2011 MLB Draft Notebook, v2.0

Hey everyone, with the draft approaching, I wanted to focus my attention on a few more guys I see as possibilities for the Phillies pick at #39. In Part 1 I covered RHP Tyler Beede (HS, A), RHP Kyle Crick (HS, TX) INF Nick Delmonico (HS, TX) and RHP Hudson Boyd (HS, FL). Before I get in to that, I want to talk a bit about draft spending, since its something that dominates every single post/feature about the draft, and it is of course the most wildly debated aspect of the MLB draft, not just from the Phillies perspective, but all around baseball. I’m planning to write a long piece on this, but consider this the appetizer. Check below

Every year, the issue of draft spending comes up. The Phillies strategy, especially over the last 5 years or so when they have been picking in the middle to bottom of the first round, has been to not give out a huge bonus to a first round talent that might have fallen (Castellanos, Ranuado, Porcello), but instead to spread their money around, taking good talents in rounds 3-12 and then stumping up to pay a bunch of them. This was no more evident in 2008, when they went over slot for Trevor May, Jon Pettibone, and Colby Shreve and then of course way over slot in the 38th round to land Jarred Cosart. In 2009, they didn’t have a first pick, and instead gave $900K to Brody Colvin in the 7th round, and $200K to Jon Singleton in the 8th round. In 2010, they failed to sign 5th round pick Scott Frazier, offering him close to $1M, and instead spread out that $1M on 3 well above slot signings in Jon Musser (21st round, $300K), Kevin Walter (20th round, $350K) and Brian Pointer (28th round, $350K). When I look at the Phillies spending, the term I think of is “risk averse” in terms of their spending amounts and philosophy. Someone who is risk averse generally prefers to spread his risk out over a number of opportunities instead of plowing all of his capital into one risky investment. In the Phillies case, they are more comfortable spreading around $1M over three prospects instead of dropping it in to one guy. And when you look at the above slot signings over the last 6 years by other teams, you can see their strategy may just have merit.

Of course, some will say “why can’t they do both?”, and maybe that is a fair question. The Phillies have become one of the most marketable, money making machines in baseball. The park is beautiful and sold out every night, they could raise ticket prices comfortably every year and still sell out every game, and they’ve become a destination for players. More importantly, the marketability of the brand will ultimately allow them to improve their revenue streams, which will add to the bottom line and allow the payroll to remain in the stratosphere, or possibly even increase. The big league club’s payroll is over $160M this year, an amazing shift from just 10 years ago, when the Phillies sported a $41M payroll on Opening Day 2001. But if you ask any rich person how he became rich, throwing money at incredibly risky propositions probably wasn’t his method. The number of billionaires who achieved their level by betting on million to one shots is a lot lower than the number of billionaires who made shrewd move after shrewd move, managing their risk along the way.

As fans, we want to see the Phillies use their financial muscle and just blow out the draft. Considering their revenue, turnover and cash, the Phillies could probably afford to spend $10M on the draft every year, comfortably. But this brings up a number of potential issues. When you draft a player and he becomes a star, or even an above average regular, you receive quite a bit of salary savings, especially before the player reaches arbitration. Lets use Cole Hamels as a case example.

The Phillies gave Cole Hamels a $2M bonus as the 17th overall pick in 2002. This was more than the 16th pick, Nick Swisher ($1.78M) and more than the 18th pick, Royce Ring ($1.6M) but less than the 22nd pick, Jeremy Guthrie, who received $3M from the Indians. Using fangraphs player values, which aren’t perfect, but are a consistent guide, here is Hamels’ value provided while in the big leagues and his actual salary

So, if you buy into fangraphs valuation system, Hamels has produced $64.2M more than he’s actually been paid, from his callup till the end of 2010, and this is only counting regular season innings. The Phillies gave him a $2M bonus. Forget his minor league salaries, as they were minimal. So the Phillies return on investment was about 3,110%, if my sucky math skills are correct. In essence, the Hamels pick has paid for every other draft pick taken from 2003-2010 when considering his value. The problem is, MLB teams don’t look at it this way, at least most of them don’t. The reason they don’t is because of the huge flameout rate of prospects, even the best prospects. To understand that concept, lets look at the first round of the 2003 draft. (WAR values from Baseball-Reference, signing bonuses from Baseball America)

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Kyle Sleeth was taken 3rd overall, got the third highest bonus in the draft, and never got past AA. He dealt with injuries and also had confidence issues and is out of baseball. The three most valuable players in the draft, through this year, were taken 7th, 9th and 13th overall. 8 players out of the 30 have not made it to the majors, including picks 3, 5 and 6. The three players taken 28th, 29th, and 30th have a combined WAR of 15.2, while the first 6 players taken have a combined WAR of 12.2. And don’t assume Sleeth was just some crazy overdraft at #3. BA had this to say about him pre-draft.

The consensus is that Sleeth is better than Bryan Bullington, the No. 1 overall pick a year ago, though he won’t go that high in this draft. He should be no worse than the second college pitcher drafted–Richmond’s Tim Stauffer is the only one with a shot to go ahead of him–or the seventh overall choice. Sleeth’s pitching has dropped off slightly since his NCAA record-tying 26-game winning streak ended, but he still has a long track record of success with Wake Forest and Team USA. Not to mention three nasty pitches, a 93-94 mph fastball with life, a low-80s slider that has improved this year and a power curveball. There’s still some room for projection with his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame. Sleeth also has a decent changeup and throws strikes. His delivery can get out of whack, and he’ll sometimes throw across his body or leave the ball up in the strike zone. Consistency is all that stands between him becoming a frontline starter in the major leagues.

