The month of February is the perfect time to start getting excited about baseball here in Wisconsin. While residents of Wisconsin continue to shovel their sidewalks thinking ahead to warmer days, pitchers and catchers will soon report to the Brewers Spring Training complex in Maryvale, Arizona. Because of the cold winter climate, Wisconsin typically isn't known for it's deep history in baseball, at least that's not what most people immediately think of when Wisconsin sports topics are brought up. While memories of the 1982 Brewers and the 1957 Braves may come quickly to a lot of people's minds, any sport, or even a major news announcement, takes a back seat to the Green Bay Packers. The Wisconsin Badgers football program under Barry Alvarez has been second on most people's minds over the last 10 years with three Rose Bowl Championships. In recent years the Badgers and Marquette Golden Eagles basketball teams have kept us warm with excitement with their Final Four appearances, and even the upstart Milwaukee Bucks led by coach Terry Porter are making believers out of plenty of local residents.
Despite the Brewers' inability to reach the .500 mark over the last 11 years, there are plenty of supporters of the Milwaukee Brewers, even if some of them are reluctant to admit it. Many believe that Milwaukee is, or at least has the potential to be, a great baseball town. One may remember the excitement that surrounded Milwaukee back in 1982 when "Harvey's Wallbangers" reached the World Series, and, just five years later they did it again for both the team's & Paul Molitor's streak. For those not completely caught up in the Packers before Brett Favre's first year with the team in 1992, Brewer fans were watching the standings with excitement as the team enjoyed a huge second half surge in which they barely missed the playoffs.
However, behind the Brewers, baseball in Wisconsin seems to be an afterthought. It doesn't help that the state's biggest school, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, doesn't have a Division 1 team. They used to have a program that produced several Major League Baseball players over the years including current relievers Paul Quantrill and Lance Painter. The program was removed in 1991 due to Title IX. The state's second biggest school, in regards to popularity & recognition, Marquette University, also doesn't have a D1 program. In fact the only D1 team in the state is the squad managed by former Brewers lefty Jerry Augustine at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
That's not to say that baseball isn't alive and well in the Dairyland state. Baseball has it's niche. UW-Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater both field competitive teams that regularly produce players that move on to play professional baseball, including UW-Oshkosh and LaCrosse native Jarrod Washburn of the Anaheim Angels. Smaller, private schools such Ripon College and Carthage College also field competitive teams each & every year. Amateur baseball in the Northwoods is also alive and well. Eau Claire is the home to the Cavaliers, one of the more distinguished semi-pro teams in the United States. Central and Northern Wisconsin also hosts three teams in the Northwoods League, a college summer wood bat league that attracts talented college players from across the nation, including Ned Yost's son, Ned Yost Jr., a catcher for Dallas Baptist University.
Wisconsin has had it's fair share of local legends. Braves fans of the '50's fondly remember Andy Pafko, a native of Boyceville, WI. Jim Gantner hailed from Fond du Lac, went to UW-Oshkosh and still lives in the area. Even the 1953 AL Rookie of the Year and the skipper of the 1982 World Series team, Harvey Kuenn, was a local, born & bred in the neighboring West Allis community while playing his collegiate ball at the University of Wisconsin. And of course with every Milwaukee Brewers broadcast we are reminded of the entertaining style of Bob Uecker, a Milwaukee native.
Current Wisconsinites in the big leagues include Royals 3B Joe Randa (Kettle Moraine), Cubs 2B Mark Grudzielanek (Milwaukee), Blue Jays 3B and 2002 AL ROY Eric Hinske (Menasha), Cubs C Damian Miller (LaCrosse), Pirates RHP Kris Benson (Superior), Twins RHP Brad Radke (Eau Claire), and the aforementioned Paul Quantrill, Lance Painter and Jarrod Washburn.
In regards to the upcoming June Amateur Free Agent Draft, Wisconsin players have a hard time getting recognized. The highest player drafted out of Wisconsin ever was Kevin Brandt, an outfielder from Nekoosa high school who was taken with the 11th overall selection by the Twins in the 1979 draft. After Brandt you'll be hard pressed to find any Wisconsin players taken in the first three to five rounds.
