight and conditioning. Many are concerned that his body will get the best of him if he doesn't do a better job keeping his weight in check.
Eveland officially put himself on the fast track with two very good professional seasons under his belt. He will open the 2005 season back at AA, and if he continues to pitch with the same effectiveness he could find himself at AAA Nashville before the season is over. Eveland should be in Milwaukee at some point in 2006, where he could become a solid number three starter, or possibly a dominant lefty out of the bullpen.
Adam Mannon is yet another top-20 round selection (17th round) from the 2002 draft that wasn't signed until the spring of 2003 as a draft and follow candidate. The Brewers liked Mannon's athleticism and baseball body since high school, and they wanted to see what he could do with a season under his belt at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. While he didn't post eye-popping numbers, he continued to show his physical talents.
Mannon is somewhat of a sleeper as a five-tool talent. He played wide receiver for his high school football team, making big plays with his speed, and continued to show that speed by stealing 10 bases last year in 13 attempts. Mannon also displays a good throwing arm, and has power at the plate as shown by his 32 extra base hits last year playing for the Helena Brewers, which includes eight home runs, in 259 at-bats. He has worked hard on his defense, committing only one error last season in 72 games in right field. Mannon has proved that he has a keen eye at the plate, drawing 62 walks in 438 professional at-bats at two different levels, although he has struck out 123 times during that time. Between the high strikeout totals and his .255 batting average from last season, Mannon will need to improve his ability to make contact to be considered a legitimate outfield prospect.
Look for Mannon to open 2005 with the West Virginia Power, where he'll likely spend the entire season.
Left-handed pitcher Jeff Housman has proved to be the biggest sleeper to emerge from the 2002 draft class after being selected out of Cal State Fullerton in the 33rd round. He has continued to improve upon moving up the organizational ladder after starting his professional career with an ugly 8.07 ERA in Ogden of the Pioneer League in 2002.
Despite his rocky debut season, Housman began 2003 with the Beloit Snappers, making 20 appearances before being promoted to Huntsville. At Beloit, he tossed 89.1 innings with a 1.81 ERA, and continued to pitch well at AA, posting a 3.30 ERA in eight starts.
Housman found himself back at AA Huntsville for most of the 2004 season. After starting his career with a 99 to 55 strikeout to walk ratio in 168 professional innings, Housman started striking out a lot more batters, with 121 in 112 innings of work. He didn't fare nearly as well during a brief promotion to AAA Indianapolis, with a 8.20 ERA in 18.2 innings.
The Brewers rewarded Housman's productivity by sending him to the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to pitch extremely well in an environment that favors hitters. In 24.1 innings of work he has posted a 2.22 ERA.
Despite Housman's newfound ability to miss bats, he pitches like a prototypical finesse lefty. He's most effective hitting his spots and changing speeds. While Housman benefits from pitching to contact, he has allowed 324 hits in 298.2 professional innings, which includes 28 home runs. The Brewers continued to reward Housman's emergence by recently placing him on their 40-man roster, and he should spend most of 2005 with AAA Nashville. He could be one of the first candidates to join the big-league Brewers should they need a spot starter.
The Brewers liked Dillard enough to take him in the 15th round in the 2001 out of high school, with the intention of following him as a DFE candidate. Dillard missed most of his freshman season at Itawamba Community College due to injury, so the Brewers decided to draft him again in the 34th round of the 2002 draft, again as a DFE candidate. He was drafted both times as a catcher, but his low-90s sinker made him more intriguing as a pitching prospect.
Dillard ended up signing during the spring of 2003, and pitched predominantly in relief at both Arizona and Helena during his debut season. Between those two levels he tossed 40.2 innings posting a 3.32 ERA with a 38 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio.
Opening 2004 in Beloit of the Midwest League, Dillard continued to pitch well out of the bullpen. In 43 appearances he recorded 10 saves with a 3.94 ERA in 77.2 innings of work. Dillard also continued to post a very good strikeout ratio (61:22), and proved that he pitches well down in the strike zone with his sinker by allowing only 4 home runs.