This type of thing isn’t unique to 2003. Lets look at a few more years, starting with 2002

Bryan Bullington, taken first overall, has been a colossal failure. The most valuable player of the draft thus far is Zach Greinke, taken 6th overall. The trio taken 15th, 16th and 17th (Kazmir, Swisher, and Hamels) have combined for a WAR of 53, while the first 10 players taken in the draft have combined for a WAR of 60, most of that coming from Upton (14.1), Greinke (22.6) and Fielder (17.3).

Now 2004

In what will possibly go down as the biggest MLB draft blunder ever, the Padres panicked about asking prices of some of the top guys in the draft and eventually overdrafted Matt Bush. They signed him for $3.15M, $30,000 more than the Tigers eventually gave to Justin Verlander. Oops. Picks 3 through 11 have combined for a WAR of 7.9 in the majors, while 12th pick Jered Weaver has a total WAR of 23.0 and climbing. The number 1 and number 8 picks in the first round haven’t made the majors, and probably never will.

So what is the point? The point is pretty simple. Every year, we read about the draft. We read the coverage from outlets like Baseball America, ESPN, BP, and Perfect Game, and we get excited about guys. We watch a few grainy videos, read a few pie in the sky scouting reports, where players raw tools and abilities are compared to current all-stars and sometimes even hall of famers. We get excited. We want the Phillies to take Player X, because BA has him ranked the 15th best prospect in the draft, and he’s fallen to the Phillies because of bonus demands. And when the Phillies pass, we foam at the mouth like rabid dogs. And then most times, the player doesn’t pan out, and we shrug our shoulders and move on to the next guy.

I wanted to take a look at some of the more notable overslot signings of recent years to see how the players have actually performed. I decided to look at 2006-2008 as my study population. I did this because guys taken in 2006 should be close to the majors or already in the majors. Some of these guys should still have eligibility, and some should already be major leaguers, so it should provide an interesting sample. Guys taken in 2008 will have 2 full seasons under their belt, plus a half season in 2008 if they signed early, and then early returns in 2011. I chose to focus on guys taken after the third round, as the first two rounds see a bit of flux with regard to the bonus amounts, with a focus on the follow bonus outlines:

3rd round = $1M+
4th-5th round = $750K+
6th-10th round = $500K+
11th-50th round = $300K+

I felt these were fairly solid guidelines. My sample ended up yielding 59 prospects. Here they are


I sorted them by team. A few observations:

* Of the 59 players, 6 were not eligible due to MLB service time. They include stud righty Mat Latos, promising Orioles RHP Jake Arrieta, Astros reliever Mark Melancon (via the Yankees), a few pitching prospects who likely aren’t going to amount to a whole lot in James Russell and Jeff Manship, and Red Sox tweener OF Ryan Kalish.
* Of the 53 remaining prospects, only 3 cracked BA’s Top 100 list this year: Dellin Betances (43rd), Jarred Cosart (70th) and Drake Britton (97th)
* Of the 53 eligible prospects, only 21 are ranked in their respective team’s top 30.
* Of the 21 who are ranked in their team’s top 30, only 7 are ranked in their team’s top 10.
* The 59 players on the list cost their teams a combined $42.97M in bonuses. Thus far, they have provided a total of $26.4M in performance to their team, courtesy of fangraphs. This is gross value, it doesn’t factor in salaries.
* Of the $26.4M in gross value, $17.7M of that came from Mat Latos.

So what does this tell us? I think it highlights that most prospects don’t pan out, even the ones who merit the huge signing bonuses. The Padres are thrilled with their decision to invest $1.25M in Latos in the 11th round in 2006. Kansas City might not be as thrilled with their decision to invest $1.25M in Tim Melville, a guy I actually really liked during that 2008 draft. None of these guys is completely hopeless, but these returns are a pretty good snapshot, thus far.

This brings me to something I’ve been thinking about, and how my philosophy on the draft has shifted. A few years ago, I was the loudest person of all when it came to spending more money. I couldn’t understand why the Phillies refused to really stump up and spend. Then I started to look at some of the overslot picks, and how they struggled, and how bonus size, especially outside of the first few rounds, really didn’t mean anything. And I started to wonder why. And then I kind of came to a few really important points. And I’m not sure if they are 100% accurate, because we’re dealing with non-absolutes, but I think they may have merit. They are:

* Evaluating high school and college baseball is incredibly difficult for a number of reasons. 99% of all high school baseball players will never play Division I college baseball. Some will play D-2 and D-3, and 99.9% of the D-2/D-3 guys will never get drafted/make it to the major leagues. Thus, when you’re looking at an elite high school baseball player, he’s not being challenged by guys like him. Its kind of like playing basketball, as a 15 year old, against a bunch of 8 year olds. You’re a lot bigger, stronger, and quicker. You should win every time. High school baseball players, the elite guys, win almost all the time. Its why they bat .600 for a season with 15 HR in 50 games. Their performances mean almost nothing. Scouts are just looking at their physical ability. College baseball isn’t like high school baseball, because you’ve collected the best of the best from the high school ranks, and they are now competing against each other. Minor league baseball is nothing like college baseball. You’re not using metal bats, you’re playing in bigger parks, and you’re facing guys who already have pro experience. Swinging a metal bat is completely different than swinging a wood bat, and players who don’t have swings geared for wood bats almost always struggle to adjust. Scouts can sometimes spot these red flags, but sometimes they can’t.