Jerry Ford, co-founder of Perfect Game USA and father of Brewers farmhand Ben Ford, thinks 2004 could be a special year for players in Wisconsin. Ford, along with former big league ballplayer and current coach, Bruce Kimm, started Perfect Game about ten years ago in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They work in conjunction with Baseball America to produce their "Prospects Plus" publication, a detailed list of the top prospects not only for the current draft year, but also subsequent years. They employ over 100 full-and part-time scouts across the nation to see the best amateur prospects in the United States and beyond. "Perfect Game is the premier scouting service in all of baseball," said Andy Stack, coach of the Wisconsin Blazers, a National Level Travel team that recently finished tied for eigth place last October at the prestigious World Wood Bat Championship in Jupiter, Florida.
Perfect Game recently conducted a study of how many players from each state have been drafted over the past five years versus how many are expected to be drafted next June. Wisconsin ranks 30th of all states in relationship to how many players were drafted over the past five years, with California, Florida, Texas and Georgia leading the way each and every year. Next year could be a special year for Wisconsin, as Perfect Game projected the Badger State to have the 10th best class of players that could go on the first day of the draft (the first 20 rounds), and the seventh best class of players that could go really high (within the first five rounds). All the more reason to keep an eye on the rare class of talent.
While it may not seem like it, the Brewers have always kept a keen eye on the players in their own backyard. Last year alone the Brewers took the following three players from Wisconsin in the June draft:
Dan Grybash is a RHP that was drafted in the 34th round out of Carthage College and had a good debut with the Helena Brewers in the Pioneer League.
Daryl Maday is a RHP from Bristol, WI that was drafted in the 43rd round out of Westosha high school that decided to honor his commitment to a strong D1 and SEC baseball program at the University of Arkansas.
Ryan Zink, from Madison, WI, is a RHP that was drafted in the 47th round who decided to honor his commitment to a strong academic institution, the University of Illinois-Chicago. UIC along with UWM, is one of the perennial leaders in the Horizon League.
It should be noted that both Maday and Zink likely would have been taken at a higher round if the draft was based on talent alone. Players often fall in the ranks due to their college commitments. "If they have even a partial scholarship and they're not selected within the first five rounds, these players more often than not are as good as gone," says Steve Hall, father of talented local prospect Brandon and a coach of the Racine Hitters, another local travelling team. "Teams won't even bother selecting them after that point (the fifth round)."
The Brewers also signed Racine native Vinnie Rottino out of UW-LaCrosse as an undrafted free agent last February. Rottino was assigned to the Helena Brewers in the Pioneer League and did well hitting .311 in 222 at bats.
Other players with Wisconsin ties that were drafted last June:
Scott Roehl-RHP-10 (round)-Indians-University of Arkansas-signed
Tony Harper-C-11-Dodgers-Oak Creek (high school)-did not sign
Jordan Timm-LHP-15-Orioles-UW-Oshkosh-did not sign
Travis Van Zile-OF-26-D-Backs-UW-Whitewater-signed
Shaun Corning-LHP-39-Orioles-Madison Area Technical College-did not sign
Justin Berg-RHP-43-Yankees-Indian Hills CC-did not sign
Travis Check-C-44-Dodgers-LaCrosse (HS)-did not sign
Cal Stanke-RHP-44-Phillies-Neenah (HS)-did not sign
Dan Luzcak was also a talented pitcher in the Milwaukee area that committed to go to school at South Carolina. Armed with one of the better sliders of all prospects available for last year's draft, Luzcak was projected to go at a relatively high round last June before an arm injury sidelined him for the entire season.
Other notable players taken by the Brewers in the past couple of drafts:
2002: John Vanden Berg, a catcher, was the Brewers 25th round selection from UW-Milwaukee. Son of the Brewers' head groundskeeper, Gary, John grew up locally as a Brewers fan. He spent the 2003 season playing for the Beloit Snappers and had a pretty good year batting .297 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs in 76 games.
