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Milwaukee Brewers 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Brewers 2011 MLB Draft Selections

I think Texas RHP Taylor Jungmann unfairly got lost amongst the collection of so many talented 2011 college arms. I think his fastball command is so good that he’ll have early enough pro success to buy him some time to sharpen up his inconsistent offspeed stuff. I think the Jared Weaver comp – made by Baseball America, if memory serves – is a good approximation for his ceiling. So concludes three things I think I think about Taylor Jungmann.

Texas JR RHP Taylor Jungmann: has touched 96-99, but regularly sits low-90s (91-93); new reports have him 92-95; can still reach back and crank upper-90s (like on opening day 2011), but sits most comfortably 92-93, occasionally dipping to 89-91; plus FB command; good sink on FB; plus 75-78 CB; plus CB command; good 85-87 CU; good SL; love the Jered Weaver comp

The parallel careers of Georgia Tech LHP Jed Bradley and new Seattle Mariner LHP Danny Hultzen will be fascinating to watch. Bradley can do many of the same things that caused so many to fall in love with Hultzen this past spring. Hultzen dominated the college game in a way Bradley didn’t, but, from a stuff perspective, the two lefties are much closer than you might think. Bradley’s fastball might even be a tick better than Hultzen’s, though his secondary offerings are nowhere near as consistent. There are days, however, that his change and slider look just as good as Hultzen’s top two offspeed pitches.

Georgia Tech JR LHP Jed Bradley: 88-92 FB with plus life and good sink, pretty steady peak up at 94-96; loves to cut the FB; has sat 91-93 at times; holds velocity late; good sink on FB; average 80-84 SL that flashes plus when velocity gets up to 86-87; good 77-79 CB; plus 79-83 CU that he has worked very hard on, but sometimes goes away from for too long; both the SL and CB are very inconsistent offerings; 6-4, 200 pounds

Academia de Milagrosa (PR) HS RHP Jorge Lopez is a really intriguing mix of polished present stuff and long-range upside. He currently can throw three pitches for strikes – fastball, curve, change – and there’s a chance each pitch winds up big league average or better. He’s also a great athlete with exactly the kind of projectable frame that gets the scouts hot and bothered.

RHP Jorge Lopez (Academia la Milagrosa, Puerto Rico): 88-91 FB with good command, 93 peak; very good 73-75 CB; plus CU; 6-5, 175

The early pro reports on Long Beach State RHP Drew Gagnon’s velocity are promising (e.g. fewer pitches in the upper-80s, peaking at 95), but I’m still lukewarm about any pitcher without one clear knockout pitch. His slider (82-85) shows the most promise, but he leaves it up too often and has difficulty putting it in a spot where hitters will consistently chase it. There remains value in Gagnon’s steady three-pitch assortment (he still throws the curve, a fourth pitch, but that should be scrapped going forward) and his plus fastball command, like Jungmann, is attractive, but limited upside keeps me from loving the pick. I do appreciate the stacking of starting pitchers early, however; it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that the Brewers added four big league starting pitchers with their first four picks in the draft.

Long Beach State JR RHP Andrew Gagnon: 89-91 FB, has hit 93-94; once promising slurvy breaking ball has turned into above-average 82-85 SL; rapidly improving 85-86 CU that is now at least an average pitch; plus command; 78-82 CB; breaking ball command an issue; 6-2, 188 pounds

Lefthanded power and good defense does not a star first base prospect make. Cal State Fullerton 1B Nick Ramirez can hit it out of the park and shows no problems fielding his position, but the expectations for a first base prospect are likely too high for him to ever provide value as an everyday player. I don’t think he’ll struggle so much as a hitter that he’ll ever be tempted to return to pitching, but the thought of him someday holding down a lefthanded reliever/power bench bat role makes me happy. For me, Nick Ramirez is the next step of the evolution that began the post-injury version of Joe Savery.

Ramirez has a well-deserved reputation as a power hitting first baseman with a plus throwing arm, but what I think I enjoy most about his game is his quality defense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: no matter what becomes of Ramirez as a pro, he’ll go down as one of my favorite college players to watch.