Dillard likely will open 2005 at high-A Brevard County in the Florida State League, but could be poised to jump up to AA if he continues to exhibit good control while pitching down in the zone.
Time to step up
Unfortunately the 2002 draft is filled with players that likely are facing a make or break season in 2005.
Expectations were high for second round pick Josh Murray. Not many teams had Murray as high on their draft boards, which caused many fans to question the selection. Most teams expected him to attend the University of Maryland, which could be one of the reasons the Brewers used such a high pick to take him.
Murray helped himself at the Brewers pre-draft workout by putting on an impressive hitting display, which was second only to Prince Fielder's. He has a very strong, mature frame that offers plenty of power, but unfortunately that potential hasn't turned into productivity as a pro. He has also had problems staying healthy.
The Brewers made a questionable decision by promoting Murray to Beloit for his first full season after he hit .255 in 157 at-bats at Ogden in the Pioneer League. With the Snappers he hit only .188 in just 32 at-bats, before injuries shut him down for the rest of the season.
2004 wasn't any more kind to Murray as he hit only .160 in 188 at-bats. In an attempt to find a silver lining, he did seem to be fairly steady at shortstop, committing only seven errors in 54 games. However, scouts have questioned his range in the field, which may prompt a move to the hot corner. He has the power potential to justify such a move, but again, he needs to turn his potential into production.
2005 is a make or break year for Murray. If he is to prove he was worth a second round pick he is going to have to stay healthy and put various character issues behind him while putting up good numbers at the plate. If his baseball career continues on its current path, Murray may not see the end of the 2005 season as a Brewers farmhand.
Baseball America initially praised the Brewers for selecting Eric Thomas in the third round. Blessed with great size at 6'9", Thomas was at a natural advantage throwing on a downward plane to opposing batters, and his fastball was clocked as high as 96 miles per hour. Unfortunately, Thomas' professional career has been cut extremely short due to arm injuries that have required complex surgery, as he missed both the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Thomas may soon find his name with Nic Carter in the "high hopes, long gone" category.
The Brewers almost had to handle seventh rounder Tom Wilhelmsen as a draft and follow candidate, as he was poised to attend Central Arizona JC. Area scout Brian Johnson met with Wilhelmsen the night before he was going to go to school, and gave Wilhelmsen a bonus that was enough to add him to the Brewers system.
Since he signed late, Wilhelmsen didn't pitch for the Brewers in 2002, but he did participate in the team's instructional league that fall. He continued to show the same impressive stuff from the summer before that prompted the Brewers to up their ante. Wilhelmsen's power repertoire includes a fastball that had been clocked as high as 97 miles per hour, and a hammer curveball that projects as a plus pitch when it's working for him.
Those quick impressions caused Wilhelmsen to begin his professional career in full season ball with the Beloit Snappers. He didn't disappoint by posting a 2.76 ERA in 15 starts over 88 innings of work. A minor arm injury shut down the incredibly hot Wilhelmsen, and he only made two more starts in 2003 with the Arizona Brewers. Problems continued for Wilhelmsen as he was suspended for entire 2004 season for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.
Wilhelmsen more than any other 2002 draftee needs to put his past behind him and focus on picking up where he left off in Beloit in 2003. He has the talent to be a staff ace given his size and stuff, and it will be a shame if he doesn't at least attempt to prove his doubters wrong. Unfortunately, Wilhelmsen's career could stand as proof as to just how quickly a top prospect's fortunes can turn.
Moss could have been taken in the top five rounds based on his talent, but he fell to the 29th round due to injuries during his senior year in high school and his college commitment to UCLA. Brewers scout Corey Rodriguez did a great job determining Moss' signability, but unfortunately Moss hasn't been able to stay healthy for a full season.
Jack Zduriencik and farm director Reid Nichols haven't been shy about sharing their praise for Steve Moss, who was immediately tabbed as one of the organization's sleeper prospects. He is a true five-tool athlete, with good speed, a strong throwing arm, an advanced approach at the plate and solid hitting mechanics. In a system full of talented center fielders, some believe Moss might be the most polished defensively. That's pretty high praise given the presence of both David Krynzel and Tony Gwynn, Jr.
