Brewers 2012 Draft Preview

Posted by Steve

Frustrating series against the Pirates, but the pitching match-ups weren’t all that favorable, and the injuries more or less cost them a win today. I choose to look at the fact that they’re 5-2 in their last seven games instead.

And besides, my attention is off the big league club for a couple days now. The MLB Draft snuck up on me this year; it’s tomorrow already. The Brewers’ draft won’t be quite as exciting as last year, when they held the 12th and 15th picks in the draft. They do hold three picks in the top 38, however: the 28th pick based on their record last season, and then the 27th and 38th picks as compensation for Prince Fielder. I’m going to focus on possible candidates for those three picks.

Before I get into the players, though, it needs to be pointed out that there are significant changes to the draft this year. This article by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports (still feels weird placing that exclamation point there) explains the changes quite well. In a nutshell, there are serious restrictions on what teams can spend on amateur players. In years past, the term “slot value” simply mean what MLB recommended a player be paid based on where he was drafted. This year, though, it’s much more than a recommendation. Each team has been given a certain amount of money they can spend based on the number of picks they hold in the top ten rounds. The Twins have the most money at $12.4 million, while the Angels have the lowest budget at $1.6 million. The Brewers have $6.76 million to spend, which is the 12th largest allotment.

There are severe penalties for going over the assigned allotment. From MLB.com:

Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

So, when the punishment includes the loss of a first and second round pick, you know teams will stay in line.

So, the question becomes: What impact will this have on the draft? It seems nobody is sure yet. Just about ever year there seems to be instances of players falling because of “signability.” Top 5-10 talents sometimes last until the end of the first round because only a few teams are willing to meet their demands. This will likely no longer be the case. When teams can’t overspend on slot recommendations by more than 10% or so, players aren’t going to want to fall–with each spot they fall, they are literally losing thousands and thousands. This, in my opinion, is how it should be. The draft is supposed to give the best players to the worst teams, and this helps that.

This change could have one interesting effect, though, that baseball may not have wanted. Record signing bonuses are a thing of the past. Could this mean we will see more high school players choose college over pro baseball? It seems possible. Last year, a player could negotiate his bonus to a certain amount. This year, there won’t be as much negotiating, as a team can only go so high. It will be interesting to see if more high schoolers choose college than in years past, particularly the ones drafted later in the first round or second round.

Finally, there is one more significant change. The deadline to sign players used to be almost a year after the draft. Last year, it was moved up to August 15th, resulting in a crazy evening of players signing just before the midnight deadline. This year that date has been moved up again, to July 13th at 5 p.m. ET. So, with only about five weeks to get players signed, “signability” will be a huge, huge factor in this draft. If teams aren’t sure high school players will sign for close to slot value, they may simply not draft them. You know the Brewers and every other team has attempted to get as much information they can as to whether their targets will sign for their price.

So. With all that said, let’s take a look at some of the candidates for 27, 28, and 38. The word on this draft is it isn’t nearly as deep as last year’s. That may not be a bad thing from the Brewers’ perspective, as it seems fairly likely that there won’t be much of a talent difference between a player drafted at 12 and a player drafted at 40. Bruce Seid, the Brewers’ scouting director, has alluded to this and has said he feels good about getting some good value with those three picks.

Teams should always go with the best player available strategy. However, it’s easy to identify the organization biggest need. For years, they churned out offensive stud after offensive stud: Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Matt LaPorta (value-wise). Much has been made of the Brewers’ lack of pitching development over that time, but in the last few years, the team has made great strides to fix that, spending several top picks on pitching. Somewhat quietly, the Brewers have experienced a serious lack of impact offensive players–Jonathan Lucroy is really the last one they’ve graduated to the majors.

So, with the BPA caveat, I would expect at least two of the first three picks to be hitters, and based on the draft pool, it’s likely they’ll be high school hitters.

Last year, with picks 12 and 15, I had definite favorites. My three man crushes by draft day were Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, and C.J. Cron. Lindor and Baez were picked before the Brewers’ spot, and they passed on Cron. It’s more difficult to determine sure targets picking this late in the first round, but I have still identified a handful of players I’d like to see taken. First I’ll list the possibilities, then I’ll give my personal favorites at the end.

Clint Coulter, Catcher, High School
MLB.com Rank: 49

Credit: allamericanfoundation.pointstreaksites.com

Catcher may not seem like a need, with Jonathan Lucroy just signing an extension, but it is important to remember that current MLB rosters shouldn’t really effect drafting decisions much at all. Left field is really the only position that you can say the Brewers likely won’t need in five years. Coulter has a plus throwing arm and good power, though it’s possible a team might want to move him off catcher to speed up his development, a la Brett Lawrie, who was drafted as a catcher. Coulter was also a state champion wrestler, so obviously he’s fairly athletic.

