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Baseball America Online - College

Brewers Opt For Braun

June 7, 2005
By Tom Haudricourt

MILWAUKEE--In watching Miami’s Ryan Braun make the transition from shortstop to third baseman, the Milwaukee Brewers concentrated on what he did right rather than what he did wrong.

"We’ve watched him extensively the last six weeks, and particularly the last couple of weeks, he has played very well defensively,” scouting director Jack Zduriencik said.

With Braun already a proven commodity with the bat, the Brewers had few or no reservations in making him the fifth pick in the first round of the 2005 draft. And it certainly didn’t hurt that the Brewers had a need at that position in their farm system.

“You always have needs,” Zduriencik said. “You never know what a year or two can do to change the complexity of your ball club. But, if you look at our minor league system, he fits nicely.”

In an extraordinary year for college third basemen in the draft, Nebraska’s Alex Gordon, Virginia’s Ryan Zimmerman and Braun were expected to go quickly, and that’s exactly what happened. Kansas City took Gordon with the second pick and Washington tabbed Zimmerman at No. 4, leaving the Brewers with a somewhat easy decision.

Some scouts who saw Braun, 21, were not as convinced that he projected as a major league third baseman. Instead, there was talk about having to move the righthanded power hitter to the outfield.

But Zduriencik said he fully expected Braun to remain at third base in the Brewers’ system.

“We’ve watched him since high school,” Zduriencik said. “They switched him from short to third because they felt it made the club better. Early in the year was a transition period for him. We’re real excited about how well he made that transition.

“The switch from shortstop to third base is not an easy transition. It was just a matter of him getting comfortable. He’s got a lot of tools.”

The Brewers had a quick opportunity to see how Braun measured up to Gordon, with Miami playing at Nebraska in the NCAA Super Regionals.

Braun, from Granada Hills, Calif., made an immediate impact as at Miami, breaking Pat Burrell’s freshman record with 76 RBI. He was selected as Baseball America’s college freshman of the year after batting .364 that season.

“He’s on a partial academic scholarship,” Zduriencik said, who credited area scout Larry Pardo and East Coast crosschecker Bobby Heck with doing much of the legwork on Braun. “He’s a smart kid.

“We’re real excited about the future of Ryan Braun. He can be a complete player. We’ve talked to him and he’s excited about the possibility of being a Milwaukee Brewer.”


• Lefthander Derek Miller, selected in the 47th round of the 2004 draft by the Brewers, was signed as a draft-and-follow player before the June 1 deadline and was assigned to the rookie Helena Club of the Pioneer League. Miller bounced back from shoulder surgery to go 7-3, 2.35 and 103 strikeouts in 88 innings for the University of Vermont.

• The Brewers did not have a second-round pick, having forfeited it to Oakland for signing free agent catcher Damian Miller over the winter. Thus, they didn’t pick again after Braun until the 85th pick overall, taking righthander Will Inman of Tunstall High School in Danville, Va.