Moss started his career in 2002 with the Arizona Brewers, hitting .292 in 106 at-bats before being bumped up to Ogden to help them with their playoff push. He started 2003 with the Snappers, and hit .290 in 186 at-bats before dislocating his throwing shoulder on an amazing diving catch in mid-June, which ended Moss' season. He stayed relatively healthy in 2004, again with the Snappers, but his production sagged hitting .220 in 362 at-bats.
While drawing a lot of praise, Moss just hasn't made the most of his opportunity to prove he is indeed a sleeper prospect. He likely will start 2005 at high-A Brevard County, and he needs to start playing like he's capable of while putting the injury concerns behind him.
These players are still with the system, even if they don't factor into the long-range future of the Milwaukee Brewers as much as the players discussed just above. A few of the pitchers could provide bullpen depth within a few years if they continue to progress, while Vanden Berg could be a serviceable backup catcher.
14th rounder Kennard Bibbs is a scrappy little player that has made a solid climb up the Brewers organizational ladder. He has little to no power to speak of with only 48 extra base hits in 1,223 professional at-bats, but he does have decent wheels, stealing 115 bases in 162 attempts. Bibbs has posted a solid .281 career batting average, makes good contact, draws his fair share of walks, doesn't strike out much and plays solid defense in the outfield. Unfortunately time is not on his side, as he turns 25 years old next March, and unlike his fellow diminutive teammate Callix Crabbe, he doesn't have the benefit of playing a middle infield position. He could open 2005 at AA Huntsville, but doesn't project to be more than an organizational player.
Hall (19th round) took one for the team as a Brewers farmhand in 2004, making 27 appearances (24 starts) for the High Desert Mavericks. While his 6.55 ERA looks bad, Hall's 127 to 42 strikeout to walk ratio over 133.1 innings of work is respectable. Prior to 2004 Hall was used predominantly in relief, posting a 3.17 ERA in 139 innings at two different levels. While he served an organizational need at high-A last year, Hall could find himself back in the bullpen for the 2005 season, and the Brewers may reward him with a promotion to AA to open the season. His numbers as a pro, even in High Desert, have been solid, and he could see limited time in the Brewers bullpen within a few years.
21st rounder Josh Alliston was drafted as a relief pitcher out of Long Beach State University. Blessed with a big frame and a strong arm, the Brewers liked his projection as a late inning reliever. Alliston pitched very well for the Snappers in 2003, posting a 3.33 ERA in 52 appearances out of the bullpen, including 10 saves. He allowed only 67 hits and 18 walks in 70.1 innings, striking out 75. Alliston doesn't throw much more than his fastball, but so far he has been dominant with that pitch alone in the lower levels of the minor leagues. He was injured for almost all of the 2004 season, and turns 25 in February of 2005, so Alliston will need to rebound quickly next season if he wants to hold onto his fringe prospect status. If he's healthy, the Brewers may want to push him a little next year given his age.
John Vanden Berg
Drafted in the 25th round out of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Vanden Berg is the son of the Brewers' head groundskeeper, Gary. With a .290 batting average, .353 on-base average and a .434 slugging percentage in 756 professional at-bats, Vanden Berg has shown a solid bat at the lower levels of the minor leagues. In a system that is virtually devoid of catching prospects, he only played half of the time at High Desert this past season, which has brought up some questions about his long-term future behind the plate. Like Bibbs, time is not on Vanden Berg's side, as he turns 25 in February, and since his defensive prowess is in question, his bat probably isn't strong enough to carry him to the big leagues. He could enjoy a cup of coffee as a backup given the need for catchers in Milwaukee.
Like Crabbe and Bibbs, 27th rounder Dallas Bates is a smaller yet scrappy player. Unlike Bibbs and Crabbe, Bates was drafted out of high school, and hasn't progressed as the other two have. After two .250 seasons with the Arizona Brewers, he responded with a .280 season at Helena last summer. Unfortunately, Bates hasn't stepped up in any one area on the field. He has good speed, but only has 9 career stolen bases. Given his size, Bates has little to no power, and he strikes out far more often than he should (123 strikeouts in 470 at-bats). He likely will have to show some obvious improvement next spring, otherwise he likely is in danger of being released.