Overslot fifth round pick Leander HS (TX) OF Michael Reed is a toolsy yet raw athlete from Texas. He looks great in a uniform and possesses the strength you’d normally see from a star football player, but there are legitimate questions about how he’ll bat will play as a pro. The fifth round is as good a time as any to start taking chances on prospects like this.

[strong; plus arm; average speed; raw bat; shows all five tools]

Most high school athletes are raw. That’s a fairly uncontroversial statement that we can all agree to, right? There are, of course, degrees of rawness, but the gap between what a player shows as a teenager to what he’ll hopefully show once he’s on the precipice of becoming a big league ballplayer is immense. The following might be a little bit more subjective, but hear me out: Like Michael Reed, Newbury Park HS (CA) RHP Daniel Keller is another raw prospect with big tools, but, as a pitcher, has upside that can be more reasonably met with good instruction. At one point or another, Keller has shown all of the things you’d want to see in a future big league pitcher: his fastball sits between 88-92 (peaking 93-94) with occasionally impressive sink, his change has shown flashes of being an above-average pitch, and both his curve and slider look like usable pitches on his best day. The problem with Keller is that he’s never really had all of his pitches going at the same time. That, combined with a delivery befitting a pitcher as raw as he is, makes Keller a long-term project. The abilities that go into throwing hard, locating pitches, and spinning breaking balls strike me as skills that you own forever (more or less) once you’ve shown that you can do them. Figuring out how to hit all these crazy pitches, like Reed will have to do, requires a far steeper learning curve. In other words, all else being equal, I’ll take the raw pitcher over the raw position player.

RHP Danny Keller (Newbury Park HS, California): 88-92 FB, 94 peak; good sinker; raw but interesting CU; good 79-80 CB; 75 SL; raw; violent delivery; 6-5, 185

Mississippi RHP David Goforth throws very, very hard. That’s good. David Goforth also throws the ball very, very straight. That’s less good. Pro hitters don’t have as much trouble squaring up on straight fastballs as their SEC counterparts. Upper-90s heat can work even without a ton of movement when complemented with a consistent, well-placed offspeed pitch. When on, Goforth’s slider qualifies and, though it isn’t offspeed per se, the new and improved cutter could also work. Big fastball plus the potential for an interesting secondary plus a max effort delivery all adds up to a future big league reliever.

Mississippi JR RHP David Goforth: 93-96 straight FB; has hit 97-99 in relief; average 79-83 SL that flashes plus; occasional CU; max effort delivery; good athlete; poor command; new 88-91 cutter has been effective; has been up to 98-100 in 2011; 5-11, 185

Biggest thing working in Brookswood SS (BC) C Dustin Houle’s favor is time. He’s young enough that he’ll have plenty of time to show that he can hit professional pitching and defend at either third or behind the plate. I know it is a lazy comp and I apologize, but I’m a lazy apologetic man: Houle’s perfect world upside sounds a lot like fellow Canadian Russell Martin to me.

Houle probably fits best behind the plate, but I’m sticking with him as a third baseman for now. He is a talented player who will need a lot of minor league reps. That shouldn’t be a problem for him because, as one of the youngest draft-eligible players this year, youth is on his side.

I’ve heard the Brewers were pleasantly surprised at how good La Grange HS (GA) OF Malcolm Dowell looked in his first shot at pro ball. They knew he was a great athlete who would steal bases and cover a lot of ground in center, but his approach to hitting was far more refined than expected. If everything works out, he has leadoff hitter upside. Not a bad potential outcome for a player I personally badly missed on leading up to the draft.

I honestly can’t remember why I cooled on Oklahoma State LHP Mike Strong this past spring; reports on his stuff were somewhat down in 2011, but his results remained as strong as ever. He succeeds with a good fastball and a better curve. A new cutter and better conditioning helped him pitch deeper into games, but his iffy control might not be what the pros want out of a starting pitcher. As a lefty with three usable pitches, he’ll get his chances even if he moves to the bullpen in the not so distant future.

Oklahoma State SR LHP Mike Strong (2011): 88-92 FB; holds velocity late; plus hammer mid-70s CB; cutter; developing CU; 6-0, 180 pounds; (9.65 K/9 – 4.90 BB/9 – 4.42 FIP – 64.1 IP)

Florida RHP Tommy Toledo (Round 11) is an intriguing sleeper that could emerge as a legit starting pitching prospect if his arm checks out. When he commands his low-90s fastball, he’s tough to hit. If the starting experiment doesn’t work, Toledo can always move back to the bullpen into the role he played so well while at Florida.

Florida JR RHP Tommy Toledo: coming back from arm injury; 88-91 FB; took line drive off of face in 2010; 91-93 back and healthy; command comes and goes; really nice breaking stuff

Neither UNC Wilmington OF Andrew Cain (Round 12) nor Holly Springs HS (NC) LHP Carlos Rodon (Round 16) signed with Milwaukee, so both will head back to the great state of North Carolina to play college ball. In the case of Cain, he’s taking his pro grade speed, raw power, and size back to UNC Wilmington. An improvement to his offensive approach would go a long way towards getting him picked where the rest of his talent – we’re talking top five tools – warrants. Rodon will give it the old college try at North Carolina State. He’s flashed well above-average stuff across the board, but inconsistency rightfully knocked him down on draft day. Those three potential pro pitches – fastball, slider, and change – make him a potential first day pick next time around.

LHP Carlos Rodon (Holly Springs HS, North Carolina): 87-89 FB, peak 92-93; loses velocity early; 75-76 CB; good 76-80 SL; emerging CU; raw enough that he may be better off at NC State; inconsistent offspeed stuff; spotty command; good athlete; 6-2, 210

Outside of the three pitchers taken by Milwaukee in the first two rounds, Lufkin HS (TX) SS Chris McFarland (Round 18) is the best long-range prospect selected in 2011. All of his tools work really well at third, and I believe in his bat in a big way. Reagan HS (FL) C Mario Amaral (Round 17) got away, but he’ll be a fun prospect to watch develop at Florida State.

The 2014 draft class might wind up loaded with premium third base prospects if all of the supposed difficult signs wind up at their respective universities. McFarland’s down senior year has many thinking he’ll wind up at Rice this fall. That’d be great news for college baseball, but a bummer for the fans of whatever team drafts him. They’d be missing out on an excellent athlete with five-tool upside at third. McFarland’s lightning quick bat is his best tool, followed closely behind by his well above-average raw power and aided by his discerning eye at the plate. His speed, size, and arm are all exactly what you’d want out of a potential big league regular.

I’m a huge sucker for hitters who know the strike zone better than the umpire, so count me in as a fan of Connecticut 1B Michael Nemeth (Round 21). Unfortunately, I’m more of a fan of Nemeth the player rather than Nemeth the prospect, if that makes sense. It’s really hard to hitch your wagon to a first base only prospect without neither a plus hit tool nor plus power. Patient hitters with gap power who play above-average or better defense are not without value, but those guys face a pretty massive uphill slog to legit prospectdom in today’s game.

Nemeth’s name kept coming up in discussions with people in the know leading up to the publication of this list. He was admittedly off my radar heading into the year, but those 2011 plate discipline numbers are eye popping. After having seen him myself a few times this year, I can say he looked to me like a guy with good power to the gaps with the chance to be an average hitter and above-average defender down the line.

I’ve long been a fan of Florida C Ben McMahan (Round 23), and see no reason why he won’t turn up as a big league backup catching option a few years down the line. He won’t hit enough to play every day, but his defense is top notch.

There is still a part of me that thinks McMahan could surface a few years down the line as a big league backup, based largely on the strength of his plus defensive tools.

Georgia RHP Michael Palazzone (Round 24) doesn’t wow you with the fastball (sits upper-80s, 92 peak), but his top two secondary pitches are good ones. A good final season for the Bulldogs could get him taken in the top ten rounds.

