The 2006 draft marked Jack Zduriencik's seventh as Scouting Director for the Milwaukee Brewers. As he had done in his previous six drafts, Zduriencik once again was able to sign most of his early picks by signing his top 11 selections and 19 out of his first 25. Overall the Brewers scouting department signed 24 total picks, and once again they will enter the spring of 2007 with a large group of draft and follow candidates.
The Brewers turned their attention back to prep pitching in the first round of the 2006 draft, as Zduriencik has now taken a high school pitcher with three of his seven top picks (Mike Jones, Mark Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress). The Brewers scouting department under Zduriencik has yet to take a college pitcher within the first two rounds of the draft. Of the team's top 10 picks, three were high school pitchers.
For more detailed coverage on the picks from the 2006 draft and to discuss these players while keeping up to date with the team's draft and follow candidates as well as the top prospects for the 2007 draft, please be sure to visit Brewerfan.net's draft forum:
Tools at the Top
Jack Zduriencik loves toolsy players, that much is for certain, and he isn't shy about taking prep arms early in the draft as noted above. The desire to continually add big tools into the system led to two extremely talented yet raw players in the first two rounds of the draft: RHP Jeremy Jeffress and SS/OF Brent Brewer.
1. (draft round) Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
2-5, 5.88 ERA, 33.2 IP, 30 H, 37 K, 25 BB in 13 games (4 starts) with Arizona
Jeremy Jeffress' professional debut was highlighted by a game in which he relieved Ben Sheets, who pitched a game for the Arizona Brewers in a rehab assignment. In that game, with several members of the Brewers front office in attendance, as well as big-league manager Ned Yost and pitching coach Mike Maddux, Jeffress reportedly hit 101 miles per hour on the radar gun numerous times. None of his fastballs in that outing were clocked at less than 97 mph. With that alone, you know what kind of arsenal Jeffress possesses. After that outing, he didn't fare as well, despite putting up big radar gun readings. That could be because the Brewers are having him work on the rest of his game. While he throws extremely hard, he needs to learn how to pitch while refining his slider, which can be a dominant pitch, and his changeup. One thing he currently does very well is inducing ground balls, as he posted a 2.56 ground out to fly out ratio. On top of his power repertoire Jeffress is also a very gifted athlete and he has relatively smooth mechanics, both of which allow him to repeat his delivery well. The Brewers pushed Mark Rogers two years ago, having him start his first full professional season at low-A West Virginia, and they may continue that progression with Jeffress, even if it wouldn't hurt for him to receive more seasoning at Helena.
2. Brent Brewer, SS/CF
.264/.328/.396 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), 3 2B, 6 3B, 3 HR, 10 stolen bases in as many attempts in 182 AB with Arizona
Brewer was drafted in the second round almost entirely due to his amazing athletic skills. That's not to say he didn't produce in high school, as he had a very good senior year, but his baseball skills, like Jeffress', need some work. Part of that has to do with the fact that Brewer was a two-sport star, and had a very strong commitment to Florida State as a wide receiver. It took him a while for his bat to get used to professional pitching in the Arizona League this summer, as he struggled to hit his first two months. However, Brewer did quite well in August, despite missing a few games due to an undisclosed yet minor injury, by hitting .333 with a .493 slugging percentage in 75 at-bats. Brewer's ceiling is endless, as he has the power potential, bat speed and foot speed to be a superstar if he's able to put his entire game together. I personally don't think he is a shortstop for the long-term, but his athletic abilities could make him an exciting centerfielder much like Torii Hunter. Brewer probably could use more time in rookie ball, but don't be surprised to see him start low-A to open the 2007 season.
The Brewers used three of their top seven selections on college bats, and overall selected and signed nine college and junior college positional players. Cole Gillespie and Chris Errecart were the first two of these picks, both of whom put up very big numbers for the Helena Brewers. Catcher Andy Bouchie could endear himself to the Brewerfan.net masses by the number of walks he draws, and gives the Brewers another catcher to keep an eye on.