32nd rounder Simon Beresford wasn't signed until the spring of 2003 as a draft and follow candidate. An Australian native, Beresford has a big frame and a strong arm. He's always been considered a work in progress, but so far in 121 innings of work over two seasons, a few of his peripheral numbers have been solid; such as his 106 strikeouts and 121 hits allowed. He needs to cut down on the number of walks he's issued (64), and fortunately for him he won't have to be subjected to pitching at High Desert next season. At 22 years old next season, time is on his side more so than most fringe prospects.
High hopes, long gone
So far only one high draftee from the 2002 class has come and quickly gone. This list could get a lot bigger pretty soon if some of the players listed above don't step up and start living up to their lofty potentials.
Carter was drafted as an outfielder out of Campbell University in the fourth round for his athletic ability and five-tool potential. After he hit only .220 with two home runs and 21 extra-base hits in his first 464 professional at-bats, the Brewers tried converting Carter into a pitcher in hopes of taking advantage of his arm strength. Unfortunately, the experiment didn't work, and he was released in March of 2004.
These are the players that never received much attention as legitimate prospects, and are no longer with the Milwaukee Brewers farm system.
Frost was drafted in the 10th round in an attempt to improve the organization's catching depth. While he nearly doubled the number of games played and overall at-bats he had recorded as a professional during the 2004 season, Frost spent only 13 games behind the plate. His inability to catch full-time and career .251 batting average prompted the Brewers to release Frost earlier this November.
20th rounder Tyler Shepple, like 21st rounder Josh Alliston, was a college relief pitcher with a strong arm added to the system on the second day of the 2002 draft. Shepple's career was extremely short, tossing 33.2 innings at Ogden in 2002 before being released in June of 2003.
Like 20th and 21st round picks Tyler Shepple and Josh Alliston, the Brewers decided to take a couple of junior college/college third basemen with their 22nd and 23rd round picks in an attempt to add depth to a weak position in the system. Willis was the 22nd rounder, and after hitting .277 in 159 at-bats at Arizona during his 2002 debut season, he was released in August of 2003 after only six at-bats back at Arizona.
Bohanan was the 23rd round third baseman as mentioned under Willis' profile. His career was almost as short as Willis', although he did manage to serve as a utility player for the Snappers in 2003 before being released in October of the same year.
Bravo, the team's 24th round selection, enjoyed a 37 at-bat career, hitting .189 for the Arizona Brewers during his debut 2002 season. He was suspended in June of 2003 for undisclosed reasons, and was released that December.
26th rounder Craig Breslow actually had a decent professional career. A left-handed pitcher that got by more on his savvy more than his actual stuff, the Brewers likely followed Breslow at Yale after selecting Jon Steitz from the Ivy League school in 2001. He posted a respectable 177 to 75 strikeout to walk ratio in 160.2 professional innings before being released in July of 2004.
Eric A. Thomas
Not to be confused with the third rounder of the same name, this Eric Thomas was selected in the 28th round out of Southern University. Already 23 years old after his first pro season, Thomas pitched 45.1 innings for the Ogden Raptors in 2002 before being released in June of 2003.
Left-handed pitcher Justin Gabriel was taken in the 30th round of the 2002 draft, and was already 23 years old upon entering the system. He spent two short seasons with the Brewers, one with Ogden and the other in Beloit, before being released in June of 2003.
Baker was drafted in the 31st round, and similar to Gabriel he spent his first season in Ogden and his second in Beloit before being released in October of 2003.
The Ones that got away
As mentioned above, the signing of draft and follow candidate Manny Parra immediately affected the Brewers 2002 draft budget. Several high profile players decided to attend college, including Steve Kahn, who is projected to be a first or second round pick next June as a college junior out of Loyola Marymount.
If it weren't for a promising two-sport career at UCLA, Page likely would have been drafted higher than the fifth round. The Brewers hoped to sign Page away from that commitment, and offered him a generous high six-figure bonus. Page turned down the Brewers offer, and has starred more for UCLA's football team as a talented NFL safety prospect. He has had only 120 at-bats with the Bruins on the baseball diamond in two years. Upon being drafted, Page drew comparisons to the Twins Torii Hunter for his exciting athletic skills, although the Brewers intended to groom him as a middle infielder.