Georgia JR RHP Michael Palazzone: 92 peak FB; plus CU; solid CB

If Orange Coast CC RHP Chad Thompson (Round 27) is healthy, then the Brewers got a major steal this late in the draft. He’s got the size, heat, and upside of a prospect who typically would be selected within the first five rounds. In a weak Brewers farm system, Thompson could rise up into their top ten by season’s end. Or his stuff, slow to recover from Tommy John surgery so far, never returns to his high school level. If that’s the case, the Crew are out a 27th round pick. Classic low risk, high reward pick. Either way, great gamble by Milwaukee at this stage in the draft.

Thompson is huge (6-8, 215) with an explosive low-90s FB (90-93) peaking at 94-95, nasty splitter, upper-70s circle change with serious sink, and a raw mid-70s curve that needs polish. There are also rumblings that he now throws a good forkball, but, haven’t not seen him personally since high school, I can neither confirm nor deny its existence. If Thompson’s elbow is structurally sound after last May’s Tommy John surgery, the Phillies have a major sleeper on their hands.

On top of being a pretty darn fine draft prospect, Mesquite HS (TX) C BreShon Kimbell also deserves credit for being a man of many names. Baseball America has him listed incorrectly as “Kimbrell” in their draft database and the Louisiana Tech website lists his first name as Bre’shon. I personally like Bre$hon, but just because I think it looks cool. The unsigned Kimbell has a heck of a chance to become Louisiana Tech’s best draft prospect since Brian Rike in 2007. If/when he reaches the bigs, he’ll have his sights set on David Segui, currently the most accomplished Bulldog of all time. Kimbell has the raw talent to do big things in college, but he has a long way to go.

Kimbell is unusually strong, very athletic, and a gifted defender. He also has shown big raw power in the past, but inconsistencies with his swing mechanics make his trips to the plate hit or miss, no pun intended. Some good pro coaching could turn him into a high level pro prospect in short order. Also, BreShon – a fella with a name like that is obviously destined for greatness, even though I sometimes read it as Bre$hon.

You know Maryland SS Alfredo Rodriguez (Round 32) must really, really, really be able to pick it at short if he pulled off getting drafted despite a 2011 slugging percentage less than Ravens tackle Michael Oher’s listed (313 pounds) weight.

The most highly regarded returning Terrapins prospect is JR SS Alfredo Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a really good defender who will definitely stick at short as a pro. He made strides with the bat last spring, but is still almost exclusively a singles hitter at this point. Needless to say, great defense or not, I’m not as high on him as I know some are. 

Born, raised, educated, and now a professional ballplayer, all in the great state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin-Milwaukee RHP Chad Pierce (Round 38) is just a bit more than a feel-good local pick, however; his fastball peaks at 92 and he’s got the athleticism you’d expect from a converted college catcher.

Connecticut LHP Elliott Glynn (Round 39) is a crafty lefty with a mid-80s fastball that dances low in the zone often enough to get him way more groundballs than your typical crafty lefty. He also has two solid secondaries (slider and change) that he’ll throw at any point in the count. There’s some relief upside here which, for a 39th rounder, makes Glynn more interesting than most. Connecticut C Doug Elliot (Round 35), Glynn’s college battery mate, is a solid defender with interesting but undeveloped power. Seems like a handy org guy to me.

Connecticut SR LHP Elliot Glynn (2011): upper-80s FB with good movement; 82-83, peak at 86; solid SL; plus CU

I’ve heard conflicting reports on whether or not we’ll be seeing Trinity Christian Academy (FL) SS Ahmad Christian (Round 46) play baseball for the Gamecocks this spring. He’s such a good athlete that the NFL is a possibility down the line, but I still hope he gives baseball a shot. His defense at short is already professional quality. In reading up on both Christian and new teammate/fellow two-way athlete Shon Carson, I stumbled upon a fact that I feel like the last person on the planet to either know or care about. Sheldon Brown, former Eagle and current Brown defensive back, was a part-time outfielder for the USC baseball team?

