Brewers' Draft success is tied to who signs

Club needs to lure stud high schoolers away from college

June 15th, 2017

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers began the final day of the MLB Draft with a run on high school athletes, and that was no coincidence.
As teams made their picks in Rounds 11-40 on Wednesday, each of Milwaukee's first nine selections were prep pitchers, shortstops or center fielders, all with college scholarships waiting if the Brewers cannot meet their price. Even the player who snapped the streak, Ventura College right-hander Austin Rubick, is a junior college player with an offer from the University of Hawaii if he opts not to sign.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
Draft Tracker: Every Brewers pick
34th overall: OF Tristen Lutz
46th overall: OF Caden Lemons
Brewers' picks, Rounds 3-10
20th-round pick has familiar story
"Certainly, the ability to draft some of these high-upside high school players post-10th round was intentional," Brewers GM David Stearns said. "We know that some of them will be tougher [to sign] than others, but we also think we have an attractive opportunity to play professional baseball."
From Coral Springs (Fla.) right hander Max Lazar in the 11th round to Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.) shortstop Noah Campbell in the 19th, every Brewers pick was a prep player with a college commitment. The potential colleges range from Florida Atlantic University (Lazar and 15th-rounder Christian Santana, a right-hander) to Arizona State (14th rounder Gage Workman, a switch-hitting shortstop who graduated high school in three years), and from both Carolinas (16th rounder Justin Bullock, a right-hander, is committed to NC State while Campbell would go to South Carolina) to the University of Southern California. That's where 12th-rounder Je'Von Ward would attend, a center fielder whose uncle is former Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions safety Mark Carrier.
Back-to-back Brewers picks would be college teammates if they do not get the offers they are looking for from the Brewers. Outfielder LG Castillo from upstate New York -- who won state titles with his school's football and basketball teams (17th round) -- and left-hander Ledgend Smith (18th round) from Oklahoma both are verbally committed to the University of Oklahoma.
"We knew we would be able to add guys we would be more certain of signing after we took some of these guys who were more upside-type plays for us," said Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson.
So, the Brewers may sign fewer Draft picks overall while still ending up with higher than normal upside. Last year, it was more of a traditional approach; Milwaukee signed each of its first 16 Draft picks, 19 of the first 20 and 37 of 41 overall.

Often, it takes a little extra to convince mid-round prep picks to forgo college and go pro. Last year, the Brewers saved enough of their pool money from Rounds 1-10 to sign Arizona high school third baseman Chad McClanahan for $1.2 million after drafting him in the 11th round. The Brewers signed McClanahan away from a scholarship at Arizona State.
"Clearly, we have the ability to be creative with our Draft pool in multiple ways," said Stearns. "We're not the only club that looks at the Draft pool in that way."
The Brewers have the sixth-highest Draft pool of the 30 Major League clubs at $10,447,700 to spend on their picks in the first 10 rounds before they start incurring penalties. If the Brewers pay more than $125,000 for a pick in Round 11 and beyond, the overage counts against the pool, too.
Of the total, $4.57 million comes from the ninth overall pick, where the Brewers drafted UC Irvine second baseman Keston Hiura on Monday.
Hiura played with an injured elbow this season and may need Tommy John surgery. If he signs for less than the allotment, the Brewers can allocate those funds to other picks.
In the end, the Brewers did achieve good balance. Of their 41 picks in the Draft, 20 were high schoolers and 21 from four-year or junior colleges. Twenty three were pitchers, and 18 were position players.