3. Cole Gillespie, OF
.344/.464/.548, 12 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 18 stolen bases in 22 attempts in 186 AB with Helena
Gillespie was named the Pac-10 player of the year after a phenomenal season for the National Champion Oregon State Beavers. Right away you take the best player from the best team in the nation and you have something special. Gillespie is far from just a polished college bat, as he's a very good all-around athlete that played almost every position on the field while in college. He profiles best in left field, as his arm is his only below-average tool after a few shoulder injuries and subsequent surgeries. Gillespie led the Pioneer League in on-base percentage, was second in batting and fourth in slugging. He immediately made the Helena Brewers a much better team upon arriving in early July. Gillespie will move up as fast as his bat will carry him, which could be pretty fast, as he could open 2007 anywhere from low-A to AA.
5. Chris Errecart, LF/1B
.316/.406/.518, 16 2B, 13 HR in 272 AB with Helena
Errecart fell to the fifth round of the draft after a lackluster spring. Big things were expected from him after he was named the Cape Cod League's fourth best prospect according to Baseball America after the summer of 2005. So far, Errecart seems to prefer swinging a wood bat to an aluminum one. He led the Pioneer League in RBI (61) and finished second in home runs. He's a good enough athlete to play left field, although his best position may be first base. He has the propensity to swing and miss a little too much, so he likely will be brought along a little more slowly than Gillespie. Expect to see Errecart playing at the low-A level to open 2007.
7. Andrew Bouchie, C
.265/.384/.417, 11 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR in 223 AB with Helena
Bouchie's 42 walks were second best in the Pioneer League, coming in 40 less at-bats than the leader (52). 3TO fans rejoice, as Bouchie might just be your kind of all or nothing prospect. Defensively he has a strong arm, and has always done a very good job throwing out opposing runners, but he may not have the ideal quickness for a backstop. Bouchie's bat should continue to help him climb up the organizational ladder, currently the system's third-best catcher behind Angel Salome and Lou Palmisano. Expect to see Bouchie at low-A next season.
11. Zach Clem, OF
.231/.359/.361, 5 2B, 3 HR in 108 AB with Helena
Clem had a very nice career at the University of Washington, hitting .322 with 41 home runs. His overall athletic ability is limited, meaning he's either a left fielder or first baseman, and he's going to have to hit for average and power to continue to work his way up. The Brewers have found a couple of other solid college hitters outside of the top 10 picks in recent years in Drew Anderson and Adam Heether, so while Clem's upside seems limited, he could keep moving up as long as he puts up big numbers. Hopefully for Clem that will happen next season at low-A.
14. Hector Bernal, SS
.385/.385/.462, 2 2B in 26 AB with Arizona
.206/.270/.235, 1 2B in 34 AB with West Virginia
An exciting yet smaller left-handed hitting middle infielder, Bernal defies his size by offering some pop in his bat. He also has pretty good speed to turn singles and doubles into doubles and triples, and profiles the best towards the top of a lineup. Defensively, like many young infielders, Bernal is prone to making quite a few throwing errors. A tribute to his own initial success, the Brewers bumped Bernal up to West Virginia to fill a need in mid-July, only to have Bernal injure his leg while turning a double play and miss the rest of the season. There will be plenty of opportunities for Bernal to win the starting shortstop position at low-A ball next year with a lack of true shortstops in the system.
25. Mike Goetz, OF
.289/.393/.344, 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 31 stolen bases in 40 attempts in 180 AB with Arizona
Goetz is a local product, drafted out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee after leading the nation with a .493 batting average. While he is somewhat short on tools, and in stature, Goetz makes up with it in heart and hustle. He has a long ways to go before he's considered a future big-leaguer, and will have to hit extremely well to work his way up. That said, it's hard not to root for the little, local guy. Goetz likely starts the 2007 season with Helena.
30. Jordan Swaydan, C
.224/.287/245, 2 2B in 98 AB with Helena
Swaydan was most likely drafted where he was to fill an organizational need. He is a sound defensive catcher with a strong arm and good game calling skills that should allow him to nurture young pitchers in the lower levels of the organization. Swaydan is a good enough athlete with some offensive potential that won't completely label him as an organizational soldier, but he needs to earn his playing time, either back at Helena or at low-A next spring.
33. Eric Newton, 2B
.240/.321/.560, 2 2B, 2 HR in 21 AB with Arizona
.143/.308/.286, 1 HR in 21 AB with Helena
Newton had a good senior year for Santa Clara University, leading the West Coast Conference in home runs with 14. While he has some pop in his bat, he hasn't hit for that high of an average in college, and doesn't have any aspect in his game that truly stands out. Like Swaydan profiled just ahead and Caufield listed just below, Newton's career will likely be to fill an organizational need.
