I wrote last week about the Brewers and their poor, to say the least, expectations for this season and the foreseeable future.
A win against the Cubs when the Cubs reverted to their usual suckage (a bases-loaded wild pitch) and two wins in Toronto haven’t changed my mind, by the way.
The Brewers are in rebuilding mode, which is not new given their historic sub-.500 record. One reason is exposed by Dan Zielinski:
In the last 10 years, the Milwaukee Brewers have had little luck in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, due to poor selections and lack of player development. The Brewers inability to draft and develop is a reason why the franchise is now rebuilding.
Take a look back at the Brewers first-round picks dating to the 2007 draft, along with options in this year’s draft with the No. 9 overall pick:
2007: Brewers select college first baseman Matt LaPorta (Florida) with the No. 7 overall pick
A two-time SEC Player of the Year from Florida, LaPorta was a well-regarded prospect after being drafted by the Brewers. He’s known for being traded in the deal that netted C.C. Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians in 2008.
2008: Brewers select prep catcher Brett Lawrie (Brookswood SS, Canada) with the No. 16 overall pick, prep right-hander Jake Odorizzi (Highland HS, IL) with the No. 32 overall pick and college lefty Evan Frederickson (San Francisco) with the No. 35 overall pick
Lawrie was a well-regarded Canadian prep player and moved to second base after signing with the Brewers. The Brewers traded Lawrie to Toronto for right-hander Shaun Marcum in December 2010.
When drafted, some scouts believed Odorizzi was the top prep arm in the 2008 draft. In December 2010, Odorizzi was part of a package of prospects sent to Kansas City for righty Zack Greinke.
Most scouts thought Frederickson would be a fourth-round pick. But the lefty had a private workout with the Brewers prior to the draft and blew the team’s talent evaluators away. He only lasted three minor league seasons before the Brewers released him.
2009: Brewers select college right-handed pitcher Eric Arnett (Indiana) with the No. 26 overall pick, college outfielder Kentrail Davis (Tennessee) with the No. 39 overall pick and college right-handed pitcher Kyle Heckathorn (Kennesaw St) with the No. 47 overall pick
One pick after Los Angeles selected Mike Trout, the Brewers drafted Arnett. Despite having a successful junior season at Indiana, Arnett wasn’t able to carry his college success over to pro baseball, never getting higher than Single-A. He was released in 2014.
A speedster, Davis moved through the minor leagues quickly and was already in Triple-A by 2013. However, he didn’t make it to the big leagues, struggling with plate discipline. He was released in 2014.
Heckathorn was a high risk, high reward righty from Kennesaw State, who many scouts thought would be a reliever in the majors. He never made it past Triple-A and was released in 2014.
2010: Brewers select prep right-handed pitcher Dylan Covey (Maranatha HS, CA) with the No. 14 overall pick
Covey didn’t sign with the Brewers and attended the University of San Diego instead, after being diagnosed with diabetes in a post-draft physical.
2011: Brewers select college right-handed pitcher Taylor Jungmann (Texas) with the No. 12 overall pick and college left-hander Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech) with the No. 15 overall pick
Jungmann was a highly regarded college pitcher coming out of Texas, but didn’t make his major league debut until 2015. After starting the 2016 season in the Brewers starting rotation, the team demoted him to Triple-A. The Brewers transitioned Jungmann into a reliever this spring training.
In 2015, the Brewers transitioned Bradley into a reliever, after three so-so seasons as a starting pitcher. Last season, the Brewers traded Bradley to Atlanta, where he made his major league debut as a September call-up.
2012: Brewers select prep catcher Clint Coulter (Union HS, WA) with the No. 27 overall pick, college outfielder Victor Roache (Georgia Southern) with the No. 28 overall pick and college outfielder Mitch Haniger (Cal Poly) with the No. 38 overall pick
After being selected, the Brewers moved Coulter to the outfield. Coulter has experienced mixed results in his pro career and reached Double-A last season.
In pro ball, Roache has displayed impressive power, but has struggled to get on base and hit for a respectable average. Roache reached Double-A last season.
Coming out of Cal Poly, Haniger displayed solid power and defensive abilities. The Brewers traded Haniger to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014.
2013: No first-round pick after signing free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse
2014: Brewers select prep left-handed pitcher Kodi Medeiros (Waiakea HS, HI) with the No. 12 overall pick
Coming out of high school, many scouts believed the Hawaiian lefty would be a reliever as a pro due to his unorthodox arm angle. In three minor league seasons, the 20-year-old hurler has struggled, especially with his command. He spent last season at Class A-Advanced.
2015: Brewers select prep outfielder Trent Clark (Richland HS, TX) with the No. 15 overall pick and college left-handed pitcher Nathan Kirby (Virginia) with the No. 40 overall pick
Clark was a well-rounded prep player coming out of Texas. But, after a strong performance in Rookie ball in 2015, he hit .231 at Class A Wisconsin last season.
After pitching in five games, Kirby’s season ended with Tommy John surgery in 2015. He missed last season recovering from the injury.
2016: Brewers select college outfielder Corey Ray (Louisville) with the No. 5 overall pick
In his first professional season, Ray played in 60 games between Class A and Class A-Advanced, hitting .239 with five home runs, 17 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. But his season ended with knee surgery, after he suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee last year.
One of baseball’s top prospects, doctors cleared Ray to return to game action on March 24.
The 2017 draft class is deep with college pitching and high risk, high potential high school arms. With the draft just two months away, there’s still uncertainty at the top of the draft. Some players to watch at the No. 9 overall pick are prep lefties DL Hall (Valdosta HS, GA) and MacKenzie Gore (Whiteville HS, N.C.), and college right-handers Tanner Houck (Missouri), Alex Lange (LSU) and Kyle Wright (Vanderbilt).
The Brewers’ best number one picks as defined by contribution to the franchise probably have been Gorman Thomas (actually picked by the Seattle Pilots), Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Dale Sveum, Dan Plesac, B.J. Surhoff, Cal Eldred, Geoff Jenkins, Ben Sheets. Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun. To that group can be added players who played for the Brewers and other teams, including Darrell Porter, Gary Sheffield, Bill Spiers and Alex Fernandez (who didn’t sign with the Brewers), along with players the Brewers traded to get better players, such as LaPorta and Lawrie.
That’s the good news. The bad news includes shortstop Tommy Bianco (who played 18 major-league games), Isaiah Clark, pitchers Kenny Henderson, Tyrone Hill and J.M. Gold, third baseman Antone Williamson (picked fourth overall, played 24 major league games) and outfielder Chad Green, who didn’t play for the Brewers or anyone else despite being the eighth pick. The Brewers’ current status as the number one minor league system is the result of stockpiling other teams’ high draft picks, not developing their own number-one picks. Since the names in this paragraph didn’t play for anyone else either, that would have to be considered a joint failure of scouting (did they deserve to be number one picks?) and player development.