Now a week away from the commencement of Major League Baseball’s 2012 first-year player draft, the intentions, schemes and desires of Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and his brass still remain relatively unknown. Holding — for the second consecutive year — two first round picks at No. 27 and No. 28 overall, there no clear evidence to suggest what path the Brewers intend on going down this summer — particularly with their two opening-round picks.
Historically speaking, the Brewers have favored high school talent in the first round, though not by a terribly drastic margin. Since the club’s first inaugural draft back in 1969, Milwaukee has taken 23 prepsters to just 20 collegiate-level prospects. Following that same trend, the Brewers have favored prep talent slightly over college talent since the turn of the century, with seven of their last 13 first-rounders coming as high schoolers.
With so many holes to fill within the minor league system and a heap of question marks concerning the future of the big-league club to go with it, the Brewers must be absolutely sold on who they decide to take in the first-round this summer. The difficulty is that this year’s class is noticeably thin on elite-level prospects unlike last year’s talent-laden class — very few players in this year’s crop are of elite-level status. Throw in the fact that the Brewers will be picking roughly 15 spots later than in last summer’s first-round, and it’s easy to anticipate a talent drop-off compared to last year’s first-round selections in Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. Even so, Milwaukee’s 2012 opening-round picks bear a huge responsibility on the organization moving forward.
So, the obvious question now becomes: Who are the Brewers targeting with their multiple first-round picks?
A few weeks back, we glanced at the early projections of Baseball America executive Jim Callis, where he postulated that Milwaukee could be after two high schoolers in shortstop Addison Russell and third-baseman Joey Gallo. He just recently posted a revised mock draft with which he sees the Brewers taking Stanford third baseman Stephen Piscotty and prep right-hander Shane Watson (the Brewers will have exactly $3.325 Million to work with in signing both first-rounders). Let’s break down each player’s game with an in-depth scouting report, including my own personal take on each pick.
Height/Weight: 6’3″, 195
“Piscotty and Roache would be good values here for Milwaukee, and the college bats drop off precipitously behind them.”
“Outside the need for a long-time fix at first base, the future at third base in Milwaukee remains the biggest question mark facing the club moving forward. Supposing management picks up Aramis Ramirez’s 2015 option, drafting a guy like Piscotty would be an absolutely ideal situation. He’d be able to hone his skills against professional pitching for a few years while Ramirez holds down the fort. There’s nothing the Brewers dislike doing more than pushing a guy through the system before he’s fully developed, so drafting Piscotty here could be a real possibility if he’s still available.
Video Breakdown and Mini-Scouting Report
Hitting: A highly productive hitter throughout his three years with the Cardinal, Piscotty has garnered a reputation for being one of the best pure contact hitters in the country. Weighing in at a strong-framed 6’3″, 215 pounds, the 21-year-old has a very good approach at the plate and always seems to make solid contact with the ball. In 749 career plate appearances at Stanford, he’s harbored a career .346 batting average with a XBH% (extra-base hit rate) of exactly 25 percent, which is impressive given the fact that he has just 12 home runs to his name. He’s mashed the ball at an exceptional clip this season, garnering a .407 wOBA over 209 at-bats.
Now let’s see if we can’t go a bit more in-depth. The snapshots below depict one of Piscotty’s at-bats against UCLA a few weeks back. He starts in an athletic stance with more of his weight on his back side. A quiet pre-pitch load, he keeps his hands back very nicely and generates a very smooth, almost effortless swing. He keeps his hands in tight to his body and has very little wasted movement, consequently leading to his notoriously quick hands. Keeping his head down and focused on the pitch, Piscotty gets good extension at the point of contact, keeping his front leg stiff and his back leg bent. In this particular at-bat, he finishes a tad bit unbalanced, slightly leaning forward.
Fielding: Piscotty has spent most of his collegiate career at third base, however, he’s also proved that he can play either corner outfield position. He doesn’t have tremendous speed in the field, so the outfield probably won’t be where he sticks. He does have a solid arm that can make all the throws needed at third base.
Overall Assessment: In a class that’s noticeably thin on collegiate positional players, Piscotty stands out as one of the most well-rounded. There’s a lot to like about his game — he makes consistent contact at the plate and hardly ever gets cheated during an at-bat; he draws a lot of walks and his superb plate discipline leads to a very low strikeout rate. With the evident need for a third-baseman of the future, there’s a real possibility that the Brewers could draft Piscotty is he’s still on the board.
Height/Weight: 6’4″, 190
“With back-to-back picks, Milwaukee could look to pair a hitter and pitcher. The best arms remaining if the draft plays out like this would be California high school righthander Shane Watson, Eflin and Pierce Johnson.“
“In studying up on many of the prep arms of this year’s class, Watson hasn’t been one who jumped out at me as a top option for the Brewers — at least in the first round — so this comes as a bit of a surprise to me.If the first round plays out the way Callis believes it will, the Brewers would be taking a huge risk here — Watson is an extremely raw talent, though he does have potential. I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with this pick.”
Video Breakdown and Mini Scouting Report
Delivery: Works over the top and repeats his delivery pretty well. From what I’ve seen, it looks like he could add more velocity and deception by throwing more of his body-weight into his throws.
Offerings:Watson has three pitches to his disposal, the first being a fastball that tops out anywhere from 89-93 MPH. He has good command with this pitch and throws it for strikes consistently. When needed, he can reach back and hit 96 MPH. His second offering is his curveball, which has tight-breaking action and induces a lot of swings-and-misses. A lot of scouts see this as a pitch that can develop into a deadly weapon at the big league level if he cleans up his command with it. His last pitch is a changeup, though he hasn’t thrown it too much to this point in his career, so it will need some fine-tuning at the next level.
Overall Assessment: At 6’4″, 195 pounds, Watson has the prototypical frame necessary to be an innings-eater at the next level. While his game doesn’t have any eye-opening characteristic, he does have the solid three-pitch (fastball, curve, changeup) combination and relatively clean mechanics to succeed at the next level. He has good velocity with his fastball and his curveball still has some projectability, though once developed could be a productive pitch.
With the draft now just a week off, the evaluation process has never been more important for Melvin and the Brewers. Picking up a guy like Watson with one of their first-round picks would be a bit of a reach, in my opinion, especially given that Milwaukee owns the 38th overall pick in the supplemental first round.