I've been doing my best to keep up with draft coverage from around the baseball world on the internet this year. I think I have a pretty good handle on the players the Brewers are in on, based solely on what I've been reading. Because I'm basically summarizing what I've read, I included the scouting reports so you can take a look for yourselves. I strongly encourage you to do so, though for some of them you need an ESPN Insider account. Sorry, I know that's kind of lame, but it's one of the most comprehensive ways to get draft information. Also, I provide a link to MLB.com's Top 200 list in the "rankings" section. Click on that and scroll to the number to find another scouting report for that player. Anyway, let's dig right in.
1. Max Pentecost
Pentecost is the name I've seen most frequently associated with the Brewers. He also seems very likely to be available when the Brewers pick at 12 overall. He's a catcher that doesn't have any stand out skills but is average or slightly above average all around. That doesn't sound exciting, but he's a lock to stay at the position. A decent defensive catcher with 15-18 HR potential, solid batting average potential, and above average running speed (for a catcher) is pretty valuable. I've also read that he is expected to be one of the first position players to reach the majors from this year's draft class.
Why he makes sense for the Brewers: He's a catcher and will be at the major league level. That's more than we can say about the only other catching prospect in their system, Clint Coulter. A high school catcher when drafted, Coulter has always been raw behind the plate. He has made strides defensively since being drafted, however if the Brewers do draft Penecost that could theoretically allow them to move Coulter to a less demanding position like third base (another area of need) or first base. His bat will play at both positions, but would obviously be more valuable at third base. Were they to move him, it might also allow him to move through the system more quickly.
I've seen people bemoan this pick because the Brewers have Jonathan Lucroy. I understand because I love him too and I don't want to think about a time without him. Realistically though, Lucroy is 28 this year and will be 30 at the end of his contract or 31 if/when they exercise the option year. While he'll still have several years left of viability, it doesn't hurt to have other options. There is also the possibility that the Brewers will move Lucroy to first base at some point. That's not even mentioning the possibility of executing some kind of trade. A catching prospect the caliber of Pentecost's potential is a valuable commodity to have. I already mentioned how it could improve or impact Coulter's future viability. The point is, there are several reasons why Max Pentecost would be a good pick here.
2. Grant Holmes
Rankings: ESPN 7, Baseball America 17, MLB.com 11, Chris Crawford 7, Minor League Ball 5
Holmes is another name I've seen associated with the Brewers, though less than Pentecost. Jim Goulart learned that Holmes had a meeting and pitched for the Brewers recently, so the interest is there. Like Pentecost, he seems very likely to be available when the Brewers make their first round pick. Holmes is a prep (high school) pitcher that has front line potential. He currently has a fastball that sits around 92-94, though has been able to get it up several mph higher. He has a change-up that could be an above average pitch, but it's his curveball that really shines. He has the potential for above average command too.
There are some downsides to Grant Holmes. He's listed at 6'2" but I've read that he really isn't quite that tall. That's often something that hurts a prospect at draft time. It makes sense as it can be hard to get downward plane on pitches when you're shorter. As Brewers fans, we've seen what happens when straight fastballs are thrown. Home run city. That doesn't mean short pitchers can't be good or even great so personally I'm not overly concerned about it. He also doesn't have much projection left in his build. That means his fastball is likely as good as it's going to get. Again, when he sits 92-94, touching 96, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Why he makes sense for the Brewers: This one should be pretty self explanatory. With good command and three potential plus pitches, he's a starting pitching prospect with #2 upside. He makes sense for every club. As a pitcher with good command he could be able to move relatively quickly through the system. It's possible that he reaches the major leagues around the same time, perhaps even sooner than, fellow pitching prospect and last year's first overall pick Devin Williams. We're still talking around 2018, but to have the two of them ready around the same time would be pretty awesome.
3. Michael Conforto
Rankings: ESPN 12, Baseball America 9, MLB.com 17, Chris Crawford 15, Minor League Ball 20
At different times I've seen Conforto as a consensus pick for the Brewers. That has changed more recently. I think part of that has to do with him not necessarily being available when the Brewers make their pick. I've seen a lot of rumors suggesting the Cubs might go underslot with him if the top 3 pitching prospects (Brady Aiken, Carlos Rodon, Tyler Kolek) are off board. I've also seen a lot of mock drafts having the Mets take him with the 10th overall pick.
