Last night, the first, supplemental, and second rounds of the MLB draft showed that even if pre-draft rankings give fans basic ideas of how good an amateur prospect might be, the draft will not always follow that path exactly. A few of the draft’s best-ranked talents fell due to injury, performance, or signability issues in the supplemental and second rounds, which resulted in an excellent chance for the Brewers to capitalize with their first trio of picks. Sure enough, just like 2011, the Brewers got their left-handed college starter, but this time that starter was available at #40 (Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia). The night seemed like a breeze of charmed circumstances for the front office, who appeared genuinely surprised that high schooler Trent Clark was available at #15, the Brewers’ first pick. After landing Clark, Kirby seemed like icing on the cake, but the Brewers nabbed yet another (arguably) falling college arm in the second round, at #55 (Cody Ponce, RHP). As our own Ryan Topp wrote on Twitter, you can make of it what you will, but each of the Brewers’ picks were ranked well above their actual selection:
|Pick||Bonus Slot||BA Rank||MLB.com Rank|
|#15 OF Trent Clark||$2.6927||#10||#12|
|#40 LHP Nathan Kirby||$1.5454||#26||#26|
|#55 RHP Cody Ponce||$1.108||#36||#32|
Thus far, reactions to the Brewers’ draft are positive, especially from those covering the club. Writer Tom Haudricourt was especially vocal on Twitter during last night’s draft.
I’m guessing #Brewers will get good marks for getting Clark, Kirby and Ponce at Nos. 15, 40 and 55. All were rated much higher.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) June 9, 2015
Getting a quality college LHP at No. 40 is a good deal. Might be healthy enough to pitch in Omaha.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) June 9, 2015
With the 40th pick (Lottery Round A), the Brewers take LHP Nathan Kirby from U of Virgina. @Haudricourt is THRILLED.
— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) June 9, 2015
A quality first draft for Ray Montgomery, thus far. It may be an understated and sneaky quality, but it is still quality. #Brewers
— J.P. Breen (@JP_Breen) June 9, 2015
Ponce fits Brewers draft approach very well. High ceiling power arm. First-round reach but great value in second round.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 9, 2015
— RD Topp (@RDTopp) June 9, 2015
Based on BaseballAmerica rankings, there are some intriguing remaining prospects with high rankings that might also have some question marks. Some, like David Hill, might have command and usage questions, while others (like Donny Everett) could have signability questions.
|#||Top Remaining BA Talent|
|21||RHP Donny Everett (HS)|
|23||RHP Michael Matuella (Coll)|
|34||RHP Dakota Chalmers (HS)|
|35||SS Jalen Miller (HS)|
|37||RHP Jacob Nix (HS)|
|39||LHP Justin Hooper (HS)|
|41||OF Demi Orimoloye (HS)|
|44||RHP David Hill (Coll)|
|46||OF Joe McCarthy (Coll)|
|53||RHP Kyle Molnar (HS)|
Final Day Draft Results will be covered in a round-up post on Thursday, June 11.
First Round (#15): OF Trent Clark, Richland HS (Texas) ($2,692,700 slot). BaseballAmerica ranked Clark the best prospect in Texas, and the Brewers writers have reported across the board that the Brewers were surprised to see the left-handed bat drop to #15. Noted for unorthodox thumb placement in his swing, Clark is regarded as a prospect with a highly-graded hit tool. Clark uses a golf-style grip with his thumbs, which reportedly helped the youngster maintain bat control while he gained strength (crosschecker Steve Riha compared the grip to Moises Alou, who also batted bare-handed, too). This could be relatively surprising to Brewers fans, who are used to seeing their scouting department reach for power and wait for the hit tool. With Clark, it will be the other way ’round: the hit tool is there for Clark, and the power will round out as he advances. Ray Montgomery noted that he expects Clark to be a potential five tool player. Clark has a college commitment to Texas Tech.
|Brewers History||#15 Pick in MLB Draft|
|1991||Tyrone Hill (LHP High School)|
|2011||Jed Bradley (LHP College)|
|2015||Trent Clark (OF High School)|
On another note, one must take a look at Doug Melvin‘s assessment of the Brewers’ system. If this draft feels like a departure for the organization, it could be the result of a scathing internal report (this is speculation, but Melvin’s words ring loudly):
“He’s something we’ve been looking for. He’s a legitimate hitter, left-handed…He has good plate discipline. He has some power. He can play center field. We’re pretty excited about getting a real professional hitter. That’s something we felt we’ve lacked in our system recently.”
