Major League Baseball’s 2012 first-year player draft is, believe it or not, just over three weeks away. The first round of action is set to kick off on Monday, June 4 and the 50th and final round is set to wrap up on Wednesday, June 6.
But if you’re a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers, odds are you’ve been anticipating the commencement of the 2012 draft for some time now.
This year, the Brewers have the luxury of owning two first-round picks (No. 27 and No. 28 overall) for the second straight year. Last summer, general manager Doug Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash annexed collegiate phenom starters Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley with their two top-15 picks, both of whom are expected to race through the system in the coming years.
Who are the Brewers planning to target at this June's draft? Jim Callis, executive director of Baseball America, wrote earlier last week that Milwaukee has set its first-round sights on two positional prep players in shortstop Addison Russell and third-baseman Joey Gallo.
Who are these two youngsters and what do they have to offer? With the draft inching closer by the hour, let's go in-depth and try to address those very questions.
Height: 6'1", 210 pounds
After including Alcides Escobar in the Zack Greinke trade, Milwaukee needs a shortstop, and Florida prepster Addison Russell has a better chance to stick at the position after dropping 20 pounds since last summer. With his plus speed, he could develop along the lines of J.J. Hardy—the last Brewers shortstop to reach the All-Star Game. The Brewers get back-to-back picks, with this one coming from the Tigers as compensation for signing Prince Fielder.
Callis makes a great point—the Brewers are and will be in desperate need for a young shortstop for the future. Alex Gonzalez was an okay pickup in free agency, though I didn't expect anyone to remain content with his aging glove directing the infield.
The Brewers are dry on the farm with respect to shortstops, additionally. Yadiel Rivera has improved his game minimally in his first few years in the system, and he really struggles to hit for power or average. I agree that drafting Russell would be a very smart move.
Video Breakdown and Mini-Scouting Report
I haven't had a chance to see him play in person, but based off what I've seen in a number of short clips, he looks like the real deal at the plate. Very quick hands, able to drive the ball to all corners of the field. Plus, he has power for a middle infielder coming right out of high school; some of that stems from his pre-load, the rest stems from his hand and wrist speed.
The snapshots below break down Russell's swing. He starts out in an athletic stance, feet spread out slightly wider than his shoulders. He keeps his hands in tight to his body and doesn't have much wasted movement. Keeping his hands in on an apparent inside pitch, he gets his bat in a downward angle to induce good bottom-spin. Russell keeps his head down on the ball after he makes contact, which shows he's either had good coaching or he's a natural at the plate (probably a combination of both). The biggest takeaway of this snapshots, for me, is his great balance. He keeps his back straight throughout the swing.
Though primarily a shortstop, Russell can also play third base and second base. Very smooth from his hands to his feet, he obviously knows the importance of having quick hands as an infielder. I've read that he has very good speed, so if you couple that with his natural abilities as a utility infielder, I think he has a chance to excel defensively at the next level.
Unlike last year, this year's class isn't a very deep one. High school prep players significantly outnumber the elite college talent available. Thus, the Brewers will have to be absolutely sold on who they choose with their back-to-back picks. Still, the need for a shortstop may be the most pressing issue for Melvin and Ash at this year's draft. After breaking down Russell's game, I'm convinced that, if still on the board at No. 27, they should pull the trigger. He has a seasoned, lethal bat for his age and can develop into a versatile glove in the infield.
With the 28th overall pick in the 2012 MLB first-year player draft, the Milwaukee Brewers select Joey Gallo, third baseman/RHP, Bishop Gorman HS...
Height/Weight: 6'5", 205 pounds
Milwaukee struck it rich with a big-bodied high school slugger in Prince Fielder in 2002's first round, and could hope for a repeat with another in Nevada prep third baseman Joey Gallo. He has as much raw power as anyone in this draft, and offers a fallback option as a pitcher with a fastball that has been clocked up to 98 mph.
While I won't go as far as to say that Gallo compares to Fielder as an all-around baseball player, I can't argue with what the youngster has to offer as far as power. The 6'5", 205-pounder has unambiguous power when he pulls the ball, though he can also go to the opposite field and strut his slugging capacity. The Brewers are dangerously low with respect to positional prospects, and selecting Gallo— one of the most touted infielders of this year's class—seems like the ideal pickup.
Video Breakdown and Mini-Scouting Report
As with Addison Russell, I haven't gotten any chance to see Gallo play in person, so my personal opinions are based off what I see in various online clips and what professional scouts have to say. However, you don't have to watch him in person to realize he's got some real pop to his bat—when he really gets around and into a pitch, the ball absolutely flies off his bat.
The multiple snapshots below are an attempt to break down Gallo's notoriously power-packed swing. Pre-pitch, Gallo is in a very balanced, athletic stance, with his hands high and very close to his helmet—the ideal starting point for any hitter coming out of the high school ranks.
On a pitch that looks like it could very well be right in the center of the plate, he is able to get great extension and drive the ball with authority. He keeps his head down on the ball after making initial contact, a sign of a very seasoned young hitter. His back finishes a bit arched, but that's more a product of his tremendous bat speed—plenty of players do this and succeed at the big league level.
While Gallo is obviously a physically strong hitter, he is also a fairly good athlete in the field—given his long frame. He looks like he has the potential to play either corner infield positions, though I've been told he has much more experience playing the hot corner up to this point. I like what he has to offer at first base, however. He looks like he has very good instincts at that position and his long frame would be perfect at the big league level.
Gallo is clearly one of the most well-rounded players of this year's class. He has tremendous hitting capabilities at the plate (most notably his tremendous power), high school accolades and defensive prowess that teams would love to watch develop in their system. After loading up on pitchers at last summer's draft, selecting a guy like Gallo would be the optimal pick. He's a commitment to Louisiana State, though, so it remains to be seen if he'll sign-on with Milwaukee at No. 28.