If the Brewers do find themselves with the opportunity to draft him he provides a lot of offensive potential. He's similar to Max Pentecost in that he's a college player that is considered a "safe" pick. By that, I mean he seems a sure bet to play in the major leagues. He's a left fielder that doesn't offer a lot on the defensive side of things. He has some swing and miss in his bat, but he also has plus power. I've seen him projected to hit 20-25 home runs at the major league level. To put it succinctly he has middle of the lineup offensive potential. Again, like Pentecost, he's predicted to be one of the first players in this draft to reach the majors.
Why he makes sense for the Brewers: I'll admit that I'm not entirely enamored at the idea of yet another outfield prospect. The Brewers already have Victor Roache, Mitch Haniger, Tyrone Taylor, and Khris Davis. Still, outside of probably Taylor, he'd have the highest ceiling among those players. Assuming he reaches his likely potential he'd definitely have the best bat out of the bunch. With the Brewer lacking a lot of impact bats, he'd also likely have the best bat in the whole farm system. The fact that he's seen as a fast riser only helps his cause. Besides, drafting (or not drafting) for need isn't usually a good idea.
4. Tyler Beede
Rankings: ESPN 14, Baseball America 16, MLB.com 12, Chris Crawford 24, Minor League Ball 9
Tyler Beede is a name I've only heard associated with the Brewers more recently. At a time when a lot of people were becoming skeptical of his value, I read the Brewers were the only team to openly like him. I'm not sure how likely it really is that they'll take him, but he'll most certainly be available when they pick. He has really good stuff. His fastball and curveball are plus pitches and he has an above average changeup. The problem is, and always has been, his command. If you read the Minor League Ball report it mentions that. It's from last year. He hasn't made the kind of strides you want to see from a college junior and that's hurt his draft stock. I've read some people, Keith Law among them, that think Beede could fall out of the first round entirely. This pick scares me. It's not that he can't be good. He absolutely could be a frontline starter, the best in the farm system. However he really needs to improve his command to get there and it hasn't happened in the slightest yet.
Why it makes sense for the Brewers: Honestly, I'm not sure If I'm sold on this one. I can't deny the potential. No one can. The likelihood he reaches that potential is the mystery. I think it's okay for the Brewers to take high upside risks, but I believe there will be better options available at 12th overall. However, if he were to reach his potential, he'd be the best starer to come out of the farm in a long time.
5. Touki Toussaint
Rankings: ESPN 13, Baseball America 14, MLB.com 8, Chris Crawford 11, Minor League Ball 8
At different points I've seen mock drafts where the Brewers take Toussaint. This was mostly before Jeff Hoffman and Erik Feede got injured. Because they're less likely to be taken high up in the draft, Toussaint is more likely to. It seems very unlikely that he gets past the Blue Jays second pick, but it's possible. The Blue Jays have the 9th and 11th overall picks. I've consistently seen them linked to shortstop Trea Turner, Touki Toussaint, and Jeff Hoffman. If they take Turner at 9, which I've seen often, then it's possible if not likely that one of Toussaint or Hoffman fall to the Brewers.
Touki Toussaint is another high school pitcher. He is said to have the best curveball in the entire draft. He also has a plus-plus fastball. His changeup is well below average at this point in his development, but could become fringe average with time. His main issue is his subpar command. Again, that's something that could come with time as he is only a high school pitcher. I get the impression that scouts and talent evaluators think he has as high a ceiling as anyone in the draft. It's just a matter of being able to harness that ability.
Why he make sense for the Brewers: Touki Toussaint has the potential to develop into an ace. He would easily have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the Brewers system in recent memory. As with Beede, the question is will he be able to reach his potential? With the emergence of Wily Peralta, Jimmy Nelson and the surprised improvements from Taylor Jungmann, Jed Bradley, and Jorge Lopez among others, I wonder if maybe we've all been underestimating the Brewers ability to develop pitchers. If we have, and they're actually good at it, then Toussaint could be the most exciting pick. He hasn't played baseball as long as other top prospects, so there's hope that he just lacks experience and things will start to kick in with repetition.
