Brewers take high school righty with 54th pick
Club happy Williams slipped to them in second round of First-Year Player Draft
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers waited through more than four hours of selections before finally calling some names on Day 1 of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
Now they will patiently wait some more.
Without the first-round selection they surrendered in order to sign Kyle Lohse, the Brewers swung for the fences by selecting a pair of high school players late Thursday -- right-handed pitcher Devin Williams from Hazelwood, Mo., at No. 54 overall and shortstop Tucker Neuhaus from Wharton, Fla., at No. 72.
Williams, 18, was drafted in the second round at 10:18 p.m. CT, Neuhaus, 17, with a competitive balance pick some 20 minutes later. Williams has a college commitment to Missouri should he not sign, and Neuhaus to Louisville, but amateur scouting director Bruce Seid and general manager Doug Melvin each expressed optimism that both would sign soon and begin their professional careers.
"Williams was much higher on our board than where we picked him," Melvin said. "Some teams take a lot of college players, some teams [have varying numbers of selections]. It's all over the board when it comes to that, but we liked both of these guys. They were talked about a lot.
"When you're at 54, you can't zero in like you can at 10, 12 or 15, where you can pretty well zero in within three or four of our picks. At 54, there's a long list of guys, and you're just sitting and hoping that they are still going to be there. You're more anxious with these picks than you would be if you had the 10th pick."
On the other end, Williams was just as anxious. He had hoped to be drafted in the first round.
"I actually thought I would be off the board before [the Brewers] picked," Williams said, "but I know they had been pretty interested. They sent a lot of people to see me play this spring, and I'm happy to be their first pick. ... I was pretty surprised. I thought I would go there at the end of the first round, but I'm happy with where I went."
Does that mean he could be a tough sign? Williams has a scholarship waiting for him at Missouri.
"No, I don't think I will be that tough of a sign," Williams said. "I'm ready to get my pro career started."
The Brewers' buzzwords on Williams were "athleticism" and "upside." Most scouting reports used the word "projectable" to describe the 6-foot-3, 165-pounder, who throws a fastball in the low- to mid-90s, a slider, changeup with fade and curveball.
Williams touched 96 mph at a pre-Draft workout for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, but he mostly pitched at 90-94 mph during his senior season, going 6-1 with a 1.02 ERA and one save in nine games, with 93 strikeouts in 48 innings and a .102 opponents' batting average.
Asked about his jump in velocity, Williams cited, "Good offseason training. I do a lot of training with my pitching coach from my summer team [Brian Delunas], and he's one of the best in the game. We've got six players who have hit 92 [mph] or above, so I definitely give him a lot of credit."
Twenty-seven of the 30 Major League teams sent officials to the Williams home for meetings, and the Cardinals hosted him at the stadium earlier this spring. The Red Sox and Yankees were interested enough to send a psychiatrist to provide an evaluation. The Braves and Nationals were the only two clubs not to schedule a personal visit.
The Brewers had blanket coverage on Williams starting with area scout Harvey Kuenn Jr., son of the legendary Brewers manager. Seid saw Williams pitch on multiple occasions, as did national pitching crosschecker instructor Jim Rooney.
"He wants to succeed," Seid said. "I remember seeing him in a game where he had to pitch to the last pitch to win the game, 1-0, in the state tournament, and he used all of his arsenal. He pitched like a pitcher, and he showed good stuff, and he was really athletic. To say we're happy he got to us -- I'm really excited about it."
It is the second time in four years that the Brewers used their top Draft pick on a prep pitcher, but the last, right-hander Dylan Covey in 2010, did not sign after being diagnosed with Type A Diabetes.
Neuhaus, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, is a left-handed hitter with a history of overcoming obstacles. He had battled injuries, starred for a Florida high school team that went 0-10 in its regular season and played all season while mourning the death of his older brother, Tyler, who was killed in an automobile accident in November.
Milwaukee was allotted a pool of $3,944,600 to sign its first 10 selections, third-lowest of the 30 Major League teams, including an assigned value of $1,017,300 for the 54th overall selection and $771,000 for No. 72. If a team exceeds its total for its first 10 selections, it faces financial penalties of the loss of future picks.
Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 11:30 a.m. CT And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at noon CT.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Brewers fans will have an eye on two players in the coming years: Mississippi prep outfielder Tim Anderson, who went to the White Sox at No. 17 overall, the pick owned by Milwaukee before the Lohse signing, and New Jersey prep left-hander Rob Kaminsky, who went to the Cardinals at No. 28, the pick they received as compensation for losing Lohse.
