The 2002 MLB draft has come and gone, and has left most casual observers scratching their heads asking "We took who?" Of course, if the next Brewers All-Star just happens to be our 21st round selection from some community college in Oklahoma, most of us aren't going to remember where we were when & if we even learned of their selection.
Last year many wondered if the team was showing a bias to players from the Southwest since 6 of the top 20 players they selected hailed from the Arizona. Not the case this year, as the Brewers focus seemed to shift to Florida in which 7 of the top 20 players selected were from.
And onto the tricky part: Signing your picks. Teams typically try to focus to sign most of their picks within the first 20 rounds. In 2000, the Brewers signed their first 15 draft selections, and 17 of their top 20 picks. They ended up signing only 12 more picks in the remaining 30 rounds, for a total of 29 out of 50 possible signings. Last year, the Brewers signed 15 of their top 20 picks, and 30 out of 50 picks. Keep in mind, 2 of those signings were Manny Parra & Stephen Hunt, draft & follow signings from just a week before the draft. This year, expect about 15 of our top 20 selections to sign.
Several of these players fell further than expected, whether it be due to past injury concerns, signability issues, etc. A couple of the players that were selected not only have college scholarships to contend with, but a football career as well, which will only increase their individual bargaining power.
The Dean Taylor-guided Brewers have focused on high-risk, high ceiling athletes in the past couple of years. While the team still drafted it's fair share of these types of players, they also selected several college players, and several college seniors at that who likely will prove to be fairly easy & quick signings since they really have no where else to go. This & the fact that the Brewers stopped selecting in the 42nd round with 8 possible rounds to go shows you the team was likely looking to fill a few remaining roster spots in the minors leagues. It also may tell you that the team is pretty happy with it's efforts the past couple of years to fill the lower levels of the minor league system, not only in the draft, but also with international signings from Latin America as well.
Within the first 20 picks the Brewers selected 11 pitchers & 9 positional players. For an organization that has proved to prefer higher ceiling prospects earlier in the draft, only 3 of those pitchers are from the high school ranks. High school pitchers are proven to be riskier selections, so it was interesting to see the Brewers take a conservative approach.
To start off this draft recap, I am going to start with the Brewers first two picks.
First round: Prince Fielder-1B-6'0", 250. L/R (bat/throw), Florida HS. Big-time power potential. Prince was launching absolute bombs in Miller Park during a pre-draft workout as his father Cecil proudly observed from the stands. Everybody in attendance was in awe of his raw, natural power. Takes a good approach to the plate, which should enable him to draw plenty of walks down the road from pitchers fearing to throw him anything down the middle of the plate. Also should hit for a fairly good average with a good overall swing & plate coverage. Uses his entire body to swing, and doesn't just flail at pitches with his hands & arms as he generates his power by going for good contact & letting his momentum & pure raw strength take care of the rest. As a power hitter, he likely will strike out his fair share of times. Moves quickly down the line for such a big guy, but his other movements are rather limited due to his massive yet compact frame. Isn't going to be the saving grace that Richie Sexson can be at 1B with his wingspan. Weight will always be an issue with Prince, but his advanced approach & exposure to the game courtesy of his big-league dad should help his development.
Second Round: Josh Murray-SS-6'1",180. R/R, Florida HS. Missed most of his junior season to injury, so he entered the spring as a relative unknown. Good defensive SS with a projectable bat. Could move to 3B to fill an organizational need. Like Fielder, Murray was putting on a show during batting practice, as no one else turned heads like these 2. Of course, no one was hitting them out like Prince. Very athletic overall player. Tommy John surgery kept him out his entire junior year, and still has a lot to prove to scouts nationally. Because of this, he is considered somewhat of a stretch as a 2nd-rounder, and he definitely will have to prove his worth at this selection, but should be a relatively easy sign. Committed to the University of Maryland projected to replace smooth-hitting John McCurdy, drafted 26th overall by the Oakland A's, at shortstop.
I'm going to break the remaining prospects from the first 20 rounds into groups: College & junior college pitchers, high school pitchers & positional prospects.
College pitchers: College pitchers typically tend to be more advanced than their high school counterparts, as the simple idea of move experience makes this a fairly logical notion. The Brewers took 8 college & junior college pitchers in the first 20 rounds this year, as they only selected 5 college pitchers in the first 20 rounds last year versus 6 high school arms. Junior college & community college arms get lumped in with the D-1 college prospects since they have had an extra year or two of seasoning to prove their worth.
Third Round: Eric Thomas-RHP-6'9" 225, South Alabama University. Giant frame with a fastball that has touched 96. With his size, all of his pitches come in on hitters with a nice downward plane. Curveball has promise, but overall polish & secondary stuff still needs work. To start a theme that will be recurring as these reports continue, he could be a steal in the 3rd round given his size & stuff combo.