Disciples of Uecker regulars might also like to know that Clark is a self-proclaimed baseball nerd, with Ken Burns’s Baseball his go-to pick with coaches and teammates. We ought to send this kid a care package of Bill James Handbooks and The Fielding Bible.
CBA Competitive Balance (#40): LHP Nathan Kirby, Virginia ($1,545,400 slot). Ray Montgomery noted that the Brewers have followed Kirby since high school in some way, shape, or form, and that familiarity paid off on Monday night. Ironically, the Brewers selected left-handers twice with their previous #15 selections, but they waited until #40 for their southpaw this time around. Kirby suffered a lat injury that sidelined him for most of the college season, but that makes the lefty more of a potentially risky-but-high value acquisition for the Brewers. Make no mistake about it: the consensus is that Kirby would have been drafted higher if it weren’t for the injury. Area scout Dan Nellum (from MLB.com, linked above):
“Nathan’s a tremendous competitor…He’s a mature kid. He picks things up quickly and goes out and competes.”
By the way, if there are segments of Brewers fans that are critical of the organization for not selecting another pitcher, or gambling on Brady Aiken (last year’s #1, currently recovering from Tommy John surgery), one might expect that the Brewers’ medical staff had something to do with assessing the risk involved with these injured players. That the Brewers selected an injured pitcher, but it was not Aiken at #15, allowed the club to maximize the value of their first two picks: not only did they land a top prep athlete that dropped in the draft, but they also landed a college arm that dropped, too. One can question whether the same value would exist with Aiken at #15 (who is more of a “true wildcard” in terms of risk/upside) and (presumably) someone else at #40 (since one can suspect that the Brewers would not draft two injured pitchers with consecutive picks). It’s impossible to fully judge these decisions without looking at Milwaukee’s proprietary advice from their medical and scouting staff, so in some sense fans must look at rankings and understand the value of these picks, and question the true risk involved with someone like Aiken.
Jesse Burkhart at FranGraphs has an extensive, critical look at Kirby (and FranGraphs in general seems to be “down” on the lefty this year). One note to watch is Kirby’s velocity, which has been down. However, one might suspect that his lat injury and recovery could help alleviate that type of issue (once he begins training with the Brewers and their excellent medical staff).
Second Round (#55): RHP Cody Ponce, Cal Poly-Ponoma ($1,108,000 slot). In case you missed it, a couple years ago the Brewers front office announced that they would specifically begin scouting one type of pitcher: a big pitcher, with a big fastball. The Brewers were looking to change their fortunes with arms, and looked to pitching frames to begin their turnaround. One can question whether Ray Montgomery’s regime is continuing the same logic, but it’s difficult to question that with the selection of the 6’5″, 230+ pound Ponce. Ponce’s calling card is a big fastball, but the knock might be that he does not yet have his off-speed pitches sorted out. However, one could argue that it’s difficult to pass on mid-90s fastball potential and and innings-eating frame at this point in the draft.
|Brewers History||#55 Pick in Amateur Draft|
|1977||Stanley Davis (1B High School)|
|1985||Shon Ashley (SS High School)|
|2015||Cody Ponce (RHP College)|
According to MLB.com, Montgomery is pleased with this draft process thus far: “”I’m pleased with the process that brought us to this point…I’m pleased with how we went about it. You’re looking for best talent available, but you have to be respectful of organization status, need, best player….All of those things factored into it, and we spent a tremendous amount of time preparing for this, so the fact that we’re part of the way done is gratifying. But we’re not entirely done.”
