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The case for reaching for Michigan’s Jordan Brewer in the second round

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Toolsy Big 10 Player of the Year shines in a down year for the draft

This year’s draft is, according to almost every analyst, one of the thinnest in recent memory. Thanks to a hot start in 2018 and the overwhelming mediocrity of the AL Central, the Mariners find themselves at the back end of the selection order, left to pick from a third-tier group of names that includes underwhelming collegiates and high schoolers with signability issues or big question marks regarding their future. It’s a bad year to have a bad draft for the Mariners, who have only just begun rebuilding a system ranked dead last by most outlets last year. The Mariners have three picks in the top 100 this year, but they’ll need to be savvy with those picks to extract the most value out of a thin crop. One of those picks should be used on Michigan outfielder Jordan Brewer.

Listed at 108/109 on MLB Draft Pipeline and FanGraphs, and all the way at 158 on Baseball America, taking Brewer at 59 or 77 would be a gamble. He’s had some issues with turf toe that have kept him out of games towards the end of Michigan’s season and into the NCAA tournament, and when he’s been playing he hasn’t been effective, as the injury has affected his swing. That might push him closer to BA’s projection, but in a draft that’s short on true five-tool talent, Brewer is a hidden gem.

A three-sport athlete in high school, Brewer was originally recruited by Michigan to play wide receiver as a walk-on to the football team, but he dislocated his (non-throwing) shoulder and wound up instead attending Lincoln Trail Community College, a school he picked because it had “no distractions, just baseball and school.” Because of his interest in football and not coming from a baseball powerhouse, scouts missed the explosive athlete with a 40-inch vertical for the 2016 draft; post-injury he toiled away quietly in the JUCO ranks, with Michigan keeping a watchful eye from just over the Wabash River. After the Wolverine coaching staff finally got him to campus, they worked on transforming Brewer’s short, slappy swing to one more in line with the “elevate and celebrate” model.

Brewer finished the year slashing .340/.400/.610 , with 18 doubles and 12 HR. Once on base, he’s a threat to run, with plus speed and good instincts (19-for-23 this year on SB attempts). That speed also shows up in the outfield, both in closing speed and lateral quickness. Brewer’s home is in right field, although he can play center, left, or first base. But it’s right that lets him take advantage of his cannon arm:

So: average, power, speed, defense, and a plus arm. But what sets Brewer apart is his “sixth tool,” his high character and service-focused mindset. A proud member of the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi, Brewer values his Native American heritage and wants to inspire other Native Americans in baseball. He sought out service opportunities in his first year at Michigan and inspired his teammates to join him. Skip to the five minute mark in this video to see a discussion of Brewer’s sixth tool (but you should watch the whole thing).

Brewer possesses all the qualities Seattle reportedly values in their prospects. He’s been coached in the church of Elevation Celebration, at a school the Dipoto regime has drafted out of multiple times over the past years (OF Johnny Slater, RHP Bryan Pall, LHP Oliver Jaskie). He’s a plus athlete with speed and the ability to swipe bases. He’s a grinder, blue-collar athlete who used to go shag balls behind the fence at his JUCO, where the field overlooked a prison. Most importantly, no conversation about Brewer goes without remarking upon his quality of character. He has the easy, affable charm of a Julio Rodriguez, someone who loves baseball and loves people and loves the intersection between the two. He’s a star hiding outside the Top-100, and the Mariners should be proactive and draft him as highly as they can. Last year Seattle showed they weren’t afraid to spurn conventional draft lists by taking OF Josh Stowers, not listed within the top 200, with their second-round choice; here’s hoping they buck convention again and take Brewer with pick 59.