It sure doesn’t seem like Christian will sign a pro contract this year, but his crazy athleticism, great range, and plus glove are all too good to leave him off this list. In the likely event he’ll wind up at South Carolina, it’ll be interesting to track his development as a dual-sport (the other being football) prospect. Like Hunter Cole before him, going off to school could be a blessing in disguise for his long-term outlook. There are still many concerns about Christian’s offensive ability and three years in the SEC will provide a clearer picture of his skills.

College First Basemen Revisited – 2011 MLB Draft

Not every draft is like 2008. Not every draft is like 2008. Not every draft is like 2008. That’s my mantra as I check and recheck the list of 2011 draft-eligible college first basemen. Are you sure this is everybody? There are no Justin Smoak’s, Yonder Alonso’s, or, heck, even Ike Davis’s hiding anywhere? Sure, David Cooper and Allan Dykstra went bust, but there were both highly thought of at the time. This may be over the top negative (it’s what I do best, after all), but I’m not positive there is a slam dunk top five round college first baseman this year, let alone five players capable of cracking the first like in 2008. Incidentally, when looking back over that draft I’m always amazed at the stones, for lack of a better term, Kansas City showed by taking Eric Hosmer third. I know he was an outstanding high school hitter, but taking a prep first baseman before accomplished college talents like Brian Matusz (4th), Buster Posey (5th), and Justin Smoak (11th) took some serious intestinal fortitude. Posey is a stud and both Matusz and Smoak have shown enough promise that we can expect big things going forward, but Hosmer has a chance to be one of the elite middle of the lineup hitters in all of baseball in very short order. The book is far from closed on any of these players, and I’ll acknowledge that Posey would be a tremendous addition to the emerging Royals core, but, man, I have to give credit where credit is due on that pick. Loads of high picks year after year will often lead to good things, but in any sport, especially baseball, you still need to identify the right guy. Hosmer might not have been the only right guy in 2008, but he certainly looks like one of them.

Oh, right. 2011 college first basemen. Here is the original list. I don’t see a clear big league starter in the bunch, though I’m admittedly all aboard the Preston Tucker bandwagon. If any guy winds up starting for a big league team, it’ll be him. The rest look like potential four-corners utility guys (1B/3B/corner OF), pinch hitters, or platoon options. No shame in any of those outcomes, of course, so long as nobody out there is banking on getting a close to the big leagues power hitting college first baseman this year.

1. Florida JR 1B Preston Tucker (.361/.424/.627 – 15 BB/18 K)

I wrote a bit about Tucker in the past, so I won’t get into too much detail now. Here are the money quotes from last time, if you’re too cool to click the link:

To be an above-average first baseman in the bigs, you either need to have a special bat, outrageously good defense, or a well above-average mixture of the two. To that end, I’m not sure Tucker, or any other college first baseman in this class, is a prospect that will wind up receiving a first round grade, from me personally or any of the thirty big league scouting departments…

…Late first round seems like his draft ceiling. Fifth round, like fellow SEC 1B Andy Wilkins in 2010, could be his floor, barring injury.

2. Southern California JR 1B Ricky Oropesa (.384/.459/.582 – 21 BB/30 K)

There’s still too much swing and miss in his approach than I’d like, but the fact Oropesa fits the classic slugging first baseman mold better than Tucker could help him become the first college 1B off the board. Scouts want the best players, obviously, but they do have their biases. I think said bias could help Oropesa this June.

3. St. Mary’s JR 1B Troy Channing (.292/.366/.454 – 11 BB/34 K)

I know for a fact one team preferred Channing to Tucker heading into the season, though I can’t imagine that is still the case after his down showing so far this year.

4. Fresno State SR 1B Jordan Ribera (.206/.293/.382 – 13 BB/30 K)

Take a minute and process Ribera’s 2011 numbers. That’s one complete and utter collapse. I can’t believe that it is entirely the new bats to blame, like some have insinuated. Unlike Channing, Ribera doesn’t have the option of returning to school in 2012, so he can’t do much more than to hold out hope some team saw him at his best in 2010.