* As a jump-off from the previous point, scouts are looking at a player’s performance, but more importantly, how his raw tools will translate. When trying to project the growth of an 18 year old high school kid, you have to make assumptions about how his body will physically mature. Sometimes a skinny 6’3/175 pound kid won’t add the muscle you expect him to, and he’ll remain skinny. Sometimes a player with an athletic 6’4/180 pound frame will add 30 pounds, and it won’t all be muscle. Its really difficult to know. And you are making a huge financial investment in this unknown.

* More important than the physical aspect is the ability to make adjustments. Guys in high school don’t really have to make adjustments, because the pitchers they are facing are vastly inferior, and they likely don’t have the know how and raw ability to make adjustments to a hitter. Instead, they’ll either just pitch around the guy completely, or they’ll groove a bad pitch and the guy will get clobbered. On the other side, a pitcher with a 92 mph fastball in high school is going to mow down inferior hitters, and won’t even need his secondary pitches. What does that tell you about his ability to make adjustments? Often times, even for college hitters, the first test of your ability to make adjustments is the minor leagues, after a team has already made a huge investment in you. Most “top prospects”, the guys who get hyped up before pro ball, will fail to make an impact at the major league level for one of two reasons (or sometimes both reasons): The inability to stay healthy, and the inability to make adjustments.

* Timing is everything. High school prospects performance at a few showcase events every year is weighted heavily. But what if you have a bad day? Or what if you’re not sharp during the showcase circuit? Then outlets like BA and PG aren’t going to give you big writeups, you’re going to drop down draft boards, and when you’re not hyped up, fans like me and you don’t get as excited as the guy who had a nice showcase circuit run. This is the phenomenon that drops Jon Singleton to the 8th round. A slow senior year of high school, where maybe draftitis creeps in, and bam, you go from a sandwich round pick to an 8th rounder who no one is really talking about. The Phillies, and other teams, have to do their homework.

So what is the point? The point is, maybe we should stop worrying about the hype guys get from BA, BP, PG and the others. Scouts evaluating high school and college guys are dealing with incomplete information. MLB teams are dealing with incomplete information, but all 30 MLB teams have access to more scouting data on players than the media outlets have. A site like Perfect Game might see a potential 2nd round pick a handful of times, whereas a pro team may see him 10-15 times or more. This isn’t to say teams never make mistakes in their evaluations, of course they do, but many times, a guy gets hot at the right time, the media outlets go crazy for him, and a year later, people are scratching their heads and saying “this guy was a first round pick?”

Sometime, if you’re bored, go to baseball-reference.com and look through their draft archives. Check out guys taken in the first or second round and look at their career statistics. You’ll find lots of guys who never made it to the majors, or even to AAA. Guys get hurt. Some guys never make adjustments. Some guys lose their love of the game and discover their love of booze or drugs. And some guys just lose the ability to throw the ball really hard or hit fastballs. It happens. And I think its the reason why we should focus not on the hype, and our desire to see the Phillies spend high six figure amounts on really risky prospects, but on the talent we do draft, and try to figure out what the Phillies like about the guys they pick. As I highlighted in Part 1, the Phillies really have gone an interesting route, focusing on guys who are coming off bad years, or injured years, or guys with massive upside and little present day baseball skill. While these guys might not be the guys we really want to see picked, the Phillies have managed to find a whole boatload of prospects in this manner over the last 5 years. Its nice (and completely understandable) to want the Phillies to flex their financial muscle. But at the end of the day, it comes down to your evaluation of a player. If the Phillies look at two prospects, Prospect A and Prospect B and consider them very similar in terms of ability now and ability down the road, and Prospect A wants $1M, and Prospect B wants $350K, which one should they take? Its not about the price tag, its about the talent, both presently and in the future.

To summarize. My hope is, when the Phillies pick this year, everyone on the site gives it time to evaluate the players we took and try to understand the process, not say “well BA had Player X ranked 15th, and the Phillies didn’t take him because they are cheap”. Where anyone ranks these prospects is just one data point. I like to point out that in 2006, Domonic Brown wasn’t ranked at all among the 38 prospects BA wrote up for the draft. Prior to 2011, he was one of the 3 or 4 best prospects in all of baseball. It happens. A lot.

So yeah, I guess that ended up being longer than I had anticipated. I hope you followed it. Now, here are a few more names I’m looking at for our pick at #39.

A quick recap, from my last posting, about the type of player the Phillies normally target

* Tall projectable RHP, especially high school guys. 6’3-6’6 with skinny frames that should fill out
* Raw athletes with mega upside
* Prospects from Texas and California (like most teams), but an emphasis on the Pacific Northwest as well
* Players coming off injuries or poor performance seasons with a previous record of success
* Players with huge fastballs and little else (normally after the first few rounds)

So far we have

Tyler Beede, RHP (Lawrence Academy, HS, MA)
Kyle Crick, RHP (Sherman HS, TX)
Nick Delmonico, INF (Farragut HS, TX)
Hudson Boyd, RHP (Bishop Verot HS, FL)

Brian Goodwin, OF (Miami Dade CC, FL) – Goodwin was a big time prospect in the 2009 draft, taken by the White Sox, but he ended up going to UNC. He’s run in to trouble off the field and transferred to CC in oder to gain eligibility for the 2011 draft. At his best, he’s a five tool centerfielder, with the ability to hit for power, steal bags and play solid defense. So far he’s batting .382 with a .492 OB%, 11 2B, 8 HR, and 16 SB in 18 attempts. He’s a wildcard in terms of his talent and where he will go in the draft. Keith Law had him ranked 27th in his last Top 50. Jim Callis had him going 25th overall to San Diego in his last mock draft, though BA has him ranked 44th overall. On talent, he should be off the board before we pick, but as I said, he is a wildcard, and would kind of go with the Phillies’ damaged goods philosophy.

