Without the first-round selection they surrendered in order to sign Kyle Lohse, the Brewers swung for the fences by selecting a pair of high school players late Thursday -- right-handed pitcher Devin Williams from Hazelwood, Mo., at No. 54 overall and shortstop Tucker Neuhaus from Wharton, Fla., at No. 72.
Williams, 18, was drafted in the second round at 10:18 p.m. CT, Neuhaus, 17, with a competitive balance pick some 20 minutes later. Williams has a college commitment to Missouri should he not sign, and Neuhaus to Louisville, but amateur scouting director Bruce Seid and general manager Doug Melvin each expressed optimism that both would sign soon and begin their professional careers.
"Williams was much higher on our board than where we picked him," Melvin said. "Some teams take a lot of college players, some teams [have varying numbers of selections]. It's all over the board when it comes to that, but we liked both of these guys. They were talked about a lot.
"When you're at 54, you can't zero in like you can at 10, 12 or 15, where you can pretty well zero in within three or four of our picks. At 54, there's a long list of guys, and you're just sitting and hoping that they are still going to be there. You're more anxious with these picks than you would be if you had the 10th pick."
On the other end, Williams was just as anxious. He had hoped to be drafted in the first round.
"I actually thought I would be off the board before [the Brewers] picked," Williams said, "but I know they had been pretty interested. They sent a lot of people to see me play this spring, and I'm happy to be their first pick. ... I was pretty surprised. I thought I would go there at the end of the first round, but I'm happy with where I went."
Does that mean he could be a tough sign? Williams has a scholarship waiting for him at Missouri.
"No, I don't think I will be that tough of a sign," Williams said. "I'm ready to get my pro career started."
The Brewers' buzzwords on Williams were "athleticism" and "upside." Most scouting reports used the word "projectable" to describe the 6-foot-3, 165-pounder, who throws a fastball in the low- to mid-90s, a slider, changeup with fade and curveball.
Williams touched 96 mph at a pre-Draft workout for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, but he mostly pitched at 90-94 mph during his senior season, going 6-1 with a 1.02 ERA and one save in nine games, with 93 strikeouts in 48 innings and a .102 opponents' batting average.
Asked about his jump in velocity, Williams cited, "Good offseason training. I do a lot of training with my pitching coach from my summer team [Brian Delunas], and he's one of the best in the game. We've got six players who have hit 92 [mph] or above, so I definitely give him a lot of credit."
Twenty-seven of the 30 Major League teams sent officials to the Williams home for meetings, and the Cardinals hosted him at the stadium earlier this spring. The Red Sox and Yankees were interested enough to send a psychiatrist to provide an evaluation. The Braves and Nationals were the only two clubs not to schedule a personal visit.
The Brewers had blanket coverage on Williams starting with area scout Harvey Kuenn Jr., son of the legendary Brewers manager. Seid saw Williams pitch on multiple occasions, as did national pitching crosschecker instructor Jim Rooney.
"He wants to succeed," Seid said. "I remember seeing him in a game where he had to pitch to the last pitch to win the game, 1-0, in the state tournament, and he used all of his arsenal. He pitched like a pitcher, and he showed good stuff, and he was really athletic. To say we're happy he got to us -- I'm really excited about it."
It is the second time in four years that the Brewers used their top Draft pick on a prep pitcher, but the last, right-hander Dylan Covey in 2010, did not sign after being diagnosed with Type A Diabetes.
Neuhaus, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, is a left-handed hitter with a history of overcoming obstacles. He had battled injuries, starred for a Florida high school team that went 0-10 in its regular season and played all season while mourning the death of his older brother, Tyler, who was killed in an automobile accident in November.
Milwaukee was allotted a pool of $3,944,600 to sign its first 10 selections, third-lowest of the 30 Major League teams, including an assigned value of $1,017,300 for the 54th overall selection and $771,000 for No. 72. If a team exceeds its total for its first 10 selections, it faces financial penalties of the loss of future picks.
Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 11:30 a.m. CT And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at noon CT.
Brewers fans will have an eye on two players in the coming years: Mississippi prep outfielder Tim Anderson, who went to the White Sox at No. 17 overall, the pick owned by Milwaukee before the Lohse signing, and New Jersey prep left-hander Rob Kaminsky, who went to the Cardinals at No. 28, the pick they received as compensation for losing Lohse.
In the Pipeline: Where do Williams and Neuhaus fit? Fresh out of high school, they will head to the bottom of the Brewers' farm system if they sign, beginning the foundation of what club officials hope is another layer of talent.
Seid believes the Brewers have pitching at the upper levels of the system that will make it to the Majors, starting with Johnny Hellweg and Jimmy Nelson at Triple-A Nashville, Taylor Jungmann and Drew Gagnon at Double-A Huntsville and Jed Bradley and David Goforth at advanced Class A Brevard County. The progress of those players allowed Seid to take a pair of high-ceiling players on Day 1 of the Draft Thursday.