Sixth Round: Khalid Ballouli-RHP-6'2", 195, Texas A&M University. Good sized & proportioned power pitcher. Throws in the low to mid-90s with a good slider & a decent changeup. Knows how to pitch by working the strike zone & changing speeds. Very competetive athlete that wants the ball in any & all situations.
Fifteenth Round: Justin Barnes-RHP-6'3", 200, Manatee CC, Florida. Another good sized RHP with good stuff. Followed as a DFE candidate by the New York Mets this past year. Was originally a 3B prospect with good overall athleticism & projection, but a low 90s fastball with a promising curve will keep his pro future on the mound.
Sixteenth Round: Dana Eveland-LHP-6'1", 215, Hill JC, Texas. Polished LHP only a year removed from high school. Throws a wide assortment of pitches, and throws them all for strikes. Strikeout, groundball pitcher that touches 92 with his 4-seam fastball, and also throws a 2-seam sinker & a cutter. Shows good feel for 2 breaking pitches & a changeup. Quite the impressive overall package, especially for a lefty.
18th Round: Steven White-RHP-6'5", 205, Baylor University. Polished RHP with a perfect pitching frame. Throws in the low 90s with a big breaking 12 to 6 curveball. Could be a dominant strikeout pitcher with 2 power pitches. Being a Boras client will likely make him a tough sign at this point in the draft, which likely caused him to fall in the first place. Very well could go back to school for his senior year with hopes to improve his stock for next year. Will be a tough sign, likely the toughest one of all.
19th Round: Jeremy "Bo" Hall-RHP-5'11", 180, University of Central Florida. Shorter RHP that also was a middle IF prospect. Good overall athleticism. Anything but a prototypical Brewers pick under the current regime given his less than ideal size, especially for a righty.
20th Round: Tyler Shepple-RHP-6'2", 220, University of Washington. Closer for the Huskies that throws 2 workable pitches with a low 90s fastball & a changeup. Likely a relief pitcher down the road, possibly a closer. Intimidating size could mean more velocity down the road, but may have peaked. Has already signed with the Brewers.
High School pitchers: Last year the Brewers selected 6 high school pitchers within the first 20 rounds. Of course, high school pitchers are riskier picks because far too many things can go wrong during their development. All 3 of the Brewers HS pitching selections will likely prove to be very tough signings.
7th Round: Tom Wilhelmsen-RHP-6'6", 195, Arizona HS. Strong commitment to Arizona State & lack of refinement likely caused Wilhelmsen to fall somewhat. As plenty of room to grow into his tall yet slender body. Throws in the low to mid 90s with good life on his fastball. Nice, hard breaking ball is also in the works. Size & seemingly effortless delivery screams projection down the road.
8th Round: Steven Kahn-RHP-6'2", 200, California HS. Overall a very sound high school pitching product with good stuff & a sound delivery. Didn't expect to fall this far. Good, strong, compact size with low to mid 90s fastball with the makings of a good curve & changeup. Committed to Loyola Marymount.
9th Round: Edwin Walker-LHP-6'3", 190, Texas HS. Good-sized & proportioned LHP that is still growing. Very athletic player that could have been considered a corner OF or 1B prospect with good hitting skills. Also a college QB recruit. As a pitcher, he shows good overall stuff with plenty of potential to be a star down the road, whether it be as a pitcher, an outfielder or a quarterback. The short run on high school pitchers ends here. Has already signed a pro deal with the Brewers.
Positional players: As you may imagine, the Brewers focused on several multi-dimensional athletes. Their scouts hopes these athletic abilities translate into outstanding baseball skills on the field.
4th Round: Nic Carter-OF-6'3", 190, Campbell University. Good sized & proportioned athlete. Potential 5-tool athlete with good speed, range, arm, power & overall hitting abilities. Like Josh Murray in round 2, Campbell is considered a stretch as a 4th-round selection, so the North Carolina area scout must have seen something he really liked. Already signed with the Brewers.
5th Round: Jarrad Page-IF/OF-6'1", 190, California HS. UCLA football recruit as a defensive back, which in itself will likely mean that Page will be a very pricey if not tough sign. He could sign a deal that allows him to play football in the fall. As a 5th round pick, the Brewers likely did their homework & must be confident that they will be able to sign him. As a pro, Page projects to be a multi-talented IF, although many believe he could play anywhere on the field given his impressive overall athleticism. Jack Zduriencik has already noted that Page is projected as a 2B down the road. Has the speed, power potential, range, arm & hitting projection to be considered a legitimate 5-tool prospect.
10th Round: Jeremy Frost-C-6'3", 210, University of Central Florida. Another UCF selection, as a few of the Brewers draft selections had teammates taken. Good sized catcher that is very sound defensively. Is fairly athletic, and has sound hitting actions. A guy that likely doesn't do any one thing outstanding at this point in time, but does many things very well. Has already signed with the Brewers.