39. Chuckie Caufield, OF
.481/.500/.741, 3 2B, 2 3B in 27 AB with Arizona
.262/.332/.387, 11 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, 16 stolen bases in 20 attempts in 248 AB with Helena
Caufield had a solid debut, mostly at Helena, particularly for a 39th round pick. He's a good all around player that can do a little bit of everything: He has enough speed to swipe a few bags, he can play all three outfield spots, he has a solid arm and he can hit a little bit. If Caufield was better offensively he probably would be considered more of a steal as such a late pick, but he more than likely will perform more as an organizational soldier as he moves up, serving as a team leader and a good influence for the younger players while doing all of the little things well.
While Jeremy Jeffress was already covered, this category covers the other high school pitchers that were drafted and signed from the 2006 draft. While high school pitchers are often frowned upon, it is important to remember that the organization's two best pitching prospects, Yovani Gallardo and Will Inman, were drafted out of high school.
4. Evan Anundsen, RHP
2-3, 4.50 ERA, 32 IP, 36 H, 22 K, 7 BB in 12 games (4 starts) with Arizona
Anundsen was the best player available from the state of Colorado, a state that has produced a couple of the more talented college pitchers in recent years in Kyle Sleeth and Luke Hochevar. Anundsen profiles as a similar pitcher, with a tall and strong athletic frame that should allow him to sustain long innings as a starter. He currently throws in the 88-91 range, but has touched 92 and has room for added velocity. He mixes in a promising curveball, changeup and cut-fastball. Anundsen shows an advanced knowledge of pitching, has good, natural movement on his fastball and offers a fair amount of deception. His seven walks over 32 innings of work is a good sign of a pitcher that throws strikes. Look for Anundsen at Helena next summer with a chance to play at low-A.
8. (Charles) Shane Hill, RHP
0-1, 7.58 ERA, 19 IP, 24 H, 14 K, 18 BB in 10 games (3 starts) with Arizona
Hill without a doubt is a project, but he has all of the physical tools to succeed once he starts to hone his craft. He has a perfectly projectable pitcher's build at 6'4", 185 pounds, and he pitches in the upper-80s with a free and easy delivery that leads many to believe there is more velocity to come. Hill will probably be brought along slowly, with Helena as a likely destination to open the 2007 season, but he could find himself in A ball before the season is through.
16. R.J. Seidel, RHP
Did not play, signed a 2007 contract
Another right-handed pitcher with a perfect pitcher's build, Seidel was rated one of the top 200 players in the nation by Baseball America. His commitment to Arkansas and pitching in a northern state caused him to fall as far as he did, as the Brewers did a nice job to scout and sign the local product away from college. He currently pitches easily in the upper-80s and has touched the low-90s with his fastball on numerous occasions. Like Hill, Seidel is a work in progress, but the sky is the limit.
This list could be called prep catchers, as the organization selected and signed only two high school hitters after Brent Brewer, both of whom are catchers. Brett Whiteside and Jesse D'Amico both offer a fair amount of athleticism for backstops.
15. Brett Whiteside, C
.242/.311/.383, 8 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR in 120 AB with Arizona
Whiteside is a raw yet very athletic and talented baseball player whose agility and arm strength are tailor made for behind the plate. He hasn't been catching for very long, and played quite a few different positions for his high school team. Whiteside also has pretty good speed for a catcher, and a quick, compact swing that may draw some Jason Kendall comparisons for his overall skill set as an overall player. Obviously Whiteside has a long way to go before he can justify such an unfair comparison, but with that kind of skill set he is definitely a player to watch. Look for him at Helena next season.
21. Jesse D'Amico, C
.219/.271/.375, 5 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR in 64 ABs with Arizona
D'Amico is the type of athlete that was born to catch. He has natural leadership skills and seems to understand the importance when donning the tools of ignorance. D'Amico also enjoyed a big year at the plate as a high school senior, even if that success didn't transfer over to his professional debut. He and Whiteside likely will be bumped up to Helena together to open the 2007 season where they could offer an intriguing catching tandem to follow.
The Brewers waited until the sixth round until they took their first college arm, and none of the college arms they did take enjoyed significant success in their professional debuts.
6. Brae Wright, LHP
0-2, 5.93 ERA, 27.1 IP, 34 H, 12 K, 14 BB in 16 games (1 start) with Helena
Wright has some character issues, having been dismissed from Ole Miss for violating team rules and then he broke his hand at Oklahoma State after punching a teammate. He signed quickly and for much less than slot value as a sixth rounder eager to put his collegiate troubles behind him. Wright has a very good pitcher's frame at 6'4", 205 pounds, and has decent stuff for a lefty, working in the upper-80s. While he doesn't walk many batters, he doesn't miss many bats either, and seems to find too much of the strike zone with his stuff. Since Wright seems to pitch to contact, he will have to find a way to turn more balls put into play against him into outs to be successful as a professional.
9. Shawn Ferguson, RHP
0-2, 3.86 ERA, 16.1 IP, 15 H, 15 K, 9 BB in 5 games (3 starts) with Helena
2-3, 6.69 ERA, 31.1 IP, 34 H, 31 K, 27 BB in 9 games (all starts) with West Virginia
Ferguson is a relatively raw college talent that originally attended the University of Texas as a slugging outfielder. He was converted to a reliever upon transferring to TCU after a couple of years at San Jacinto College, and his arm is relatively fresh despite playing five years in college. Ferguson offers a power repertoire that allows him to miss quite a few bats, but he also has walked more than he should. He is only one of two '06 draftees that found his way to West Virginia this year (Hector Bernal is the other), and is a sleeper to watch from this draft. Ferguson should open '07 back at low-A.
10. Mike McClendon, RHP
3-2, 4.23 ERA, 44.2IP, 54 H, 34 K, 8 BB in 18 games (4 starts) with Helena
Blessed with a big body, McClendon enjoyed two very fine seasons at Seminole CC in Florida. Despite his size, he doesn't throw particularly hard, and is at his best keeping the ball down in the zone with a heavy sinker while changing speeds and keeping hitters off balance. He could be a similar pitcher to Tim Dillard given his size and approach to pitching, as he rarely beats himself and might be considered a reliever in the long-term. McClendon is another sleeper to watch from the 2006 draft. Look for McClendon to advance one level to open 2007.
13. Chris Toneguzzi, RHP
2-2, 4.54 ERA, 33.2 IP, 42 H, 22 K, 15 BB in 19 games (all in relief) with Helena
A very large and stubborn bulldog closer, Toneguzzi excelled in that role at Purdue and over the summers playing on the Cape and in the Northwoods League. He has a good fastball that can touch the mid-90s and he works comfortably right around 90 mph. The biggest thing holding Toneguzzi back is that he doesn't have much other than his fastball, and can be hit when hitters wait back and look for a good one to drive. He likely will find himself in the bullpen at low-A to open the 2007 season.
22. J.T. King, RHP
0-1, 18.00 ERA, 1 IP, 3 H, 1 K, 0 BB in 1 game/start with Arizona
0-1, 6.75 ERA, 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 K, 0 BB in 2 games (both in relief) with Helena
The Brewers discovered King while scouting DFE candidate Sebastien Vendette. While Vendette didn't show the Brewers enough to sign him, King did. King doesn't offer an exciting, powerful repertoire, but he does show an advanced knowledge of pitching by keeping the ball down low and changing speeds. He didn't fare very well after one appearance in Helena, and only made two more appearances in Arizona after being sent down. King more than likely will re-open the 2007 season with one of the two rookie level ballclubs.
24. Travis Wendte, RHP
0-1, 3.05 ERA, 41.1 IP, 46 H, 31 K, 4 BB in 17 games (all in relief) with Helena
A polished pitcher drafted and signed out of the University of Missouri that was thrust into the fire by being named the Tigers' closer his freshman year. He responded very well on his way to being named a freshman all-american. Wendte missed the entire 2004 season due to an arm injury, but bounced back with two solid seasons during his last two years in college. While he has put up very good numbers as a relief pitcher throughout his college career, Wendte doesn't blow batters away with his stuff. He does manage to miss quite a few bats, and he doesn't walk many, but his stuff can be hittable. Wendte will continue to pitch out of the bullpen at low-A next year, and could be a sleeper to watch along the lines of Patrick Ryan and Dane Renkert.
