Welcome to the real-time Draft Coverage! Post your thoughts on the draft as we move along the next few days.
Looking into last season’s draft, a number of teams appeared to be in a similar position than the Brewers this year. The Padres (picks # 8, 24, 25, 48, 71, 85), Braves (picks # 3, 40, 44, 76, 80), and Athletics (picks # 6, 37, 47, 83) all had an upper-third selection with an additional parcel of picks directly afterwards.
While Braves ended up cutting a deal with a lower-rated prospect – RHP Ian Anderson with the third pick (ranked 13th, signed $4 million, $2.5 mil savings) – the Padres continued their course of spending what was to be expected – drafting RHP Cal Quantrill with the eighth pick (ranked 22nd $3.96 mil, over-slot by 300k). The Padres – due to their 6 top-100 picks – were given more of a bonus pool compared to Atlanta, which indicates the lack of frugality. With the Braves, they saved money in order to sign two other names at much lower points – LHP’s Joey Wentz (40th pick, seen as the 16th-best prospect) and Kyle Muller (44th pick, seen as the 24th-best prospect). This might be a similar strategy the Crew might use, as they could draft a player at a lower asking price to save money and draft higher-rated prospects later on – something they did last season in order to spend a little more on later picks (especially with 3B Chad McLanahan). The only issue that would remain is the strength of each draft – this year is considered much lighter than the last one.
While the money-saving strategy the Braves utilized last season may be what they Crew will do, the Athletics may also be a better comparison. In total, the Athletics carried very similar picks compared to what the Brewers have now (#6, 37, 47, 83 vs. the Crew’s 9, 34, 46, 84) and therefore had very similar bonus pools (A’s had $9.88 million to the Brewers’ $10.45 mil). The team decided to draft players who demanded similar assigned pick values instead of looking to save money – only the 37th selection, RHP Daulton Jeffries, took less money than the pick’s expected value (though he may have been drafted early). If this is the case, the Crew would end up selecting players who were expected to be drafted at their given slots since the A’s didn’t stray too far from scouting outlets’ own prospective rankings.
But regardless of their strategy, who might they select?
Interesting Names: RHP J.B Bukauskas, 1B Pavin Smith (7TH PICK), OF Austin Beck (6TH PICK), OF Jordan Adell, OF Jeren Kendall, RHP Alex Faedo, RHP Shane Baz, LHP D.L. Hall, LHP David Peterson, OF Jordan Adell, LHP Trevor Rodgers, OF/2B Keston Hiura, OF Bubba Thompson
We’ve covered a laundry list of these names already (Smith, Adell, Beck, Faedo), though we haven’t covered the other ones on the list.
We’ll start with the easiest ones we could potentially write-off. Prep righty Shane Baz has ace-potential with a five-pitch mix detailed by a mid-90’s moving fastball and a ‘Challenger Deep’ arsenal – consisting of 60-grade cutter and slider-combo with average-to-plus curveball and changeups. However, the news on the 6’3″ is that he’s likely to have a huge asking price – something any 17-year old would have going that high in the draft. While I would love to have an arm in the system that finally screamed ‘ace-potential’, the price may be way too steep. There are rumors going around that OF Bubba Thompson and 2B Keston Hiura could be making out deals with other teams before the Brewers draft, which would be great since we haven’t heard all that much on connections with those players. It would always be nice to nab any players that came from the ‘cheesehead state’, but OF Jeren Kendall’s stock has been soured in the past few months due to his struggling bat and how it may affect his offensive tools. But despite the worry, he’s one of the faster players in the draft and own exceptional defensive abilities.
On-top of that list, there could be a number of names that may not even be there when the Crew selects their top-choice. Jeren Kendall will also fall into this category, as a team could select him and still take his hit tools at face value. Heck, some rumors abound that the Crew still have interest in them themselves. Although small for a pitcher, RHP J.B. Bukauskas had been the consensus top-pick in mock drafts about a season ago due to his arsenal – which consisted of a mid-90’s sinking fastball and a plus-slider with some serious movement (as well as a work-in-progress changeup). Some believe his stuff could already be major league bullpen ready by the end of the season, so he might be snagged earlier than #9. It’s long been noted that 1B Pavin Smith might have the best overall bat in this year’s draft, so if any team would want to draft for power early on, he could very well be gone. OF Austin Beck – who we also covered – may be selected just before the Crew can. Though he has less experience, his tools are all similar to last year’s first pick, OF Corey Ray. However, he owns stronger tools on defense despite weaker instincts.