You can see video of him here:

Physically, he reminds me of Carl Crawford. He’s very athletic. The team that takes him will probably want to try and quiet his hands down a bit pre-swing, as he has lots of movement, which could impact his timing. Again, most seem to think he’ll be gone by 39, but I think there’s at least a small chance he’s there, and that’s the kind of upside the Phillies love.

Andrew Chafin, LHP (Kent State) – Chafin ticks off the “was injured” box, but he’s healthy now, one season after Tommy John surgery, and his stuff has returned, as he is sitting 91-92 and touching 94. He throws both a slider and a curve, the curve is better, and the Phillies as an organization prefer the curveball, which is a point in his favor. BA has him ranked 38th overall, Keith Law has him ranked 37th, so he’s right in the sweet spot. He missed one start due to arm soreness, which may simply be a by-product of his recovery. At 6’2/210, he has a solid frame, and looks like a potential middle of the rotation starter. His fastball his great life, which should help him induce plenty of groundballs, a requirement for pitching at CBP. Though he’s a college lefty and doesn’t tick off many of the boxes the Phillies target, I think hes a name to consider, and should be there in the sandwich round.

Michael Kelly, RHP (West Boca Raton HS, FL)

Kelly, though not from Texas or Cali, meets a lot of the Phillies required traits. As a high school righty, he’s got the perfect projectable frame, at 6’4/185, and already has good present stuff. His fastball ranges from 88-94, and it is fluctuates due to his inconsistent mechanics. He also features a hard downer curveball which will be his out pitch, but is again inconsistent. This is the type of arm the Phillies normally love. A few tweaks to his delivery, including incorporating his lower half more, and he could be sitting 92-96 with a hammer curveball. BA has him ranked 76th, while Keith Law is much higher on him, slotting him 36th on his list.You can see video of him here

I’m not crazy about the wrist wrap in the back, but again, the Phillies would probably look at him as a blank canvas with exceptional projection and physical ability, and they could clean up his delivery to maximize his stuff. There is always a risk here, but at #39, you can argue the risk is worth it.

Trevor Story, SS (Irving HS, TX) – Story fits the Texas angle, as well as the up the middle prospect that all times covet. He’s a legit defensive shortstop and won’t have to change positions. He’s an above average runner, though not a 30-40 SB guy. The big question is around how much he’ll hit. He figures to hit for average, but his power is in question, and he may only hit 10-12 HR per year. As a good defensive shortstop who can run a bit, that will be just fine though. Outside of Freddy Galvis, the Phillies really have no great SS prospect in the org. Story would take a while to get there, but he figures to offer quite a bit of upside. BA has him ranked 40th overall, Keith Law doesn’t have him in his top 60. You can see video of him here:

Link

He has an upright setup at the plate and a fairly quiet pre-swing routine, but he collapses his back side and takes a big uppercut swing, which is how he generates his power at this point. If he stayed more flat through impact, he’d probably hit for less power, at least over the fence power, but would probably improve his batting average and rack up a ton of doubles. Or maybe I just made all of that up!

So there are 4 more names, and now 8 in total. I’ll have more next weekend as we get ever closer to the draft!

65 thoughts on “2011 MLB Draft Notebook, v2.0

  1. Hey baseball experts, does it seem like 2B has gotten more talent at the expense of SS in the past 10-20 years?

    1. Oh damn, I’m very sorry, this is the first post on a giant new topic!! My post does relate to the draft, as it would seem the Phillies might want to target toolsy infielders and move them around to 2B/SS/3B as the Phillies needs progress in the future.

      I know it’s better to have strong pitching out of the draft, but I’m so curious as to see what the Phillies can do with hitting. Maybe international signings?

      And I in no way mean to insult the article, as I read it all. I do like the Phillies penchant for drafting tall pitchers :)

  2. You can never have too much pitching but the minors are lacking at C, SS & 3b in the minors. We could stand to take a few of these in this year’s draft.

    1. The question is how old of a player do you take for the infield. And/or if you trade existing talent for prospects for proven infield prospects, and use the draft to replenish those positions. I mean, starting pitching (while the biggest need in baseball) is a bit locked up here in Philadelphia. We could set the clock back a bit at that spot in the minors without missing out.

    2. One of the few observations about how the Phillies find & develop players in this splendid overview of spending (especially on over-slot picks) is that it doesn’t weigh the Phillies approach to acquiring talent internationally, i.e. Latin America mostly—or consider how that influences their draft philosophy and selections.

      Particularly, if you look closely at the Phillies acquisitions in Latin America the past few years you will note that it seems clear that the organization believes it can gain the optimal return there by concentrating on middle infielders and, especially, catchers; to a lesser extent pitching, even less to corner infielders/outfielders apparently on the premise that the younger Latin players demonstating power potential are much more in demand & signing bonuses have tended to be excessive in almost all instances (a very likely result when you are scouting 15 & 16 year olds who are physically less mature; have more health, dental, and tutritional deficiencies, as well as significantly very inferior coaching & game experience than their counterparts in the US–especially affluent suburbs in the Sun Belt, which is the predominant source of high draft selections & top college recruits. And just as the Phillies covet toolsy centerfielders in the draft they seem to lust similarly after them in Latin American signings.

