Left-handed pitching isn’t a strength in the Milwaukee Brewers’ system. On Monday night, the Brewers added depth with their first two selections by drafting two college lefties in the MLB draft.
Most expected the Brewers to follow their recent mantra of selecting high-upside players in the early rounds of the draft. That wasn’t the case in the first round, though. The Brewers selected Mississippi State left-handed pitcher Ethan Small with the 28th overall pick.
Small, a 6-foot-3, 214-pound hurler, was considered a likely second-round pick entering Monday.
He missed the entire 2017 season with Tommy John surgery and declined a chance to embark on a professional career when the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him in the 26th round last year.
He’s been a consistent performer for Mississippi State and earned the SEC Pitcher of the Year award this season. He has a 1.88 ERA with 160 strikeouts and 27 walks allowed in 96 innings as a redshirt junior.
Small isn’t a hard thrower, as his fastball sits 86-92 mph. It’s his best offering and has generated swings and misses, despite the velocity, against college hitters. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot and hides the ball well throughout his delivery to give him deception.
His changeup is his second-best offering. He throws it with the same intent as his fastball and it has been an effective pitch in the mid-70s.
Small also throws a curveball. He needs to refine the pitch to make it a reliable outpitch in pro ball, but scouts believe it can be at least an average offering. Small has solid command and control and profiles as a back-end-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
He’s the first college hurler the Brewers have drafted in the first round since they selected Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley with the No. 12 and 15 picks, respectively, in 2011.
After drafting Small, who doesn’t possess significant upside, the Brewers selected left-hander Antoine Kelly of Wabash Valley Community College in Illinois with the No. 65 pick.
Kelly, a 6-6, 205-pound hurler, is a high-risk, high-reward prospect. The San Diego Padres drafted Kelly in the 13th round of last year’s draft, but he opted to attend college.
He posted a 1.88 ERA with 112 strikeouts and 31 walks allowed in 52 2/3 innings this spring.
He improved his draft stock throughout the spring due to his high-90s fastball. His slider needs refinement but has the potential to be at least an average offering in pro ball. He’s a two-pitch pitcher right now, as his changeup is a below-average offering.
The Brewers will have to be patient with Kelly. He has enormous potential but needs to improve his secondary offerings and refine his control and command.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for four years. He’s interviewed 133 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.