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Milwaukee Brewers 2018 MLB Draft Preview: College Pitchers

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A look at potential Brewers prospects.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Florida vs TCU Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

We are less than a month away from the MLB Draft. This is the first time David Stearns and his team will be selecting a player outside of the top 15 picks, as the Milwaukee Brewers enter this year’s amateur draft with the 21st pick. Thankfully, there’s some pretty good talent up and down this draft class.

As the draft approaches, we are taking a look at the players who could end up becoming a part of the Brewers farm system. We start with the college pitchers who could go to Milwaukee.

The Scouting Report

Ryan Rolison LHP
#12 MLB Pipeline || #11 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Fastball: 55 || Curveball: 60 || Slider: 50 || Changeup: 50 || Control: 50 || Overall: 55

Jackson Kowar RHP
#13 MLB Pipeline || #8 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Fastball: 65 || Curveball: 50 || Changeup: 60 || Control: 50 || Overall: 55

Logan Gilbert RHP
#26 MLB Pipeline || #14 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Fastball: 55 || Slider: 55 || Curveball: 50 || Changeup: 55 || Control: 50 || Overall: 50

Tristan Beck RHP
#27 MLB Pipeline || #46 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Fastball: 55 || Curveball: 50 || Changeup: 60 || Control: 55 || Overall: 50

Sean Hjelle RHP
#34 MLB Pipeline || #40 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Fastball: 55 || Curveball: 60 || Slider: 50 || Changeup: 50 || Control: 55 || Overall: 50

The Lowdown

This year’s draft is heavy with college pitching at the start, but the number of high-quality prospects drops pretty significantly after the top 10. The difficulty with predicting pitchers the Brewers might take at this spot lies in what the Crew will end up valuing. I believe that having less high draft picks and a later comp pick makes them more likely to be aggressive with the talent they draft early on. In recent years, we’ve seen the Crew draft talent a few spots early to save on cap space for later rounds.

The group of possibles starts with two pitchers who are regarded fairly highly. Ryan Rolison is the one I think would most intrigue the Brewers if he somehow made it to 21. A college lefty who sits in the low 90s with good control of the fastball, Rolison can mix in his plus slider and average changeup to dominate the plate. Not only does he have a great mix of pitchers, but he’s younger than most of the other college players in this class as a draft-eligible Sophmore. It’s unlikely Rolison ever becomes a top 10 pitcher in baseball, but he can be a sturdy workhorse at the center of a good rotation. I think the fact that he’s left-handed and has an excellent feel for mixing his pitches makes it unlikely he’s available at 21.

Next, we move on to Jackson Kowar. Kowar is a rare breed in that he throws a high-90s fastball and has a plus changeup to mix it in. A dominant college pitcher, scouts differ on how well they believe his third pitch will end up being. If the curveball becomes even average, Kowar could be a reasonably dominant pitcher at the highest level. If not, he has the tools to be an excellent reliever already and is someone who could climb the minor league ladder quickly.

Now we move down the rankings a bit to two softer throwing righties who have a robust selection of secondary pitches. Logan Gilbert has dropped down boards after a pretty sizable dip in velocity. The college junior was throwing in the upper 90s last year but has fallen to the low-90s, topping at 94. What makes the velocity drop more palatable is Gilbert’s plus changeup and plus slider. He can mix the two in while being an effective locator to keep hitters off balance. If his velocity returns, he could be a top of the line starter. If it’s a sign of a bigger injury, there’s an off chance he never advances out of the minors.

Where Gilbert has mild injury concerns, Tristan Beck is a quality pitcher whose health has already scared many teams. Beck went at the end of last year’s draft due to a stress fracture in his back but didn’t sign. When healthy, he’s a low-90s pitcher with a great changeup and a couple of quality breaking balls. Some teams are high on Beck as a possible get later in the draft because they believe the righty will get healthy, some are avoiding him altogether.

Finally, we turn to Sean Hjelle. Hjelle is an exciting prospect because he likely will add velocity as he packs on weight to his 6’11” frame. The very intriguing part of his scouting reports is that Hjelle actually has a repeatable delivery, which is rare for a pitcher of his size. He sits in the low to mid-90s with a plus-plus curveball and a change that could be plus. Hjelle is a pitcher who carries a lot of risk but a very high ceiling. With his length, a fastball that might end up working 96-98 would be incredibly hard for hitters to time and he already has excellent command of his secondary offerings. It’s not uncommon for pitchers of his height to lose their mechanics and become inconsistent, struggling to put anything in the zone.

How They Become Brewers

It’s easy to see any of these players ending up in the Brewers farm system. Each pitcher has good potential and the ability to climb quickly through the ranks. Although some are regarded highly, this draft is chock full of high-ceiling prep talent that will likely intrigue many teams into taking a chance on those players. That could lead to one of the more advanced pitchers with quality control falling into Milwaukee’s lap. Based on recent drafts, I think it’s much more likely that the Crew goes with a hitter; however, Milwaukee has been surprisingly good at developing college pitchers of late. Having one who already comes in with a ton of talent could be a huge boost to the arm for a farm system that’s lost some talent in the last year.