We are now just two days away from the start of Thursday's 2016 MLB Draft! There's plenty of excitement surrounding who Milwaukee may pick at fifth overall, but before we get to that let's finish our series of reviewing previous draft classes with the Brewers' acclaimed 2015 MLB Draft haul.
2015 marked the Brewers' first draft under the direction of Ray Montgomery, who was wooed away from his position as Scouting Director with the Diamondbacks in order to succeed the late Bruce Seid. Where Seid was known for going after players with a plus power tool while hoping the hit tool would develop (Gatewood, Coulter, Roache, etc.), Montgomery went a different direction with the first of his two first-round selections last year. At 15th overall, Milwaukee chose prep outfielder Trent Clark, a player praised for his advanced hit tool and approach at the plate who could develop more power down the road. With their second first-round pick at #40 overall, the Brewers selected collegiate left-hander Nathan Kirby. The UVA product was rated as the 26th-best talent in the draft according to MLB Pipeline, but slid due to injury concerns during his junior season and wound up signing for a below-slot bonus. Shortly after the Brewers selected him Kirby was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Many people credit the rebuilding trades made by Doug Melvin and David Stearns for revitalizing Milwaukee's farm system, but that suggestion ignores just how much talent the Brewers acquired during the 2015 draft. Beyond Clark (#5) and Kirby (#16), the club's second-round pick collegiate RHP Cody Ponce (#8) and fourth-rounder prep OF Demi Orimoloye (#14) also rank among their top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Ponce can touch 98 MPH with his fastball and has the potential to throw four average-or-better offerings with solid command. He is scheduled to make his 2016 debut tonight for high-A Brevard County after missing the beginning of the year with injury, and he's my favorite pitching prospect in the system and could fly through the minors to the big leagues before long. Orimoloye looks like a potential five-tool player who fell to the Brewers after a less-than-stellar spring performance, but dominated the Arizona League to the tune of an .838 OPS and six home runs and 19 steals in 33 games.
Beyond those four, Montgomery stuffed the system with intriguing depth prospects through last year's draft who have either already experienced success in the minors or shown tools that make them worth keeping an eye on. For me, those players are:
Nash Walters (3rd round), Blake Allemand (5th round), Eric Hanhold (6th round), George Iskenderian (7th round), Nate Griep (8th round), Karsen Lindell (9th round), Jake Drossner (10th round), Jose Cuas (11th round), Drake Owenby (12th round), Max McDowell (13th round), Tyrone Perry (14th round), Conor Harber (16th round), Gentry Fortuno (18th round - watch this kid closely), David Lucroy (20th round), Jon Olczak (21st round), Christian Trent (24th round), Jon Perrin (27th round), Mitch Ghelfi (28th round), and Quintin Torres-Costa (35th round).
Obviously this list will thin out as we move further away from the draft and these players get more professional experience, but even if only a few of them wind up reaching the major leagues that organizational and replacement depth is indispensable for a contending team.
Also worth mentioning - one player from the club's 2015 draft class has already retired: 19th rounder Steve Karkenny. He posted a solid .751 OPS in Helena as a 22 year old last year, but the graduate of The Master's College decided to hang 'em up rather than earn less than a living wage while pursuing his major league dreams. As we covered last week, two unsigned draftees - 29th rounder Donny Everett and 30th rounder Charlie Donovan - have tragically lost their lives in the last year since being selected by the Brewers.