The Milwaukee Brewers welcomed new Scouting Director Bruce Seid to the organization by awarding him with three extra, premium draft picks due to the departure of free agents CC Sabathia and Brian Shouse. In Jack Zduriencik's previous nine years serving as the team's scouting boss, he didn't have a single, extra pick to play with.
In his first year running the show, Seid showed that there may be a different philosophy at play than the one employed by his predecessor. He took a college pitcher with his first overall pick, Eric Arnett, and selected 26 college players overall among the 32 players he drafted and signed. Zduriencik had not selected a college pitcher prior to the third round before he took Evan Frederickson in the supplemental round in the 2008 draft, and wasn't shy about using his own premium picks on exciting, live-armed high school pitchers that were short on polish.
I expect the college trend to continue, as the organization, now with greater expectations to compete for the playoffs having reached the postseason for the first time in 26 years in 2008, has recognized that college players are more likely to progress faster. That means not only are they projected to make the big leagues more quickly than most high school draftees, but they also offer more value in trades earlier in their professional careers. This is something that Seid, General Manager Doug Melvin and Assistant GM Gord Ash have all alluded to.
Seid and his team did continue to place an emphasis on targeting players that they knew would sign and sign quickly, inking their top 23 picks and 31 of their top 38. The Brewers signed 32 of their picks overall, and managed not to lose any of their significant draftees.
And just because they signed most these players quickly doesn't mean they did so cheaply. They were able to add Kentrail Davis, Brooks Hall, Del Howell and Scooter Gennett for more than slot value at the signing deadline, and signed a few of their other picks, including Kyle Heckathorn and D'Vontrey Richardson, for bonuses greater than MLB's recommended slot values.
For more detailed coverage and scouting reports on the picks from the 2009 draft, please be sure to visit Brewerfan.net's Draft Forum.
Power Arms Early
The Brewers didn't load up on as many arms early in the draft like they did in 2008, but they certainly used a few of their premium, early selections to procure three talented, power arms into the system. All three of Eric Arnett, Kyle Heckathorn and Brooks Hall are extremely athletic all-around players, as Hall pulled double-duty in high school, and could have been used both as a pitcher and as a hitter had he honored his commitment to South Carolina. That commitment caused the Brewers to open up their pocket book a little to make sure they didn't let Hall get away.
1. (Draft round) Eric Arnett: 0-4, 4.41 ERA, 14 games (9 starts), 34.2 IP, 33 H, 35 K, 21 BB
1S-b. Kyle Heckathorn: 0-1, 6.04 ERA, 6 games (5 starts), 22.1 IP, 30 H, 15 K, 4 BB
4. Brooks Hall: Did not play
Reports surfaced out of Helena that Arnett was throwing the ball extremely well, in the low-to-mid-90s, similar to how well he threw the ball during the spring at Indiana. The Brewers wanted to ease him into professional baseball after he tossed 108 innings for the Hoosiers by having him lay off of his slider and limiting his pitch counts. He still has to work on his control, something Heckathorn also needs to work on, and the two have similar profiles, with large, sturdy builds and power stuff.
Arnett was rated the 10th best prospect in the Pioneer League according to Baseball America, and it was noted during the Pioneer League chat that Heckathorn would have been ranked about the same range if he had enough innings to qualify, as he too was throwing gas. There is some concern that both may have to be converted to relievers down the road, particularly Heckathorn, but both will be developed as starters.
Brooks Hall signed at the August 17th deadline and will make his professional debut next year, likely in Helena, so don't expect to see his name in any box scores until June.
Similar to the 2008 draft, when the Brewers took an exciting bat before loading up on pitching, the team took quite a few high potential positional prospects in the early rounds this year despite spending two of their first round picks on college pitchers. There is plenty to be excited about with this group, although none of them are without significant warts to their games, and most of them need significant playing time to allow their polish to catch up with their talent.