What might be my favorite choices? The ninth pick isn’t nearly as defined as the fifth selection last year, so I’d be happy with a number of picks. If it’s a bat they’re looking for, Pavin Smith would be my top choice. If an outfielder, I’d go with Austin Beck and Jo Adell in that order. If the Crew wanted an arm? I’ll be happy with Bukauskas, David Peterson or Faedo (or LHP Kyle Wright if he magically fell into our laps!). If they wanted any of those selections at a under-slot value, Adell or Peterson might be their best-bet.
NINTH PICK: 2B/OF Keston Hiura of UC-Irvine
Well, that pick was interesting.
Keston Hiura was described in two ways: a man without a defensive position, yet perhaps the best offensive player in the draft class.
Though his name wasn’t as tossed around at the higher selections until just recently, Hiura was a tough man to pin-down. He’s had an elbow injury this college season, which has relegated him to Designated Hitting duties. Nonetheless, the 6’0″, 185-pound 20-year old hit to the tune of a .442/.567/.693 line with 8 home runs and 9 stolen bases in 199 at-bats this season. I italicize the home runs because he’s doing this with an injured elbow. He’s been known to have lightning-quick bat speed with a short stroke paired with solid discipline at the plate with an ability to hit the curveball. MLBPipeline has his hit tool as a 60-grade, but numerous scouts report it to be closer to 70 out of 80. This includes his moderate-to potentially above-average power potential, which we may not have even seen to its fullest extent with the injury. Playing three seasons in college also gives him plenty of polish and experience, so expect Hiura to progress fairly quickly throughout the system once he gets healthy. As for his makeup, scouts and fans have said he’s a great kid with a good work ethic. Of course it can be assumed that he’s also pretty darn smart – UC-Irvine is no slouch when it comes to academics.
The only primary knock on him has been because of the elbow injury, which may require Tommy John Surgery (UPDATE, Hiura said doctors told him surgery is NOT required). Since he’s been relegated to hitting-only, scouts aren’t sure where he’ll play in the field. He has experience in left field, center field, and second base – though second base is the most obvious fit for him in terms of organizational depth. However, some scouts did worry about his footwork in both center and at second, so left field might be the quickest route to the majors.
I’ll be honest, I was surprised to see him go to the Brewers at #9. There were rumors that he had a deal in place with another team for under-slot dollars (Braves, I believe). Things must have changed when Wright fell to #5; that, or it wasn’t true in the first place. He’s a legitimate offensive asset, though he isn’t the big power bat some have been hoping to nab with this pick. It’s definitely a trendy pick – one with the analytical thought in-mind, and it could really help the Crew in a couple years.
Very Ambitious Major League Comparison: Dustin Pedroia
Potential Peak Production?: .290/.370/.460 line with between 17-22 HR, 12-17 SB
Interesting Names: RHP Blayne Enlow, SS Nick Allen, LHP Brendon Little, RHP Corbin Martin, OF Heliot Ramos (19TH PICK), OF Tristen Lutz, 1B Brent Rooker, RHP Tristan Beck
The more I thought about this pick, the more I saw names listed later being talked about now. This included the likes of C Daulton Varsho, who was selected with the 27th pick in a recent mock draft. He’s a really special talent, just ask Gabe Stoltz or myself about him (we both played in the same conference as his Marshfield, WI’s high school and Legion programs). He’s always been known to be a very quick catcher, both in terms of footwork (60-grade speed) and reaction time (dislocated my shoulder on an unexpected pickoff throw from his). His bat could end up featuring both contact and power, as they’re both graded as 50 overall. I highly doubt he’ll get this far, but both Varsho, 1B Brent Rooker, and RHP Tristan Beck have all been mentioned as earlier selections than where I have them.
In terms of arms, the Crew could try to nab RHP Blayne Enlow, LHP Brendon Little (27th overall), or go as risky as RHP Tristan Beck. Their potentials as starters overshadow that of RHP Corbin Martin, so any of those three would be my favorite bets.
In terms of bats, 1B Brent Rooker might need some extra attention due to his power, vast experience, and success with wood bats. OF Tristen Lutz has also been talked about as a potential pick between 27-35, as he too features an intriguing power tool as a high schooler. SS Nick Allen and OF Heliot Ramos have been consistently placed between picks 20-30 in most mock drafts, so the chance that they’ll be on the board could be slim-to-none.