2000: Scott Roehl, a RHP, was the Brewers 16th round selection out of Shoreland Lutheran HS. Roehl decided to attend the University of Arkansas, and as noted above, was drafted out of the 10th round by the Cleveland Indians & signed a professional contract. He appeared in 14 games for the Indians New York-Penn League affiliate at Mahoning Valley, and carried a 3.64 ERA through 64.1 innings of work.
A few notable players that were not drafted in recent years include RHP/IF Ryan Rohlinger out of West Bend and power hitting 3B Rob Brockel from Pewaukee. Rohlinger recently transferred to the University of Oklahoma after enjoying a great year at Clarendon University, where he led the conference in home runs (21), RBI (91), total bases (169) and slugging percentage while also finishing third in batting average (.455) and fourth in hits (81). He also excelled in the field committing only two errors in 156 chances for a sparkling .987 fielding percentage. Rohlinger is expected to be the Sooners everyday shortstop this spring and is planning on playing in the Cape Cod League this summer; an excellent opportunity for him to showcase his skills in front of dozens of scouts on a daily basis. Several coaches in the area believe Ryan Rohlinger is the best local player they have ever seen, including Stack and Waukesha South Head Coach Jason Kosanke. "The kid can play," Kosanke said. "He can flat out rake and he plays good defense. He's a proven winner." That being said, why wasn't he drafted? At 5'11" he doesn't have the prototypical height that scouts look for. Given the resurgence of performance based scouting in recent years, his height won't keep him from being drafted high in the 2005 draft if he continues to play like he has.
Rob Brockel is a big, power hitting 3B with a strong arm at the hot corner that went to Milwaukee Marquette High School and is now attending Purdue University. The Boilermakers hope Brockel can add a big bat in the middle of their lineup for the next three to four years.
Obviously there are big factors preventing Wisconsin from being a bigger baseball state. "I do think Wisconsin can be a baseball state," Stack said. "Obviously we are hampered by weather and population issues but we are headed in the right direction."
Stack added, "We will struggle to get some top players in the fall because of football. I don't think you'll ever change that fact but we're starting to get some kids to at least consider baseball first."
Getting these kids at a young age is really the key. Steve Hall noted that players like his son Brandon, along with other local talented players like Tyler Beranek, Ryan Schweikert, and Josh Eidt, have an advantage because they have been playing together since they were nine years old. They would start playing as soon as they could in the spring, would play until August, take a month off to get back to school, and then start up again in the fall. Overall they would play roughly 100 games over the course of the year.
Mastering the art of baseball comes down to one major practice, repetition. Practice makes perfect, and there are not many things that require more reps than hitting, fielding & throwing a ball that's only three inches in diameter with incredible precision. Repetitions are hard to come by in a state that is covered in snow three to four months out of the year, which leads many young athletes to sports that are either played indoors like basketball, or sports like football where weather isn't as big of a factor to the game itself.
Wisconsin is also unique in the fact that some of the schools play baseball as a spring sport, while others play baseball in the summer. This has it's advantages and disadvantages. The advantage to playing in the spring allows your players to showcase their skills in front of scouts before the draft. The disadvantage is the weather, since Wisconsin's theromometer doesn't reach 65 degrees consistently until May or even June. This makes playing summer baseball more ideal, however these players don't have much of an opportunity to "strut their stuff," as it usually takes several weeks if not months for some players to truly get in rhythm. This goes back to the point about repetitions.
