This week has been the draft nobody really pays attention to – the MLB Draft! Lines of perfectly-manicured tables, each filled with shiny pennants proudly stating the team’s finest logo, sit in the “infield” of “MLB Park,” the floor-lined stadium inside Studio 42 of the MLB Network’s headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey. Besides watching Harold Reynolds use hand gestures to indicate his thoughts on this fake diamond during MLB Tonight, the Studio becomes of actual use, as it attempts to model the NFL’s style of teams at tables with phones, and nicely-dressed prospects in studio awaiting their call.
For the Milwaukee Brewers, famous right-hander Ben Sheets as well as Tom Flanagan, senior director of baseball operations, sat in studio, ready to make the calls. It was nice to see Sheets, to know that yes, he is still alive and paying homage to his former franchise. While I would like to see Sheets make more of a commitment towards helping the Brewers organization in a more outward way, such as assistance with the Brewers Community Foundation, this internal matter was also nice to see.
As for the actual draft itself, the Brewers’ 82-80 record from 2014 placed them with the dead middle pick of 15th. With this selection, the Brewers took Trent Clark, an outfielder from Richland High School in the Dallas area. Clark is a current centerfielder, although the team sees some use for him potentially in right field, and will play at Texas Tech next year.
Calls were fired at Melvin, as expected, for the decision to not take a starting pitcher with this selection. But, the reality is that when the team is in the state that the Brewers are in now, anything to give the team a spark is necessary. That’s exactly what Clark will do: he is a high-caliber hitter with strong power who can ignite the team’s offense in a way not seen since Ryan Braun during his MVP season.
Clark’s numbers back this up: he is hitting .555 with a .696 on base percentage, 2 home runs, and 24 RBIs in 63 at-bats so far for Richland. In his time spent last summer as a member of the Team USA 18U team, he set a single-season record with 24 RBIs over 12 games, and then in the Pan-American Championships last September in Mexico, he hit the game-winning RBI single in the gold-medal win over Cuba.
Clark will not add the power to the Brewers’ organization that some might think he will: rather he will add an OBP that will allow the team to have more chances for run-scoring situations, a current problem that is of utmost need. While the timetable for Clark’s major league arrival is uncertain, hopefully this issue will be remedied by his debut, or else the Brewers are going to continue their present woes.
A facet of Clark’s that was notable to me when I watched his prospect video was his swing: he grips the bat in an unorthodox manner that more closely resembles an interlocking golf grip than a baseball swing. As a result, he leaves some space on the bat, and when he hits I found myself wondering what would happen if he used a more traditional approach. However, Clark has been swinging like this since he was 13, and the success he has had affirms the fact that he should continue this practice.
After Clark, the Brewers used their next three picks on pitching, selecting Nathan Kirby, Cody Ponce, and Nash Walters in the compensatory, second, and third rounds, respectively. These pitchers are from The University of Virginia, The University of Cal Poly Pomona, and Lindale High School (Texas), respectively.
Kirby, a junior, started off his college career as a reliever, but was moved to the rotation during his sophomore year. That year, he had a 2.06 ERA with a sub-0.90 WHIP and 112 strikeouts over 18 starts and 113.1 innings, including a no-hitter with 18 strikeouts against Pittsburgh. Resulting from this, he was a Golden Spikes Award candidate, and a pre-season All-American for this season.
While he is currently injured, this season has led him to a 2.28 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. Kirby has three pitches: a low-90s fastball, changeup, and slider, and while his slider is his strongest pitch, he relies on it too frequently. However, given his strikeout numbers and ERA, it is not that unlikely that Kirby could be placed at upper single A Broward County, and potentially see time at AA Biloxi during his first year, which is a higher spot than most typical draft picks will start.
Ponce is a 6’5″, 235 pound prodigy with a mid-90s fastball, and has a 1.44 ERA this season as a junior with 67 strikeouts, 14 walks, and holding opponents to a .233 batting average. Nevertheless, he mostly relies on that fastball, and needs to develop other pitches to succeed in the farm system. He could be used as a reliever, but we will see where that path takes him.
Walters is 6’4″, 195 pounds and committed to Texas A & M. Like Ponce, he throws a mid-90s fastball and has minimal other offerings. He will need work, but will improve with time.
In rounds 4-10, the Brewers selected right fielder Demi Orimoloye from St. Matthew HS in Ottawa, Blake Allemand, a shortstop from Texas A & M, Eric Hanhold, a right-handed pitcher from The University of Florida, George Iskenderian, a third baseman from The University of Miami, Nate Griep, a right-handed pitcher from Kansas State University, Karsen Lindell, a right-handed pitcher from West Linn HS in Oregon, and Jake Drossner, a left-handed pitcher from The University of Maryland, respectively.
This is the first draft without Bruce Seid, the Brewers’ director of scouting, who passed away last September. In his place, Ray Montgomery, his replacement, led the charge over the past couple of days in preparing the team for the draft and the subsequent selections. Assistance from Melvin was used as per usual, but it is the inner members of the Brewers’ scouting staff who will see if the fruits of their labor will be reaped by the success of these players.
While the Brewers focused primarily on pitching in the draft, they also did a nice job of selecting some key position players who will help cultivate a full team. There is hope for stronger days ahead, and with this class, there can ideally be a more well-rounded farm system and eventual major league ball club.
Big league attention for Ottawa's big league prospect