The Brewers scouting director is starting to see his annual odysseys across the continent pay off at the Major League level.
"We've said all along that this is a five-year process," said Jack Zduriencik (pronounced zur-EN-sik) who will preside over his sixth Brewers draft on June 7-8. "You can't take these guys and expect them to be in the big leagues tomorrow. It just doesn't happen. The way we were as an organization, we needed a lot of things. We took the guys that we thought were the highest-ceiling guys."
That list included high-profile players like Krynzel, a first-round draft pick in 2000, and Hardy, a second-round pick in 2001. And some finds, including Hart, an 11th round pick in 2000, and Adams, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2001.
Adams was the first of Zdurienck's guys to make it to the Majors, and Krynzel and Hart followed for brief stints in 2004. Hardy arrived this season and is the Brewers' everyday shortstop.
Zduriencik, assistant scouting director Tom Flanagan and the Brewers' worldwide scouting team have worked for the last year to find more players with big league futures. For the second straight year, the Brewers have the fifth overall pick in this year's draft.
Last year, they selected high school right-hander Mark Rogers with the No. 5 pick. This year, the stakes are a bit higher, because the Brewers do not pick again until the third round, at No. 87 overall. The Oakland A's inherited Milwaukee's second-round pick as compensation when the Brewers signed free agent catcher Damian Miller.
Zduriencik never tips his hand before draft day, but the Brewers would probably love to fill an organizational hole at third base by selecting either the University of Nebraska's Alex Gordon or the University of Virginia's Ryan Zimmerman. In separate mock drafts conducted by MLB.com and Baseball America, those players were both gone in the first four picks and the Brewers selected outfielder Cameron Maybin out of T.C. Roberson High School in Arden, N.C.
In each of his first five drafts, Zduriencil pounded home a simple philosophy: Take the best player available, regardless of position. Now that the organization's Minor League system is back on track, is there room to stray from that ideal and draft based on need?
"You have to consider everything,' Zduriencik said. "You have to consider where you're at as an organization. You have to consider what the draft offers you this year. Every year it's different. Last year, it was pitching-heavy, and if you went in there wanting to take a position player, and that need wasn't available, you might have been foolish taking the 12th-best player in the draft when you could have had the fifth-best player in the draft. A lot of things are considered."
Scouts begin arriving in Milwaukee for meetings on Saturday night, and the draft board will start falling into place beginning Sunday. "Signability" is always a factor for teams like the Brewers, but according to Zduriencik, new owner Mark Attanasio has not established any set parameters for draft spending.
"I think if you look at how the bonuses are paid out -- that information is public -- we've not been short in any of those areas," Zduriekcik said. "We've gone out and signed the players that we drafted."
During Zduriencik's tenure, Brewers first-round picks have included Krynzel (2000), Mike Jones (2001), Prince Fielder (2002), Rickie Weeks (2003) and Rogers. All but Weeks were drafted out of high school. All but Jones, who is out for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery, is currently at Triple-A Nashville.
Rogers was one of eight pitchers to go in the first 10 selections. That probably will not be the case this year.
"It's completely different from last year's draft," Zduriencik said. "Last year, all anyone talked about was pitching. It was just a pitching-heavy draft. This year, it's a combination of a lot of things. There's some pretty good-looking high school players, both position and pitchers. And college players, at the top of the draft especially, are position players. It's kind of a nice mix this year."
Zduriencik cannot help but take pride in the professional success of players like Hardy, Weeks and Fielder.
"In my business, certainly you take pride in what you're doing," he said. "You are expected to be good. We're not expected to take somebody whom we scratched our head on five years from now.
"So do I expect the guys we draft, especially high on the board, to be good players? Of course I do. If they're not it's more of a disappointment, and we've had our disappointments. That hurts me more than anything."
BREWERS DRAFT HISTORY
The Brewers have never been shy about drafting high schoolers and waiting for them to develop. Under scouting director Jack Zduriencik for the past five drafts, the Brewers gave picked three position players and two pitchers, and four high schoolers versus one college player.
LAST THREE TOP PICKS
Mark Rogers, RHP, 2004, Pick #5: The team gambled on Rogers, a high school right-hander from Maine, which is not exactly a draft hotbed. But they liked his makeup and poise and the fact that Maine's relatively short seasons left Rogers with a "young arm" compared to others his age. He is a long-term project.
Rickie Weeks, 2B, 2003, Pick #2: Picked No. 2 overall, and the real decision was up to the Devil Rays at No. 1. When Tampa Bay picked B.J. Upton, the Brewers pounced on Weeks, their first collegiate first-rounder since Ben Sheets in 1999. He has tremendous bat speed and his Triple-A manager projects him as a 30-40 home run guy in the Majors.
Prince Fielder, 1B, 2002, Pick #7: While others questioned his fitness, the Brewers happily plucked Fielder with the seventh overall pick and he has blossomed into a can't-miss prospect despite being one of the younger players in each of the leagues he has terrorized. He is much more athletic than his father, former Tigers slugger Cecil, and will probably be a better hitter for average.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.