Welcome to my first look at the 2011 draft from the Phillies perspective. In past years, minorleaguebaseball.com had lots of scouting reports and videos available, making it easy to check out a bunch of the top 100 prospects. This year, it seems they’ve decided not to do that, instead just posting a few videos and no detailed scouting reports. Maybe they’ll have more before the draft, hopefully they will. Instead, I’ve had to go and do a bit more digging, hence, this piece being delayed a bit. Also, with the Phillies not having a first round pick, my desire to dig in to the draft has been diminished slightly. That said, its still one of my favorite events of the year, and I have plenty of thoughts. I’m planning on putting up a few more draft pieces before the actual draft takes place, then of course we’ll have an open draft day discussion, and I’ll compile all of the picks, as well as info on all of the picks and then my instant analysis. For now, check below the fold for my first look at the 2011 draft and what to expect from the Phillies.
What: The 2011 MLB first year player draft
When: June 6th (first round + compensation round), June 7th (round 2-30) and June 8th (round 31-50)
Where: TV/Internet streaming. I think the first round will be on MLB Network.
Lets start with a chart showing the Phillies picks.
Had the Phillies not signed Cliff Lee, they would have had pick #33. If Lee had re-signed with Texas, there would be one fewer pick in the sandwich round, and all the Phillies picks would have been bumped up one notch, assuming all other free agents signed in the manner they eventually did. But, the Phillies received 2 picks for the Nats signing Werth, and thus, they still have 3 picks before the 2nd round, always a welcome sight. The Phillies have done extremely well after the first round, with hit or miss results in the first round, but giving the Phillies scouts extra picks is always a good thing.
The hot topic with regard to the draft, and the Phillies draft, is spending. For those of you familiar with the draft, you know about the Invisible Hand of Bud Selig, ie, the informal “slot recommendations” the commissioner’s office makes with regard to draft pick signing bonuses. The Commish makes a recommendation for each pick in Rounds 1-5, and then recommends that bonuses not exceed $150K for picks after the 5th round. The Phillies adhere to these guidelines in some cases. In other cases, they go above and beyond, and in a small number of cases, well above and beyond. In 2009, the team did not have a first round pick, but took a near first round talent in Brody Colvin in the 7th round, eventually signing him for $900,000, an amount appropriate for a sandwich/second round talent. In 2008, the team gave 38th round pick Jarred Cosart a $550K bonus to buy him out of his college commitment. From rounds 3-12, the Phillies have traditionally taken a few elite talents with an eye toward giving them a bigger bonus to turn down college. They haven’t signed all of them, but they’ve done their share. They’ve also given out bigger bonuses in the $200K-400K range to guys taken after the 12th round, notably Domonic Brown ($200K in 2006) and this past year with Kevin Walter ($350K), Brian Pointer ($350K) and Jon Musser ($300K).
Everyone wants the Phillies to spend more money, especially because it appears they have quite an eye for talent, but financial limitations, self-imposed it would appear, limits them, especially in passing on potential first round talents that fall to the bottom of the first round due to price tag. This is likely never going to change, as the Phillies appear to operate under a very firm cost matrix, and they aren’t the only team to do it. The Phillies apparently are uncomfortable with investments of $3-4M in one player, and with the attrition rate of prospects, this is understandable. Of course, for a team with a big league payroll of $160M+ and huge revenue streams, another “$2-3M per year” probably wouldn’t break them. However, you start adding it up, and if you miss on your big investments, it starts to become a loss. Not to mention, when you develop a reputation for paying over the odds for picks, every player you draft in the future knows you are willing to spend, and they are likely to attempt to drive a harder bargain. If I were a good draft prospect but slipped in the draft due to bonus demands and the Red Sox, for instance, drafted me, I would definitely try to drive a harder bargain, because the Red Sox are known for their free spending ways in the draft. The Phillies, conversely, appear to allocate X amount of money per draft, and they won’t compromise their valuations. Last year, they drafted Scott Frazier in the 5th round. Frazier was a borderline first round talent, and reportedly wanted more than $1M to sign. The Phillies apparently had $1M earmarked for his signature, because when he balked, they spread that $1M out on the 3 players mentioned above, Walter, Pointer, and Musser. In 2008, when the Phillies had a plethora of extra picks, they stumped up and spent a ton of money, and it is likely to go down as the best draft crop in team history. Well, maybe, we’ll see.
The one wrinkle in this entire plan is the pending CBA negotiations. The rumor is that both sides, the players and owners, feel that the draft needs to be addressed. While I don’t think an International Draft will happen for a number of reasons, I do think its a possibility that hard slotting will be implemented. I believe this will be a massive mistake, as it is going to cut off a lot of elite high school talent, and you will find very few high school guys signing if they are taken outside of the first 2 rounds, as the bonuses really won’t make sense for the player to sign. MLB has complained for years about losing premium athletes to other sports. If they take away the incentive for these elite athletes to play pro ball out of high school, they could lose even more of them to other sports. MLB wants to fix the draft, but I don’t think hard slotting is the answer. On the other side, I think getting rid of the slotting all together might be the answer, as the teams who the draft is supposed to help, the small market teams, have been spending more and more money of late, while big market teams like the Mets spend relatively little. Get rid of the recommendations, allow the market to set the price on picks, and see how it shakes out.