Thank you to all my friends and family for the love and support! I'm excited to continue chasing my dreams with the @Brewers
— Cody Ponce † (@Cody_Ponce48) June 9, 2015
Third Round (#90): RHP Nash Walters, Lindale (Texas) ($646,300 slot). Just in case you were looking for the Brewers to continually draft players ranked ahead of their current pick, or immediately follow the first three picks with a set of extremely signable college veterans, Milwaukee went out and drafted another big righty. This time, their Texan prep player pitches and plays quarterback, and the youngster stands 6’4″ or 6’5″, depending upon who you ask. Lindale’s Baseball Facebook page provided an up-close glance at the righty’s mechanics, mid-delivery.
Not sure there’s a rawer pitcher than #Brewers third-round pick Nash Walters, but big time arm strength and he’s touched 95 with projection.
— Chris Crawford (@CrawfordChrisV) June 9, 2015
Of the Brewers’ picks thus far, I will bet that Walters will be the most contentious, given his commitment to Texas A&M (as a childhood Longhorns fan, no less!), and the Brewers’ potential reach for a raw arm. However, once again, the organization is proving their process of looking for a very specific set of traits is wholeheartedly in action, and certainly not a mere theory. One might expect the best defense of Walters to be the benefits that a projectable body could lend to an already huge fastball; it is worth noting that between previous football listings and his current baseball listings, Walters has apparently grown five inches within the span of two years.
Blessed to say I'm going to be a brewer! Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen. It is a dream come true for me! #Brewers
— Nash Walters⚾ (@Nash_Walters12) June 9, 2015
— Demi Orimoloye (@DemiOrimoloye16) June 9, 2015
Fourth Round (#121): OF Demi Orimoloye, St. Matthew HS (Ontario, Canada) ($465,600 slot). Ranked #41 by BaseballAmerica and #62 by MLB, Demi Orimoloye has a chance to become the first MLB player born in Africa. The outfielder is highly lauded due to his sheer athleticism on the field. At 6’4″, scouts emphasize his ability to show power and speed. Video evidence of this is available from the Area Code games, where Orimoloye slugged a 94-MPH fastball (according to SI.com) 400 feet. In the land of ridiculous comparisons, the youngster’s sheer athleticism is compared to someone like Bo Jackson, which immediately recalls the lore of that larger-than-life amateur (but is hardly a fair comparison for anyone. And, of course, it is worth noting that for all his physicality, Jackson was not an elite baseball player in terms of production. Another “high” comparison is Yasiel Puig). However, it is worth quoting an anonymous scout from SI (linked above), which emphasizes the baseball skill that is included with the physicality:
“There’s real baseball in him…By that, I mean, he recognizes pitches very well. You’ll see him check on good breaking balls. You’ll see him make adjustments in game. If there’s a weakness in his game right now, it’s his defense. The routes he takes on flyballs need work and his arm is not great but it is developing. But I expect to him to improve. There are a lot of super athletes who come along, but a lot of times, they’re just so raw. Not Demi.”
Orimoloye committed to the University of Oregon, which leads one to question signability for the Brewers’ third and fourth round picks. However, in this case, one might suspect that the club may be able to work under slot with Ponce, freeing additional cash for these committed amateurs (speculation on my part).
Montgomery didn't like the Bo Jackson comp for Orimoloye. "I wouldn’t put that comp on *three* players," he said.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) June 9, 2015
Fifth Round (#151): Blake Allemand, Texas A&M ($348,600 slot). In an ironic twist, the Brewers follow the recent selection of a Texas A&M commitment by drafting that college’s senior middle infielder. Allemand showed pure hitting ability during his last season, improving his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging to career best marks. Prior to the season, Baseball Draft Report ranked Allemand in the Top 40 among SEC batters. Other college baseball coverage places Allemand on an “aggressive and gritty” A&M squad.
If you’re curious about how signability works, and new to the MLB draft process, Allemand is the perfect example of a signable pick that helps the Brewers allocate their resources to other picks. Since Allemand finished his collegiate career at Texas A&M, he has less leverage against the Brewers (in the form of a threat that he will return to college). Therefore, the Brewers could theoretically sign Allemand for less than $348,000, if Allemand wants to begin his career in professional baseball. In this case, the Brewers can price out their offer to Allemand, and then use their savings to sign much riskier players like Walters and Orimoloye. Across conference websites, however, the consensus seems to place Allemand as a flexible infield glove that could hopefully serve as an average hitter that compensates for any lack of power.
