Brewers draft powerful bats in the first round
MILWAUKEE — With back-to-back picks in the first round — the second year in a row the Brewers have boasted two top-round picks — the Brewers selected Union High School (Wash.) catcher Clint Coulter with the 27th pick and Georgia Southern outfielder Victor Roache with the 28th pick.
The pair of position players were the first non-pitchers drafted by the Brewers in the first round since the team drafted Brett Lawrie in 2008.
And with a compensatory pick at 38th overall from Detroit for the Prince Fielder signing, the Brewers added another position player in Mitch Haniger, an outfielder from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, rounding out day one of the draft.
With three power bats in their first three picks of the draft, director of amateur scouting Bruce Seid said he was very pleased with how the first day of the draft went for the Brewers.
"We feel pretty good walking away from this today," Seid said. "Real good."
Coulter, a former state wrestling champion as a sophomore, had been connected to the Brewers for quite some time before the draft and worked out for Milwaukee last week. There is some speculation that Coulter could move from behind the plate, and he said on a conference call Monday that the Brewers did test his arm from the outfield in last week's workout.
And while he did admit that he's "not the greatest catcher," he'd like to get a shot at being a backstop in the Brewers organization. He said on the MLB Network draft broadcast that it would be "amazing" to get an opportunity to catch any of the Brewers' pitching staff.
"It's going to be whatever they want," Coulter said about changing positions. "My main focus is hitting. … I'm still learning the ropes back there … I'd definitely like a shot at it if they want to give it to me."
Seid made it clear that Coulter will get the opportunity to catch, as Brewers scouts said the potential is there for him to be a solid backstop at the major league level.
"We think he has every opportunity (to stay as a catcher)," Seid said. "He's not polished. He comes from the Northwest where the reps are far and few between. … This kid wants to catch. His goal is to be a major league catcher that will be an offensive-minded major league catcher."
Coulter has plus power and arm strength, and at 6'3" and 215 pounds, is one of the stronger, bulkier players in the draft's first round. Committed to Arizona State, Coulter was rated as Baseball America's No. 3 catcher before the draft. His high school coach, Tom Lampkin, was a major league catcher for 13 seasons, including one season with the Brewers (1993).
Despite his college commitment, the prep catcher sounded set on forgoing his college scholarship to sign with the Brewers, noting that he "wasn't trying to break the bank."
"Starting my pro career right now is definitely important to me," Coulter said. "Hopefully we can come to an agreement."
With the next pick in the draft, the Brewers selected Roache, one of the top power bats in the draft and Baseball America's second-rated corner fielder. In his sophomore season at Georgia Southern, Roache actually had the largest improvement in home run total of any player in college baseball from year to year, hitting 30 home runs in 2011 — the first college hitter at the Division I-level to hit 30 homers since 2003.
"This is a premier power type guy," Seid said of Roache. "We had probably three or four scouts see him last year and every one of our guys came back and said this is premium power-type guy who is athletic."
The reason Roache dropped down many draft boards, however, was due to the fact that he missed most of the 2012 season after breaking his left wrist diving for a fly ball in February. Surgery to repair the wrist required the insertion of six screws, two pins, and a metal plate to fix the problem, which resulted in him missing all but six games of the 2012 season.
Roache said in a conference call that his wrist is "feeling good," and that his doctor said he's "on the road to 100 percent recovery."
"It was very hard for me," Roache said. "Breaking my wrist six games into the season, it was hard pill to swallow. … I'm just glad I'm almost fully recovered and I can get back on the field soon."
It's not likely that Roach will be ready to play pro ball this summer, as he's still four to six weeks from being 100 percent, but he said he hoped to ease himself back in time for instructionals.
Roache's health was definitely a concern for the Brewers, but after the outfielder visited with Milwaukee team doctor William Raasch, that worry subsided.
"We were concerned based on the injury," Seid said. "But they gave the thumbs up. They were very satisfied what their findings were. … At this point, we feel very confident.
Milwaukee's final pick, Mitch Haniger, was the Brewers' third power bat drafted on Monday night with the 38th overall pick. An all-around athlete who had sparked some interest in high school as a standout wide receiver, Haniger hit .346 with 13 home runs and 64 RBI at Cal Poly last season. Seid said he could project as a center fielder, the position he currently plays at Cal Poly.
The Brewers' trio of picks in Monday's first round showed that they're serious about supplementing the power in their farm system, as all three players are plus power hitters. But general manager Doug Melvin said that pattern came from drafting with a best available strategy.
"You just take the best players you can get," Melvin said. "If there were pitchers on the board, they might have been in the loop, too. …I think we're balanced in the organization."
Milwaukee starts draft action in the second round on Tuesday with the 92nd overall pick.
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