That said, the 2011 draft is the last draft covered under the current rules, and thus, it appears that teams are going to be more willing to spend this year, at least based on what I’ve been reading. Will the Phillies join the party? We can only hope, because as mentioned above, the Phillies have done an outstanding job of evaluating and judging talent. Andrew Susac, drafted by the Phillies in 2009, is a potential first round pick this year, and past guys the Phillies didn’t sign due to money, such as Kyle Gibson, have gone on to be re-drafted first rounders. It would be a huge boost to the system to see the front office throw their hands up and just blow out the draft budget in what may be their last chance to do so. That said, I’m confident in the Phillies scouts identifying a number of targets and getting deals done for non-crazy dollar amounts, and a bunch of talent coming into the system, free spending or not.
So, which players are we targeting? Well, with it being mid-May, and even the first 3 picks in the draft an uncertainty, its fairly clear that the Phillies draft board is wide open. The 2011 draft is one of the deepest drafts in memory, based on the industry consensus. The draft is loaded with college pitching. A bunch of college arms will go in the late 20s that could be top 10 overall picks in a “regular” year. Thus, the Phillies will have a chance to land a bunch of premium talent with their first 2 picks. I’m going to avoid looking at obvious top 10-15 guys, since it is unlikely those guys will be in play for the Phillies, for a number of reasons. Instead, I’m going to focus on guys who are currently being projected as back of the first round/second round guys. We also need to focus on the types of players the Phillies target. Based on the last 5 years of drafts, we know the Phillies target the following:
Raw athletes – Kind of self-explanatory. These prospects are more athletes than they are baseball players. While their flameout rate is really high, they upside is sky high, and this is where you generally find your superstars
Injured/Rebound college guys – The Phillies have made it a priority to target college juniors and seniors who either just picked up an injury or who spent their draft year recovering from an injury or just having a down year. This is a source of value, as you can often times get a good deal on a guy who might need to rehab, or who just had a bad year after 2 or 3 otherwise solid years.
Tall, Projectable pitchers – Arm strength and potential is the name of the game here. The Phillies see a skinny 6’4 pitcher throwing 88-90 now, and think theres a chance he’ll be throwing 92-95 in 2 years.
College pitchers with big fastballs – While they may not have control or a reliable breaking ball, the Phillies feel that the arm strength alone is a plus, and they can polish up the rest of the package.
Players from California, Texas and the Pacific Northwest – Every team targets baseball hotbeds in California and Texas, but the Phillies have definitely mined the Pacific Northwest quite a bit over the last 4-5 years.
Obviously there are players taken who don’t fit this mold exactly, but the Phillies generally stick to this template. They place a high premium on athleticism, and they’re also not afraid to take a chance on a guy who may have come down with a case of draftitis, or who is recovering from a big injury. Its a strategy that doesn’t always work, however, you only need to be “right” on one or two guys per draft class to eventually categorize the draft as a win. So, here are a few names on my radar right now.
Tyler Beede, RHP (Lawrence Academy, HS, MA) – Beede is a local product (for me), and has been one of the best arms in the Northeast. Keith Law has him ranked 29th in his last version of his top 50. Baseball America has him labeled as a sandwich round talent as well. Let’s tick off the boxes: He’s 6’4/200 with plenty of projection still in the tank. He already features a 91-94 mph fastball, and he could throw even harder in 2 years. You can see a video of him here
Very loose arm, free and easy and his fastball appears to have some late life already. Keep in mind, this video is from August 2010, when he was a HS junior, and reports have him adding a bit more velocity since then. I’m definitely intrigued.
Kyle Crick, RHP (Sherman HS, TX) – Ranked the 20th best RHP in the draft by BA, and the top prep RH in Texas, Crick again ticks off a number of the Phillies boxes. He has premium arm strength, sitting 91-95 and hitting 97 with great sink. He throws both a curve and slider, and has toyed around with a bunch of different changeup grips, including a splitter grip. He’s still very raw, as he spent time as a 1B, but with a focus on pitching, he could develop in to a special arm. His description sounds quite a bit like that of Jarred Cosart pre-2008 draft. He’s not in Keith Law’s top 50, but I’m including him because he seems to fit the Phillies profile. You can see video of him below
Nick Delmonico, C/3B/OF (Farragut HS, TX) – Ranked 30th by Keith Law, he’s ranked as a second round talent by BA, and there seems to be some divergence of opinion here. Delmonico has a beautiful swing, but has had a disappointing senior season at the plate. His biggest issue, however, is whether he can stick at catcher, and if he can’t, where he moves on the diamond. However, I like his swing, he should hit for average and power, and if he can stick at C, that’s big value. If he can handle 3B, that’s not a bad fallback plan. You can see video of him here
Hudson Boyd, RHP (Bishop Verot HS, FL) – Boyd is basically a Chad Billingsley clone, which you’ll see below from the video. At 6’2/230, he’s likely maxed out physically, but at present, he features a plus fastball, sitting in the 91-93 range that he commands well, touching 95-96, and he holds the velo late in games. Like Billingsley, his go to secondary pitch is a power curveball that features good hard break. His changeup is a work in progress, largely because he hasn’t needed it against high school hitters. He might not have a ton of projection left, typical of a Phillies pitching draft pick, but his present stuff is well above average, and if he can figure out a changeup, he’s got surefire #2/3 starter written all over him. Check out his video below
That’s it for today. I’ll be back next weekend with a few more guys I like, and hopefully as we get closer to the draft, I’ll be able to secure some inside info on what the Phillies plans are, and we’ll maybe have a better idea which guys are within reach and those that have maybe moved out of reach.