34. Stuart Sutherland, RHP
2-3, 6.55 ERA, 34.1 IP, 45 H, 21 K, 18 BB in 18 games (1 start) with Helena
Sutherland pitched out of the bullpen at Dallas Baptist University, so his arm is relatively fresh after pitching four years in college. Like Wendte, Sutherland knows how to miss bats with less than dominant stuff, and doesn't beat himself by walking too many batters, but he does have the propensity to get hit around. He will likely join Wendte in the bullpen at low-A next season.
43. Dustin Lidyard, RHP
Did not play, signed a 2007 contract
Lidyard signed late in the summer of 2006, signing a 2007 contract, as he didn't take the field for any of the Brewers affiliates. While we don't know much about Lidyard, we do know that he was used rather extensively late in the season pitching for Lower Columbia College. He has a strong build, and reportedly has a wicked slider that complements a high-80s to low-90s fastball that has been clocked as high as 94 miles per hour. Lidyard could be a sleeper to watch next season, as he's likely to debut at Helena.
2005-06 Draft and Follow signees
The Brewers continue to be active using the draft and follow process, and signed six of their DFE candidates that were drafted in 2005 before the 2006 draft. While no player reached the accomplishments of Lorenzo Cain, who was named the MVP of the Arizona Rookie League last year, both Braddock and Ramlow offer a fair amount of potential as left-handed pitchers, a position the Brewers have fared quite well with through the DFE process (Manny Parra, Dana Eveland, Derek Miller).
18. (draft round from 2005) Zach Braddock, LHP
2-2, 5.49 ERA, 39.1 IP, 32 H, 30 K, 31 BB in 14 games (8 starts) with Helena
The results weren't there this year for Braddock, but he has the size and stuff to enjoy a fair amount of success as a professional. Built tall and strong, Braddock's fastball has been clocked frequently in the low-90s, and he definitely knows how to miss bats as shown by his 30 strikeouts in 32 innings of work. He didn't pitch all that much late in high school due to Tommy John surgery during the summer of 2004, but has done a nice job rehabbing to build his arm strength back up. If he puts it all together, he may join Parra and Eveland as one of the best southpaws in the system. Braddock should open 2007 at the low-A level.
24. Michael Ramlow, LHP
0-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 IP, 2 H, 1 K, 0 BB in 2 games (1 start) for Arizona
0-2, 5.63 ERA, 8 IP, 11 H, 3 K, 3 BB in 3 games (1 start) for Helena
At 6'6" Ramlow is certainly tall, but he's 185 pounds sopping wet. That size allows Ramlow to push his fastball into the low-90s, but he will need to add some muscle mass to his thin frame for him to be able to sustain, or add to, that velocity moving forward. He pitched very sparingly between Arizona and Helena, but there aren't any reports of an injury, so he may have been brought along slowly after a heavy spring workload at Owens CC. Ramlow likely opens the 2007 season in extended spring training and then with Helena once their season begins in mid-June.
25. Taylor Green, 2B
.231/.328/.308, 12 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR in 221 AB for Helena
Green entered the system with the reputation as a solid all-around hitter with a disciplined eye at the plate. Given that reputation, he is going to have to fare better than he did during his debut to climb up the ladder. A similar player to Todd Walker, Green bats left-handed and can play second or third base.
34. Brock Kjeldgaard, RHP
1-2, 5.29 ERA, 49.1 IP, 56 H, 25 K, 21 BB in 16 games (8 starts) for Helena
An exciting two-way star in junior college that has as much power in his bat as he did in his arm, thanks to his 6'5", 215 pound frame, Kjeldgaard's future may be as a hard-throwing short inning specialist despite beginning his pro career as a starter. He had his ups and downs during his debut, and could stand to open up next year back at Helena, but may find himself at low-A with nearly 50 rookie ball innings under his belt.
39. Brad Miller, SS
.200/.296/.270, 7 2B, 2 HR in 185 AB for Helena
Miller just never got on track during his professional debut, and when things got bad they just continued to spiral downward. He has the natural athletic talent to be an interesting prospect to follow, particularly since the system is a little thin in pure shortstops. If you're looking for a reason for hope, check out his 23:33 walk to strikeout ratio, which tells me he kept his cool at the plate despite only hitting .200. Repeating Helena next year seems likely, but there won't be anyone blocking him at low-A at the position should he have a big spring.