1S-a. Kentrail Davis: Did not play
2a. Max Walla: .201/.282/.280, 186 AB, 5 2b, 2 3b, 2 HR 15:87 BB:K, 4 for 6 SB
2b. Cameron Garfield: .248/.299/.353, 218 AB, 11 2b, 4 HR, 10:61 BB:K
3. Josh Prince: .262/.373/.319, 263 AB, 10 2b, 1 HR, 48:46 BB:K, 38 for 50 SB
5. D'Vontrey Richardson: Did not play
7. Khris Davis: .237/.348/.500, 38 AB, 2 3b, 2 HR, 6:11 BB:K, 4 for 4 SB
8. Chad Stang: .229/.284/.314, 188 AB, 5 2b, 4 3b, 1 HR, 13:59 BB:K, 5 for 7 SB
10. Tyler Roberts: .275/.383/.350, 80 AB, 1 2b, 1 3b, 1 HR, 13:22 BB:K
16. Scooter Gennett: Did not play
25. Demetrius McKelvie: .210/.300/.290, 124 AB, 7 2b, 1 HR, 12:48 BB:K, 7 for 8 SB
It's tough to get a feel for this group, since three of the more exciting players in Davis, Richardson and Gennett, didn't play last summer, while Walla and Garfield struggled to make the appropriate, initial adjustments to life in pro ball.
Walla, Roberts and McKelvie began their pro careers at the Arizona rookie league level, with both Walla and Roberts getting the bump up to Helena for the final week of the Pioneer League season. While Walla was disappointing after stories of his pre-draft power display spread, at least he got a taste of two levels of rookie ball for him heading into his first full season next year.
Roberts' success was a pleasant surprise, while McKelvie is a raw athlete who has a lot of work to do. Garfield is the lone prep draftee that made his debut with Helena, and despite getting off to a hot start there, his numbers suggest that he may not have been ready for such an initial placement.
Most of the team's positional draftees are far from finished products. Kentrail Davis is the most exciting overall offensive performer of the group, with an intriguing blend of power and speed, but he needs to work on his strike-zone discipline, as he's prone to breaking stuff low and away. Khris Davis has three full years at Cal State Fullerton, but remains a work in progress as he didn't post solid numbers until his third and final year in college. D'Vontrey Richardson was signed away from his promising two-sport career, as he spent last fall serving as Florida State's change-of-pace option at quarterback. He already is drawing rave reviews out of the team's instructional camp in Arizona. Chad Stang has exciting offensive tools, but again, lacks experience and polish.
Josh Prince was an exciting presence on the basepaths, swiping 38 bases in 50 attempts, but he will need time and patience for his prowess swinging the bat to catch up to his speed and defensive tools.
Rounding out the Arms
There is plenty to like in this group of pitchers, even if most of them don't carry the same profiles that the early round picks (Arnett, Heckathorn and Hall) do. This is roughly the same group that Nick Bucci emerged from this past year, as you never know which player has the stuff as well as the makeup to step forward in the next year or two to take us all by surprise.
6. Hiram Burgos: 3-2, 5.62 ERA, 14 games (7 starts), 57.2 IP, 75 H, 53 K, 14 BB
9. Jonathan Pokorny: 3-2, 3.38 ERA, 16 games (2 starts), 40 IP, 43 H, 43 K, 14 BB
11. Andre Lamontagne: 2-4, 4.54 ERA, 13 games (4 starts), 35.2 IP, 35 H, 17 K, 11 BB
12. Rob Currie: 4-2, 3.57 ERA, 24 games, 3 saves, 35.1 IP, 34 H, 35 K, 11 BB
15. Del Howell: 1-0, 0.77 ERA, 5 games (3 starts), 11.2 IP, 10 H, 9 K, 3 BB
17. Tyler Cravy: 2-1, 4.45 ERA, 12 games (4 starts), 32.1 IP, 28 H, 34 K, 12 BB
18. Caleb Thielbar: 6-1, 1.53 ERA, 16 games (2 starts), 47 IP, 44 H, 48 K, 8 BB
22. Michael Fiers: 2-0, 1.33 ERA, 22 games, 11 saves, 40.2 IP, 24 H, 59 K, 5 BB
27. Ryan Platt: 1-1, 5.54 ERA, 15 games (1 start), 26 IP, 20 H, 39 K, 16 BB
31. Jose Oviedo: 2-1, 3.58 ERA, 15 games (2 starts), 32.2 IP, 26 H, 30 K, 18 BB
35. Matt Costello: 1-5, 2.06 ERA, 17 games (3 starts), 39.1 IP, 35 H, 43 K, 9 BB
Howell is the pitcher to be most excited about this group, an athletic and live-armed lefty that could have gone in the top two to three rounds on talent alone. He was used more as a hitter at Alabama prior to his junior year, but flashed mid-90s heat with a whip-like delivery and a wicked breaking ball but marginal control. The Brewers may choose to challenge him at low-A Wisconsin next spring after a solid, albeit brief debut across two levels of rookie ball.