There are spring leagues like the ones hosted by Perfect Game USA, which gives players in the Midwest an opportunity to get the at-bats and innings against higher competition necessary to hone their craft. However, sometimes even that is not enough. In recent years Perfect Game has hosted a pre-draft showcase in which some of the best players in the area and around the entire nation are invited to show what they can do in front of over 100 scouts, crosscheckers, scouting directors and general managers. Unfortunately if a player doesn't perform well it could really hurt their standing, as seen with the last three big bats to come out of the state of Iowa, including the Brewers very own Brad Nelson. Nelson had his opportunity in 2001, while high school home run champion Jeff Clement had his in 2002, and Ryan Sweeney was next last spring. All three failed to display the power and overall hitting prowess that had put their names on the scouting maps for several years. Fortunately for Brewers fans, area scout Harvey Kuenn Jr. had seen enough of Nelson in the past to know that his performance was probably more of a fluke than not. He invited Nelson to a pre-draft workout in Milwaukee where Nelson put on an impressive showing. Now Nelson is one of the top hitting prospects in the Brewers system. The Chicago White Sox also thought highly enough of Sweeney to take him in the second round of last June's draft. Sweeney signed and is currently among the top prospects in the White Sox system. Jeff Clement's performance caused him to drop to the 12th round of the draft, and the Minnesota Twins were unable to offer a bonus to keep Clement away from PAC-10 powerhouse USC. He was recently named a 1st-Team Preseason All-American as a sophomore by Baseball America, and is one of the most coveted college players available for the 2005 draft.
Aside from the weather, repetitions and relative population, perhaps the biggest factor could be the level of competition. This could also be tied into exposure, which leads to the formation of travelling teams like the Blazers and Hitters. When the Blazers starting playing in Iowa as part of Perfect Game's Wood Bat Scout League, Stack immediately realized his team had some work to do. "It really opened our eyes to what most Wisconsin kids were missing out on," Stack recalled. "In one league weekend over 50 scouts saw us play four games in the middle of Iowa. We knew that we had to expand what we did and what kids we selected."
Steve Hall also stressed the importance of travelling to give his players the opportunity to be scouted on a larger scale, not only by individual team area scouts, but by college recruiters. "Why would a scout come to Brookfield Central when they can go to a showcase and see all of the Wisconsin kids plus 300 other potential D1 kids in front of 40-plus D1 colleges?"
Having good scouts in the area is also another issue. "California, Florida, and Texas are extremely competitive and dominate the draft every year," Jerry Ford said. "MLB clubs will often have their most powerful scouts in those areas. Of course there are many outstanding scouts in our own territory, in fact the Brewers have one of the very best in Harvey (Kuenn Jr.)."
So, the idea is to take our players and teams to theirs. Typically, amateur baseball teams in Wisconsin have predominantly been American Legion teams, teams which are based in a community and often are an extension from a high school team or a collection of players from numerous schools. For the most part these Legion teams only play one another and don't travel to play against the bigger and better players in the Sun Belt states Teams like the Blazers and Hitters have helped get their players more attention by taking their teams on the road. Coaches like Andy Stack and Steve Hall work without financial compensation, often contributing their own money for the benefit of the team. These teams obviously have to have a purpose to draw the best players to assemble their teams. "We look for college or pro prospects with the goal of playing against the best competition, in the nicest parks, in front of the most college and pro scouts," says Stack. "In the past five years 99% of our graduating seniors have found a place to play in college. About 80% of them have received some sort of scholarship."
"To be the best you have to play the best," Kosanke added.
And the state of Wisconsin is making strides to put itself on the amateur baseball map. "The popularity hasn't grown, but the parents are starting to show more awareness, they know what it takes," Kosanke said. "Kid's are taking lessons at younger ages, the travelling teams are helping these kids gain exposure and the level of coaching is improving."
The Blazers finish at the World Wood Bat Championship is proof of that improvement. "Fact is players from our state benefit from playing against California, Florida, Texas and Arizona kids," said Coach Stack. "It forces them to raise their game."
Coach, and father, Steve Hall agreed stating confidently "The good Wisconsin kids can play with anyone."
In Wisconsin, no player has more promise that Southern Door's Erik Cordier. At 6'4", 195 pounds the young man defines projection. He throws a four-seam fastball in the 92-93 mph range, and has touched 95, with one team reporting they had clocked him as high as 97. He also can take a little bit off and throw a two-seamer in the 90-91 range. He's been improving his curveball which he now throws in 79-81 range with a sharp one to seven o'clock break. His circle changeup has also been labeled a plus pitch, which he throws at 75 that offers natural, late movement down and away from a left-handed batter.
