MILWAUKEE -- As the Brewers kept winning at the end of last year’s regular season, riding a September surge to the best record in the National League, Tod Johnson’s job got harder as the team’s Draft position fell.
That’s part of the job for Johnson, who is going into his third Draft as the Brewers’ amateur scouting director. This marks the Brewers’ 50th Draft since the franchise moved to Milwaukee; only four other times has their first selection been as low as it is this year, when the Crew selects 28th overall and may be more inclined than ever to continue a recent trend of aiming for upside with its first pick.
In each of those four instances, the Brewers forfeited their first-round pick to sign a free agent:
2013: Kyle Lohse
1990: Dave Parker
1981: Roy Howell
1979: Jim Slaton
Besides drafting near the bottom of the first round by virtue of their 2018 record, the Brewers traded away pick No. 41 to the Rangers for reliever Alex Claudio, then forfeited their third-round pick to sign free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal, because he had received a qualifying offer from the Dodgers.
As a result, the Brewers own just two of the first 132 selections: No. 28 overall and No. 65 overall.
“We are in a competitive window right now,” said Johnson. “I recognize that’s going to take precedence over having Draft capital.”
The 2019 Draft will take place tonight through Wednesday, beginning with tonight's Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 5 CT. MLB Network will broadcast the first 41 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, beginning with a preview show at 11:30 a.m. CT. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at 11 a.m. CT.
Go to MLB.com/Draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, mock Drafts from MLB Pipeline analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.
Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the Brewers.
In about 50 words
With few premium picks, the Brewers face more pressure than ever to get it right. But there’s precedence for hitting on picks beyond the third round. Last year’s fourth-rounder, Aaron Ashby, looks like a bona fide prospect, as does 2016’s Corbin Burnes despite some early-season struggles in the Majors this year.
What they’re saying
“A lot of people have said this isn’t a good Draft class. I don’t see it that way. It’s at least average, and in some assets it’s above average. I think at [No.] 28, we’re going to get a shot at a really good player, and at [No.] 65, we’ll have somebody that we like quite a bit. I see a relatively deep class, to be honest.” -- Johnson
Who might they take?
When there are differing opinions about who the Orioles will select with the first overall pick, you can imagine the challenge of projecting the end of the first round. But here’s where Mayo and Callis had the Brewers going at No. 28 in their most recent mock Drafts:
May 23: Tyler Callihan, 3B, Providence HS (Jacksonville, Fla.)
The Brewers would love for an arm like Florida prep pitcher Brennan Malone to get here, and they could look at another prep arm like Texas high schooler J.J. Goss. But if Malone is off the board, they would have interest in Callihan, one of the better high school hitters in the class.
May 17: Seth Johnson, RHP, Campbell
A former shortstop who pitched just six innings at Louisburg (N.C.) JC last year, Johnson flashes earlier-first-round stuff but has little track record for teams to bank on. He could go closer to Elon University right-hander George Kirby to a club that wants a college arm and will gamble on upside. Milwaukee has a penchant for high-ceiling first-rounders, so slugging third baseman Rece Hinds (IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.) could be in play.
May 9: J.J. Goss, RHP, Cypress (Texas) Ranch HS
Goss is projectable and will add more consistent velocity to go along with one of the best sliders among high schoolers in the class.
May 3: Rece Hinds, 3B, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Hinds has as much raw power as anyone in the Draft, albeit mitigated by some swing-and-miss concerns and questions about whether he can remain in the infield.
Asked about the Draft’s various classes in broad terms, Johnson said, “The college bat class is probably the one that’s strongest. I think the high school class is pretty average for a Draft like this. The college pitching side is a little down, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good college pitchers that will go off the board. It’s just a matter of sorting those and finding the ones we like better than others.”
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $125,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
This year, the Brewers have a pool of $5,148,200 to spend in the first 10 rounds, including $2,493,900 to spend on their first selection.
If history holds, about half of the Brewers’ selections will be pitchers and the other half position players. This is easier said than accomplished, and true of most organizations, but there is a need in the system for high-ceiling pitching after the Brewers graduated Burnes, Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff to the Majors in the past few years, leaving Zack Brown (No. 6) and Ashby (No. 9) as the only pitchers among MLB Pipeline’s Top 10 Milwaukee prospects. The Crew’s system is also somewhat thin at first base and third base, but typically the team doesn’t draft for those positions; it picks middle infielders and center fielders, then sorts out the corner spots as players progress in the professional ranks.
Since making a “safe” pick in college star Taylor Jungmann in 2011 and seeing him fizzle, the Brewers have tended toward taking calculated risks with their first overall picks. Four of their six first-rounders since then have come out of high school, including shortstop Brice Turang in '18. The two college picks in that span, Keston Hiura in '17 and Corey Ray in '16, have come with big tools and some question marks, most notably the health of Hiura’s right elbow. Today, those are Milwaukee’s No. 1 and No. 2 prospects.
Recent top picks
2018: Brice Turang, SS (Class A Wisconsin)
2017: Keston Hiura, 2B (MLB)
2016: Corey Ray, CF (Triple-A San Antonio)
2015: Trent Grisham, CF (Double-A Biloxi)
2014: Kodi Medeiros, LHP (traded to White Sox for RHP Joakim Soria)
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.