MILWAUKEE — Armed with two extra picks after losing Prince Fielder to free agency, the Milwaukee Brewers picked up three right-handed bats with power potential as baseball's first-year player draft kicked off Monday.
Milwaukee selected high school catcher Clint Coulter with the No. 27 overall pick, outfielders Victor Roache of Georgia Southern one pick later, and Mitch Haniger of Cal Poly with the No. 38 selection.
"We feel that these guys have a chance to hit the ball out of the park, have a chance to play defensively, which is definitely something we took into consideration," Brewers director of amateur scouting Bruce Seid said. "And we feel that these guys have superb makeup. So it's a good combination."
After loading up on pitchers in recent drafts, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said the Brewers could use some power hitters in their system — although Melvin emphasized that all three players have defensive ability, and the Brewers didn't overreach for a perceived need.
"One of the things in pro baseball, in the minor leagues, that we think there's a shortage of is power," Melvin said.
The Brewers took Coulter out of Union High School in Washington with the No. 27 overall pick, which the Brewers obtained from Detroit after Fielder signed with the Tigers as a free agent.
A 6-3, 210-pound state wrestling champion, Coulter's list of nicknames includes "country strong" and "grunt," because he occasionally grunts when he swings. A scouting report from Baseball America called him "a beast."
Coulter said the Brewers also had him throw as an outfielder during a recent workout, and Coulter acknowledged that his skills as a defensive catcher still need some work.
"It's going to be whatever they want," Coulter said. "My main focus is definitely hitting and it's always been, and that's probably why I'm not the greatest catcher. I haven't really gotten a ton of instruction on it, I just kind of got put back there."
Seid said Coulter will start out as a catcher in the organization.
And while Coulter said he also has an offer to play at Arizona State, he doesn't expect any problems working out a contract with the Brewers.
"Starting my pro career is definitely really important to me," Coulter said. "I'm not getting any younger, and hopefully we can come to an agreement. I'm not looking for any crazy signing thing, signing bonus or anything and I think that's probably why I got drafted, because I wasn't trying to break the bank. I know you don't make your money in the draft, and I'd like to get out and start playing, start getting better."
Roache led the nation with 30 home runs as a sophomore, but is coming off a broken left wrist in February. Roache said he is still recovering from the injury, which required a plate and six screws to repair. It's unlikely that he'll be able to play this summer.
Seid acknowledged the risk in picking a player with an injury, but said the team's medical staff was comfortable with his ability to make a full recovery.
"This is a premier, power-type guy," Seid said.
With the No. 38 pick, a compensatory first-round pick awarded to Milwaukee after the Fielder signing, the Brewers took Haniger from Cal Poly.
Haniger said he knew the Brewers were interested in him, but wasn't sure they'd take him after Roache — a player he considers similar to himself — 10 picks earlier.
"Once Roache slid in the draft, I was keeping my hopes up," Haniger said. "And it came true, and I couldn't be happier. But I just thought I probably would slip to another team, maybe, a few picks later."
Haniger has been playing center field in college but might have the power to play on the corners at the next level.
"I think I profile well in both spots, and I'm excited to see where the Brewers want me to play," Haniger said. "We'll see. I can play both, and I'm happy to make any type of position change if that's necessary."