Brewers aim to replenish farm system in Draft
Milwaukee picks No. 12, No. 15 in Monday's first round
MILWAUKEE -- After the Brewers emptied the top shelves of their farm system to swing trades for starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, here comes an opportunity to restock.
Milwaukee has two first-round picks in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, a three-day event that begins Monday in prime time. The 12th overall selection is the Brewers' own, the result of a disappointing 77-win season in 2010. No. 15 is compensation for Dylan Covey, the prep right-hander from California whom the Brewers picked 14th overall last year, but did not sign after he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Amateur scouting director Bruce Seid insisted it is business as usual.
"We have scouted and evaluated all players like we normally would," Seid wrote in an e-mail between stops on his last-minute scouting trip. "The fact that we have two selections doesn't mean we will line up our Draft board any different than in the past."
Live coverage of the Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday at 5 p.m. CT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player.
This is the third time that the Brewers have owned the 12th overall selection and the second time the team has had the 15th pick. Notable players chosen 12th overall include shortstop Nomar Garciaparra by Boston in 1994 and outfielder Kirk Gibson by Detroit in '78. Notable players selected 15th overall include infielder Chase Utley by Philadelphia in 2000 and right-hander Chris Carpenter by Toronto in '93.
The Brewers' last two first-rounders have not panned out as the club had hoped.
In 2009, Milwaukee were coming off a 90-win season and did not draft until 26th overall, where it selected Indiana University right-hander Eric Arnett. He's lost his velocity along with his confidence in the Minors, is 3-13 with a 6.18 ERA in 39 pro games and is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury.
Brewers' recent top picks
|2010||Dylan Covey||RHP||Did not sign|
|2009||Eric Arnett||RHP||Extended spring camp|
|2008||Brett Lawrie||C-IF||Triple-A Reno (Blue Jays)|
|2006||Jeremy Jeffress||RHP||Triple-A Omaha (Royals)|
Is there anything the club can do differently in '11 to avoid the same outcome?
"Under the present rules, no," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "You only have medical access to the point that if a guy has a broken leg, you can ask for the records. But you can't go out and say to somebody, 'Hey, are you diabetic? Let's check your insulin.'"
Players typically do not undergo physical exams until after terms of their signing bonus have been set, and those terms are typically not set until the brink of the signing deadline. Teams can request a physical exam earlier, but players and their advisors do not have to oblige.
"There has been a lot of discussion over the last couple of years with the scouting directors of having a baseball combine," Ash said. "Not so much for hit, run and throw, but for medical. One of the problems is there is no ideal [time]."
Until the system changes, Milwaukee will continue taking the top player on its Draft board.
"Obviously, it was an unfortunate situation a year ago, but getting two of the supposed top 15 players in the country is a pretty good payback for us," Ash said. "Especially this year, when the Draft is relatively deep."
Here's a glance at what the Brewers have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The club traded its top positional prospect (Brett Lawrie) for Marcum and its top two pitching prospects (Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress) in a package for Greinke. The first handful of rounds in the 2011 Draft are crucial to rebuilding some depth in the Minor League system.
Owning two of the top 15 picks could give the Brewers an opportunity to strategize. Do they take one pitcher and one position player? Do they take one college player who can advance to the Majors quickly and one high school player they can patiently develop? Do they make one relatively "safe" pick and try to hit a home run with the other? Or do they stick with the same "best player available" philosophy that has guided Seid's picks in his first two Drafts?
It's notable that the 15th pick is unprotected, meaning if Milwaukee selects a player and cannot sign him, it does not get another compensatory pick in the '12 Draft.
"We are going to try to hit home runs with both picks," Seid said. "We have to be smarter with pick 15 due to it being unprotected."
A group of die-hard Brewers fans at the site Brewerfan.net have tracked every Draft rumor, and it makes for a long list of players linked to Milwaukee. They include prep pitchers like South Carolina's right-hander Taylor Guerrieri, college pitchers like Connecticut right-hander Matt Barnes, Georgia Tech left-hander Jed Bradley, Texas right-hander Taylor Jungmann and Vanderbilt right-hander Sonny Gray, and college position players like Utah first baseman C.J. Cron, LSU center fielder Mikie Mahtook and Florida shortstop Francisco Lindor. That's only a partial list.
Seid always plays his cards very close to the vest and declines to identify his top targets. And as always, the Brewers' picks at 12 and 15 will depend on what happens in the slots before.
But Seid does buy into the notion that this is a very solid class of prospects.
"There is more depth to the top-end talent in this draft," he said. "We won't know for a few years the total impact for 2011, but it may be pretty impressive if many of these players reach their potential."
The Brewers say they never Draft for need, but it would be surprising if at least one of their first-round selections is not a pitcher. The club remains high on in-system arms like Wily Peralta, Kyle Heckathorn, Cody Scarpetta and 2010 Draft picks Tyler Thornburg and Jimmy Nelson. But current consensus top prospect Mark Rogers continues to be dogged by injuries, and Greinke clone Odorizzi is gone to Kansas City. Positionally, Milwaukee's system is particularly thin at shortstop.
Last year, six of Seid's first eight picks were pitchers. In 2009, seven of the first 11 were position players. He's used the team's top pick on a college pitcher (Arnett) and a high school pitcher (Covey). In other words, it's difficult to fit the Brewers' amateur scouting team into a pattern. They've simply selected the player they consider "best available" at each slot.
Recent Draft History
Right-hander Tyler Thornburg, a third-round pick in 2010, draws comparisons to the Giants' Tim Lincecum for his stature (the Brewers call him 6 feet tall and 188 pounds), his power arm and his early results in the Minor Leagues. After going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA last season in the rookie Pioneer League, he's 4-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his first nine starts at Class A Wisconsin. Thornburg has struck out 50 versus 17 walks in 48 innings. He's coming off a shutout and is expected to start Saturday at Dayton.
Outfielder Erik Komatsu was an eighth-rounder in 2008 and may be a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 175 points, but he won the organization's Player of the Year Award in 2010 by hitting .323 at advanced Class A Brevard County and leading the Florida State League with 90 runs scored and 68 walks. He continued that success at Double-A Huntsville, with the same .323 average through his first 45 games.
In The Show
Jonathan Lucroy was the Brewers' third-round pick in 2007, and by '10, he was the everyday catcher in the Majors. It was a crash course in big league pitching -- both opponents and the Brewers' own -- and the offensive component of Lucroy's game did not emerge until '11. He's coming off a productive May in which he batted .298, tied for the team lead with five home runs and led the club with 20 RBIs.