Baseball isn't the only sport in which Erik has excelled. At Southern Door High School, Erik will become the first athlete to earn varsity letters in football, basketball, and baseball in all four years of his high school career. Despite being a natural athlete, he didn't turn into a baseball prospect overnight. One of the toughest things to get in Wisconsin is repetitions as noted above, and like most Wisconsin high school baseball players he had to find traveling teams which allowed him to play against better competition in warmer climates. Another advantage of playing with these teams is receiving even more exposure to quality coaches. Not only do you have to play the best to be the best, but it helps if you have some mentors along the way.
Cordier has received that help from traveling teams like the Wisconsin Blazers and the Ohio Warhawks. The added playing time and instruction has improved his mechanics. Improved mechanics have made him a more effective pitcher, and on top of that, better mechanics reduces the risk of arm injuries. Always eager to improve, Erik Cordier has been working on his mechanics with former big league pitcher and Milwaukee native Todd Frohwirth this winter.
While with the Warhawks, Cordier's teammates were among some of the best pitching prospects in the United States including players like Mike Rozier, Blake Johnson, Josh Copeland, and Brian Futral. He has played with and watched other talented pitchers such as Phil Hughes, Andy Gale, Javier Guerra, Jason Corder, and Erik Davis. Baseball America feels that Erik's name belongs with that group, ranking him 34th among high school players eligible for this June's draft.
He pitched well enough last summer with the Warhawks that he garnered an invitation by the Brewers to play with their "Blue" team at the Area Code Games in Long Beach, California. A strong showing has caused Erik to become a popular player in the eyes of scouts. Scouts representing more than 10 Major League teams have made home visits over the fall and winter following his breakout performance. So, what are scouts asking about? "They mainly seem to be interested in learning about his readiness," said Mike Cordier, Erik's father. "For example, does he have the maturity to deal with the things that pro ball subjects an 18-year-old kid to? And, of course, they ask about his willingness to turn pro."
Not only has he received interest to play professional baseball, but he also received considerable interest across the nation to play baseball at a number of Division 1 baseball powerhouses. The most interested teams included NC State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Clemson, Oklahoma and Nebraska. "Attending showcase events and playing on national travel teams in front of college recruiters opened up areas of the country that may not have ordinarily been able to see Erik pitch," Mike Cordier said.
Here is Erik Cordier's personal account on how he made his decision:
"I decided on NC State after the visits I took to NC State and Ole Miss. I enjoyed the visits to both campuses. The Ole Miss baseball field and the newly renovated field and facilities at NC State were both impressive. After returning from a very enjoyable first visit at NC State, I was extremely impressed with the coaching staff, especially the Coach of the Year, Coach Avent, and pitching coach, Coach Roberts. I just felt comfortable there. The next weekend, I visited Ole Miss. Although the visit was also great, I just felt like NC State was the place for me. On the plane ride home from Oxford, I had a feeling in my gut that NC State was the place for me. With every thing else being pretty equal, I had to follow my gut."
"Erik's dream is to play professionally, but I think NC State would also be a great fit," Mike Cordier continued. "I just feel that he is really blessed to be in a win-win situation like this."
Erik Cordier will have a big choice to make shortly after he graduates from high school. As long as he is playing baseball, it doesn't seem to matter much to him. "I have always said this and this will always be the case: My ultimate goal is to play professional baseball and to play in the Major Leagues," Cordier said. "Whether I start pursuing that dream this summer or go to college this fall, that remains to be determined."
So, how would he feel about being drafted by the Brewers? "We all love the Brewers up here," Mike Cordier proudly stated. "It's the team we all grew up watching and listening to."
Erik simply said, "That would be awesome."
Tyler Beranek had the unique opportunity to play in the nationally televised AFLAC All-American Classic late last summer on a select squad made up of the best players from around the nation. He had missed most of his high school season after a bout with mononucleosis, and he still wasn't back to full strength during the AFLAC game. When healthy, Beranek projects to hit for both average and for extraordinary power. And he's not just a pull hitter, he covers the plate extremely well and knows when and how to rip the ball the opposite way, as his coach, Jason Kosanke, will attest. "Tyler Beranek is the best hitter I've seen," Kosanke said. "He's patient with a good approach. He gets a lot of respect at the plate and has been pitched around as early as the first inning with runners on. He can drive the ball to all fields and crushes middle-in pitches."