45. Ulrich Snijders
.260/.374/.364, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR in 77 AB for Arizona
Without taking anything away from Snijders, his signing seemed to fill an organizational need more than anything. Armed with a strong arm and some decent pop at the plate, he could rise up to the lower levels of the system within the next few years. Helena should be his '07 stop.
2005-06 Draft and Follow Candidates
The Brewers will follow 20 DFE candidates next spring, not as many as the 23 they followed two years ago, but one more than the 19 they followed last year. Few teams use the draft and follow process as much as the Milwaukee Brewers do, and few teams have been as successful finding talent through the process in that same time. No re-drafts this year, as the Brewers did not re-select any of their players that were previously eligible in the DFE process like they have in recent years (Tim Dillard, Stephen Barnes). The unknowns that aren't listed below are 35th rounder Sanduan Dubose and 41st rounder John Poulk. Dubose reportedly had some personal/legal issues right after the draft, while Poulk is out of athletic eligibility at UNC Wilmington. Neither one is enrolled in school, and are unlikely to be signed by the Brewers. Chad Robinson and Lee Haydel highlight this year's class, as the Brewers convinced the two of them to attend junior colleges instead of their initial college commitments (UNLV and LSU respectively). Robinson was an Aflac All-American during the summer of 2005, and has been building his arm strength back up after having Tommy John surgery. When healthy he can throw in the mid-90s, and was up to the low-90s this spring. Haydel is a five-tool centerfielder who was considered one of the fastest players eligible for the '06 draft. Stay tuned to Brewerfan.net and the fan forums for more detailed coverage of the DFE candidates next spring.
12. Chad Robinson (CC of Southern Nevada, NV)
17. Aaron Tullo, RHP (St. Petersburg College, FL)
19. Lee Haydel, OF (Delgado CC, LA)
20. Mehdi Djebbar, LHP (Seminole State College, OK)
26. Marc Lewis, LHP (Creighton University, medical redshirt fifth-year senior)
27. T.J. Macy, RHP (Scottsdale CC, AZ)
28. Terrell Alliman, OF (Bluevale Collegiate Institute, Waterloo, ON)
29. David Newmann, LHP (Texas A&M, medical redshirt fifth-year senior)
31. Robert Bryson, RHP (Seminole CC, FL)
32. Nicholas Tyson, RHP (Lake City CC, FL)
36. Clay Jones, C (Shelton State CC, AL)
38. Todd Fitzgerald, LHP (San Jose CC, CA)
42. Matt Peck, RHP (Cowley College, KS)
44. Bryan Crosby, 3B (Cleveland State CC, TN)
45. Matthew Thompson, SS (Eastern Arizona JC, AZ)
46. Aaron Johnson, C (Lethbridge CC, Alberta, Canada, playing for Prairie Baseball Academy)
47. Matthew Coburn, RHP (San Jacinto College, TX)
48. Brandon Owens, RHP (Truett McConnell JC, GA)
49. Nicholas Spears, SS (San Diego CC, CA)
50. Ricky Alvernaz, 3B (Cisco JC, TX)
The Ones that Got Away:
The Brewers have done a good job limiting the number of players that have truly gotten away in recent years, given how well they sign their draft picks or use the draft and follow process to retain their rights through the following spring. Unlike last year, when the team lost four of it's top 20 picks to college, this year the Brewers will only lose one of their top 20 picks to college: Andrew Clark, who seemed intent on heading to Ole Miss after falling to the 18th round of the draft. In fact, the Brewers had only four unsigned players get away from them in total, as the remaining players as listed above will be eligible to be followed as DFE candidates.
18. Andrew Clark (Mississippi)
23. Scott Shuman (Auburn)
37. Wes Munson (Missouri)
40. Alexander Koronis (Miami)
I always have to add the usual disclaimer that it is far too early to judge any draft three months after it took place. The Brewers once again signed their first-round pick quickly, although it will likely take both Jeremy Jeffress and Brent Brewer some time before either sniffs the big-leagues. Cole Gillespie could make the big-leagues within a couple of years if he keeps up his exceptional offensive production. Teams could be kicking themselves in a few years that they allowed Gillespie to fall to the third round.