In the Pipeline: Where do Williams and Neuhaus fit? Fresh out of high school, they will head to the bottom of the Brewers' farm system if they sign, beginning the foundation of what club officials hope is another layer of talent.
Seid believes the Brewers have pitching at the upper levels of the system that will make it to the Majors, starting with Johnny Hellweg and Jimmy Nelson at Triple-A Nashville, Taylor Jungmann and Drew Gagnon at Double-A Huntsville and Jed Bradley and David Goforth at advanced Class A Brevard County. The progress of those players allowed Seid to take a pair of high-ceiling players on Day 1 of the Draft Thursday.
Following rough season, Neuhaus picked by Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- When the Brewers selected prep infielder Tucker Neuhaus on Day 1 of the First-Year Player Draft, two picks from the end of a long night, it marked a fresh start for a player coming off a trying few months.
Neuhaus, a left-handed hitter who turns 18 in two weeks, missed most of his senior season at Wharton (Fla.) High School with injuries, including a ruptured eardrum suffered with Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid in the stands and a right quadriceps strain that dogged him much of the spring. He played for a team that was 0-10 in the regular season.
However, those troubles paled in comparison to his personal loss. Neuhaus' older brother, Tyler, was killed in an automobile accident in November.
"It really just made me tougher mentally," Tucker Neuhaus said. "Adversity builds character, and a lot of kids don't go through that type of adversity at this kind of age, or really ever, in their life. I knew that right away it's only going to be one more thing that lights the fire every morning. ...
"When I go through adversity in the Minors and the Majors, it's not going to compare to what I've already been through. I try to be positive with almost everything. It's a terrible thing that happened, but at the end of the day I try to look at it as a positive."
Neuhaus was the second pick of the Brewers on Day 1, going No. 72 overall in Competitive Balance Round B. The team's top selection was in the second round, right-hander Devin Williams of Hazelwood (Mo.) West High School at No. 54 overall.
Area scout Tim McIlvane brought Neuhaus to the attention of the Brewers. Neuhaus was coached in high school by Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. At some point in the process, the team called in one of its pro scouts, Cory Melvin, the son of Brewers general manager Doug, to add his own evaluation.
The team took one last look this week. Neuhaus was already on a Midwest tour, with a workout for the Royals in Kansas City on Sunday, for the Twins in Minneapolis on Monday and for the Cubs in Chicago on Tuesday morning. On Monday afternoon, McIlvane requested that Neuhaus make Tuesday a doubleheader. After his morning session at Wrigley Field, he hustled up to Miller Park.
"That work paid off -- it did everything for me," Neuhaus said. "I went over there for a private workout and got to hit on the field and meet all the guys. That was just a blast. Walking out of there, I remember saying to my dad, 'I don't know what it was about Miller Park, but that was my favorite out of all of them.'"
He remembered another conversation from weeks earlier, when he was called over to the fence by a stranger who apparently knew about Neuhaus' family tragedy and injury woes.
"He just said, 'It's good to see you have a smile on your face, that shows a lot about you,'" Neuhaus said. "I said, 'Thank you, sir,' and right at the end, he goes, 'By the way, I'm the scouting director with the Brewers.'
"That was the first time I really met [Seid]. The first impression was that after all the adversity, I was still staying positive. I think that first impression really helped me with Bruce."
His baseball tools helped. Seid sees Neuhaus as a left-handed hitter with power who could also hit for average.
"We did a good job scouting him early in the year and in the showcases," Seid said. "That's where we originally laid eyes on him. I saw him [at a showcase] and looked at my notes, and it said this was a good-bodied kid with a good swing. When our scouts started pumping reports in on him and said this is a guy we really need to keep an eye on, it all started to come together."
Neuhaus has a college commitment to Louisville, but sounded very eager to begin a professional career. He is represented by agent Barry Meister.
"My area scout came over today and we just talked about everything that's going to go down in the next few days and the summer," Neuhaus said. "My agent and advisor, I think, are just doing a little bit of negotiations right now, but I think that's going to be probably over by the end of the day. Hopefully I'll sign [Saturday] or Sunday and be out in Arizona by Tuesday."
If he does sign, he will begin his professional career as a shortstop, Seid said.
"There's a chance," Seid said. "I wouldn't rule it out. I'm not saying that's his ultimate position, but he's got good hands, he's got good feet and a good arm. When we sign him, we're going to send him out as a shortstop and see how far it goes. Worst-case scenario, he ends up as a pretty darn good third baseman."