The Brewers enjoyed a taste of what it's like to draft outside of not only the top 10 picks, but the first half of the first round. With a disappointing season the Brewers are poised to draft in the top 10 once again. As of games played through September 18, with a 68-82 record (a .453 winning percentage), the Brewers would draft seventh in next year's draft. The Brewers last drafted seventh overall in 2002 when they selected Prince Fielder. Being able to draft a player like Fielder is about the only silver lining you can take from a season like this.
While the 2006 draft crop was considered relatively weak, the 2007 group is considered quite strong. There is an exciting player at every position from both the college and high school levels. In other words, there will be something for everyone. There is also very good premium talent at the top supplemented by a fair amount of depth.
Most consider the top prospect overall to be left-handed pitcher David Price from Vanderbilt. He was named Baseball America's player of the summer for his amazing performance pitching for Team USA. That marked his second tour with Team USA, and he has two very good seasons at Vandy under his belt as well. He's a prototypical staff ace, with a 6'6" projectable frame and a very impressive and complete arsenal. However, I'm going to buck the trend and make Matt Wieters my top overall prospect heading into next spring. For me Price and Wieters are really prospects 1A and 1B, much like Mark Teixeira and Mark Prior were considered near equals entering the spring of 2001. If I had the first overall pick right now I would take Wieters given his productivity at every level he has played, with both a metal and wood bat while considering his switch-hitting ability, his leadership skills and the fact that he's a catcher. Prepare yourself for Jason Varitek (who also attended Georgia Tech) comparisons when it comes to Wieters.
The biggest and more specific strengths in next year's draft are the number and depth of powerful arms at the high school level, prep third basemen, college closers and college lefties in general.
1. Josh Vitters, 3B, Anaheim, CA
2. Rick Porcello, RHP, Chester, NJ
3. Michael Main, RHP, Deltona, FL
4. Matt Harvey, RHP, Mystic, CT
5. Tanner Robles, LHP, Murray, UT
6. Michael Burgess, RF, Tampa, FL
7. Jason Heyward, 1B, McDonough, GA
8. Neil Ramirez, RHP, Virginia Beach, VA
9. Justin Jackson, SS, Asheville, NC
10. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Lenoir, NC
Similar to last year, we're probably going to see the high school pitchers jockey for position all spring long. There were several pitchers that stood out at the major showcase and tournament events over the summer of 2006, with a new name performing particularly well from event to event. Rick Porcello and Madison Bumgarner are two arms that pitched well almost the entire summer. Michael Main and Matt Harvey may have the strongest arms, but they also may need the most polish. Main is an exciting overall prospect that could be drafted very high as a multi-tooled outfielder, but his near-100 mph fastball means his future lies on the mound. Tanner Robles is about as smooth as they come from the left side, and Ramirez is about as polished as they come. Throw righties Sam Runion (Asheville, NC), Erik Goeddel (Hillsborough, CA), Greg Peavey (Vancouver, WA) and Tim Alderson (Pheonix, AZ) as well as lefty Joshua Smoker (Sugar Valley, GA) onto the polished pitcher pile. Michael Burgess and Jason Heyward bring the power, and if you're looking for a slick all-around shortstop, you have two to choose from: Justin Jackson and Christian Colon (Anaheim Hills, CA). Josh Vitters sits at the top of my list, proving all summer long that he has the best present day skills of any high school player. He performed well at every major stop, hitting the best pitchers in the nation along the way. Vitters may not be a third baseman in the long run, but his bat should make that concern irrelevant. Matt Dominguez (Van Nuys, CA) and Victor Sanchez (Norwalk, CA) add to the depth of talented third baseman. Outfielder Kentrail Davis (Theodore, AL) and infielder John Tolisano (Sanibel, FL) gives the prep ranks two more polished all-around players with very good present hitting skills.
1. Matt Wieters, C, Georgia Tech
2. David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt
3. Andrew Brackman, RHP, NC State
4. J.P. Arencibia, C, Tennessee
5. Sean Doolittle, LHP/1B, Virginia
6. Joe Savery, LHP/1B, Rice
7. Josh Fields, RHP, Georgia
8. Matt Mangini, 3B, Oklahoma
9. Nick Schmidt, LHP, Arkansas
10. Bryan Augenstein, RHP, Florida
I already talked about Price and Wieters above, so I'll start with the 7' tall Andrew Brackman here. Brackman reportedly has already decided not to play basketball for the Wolfpack this year. You know with his stature scouts are already drooling over his future potential. J.P. Arencibia gives the draft class another solid catching prospect with a proven bat. Sean Doolittle and Joe Savery both pitch and hit nearly equally well, although both are currently preferred as pitchers given their polish and power repertoires. Add two more SEC lefties, Nick Schmidt and James Adkins (Tennessee) to face David Price at some point next spring, and throw two lefty relievers in the mix when you're talking about potential first-rounders: Cole St. Clair (Rice) and Daniel Moskos (Clemson). The best reliever available is Georgia's Josh Fields, whose high 80s slider makes his mid-90s fastball look like a pretty good pitch to hit. If Doolittle isn't drafted as a hitter, Matt Mangini likely takes the honors as the best pure hitter. Bryan Augenstein burst onto the prospect scene as a sophomore at Florida, one of the few Gators that actually had a good year. It's a good year for shortstops in the college ranks as well. Take you pick from Rutgers' Todd Frazier, Mississippi's Zach Cozart, Arizona State's Andrew Romine, Rice's Brian Friday, Oregon State's Darwin Barney and North Carolina's Josh Horton. In the polished pitcher category, Wes Roemer (Cal State Fullerton) leads the way, who worked 50+ innings last spring before issuing a single walk. Right-handed pitchers Sean Morgan (Tulane), James Simmons (UC Riverside), Wynn Pelzer (South Carolina), Brad Meyers (Loyola Marymount), Sam Demel (TCU) and Eddie Kunz (Oregon State) could all find themselves taken in the first round with big springs.
Predicting who the Brewers will take is no easy task, especially this far in advance. One thing is for sure, until Jack Zduriencik selects a college pitcher in the first two rounds, something he has yet to do as scouting director of the Milwaukee Brewers (since 2000), I'll look elsewhere. If the team is looking to address an organizational need like when they took Ryan Braun in 2005, a catcher might be the way to go, especially since next year's draft looks particularly strong at the position.
While Zduriencik hasn't taken a college pitcher in the first two rounds of the draft, he hasn't selected a high school pitcher in the first round two years in a row. That leads me to a bat, and given the love for tools I am going to single out Tampa's Michael Burgess, who not only has the power potential as a left-handed hitter to rival Prince Fielder's, but also has incredible arm strength that would make him a natural fit in right field.