For the second straight year, the Milwaukee Brewers have the luxury of owning two first-round picks in this June's MLB first-year player draft. The first (No. 27 overall) comes courtesy of the Detroit Tigers, who gave up their rights to their first-round pick when they signed type-A free-agent Prince Fielder last January. The second (No. 28 overall) comes by virtue of the Brewers tying for MLB's third-best regular season record last season.
While significant improvements toward replenishing the farm system were made at last summer's draft, general manager Doug Melvin, director of amateur scouting Bruce Seid and assistant GM Gord Ash realize fully that progress has yet to be made. Replenishing a farm system that was widely ranked at or near the bottom of all organizational rankings prior to the start of the season is priority number one for the Brewers when the draft gets under way June 4.
With the draft nearing, it's time to take a look at a few prospects who should be available for Milwaukee to take with their late first-round picks.
*All statistics current as of May 21, 2012
Height/Weight: 6'0", 185
College: Texas A&M
2012 Stats: 217 AB, .373/.453/.539, 24 XBH, 17 SB, 33 K/24 BB (55 G)
Hitting: After struggling during his freshman season at Texas A&M, Tyler Naquin came out strong in 2010, putting up a slash line of .381/.449/.538 in 317 plate appearances for head coach Rob Childress. This season, he's actually improved off those numbers in some areas, particularly with respect to his slugging abilities. While he's no home run hitter, Naquin boasts a .439 wOBA and .162 ISO in 249 plate appearances. If he's able to further develop that facet of his game, it will compliment his plus speed nicely.
Fielding: You'd be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded defensive player in this year's class. Naquin's speed gives him exceptional range in the outfield and he boasts what many scouts consider to be the strongest, most accurate arm in the draft. Naquin's defensive prowess compares adequately to that of current Brewers prospect Logan Schafer.
Will he be available?: I've been able to go through a number of recent mock drafts, none of which have Naquin cracking the top 25. That could change if he continues rake against the competition, though, so it remains to be seen where he'll fall. Still, there's a good chance he's still attainable for Milwaukee at the end of the first round.
Why the Brewers need him: While the Brewers have a number of young outfielders in their system, none have the upside that Naquin possesses. A hitter who's made massive strides in recent years and a second-to-none arm defensive arm, Naquin could develop into Milwaukee's next longtime center fielder.
Height/Weight: 6'8", 220
High School: Solon (Ohio)
College Commitment: University of North Carolina
Overview: A towering southpaw prepster from a highly-competitive area in Ohio, there's a ton to like about what Matthew Smoral brings to the table. At 6'8", 220 pounds, there's no doubting that he has the frame and durability to succeed at the big league level. He has three solid pitches -- low 90s fastball with good movement, slider and changeup -- in his repertoire that will give him a good shot to breeze through the minors. The only concern right now is his ability to command and hone his pitches.
Will he be available?: Smoral was at one point considered the top high school pitcher of this year's class. That isn't the case anymore, but he's still one of the premier prep pitchers in this draft. As such, he'll likely be a mid to late first-rounder. He should be available for Milwaukee to pounce on.
Why the Brewers need him: Smoral represents a ton of risk, but he also possesses a colossal amount of upside. Since the Brewers do have the luxury of two first-rounders, they could take their chances at a high-ceiling prepster such as Smoral. Needless to say, there aren't many 18-year-olds who possess such physical attributes quite like Smoral.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195
College: Stanford University
2012 Stats: 192 AB, .344/.432/.510, 19 XBH, 3 SB, 14 K/25 BB (47 G)
Hitting: Currently a two-way player at Stanford both as a reliever and an everyday third baseman, many believe Stephen Piscotty's future in the big leagues lies with his bat -- its easy to see why. Now in his third season with the Cardinal, the prototype infielder boasts a solid .157 ISO and .416 wOBA in 204 at-bats. His smooth swing generates good bat speed and is able to drive the ball to all fields. One of the biggest qualities to his game is that his plate discipline is well beyond his years. He sees the ball very well and maintains great pitch-recognition.
Fielding: Though he's primarily a third baseman, Piscotty has the ability and experience playing first base and the outfield. He has the strong arm necessary to make all the throws from the hot corner and could probably even play right field if needed.
Will he be available?: Piscotty has been tearing up the competition this year, and is draft stock has only continued to rise. His quality bat is one of the best in this class, so barring some unforeseen circumstance, he'll probably be off the board when the Brewers go on the clock.
Why the Brewers need him: Even with Aramis Ramirez holding down the fort for the next few seasons, Milwaukee needs a line-drive hitting third baseman of the future. Piscotty would be able to develop in enough time for Milwaukee to promote him at the end of Ramirez's contract, so this could turn out to be the ideal situation for the Brewers.