      IMO what this means in the 2011 draft is that it will push the Phillies further toward an emphasis on HS corner infielders/outfielders, left-handed HS pitching, maybe a top HS catcher or a college guy like John Hicks at UVA. and the usual emphasis on big, hard-throwing HS pitchers.

      Again in 2011, like in 2010, the Phillies will draft fewer “organization filler position players” as a direct consequence of the fact that the Latin American operations are sending a steady stream now (twice, thrice that of five/ten years ago) to the GCL Phillies. The clear fact is that the organization already has an abundance of prospects (not just second/third year guys) in EST–more probably slated to play in the GCL than the PONY, which leads to conjecture that maybe the Phillies draft will surprise us this year by taking more real college prospects than has their practice (the 2010 draft signings were lighter on prep players than usual).

    3. Drafting for need is usually a terrible idea (and fairly pointless). BJ Upton was drafted as a SS, but is now an OF. Jayson Werth drafted as a Catcher, now also an OF. Albert Pujols drafted as a 3B, now a 1B (with rare appearances at 3rd). Brandon Inge drafted and developed as a Catcher, now a 3B. Todd Frazier and Pat Burrell were both drafted as 3B, both are now Left Fielders primarily.

      Frequently HS teams simply have the most athletic kid play SS. That kid may or may not be athletic enough to stick there as a pro. Similarly, Catchers flame out like mad. It’s an extremely demanding position defensively with a huge learning curve, and what often ends up happening is guys develop the D, but not the O and become organizational fillers. Or they develop the bat and move off Catcher to another position. There’s also higher injury attrition at Catcher.

      I’m sure the Phillies will draft some at each position, as the talent seems appropriate for the draft slot.

  3. Spending on prep infielders is a virtual necessity. If you let those guys develop into elite college prospects, there is no way they’re still available at the end of the first round. Picking late in the 1st round every year, we cannot find elite infielders without buying out their college commitments.

  4. magnificent write-up, as always…thank you for the extensive background information and awesome quality of work…its no surprise that the ‘hype-factor’ is definitely overrated when attempting to organize draft picks, but your facts, figures, and history definitely gave this viewpoint a strong and coherent basis..great read!

  5. I wonder if the Phils may try and keep another local kid. Kevin Comer from Senaca HS in SJ is ranked by BA #35. He has committed to Vandy but i read reports that he is going to see what his options are depending on the draft. This kid can throw some major heat with a nice curve and change. He has been clocked between 92-95 consistently. BIG kid too, 6’3 – 6’4ish around 200lbs with a little more room for some muscle.

  6. You cant argue the draft in some many ways. its really interesting, like I was looking at some of the kids we couldnt sign, gibson who looks really good at triple a , cory vaugh, but for every one of them there are a lot of guys who never make any impact some never get out of a ball like a sampson,it to me is interestng.your relie onyour top scouts, to find kids who really have the stuff and makeup. which is tough to evaluate,some kids just never adjust to the pressue and better comptetion.

  7. Nice job James. You’ve explained the Phillies approach and shown statistically how it makes sense. The approach isn’t fool-proof but think about teams like KC, Baltimore, Pitts, who pick high in the draft year after year. Shouldn’t each of these teams have 10 to 12 all-stars on their squads right now? If they did, they’d be kicking the Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox butts. Then the circle of life or should I say the cycle of baseball who create new elite teams every 4 – 6 years. But it doesn’t seem to happen. There are other routes to get the players you want and need to create successful franchises and even dynasties.

    The Phils have utilize all the roads to success. Homegrown talent like Howard, Rollins, Hamels, Utley, Madsen etc. They’ve also used their farm system to get great players like Lee, Halladay and Oswalt. They’ve used free-agency to fill in some slots and used the Rule 5 Draft to pick up a guy here and there to help them. That’s well rounded.

    If the Phils were missing the playoffs year after year then I’d say that their approach needs a tweak or a napalm spread. It’s working so keep it up. If there is one area that I would adjust, concerning the draft, it would be creating a little more of a spread of dollars to be spent each draft. If you have a shot at a guy and a little more money will get it done, then take the chance. If you don’t think the guy is worth it, then move on. I know teams like to watch their hard signs through July. They like to see their Summer League action. Don’t put a hard stop on the money, if you have a number ofy guys who boost their stock during the summer timeframe. They might do this but the perception is that they don’t. In the Frasier example above, if Frasier signed then the perception is that they wouldn’t have signed Musser, Walter and Pointer. If these three are worth the money, then pay them and get them into the system. On the flip side, don’t just sign them because you couldn’t sign Frasier unless they are really worth taking a shot. The draft is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes you get a niuce milk chocate covered sweet caramel center and sometimes your get a nut inside.

    1. Agree with the statement about Musser, Walter, and Pointer. If these three are deemed worthy of the combined $1M signing bonuses, then sign them regardless of what happens with Frasier. Conversely, if they’re perceived not worth signing, then don’t sign them just because you failed to sign Frasier.

      The argument about spreading risk makes good sense, but the argument either Frasier OR the Musser, Walter, Pointer trio less so.

    2. First off, the small market teams you mentioned have only in recent years started to invest heavily in the draft. You need to wait another 5 years to make any kind of judgements on the value of their approach.

      And I am not sure what you are looking at but the pipelines in Tampa Bay and KC seem pretty stocked to me. The reason why those small market teams don’t…and will never have…a ton of all stars is because they can’t afford to re-sign them once they lose control over them and they qualify for Free Agency.