Kahn, like 2001 draftee Ray Liotta, stands as one of the most notable players the Brewers drafted but weren't able to sign. Taken in the eighth round in the 2002 draft, Kahn was yet another player expected to be drafted higher than where he was. He has pitched well in his two seasons in college and one summer with Team USA, and is considered a potential first-round pick next June.
Add 11th rounder Brian Hernandez to the "should have drafted higher" list. Again, that may have been due to his college commitment. He has struggled to hit in two seasons at Duke, batting .254 in 362 at-bats, but he is still considered a strong defensive backstop.
13th rounder Tila Reynolds was drafted out of the University of Washington for his defensive prowess at shortstop. Unfortunately, he didn't offer much at the plate. He was drafted again the following year by the Diamondbacks in the 11th round, but is no longer with the organization.
While Page, Kahn and Hernandez fell due to their college commitments, 18th rounder Steven White fell due to his affiliation with super-agent Scott Boras. I don't think many people expected the Brewers to actually sign White, who returned to Baylor for his senior season and was drafted by the New York Yankees in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. He has pitched well in the Yankees system, reaching high-A to finish the 2004 season, and was recently named the Yankees fourth-best prospect according to Baseball America.
Hunter who? 40th rounder Hunter Pence went on to become the Astros first draft selection in 2004 as a second rounder, and was named the 13th best prospect in the New York-Penn League this past summer by Baseball America. A strong hitter with power to all fields and an advanced knowledge of the strike zone, credit the Brewers for recognizing his offensive potential even if they were unable to sign him.
Early draft reports indicated that Rutgers right-handed pitcher Bobby Brownlie was the favorite to go first overall in the 2002 draft. Brownlie had a few minor arms problems during the spring of 2002, and didn't show the same kind of velocity nor hard-breaking curveball that led to those early prognostications. B.J. Upton was talked about just as much as Brownlie was the year leading up to the draft, and Upton continued to impress scouts with his exciting five-tool talents, which led most people to rank him as the best player available for the 2002 draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates had the first pick of the draft, although they did not have the financial reserve to give into Upton's reported lofty bonus demands. They settled for polished Ball State righty Bryan Bullington confident they could sign him for $4 million dollars. While Bullington is still a good prospect, with Upton reaching the big leagues so quickly and looks to be one of the best young players in the league, it appears as though the Pirates didn't choose the best time to be frugal.
The 2002 draft was considered very strong in pitching, particularly prep pitchers and more specifically high school left-handers. Adam Loewen, Scott Kazmir and Cole Hamels all went in the first round, with Greg Miller going with the first pick in the supplemental first round. There was also a fair amount of depth in college middle infield prospects with Drew Meyer, Khalil Greene, Russ Adams and John McCurdy all going in the first round.
Baseball America ranked the Blue Jays, Indians, Devil Rays, Dodgers and Cubs as having the best drafts as part of their annual draft report card feature. The Blue Jays took Russ Adams and David Bush with their first two picks. Bush debuted this past season around the All-Star break and Adams should be the team's full-time shortstop to open 2005.
The Indians once again stood to have a good draft just by having several extra early picks given the free agent compensation process. They were fortunate to have Jeremy Guthrie fall to them in the first round, who like Brownlie was expected to go much higher. All of their early picks had familiar names, but so far Matt Whitney, Micah Schilling, Pat Osborn and Jason Cooper haven't emerged as the Indians hoped.
The third team listed, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, might have had the best draft just for being fortunate enough to take B.J. Upton, who as noted above quickly soared up the D-Rays organizational ladder, making his big league debut this past season. Jason Pridie (second round), Elijah Dukes (third), Wes Bankston (fourth), Joey Gomes (eighth) and Jason Hammel (10th), add depth to a talented and young Devil Rays farm system.