If it were my decision to choose, I would probably make a push for Brendon Little or Blayne Enlow as an arm if the team grabs a bat first, while also looking for either Rooker (if no Pavin Smith) or Lutz (if no OF drafted).
34TH PICK: OF Tristen Lutz
Woo! I got one!
Lutz, a 6’3″, 215-pound prep outfielder, has the power potential teams were sorely looking for in this draft. He’s graded as a strong hitter with above-average power as an 18-year old. But he features more than that – scouts say he’s got solid discipline at the plate and uses the entire field when hitting. Though he has a slightly more crouched stance, he might be able to tap into even more hitting abilities if he learned to use more of his body as leverage. Defensively-speaking, he has a strong and accurate arm that plays well in the outfield, and has solid instincts when reacting to balls. His major knock comes in his speed, as it’s merely average. Some thought he would be a lock for the late first round, so a selection here is a really nice addition to replenish the Crew’s outfield depth once more prospects get called-up.
Interesting Names: C/RHP Hagen Danner, LHP Jacob Heatherly, 1B Brent Rooker (35th overall), RHP Tristan Beck, SS Kevin Merrell (33rd OVR), RHP Blaine Knight
Chances are high that at least one or two of those names listed at #34 could be on the board by the time the third pick for the Crew comes around.
At this point, both C/RHP Hagen Danner and C Daulton Varsho could be viable selections – though Danner had scouts raving about him since my last write-up as both a catcher and pitcher.
In terms of arms, LHP Jacob Heatherly could be a really interesting pick, though his command problems dropped his value from the first round-value to the second. If RHP Tristan Beck were still around, the team might be able to grab the polished-but-injured college arm who was originally thought to go in the first round. RHP Blaine Knight could also be an interesting grab, as he has a four-pitch offering with above-average control potential.
My top choices in order: Brent Rooker/Brendon Little (27th OVR), Tristan Beck or Daulton Varsho, Jacob Heatherly
46th Pick: RHP Caden Lemons
Pick # 84:
Interesting Names: C M.J. Melendez (53rd overall), LHP Daniel Tillo, RHP Will Gadis, SS Greg Jones, SS Taylor Walls, RHP Bryce Montes de Oca, RHP Morgan Cooper, RHP Spencer Howard, RHP Tyler Johnson (RP), RHP Landon Leach, OF Jake Mangum
Okay, this is as far as I’m going with Varsho. If’ he’s here, I’m taking him.
But aside from him, I’ll take a look at any names that might fall to the Crew (picks 45-70) in the later rounds since not all of these picks will go where they’re placed (high variability).
But for the other guys, we’re looking at an interesting mix or risk/reward. RHP Bryce Montes de Oca has a crazy-good fastball that hits triple digits, but his command and injury history could make him a risky pick. RHP Tyler Johnson has a solid arsenal for a relief arm (mid-90’s fastball with high-90’s jump, hard slider, iffy changeup), but there are still some names go grab that hav a better chance to start. LHP Daniel Tillo could be the best pick if the Crew were looking for arms, as the 6’5″ southpaw has some mid-90’s velocity with an equally good, but inconsistent slider. As mentioned in the last article, RHP Will Gaddis could also be a decent pick, as he’s got a polished four-pitch mix to help with a higher floor. However, his body doesn’t project him to grow more and his ceiling is a little smaller than most. Nonetheless, scouts project him as a potential #4 or 5 in a rotation – still pretty solid for the fourth selection the Brewers have.
84TH PICK: C/1B K.J. Harrison
Interesting Names: OF Luis Gonzalez, RHP Michael Bowmann, C Daulton Varsho, RHP Jackson Rutledge, SS Ernie Clement, SS Adam Hall, RHP Tony Dibrell, LHP Zac Lowther, 1B/3B Jacob Gonzalez (58th OVR), C Zach Jackson
IF: C Varsho, 3B/1B Jacob Gonzalez (Luis’ son)
P: RHP Tony Dibrell, LHP Zac Lowther, RHP Jackson Rutledge
Interesting Names: Seth Lansway, LHP Charlie Barnes, LHP David Parkinson, RHP Mac Sceroler, LHP Hugh Fisher, C Phillip Clarke, RHP Brian Shaffer, C Mike Rivera, RHP Connor Seabold, RHP Wil Kincanon
OF: Pat DeMarco
IF: C JJ Schwarz, C Mike Rivera
P: LHP Hugh Fisher? RHP Brian Shaffer, RHP Connor Seabold