On top of his prowess at the late, Beranek is also an impressive overall athlete. Blazers coach Andy Stack likened his body to an NFL tight end at 6'5" 215 with the speed to match. His defense at first base isn't as proven, and he could end up at a corner outfield spot down the road. The only tool that is truly lacking is his arm, which is below MLB average. Coach Stack believes that may not be an issue if he continues to hit up to his potential and stays at first base. "He is potentially a top 5 round pick in June," Stack noted.
Jerry Ford continued with the praise for Beranek's overall ability as he said, "Beranek is a big, good looking, athletic guy. One of the best baseball bodies around. We've seen him smoke some of the best pitchers in the country. He is not a real good defensive 1B yet, but he runs well and is athletic, so he should get much better down the road."
Beranek was recently ranked as the 69th best high school player by Baseball America, and is committed to play at UNLV.
Few players nation-wide are shooting up the charts like Dusty Brabender from Oregon, WI. Before the World Wood Bat Championship Brabender wasn't even on most top prospect lists of 300 or more. After an impressive complete game win on the first day of the tournament, in which he struck out 10 batters and allowed only two hits, Brabender has since vaulted to the top 100 of Baseball America's and Perfect Game's top high school prospects, most recently ranked at 89. This young man was a big reason the Wisconsin Blazers finished tied for eighth at the event, and entered the championship round as the #1 seed from their pool. "Playing with the Blazers was one of the best times of my life," Brabender said. "The coaches were great guys that allowed me to play with the best players they could find and against the best competition.
Brabender, the second cousin of former big league pitcher Gene Brabender, plays at Oregon High School under the watchful eye of coach Darin Everson. Everson not only coaches for Oregon during the spring, but he also is an associate scout in the area for the Baltimore Orioles and will serve as the manager for the Wisconsin Woodchucks of the Northwoods League this summer. Everson offered his own thoughts on Brabender's promise:
"Dusty is a great kid who is one the best competitors I have ever coached. He is 6'7" and uses the angles his body creates very well. He has been clocked at 91 MPH and this fall was able to sit at 88-89 MPH for multiple innings. He throws a great changeup and is developing a good cutter/slider. He has the look of a pitcher that can have a lot of success in his career at a lot of different levels. He is level headed and knows what he has to do to get better and is always willing to learn more specific details that will help him get to where he wants to go."
Brabender has the build of a power pitcher, but he doesn't necessarily throw like one. Few young players with Brabender's size exhibit the control he does with a five to one strikeout to walk ratio throughout his career, and he's at his best when he's hitting his spots and changing speeds. That's not to say that he's a soft-tossing control artist. Even with his 90 mph fastball he has plenty of projection for him to increase his velocity. After his fastball and slider/cutter, which he picked up to replace his curveball, he also throws a plus change (80-81). Given his size he is going to need to make sure that he keeps his mechanics in check, but as noted, if he does so he could easily add a few more ticks to his fastball.
With all of the interest Brabender has been receiving, he has signed his letter of intent to play with the University of Minnesota. He did draw interest from several southern schools including Clemson, Mississippi and Coastal Carolina, but Brabender had higher priorities than playing in the warm weather. "I always dreamed of playing at the University of Minnesota," Brabender said. "A Big Ten degree and the ability to have my parents go the games was what made my decision."
Keeping things in perspective and his mind on the present, Brabender's goal now is to help his current team win. "This spring all I care about is trying to make it to the State Tourney." Brabender said. "I am not going to worry about the draft. My family and I will let it play out and than if we have to make a decision we will. Right now I am very happy to be a Gopher."
That isn't to say he's a lock to be heading to college next fall. "The ultimate goal is to play pro ball," Brabender added. "The Brewers have shown interest. It was an honor just to hear from them."
