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Crew to rely on data-driven approach at Draft

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Tod Johnson is on the clock.

The Brewers have a new amateur scouting director for the 2017 Draft, which takes place through Wednesday, beginning today with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 5 p.m. CT. MLB Network will broadcast the first 36 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 75 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, starting at noon CT. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on June 14, beginning at 11 a.m. CT.

MILWAUKEE -- Tod Johnson is on the clock.

The Brewers have a new amateur scouting director for the 2017 Draft, which takes place through Wednesday, beginning today with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 5 p.m. CT. MLB Network will broadcast the first 36 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 75 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, starting at noon CT. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on June 14, beginning at 11 a.m. CT.

Go to MLB.com/draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, projected top picks from MLBPipeline.com 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, who own three of the first 46 picks, beginning with No. 9 overall:

In about 50 words

:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::

General manager David Stearns' mantra is "acquire, develop, retain," and there is no better way to do that than to make smart Draft picks. Stearns has been criss-crossing the country this spring, seeing potential picks for himself in what observers view as a deep, rather than top-heavy, talent pool.

The scoop

Traditional scouting will always have a place in the amateur Draft, but the Brewers adopted a more data-driven approach several years ago and leaned further in that direction when Stearns took over as GM. Promoting Johnson, a former analyst for Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft who started in the Brewers' IT department, fit that philosophy.

"We've been moving in this direction from a process perspective the last few years," Johnson said. "We're going to try a few different ways of putting things together. We're going to experiment with some of that stuff."

First round buzz

With a week to go before the Draft, the Brewers were still seriously zeroed in on 10-12 players for the ninth overall pick, Johnson said. MLB.com's pre-Draft mocks linked the Brewers to the likes of University of Florida right-hander Alex Faedo, high school outfielders Jordon Adell (Louisville, Ky.) and Austin Beck (Lexington, N.C.) and University of Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith. Another intriguing name to watch in the first round is Wisconsin native Jeren Kendall, an outfielder at Vanderbilt.

"Some of those [10-12 players] we have a feeling will go in front of us, but we don't know for sure, so we're staying on them because we want to be prepared if they do get to us," Johnson said. "And in some ways that speaks to the shape of the Draft this year."

Money matters

To ensure competitive balance, MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that each team has a bonus pool to spend based upon the number and position of their Draft picks. The more selections a team has and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. Any club that overspends its budget is subject to taxes and, in extreme cases, a loss of picks in future Drafts.

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.

This year, the Brewers have a pool of $10,447,700 -- sixth-highest of the 30 clubs -- to spend in the first 10 rounds, including $4.57 million to spend on their first selection.

Shopping list

The Brewers' system is flushed with shortstops and center fielders, and short of third basemen and catchers. But don't expect Johnson & Co. to start selecting for need, because that's not how baseball's Draft works. One factor, however, is allocating pool resources afforded by three picks in the first 46 overall.

"We think we can get -- I mean, our goal is always to get good players all the way through the Draft -- but we feel we can get fairly significant talents at nine, 34 and 46, for sure," Johnson said. "Beyond the top four or five guys who have separated themselves, there is not as much separation among the next set of guys. So it's more of, 'How do you want to manage that?' Do you want to leverage your pool space a little bit to do some different things? These are all the discussions we've had."

Trend watch

Recent Draft history

The Brewers have taken left-handed-hitting high school center fielders with each of their past two first-round selections. Corey Ray (fifth overall in 2016, ranked second on MLBPipeline.com's list of the top Brewers prospects) and Trent Clark (15th overall in 2015, No. 8 on Milwaukee's prospect list) are now teammates at Class A Advanced Carolina, an example of Milwaukee taking the best player available and determining positional alignments later. Stearns loves athletic, up-the-middle talent.

Rising fast

Corbin Burnes, the Brewers' fourth-round pick last year out of St. Mary's College in California, has already reached Double-A Biloxi after beginning this season 5-0 with a 1.05 ERA in 10 starts at Carolina. He's vaulted up to No. 20 on the Brewers prospect list.

Cinderella story

The Brewers drafted third baseman Lucas Erceg out of tiny Menlo College in California in the second round last year after he transferred from Cal in the wake of academic issues. Erceg was the first of a slew of Brewers Minor League prospects to join the big league team for Spring Training games this year, and he delivered a 1.190 OPS and two homers in 11 Cactus League games. Now he's playing alongside Ray and Clark at Carolina.

Video: Top Prospects: Lucas Erceg, 3B, Brewers

"I was very fortunate to get the second opportunity, especially with the transfer from Cal and going to Menlo," Erceg said. "I did well, changed my time management, my priorities. Pretty much hit the reset button. It took a lot. It took a very big toll on me just because I felt like I let a lot of people down.

"But having the second opportunity has been a blessing. I've had to rekindle some relationships that I've had in the past, but for the most part, it's awesome."

In the show

Brewers reliever Jacob Barnes (14th round in 2011) was not a high pick, but since arriving in the Majors last season he has become a mainstay of Milwaukee's still-evolving bullpen. Barnes has risen to set-up duties for closer Corey Knebel.

Video: LAD@MIL: Barnes catches Seager looking in 8th

The Brewers' recent top picks:

2016: Corey Ray, OF, Carolina
2015: Trent Clark, OF, Carolina
2014: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Carolina
2013 (second round): Devin Williams, RHP, Tommy John surgery
2012: Clint Coulter, C, Double-A Biloxi
2012: Victor Roache, OF, traded to Dodgers

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers