Brewers Draft Report
By Drew Olsen
MILWAUKEE--Cecil Fielder made his mark on Milwaukee baseball history by becoming the only man to hit a baseball completely out of now-demolished County Stadium.
Now, it's his son's turn.
The Brewers selected husky high-school first baseman Prince Fielder with the seventh pick in the first round of the draft. Fielder, an 18-year-old standout from Eau Gallie High in Melbourne, Fla., is listed at 6 feet and 255 pounds--a shade shorter and a little heavier than his father was at that age.
The Brewers, who envision Fielder as a potential successor to Richie Sexson, are confident his weight--which has soared as high as 300 pounds--won't be an issue.
"Once he gets into our program, we're going to be pretty strict with him about that," scouting director Jack Zduriencik said. "He's a better athlete than you might think. He's a big, strong kid. He's got some running ability. He's got some agility. We've seen a progression the past few years.
"I think he'll blossom in professional baseball. He'll certainly be a major league player."
"It's not really an issue for me," Fielder said of his size. "I went from 7.2 (seconds) in the 60 (yard dash) to 6.8. I'm going down somewhere. To run a 6.8 at any size is pretty good, especially at my size. That's all I can do is work as hard as I can."
Unlike his father, a three-time all-star and former American League home run champ, the younger Fielder bats lefthanded. He was rated by Baseball America as the top first baseman available in the draft and the 24th-best prospect overall.
"We liked this kid all along," Zduriencik. "We've known him for three years. We've seen an awful lot of him in many different circumstances. It was a tough bat to pass up. Any time you can add power to an organization, it's tough to pass up."
Fielder was glad the Brewers didn't. "It's a great day for me," he said. "It's a dream come true for me, really, to be drafted in the top 10."
As a senior at Eau Gallie, Fielder hit .524-10-41 in 82 at-bats. He had 13 doubles, one triple and scored 47 runs. Though he's said to be a decent fielder and a better-than-expected runner, it was Fielder's power that made him attractive to the Brewers.
"When you're picking where we were picking, you hope to get the best of something in the draft," Zduriencik said. "You want the best pitcher, the best middle infielder--something of that nature. In all of our estimations, we felt this was the best bat. Some of the pitching is gone. A real nice middle infielder went ahead of us. (We thought) "Here is the best bat in the country, and in our estimation the best power guy. Let's roll with it."
Fielder is no stranger to the big league lifestyle. He spent much of his childhood hanging around ballparks with his father, who will represent him in contract negotiations, and showcased his power potential several times on big league fields.
Bill Lajoie, the Brewers' senior adviser in baseball operations, was general manager of the Tigers when Cecil Fielder signed with Detroit out of Japan in 1990. Many fans wondered why Lajoie gave Fielder $3 million over two years--but 51 homers later that season, people marveled at the bargain.
Cecil Fielder went on to average 37 homers a season from 1990-96, pushing his 13-season home run total to 319.
Because of Lajoie's association with the Fielder family, there was some speculation leading into the draft that the Brewers would pick Fielder.
"Bill had input, without a doubt," Zduriencik said. "Bill was able to give us a great background on the family. Bill knows Cecil very well. He's known the kid (Prince) for a number of years. So, outside of us evaluating his ability, when we needed any information Bill was always there to say, 'This is what I know about the family.'
"We felt very comfortable with our decision."
Although first-round picks always feel a lot of pressure in the minor leagues, the spotlight on Fielder will be even brighter because of his bloodlines. Zduriencik said the Brewers aren't worried about the extra scrutiny distracting him.
"In some ways, that was a way that we felt real comfortable with this kid," he said. "He's been around the game his whole life. He's not going to be in awe of walking out on a professional baseball field for the first time. That's not going to happen. He's been on major league fields and he's played catch with major league players and has watched his dad go through this. I think that works to his advantage not his disadvantage.
"We call it the ride--from the day you sign to the (day you reach the) major leagues--he's going to handle the ride. He's not going to be in awe of anything. When he gets with us, he's going to be a dedicated kid."
After Fielder, the Brewers took Tampa high school shortstop Josh Murray in the second round, continuing a trend that saw them take position players with four of their first five picks.
Eric Thomas, a righthander from South Alabama, was the third-round pick, and outfielder Nic Carter of Campbell University and Jarrad Page, a shortstop from San Leandro (Calif.) High, went in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively.
Khalid Ballouli, a righthander from Texas A&M, started a run of four straight pitchers that ended when catcher Jeremy Frost was taken in the 10th round.
In their first 20 picks, the Brewers took 11 pitchers and nine position players. Eight of the pitchers taken were from the college ranks.
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