Brewers eye pitching with No. 26 pick

Brewers eye pitching with No. 26 pick

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager Doug Melvin doesn't get into comparing his new amateur scouting director to his old one.

"It's not fair," Melvin said.

The new guy, Bruce Seid, will probably select pitchers early and often while running his first First-Year Player Draft beginning Tuesday, when the Brewers own the 26th overall pick. Seid, a veteran of Milwaukee's scouting operation, was elevated from a crosschecker position to replace Jack Zduriencik, who moved on to be general manager of the Mariners.

Zduriencik grew as popular in Milwaukee as many of the players he drafted, including first-rounders Rickie Weeks (2002), Prince Fielder (2003) and Ryan Braun (2005). But Melvin is quick to point out the Brewers' success as a result of those picks means they will be picking much lower, making Seid's task all the more difficult.

Teams make selections in reverse order of their record in the previous season, with American League and National League teams alternating picks.

"Bruce is not going to have the same Draft picks we've had in the past," Melvin said. "This is the latest Draft pick the Brewers have ever had, in the history of the franchise."

It matches the lowest pick. The Brewers also picked at No. 26 in 1993, when they took left-hander Kelly Wunsch out of Texas A&M, and 1983, when they took another lefty, Dan Plesac, out of NC State. Plesac was a three-time big league All-Star.

"Twenty-six is different than Rickie Weeks at No. 2 or Ryan Braun at No. 5," Melvin said. "It's a little tougher to pinpoint your players when you're picking later, so you have to be very thorough."

The Brewers do have plenty of early picks. They got less compensation than expected for departed free agents CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, but still own six selections before the end of the third round. Only two teams have more: The Angels (seven) and the D-backs (eight).

"I feel really good about what the guys have done this year," Seid said of his scouts. "There's a lot of passion here, and we've all been together, so we communicate and we want to get this done right."

MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft from June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 5 p.m. CT on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.

Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.

Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30 via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York at noon on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.

Seid and his staff, including assistant scouting director Ray Montgomery, another veteran of the Brewers front office, were in Milwaukee for a round of meetings early in the last homestand, then fanned out around the country for last looks at prospects. The group gathered again beginning Tuesday for final discussions, and Melvin joined on Thursday.

Here's a glance at what the Brewers have in store as the 2009 First-Year Player Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The Brewers chose a hitter with their first pick in six of Zduriencik's nine years at the helm, but they are focused on pitching this year. Zduriencik enjoyed success selecting position players, but he missed on some high-profile pitchers, most notably Mike Jones in 2001 and Mark Rogers in 2004. Both players are still in the system but have been dogged by injuries.

The scoop
"I'm a believer that you can find talent anywhere in this Draft. Some people say this Draft isn't as strong as past years, and my comment to that is that it isn't a strong Draft only if you pick the wrong players. We're going to try to pick the right ones." -- Seid

First-round buzz
It's all but impossible to predict a pick so low in the first round, and even Seid is left to guess who will still be available at No. 26. Under Zduriencik, the team never shied away from high school picks high in the Draft, including Yovani Gallardo in the second round in 2004. But this year, they are looking harder at more advanced players.

"If you have a guy and he's closer to the big leagues, and there's still some upside, and he's available, you would be foolish not to look at that strongly," Seid said.

Shopping list
The organization is decently stocked with second basemen and catchers, but could use outfielders at the lower levels.

"Bruce knows our system and what we need," Melvin said.

And above all, they need pitching.

"What I can say is this: We feel confident that there is some pitching out there that can help potentially re-shape our pitching down the road," Seid said. "I feel good that we have the extra picks and will be able to bring some arms into the organization."

Trend watch
Like Zduriencik before him, Seid will employ a "best player available" philosophy, and that means a mix of high school and collegiate picks, and a mix of pitchers and position players. Last year, 31 of the 54 picks were post-high-school age, and 34 of the 54 picks were pitchers.

Recent top picks
2008: The Brewers made Brett Lawrie the highest Canadian pick in Draft history when they took him at No. 16. The super-confident Lawrie spoke on Draft day about his desire to catch, but later in the year, after playing for the Canada's junior national team and then appearing in the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, he spent the fall instructional league working on a move to second base. He's off to a solid start to his pro career at Class A Wisconsin.
2007: Matt LaPorta was the seventh overall pick out of the University of Florida but would last only about a year in the Brewers system. He was the key to the package of players that tempted the Indians to trade Sabathia to the Brewers. LaPorta was on Cleveland's Opening Day roster this season but was optioned to Triple-A last week after batting .190 in the big leagues. He has a chance to be an outstanding Major League player, but Melvin says he would do the Sabathia deal again in a heartbeat.
2006: The Brewers are hoping that Jeremy Jeffress, the 16th overall pick, does not join their list of high school pitching busts. The hard-throwing right-hander served a 50-game suspension that spanned the end of 2007 and the start of 2008 for substance abuse and returned to win Milwaukee's Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award. He has taken a step backward this season, and was demoted from Double-A Huntsville to Class A Brevard County last month after a series of poor starts.

Rising fast
Outfielder Logan Schafer was Milwaukee's third-round pick just one year ago, but he has already made a mark on the organization. Schafer was the youngest of a handful of Minor Leaguers invited to join the Brewers for a pair of pre-season exhibition games in Los Angeles. He was assigned to advanced Class A Brevard County, and batted .319 with 20 extra-base hits in his first 39 games there.

Cinderella story
Taylor Green, Milwaukee's 25th-round pick in 2005 and the organization's Minor League Player of the Year in 2007, appears back on track after missing the start of the season while recovering from wrist surgery. He homered and drove in five runs in a brief, six-game tune-up at Class A Wisconsin before an assignment to Double-A Huntsville, where Green drove in 13 runs in his first 14 games.

In The Show
The only Brewers pick from the last three Drafts to reach the Majors is 2007 first-rounder LaPorta, and he did it with the Indians.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.