6. Jeff Hoffman
Rankings: ESPN 25, Baseball America 8, MLB.com 13, Chris Crawford 10, Minor League Ball 22
As I mentioned above, there's a very real likelihood that Hoffman doesn't make it past the Blue Jays second pick. It's truly frustrating as it would be where the Brewers first selection came if it weren't for the Jays' inability to sign their first pick last year.
First things first. Jeff Hoffman is damaged goods. He got hurt and ended up requiring Tommy John surgery. That's not an insignificant turn of events, but TJ surgery does have a high success rate now. Before the college baseball season began there was a lot of talk about Hoffman's ability to pitch his way to the first overall selection in this year's draft.
Much like Toussaint, he has the potential for a plus-plus fastball and curveball. Right now his change up is probably better than Toussaint's as is his control. He also throws a slider but it's not a good offering right now. It sounds like he has work to do before he has good command of his pitches, but he absolutely has frontline potential.
Why he makes sense for the Brewers: Hoffman represents a good mix of risk and reward. While TJ surgery has a good success rate, recovery isn't guaranteed. Even if he does come back at full strength, he'll not return until summer next year and it might take all of next year just to get back on track. That's a year+ of development he'll miss. Still, the potential is there and like every other pitcher on this list, he'd instantly become the best pitching prospect in the Brewers system. He also offers the unique potential to sign him to an underslot bonus. He's a college junior now so he'd miss all of his senior year's college baseball season. That means he can't exactly turn down a reasonable offer. Even if the Brewers can save $500,000 it could significantly improve their chances of signing better talent in the Comp A and/or 2nd round. The Brewers' medical staff is considered very good and that could possibly be incentive for him to sign with them.
Final Thoughts: It seems to me that Max Pentecost is most likely to be the Brewers top draft pick. I'm basing that on seeing his name more frequently than anyone else's, and for a while now too. I don't really know that they'll take him though. The one constant comment I've seen with the various mock drafts is that the Brewers and Mariners are the most tight lipped clubs. Even the experts don't seem sure about any individual. Besides the 6 names I've mentioned here, I haven't seen any other draft prospects associated with the Brewers so I am fairly confident that they're going to get one of these players. Of course, as tight lipped as they are, we can't know for sure.
There are usually two camps within a fanbase when it comes to the draft. One faction always seems to want to draft for need. By that I mean they see a hole on the major league roster or throughout the farm system and think that's what the team should draft. Or, they see a surplus at a position and believe their team should avoid it in the draft. The other faction simply wants to "draft the best available prospect."
I'm more or less a member the latter, but that's really a lot easier said than done. How does one decide which is better between a starting pitcher and say a catcher or a third baseman? It's kind of apples to oranges and I don't have a good answer when the talent level of players aren't obviously different.
There are other factors in play that sometimes suggest you shouldn't take the best player available. I mentioned drafting underslot earlier and that's an example of what I'm talking about. Also, in a draft that's heavy with pitching maybe you can afford to pass on a high ceiling pitcher in the first round if there's going to be one available for you later. "Take the best player available" is catchy, but I just don't think daft strategies as simple as some people tend to make them out to be.
It could make a lot of sense for the Brewers to draft a bat first because this year's draft is supposed to be deep with pitching. Remember, they got Devin Williams last year with the 54th overall pick. This year they could get quality pitching prospects with their Comp A (41 overall), 2nd (50 overall), and maybe even 3rd round (85 overall) picks if they so desire. That's what a lot experts think the Cubs are going to do by drafting underslot with Conforto. The Brewers are in a different position in that they probably won't be getting a discount by drafting Pentecost or Conforto, but it could still be a solid philosophy this year. They do have the 9th highest draft pool to spend.
I'd be fine with them drafting Pentecost, but I might want Grant Holmes more. An average to slightly above average catcher is very valuable, but a #2 pitcher might be a tick more so. There's some risk with Holmes, but high upside too. The Brewers don't have a whole lot of pitching prospects like that and that should at least be somewhat of a consideration. If I had to choose between the two high upside/high risk pitchers I would probably take Toussaint over Beede. He kind of scares me because he might end up as a reliever, but his upside is so intriguing.
I think my perfect scenario would have Jeff Hoffman fall to the Brewers, who then sign him to an underslot deal allowing them to spread the money to the Comp A and/or 2nd rounds. That's probably just a pipe dream though. I'm interested to know who you guys want them to draft. Vote in the poll and as always, let me know your thoughts in the comments.