MILWAUKEE -- Even at No. 9 overall, Brewers officials were not sure when the 2017 Draft began whether Keston Hiura would be on the board for their pick.
This year, at No. 21 overall, projecting is even more difficult.
"At this point," said Brewers amateur scouting director Tod Johnson, "everyone is just throwing darts and trying to figure it out."
:: 2018 Draft coverage ::
It's a challenge Johnson relishes, considering Draft order is based upon teams' Major League records in the preceding season.
"I would much rather have had a very successful year last year and be picking at 21 than the opposite," he said. "It's harder, and you have to manage it differently, and your expectations have to be adjusted accordingly. But hopefully, next year we'll pick even later."
The 2018 Draft will take place today through Wednesday, beginning with today's Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 5 p.m. CT. MLB Network will broadcast the first 43 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, with a preview show beginning 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, projected top picks 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, who have three picks on Day 1:
In about 50 words
The Brewers will have to do more with less in this Draft. It's the result of being competitive last season and just as competitive during the offseason, since signing free agent Lorenzo Cain cost not only Cain's $80 million, but forced the Brewers to forfeit their third-round pick.
The Brewers have three selections on Day 1 -- Nos. 21, 60 and 73 overall -- then don't pick again until No. 125 overall on Day 2. Compare that to last year, when their first four picks were Nos. 9, 34, 46 and 84.
In addition to lower picks, it means a lower pool of money to sign players. More on that later.
"It's a different dynamic as far as the group of players you're looking at [for the first-round pick]," Johnson said. "Last year at this time, we had a fairly tight list of guys we were considering. Now it's much bigger than that. There's a lot less certainty right now about who is going to be there."
MLB.com's most recent Mock Draft linked the Brewers to University of South Florida left-hander Shane McClanahan, who can touch 100 mph with his fastball and has a plus changeup. But locally, the first-round buzz is all about Waukesha's Jarred Kelenic, who has a chance to become the first Wisconsin player ever drafted among the top 10 overall picks.
The left-handed-hitting outfielder graduated one semester early from Waukesha West High School so he could focus all of his energy on prepping for the Draft.
"He's a great kid. I've spent some time with him," Johnson said. "He was around the ballpark with Team USA last summer. I went down and saw him a couple of times with the Hitters' Baseball program down in Racine that he plays with. Good kid. Good player.
"He's going to be drafted [high]. I don't know where he's going to go. I can't say for sure that he's going to be there at 21 or not. But yeah, I am very comfortable saying he is going to be a first-rounder."
If Kelenic is available at No. 21, would local sentimentality creep into the decision?
"We work hard to make the decision on objective factors, without that emotional piece of it," Johnson said. "So we would evaluate him as a player the same way we would evaluate anyone else. Would it be a great story? Sure, it would be a fantastic story."
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 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed on the overage.
This year, the Brewers have $6,611,900 to spend in the first 10 rounds, the sixth-smallest pool of MLB's 30 teams. That includes a $3,013,600 value assigned to the 21st overall pick.
"That changes the dynamic of how we manage things, certainly," Johnson said. "We took Tristen Lutz at 34 last year [in Competitive Balance Round A] and ended up having to pay him a little over slot. We were able to do that because we had those additional resources. Now this year, we don't even have that pick; we slipped back to Comp B.
"So from 21-60, we're going to watch a lot of guys we like quite a bit go off the board."
Get used to hearing this phrase a lot: best player available. Financial considerations make things more complicated than that, but it's still the premise that drives decisions in baseball's volatile Draft.
Analytics are a big part of the Brewers' process under Johnson, but Brewers scouts still play a vital role. They were in Milwaukee for regional meetings from May 6-10, an opportunity to pitch prospective players to Johnson, GM David Stearns and other club executives.
"That's really the opportunity for the area scouts to discuss players in their area in-depth, in front of myself and all of our national supervisors," Johnson said. "That helps us in the decision-making process."
You won't find one looking at recent first-round and supplemental first-round Brewers selections. They range from polished college players (Hiura in 2017 and left-hander Nathan Kirby in '15) to raw but toolsy high schoolers (Kodi Medeiros in 2014) to all points in between. Corey Ray was a toolsy college player when he went fifth overall to the Brewers in 2016. Trent Grisham was a more polished high school hitter in '15. It's a mix, which makes predicting which direction the team will go in the first round a real challenge.
Ray disappointed at the plate in his first two professional seasons, but now appears on the rise in Double-A in his age-23 season. The Brewers' No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, entered the weekend with a .263/.352/.495 slash line and 26 extra-base hits, 20 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 47 games for Biloxi, leading the Southern League in extra-base hits and total bases (94), tied for the league lead in steals and among the leaders in doubles (tied for second with 15) and runs (tied for third with 33).
Left-hander Cam Roegner, a Beloit, Wis., native drafted in the 22nd round in 2016, has not allowed a run in his last 28 2/3 innings for Class A Advanced Carolina and is 6-1 record with a 0.68 ERA. Like Brewers lefty starter Brent Suter, Roegner does not wow scouts with raw stuff -- he has 37 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings -- but his ERA leads the Minors.
In the show
Josh Hader might be the best reliever in baseball right now, but he wasn't drafted until the 19th round in 2012 by his home-state Orioles. He was traded twice, first from Baltimore to Houston for Bud Norris in 2013, then from Houston to Milwaukee with fellow prospects Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips and Adrian Houser for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers in 2015. Hader's rise is a reminder that developing players -- particularly pitchers -- takes time. Plus, it's a reminder that there are gems beyond the top few rounds.
The Brewers' recent top picks
2017: Hiura (Advanced Class A Carolina)
2016: Ray (Double-A Biloxi)
2015: Grisham (Double-A Biloxi)
2014: Medeiros (Double-A Biloxi)
2013: None (forfeited to sign free agent Kyle Lohse)