Five Players Who Might Not Have Been Brewers With a Five-Round Draft
This year’s MLB draft was shortened to just five rounds. Imagine if these players never got drafted and possibly never ended up playing for the Brewers.
One of the great things about Major League Baseball is that talent, at times, can seemingly come out of nowhere. From mid and late-round draft picks to unsigned free agents, players in all kinds of circumstances have shown the ability to make it to The Show against all odds
As recently as last year, there were 40 rounds in which teams could find diamonds in the rough that could hopefully be developed into big league contributors. Unfortunately, this year the league and the MLB Players Association agreed to shorten the 2020 first-year player draft to just five rounds.
There are a number of key contributors to the Brewers over the years who were drafted after the fifth round, whether by the Brewers or another team. If the draft had only ever been five rounds long, would these five players have ever etched their name in Milwaukee Brewer history?
Cecil Cooper – 6th Round, 1968 – Boston Red Sox
Cecil Cooper would have just missed the cut had the draft only had five rounds in 1968. Who knows if he would’ve been signed as a minor league free agent? Either way, the Brewers are probably glad he got the opportunity to be drafted, even if it wasn’t by them.
Cooper’s career took off once he was traded to the Brewers. In 11 years, he made five All-Star teams, won three Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves, and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four straight years. All that was on the heels of 201 homers, 944 RBI, and an .809 OPS. His 30.8 career bWAR as a Brewer is the fourth highest in team history.
Jim Gantner – 12th Round, 1974 – Milwaukee Brewers
Jim Gantner lived the dream that many kids from Wisconsin who are baseball fans act out in their backyards. From Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and would get drafted by the Brewers, where he ended up spending his entire career.
Gantner had a relatively average career with Milwaukee. In 17 years, he slashed .274/.319/.351, had 47 career home runs, and had an OPS+ over 100 just once. But his longevity resulted in a bWAR of 22.4, which is eighth highest all time for a Brewer hitter. He also was the primary second baseman for so many of the great Milwaukee teams of the 80s, including the ’81 and ’82 teams, which were the first playoff teams in franchise history.
Craig Counsell – 11th Round, 1992 – Colorado Rockies
Counsell spent most of his career in a non-Milwaukee uniform. After stints with the Rockies, Marlins, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, a year with the Brewers, and then back to the Diamondbacks, the wiry infielder spent the final five years of his career in Milwaukee, eventually transitioning to a front office job with the franchise.
Counsell slashed a modest .241/.333/.326 as a player with the Brewers with 13 home runs and 217 runs scored in 711 games. However, he is really making his name for the franchise as the team’s current manager, the only manager who has taken the team to consecutive playoff appearances. Had he never been drafted, would he have been able to put together the baseball pedigree necessary to obtain his current role?
Josh Hader – 19th Round, 2012 – Baltimore Orioles
Josh Hader’s career is still in its infancy, but it is on track to be quite the impressive one. In just three years, he has a career 2.42 ERA, 0.850 WHIP, and 15.3 strikeouts per 9 innings. The flame-throwing lefty’s last two years have resulted in back-to-back All-Star appearances as well as back-to-back National League Reliever of the Year awards.
Who would’ve thought we’d be here considering how his career began? Hader wasn’t drafted until the 19th round by the Orioles, only to be traded a year later with their 2008 3rd round pick, L.J. Hoes, to the Astros for now-journeyman starting pitcher Bud Norris.
Nyjer Morgan – 33rd Round, 2002 – Pittsburgh Pirates
Nyjer Morgan showed that talent can be found very deep within the draft if you just know where to look. After being drafted all the way in the 42nd round out of high school by the Rockies in 1998, he improved his draft status to be taken in the 33rd round by the Pirates in 2002.
“Tony Plush” only played for seven seasons in the majors with just two of them being played in Milwaukee. But one of those seasons as a Brewer was in 2011, when he infamously knocked in Carlos Gomez in the 10th inning of the deciding game of the NLDS to walk off the Diamondbacks. If there were only five rounds when Morgan was drafted, who would’ve won that game for the Brewers?
The Brewers will get their chance at adding more talent to the organization next week when the 2020 MLB first-year player draft takes place. It’s just unfortunate that Milwaukee, and other teams, will only get five rounds to do so.