The MLB draft is like putting a coin in the slot machine when it comes to projecting the success of a player. It is almost impossible to know how a player will develop down the road. As often as first round picks develop into top flight talent, picks flop and never make it out of AA. The Brewers have had several first round talents over the past 20 years that have been great such as: Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Ben Sheets, and Rickie Weeks. Other times they have had great disappointments, like Jeremy Jeffress, Eric Arnett, and Antone Williamson. Looking at the way that some of the past drafts have turned out for the Brewers, here are some near misses that could have changed the face of the franchise.
In the 1991 draft, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Nomar Garciaparra with their fifth round selection. Nomar instead, decided to play at Georgia Tech. Three years later, the club had a chance to sign him again, this time with a first round pick. But they passed on the Georgia Tech superstar, instead selecting Antone Williamson. This pick was a colossal mistake.
Williamson, who was a top player at Arizona State University, (coincidentally the same college that General Manager Sal Bando attended) quickly became the Brewers top offensive prospect. These rankings however never amounted to on the field talent. In parts of seven minor league seasons, Williamson hit .271 with just 29 homeruns. Not the type of slugging numbers expected from a first round pick. As a Brewer he had just 54 at-bats all in the 1997 season. In these at-bats, Williamson batted just .204 with zero homeruns and a .259 slugging percentage.
Garciaparra on the other hand became one of the faces of baseball. He won a Rookie of the Year in 1997, two consecutive batting titles, silver sluggers, and appeared in all-star games. For years he was one of the toughest outs in baseball. During his 14 year career, Garciaparra batted .314 and smashed 229 homers. Adding his presence to the Brewers’ lineups in the ’90s would have made a world of difference.
In the 2004 draft the Brewers selected Mark Rogers with the 5th pick of the draft. The club saw him as the best high school arm out of the draft. With this selection they passed on Homer Bailey who was drafted two picks later by the Cincinnati Reds.
Coming out of high school, Rogers’ stat-line was amazing. He made snail-like progress through the minor leagues. He missed the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons due to shoulder issues. After a 2010 debut, he suffered another injury which sent him back to the minor leagues. Finally, he returned in the 2012 season. Rogers dominated in these starts posting a 3.92 ERA and striking out over a batter per inning. He pitched so well the club shut him down early to save from injury. But, these injuries quickly returned and he was not able to pitch the entire 2013 season.
While Rogers constantly battled to stay on the field, Bailey quickly advanced levels. Bailey was able to make his debut in 2007 at just 21 years old. While he struggled initially, he has improved with every year. He possesses a power fastball and he has seen a great improvement in his command. In 2007 he was averaging 5.6 walks per nine innings. With each year he has been able to lower these numbers, and he now holds a career 2.9 walks per nine innings. This improved command has helped him to lower his ERA, and throw two no hitters. This offseason he signed a 6 year contract extension with the Reds, and he is now the focal point of the Reds rotation. Rogers on the other hand, is looking for a job.
This may be the most frustrating draft pick that the Brewers have ever made. With the loss of C. C. Sabathia the Brewers could have had the 25th pick. However, a draft compensation rule hurt the team. Since the Yankees signed both C.C. Sabathia from the Brewers and Mark Teixeira from the Angels, the Angels got the 25th pick in compensation for their loss and the Brewers received a later pick in compensation for losing Sabathia. The Brewers also had the next selection in the draft where they instead selected Eric Arnett. Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt noted that Trout was rumored to be high on the Brewers board, and could have been their selection.
Eric Arnett has been injury prone and mostly unsuccessful in his minor league career. Trout however, has become arguably the best player in the game. He dominated the minor leagues right away and quickly ascended to the big leagues. Already he has won Rookie of the Year and has had numbers of a two-time MVP (he has finished second in the voting each year). Adding his five tool talents to an already loaded outfield, could have made their powerful lineup even more forceful.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference