Brewers focus on hurlers on Day 2
Milwaukee selects 22 pitchers, 13 from high school ranks
MILWAUKEE -- Jack Zduriencik found himself feeling drained by the time the frenzied second day of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft concluded Friday evening.
"It was exhausting," said Zduriencik, the Brewers director of amateur scouting. "Everybody's excited, and you really are on a high at the time taking these kids."
Friday turned out to be the longest day in Draft history, with teams working through 45 rounds that lasted almost eight hours from start to finish. The Brewers ended up with a haul of 46 players over the two days, including 22 pitchers and 24 position players.
Zduriencik's eighth Draft with the Brewers netted eighteen selections from four-year colleges, six from junior or community colleges and 21 from high schools, with one other player not affiliated with any school.
"I think this is a very solid Draft for us," Zduriencik said. "We're very happy with what we've accomplished."
Zduriencik was feeling optimistic about his haul even before the Brewers made their first pick. The club beat the signing deadline and inked four players from last year's Draft to contracts, including speedy outfielder Lee Haydel and right-handed pitcher Chad Robinson. The players had attended community colleges as part of the "draft and follow" process.
"We thought that entering the Draft, we already put four guys in the fold that we're very excited about," Zduriencik said.
The Brewers then surprised many observers in the first round by selecting University of Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta, and then announcing they planned to move him to left field, a position he has not played regularly since high school.
LaPorta had a monster senior year in 2007, hitting .402 with 20 home runs, 52 RBIs and 55 walks. The slugger was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and a finalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation's premier amateur baseball player.
"With our depth in the Minor Leagues in the outfield, most of our outfield prospects are athletic-type players," Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin said. "We have Darren Ford, who steals 50-60 bases, Lee Haydel, Loranzo Cain. They are all athletic, center field-type players. To add a [power] bat to those types of players, we feel pretty good about the depth we have now."
|7||LaPorta, Matthew||U Florida||LF|
|101||Lucroy, Jonathan||U Louisiana Lafayette||C|
|131||Farris, Eric||Loyola Marymount U||2B|
|161||Gindl, Caleb||Pace HS||CF|
The Brewers completed their first-round haul on Thursday with three other positions players -- catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, second baseman Eric Farris from Loyola Marymount University and center fielder Caleb Gindl from Pace (Fla.) High School.
The Brewers spent the second day of the Draft loading up on pitchers, nabbing 22 hurlers with their 42 picks. The club finished the Draft with three catchers, two first basemen, one second baseman, four third basemen, five shortstops and nine outfielders before passing after the 47th round.
"We were very cognizant that we didn't get any pitching [on the first day]," Zduriencik said. "If it was close, we'd take a pitcher over a position player [on the second day]."
Staying true to his history of leaning toward high school talent, Zduriencik drafted more high schoolers than college players. Last year, he picked 21 high school players, compared to 17 from the college ranks and 11 from junior and community colleges.
The Brewers selected 13 high school pitchers of the 22 they picked this year, but Zduriencik said he wouldn't read too much into the trend.
"I think anybody would like what you can get to the big leagues as soon as possible," he said. "A lot of pitching had gone off the board. We took what in our estimation was the best available talent."
Under the new rules, teams have until Aug. 15 to sign their 2007 Draft picks. The Brewers made quick work of signing their first draftee, securing 20th-round pick Cameron Robulack with a $75,000 signing bonus, according to Baseball America's Draft blog.
Zduriencik said he expects to announce many more signings before the weekend is over. The scouting boss said he planned to call LaPorta on Saturday afternoon. LaPorta is advised by agent Scott Boras, who has a reputation for hard-line negotiating, but Zduriencik said he feels optimistic about working out a deal soon.
"We're making really good inroads with a lot of these guys," Zduriencik said. "[LaPorta] wants to play, and I've talked to the kid a couple of times myself. He's anxious to get going. I don't think we're going to have a problem there."
Other notable picks for the Brewers this year include 15th-round third baseman Joe Paciorek, the son of former Brewers outfielder Jim Paciorek, and 40th-round pitcher Jordan Tanner, the grandson of former Major League player and manager Chuck Tanner.
Milwaukee drafted a Wisconsin product, right-handed pitcher Cullen Sexton from Stevens Point High School, with its 43rd-round pick.
The Brewers also continued their trend of scouring the ranks of Canadian players, picking up three this year: 13th-rounder Christopher Dennis from St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School in LaSalle, Robulack from the Silverthorn Collegiate Institute and 29th-rounder Travis Nevakshonoff from DW Poppy Secondary School.
Melvin and assistant GM Gord Ash both hail from Canada.
"We've done a reasonably decent job at Canada," Zduriencik said. "This year, Canada was pretty good at the top of the Draft."
Generally, the Brewers do not draft based on organizational need, especially in the early rounds. Instead, Zduriencik sticks to a "best player available" philosophy and stocks the system with as much talent as possible.
After that, it is up to farm director Reid Nichols to develop that talent and Melvin to decide what to do with it.
"My philosophy has always been to take the best of something," Zduriencik said. "When we took Jeremy Jeffress last year, we thought he had the best fastball in the country. When we took Prince [Fielder], we felt he was the best hitter in the country. When we took Rickie [Weeks], we felt he was the best player in the country. So, in this particular case ... we got a guy [LaPorta] who we feel is one of the better power hitters in the country. ...
"Always, as a scouting director, my job is to help the general manager field a club as quickly and with as much quality as possible."
Kelvin Ang is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.