There was some question as to how Major League Baseball would determine the order of the 2021 MLB Draft coming off a shortened season played during unprecedented circumstances, but in the end the picks will be lined up the same as usual — from the league’s worst record to the best. Baseball America reported on Monday that commissioner Rob Manfred and the Players Association agreed to follow the standard protocol for setting up the upcoming draft, meaning that the 2021 MLB Draft order is now official.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will have the top selection after finishing 19-41 during this summer’s 60-game campaign. The Milwaukee Brewers fall right in the middle of the pack at #15 after concluding the 2020 season with a 29-31 record. That was good enough for them to qualify as the #8 and final seed for the National League in the expanded postseason. Elsewhere in the NL Central, the Reds will pick at #17, the Cardinals at #18, and the Cubs at #21.
The Brewers have held the #15 overall selection in three previous drafts, but none of those wound up working out very well for the Brewers. In 1991, left-hander Tyrone Hill was chosen out of Yucaipa High School. He was ranked as a top-100 propsect by Baseball America at the start of each year from 1992-1994, but wound up missing the entire 1994 season with injury. He would total only 47.2 more professional innings from 1995-1998, and was out of pro baseball by the age of 26 after topping out at Double-A.
The Brewers grabbed Jed Bradley at #15 overall in 2011, three picks after choosing Taylor Jungmann. The idea was to select polished, close-to-MLB-ready college arms with their two first round selections, but neither hurler panned out as hoped. Bradley made his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League that year then pitched parts of the next five seasons in the minors for the Brewers, eventually transitioning to relief and making it as high as Triple-A. He was traded to the Braves for cash in June of 2016 and made his MLB debut as a September call-up later that year, allowing four runs in 7.0 innings across six appearances. He was claimed off waivers by the Orioles the following offseason but voluntarily retired from baseball in May of 2017. Bradley attempted a return to pro ball in 2019, but struggled to a 7.75 ERA in 72.0 innings for the New Britain Bees of the independent Atlantic League.
Milwaukee’s most recent pick at #15 was outfielder Trent Clark in 2015. The Texas native — who later changed his last name to Grisham — was praised as the most advanced high school hitter in his draft class, but the Brewers tried to change his “golf” grip on the bat to a more orthodox one and he struggled to hit for both average and power during his first four professional seasons. Grisham switched back to his golf-style grip prior to 2019 and broke out in a major way, hitting .300/.407/.603 in with 26 home runs in 97 games between Double-A and Triple-A before getting called up to the big leagues for the first time in August.
Grisham held his own down the stretch, finishing with a .231/.328/.410 slash line in 51 games for an OPS+ of 90. He made a costly error in right field in the Wild Card game, however, and less than two months later he was packaged up in a trade and sent to the San Diego Padres. Grisham wound up becoming San Diego’s everyday center fielder this past season and hit .251/.352/.456 with 10 home runs and 10 steals in 59 games for a 122 OPS+. Grisham’s strong showing, along with the production of Zach Davies (2.73 ERA in 69.1 IP), means that so far this trade looks like a dud after both Luis Urias (64 OPS+ in 120 PA) and Eric Lauer (13.09 ERA in 11.0 IP) failed to find their footing for the Brewers in 2020. There is still plenty of time for Milwaukee’s side of the deal to improve their stock, however.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference