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What was the best Brewers draft of the last 20 years?


ClosetBrewerFan

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I compiled data on each of the last 20 drafts to see how many players reached the majors and how they fared.  It was interesting to see how few players made it.  In this blog, I will evaluate each draft by career WAR of the players and by a somewhat subjective evaluation of talent as described below. 

  • All Star - Player made the MLB All star team
  • Regular - Player was a starter for at least two years
  • Role Player - Part time player
  • Callup - Player had limited playing time each year he was called up

This will be a multi-post article due to the amount of content I have.  Let’s start with 2002 and a very memorable first round selection.  

Note: In parentheses are their career WAR as calculated by Baseball Reference.

2002, draft order - 7th, 42 players selected

  • All Star - Prince Fielder (23.8)
  • Regular - Tom Wilhelmson (4.8), Craig Breslow (6.3)
  • Role - Dana Eveland (-1.5), Tim Dillard (-0.6)
  • Callup - Callix Crabbe (-0.5)

The 2002 draft was the start of the Brewers revival in my mind.  Initially a controversial pick due to his physique, Fielder was a mainstay in the Brewers lineup starting in 2006, playing nearly every game each season. A couple of pitchers were able to become regulars in the majors with other organizations.  Dim Tillard had middling results in the majors but made his mark more with his off-field videos and now on the broadcast team.


2003, draft order - 2nd, 50 players selected

  • All Star - Rickie Weeks (11.5)
  • Role - Tony Gwynn Jr. (5.1), Mitch Stetter (0.6), Carlos Corporan (0.4)
  • Callup - Ty Taubenheim (0), Drew Anderson (-0.1)

The Brewers had the second overall pick in the 2003 draft and used that on Rickie Weeks. Though he had his flaws, in hindsight, that probably was the right choice.  Delmon Young, who was picked 1st overall, had a career WAR of 3.2.  The 3rd, 5th, and 6th picks were busts and did not make the majors.  The best player of the 1st round was Nick Markakis (6th, 33.6 WAR), though can't blame the Brewers as Young and Weeks were the clear top favorites.  Five other Brewer picks made the majors, with limited success.  Tony Gwynn Jr was an OK backup OF, but only had a career 619 OPS.  Capt. Lou Palmisano (AKA WOAH SOLVDD) was drafted in the 2nd round but never lived up to the hype and the most memorable Brewerfan post of all time.

2004, draft order - 5th, 50 players selected

  • All Star - Yovani Gallardo (19.2), Lorenzo Cain (38.4)
  • Callup - Mark Rogers (1), Angel Salome (0)

Only four Brewers picks made the majors but they made the most of them.  Gallardo was the Ace of the staff for many years, and Cain (draft and follow pick) ended up partially netting us Zack Greinke.  Lorenzo came back to the Brewers later on and provided 11.6 WAR in his 5 years along with great defense and team leadership.  Fifth overall pick Mark Rogers got nine starts over two seasons but injuries ruined his career.


2005, draft order - 5th, 49 players selected, no 2nd round pick

  • All Star - Ryan Braun (47.1), Michael Brantley (34.1)
  • Role - Zach Braddock (0.2)
  • Callup - Matt Gamel (-0.2), Steve Garrison (0), Taylor Green (-0.3)

A dominant draft in 2005 resulted in two stars in Braun and Brantley.  Aside from Braun’s suspension, he was the face of the franchise for over 10 years.  He also made an immediate and significant impact within 2 years of being drafted.  He goes down as one of our best and most controversial Brewers.  Brantley ended up being a throw-in to the Sabathia trade and he still continues to perform with other organizations.  Five All-stars selections and he is still going strong.  His career WAR could still go up (or down).  There was so much promise with Braddock, Gamel, and Green though they never were able to truly succeed in the majors.  They lost their second round pick due to the Damien Miller offseason signing.  The 2005 draft was loaded with a ton of stars drafted in the top 10 picks (Upton, Gordon, Zimmerman, Tulowitzki), but Braun has the highest career WAR.  McCutchen (picked 11th overall) has the second highest career WAR of 46.3 and will likely pass him up (hopefully this year as a Brewer).

2006, draft order - 16th, 50 players selected

  • All Star  - Jeremy Jeffress (8.8)
  • Role - Cole Gillespie (-0.6)
  • Callup - Mike McClendon (0.3)

The on-field success in the majors in 2005 resulted in the first non-losing season in 13 seasons, and also a lower draft pick.  Even though they still drafted 16th, the Brewers got little out of the draft.  There were a few stars from the 2006 draft, with Scherzer, Kershaw, and Longoria all picked before us.  Ian Kennedy (21st pick, 18.5 WAR) may have been a better first round choice than Jeffress, but only slightly.  Jeffress was an all star but only after returning to the Brewers as a free agent.  He was a big part of the Greinke trade and later went to Texas for Brinson and Ortiz.  Most of his success was with his three separate tours with the Brewers.  

With only 3 total players making the majors, 2006 was a very disappointing draft.  The rest of the players picked are a list of names you probably never heard of. 

2007, draft order - 14th, 46 players selected, no 2nd round choice

  • All Star - Jonathan Lucroy (17.7)
  • Role - Matt LaPorta (-1), Eric Fryer (0.8), Donovan Hand (0.9)
  • Callup - Eric Farris (-0.1), Caleb Gindle (0), Zealous Wheeler (0)

The 2007 draft resulted in seven major leaguers though few had success save for All star Lucroy.  First round selection LaPorta had little success in the majors but helped net Sabathia. We could have chosen Madison Bumgartner who went three picks later and signed for the same bonus ($2M).  The Brewers lost their second round selection due to the disastrous Jeff Suppan signing, though the Cardinals got nothing from that compensation pick.  The Brewers 3rd and 4th picks (Farris and Gindle) made the majors but only for a cup of coffee.

These six drafts were significant in the Brewers becoming competitive again in the late 2000’s after such a long dry spell.  They also fed so much Brewerfan discussion including making the Power 50 feature easier to fill out and far more interesting.

Stay tuned for more blog entries that will cover the drafts from 2008 through the 2020's.  I will finish it with a final summary and analysis of all 20 drafts as well as an answer to which was the best draft.

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Great entry, thanks for the read!

Also, I had no idea Tony Gwynn Jr had five career WAR. I didn't realize he was that productive in his career.

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On 7/23/2022 at 2:30 PM, Brock Beauchamp said:

Great entry, thanks for the read!

Also, I had no idea Tony Gwynn Jr had five career WAR. I didn't realize he was that productive in his career.

That had to be all centerfield defense driving it.  Didn't have much with the bat. 

Interesting to know that Braun had more career WAR than anyone in his draft.  There was so much discussion comparing him with Gordon and Zimmerman.  

And yes... I was happy Cleveland chose Brantley over Green...at the time.  Ouch.

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1 minute ago, CheezWizHed said:

That had to be all centerfield defense driving it.  Didn't have much with the bat. 

Interesting to know that Braun had more career WAR than anyone in his draft.  There was so much discussion comparing him with Gordon and Zimmerman.  

And yes... I was happy Cleveland chose Brantley over Green...at the time.  Ouch.

Yeah, without looking I'm assuming that's CF defense-driven. He was... not like dad... with the bat.

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A little late to the party. I like the series, but I just want to say, I have seen Brantley called a throw-in a couple of places lately, and that simply isn’t the case. PTBNL does not necessarily mean throw-in. He was the No. 2 piece in the deal. He was a PTBNL because how the Brewers did determined how good that No. 2 piece would be.

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