      I am all for a good debate about the Phillies draft spend, but I am not sure why there is any valid reason to bend over backwards trying to defend their meager draft spend the last 2 years…a draft spend that puts them at or near the BOTTOM of MLB.

  8. Nick Delminico would be a very interesting pick. I find it hard to believe that a talent like that would last until the 39th pick. It would seem very hard to project a 1st pick for the Phillies this year, though. With Tampa having so many early picks, I would think they will take a mostly “slot” guys, so as to avoid having a 15 million dollar draft. That could impact who is left for the Phillies in the supplemental round.

    1. There is always uncertainty after the top 15-20 talents. Some guys will fall for various reasons, and some guys like Hayden Simpson for the Cubs last year will pop in to the first round completely out of nowhere.

      As for local products, two guys to monitor for our 2nd pick

      Cam Gallagher, C (Manheim Township HS)
      Derek Fisher, OF (Cedar Crest HS)

      BA has them ranked 64th and 66th nationally, which is right before our 2nd pick. I need to do more research on both guys, but they are names to keep in mind.

      1. Love to get Gallagher with the 66 pick. BA indicates he wants to sign and getting picked by the Phillies could only help that.

        1. I recall reading on PG that he could hit, but they were unsure if his body type could stay behind the plate.

  9. Thank you for the write up. I dont agree with who the phillies draft all the time but I do agree with how they spread the money around.

  10. A number of comments, PP. First, thanks for a very interesting analysis and post. Although I’m more interested in the Phillies focusing on IF and C this year, with the talent of their scouts in identifying pitching, I’m never going to argue when they load up on it in the early rounds.

    I think you’ve overthunk things and were correct with your first impression — the Phillies should spend more on the draft and go over slot more. Your point on Cole Hamels says it all — one expensive pick panning out more than pays for all the other picks made over a multi-year period. It’s a numbers game and the more elite prospects you sign, the higher the odds of getting a star out the back end of your development program. I think your example of the 2006 – 2008 draft overslots shows quite respectable WAR return, as a whole, for this soon after those drafts and that the return, relative to the bonuses paid, will be quite positive when you relook at the WAR for these guys in another 3-4 years.

    As I have rethought the big over-slot deals, I also have changed my view a little. I think there really is something in the mindset of a player who over-values himself greatly and gets into the agents’ game so much that he’ll only sign for mega-bucks. They seem to not have the drive, or love of the game, or just relax and go lazy with their loot. Not all of them, but it seems many. So perhaps the overslots in the $300 – $600K are the sweet spot of draft.

    I’m in the camp that the Phillies could have sent both the $1 mill and the three pieces of the $1 mill at the end of the signing period. That would have brought them near the midpoint of teams’ spending on draft. Hardly asking billionaires to part with a huge pile of cash and really in their interest as your WAR value versus draft bonus shows. I think you are wrong in saying the Phillies preferred the three roughly $350K bonuses to the single gamble at $1 million. That only happened after Frazier said no, so he and his $1 million clearly were the team’s first choice.

    I agree with you that Story is a guy whom I really want us to draft. I think his defense makes him a likely Phillies pick, especially since the attempt to restock the lower farm with SS from LA came a cropper on age issues this past international signing season. That tells me that the Phillies see SS as a serious hole to fill in the lower minors.

    Other guys I’m looking at for our sandwich and two second round picks, whom you haven’t mentioned, and whom I’d like your views on. They are part of my focus on IF and C in this draft.
    Matt Dean HS SS from TX — BA rates him #54 A little big for SS and likely goes to 3

    B.A. Vollmuth — college SS from Miss, not really Phillies geography, BA #63. I guess his appeal depends on whether or not the Phillies think he can stay at 3B

    Jason Esposito — Vanderbilt 3B, BA #77 and a guy I’ve liked for a while. Can certainly stay at 3B

    Tyler Goeddel — HS 3B, BA #89 good speed, good size, from CA, good field, seems Phillies type of guy

    Cam Gallager — local catcher, whom you’ve mentioned

    Andrew Susac– Oregon State catcher on a redraft. Phillies have shown themselves ready to redraft a guy they like. He has the receiving and pitcher handling ability the Phillies look for first in a catcher. He is now BA #30 but has floated up and down the list and is coming off broken hamate

    Brett Austin — HS C from North Carolina, BA #61 — the sort of fast-riser the Phillies sometimes pursue, intriguing as a switch hitter. Lacks the D the Phillies typically seek, so perhaps not a realistic possibility and not from a geographical area that we seem to focus upon.

    1. I have real problems with several of Allentown’s assertions, as well as their apparent premises.

      First, he cannot use Cole Hamels as an example of an over-slot draft signing. Just the opposite is true. Hamels was considered a health risk and there is no basis to doubt that his bonus money was considerably less as a consequence.

      Secondly, to repeat unsupported clams about the need for and the benefits from over-slot drafting & spending is curious–to say the least. Essentially, he simply ignores the impressive factual findings set out in detail by PP in the article to which he is responding in an naswer that doesn’t even attempt to refute the evidence provided by PP that over-slot spending has been both unwise financially and a disappointing method adding future major league talent. One Latos in 59 over-slot extravaganza is a poor return, and even if San Diego gets an impressive return on its investment, that doesn’t add to the black ink in 29 other ledgers.

      Mostly, though, Allentown’s post is the proverbial classic example of inadequate economic analysis: it ignores the alterative investment options. The heart of economics is the allocatio of scarce resources, and the choice of priorities used to decide: would it be better to have given a over-slot draft pick the million dollars that was spent on the salary of Jose Contreras?

