MILWAUKEE—You have to excuse Jack Zduriencik if he feels a bit like a kid in a candy store.
During his previous eight years as the Milwaukee Brewers’ scouting director, Zduriencik never has had an extra pick in the draft. Not one.
In fact, because of free agent signings, the Brewers forfeited a couple of second-round picks over that period.
That’s what makes the 2008 draft so unusual and exciting for Zduriencik and the Brewers. Because Type A free-agent relievers Francisco Cordero (Reds) and Scott Linebrink (White Sox) signed with other clubs last winter, the Brewers picked up four extra picks before the end of the second round.
Beyond their own picks at No. 16 and No. 62 in the first two rounds, the Brewers have supplemental picks at No. 32 (Cordero) and No. 35 (Linebrink) after the first round, and selections No. 53 (Cordero) and No. 54 (Linebrink) in the second.
Six picks in the first 62! How have Zduriencik and his staff handled that rare bonanza?
“We’re trying to get as many looks as we can at every player,” said Zduriencik. “Everyone’s conscious that we have extra picks. We’ve worked really hard but we’ve always done that.
“It’s created a nice morale situation for the guys. They know we have a shot at some players we might not have had shots at in the past.”
Last year, the Brewers took Florida’s Matt LaPorta with the seventh overall pick, then didn’t select again until No. 102 because they had forfeited their second-round pick by signing free-agent pitcher Jeff Suppan the previous winter.
Despite having no extra picks prior to 2008, Zduriencik and his staff have been largely responsible for turning the Brewers into a contending team. First-round picks Prince Fielder (2002), Rickie Weeks (2003) and Ryan Braun (2005), and second-round picks J.J. Hardy (2001) and Yovani Gallardo (2004) were the primary building blocks around which the club was built.
Over the years, Zduriencik has steadfastly stuck to his philosophy of drafting the best player remaining on his board. Now that he has some extra picks, he doesn’t plan on changing what has worked for him.
“Everybody has needs,” said Zduriencik, who never tips his hand as to which player or players he covets. “I do think you’ve got to be careful and remember this isn’t the NFL or the NBA, where players go right to the top.
“You do have to look long-term and do what’s best for the organization. We’ll look at everything. You still have to take the best players. It will serve us better than getting cute and going for need.
“The best need is talent. That’s the way we look at it.”
While all of the premium players will likely be off the board before the Brewers make their first pick, Zduriencik believes there is enough depth to make some noise with the extra selections.
“Sometimes, a third-round pick ends up better than a first-round pick, so you have to do your due diligence,” he said. “If we do our job, maybe we can add some depth to our system. We’ve advanced a lot of guys to the major leagues.
“The bottom line is talent. Nothing changes.”