Ten years ago, the Brewers made Prince Fielder the #7 overall pick in the 2002 MLB draft. The 2012 MLB first-year player draft begins later today, and the Brewers will have three of the top sixty picks. In addition to their first-round pick at #28, which was based on their record last year, the Brewers will receive picks #27 and #38 as compensation for losing their first-round pick from ten years ago this offseason.
The Brewers had premium picks last year at #12 and #15 overall. Although they pick substantially lower in 2012, Director of Baseball Operations Tom Flanagan, who joined the Brewers telecast yesterday, said that he wasn't buying the widespread opinion that this year featured a weak draft class. Brewers Amateur Scouting Director Bruce Seid seemed to imply the contrary by calling this draft class "muddled." Both agree, however, that there will still be quality players remaining by the time the Brewers have their first pick.
The Brewers selected two college arms in last year's draft, but the team might be willing to grab some high school prospects this year. Flanagan noted the team's early draft board consists of a good mix of college and high school talent. Seid noted that signability will be a major consideration this year, as 2012 marks the first draft under the new collective bargaining rules that impose heavy penalties on teams that spend above a certain threshold. Flanagan does not expect the Brewers to deviate too much from their "best talent available" strategy, but it's notable that last year the team's picks were largely needs-based.
Catcher: Clint Coulter (HS); Stryker Trahan (HS)
This duo of high school catchers might seem an odd choice for the Brewers since Jonathan Lucroy is locked up long-term. The only way I see the Brewers taking a catcher with their top picks is if their pockets get picked early on. Coulter is expected to fall to the supplemental round, which means he might still be there at #38; anything above that would be a reach for the Brewers. Both have some raw offensive talent, with Trahan being slightly more polished, but both will also need to develop behind the plate before they reach the bigs.
*UPDATE* The latest mocks have Coulter now going slightly ahead of Trahan. Whatever the ultimate order, I don't think the Brewers will prioritize either player on their draft board, though that of course depends on what is left when the clock starts running.
1B: Adam Walker (Jacksonville); Richie Shaffer (Clemson)
This draft offers the Brewers plenty of options at first-base, a position of need. Shaffer, expected to go before the Brewers first pick, has plus-power but will strike out often. If the Brewers are serious about adding another power hitter at first base, they might be better off trying to nab Walker at #38. Walker has 80 raw power, but hasn't developed other hitting skills to pair with that pop. In short, both college hitters seem like high-risk, high-reward picks as far as future potential.
SS: Addison Russell (HS)
I could see the Brewers taking high school shortstop Addison Russell if he falls to them at #27 overall. Shortstop is definitely a position of need for the team, and Russell has a big bat at a premium position. MLB.com profiles him as having above-average power to his pull side. Russell has average speed but will need to get on base more to take advantage of it. Russell has an average arm, but there are some questions about his defensive ability, leading some to peg him as a future 3B in the majors. There is a good chance Russell won't make it to #27, and even if he does, he may be a risk to sign.
3B: Joey Gallo (HS); Stephen Piscotty (Stanford)
Both Gallo and Piscotty currently play 3B, but many believe they'll wind up as first basemen at the major league level. Gallo has plus power and a plus arm, but his poor defensive play will probably keep him from making the big leagues as a 3B. Gallo might have the higher upside of the two, but will require far more refinement in the minors to meet that potential. Piscotty is batting .318/.405/.456 with Stanford; he has superior plate discipline to pair with his ability to drive the ball to all fields. Piscotty would make a great pick at #27 for the Brewers, but in most mocks he is not projected to fall that far.
OF: Victor Roache (Georgia Southern); Tyler Naquin (Texas A&M); D.J. Davis (HS)
The lone high schooler among this group, Davis might very well be the fastest player in this draft. He already has 80 speed, but his batting skills lag far behind despite significant improvements this year, making him fit only in center. Still, if Davis can become a league-average hitter, his speed alone will get him on a big league roster. Roache has seen his draft stock fall due to injury this year, but he is close to major-league ready and has plus power to pair with a good arm and decent range in the outfield. If the Brewers really want to go with a defensive outfielder though, Tyler Naquin is their pick. Naquin is primarily a contact hitter with little power and average speed. His plus arm is a great fit for right field even if his power is not.
RHP: Ty Hensley (HS); Chris Beck (Georgia Southern); Walker Weickel (HS); Lucas Sims (HS); Zach Eflin (HS)
If the Brewers want a top pitcher in this year's draft, they might very well have to look to high school players to get it. Hensley is a big righty with an average fastball that sits at 92-94. His curve projects to be above average with some refinement, but he'll need to find something other than that and his below-average change to keep hitters honest. Weickel throws a good fastball with a lot of downward movement from his 6'6" frame; he also features a good curve and change. Sims has only two plus pitches, a fastball and a curveball, leading him to profile as a late-inning reliever. He can struggle with command at times, but at 6'3" and 190 lbs. has great mound presence. Eflin is right behind Sims in the latest rankings, and has a similar build at 6'4" and 200 lbs. Eflin has a low-90's fastball that he pairs with an above-average change and average curve, but he can throw them for strikes and all three pitches project to be above-average with refinement; he would be a steal if he drops to the Brewers at #27. Beck is the lone college arm in this review, a big righty with huge strikeout potential that projects to be a mid-rotation starter. He should be available for the Brewers in their first picks, and the team has shown a preference for college arms.