On this day one year ago, the Brewers collapsing campaign took a dark turn, as scouting director Bruce Seid unexpectedly passed away. The news shook the organization, especially since a number of players on the roster made Milwaukee from Seid drafts. I hope this series of articles has helped show that Seid’s legacy in Milwaukee is shifting; it is unfortunate that he was unable to see many of the prospects he drafted take steps forward in 2015. However, as these prospects continue to develop, there are many chances that we will be able to continually reassess and analyze Seid’s legacy, especially as the next group of advanced prospects graduates.
Five Challenging Drafts
There is one final speculative point I would like to make, in order to showcase the significance of the MLB draft and to put the Brewers’ contending narrative in perspective. Those speculative arguments revolve around the 2000, 2001, 2006, 2007, and 2008 drafts under the direction of Jack Z. Not unlike Bruce S., actually, Jack Z. had his roughest first rounds in his first two drafts with Milwaukee. Many people Bruce S.’s rough drafts to attempt to explain the shortcomings of the 2012-2015 Brewers clubs. (This argument could most specifically apply to Dave Cameron’s surprisingly bare argument about the Brewers’ farm system during Doug Melvin‘s tenure, where he criticizes the Bruce S. drafts without digging into Jack Z.’s efforts from 2006-2008). By contrast, the issues of the 2000-2001 and 2006-2008 drafts arguably hurt the Brewers’ contending chances by failing to consistently graduate serviceable role players (or, players somewhere between “superstar” and “replacement”):
- Dave Krynzel edges in as the median player drafted at 11th overall, which means the Brewers did land replacement production and organizational depth from that pick. But, Krynzel did not develop into an average MLB player for that pick. Then, the 2001 draft featured (the infamous?) Mike Jones, a pitcher that could arguably define the Brewers’ early-decade pitching woes as much as the oft-injured Mark Rogers. Despite serving as a perennial Top 100 prospect for some time, Jones never graduated to the big leagues, largely due to a rough stretch from 2004 through 2007 (32 total appearances between Advanced A and AA ball).
- Corey Hart and J.J. Hardy were crucial contending core players for the early-contention Brewers that first emerged from rebuilding around 2005 (and Hardy later became a surprisingly crucial trading chip).
- Beyond Hardy and Hart, Jack Z. did not graduate any high floor players to seize starting roles, but he did produce several replacement players. Manny Parra served as one crucial contending player for the 2008 Brewers, but also became a member of the disappointing 2009 starting rotation. Arguably, the lack of valuable role players, or even serviceable starters like Fiers, Davis, or Gennett, hurt the Brewers in their initial attempts to jump from “rebuilding” and “contending.” The bottom line is that outside of Hardy and Hart, the 2004, 2005, and 2006 Brewers could not rely heavily on organizational depth to augment their best players. Forget 2011; as early as 2009 & 2010, the lack of “homegrown” pitching development left holes in the big league rotation.
- As early as 2006, one can see some of the “First Round Issues” emerging for the Brewers. If two really rough years belong to Bruce S. in 2009 and 2010, Jack Z. produced some frustrating drafts in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Matt LaPorta never had a chance to materialize as a big leaguer for the Brewers, and was part of the crucial trade to win-now in 2008. Jeremy Jeffress stalled as a starting pitching prospect and worked through personal health issues, ultimately finding his value as a reliever in his second chance with Milwaukee; he became part of another key win-now deal. Finally, as valuable as Brett Lawrie has proven to be in the MLB, he did not agree with the Brewers’ developmental plans, and therefore found himself a part of another win-now trade for the Brewers. Jake Odorizzi also stalled somewhat in Milwaukee and Kansas City systems, truly finding his way with his third organization in Tampa; he was another member of a win-now trade.
- Even placing the merit of the “win-now” trades aside, the fact remains that Parra, Jeffress, and Odorizzi were not going to solve the club’s rotational problems for the 2011 campaign; nor were a set of relievers that developed from those problematic five drafts.
It’s too easy to say that these trades hurt the Brewers’ system; when one assesses the talent from that handful of drafts, especially 2006-2008, it becomes clear that the Brewers were lacking supplemental players to improve from 2009-2010, let alone contend in 2011. It turns out that Jack Z.’s biggest draft hiccups occurred in 2000 and 2006; then, outside of the traded players I mentioned above, Jonathan Lucroy is the only player from these drafts to impact the Brewers as a starter (he developed at the MLB level after 2010-2011, however). So, once again, as the Brewers attempted to follow their Wild Card season in 2008, and recover from rough 2009 and 2010 campaigns, there were no fast-risers from the 2006 draft; by 2012, 2013, and 2014, the players seizing valuable roles from the farm system were members of the uncanny 2009 Bruce S. draft, rather than the 2006, 2007, or 2008 Jack Z. drafts. The trades hurt in some ways, but LaPorta, Jeffress, Odorizzi, and Lawrie weren’t going to be contending keys the first time around (in ’08 or ’11). Outside of those players, Milwaukee struggled to find valuable depth in their system.
In this way, one can argue that the 2006-2008 drafts were as troublesome for the Brewers’ big league club as the 2009-2010 drafts (perhaps moreso).
This is not to say that Jack Z.’s legacy is negative in Milwaukee. Rather, like anyone who sticks with an organization for a decade, it is complicated, with different layers of successes and failures. The clusters of talent unearthed from the 2002-2005 drafts was masterful; those drafts both allowed the Brewers to find valuable, cost-controlled organizational players and make crucial win-now moves. When a team has successful drafts, they can arguably graduate their key players and make big trades (trades made by the St. Louis Cardinals (Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Allen Craig), San Francisco Giants (Zack Wheeler), and Kansas City Royals (Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi) all prove this point, too, to cite three currently successful organizations). This is something to keep in mind with the relatively deep and valuable drafts in 2014 and under Ray Montgomery in 2015; it’s also a striking contrast to the 2000, 2001, 2006, 2007, and 2008 drafts.
When a small market club like Milwaukee cannot graduate valuable players and make trades from their drafts, they will have difficulty competing. By comparing these drafts of Jack Z. to the most recent efforts, it is clear that a set of valuable MLB players and trades (even including the Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers trade, perhaps) will help to redefine the ever-evolving legacy of Bruce S. Brewers fans can take the opportunity of his unfortunate, unforeseen passing to reconsider his draft legacy with Milwaukee: it is even more unfortunate that Bruce S. was not able to work with the organization to see the gains made by many players in his drafts, but ultimately as those players move forward, we will hopefully have more opportunities to note that the legacy of the Seid drafts is not what we thought it was in 2012; by 2025, one can only wonder what we will be able to say about those 2009-2014 drafts.
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC., 2000-2015.
Milwaukee BaseballProspectus on MLB Draft
BrewCrewBall on minor leagues
ReviewingTheBrew on minor leagues.
“The Brewers Draft Revisited” on Disciples of Uecker.
“Three Failures that Doomed Brewers GM Doug Melvin” on FOXSports.