June Draft: Should Brewers’ take a reliever with their first pick?

In preparing for the MVN Mock Draft taking place right now where I will be drafting (read: guessing) how the Brewers and who the Brewers will pick with the 26th pick overall, I pondered, “What Would Doug Do?”  Of course, the debate over whether to pick for need or to take the best player available comes into play, but, having a later pick, I will speculate that Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin will try to fill the greatest organizational need.

Many Brewers’ fans will tell you that the parent club’s greatest need over the past three or four seasons has been relief pitching.  There has been a virtual turnstile in the closer’s role–from the semi-successful reclamation of Derrick Turnbow, followed by trading Nelson Cruz to the Rangers for an 8 month rental of Francisco Cordero, followed by the failed Eric Gagné experiment, and concluding in ’09 with the signing of the phenomenal, yet aging, Trevor Hoffman.  Even more changing has been the middle relievers–the once reliable Matt Wise stumbled in ’07 and left a year later; Salomon Torres was acquired last year, but decided to retire after just pitching one year for the Brewers.  David Riske was signed last year as a free agent, and has been up and down when he hasn’t been on the DL.  Todd Coffey seems to have been a good acquisition, while Carlos Villanueva and Seth McClung also have had some flashes of greatness in ’09.

But Doug Melvin is drafting for 2012 and beyond…so he’ll be looking to see what the Brewers have in their farm system to see if he can end the revolving bullpen door at Miller Park…and he’ll likely conclude that the Brewers do not need to spend a first-round pick to shore up their bullpen.  Based strictly on the numbers, the Brewers have several promising young arms in their farm system that are currently being used–successfully–as relievers:

AAA Nashville:

Chris Smith, RHP, age 28: 1-0, 1.16 ERA, 14 G, 23.33 IP, 3 BB, 26 K, 0.90 WHIP, 8 Saves: Smith was signed as a free agent in the off-season from the Red Sox organization, where he saw limited action in ’08 with the parent club; his K:BB of 26:3 thus far with Nashville will buy him a ticket to Milwaukee in September, if not earlier, and to Maryvale in 2010.

Dave Johnson, RHP, age 26: 1-0, 2.30 ERA, 11 G, 15.33 IP, 3 BB, 11 K, 1.09 WHIP, 1 Save: Johnson came up through the Brewers’ organization after being drafted in the 15th round back in ’04…also had K:BB of 72:27 last year for Huntsville.  Should also get called up in September if success continues.

AA Huntsville:

Four relief pichers are putting up good numbers at AA Huntsville this year: Juan Sandoval, Casey Baron, Donovan Hand, and Mike McClendon.  At least two of these should make it to AAA Nashville next year, and wind up on an MLB roster, potentially, as early as 2011.

A Brevard County:

First place Brevard County is being led by five strong relief pitchers: John Axford, Zack Braddock, Roque Mercedes, Brandon Rapoza, and Robert Wooten.

Unfortunately, some of these guys won’t make it to Milwaukee…but, odds are, some will continue their ascent and reach the parent club…so Doug Melvin won’t have to go shopping for relievers as much.

So, fellow MVN writers, it is safe to say that I won’t be selecting a closer or middle relievers in the mock draft…and I don’t think Doug Melvin is looking too seriously at a reliever for the Brewers’ #1 pick either.

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