I saw a tweet Saturday night along the lines of “If Ted Thompson were the Brewers’ GM, we’d have Sonny Gray.” It’s well documented that the Brewers have struggled horribly over the past half decade drafting and developing players. Such a dry spell makes it impossible to sustain success at the big league level for a market the size of Milwaukee. I decided to look back at the first rounds of the past few years and think about what could have been had the Brewers known the future of the players. Since the Brewers didn’t have a first round pick in 2013 (as well as next to nothing definitive being known about their futures) I am going to skip that year. I also did not include 2012 since little is known about their futures either.
2006: After drafting franchise player Ryan Braun in 2005, the Brewers followed that up with the flame-throwing and pot smoking RHP Jeremy Jeffress at #16 overall. Jeffress never lived up to his potential as a top of the rotation arm and has bounced around as a relief pitcher in the upper minors. I was surprised to find such little talent in the second half of the first round in 2006.
In this simulation the Brewers will draft RHP Ian Kennedy from USC. Kennedy has had an up and down career so far, but has shown that he can be a solid mid-rotation starter. When looking at the rest of the class, he is much better than the rest of the round which includes the likes of Matt Antonelli, Hank Conger, Daniel Bard, and Kyle Drabek as its “successes.”
2007: The Brewers drafted the main piece in the CC Sabathia trade, Matt LaPorta, with the #7 overall pick. Since this is my simulation and I make the rules, we get the fun of 2008 as well as whoever the Brewers would take with this pick. The 2007 draft post-Brewers’ pick is the polar opposite of 2006; there’s a slew of options here including Jason Heyward, Jarrod Parker, and Devin Mesoraco.
The best player remaining at #7 though was LHP Madison Bumgarner South Caldwell High School in North Carolina. Bumgarner has quietly turned himself into an ace-type pitcher out on the west coast. He’s posted ERA’s of 3.37 or less each of the last four years including a 2.77 in 2013.
2008: Much like with the Sabathia trade, we get both Marcum and whoever we draft here because my simulation, my rules. The Brewers drafted Brett Lawrie with the #16 overall pick in 2008. Starting him out as a catcher, moving him to second base, and then third base. He now plays 3B for the Toronto Blue Jays.
This is kind of a boring one. In this simulation the Brewers draft IF/C Brett Lawrie from Langley, British Columbia, Canada. While Lawrie has had a bit of an up and down career so far, he appears to be a very solid everyday 3B with great defense, and still some upside left in his offense. If you want to see someone other than Lawrie, note that the best of the rest were the likes of Ike Davis and Andrew Cashner. I didn’t include Gerrit Cole since he went to UCLA instead of signing with the Yankees at 28.
2009: Asking Brewer fans about the 2009 draft usually doesn’t end well. We were compensation picked out of Mike Trout and ended up drafting Eric Arnett who had zero success at the professional level. I again invoke the my simulation, my rules clause to get us the 25th pick instead of the Angels. That means we get two picks in the first round, so I expanded the field of players available to include the supplemental 1st since our picks were so late.
With the 25th pick the Brewers select Trout from Millville High School, New Jersey. Everyone knows that Trout is the best player in baseball, and the comp process may have completely changed the landscape of baseball. Mark Teixeira being ever so slightly more valuable than Sabathia according to Elias cost Milwaukee the greatest player of the generation.
With the 26th pick the Brewers select LHP Tyler Skaggs from Santa Monica High School, California. Skaggs has had a fairly short career so far, but has been touted as a cog in what will be a very good Diamondbacks’ rotation in the future. Putting Skaggs into the rotation in 2014 and beyond would give Milwaukee a cost controlled, high upside arm. Doesn’t that sound really nice right about now?
2010: The Brewers drafted RHP Dylan Covey from Maranatha High School in California. He opted out of professional baseball and decided to go to college instead after learning he was diabetic. The talent in the 2o10 draft turned out worse than the 2011 one, so I’ll follow the Brewers’ real fortunes and take the pick in 2011.
2011: The Brewers went safe with their first pick (#12) of two in the first round of 2011. Unfortunately, no selection in the MLB Draft is “safe.” RHP Taylor Jungmann from Texas hasn’t had anywhere near the success the Brewers had hoped for. He has been struggling immensely to generate strikeouts, and appears headed for a career path similar to that of Kevin Correia. The second first round pick was LHP Jed Bradley from Georgia Tech (#15). Bradley has had a miserable minor league career thus far, and appears to be a total bust.
With the 12th pick the Brewers select RHP Jose Fernandez from Alonso High School in Florida. Fernandez took the league by storm in 2013 becoming one of the few bright spots on a terrible Miami Marlins team. If there is any sanity in the BBWAA (a stretch, I know), Fernandez should win the National League Rookie of the Year in a landslide. He appears to be well on his way to becoming an ace for years to come.
With the 15th pick the Brewers select Gray from Vanderbilt. If you saw the game Saturday night you know as well as I do that Gray is legit. If you didn’t, Saturday was Gray’s coming out party. He shut down the Tigers offense to help the A’s capture a 1-0 walk-off win. Gray lacks the prototypical height wanted in a starting pitcher, but has a lively fastball, a very good curveball, and appears to be a very capable #2/3 starter.
To provide some organization to this, here’s a rough outline of what this team would look like today (with 2013 WAR):
- CF Mike Trout (10.4)
- 3B Brett Lawrie (1.3)
- LF Ryan Braun (7.6*)
- C Jonathan Lucroy (3.6)
- RF Carlos Gomez (7.6)
- 1B Corey Hart (2.2*)
- SS Jean Segura (3.4)
- 2B Scooter Gennett (1.9)
- Madison Bumgarner (3.7)
- Jose Fernandez (4.2)
- Sonny Gray (1.5 in 12 GS)
- Yovani Gallardo (1.7)
- Wily Peralta (1.0)
*denotes 2012 WAR since 2013 was shortened or DNP
Assuming a bullpen total of 1.0 WAR (Brewers posted a 0.8 this year) and 1.0 WAR from the bench this Brewers team would total 52.1 WAR. The general rule is that a 0 WAR team would win approximately 42 games, which means this Brewers team should win around 94 games. What makes it more amazing is the only major monetary commitment on this team would be to Braun (or what we hope would be an extension to Trout). This is the perfect combination of a contender and a team for the future.
Of course it is virtually impossible to hit on all your draft picks like this simulation did. I had the benefit of knowing how these players would turn out. We have withstood what had been some horrific drafting the last half decade, so now you can see the other side of the coin.