There isn't the statistical success with the Brewers' draft picks this year to make one feel any better about their initial returns. Gillespie and Errecart really are the only two picks within the top 10 rounds that put up numbers worth getting excited about. This is a distinct difference from last year, when all of the team's early picks started to show their promise statistically upon entering the system. Obviously, there is more to prospects than statistical production, and there is plenty of time for these young players to start producing.
What is more concerning is that there aren't one or two later round picks that elicit reason for excitement at this point in time. The players that are probably the most exciting to look forward to from the later round picks are players that haven't even taken the field for the Brewers as professionals yet. Those players are La Crosse native R.J. Seidel and DFE candidates Chad Robinson and Lee Haydel.
Just to pile on, last year we had the added excitement of seeing the Brewers sign one of the top prospects on the international free agent market in Rolando Pascual, and they followed that with another relatively big Latin signing in Wily Peralta. So far this year, the Brewers have been incredibly quiet on this front.
The good thing from this draft is that they were able to sign everyone they wanted to. Andrew Clark is the only top 20 pick that is not under the Brewers control through next year, but most signs pointed to him heading to Ole Miss after he fell to the 18th round. Jeffress and Brewer have tremendous potential, while Gillespie and Errecart could be steals given where they were selected. The draft and follow class is strong, and I do like the prep pitchers taken after Jeffress in Anundsen, Hill and Seidel.
It's not that I don't like this draft, but the players selected have a lot to prove, as the initial returns so far have been pretty minimal. With the expectations for the Brewers growing higher and higher despite the team's struggles this year, I wonder if the scouting department will ever alter their approach, even slightly, to place more emphasis on proven and existing baseball skills rather than vast yet unproven potential.
The Brewers enjoyed a taste of what it's like to draft outside of not only the top 10 picks, but the first half of the first round. With a disappointing season the Brewers are poised to draft in the top 10 once again. As of games played through September 18, with a 68-82 record (a .453 winning percentage), the Brewers would draft seventh in next year's draft. The Brewers last drafted seventh overall in 2002 when they selected Prince Fielder. Being able to draft a player like Fielder is about the only silver lining you can take from a season like this.
While the 2006 draft crop was considered relatively weak, the 2007 group is considered quite strong. There is an exciting player at every position from both the college and high school levels. In other words, there will be something for everyone. There is also very good premium talent at the top supplemented by a fair amount of depth.
Most consider the top prospect overall to be left-handed pitcher David Price from Vanderbilt. He was named Baseball America's player of the summer for his amazing performance pitching for Team USA. That marked his second tour with Team USA, and he has two very good seasons at Vandy under his belt as well. He's a prototypical staff ace, with a 6'6" projectable frame and a very impressive and complete arsenal. However, I'm going to buck the trend and make Matt Wieters my top overall prospect heading into next spring. For me Price and Wieters are really prospects 1A and 1B, much like Mark Teixeira and Mark Prior were considered near equals entering the spring of 2001. If I had the first overall pick right now I would take Wieters given his productivity at every level he has played, with both a metal and wood bat while considering his switch-hitting ability, his leadership skills and the fact that he's a catcher. Prepare yourself for Jason Varitek (who also attended Georgia Tech) comparisons when it comes to Wieters.
The biggest and more specific strengths in next year's draft are the number and depth of powerful arms at the high school level, prep third basemen, college closers and college lefties in general.
