The MLB draft is the hardest draft to have success in out of the four major professional sports in the United States. Developing talent in the minor leagues is difficult and there is such a low success rate. But the teams who are consistently competitive typically develop talent from within.
In the last 10 years, the Milwaukee Brewers have had mixed results with their first-round draft picks. In recent years under general manager David Stearns, the Brewers have appeared to have better success at drafting and developing players, but the jury is still out on most of their first-round picks over the last five years.
Here’s a look at the Brewers’ first round-picks since 2010:
No. 14 overall: Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha HS (Calif.)
Covey didn’t sign with the Brewers and honored his commitment at the University of San Diego after being diagnosed with diabetes in a post-draft physical.
No. 12 overall: Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
No. 15 overall: Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech
Jungmann was a highly-regarded college pitcher coming out of Texas but didn’t make his major league debut until 2015. He made at least one appearance between 2015-17 with the Brewers but never panned out.
In 2015, the Brewers transitioned Bradley into a reliever after three average seasons as a starting pitcher. He never appeared in a game with the Brewers, who traded Bradley to Atlanta in 2016 where he made six major-league appearances.
No. 27 overall: Clint Coulter, C, Union HS (Wash.)
No. 28 overall: Victor Roache, OF, Georgia Southern
No. 38 overall: Mitch Haniger, OF, Cal Poly
The Brewers moved Coulter to the outfield after drafting him. Coulter experienced mixed results throughout his seven minor-league seasons, reaching Class AAA in 2018. The Brewers didn’t renew his contract after 2018, and he played in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball last year.
Roache was known for his raw power when he entered pro ball but struggled to produce at the plate. The Brewers traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017. He finished the season in the Dodgers’ organization before signing with St. Louis prior to 2018. He played in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball last season.
Coming out of Cal Poly, Haniger displayed solid power and defensive abilities. The Brewers traded Haniger to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a two-player deal for outfielder Gerardo Parra in 2014. Now with Seattle, Haniger has developed into a solid everyday player. He was an All-Star in 2018.
No first-round pick after signing free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse
No. 12 overall: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waiakea HS (Hawaii)
Coming out of high school, many scouts believed the Hawaiian lefty would be a reliever as a pro due to his unorthodox arm angle. He struggled in his five seasons with the Brewers before they dealt him with another prospect to the Chicago White Sox for reliever Joakim Soria in 2018.
No. 15 overall: Trent Clark, OF, Richland HS (Texas)
No. 40 overall: Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia
When the Brewers drafted Clark, who now goes by Trent Grisham, scouts considered him to be a well-rounded prep player. Grisham, 23, hit .231 with six home runs and 24 RBI in 51 games as a rookie last season for the Brewers. He filled in nicely for Christian Yelich, who suffered a season-ending injury in September.
But the season ended on a sour note for Grisham, who committed an error against the Washington Nationals in the wild-card game that allowed the eventual winning run to score in the Nationals’ 4-3 victory. The Brewers traded Grisham to San Diego in a four-player deal this offseason.
After pitching in five games, Kirby’s season ended with Tommy John surgery in 2015. He didn’t resume pitching until 2018 when he appeared at Class A Carolina and posted a 4.82 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 46 walks allowed in 71 innings between the starting rotation and bullpen.
Kirby missed all of the 2019 season after undergoing thoracic outlet surgery and then fracturing a rib. He was pitching in spring training this year.
No. 5 overall: Corey Ray, OF, Louisville
Ray was one of the top college position players in the 2016 draft, and scouts expected him to breeze through the minor leagues. That hasn’t been the case for Ray, though. He’s struggled to display the feel for hitting that scouts praised him for throughout his three years at the University of Louisville.
The 2019 season was another disappointing year for Ray, who hit .218 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 69 games between Rookie ball, Class AA and Class AAA. He struck out 106 times and drew just 27 walks in 292 plate appearances.
Ray doesn’t display the five-tool potential he did in college. He has posted high strikeout numbers and hit for low averages during his pro career. Ray, who’s nearly 26 years old, profiles more as a fourth outfielder in the majors.
No. 9 overall: Keston Hiura, 2B, UC-Irvine
Everyone knew Hiura could hit coming out of UC-Irvine as a junior in 2017. The one question was about his elbow injury and his future defensive position.
He was the first position player from the 2017 draft class to reach the majors when the Brewers called him up last season. Hiura hit .303 with 23 doubles, two triples, 19 home runs and 49 RBIs in 84 games. He struggled defensively, committing 16 errors at second base.
The Brewers knew Hiura was an offensive-minded player coming out of college, and so far, he has lived up to that reputation. He likely will never be anything more than average defensively, but offensively, he has the potential to be one of the best hitters in the game.
No. 21 overall: Brice Turang, SS, Santiago HS (Calif.)
Scouts considered Turang in a small group of players for the first overall pick in the 2018 draft before his senior season of high school baseball began. Although Turang performed well, scouts nitpicked him in the months leading up to the draft. It allowed the Brewers to select one of the best players in the draft with their first-round choice.
Turang started last season in Class A, an aggressive placement for a teenager in his first full pro season. He hit .256 with 19 doubles, six triples, three home runs, 37 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 129 games between Class A and Class A-Advanced. He projects as a potential All-Star caliber player in the major leagues.
No. 28 overall: Ethan Small, LHP, Mississippi State
Last year, the Brewers drafted a pitcher with their top pick for the first time since 2014. Small is a 6-3, 214-pound left-handed pitcher who missed all of 2017 with Tommy John surgery. He thrived last season at Mississippi State to put himself in first-round consideration, posting a 1.93 ERA, 176 strikeouts and 32 walks allowed in 107 innings.
He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot with some deception to his delivery. He relies on his low-90s fastball and solid changeup, which are both respectable offerings.
His curveball is loopy at times and needs to be refined to have success in the pros. He also has respectable command and above-average control.
Although he profiles as a back-end-of-the-rotation starter in pro ball, he excelled in limited work last year. He made seven starts, pitching in 21 innings, and recorded a 0.86 ERA with 36 strikeouts and four walks allowed between Rookie ball and Class A.
No. 20 overall: ??????
For almost two months, I have had the Brewers drafting Texas Tech right-handed pitcher Clayton Beeter in the first round in my mock drafts. The Brewers are high on the righty, according to multiple sources, and Beeter is a guy who is underrated in this year’s draft class.
Beeter has impressive TrackMan data and the potential to be one of the best pitchers from this year’s draft class. He has an electric repertoire that’s headlined by his mid-90s fastball and above-average breaking ball. Read an in-depth feature story on Beeter here.
If the Brewers don’t draft Beeter, they have multiple avenues they could go, including a prep player that slides down the draft.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 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.