Brandon Hall had to opportunity to bat cleanup for the talented South Florida Bandits team at the World Wood Bat Championship. Hall is a switch hitting athletic catcher with a pretty good arm, if healthy and back to full strength. His arm and future ability to catch is in question after having Tommy John surgery a year ago. Even if he can't return behind the plate, he might be able to hit enough to play anywhere. "Hall is very gifted with an outstanding arm," Ford said. "Big, strong switch hitter who can really hit."
"Very, very good from the left side. He doesn't see too many lefties (at the high school level)," Kosanke added. "His bat is lethal."
Hall has committed to play for legendary coach Tom Clark at Lake City Community College in Florida. The Brewers drafted four players from Clark's squad last year, including two players that they still retain the rights of as draft and follow candidates.
Ryan Schweikert is Brandon Hall's teammate at Brookfield Central High School and on the Racine Hitters. As a 6'4" 225 pound left handed first baseman, Schweikert could very well be Tyler Beranek's mirror image. Like Tyler, Ryan is extremely athletic for his size. He reportedly fields his position well, and while he doesn't run as well as Tyler, he doesn't clog up the bases.
Unlike Beranek, Schweikert has more holes in his swing. He doesn't cover the the entire plate as well, especially the outer half, and at this point in time is considered more of a pull hitter, although he can hit the ball the other way with authority at times. He still has all of the tools to succeed down the road, and his MLB ready frame and plus power potential will attract plenty of scouts this spring and summer. "He can mash," Ford said. "The ball jumps off the wood (bat) very fast."
It has not yet been reported whether or not Schweikert has committed to a school, but he was receiving considerable interest from Auburn.
Berkovitz is a shortstop from Sheboygan North High School that has also played on the Wisconsin Blazers. He isn't on too many people's radar at this point in time, but with his size and overall athleticism he could be a sleeper. Andy Stack describes Berkovitz:
"Thin wiry body with room to add muscle (6-2, 160). Shows above average infield actions and has a MLB average arm (85 mph infield). Above average runner (6.85 60 yard dash). Flashes potential with the bat. With added strength could show MLB average power. Defensively Berkovitz is possibly the best middle infielder in the Midwest. No college commitment yet. Definite draft and follow."
Josh Eidt is a teammate to both Ryan Schweikert and Brandon Hall at Brookfield Central. Eidt blew out his arm and hasn't pitched since his sophomore year in high school. He is a small lefty that pitches in the mid-80s with one of the most dominant sliders in all of prep baseball. Similar to Berkovitz, he's not a player that is regularly brought up in scouting circles, but his slider combined with the fact that he's left-handed could garner some interest, even as a possible DFE candidate.
Jaramillo stands out on this list since he is in college, a Preseason All-American and All-Conference Big 12 catcher for Oklahoma State University. Jaramillo attended Racine Case High School, and was drafted by the Phillies in the 39th round of the 2001 draft, when Baseball America ranked him as Wisconsin's top prep prospect. He has good size at 6'1", 200 pounds, switch hits and plays good defense while displaying a strong arm. In their recent college draft preview, Baseball America ranked Jaramillo as one of the best defensive players overall, noting that his catch-and-throw tools stood atop his class.
And his defense isn't the only thing that is drawing interest and praise from scouts and coaches alike, Jason packs some punch at the plate as well. Switch-hitting is an obvious plus, especially for a catcher. In the spring of 2003 as a sophomore Jaramillo led the Cowboys in batting, hitting .385 after hitting .327 during his freshman campaign. He also finished second on his team in slugging percentage (.606), while coming in third in on-base percentage (.432).
Baseball America recently ranked Jaramillo the 28th best college prospect available for this June's draft, and if he continues to prove what he can do as an all-around catcher, it would be hard imagining him getting out of the 2nd round of June's draft with his makeup.
While most Brewer fans will be watching with great interest to see who the Brewers take with the 5th overall pick in the June Amateur Free Agent Draft, it's important to remember the names of these and other young Wisconsinites pursuing their dreams. One never knows who might be the next Uecker, Gantner or Washburn.
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