I mentioned Coulter first, because reports all over are that the Brewers are in on Coulter big time. I’m not sure if it would be with either of their first to picks or with their third, but it seems unlikely Coulter will slide past pick 38.

Addison Russell, Shortstop, High School
MLB.com Rank: 24

Credit: Bleacherreport.com

It’s clear shortstop is a need in the Brewers’ system. It’s also great that Russel wouldn’t be a stretch at all at pick 27; in fact, he might not even be on the board anymore. He’s seen as a strong hitter with a lot of pull power, good hands and a strong throwing arm. At 6’1″, 210, it’s possible a move to third base is in his future, but I’m sure the Brewers would do everything they could to keep him at short. His power would be elite for the position. The catch here, as always, is he is represented by Scott Boras. The Brewers have typically avoided Boras clients in the first round, but with the new slotting rules, that could be much smaller of a factor.

Joey Gallo, First base/Third base, High School
MLB.com rank:
33

Credit: Lasvegassun.com

Gallo is a pure power hitter. He players first and third base, although he is expected to move to first full time. He’s 6’4 and 200 pounds, an ideal size for the position. Jack Z used to be fond of saying they like to get a player who is the best at a particular tool. I remember this after the LaPorta pick; he said LaPorta had the best raw power in the draft. The best power in this draft, at least among high school players, belongs to Gallo. Like shortstop, the Brewers are looking for a long-term solution at first base. Gallo and the Brewers seem like a perfect fit.

Lewis Brinson, OF, High School
MLB.com Rank: 39

Credit: Baseballfactory.com

Brinson is the coveted “toolsy” player; Keith Law says his ceiling is as high as any hitter other than Byron Buxton, a likely top two pick tomorrow. At 6’3″, 170 pounds with above average speed and outfield defense, Brinson has drawn comparisons to Cameron Maybin and Dexter Fowler.

Stephen Piscotty, Third Baseman, Stanford
MLB.com Rank: 18

Credit: Bleacherreport.com

The one college hitter I’ve seen associated with the Brewers, Piscotty is a high-average, moderate power third baseman with good defense. He also shows great plate discipline. Based on his scouting reports, it would be easy to see the Brewers penciling him in as the third baseman of the future. I know a lot of people don’t like player comparisons, but when I read about Piscotty, I’m reminded of Jeff Cirillo.

Zach Eflin, Pitcher, High School
MLB.com Rank: 25

Eflin has the type of frame the Brewers look for in a pitcher. He’s 6’4″ and 200 pounds. He sits in the low 90s with his fastball and touches mid-90s. Unlike most high school pitchers, his changeup is a plus pitch and could be a valuable weapon going forward. He also throws a curveball. Eflin would be an impressive addition the the collection of arms the Brewers have assembled in the last few years.

Travis Jankowski, Outfielder, Stony Brook University
MLB.com Rank: 43

Credit: Bournebraves.org

Jankowski profiles as a speedy leadoff-type hitter. He has great range in center field and would be yet another plus defender in center field for the Brewers. There’s less of a need here with Logan Schafer looking ready, but again, Schafer is a “generation” or so older, so the timing could work well.

Other names that have been mentioned include 6’8″ high school lefty Matthew Smoral, Georgia Southern outfielder Victor Roache, 6’6″ high school righty Walker Weickel, and 6’2″ high school righty pitcher Nick Travieso. It’s very likely that any pitcher the Brewers select early will be at least 6’2″, as they’ve not been secretive about wanting tall pitchers.

I’m guessing that one or both of Clint Coulter and Lewis Brinson will be picked. As far as my preference, I’d rank them this way.

1. Addison Russell
2. Joey Gallo
3. Stephen Piscotty
4. Zach Eflin
5. Lewis Brinson

If they get two of those players, I’ll be quite happy. Naturally, no matter who the Brewers take, I’ll be fine with it, as it’s impossible to know now whether it’s a good pick. This list is just the guys I want based on the reading and research I’ve been doing.

I’ve cleared my schedule tomorrow to watch the entire first round, and it’s likely that I will be live blogging. If anyone cares to join, let me know in the comments and I’ll use Cover It Live. If nobody else will be here, I’ll just blog it normally–don’t want to use COL if I’m just going to be talking to myself.

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One response to “Brewers 2012 Draft Preview

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