Brewers draft Wake Forest 3B Brock Wilken at No. 18

July 10th, 2023

SEATTLE – The Brewers drafted a collegiate hitter in the first round of the MLB Draft for the fourth straight year, but Wake Forest third baseman Brock Wilken is unique among them. He has big power and his own logo. He’s also a third baseman, marking a departure for a Milwaukee club that has taken an up-the-middle defender or a pitcher with every first-round pick since third baseman Brett Lawrie in 2008.

“There were a lot of guys potentially in play there, but when we landed on Brock, we were really excited to get probably the best power in the Draft,” Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson said. “I’m going to say it’s the best power in the Draft.”

After setting a freshman record at Wake Forest with 17 homers in 2021, the right-handed slugger upped that total to 23 as a sophomore. This season, he finished a three-year college career by taking his home run-hitting prowess to a whole new level. Wilken hit a whopping 31 home runs for the Demon Deacons -- the No. 1 national seed in the NCAA baseball tournament -- to smash the school’s single-season record. His 71 career homers also set a new program mark and tied the ACC career record.

Wilken was among the best hitters in the country this season, ranking second in Division I in homers, third in walks (69), fifth in OPS (1.313), sixth in slugging percentage (.807) and 10th in RBIs (82). Three of his homers came in the same NCAA Regional game against Alabama as Wilken helped lead Wake Forest to the Men’s College World Series.

Wilken fits the profile at third base with his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame, his natural power and a throwing arm graded as his best attribute -- yes, even better than his plus pop. While a below-average runner, Wilken should provide adequate defense at the hot corner. Pair that with his potent bat, and it’s easy to see why Wilken is highly regarded as a prospect.

“I just want to say how grateful I am for this opportunity,” said Wilken, who suggested the Brewers and his advisor were already moving toward an agreement on a signing bonus (slot value for that spot is $4,021,400). “The Brewers weren’t high on my list [of possibilities] at all. I think it makes it that much better of a story for myself, to go to a team that wasn’t really in the mix, and then they come in the mix.”

It helped that one of his Wake Forest coaches, Ty Blankmeyer, was a Brewers area scout from 2017-21. Johnson said that relationship offered the Brewers a glimpse into Wilken’s makeup off the field.

“Things happen for a reason,” Wilken said, “and I couldn’t be happier to be a Brewer right now.”

Not only did Wilken hit for power at the college level, but he significantly improved his plate discipline as his career went on. After walking just 23 times as a freshman and 34 the following year, Wilken had a Wake Forest single-season record 69 walks -- more than double his total prior to 2023. And only five of those were intentional free passes. Wilken’s on-base percentage -- which never topped .365 in his first two seasons -- rose to an impressive .506, and he struck out 13 fewer times as a junior compared to the year before -- in fewer plate appearances.

It was a development Wilken attributed to maturity and his work with longtime hitting coach (and his uncle) Kris Wilken, a former Astros and Orioles Minor Leaguer who was Brock’s high school baseball coach. 

“I had to kind of grow into my body, grow [up] as a hitter a little bit,” Wilken said. “I learned about hitting and my approach and kind of grew into my body. We don’t go out there trying to hit a lot of homers. We stick to our approach and we know that if we put a good swing on it that our barrel is in the zone long enough that it has a chance to go out.”

Here’s a bit about Milwaukee’s other Day 1 selections: 

No. 33 overall: RHP Josh Knoth

Knoth is a 6-foot-1 right-hander from the same high school as Cubs righty Marcus Stroman – Patchogue-Medford High School on Long Island, N.Y., where Knoth threw a 19-strikeout perfect game this spring. Besides being one of the youngest draft-eligible players this year, as he won’t turn 18 until Aug. 10, Knoth is regarded mostly for a high-spin curveball and a knack for filling the strike zone. His fastball gets up to 98 mph.

“He came into this spring and it was just another level,” Johnson said. “He had added 3-5 mph on his fastball and started throwing a slider that he wansn’t throwing in the [previous] summer. He’s always been a really good pitcher who dominated the strike zone, so once the stuff took a tick up, he went significantly up the board.”

No. 54 overall: 3B Mike Boeve

Unlike Wilken, who’s regarded for right-handed power, Boeve is a left-handed hitter known for his contact, a skill the Brewers have targeted with recent high picks like Eric Brown, Sal Frelick, Tyler Black and Garrett Mitchell. One of Boeve’s developmental stops included a stint with Duluth in the Northwoods League, meaning he’s already played some baseball in Wisconsin. 

“We think the bat has some really, really interesting traits to develop to maybe get him to some more power,” Johnson said. “And if he doesn’t, he’s going to hit a lot of line drives to gaps.”