Height/Weight: 6'4", 195
College: Clemson University
2012 Stats: 212 AB, .344/.470/.590, 30 XBH, 7 SB, 47 K/51 BB (56 G)
Hitting: In a draft class that isn't terribly deep in power bats, Richie Shaffer has emerged as one of 2012's best collegiate sluggers. Currently in the midst of a scintillating season at Clemson, the slender 21-year-old boasts an eye-opening .249 ISO and .459 wOBA in 254 plate appearances this season. He covers the plate well and drives the ball to all fields and has showed to have decent discipline at the plate. Scouts are excited to see how his power translates to the next level.
Fielding: Schaffer has spend most of his time at the corner infield positions. He fields the ball effectively at third base though there are some questions about his range at the position, leading many to believe he projects to be more of a first-baseman.
Will he be available?: Based off what I've read, scouts seem unsettled about where he could end up on draft day. I've seen him projected as a mid first-round pick on a few occasions but have also read that he could slip to the compensation round or possibly the second round. If I had to take my best guess, I'd say he's still on the board when the Brewers are on the clock.
Why the Brewers need him: The Brewers have labored to replace Prince Fielder this season and will continue to do so unless something is done. I have absolutely no idea what Mat Gamel's future holds in store and hardly any prospects ready to challenge for the position in the near future, I think Shaffer would be a tremendous pickup with a very high ceiling.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 220
College: Georgia Southern University
2012 Stats: 14 GS, 95 IP, 3.79 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 107 K/26BB, .286 BAA
Overview: Now in his third season with Georgia Southern, Chris Beck has garnered a reputation for being one of the biggest strikeout artists in college baseball. As a sophomore last season, Beck punched out over nine hitters per nine innings pitched. He's improved that thus far in 2012, currently striking out over 10 batters every nine innings pitched.
Beck has the perfect frame to be a mid rotation guy at the next level and three solid pitches in a mid to low 90s fastball, 12-6 bending curveball and average changeup. He does tend to rely on his fastball in order to set up his other pitches, though, so he has his work cut out for him with respect to his secondary pitches at the next level.
The biggest level of concern for Beck at this juncture seems to be his command. While he does bear great strikeout abilities, he does tend to leave the ball over the plate. Consequently, he's held batters to just a .286 BA with a disconcerting .375 BABIP this season.
Will he be available?: I have yet to find a mock draft where Beck is taken higher than No. 25 overall, so there's a good shot he's available for Milwaukee to take at the end of round one.
Why the Brewers need him: The Brewers took two collegiate starters at last summer's draft, and there's absolutely no reason to believe they won't look to add at least one more this year. If that's the case, Beck looks the part of an end of the rotation starter or maybe a very effective bullpen arm. Beck has a pretty high ceiling as an overall pitcher, and hopefully Melvin realizes that on draft day.
Height/Weight: 6'1", 210
High School: Pace (Florida)
College Commitment: Auburn
Hitting: One of the top shortstops featured in this year's class, there are plenty of things to like about what Addison Russell brings to the table. None, however, are more appealing than his highly productive bat. The 18-year-old prepster has a very seasoned approach at the plate, integrating his quick hands to produce a lot of power -- particularly to his pull side. It's often difficult to find a high schooler with this type of power.
Fielding: Predominantly a shortstop, Russell also has qualification to play third base. He has very smooth hands and feet in the field and boasts a strong arm to boot. However, questions were raised after he put on a few pounds prior to his senior season, leaving many scouts to believe he's more suited as a future third-baseman.
Will he be available?: There are a number of prep and collegiate shortstops featured in this year's class that should be taken before Russell, leaving open a good possibility that he's available for Milwaukee toward the end of the first round.
Why the Brewers need him: The Brewers need a shortstop for the future. Yadiel Rivera and Orlando Arcia have potential, but neither boast the tools that Russell owns. He'll need some time in the minors, but Russell could turn out to be Milwaukee's next longtime shortstop.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 205
High School: Bishop Gorman (Texas)
College Commitment: Louisiana State
Hitting: A physically gifted hitter with long arms and a strong frame, Gallo is probably the best power-hitter among all high school prepsters featured in this year's class. Naturally aggressive at the plate, he is able to power the ball to all fields with consistency and moreover doesn't draw a whole lot of walks. Gallo has solid, fluid mechanics at the plate, however, his swing does tend to get a bit long and he can over-swing on a regular basis. Still, the ball really jumps off his bat unlike any other player of this year's class.
Fielding: Gallo has spent most of his high school time at third base but also has experience at first base. But while he plays the hot corner well and has more than enough arm strength to stick at the position, it looks as though first-base should be his primary position in the bigs. He has good natural instincts at the position and his length makes him a perfect fit there.
Will he be available?: Gallo is a verbal commit to LSU, so it will probably take a early-to-middle round pick to make him forgo his collegiate career. That said, I've seen a number of mock drafts suggesting that he could still be available for Milwaukee to take at No. 27 or No. 28 overall.
Why the Brewers need him: With the Brewers desperate for a long-term solution at first-base, I wouldn't be surprised to see Melvin persuade him into signing with Milwaukee.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 190
College: Mississippi State University
2012 Stats: 10 GS, 95.7 IP, 2.16 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 115 K/19 BB, .210 BAA
Overview: Converted from reliever to starter for Mississippi State, Chris Stratton has enjoyed an extremely productive season for the Bulldogs, elevating his draft stock with seemingly every outing.
In 14 appearances -- 10 of which have been starts -- the 21-year-old right has strutted his superb command and has furthermore perpetuated his strikeout capacities from a reliever to a starter. Stratton has garnered a 0.96 WHIP while walking less than two batters per nine innings pitched this season. His crafty ways have led to a ridiculous 10.86 K/9 ratio against strong SEC competition.
Statton has four quality pitches that he can throw for strikes. His fastball sits in the mid to low 90s and is a pitch he has a great deal of confidence in throwing in any situation. His slider is above average with great movement and could develop into a real strikeout weapon. He can also catch hitters off-guard with an improving changeup.
Will he be available?: Stratton has witnessed his draft stock soar ever since making a transition to Mississippi State's rotation, so much so that he could be taken in the middle of the first round.
Why the Brewers need him: There's no such thing as too much young pitching, and the Brewers are in no situation to cease their collection of talented young arms. Who knows -- Stratton could develop into Milwaukee's next great setup man or closer.
Height/Weight: 6'3", 190
College: Stony Brook University
2012 Stats: 204 AB, .397/.463/.623, 29 XBH, 34 SB, 16 K/18 BB (53 G)
Hitting: In a rather shallow class with no real eye-opening hitters, Jankowski stands out as one of the most pro-ready hitters in the draft. While the 6'3", 190 outfielder doesn't hit for much power, he's made a name for himself as a consistent line-driver hitter who covers the plate exceptionally well. He has a very smooth swing from the left side of the plate and great timing as a hitter. Furthermore, Jankowski has great speed and integrates that facet of his game into his hitting, already with nine triples so far this season.
Fielding: Primarily a center fielder, I've been told he has great range and tremendous natural instincts on defense. His speed compliments his fairly strong arm well, and I've also been told he's a very accurate thrower.
Will he be available?: Jankowski is enjoying a very productive season, getting on base in nearly half of his plate appearances and, despite his lack of power, posting a .467 wOBA. If he continues to rake, teams ahead of the Brewers could take him, but from what I see, it looks as though he should be there for Milwaukee toward the end of round one.
Why the Brewers need him: The Brewers are deep in center field talent on the farm, but none have the overall skill-set that Jankowski offers. His speed and base-stealing prowess would fit in nicely with Ron Roenicke's aggressive style. For that reason, he would be an excellent pick-up for Milwaukee.
Height/Weight: 6'5", 225
College: Jacksonville University
2012 Stats: 210 AB, .343/.426/.581, 26 XBH, 19 SB, 47 K/29 BB (56 G)
Hitting: Big, physical and aggressive are all adjectives that thoroughly describe Adam Brett Walker's approach at the plate. At 6'5", 225, the Milwaukee native has crushed opposing pitching to the tune of a .216 ISO and .434 wOBA this season for Jacksonville University. He's struggled with strikeouts in the past but has cleaned up his act this season, garnering a strikeout rate just north of 18 percent with a walk rate of 12.8 percent. If he keeps that up, he has a chance to be the total package as a hitter at the big league level.
Fielding: Though athletic by nature -- he's a son of a former NFL running back -- Walker's athleticism doesn't fully translate to the field. He has average range and arm strength in the outfield and has experience at first base, though doesn't show a ton of defensive range at any position. First base should be where he eventually ends up.
Will he be available: Walker is in the midst of a very nice all-around season and his draft stock should continue to rise as a consequence. However, I have yet to see a mock draft where he's cracked the top 15, so there's a pretty good chance he's available toward the end of the first round.
Why the Brewers need him: Desperate for a cornerstone first-baseman, I believe Walker should be at the top of Doug Melvin's board come draft day. He has some of the best raw power of any player in this draft. The fact that he is a Milwaukee native only further convinces me that he should be one of the two players the Brewers take in the first round.