The 2020 MLB Draft has concluded and the signing period for undrafted free agents has begun. The Milwaukee Brewers are getting in on the action.
With only five selections in this year’s draft, instead of the usual 40, the Brewers are going to be on the lookout to sign as many undrafted free agents as possible. Since UDFAs are limited to a maximum $20k signing bonus, convincing players to forego another year of college for such a small sum is a difficult task.
In a typical year, UDFAs and players in rounds 11-40 can sign for up to $125k without counting against the bonus pool. Losing out on that potential $105k is a big loss for players who are likely to spend a lot of time in the minor leagues where their yearly salaries are below minimum wage, but we’re not going to take a deep dive into the awful pay structure for minor leaguers.
Baseball America has their finger on the pulse for all these undrafted free agent signings and has a free signing tracker up for everyone to see. As of this writing, the Milwaukee Brewers have signed two undrafted free agents. Let’s take a closer look at them.
T.J. Shook, RHP, South Carolina
Everyone wanted the Milwaukee Brewers to grab some pitching in the draft, and now they’ve finally addressed the position, adding T.J. Shook from South Carolina.
Shook is a reliever, although he did start nine games for the Gamecocks his sophomore year. He spent all of 2020 in the bullpen and in the shortened season posted a 2.08 ERA in six appearances, covering 8.2 IP. In those innings, Shook struck out 16 and walked only two. For his college career, Shook has pitched 74 IP and has a 3.04 ERA.
Shook was a redshirt junior for South Carolina, so although he had another year of baseball eligibility, he was a senior in school and perhaps that played a role in him signing as a free agent.
As a college reliever, Shook has the ability to rise quickly through the minor league system once games start being played.
Drew Smith, INF, Grand Canyon U
Another toolsy, up the middle player that can hit? You bet. The Milwaukee Brewers love guys like that and Drew Smith fits that mold as well.
Baseball America had Smith as the No. 308 prospect on their Top 500 Draft board. Smith recently transferred to Grand Canyon University after spending the previous two years with Northeast CC in Nebraska and redshirting his freshman year at Creighton.
At Northeast CC, Smith raked like crazy. In his sophomore year, Smith had a .465/.538/.897 slash line with 18 home runs, 69 RBIs, and only 12 strikeouts. He was named the JUCO DII player of the year. In his career at Northeast CC, Smith had 29 home runs and just 26 strikeouts.
He transferred to the more competitive WAC conference and Grand Canyon U for the 2020 season. In just 18 games, Smith hit .315/.412/.466 with two homers, nine walks, and seven strikeouts.
Smith looks like a top of the order bat, although he hit in the three-hole for GCU. He gets on base at an extremely high rate, he makes a ton of contact, and he has some power.
For GCU, Smith mostly played second base and will likely have to stay there moving forward or become a utility man and play all over the place. But that bat will play and if he can continue to hit like that against better competition, he’ll force his way into a lineup.
There hasn’t been a large number of free agent signings across the board, certainly not enough to get teams to 40 players like a normal draft class. We’ll see if the Brewers can get any more additions moving forward.