Milwaukee Brewers: Is drafting Ethan Small a mistake?

The Milwaukee Brewers selected college lefty Ethan Small with the 28th overall pick. Did they make a massive mistake?

After selecting the top college bat in Keston Hiura in 2017, and a toolsy prep infielder in Brice Turang in 2018, the Milwaukee Brewers went for a college arm in 2019.

Ethan Small was rated in the Top-50 or Top-60 depending on the scouting service you’re looking at, but the Milwaukee Brewers took him with the 28th pick in the 2019 first-year player draft. The Brewers really, really need left-handed pitching in throughout their Minor League system, but could they have done better? Is this part of a larger strategy?

How does Small profile?

Small is a college senior who stands about 6′ 3″, weighs around 190 lbs., and throws left-handed. He doesn’t have the big fastball that college first rounders usually possess, but he does have a solid tool set.

He throws a fastball that sits in the 88-to-92 MPH range the majority of the time, but he also owns an very good change up, and what’s said to be a solid curve. He gets by with a deceptive delivery and impressive control, despite not lighting up a radar gun.

In 14 starts with Mississippi State in 2019, Small has a 1.84 ERA with an 8-1 record. He’s worked 83 innings, struck out 139, walked only 22, and surrendered six homers.

Any red flags?

Well, he used to throw really hard, but wasn’t quite the same after the Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the 2017 season. He actually lost a few ticks on his fastball after going under the knife.

Did the Brewers blow the pick?

It’s too early to tell? While there where a lot of exciting high school arms still on the board, and more than a few impressive prep hitters and college bats, the Milwaukee Brewers probably didn’t screw this up…if they can capitalize later in the draft.

Small is a 22-year old college senior. He red-shirted after the 2016 season because he needed surgery, and should have an extra year of eligibility, but what is he going to gain? A 23-year old fifth-year senior probably won’t shoot up the draft boards next year.

His choice is either sign with the Milwaukee Brewers, play overseas or in an independent league, or head back to college. The Brewers likely took Small with the 28th pick because he’ll sign for under slot value, and allow the team to spend elsewhere on a prep arm.

Next: Which needs do the Brewers have to address in the draft?

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They added a capable lefty starter who might not have been available at the 65th pick by taking him early, and try to snag a high schooler who fell a few dozen picks. It’s a bold strategy for a team that doesn’t have a ton of money to play with, but it could pay off. Taking Small at the 28th pick is a reach, but it’s a reach that could pay off. If the Milwaukee Brewers aren’t able to execute their strategy, this pick doesn’t look nearly as good.

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