Burgos, Pokorny, Lamontagne, Currie and Platt all posted solid numbers at Helena during their professional debuts. Burgos finished the season strong after a shaky start, while Currie was solid coming out of the bullpen all summer long, showing his resiliency by finishing second on the team in appearances with 24. This group should advance with the likes of Arnett, Heckathorn and Howell, as well as Nick Bucci, Jake Odorizzi and Damon Krestalude, to low-A Wisconsin to open the 2010 season. That staff should give the Timberrattlers a much better chance to succeed, and may be one of the more exciting staffs to follow in the link reports on a day-to-day basis.
Cravy, Oviedo and Costello all showed the ability to miss bats with high strikeout totals in their time spent with the Arizona rookie team. Cravy has a similar profile to Nick Bucci, with a lean, projectable body, good, not great stuff, and a knack to induce ground ball outs.
Another member of the Arizona staff is Thielbar, who appears to be the next lefty specialist the team will attempt to groom for the big-league bullpen, following in the footsteps of Mitch Stetter, Casey Baron and Brandon Ritchie. Thielbar doesn't throw particularly hard, but his curveball is good enough for him to get left-handed hitters out on a consistent basis.
No 2009 draftee other than Mike Brownstein made it as far as Michael Fiers did during his debut season, posting nearly untouchable numbers at Helena, Wisconsin and Brevard County. Similar to Rob Wooten, Fiers doesn't have the stuff to match his success, so he will need to continue to post good numbers to advance up the organizational ladder in a timely fashion.
Rounding out the Bats
Lumping all of these players into one category doesn't always seem fair, but this group of hitters doesn't have the same upside as the more toolsy group listed above. Of this group we'll likely see a few of them serve as organizational soldiers, filling important roster spots in the lower to middle levels of the minor leagues.
13. Sean Halton: .345/.397/.506, 255 AB, 21 2b, 6 HR, 17:56 BB:K, 7 for 11 SB
14. Mike Brownstein: .299/.410/.382, 241 AB, 14 2b, 3 3b, 47:33 BB:K, 22 for 31 SB
19. Scott Krieger: .253/.301/.473, 277 AB, 16 2b, 3 3b, 13 HR, 21:103 BB:K, 9 for 11 SB
20. Franklin Romero: .223/.262/.336, 220 AB, 12 2b, 5 3b, 1 HR, 6:72 BB:K, 8 for 16 SB
24. Peter Fatse: .237/.342/.342, 228 AB, 9 2b, 6 3b, 1 HR, 31:71 BB:K, 5 for 10 SB
30. Brandon Sizemore: .292/.376/.528, 195 AB, 16 2b, 3 3b, 8 HR, 19:50 BB:K, 12 for 13 SB
32. Chris Ellington: .285/.320/.465, 284 AB, 17 2b, 2 3b, 10 HR, 14:58 BB:K, 6 for 10 SB
43. Kyle Dhanani: .225/.320/.305, 151 AB, 8 2b, 2 3b, 13:41 BB:K, 6 for 7 SB
Brownstein didn't miss a beat adjusting to life in pro ball after being named the Mountain West's player of the year for the University of New Mexico. There are limitations to his athleticism and power potential, but he is a coaches' dream given the way he works the count and comes to play hard every day.
Halton's numbers look very impressive, but it's important to temper one's enthusiasm about a 22-year old college product posting good numbers over two levels of rookie ball. Ellington and Sizemore's situations are similar to Halton's.
Fatse offers versatility being able to play both the infield and outfield, but he is going to have to work hard to hit his way towards the upper levels of the system. Scott Krieger offers good power potential, but really needs to work on his ability to make contact and strike-zone recognition.
Romero and Dhanani didn't show much in their debut year, so we'll need to take a wait and see approach to get a better feel of what they're capable of.
The Ones that Got Away
Few notable players got away from the Brewers under Jack Zduriencik's watch, and the same remains true after Bruce Seid's first year. Mike Ojala, who had Tommy John surgery over the past year and appears to be on the right path to getting back on track, is probably the most interesting name of note on this list. Felix Rutledge, Eugene Escalante and Kyle Hansen are the most notable of the high school draftees that decided to honor their college commitments, although none of the three is likely to have the draft standing of former Brewers draftees such as Jemile Weeks and Rick Hague three years from now.
21. Brian Vigo-Suarez, SS, Navarro Junior College
23. Austin Pressley, RHP, Sinclair Community College
26. Felix Rutledge, LHP, Samford
28. Eugene Escalante, C, Cal State Fullerton
29. Chandler McLaren, RF, Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute
33. Jacobbi McDaniel, 3B, Florida State (football)
34. Mike Ojala, RHP, Rice
36. Joshua Turley, LHP, Baylor
37. Cullen Sexton, RHP, Minnesota
38. Casey Stevenson, 2B, UC Irvine
39. Brady Rodgers, RHP, Arizona State
40. Kyle Hansen, RHP, St. John's University
41. Steven Sultzbaugh, CF, Rice
42. Brad Schreiber, RHP, Purdue
44. Andrew Morris, RHP, Gulf Coast Community College
45. Richard Stock, C, USC
46. Jordan Wong, RHP, Hill College
47. Trevor Kirk, LF, College of Southern Nevada
48. Reynaldo Cotilla, RHP, NC State
49. J.J. Altobelli, SS, Oregon
50. Darren Farmer, C, Meridian Community College
It's both a good and a bad thing that Eric Arnett became the Brewers' best pitching prospect upon being added to the organization. He, Kyle Heckathorn, Brooks Hall and Del Howell offer the most promising arms to a system that is in desperate need of pitchers.
In looking at the numbers of a handful of pitchers that took the mound for the Helena Brewers this past summer, it's hard not to hope that one of them turns into the pitcher that Nick Bucci evolved into this past year. Hiram Burgos, Jon Pokorny, Andre Lamontagne, Rob Currie and Ryan Platt all offered some kind of encouraging peripheral to their overall numbers with Helena this past summer, with Tyler Cravy doing the same for Arizona.
Overall, the team needs at least an arm or two from every draft to continue to progress towards the MLB level.
Given the team's assertion to draft and develop as many power arms as they possibly can, impact bats are starting to be harder to identify in the system. Brett Lawrie continues to swing his way towards Milwaukee, and Kentrail Davis may join him with an accelerated path to the big-leagues if he starts to make the proper adjustments to make the most of his exciting combination of speed and power. He also may become one of the better options to leadoff for the team down the road, and hopefully he can improve his defensive skills in centerfield since his value would be considerably greater there than on an outfield corner.
The need for impact bats places a greater emphasis on the progression of some of the other positional prospects the team selected this past year. There is plenty to be excited about, with both D'Vontrey Richardson and Cameron Garfield looking good at the Brewers' instructional camp the past month, and hopefully Walla can make the proper adjustments next year given his prodigious power potential. Scooter Gennett could be a real steal as a 16th rounder, and his relative polish at the plate could allow him to progress more quickly than most high school draftees.
The Brewers will draft 14th in next year's draft, and since they finished the 2009 season among the 15 worse teams, their first-round pick is protected should they decide to pursue any Type A free agents to help get them back to the postseason in 2010 and beyond.
The 2010 draft appears to be stocked with pitching from both the college and high school level, and given the team's problems developing pitching, I'm guessing their efforts will once again place an emphasis on procuring as many talented young arms as they can in the early rounds of the draft.
To familiarize yourself with the top prospects available for next year, I welcome you to visit my work at both PG Crosschecker and 5 Tool Talk.
Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Brewerfan.net and Perfect Game USA, as well as his new venture, 5 Tool Talk, and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.