James Loney made the Dodgers look good for not only drafting him, but drafting him as a first baseman when most seemed to think his future was as a left-handed pitcher. Greg Miller was an even more astute pick, although his career has also been slowed by injuries. Zach Hammes (second round), Jonathan Broxton (second), Delwyn Young (fourth) and Mike Megrew (fifth) added more talent to a vastly improved system under the guidance of scouting director Logan White.
The Cubs got the nod for their good fortune of having Bobby Brownlie fall in their lap. The talent didn't stop there as first round supplemental picks Luke Hagerty, Chadd Blasko and Matt Clanton added three more power arms to the system. Second rounder Brian Dopirak started to turn his power potential into production this past season, while fellow second rounder Justin Jones was traded to the Twins as part of the deal in which the Cubs acquired Nomar Garciaparra.
Not mentioned as a team having one of the best 2002 drafts were the Oakland A's, who created an incredible amount of discussion and debate with their "Moneyball" draft. With seven picks before the second round, the cost-conscious A's had to be creative in how they drafted and signed players with those extra, early picks. Their first two picks, Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton, look extremely astute at this point in time, while Steve Obenchain, Jeremy Brown, Ben Fritz, Shane Komine, Bill Murphy, John Baker and Brian Stavisky add depth to the system. Mark Teahen has since been traded to the Kansas City Royals as part of the 3-way trade for Carlos Beltran in which the A's acquired Octavio Dotel.
Since it has been only two and a half years since the draft, most of the first rounders are still considered legitimate prospects. Clint Everts (Expos/Nationals), Zack Greinke (Royals), Jeff Francoeur (Braves), Matt Cain (Giants) and Sergio Santos (Diamondbacks) are the best first rounders not previously mentioned. Jon Lester (Red Sox), Jeremy Reed (White Sox, traded to Mariners for Freddy Garcia), Jesse Crain (Twins), Brian McCann (Braves), Fred Lewis (Giants) and Chris Snyder (Diamondbacks) are the most notable second rounders, while Val Majewski (Orioles), Larry Broadway (Expos/Nationals), Curtis Granderson (Tigers) represent the best of the third rounders.
Heading into draft day, the Brewers reportedly were heavily scouting three high school pitchers: Chris Gruler, Adam Loewen and Zack Greinke. They also were interested in prep shortstop Scott Moore, who also was invited to the team's pre-draft workout but didn't have an impressive showing. Gruler, Loewen and Greinke were all off the board by the time the Brewers drafted, so they took the best hitter available in Prince Fielder, which continues to look like a very good decision. While Greinke has also impressed, Gruler and Loewen have suffered major arm injuries, so a little bit of good fortune was on the Brewers side in 2002.
If you were in the Brewerfan.net chat room on draft day you were likely among several angry people scratching their heads at the players that were being selected in the early rounds. Outside of first-rounder Prince Fielder, no one has stepped up to prove us wrong so far. Second rounder Josh Murray has been unproductive, third rounder Eric Thomas has suffered a major arm injury while fourth rounder Nic Carter is no longer in the organization. Seventh rounder Tom Wilhelmsen remains a huge question mark, and the team lost their fifth, eighth and 11th round picks to college.
Sixth rounder Khalid Ballouli has been productive, but hasn't come close to making any of the early failures easier to swallow. Callix Crabbe, Justin Barnes, Dana Eveland, Adam Mannon, Jeff Housman and Tim Dillard have helped soften the blow, as Eveland's and Housman's emergences in particular have been encouraging.
So how do you rate such a bi-polar drafting effort? Prince Fielder alone could garner an "A" for this draft if he fulfills his promise as a star slugger. The later round picks that have emerged as listed above have helped offset the disappointing careers of Josh Murray, Eric Thomas, Nic Carter and Tom Wilhelmsen. However, it's hard not to look past the failures of so many high picks and lost picks that decided to honor their college commitments.
While only two and a half year have passed since the 2002 draft, most of the Brewers key draftees have either stepped up or down by this point in time. For now this draft receives a "B," and hopefully Prince Fielder will prevent that grade from dropping any lower.
Stay tuned for the fourth installment of this four part series, which will quickly break down the 2003 and 2004 drafts, while looking ahead to how the organization can continue to build for the future.
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