      The proof is in the pudding, if I may offer an imaginative, original & pithy saying. In the past decade the Phillies have QUADRUPLED their player payroll, AND in doing so have reached the pinnacle unimaginable to Phillies fans who suffered through many of those record 10,000 losses, highest of any pro team in any sport. Again this season the Phillies have the best winning percentage in all of MLB….

      And they have a farm system with every team possessing a winning record, and one that arguably is as deep in talent as any in baseball below Double A.

      1. It would help if you actually read what I wrote. I did refer to PP’s study of over-slot. It showed that in the short time since the 2006-8 drafts, the major league return was already nearly half of the bonuses paid. By the time all these guys become FA, these bonuses will clearly be a big plus.

        I don’t get the concern that you and PP express that most of the guys will bomb out, that there is a high beta on high school draftees, that most of the major league value will come from a small minority of the guys to whom overslot bonuses were paid, however you choose to frame the same issue. As in financial investing, beta is not a bad thing. What you are searching for is diversification and highest overall return for your investment. Each overslot draftee doesn’t have to pay out in a predictable fashion. They just have to pay out on average. If you sign 10 over slot guys and 9 bust but the remaining one gives you triple the WAR return for your $, then you are ahead.

        The Phillies owners should understand this. You don’t dump your life savings into a savings account or 3-month treasuries because the beta is low. So is the return. Stocks may have a high beta, especially if you invest small growth stocks, but if the average return is significantly higher and you have the ability to diversify your holdings, then that is the way you should go, with at least a significant portion of your savings.

        You talk of FA as if they were somehow low beta, but they aren’t. As a whole, the FA game is one where it is difficult, on average, to get more WAR than you’re actually paying for, since you are to large measure rewarding past, rather than future, performance.

      2. So many words used to defend the lowest spend in MLB in the draft and amateur free agency over the past 2 seasons.

        I can’t believe anyone would ever suggest that investing in Free Agents versus investing in the draft would offer a better, more sustainable long term approach in allocation of resources. FA is to fill holes, not build a franchise, unless you plan on equaling the Yankees spend every year.

  11. I agree in theory that the Phillies should spend a ton every year, because they can probably afford it. But they don’t, and the reason is that the large majority of guys never pan out. Hamels $2M bonus wasn’t that crazy, because he was a first rounder, and guys behind him got more, but after the first round, the beta is extremely high.

    1. I grant you that the beta is very high, but does that even matter. What should matter is the average return compared to the average price. That you get all of that return from 25% of the guys that you ladle out the over-slot bonuses shouldn’t be a factor. Looking at the over-slot payments as a whole, either the average return exceeds the average cost, or it doesn’t. From the 2006-2008 draft numbers you posted, it seems that when the accounting is finished four years from now, the answer will be that the average return exceeds the average cost by quite a lot.

    2. I agree with you on the Hamels point. But I would characterize the assertion that the Phillies don’t spend more because “the large majority of guys never pan out” a bit differently. Why would you ever put any money into the draft then if it were like spinning the roulette wheel. Guys do pan out… they wouldn’t play if they didn’t win occasionally.

      To point out the obvious, I think the decision comes from the leadership who is budgeting. The FO doesn’t think the marginal dollar spent on the draft will yield incremental value. This is clearly disconnected from the performance of the scouting staff. This is what I find contradictory.

      The scouting staff has been performing well in my view and delivering value; and yet we haven’t seen increased money being allocated to the draft or international FA. If the FO believed they had an edge in the scouting department I believe they would be putting more money into the draft. For some reason they don’t recognize the edge. I think this is a blind spot on the FO’s part. Call it cheap or an oversight; I just think it’s a mistake personally.

      I also am not advocating the Phils put $25M towards a draft budget; I just see data points that we’re in the bottom half of spending on the draft. The logic is simple… Our scouting is better than average (I believe) and our spending is less than average… so we’re likely above average on return. I believe we’re likely missing out on opportunities that could put us further ahead.

      I have wondered whether the Phillies put more $ into a draft if they think there is more talent. Supposedly this year is a “great draft” talent wise… I have no way of assessing that, but wondered if you did have thoughts on that?

      Now, separate the amount budgeted by the FO from how the scouting staff actually spends the allocated $….I love love love the Phil’s risk return philosophy. I think spreading the risk across several players vs. putting a lot of $ into one hit or miss player is a better spending philosophy. They’re trying to bias their distribution to the upside… that’s perfect.

  12. Many thanks for a tremendously valuable study. Great work! It’s a blessing that you are a Phiilies fan.

    For the Phillies to nab Cosart against their grain shows a brilliant stroke by the scouts and front office. Does this suggest they will do it again?

    Boston is setting up a showdown by stacking the deck. Would the commissioner consider a luxury tax on this kind of spending to control unfair practices? Would other GMs agree?

  13. The approach of the Phillies carries over to International signings as well. Shotgun not rifle shot.

    1. I’d say their draft approach is rifle shot, but with very few shots per season. The successes have largely come not from the cattle call shotgun approach, but from the first and second rounds and those few over slot picks that they make each season. They aren’t hugely over slot, but the do represent a few clearly identified targets. The Phillies have also struck gold with a relatively late pick in Ryan Howard, but usually the successes have been either early picks or over slots. This says that the scouts identified a few very specific players and made sound choices in identifying them. The main topic of debate comes down to two questions. If the Phillies had a larger draft budget, are there more of these carefully identified over slot talents whom would be drafted but aren’t today, because the scouting department lacks the signing $? Second, of the unsigned nuggets that escape signing each year after the scouts have zeroed in on them, are these guys who just want to go to college or are they over slots who would happily sign if the scouting department just had another $100K or two in the budget to offer them? I guess we can speculate and weigh circumstantial evidence, but never truly know the answer to either of these questions.