— Blake Allemand (@blake_allemand1) June 9, 2015
Sixth Round (#181): RHP Eric Hanhold, Florida ($261,000 slot). Eric Hanhold was 6’4″ and 175 pounds when he was the very last player drafted in 2012 (#1,238, Phillies). Now, three years of college show that he made good on his plan to continue his physical development, and three additional years of working out have him listed around 205 pounds. Ranked at #7 in the SEC among MLB talent pitchers, Hanhold reportedly throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, with top velocity listed at 94 by some reports. While Hanhold improved his statistics throughout his SEC career, his peripheral numbers hint that finding command might be more important than advancing his stuff in order to make his next jump. As it stands, Hanhold absolutely made the right decision, and will be dearly rewarded for attending college after the 2012 draft.
Seventh Round (#211): 3B George Iskenderian, Miami ($195,700 slot). The Cardinals drafted George Iskenderian in the 34th round last year, but Iskenderian returned to college, this time in Miami. The infielder jumped from South Carolina to Indian River Community College before landing at The U. Brewers fans will have a chance to see the 3B in the College World Series, as Miami takes on Florida on Saturday, and either Virginia or Arkansas next Monday. Not surprisingly, Iskenderian is placing his immediate attention on the CWS, instead of the draft:
“I haven’t really thought much about the draft because it’s out of my control…I’m just going to worry about the College World Series and trying to win it all. And, hopefully, my name gets called. And if it does, great. But it’s not really on my mind. It’s kind of on the back burner.”
Eighth Round (#241): RHP Nate Griep, Kansas State ($171,000 slot). Hold onto your hats: while Nate Griep is a big enough pitcher, his stature will seem relatively small compared with the pitching class from this Brewers draft. Griep produced an impressive sophomore campaign for the Wildcats, producing a 2.63 ERA in nearly 80 innings pitched.
Nate Griep was a redshirt sophomore for the Wildcats and earned All-Big 12 second team honors. (6-3, 2.63 ERA, 78.2 IP, 64 K) #KState
— Alex Wiebel KSNT (@AlexKSNT) June 9, 2015
According to The Hardball Times, while Griep’s velocity range stands between 90-95, the righty also maintains his velocity deep into games. His curve was called 10-to-5, and ultimately, THT speculated that Griep might be better suited for the bullpen with his delivery.
Ninth Round (#271): RHP Karsen Lindell, West Linn HS (Oregon) ($159,700 slot). Karsen Lindell is reportedly the first Oregon high school player selected in the 2015 draft. The righty is 6’3″ and 190 pounds, and he committed to the University of Washington. Ranked at #204 by BaseballAmerica, and 2nd in Washington’s incoming class, Washington’s Head Coach reportedly hinted that Lindell might have the most potential of that class.
This video is definitely worth a look to see Lindell’s big breaking ball:
Tenth Round (#301): LHP Jake Drossner, Maryland ($149,700 slot). Maryland Baseball Network ranks three of Drossner’s pitches as plus offerings, noting that the southpaw throws in the upper-80s / low-90s range with his fastball. However, Drossner’s rough 2015 campaign offsets some of the strengths of his 2014 outings for Maryland, which hints that this pick may find the Brewers reaching for some of his past strengths than current performance. It’s interesting to see that Drossner’s arm snakes behind his back (and his back seems to turn to the plate) during his delivery, which leads one to question whether his delivery produces deception. If one squints through his scouting report, one can find a big lefty that could work as a command pitcher with three offerings. Now, the question will be how Drossner returns from 2015.
Final Day Draft Results will be covered in a round-up post on Thursday, June 11.
BaseballAmerica. The Enthusiast Network, 2015.
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2015.
MLB Advanced Media, LP., 2015.
Other sources cited as linked.