Note: Due to technical difficulties with Toby's computer, this report was unavailable prior to this late date. Toby apologizes for the delay and next week's report will be available at it's normal time.
As the baseball season chugs along in full gear, you can get a pretty good idea who the haves are and who the have-nots are. Some teams are trying to figure out how to get that final piece in place for a playoff run while others are already counting the days until the end of the season. May is slowly winding to a close and the cream is separating itself from the rest. However, whether a team seems bound for the playoffs, or whether a team is preparing itself for impending doom, all teams are looking forwards to one thing: baseball's annual draft.
The baseball draft is virtually completely unlike any other major pro sports draft. The first, and maybe most obvious thing, that comes to mind here is that the draft takes place smack dab in the middle of the baseball season. While other major sports all have their drafts during the offseason, baseball execs have their work cut out for them this time each year - they have to figure out both how to run the day to day operations of the team and also try to scout and budget their draft picks. The baseball draft is also the longest draft, by far. Up to a few years ago, teams could keep drafting until they had run out of players they wanted. Drafts sometimes lasted in excess of 75 or 100 rounds. Nowadays, a rule is in place to limit the number of rounds, but it is still a fairly daunting number: 50.
The draft is the primary means to stock the minor league chain full of prospects. As discussed last week, foreign players can be signed as free agents, but if you live in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico, you have to be drafted to be signed. When Dean Taylor took over back in late 1999, the Brewers' minor league system was just about the definition of barren. Years of bad drafts and a passive attitude towards scouting both domestic and foreign players had made the system all but worthless. One of the first things Taylor made sure to take care of was his scouting and player development staff. He has stated many times that the key to long-term success comes from within your own organization. While the product on the field hasn't been any better in his term, the talent in the system has increased dramatically.
Along with scouting director Jack Zduriencik, Player Development Director Greg Riddoch and new cash flow injected by ownership, Taylor has managed to vastly improve the farm system in his tenure. Baseball America has consistently ranked the Brewers' system in the bottom 5 in terms of player talent since the early to mid 90's, but they are now slowly creeping up the charts. The key to their success has been sticking to a consistent draft strategy. Under this regime, the Brewers have concentrated on high-potential high school players with their top picks. These players are more risky than college players: with a college player, the potential is lower, but you know what you are going to get. With high school players, you could get a superstar, or you could get a complete dud. This hasn't stopped the Brewers from taking them.
Taking college players is also generally considered to be sort of a quick fix to a problem, and that is the last thing the Brewers need at this point. They need a bunch of solid contributors coming through the ranks, and we are starting to see this. It all started back in the early fall of 1999. 10th round pick Ben Hendrickson was unsigned, after making little progress with the Bando administration. Once Taylor stepped in, Hendrickson got inked and he is now one of their bigger prospects.
In Taylor's first draft in June of 2000, five of his first six picks were from the high school ranks, as were eleven of the first twenty. Of those eleven high school picks, eight are still with the team, and six of them are among the Brewers' top 50 prospects: Dave Krynzel (CF, 1st round, #2 prospect); Dane Artman (LHP, 3rd round, #37); Jason Belcher (C, 5th round, #10); Gerry Oakes (RHP, 7th round, #23); Corey Hart (1B, 11th round, #7); and Matt Yeatman (RHP, 13th round, #6). Comparatively, only three college picks from that year are among the top 50: Bill Scott (1B, 8th round, #20); Ryan Miller (RHP, 9th round, #43); and D.J. Clark (3B, 17th round, #13). The Brewers stuck to high-round high schoolers again in 2001. Five of their first seven picks were from high school, and three of them are already very well thought of among their Brewer prospect peers: Mike Jones (RHP, 1st round, #2); J.J. Hardy (SS, 2nd round, #11); and Brad Nelson (1B, 4th round, #4). All in all, of the Brewers' top 11 prospects, only one was not drafted and signed out of high school, and he, Manny Parra (#8), had only played one year of junior college ball.
With the draft only a handful of days away, look for the Brewers to again concentrate on the high school ranks, as they scour the nation in efforts to further build what is becoming a very respectable farm system, a system that will probably not see a bottom 5 ranking from Baseball America again for a long, long time.
Offensive Player Of The Week:
We have our first repeat winner in our player of the week awards, and to no one's surprise, it is a High Desert player. Corey Hart, burgeoning thirdbaseman, takes home the honors this week, with another fine series of outing at the plate. Corey managed a hefty .414/.469/.931 effort in 29 at-bats in 7 games. He did what few Brewers prospects will do this season: not only did he hit a double, triple and a home run this week, he managed 2 doubles, 2 triples and 3 home runs, with 2 stolen bases, 2 walks and 12 RBIs to boot. He also continued his limited test at third base, a position that, if he could play steadily at, would be absolutely thrilling to the Brewers to have him at.
Last Week: Brad Nelson, 1B, Beloit:
May 13th: DJ Clark, 3B, High Desert
May 6th: Pete Zoccolillo, OF, High Desert
April 29th: Corey Hart, 1B, High Desert
April 22nd: Ryan Thompson, OF, Indianapolis
April 15th: Ryan Knox, OF, High Desert
Pitcher Of The Week:
Indianapolis gets it's second Pitcher Of The Week award, and this time it goes to Jimmy Osting. Though Jimmy pitched in just one game this past week, it was a beauty. He pitched 8 innings and did not allow an earned run, on 8 hits, a walk and 5 strikeouts. Osting has a history with Dean Taylor, as he was drafted in the 4th round by the Atlanta Braves back in 1995. He was later acquired by the Phillies in the Chen-Ashby deal in 2000, he was waived, claimed by the Rockies, waived again, claimed by the Padres and pitched in 3 major league games for them last season. He became a six-year free agent and signed with the Brewers this past winter. The lefthanded Osting is 6'5, 190 and turned 25 shortly after opening day.
Last Week: Derek Lee, SP, Huntsville
May 13th: Ryan Miller, SP, High Desert
May 6th: Doug Dent, SP, High Desert
April 29th: Justin Gordon, SP, High Desert
April 22nd: Brian Nielsen, SP, Beloit
April 15th: Andrew Lorraine, SP, Indianapolis
Team Of The Week:
Like in the week prior to April 29th, no team distinguished themselves this past week, and thus, the Team Of The Week award will not be handed out this week. Better luck next week, guys.
Last Week: High Desert Mavericks
May 13th: Huntsville Stars
May 6th: Huntsville Stars
April 29th: None
April 22nd: High Desert Mavericks
April 15th: Indianapolis Indians.