5. Washington State JR 1B Taylor Ard (.301/.374/.431 – 12 BB/15 K)

All of the numbers are park/league adjusted, but sometimes even more context is needed. Ard isn’t your typical college junior. As a former junior college star, Ard’s acquitted himself well enough in his first year of major college ball that I think a team that liked him heading into the season would still be on board now. His upside rivals that of any first baseman in the class.

6. East Tennessee State SR 1B Paul Hoilman (.275/.441/.580 – 38 BB/46 K)

How could you not possibly love this year’s draft Three True Outcome hero? Over half (54% to be precise) of his at bats end in a homer, walk, or strikeout. Cool.

7. Cal State Fullerton JR 1B Nick Ramirez (.280/.401/.440 – 24 BB/23 K)

I’m really, really fond of Nick Ramirez the college baseball player (his pitching stats: 12.1 IP – 1.51 FIP – 13.86 K/9 – 3.65 BB/9) and think he’s a viable option either at first or on the mound professionally. He has a reputation as a guess hitter, but I’ve heard his approach has gotten much better in 2011. As a pitcher, his upper-70s changeup is a legit out pitch, though it is kind of a shame that it isn’t even the best cambio in his family…

8. UCLA JR 1B Dean Espy (.299/.354/.381 – 10 BB/23 K)

Probably time to start thinking about the 2012 Draft with numbers like that…

9. Vanderbilt SR 1B Aaron Westlake (.377/.505/.596 – 32 BB/33 K) – I can live with ranking a player highly only to see him flame out. I realize the risk that comes with sometimes being too optimistic. I hate it when a player I like but am too chicken to rank appropriately plays great. Pretty sure all of that makes me a bad person – being indifferent if a player struggles, but annoyed when a player succeeds rates seems pretty selfish. If it helps, I always feel guilty about it. Westlake is one such source of annoyance. The Vanderbilt senior ranked as high as second on my original, off the top of my head list, but wound up ninth after I shuffled up some other names that I felt had more upside. Dumb move. All Westlake does is hit.

10. North Carolina State JR 1B Harold Riggins (.302/.442/.442 – 29 BB/46 K)

Another personal favorite coming into the year who hasn’t delivered quite what was expected in the power department. Positional versatility could help him make it as one of those four-corners utility guys we talked about earlier.

11. Mississippi SR 1B Matt Snyder (.273/.396/.445 – 21 BB/32 K)

Haven’t seen him myself, but have heard less than nice things about his defense. When scouts wonder if you have what it takes to stick at first, you’d better be able to hit a ton. Snyder is a nice college thumper, but nothing about his scouting profile or college numbers scream big league hitter to me.

12. Northwestern JR 1B Paul Snieder (.352/.450/.544 – 22 BB/24 K)

Snieder is reportedly a tough sign, but I like him as an org guy for a lot of the same reasons I like Western Kentucky C Matt Rice.

13. Cal State Fullerton SO 1B Carlos Lopez (.329/.400/.447 – 11 BB/7 K)

Only 85 at bats, so we’re dealing with a limited sample but I remain intrigued at Lopez’s skill set and performance to date.

14. Oklahoma JR 1B Cameron Seitzer (.331/.429/.476 – 20 BB/20 K)

I was lower on him than most, and remain cautiously optimistic at best, but I’d remiss if I didn’t point out a lot of positive chatter about Seitzer’s more mature frame and subsequent transformation from guy with big raw power to guy with loads of in-game power, despite what the relatively modest slugging numbers may indicate. He’ll probably go higher than a few names listed above him here, but, hey, it’s my list, right?

15. Southern Illinois JR 1B Chris Serritella

Serritella has missed time due to wrist injury and has a whopping 0 ABs this year. Have to imagine the injury will keep him at Southern Illinois for another season or two.