If their history is any indicator, the Milwaukee Brewers have a 25 percent chance of hitting a home run with their first pick tonight in the First-Year Player Draft.
The Brewers have the fifth pick and are looking to add a major component to their long-term rebuilding project.
The last time they had the No. 5 pick was in 2005 and they hit the jackpot by picking Miami (Fla.) third baseman Ryan Braun, who has won an MVP award and made six All-Star teams.
However, their previous track record at the No. 5 spot isn’t as impressive. The year before they took Braun, the Brewers also picked fifth and took Mark Rogers, a hard-throwing high school pitcher from Maine whose career was cut short by a series of arm problems.
But at least Rogers made it to the major leagues, which is more than either of the Brewers’ previous No. 5 picks could say. Left-hander Rick O’Keefe (1975) was traded away during his third season in the Brewers system, while right-hander Kenny Henderson (1991) decided to go to Miami (Fla.) rather than sign and later became a fifth-round pick of San Diego and never got beyond Class A.
Safe to say the Brewers will be looking for a more Braun-like return from this year’s pick, even though this class isn’t regarded nearly as well as that 2005 draft class.
“You may not have a true No. 1 guy but you have a lot of good 1-B type guys,” said Patrick Ebert, managing editor and scout for Perfect Game, an organization devoted to scouting and developing amateur players. “The Brewers could have a decision where they have five guys available at No. 5 that are all worthy of being selected.
“They need impact players. They need guys that are potential perennial All-Stars, guys that throw mid-90s at the top of your rotation or hit 25 or 30 bombs in the middle of your lineup. Those are the players really lacking in their system right now.”
As the Brewers assembled their scouting staff last week for final draft preparations, amateur scouting director Ray Montgomery said they were looking at a group of eight to 10 players for that No. 5 pick.
The top of the draft appears to be fluid, with the Phillies reportedly backing off on their perceived favorite for the No. 1 spot, Florida left-hander A.J. Puk, who at 6-foot-7 has the power arm but lacks the command and consistency teams were hoping he’d show.
Numerous reports had Philadelphia leaning more toward an outfielder, either Kyle Lewis of Mercer University or Mickey Moniak, a fast-rising prep from California.
If the Phillies settle on one of those three, the other two are expected to go in the next three picks, which belong to the Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies.
That would still leave the Brewers with an interesting mix of prospects. Two players that may have dropped off the list are Jason Groome, a left-handed prep pitcher from New Jersey who has set a high bonus price tag and talked of going to junior college if it’s not met, and Delvin Perez, a shortstop from Puerto Rico who had been connected to the Brewers in many mock drafts but failed an MLB drug test for performance-enhancing drugs and is expected to drop.
Ebert offered his take on the players most likely to remain in contention at No. 5:
Riley Pint, right-handed prep pitcher from Overland Park, Kansas: “He was clocked as high as 102 (mph) this spring. He has a very good changeup and breaking ball. The command isn’t as good as Groome’s. (Brewers general manager David) Stearns has been at a couple of Pint’s starts.”
Corey Ray, Louisville outfielder: “He’s a really dynamic player. One of my co-workers compared him to Andrew McCutchen. The profile is similar. He’s going to hit, have some power and steal some bases.”
Blake Rutherford, prep outfielder from Canoga Park, California: “I like Rutherford. Middle of the order bat. He fits a need and I truly believe he is one of the top players available.”
Josh Lowe, prep third baseman from Marietta, Georgia: “I know they really like him. He very well could be the next Chipper Jones, but he’s not showing it at the consistent level that Chipper Jones did in high school. You just don’t know if he’s going to make the adjustments. The power is legit, the speed is legit and the arm strength is legit. He’s a pretty special player.”
Zack Collins, Miami (Fla.) catcher: “Big power, excellent strike zone discipline. I’d move him to first base the day after the draft and just let his bat carry him to the big leagues. I think he has that type of potential as a slugger. He’s (Kyle) Schwarber-esque.”
Wisconsin isn’t a hotbed of prospects, but two state players are expected to have their names called in the first two rounds tonight. Gavin Lux, a shortstop from Kenosha Indian Trail, is expected to be the first prep player from the state drafted in the first round since the Minnesota Twins took Nekoosa outfielder Kevin Brandt at No. 11 in 1979. Lux’s uncle, Augie Schmidt, was the second player taken in the 1982 draft by the New York Mets out of the University of New Orleans.
Verona catcher Ben Rortvedt is seen as a likely second-round pick. The last state prep player to go as high as the second round was catcher Scott Servais of Westby, taken by the Mets in 1985.
The draft begins at 6 tonight with two rounds on the first day. The Brewers pick at No. 46 and No. 75 in the Competitive Balance Round B.