By Melissa S. Wollering
He always reminded me of Ben Sheets: a fair asset to his sport with leadership and command on the court/field, sprinkled with a little self-nullifying whining and a funny drawl. Turns out Tom Crean helped the Milwaukee Brewers’ draft their first college pitcher in the first-round Tuesday since Ben Sheets was selected as such back in 1999.
Down in Indiana, Eric Arnett became known for his hard throwin’, clocking fastballs in the mid-90’s, complementing them with Speedy Gonzales sliders. He’s the Jolly Green Giant—at 6’5”, 225 he basically throws downhill from the mound. In contrast to a Manny Parra, he also averages nearly eight innings per start.
If you’ve ever questioned Tom Crean’s dedication to Wisconsin sports in general, now is a good time to eat your words. He’s got our back.
Call Crean the Milwaukee Brewers’ unofficial scout with a nose for multi-sport players (Arnett played football, basketball and baseball for his high school in Pataskala, Ohio). Shortly after Tom Crean left Marquette to take over the Hoosier men’s basketball program, Crean had Eric Arnett work out with the team and travel as a practice player.
Arnett never suited up for games, but made such an impression on Crean as an athlete that Crean vouched for him, calling Doug Melvin and Bruce Seid once he heard of the Brewers’ interest in Eric.
The Brewers were able to take a good look at Arnett last Saturday while the organization held a workout for several draft-eligible players. As Doug Melvin has stated before, it was important for Milwaukee to select a player with signability in addition to ability.
Bruce Seid says the Brewers didn’t draft for need but rather went with the ‘best player available’ mentality. Yay for good arms. Yay again for good Big 10 arms. The fact that Arnett seems keen on getting professional career going fast also helps.
“I’m looking forward to signing as soon as possible,” said Arnett, in an interview with Tom Hardricourt Tuesday. “I’m a fairly ‘signable’ guy. I don’t think it would take too long.”
Which is a good thing. The Crew’s previously solid farm system pitching prospect Jeremy Jeffress was recently demoted from Class AA Huntsville to Class A Brevard County due to a severe lack of command.
As for the rest of the draft, the Milwaukee Brewers picked up a nice mix of high school and college guys. University of Tennessee’s Kentrail Davis is a centerfielder who batted .308 with 9 homers and 30 RBI on a less-than-stellar team last year. He truly was the diamond in their rough, even though he’s only a sophomore.
The Crew also drafted RHP Kyle Heckathorn from Kennesaw (Georgia) State, who looks identical to Arnett. He dons a fastball in the high 90’s, a hard slider and 6’6”/240 stature. Hmm…Melvy and Seid might have a “type” as narrow as Kate Hudson’s dating prototype. Wait…hers are much more self-absorbed, psychotic and overrated at baseball.
For the second of the two CC Sabathia picks, the Brewers’ took a high school outfielder named…wait for it…wait for it….Max Walla. Arguably the BEST name in the entire draft. Out of Albuquerque (N.M.) Academy, he’s a left-handed-hitter with power, power, power. 51 homers during his junior year and summer ball. A lefty with those numbers probably made Melvin drool into his Total Bran w/Raisins Wednesday morning.
The Brewers also picked up prep catcher Cameron Garfield of Murietta, CA High School. In the third round, they found a Tulane shortstop named Josh Prince. Considering the Milwaukee Brewers’ entire foundation is built upon its farm system, players selected this week could make a huge difference in the organizations’ future. I, for one, hope to be writing about them in this column in a few years. Walla, Walla, watch-out!