1. Josh Vitters, 3B, Anaheim, CA
2. Rick Porcello, RHP, Chester, NJ
3. Michael Main, RHP, Deltona, FL
4. Matt Harvey, RHP, Mystic, CT
5. Tanner Robles, LHP, Murray, UT
6. Michael Burgess, RF, Tampa, FL
7. Jason Heyward, 1B, McDonough, GA
8. Neil Ramirez, RHP, Virginia Beach, VA
9. Justin Jackson, SS, Asheville, NC
10. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Lenoir, NC
Similar to last year, we're probably going to see the high school pitchers jockey for position all spring long. There were several pitchers that stood out at the major showcase and tournament events over the summer of 2006, with a new name performing particularly well from event to event. Rick Porcello and Madison Bumgarner are two arms that pitched well almost the entire summer. Michael Main and Matt Harvey may have the strongest arms, but they also may need the most polish. Main is an exciting overall prospect that could be drafted very high as a multi-tooled outfielder, but his near-100 mph fastball means his future lies on the mound. Tanner Robles is about as smooth as they come from the left side, and Ramirez is about as polished as they come. Throw righties Sam Runion (Asheville, NC), Erik Goeddel (Hillsborough, CA), Greg Peavey (Vancouver, WA) and Tim Alderson (Pheonix, AZ) as well as lefty Joshua Smoker (Sugar Valley, GA) onto the polished pitcher pile. Michael Burgess and Jason Heyward bring the power, and if you're looking for a slick all-around shortstop, you have two to choose from: Justin Jackson and Christian Colon (Anaheim Hills, CA). Josh Vitters sits at the top of my list, proving all summer long that he has the best present day skills of any high school player. He performed well at every major stop, hitting the best pitchers in the nation along the way. Vitters may not be a third baseman in the long run, but his bat should make that concern irrelevant. Matt Dominguez (Van Nuys, CA) and Victor Sanchez (Norwalk, CA) add to the depth of talented third baseman. Outfielder Kentrail Davis (Theodore, AL) and infielder John Tolisano (Sanibel, FL) gives the prep ranks two more polished all-around players with very good present hitting skills.
1. Matt Wieters, C, Georgia Tech
2. David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt
3. Andrew Brackman, RHP, NC State
4. J.P. Arencibia, C, Tennessee
5. Sean Doolittle, LHP/1B, Virginia
6. Joe Savery, LHP/1B, Rice
7. Josh Fields, RHP, Georgia
8. Matt Mangini, 3B, Oklahoma
9. Nick Schmidt, LHP, Arkansas
10. Bryan Augenstein, RHP, Florida
I already talked about Price and Wieters above, so I'll start with the 7' tall Andrew Brackman here. Brackman reportedly has already decided not to play basketball for the Wolfpack this year. You know with his stature scouts are already drooling over his future potential. J.P. Arencibia gives the draft class another solid catching prospect with a proven bat. Sean Doolittle and Joe Savery both pitch and hit nearly equally well, although both are currently preferred as pitchers given their polish and power repertoires. Add two more SEC lefties, Nick Schmidt and James Adkins (Tennessee) to face David Price at some point next spring, and throw two lefty relievers in the mix when you're talking about potential first-rounders: Cole St. Clair (Rice) and Daniel Moskos (Clemson). The best reliever available is Georgia's Josh Fields, whose high 80s slider makes his mid-90s fastball look like a pretty good pitch to hit. If Doolittle isn't drafted as a hitter, Matt Mangini likely takes the honors as the best pure hitter. Bryan Augenstein burst onto the prospect scene as a sophomore at Florida, one of the few Gators that actually had a good year. It's a good year for shortstops in the college ranks as well. Take you pick from Rutgers' Todd Frazier, Mississippi's Zach Cozart, Arizona State's Andrew Romine, Rice's Brian Friday, Oregon State's Darwin Barney and North Carolina's Josh Horton. In the polished pitcher category, Wes Roemer (Cal State Fullerton) leads the way, who worked 50+ innings last spring before issuing a single walk. Right-handed pitchers Sean Morgan (Tulane), James Simmons (UC Riverside), Wynn Pelzer (South Carolina), Brad Meyers (Loyola Marymount), Sam Demel (TCU) and Eddie Kunz (Oregon State) could all find themselves taken in the first round with big springs.
Predicting who the Brewers will take is no easy task, especially this far in advance. One thing is for sure, until Jack Zduriencik selects a college pitcher in the first two rounds, something he has yet to do as scouting director of the Milwaukee Brewers (since 2000), I'll look elsewhere. If the team is looking to address an organizational need like when they took Ryan Braun in 2005, a catcher might be the way to go, especially since next year's draft looks particularly strong at the position.
While Zduriencik hasn't taken a college pitcher in the first two rounds of the draft, he hasn't selected a high school pitcher in the first round two years in a row. That leads me to a bat, and given the love for tools I am going to single out Tampa's Michael Burgess, who not only has the power potential as a left-handed hitter to rival Prince Fielder's, but also has incredible arm strength that would make him a natural fit in right field.
Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Brewerfan.net and Perfect Game USA, and can be contacted via email at email@example.com.