11th Round: Brian Hernandez-C-6'0", 180, Florida HS. Extremely athletic catcher with good bat speed that projects to be a potential all-around threat. Committed to Duke, so he may be yet another difficult sign. The Brewers need catching prospects, so I'm sure Hernandez will be high on their signing priority list.
12th Round: Callix Crabbe-2B-5'8", 190, Manatee CC, Florida. Another Manatee CC product. Speed & glove guy that may prove to be a nuisance at the pro level. Switch-hitter with solid overall hitting skills. JC sophomore that either will sign or head to a D-1 or D-2 program.
13th Round: Tila Reynolds-SS-5'11", 185, R/R, University of Washington. Another UW product. Good all around player with sound defensive & overall baseball skills. Doesn't have the greatest range, isn't the fastest, and doesn't have much power. Such skills usually define a future utility IF.
14th Round: Kennard Bibbs-OF-5'8", 165, L/L, Oklahoma City University. Another small, pesky player like Crabbe, this time a CF. Bibbs is a blazer, stealing 56 bases this past season & 108 over the past 2 years. Good overall hitter that knows how to work the plate, draws walks & doesn't strike out much, as he shouldn't since he also doesn't have much power. Has already signed with the Brewers.
17th Round: Adam Mannon-OF-6'3", 200, R/R, Arizona HS. Big power-hitting OF prospect that still has plenty of room to get bigger & stronger. His bat is & will be his ticket when & if he signs a pro deal. Arizona State recruit that may attend college if the bonus money isn't to his liking.
Day 2 picks, Rounds 21-42: The Brewers opted to stop drafting players after the 42nd round, even though they could have made 8 more selections. They must feel pretty good about the lower levels of their system, as several Latin American signees & prospects drafted last year are currently taking up most of the roster spots on both of the Brewers rookie level teams.
Many of the players that are drafted on day 2 likely won't sign, at least not this summer. The ones that do for the most part are roster fillers. The ones that don't that attend a junior or community college are good candidates to be followed as DFE (draft, follow & evaluate) candidates for the team to re-evaluate next spring & determine whether or not they are worthy of a professional deal. The college seniors probably will sign, unless they have a year of eligibility left or if they don't wish to pursue a career in professional baseball.
Here is a list of the remaining draftees.
21. Josh Alliston-RHP-6'4" 220-Long Beach St. University-Senior. Has already signed with the Brewers 22. Landon Willis-3B-Motlow St. CC-Tennesse. Has already signed with the Brewers 23. Keith Bohanon-3B-6'2", 190-R/R-Oklahoma City University. Has already signed with the Brewers 24. Arturo Bravo-C-California HS. Has already signed with the Brewers 25. John Vanden Berg-C-6'2" 215-R/R-UW-Milwaukee-Senior. Son of Brewers head groundskeeper, Gary. Has already signed with the Brewers 26. Craig Breslow-LHP-6'0" 165-Yale University-Senior 27. Dallas Bates-OF-5'9" 175-L/L-Arizona HS, committed to Arizona St. Has already signed with the Brewers 28. Eric Thomas-RHP-6'3" 205-Southern University A&M-Senior. Has already signed with the Brewers 29. Steve Moss-OF-6'2" 175-R/R-California HS, UCLA recruit 30. Justin Gabriel-LHP-5'9" 160-University of Louisiana-Senior 31. Jason Baker-RHP-6'2" 215-George Washington University-Senior. Has already signed with the Brewers 32. Simon Bereford-RHP-6'5" 210-Tyler JC, Texas. Likely DFE candidate 33. Jeff Housman-LHP-6'4" 180-Cal State Fullerton-Junior 34. Tim Dillard-C-6'4" 230-R/R-Itawamba CC, MS. DFE candidate from last year, re-drafted as a likely DFE candidate for next year 35. Emanuel Cividanes-OF-Puerto Rico. Likely DFE candidate 36. Daniel Carter-RHP-Tallahassee CC, Florida. Likely DFE candidate 37. Stephen Bryant-C-Indiana HS. Likely DFE candidate 38. Dane Hancox-RHP-5'11" 157-Pasco Hernando CC, Florida. Likely DFE candidate 39. John Herrera-RHP-Arizona Western JC. Likely DFE candidate 40. Hunter Pence-OF-6'5" 213-Texarkana JC. Likely DFE candidate 41. Johnathan Shapland-OF-St. Petersburg CC, Florida. Likely DFE candidate 42. Neil Avery-LHP-Massachussetts HS. Likely DFE candidate
All in all, plenty of surprises on draft day, although I've yet to witness a draft that was easy to project. The Brewers almost seemed to institute a different drafting philosophy under GM Dean Taylor, a philosophy that most scouting circles & publications view as the safest way to draft future MLB prospects: By taking college pitchers & high school positional players. Until most of our picks sign & start proving their wroth, obviously it's impossible to gauge how effective & successful this draft was.