  14. Great post, and certainly a convincing answer to the Phillies’ most vocal critics. That said, color me not entirely convinced that the Phillies aren’t making an (understandable, small) but real mistake with their draft strategy.

    I wish you had run your over slot study – the meat of your argument, IMO – from ’04 to ’06 rather than ’06 through ’08. Even then it wouldn’t be conclusive, but IMO it would have been a lot more interesting. After all, even if over slot signings fail more often than not, when they pay off they can pay off big. I suspect (though can’t prove) that a study of drafts where there has been time for players to hit the majors and complete at least their pre-arb years would reveal that in the aggregate over slot draftees pay off very very well.

    You have proven that drafting any HS talent is risky. But it would take a LOT of evidence to convince me that it is a complete crap shoot. Not only haven’t you presented that evidence, but the evidence I HAVE seen is to the contrary.

    Remember, this isn’t about selecting players who will go on to have okay careers. As you have pointed out, a team like the Phillies (especially) can fill those positions fairly easily, one way or another. It’s about finding stars. And I’m pretty sure that most stars (aside from players not subject to the draft) are either (a) top 3 rounds, (b) over slot players, or (c) both. The vast majority. Sure, with a few very rare exceptions ANY drafted player has only a small chance to become a major league star. But over slot players is still where you are going to find the majority of your stars.

    1. Domonic Brown was unranked in the state of Georgia prior to the 2006 draft, got a $200K bonus (a lot for the 20th round, but not that crazy) and here he is.

      There is no exact formula.

      College players are safer, in terms of having a big league career, than high school players. Some high school players with huge upside get picked late in the draft, go to college, tear it up, and then become first round picks. A big chunk of high school guys who command 7 figure bonuses never amount to anything after undistinguished college careers. Some guys don’t even get drafted (Strasburg), go to college, and then get picked in the first 5 picks.

      Its a fool’s errand to say you can figure it out. You can’t. MLB teams don’t have it figured out, and they have entire departments who do nothing but scout amateur players year round. The Phillies position, financially, means they could take more risks. But taking more risks doesn’t mean you’ll end up with more successful prospects. Lots of guys sign for overslot deals after the 5th round, in the $400-700K range, and never amount to anything.

      It comes down to the quality of your scouts, and then the player himself. The Phillies gave Julian Sampson $390K in the 12th round. I loved that they did that. He never did anything in the minors. They appear to have done well on Jarred Cosart. And Domonic Brown. But they also did well with near slot guys like Singleton.

      Worrying about the money often times skews reality. Reality is, very few prospects make it. Its great that the Red Sox will spend endless sums of money on the draft. They hit every once in a while. The Phillies still have the superior system, in large part because of their scouts and player development staff. I’m comfortable with that.

      1. None of this is resolvable without more data, primarily about the performance of prior over slot guys. Again, you don’t need a very good batting average on these guys to justify the bonuses.

        And again, I’m not one of the people around here who are screaming that the Phillies are cheap or stupid for not spending more. I also think people underestimate the disadvantage of consistently drafting at the end of the first round, and thus also underestimate how good a job the Phillies have done given the lack of top picks.

        But, even without additional data, a few more points:

        (a) While people, myself included, have argued that the small market teams have more incentive to spend in the draft, it’s also true that a high revenue team like the Phillies can more easily afford to whiff on a few over slot guys.

        (b) The fact that they do such a good job with scouting cuts both ways – if the money was there, the scouts could presumably identify a few more players for whom an over slot bonus was a good risk.

        (c) Maybe we have a sample size issue here, and I’ll grant you that there are glimmers of hope for a couple of the toolsie guys, but I still am convinced that going for those guys in the first 3 or 4 rounds is a mistake. I do not believe that, choosing between two toolsie guys, the raw toolsie guy is as likely to succeed as the more polished toolsie guy. In later rounds, those sort of guys (polished/good tools/high upside) aren’t on the board (or they have massive signability issues). But in the first few rounds there are high upside players more polished than (for example) your toolsie Hewitt type.

      2. I agree that the Phils seem to have a very good system of scouting and developing guys, especially guys who are under the radar or have some warts. So if you are good at that, why shouldn’t you invest more in it? I don’t think we need to spend $10m a year like some teams, but signing even one more of those guys each year would make a difference.

        According to your study, 6 of the 65 guys are in the majors and 7 are in the top 10 on their own teams. So 20% of those types of players you identified end up being an MLB-type player or one of your own top prospects. That actually sounds like pretty good odds to me when it comes to amateur talent.

        I agree with all the caveats – don’t cave to someone who is asking more than they are worth, don’t spend it just because you have it, etc. etc. But an additional Scott Frazier, Andrew Susac, Brandon Workman, and Cory Vaughn (and dare I say Daniel Palka who hit .283/.364/.521 as a Freshman in the ACC) each year would make a big difference. I realize I’m cherry-picking, but I think it was pretty clear for each of these guys that they were really good and worth a fair amount of dough. $5m? No. But an extra million would hardly be out of line.

        As an aside, I also think the Phils spending strategy has to do with a desire to stay close to MLB’s spending standards.

        1. This is where things start to get a little fuzzy though. You state:

          “I agree with all the caveats – don’t cave to someone who is asking more than they are worth, don’t spend it just because you have it, etc. etc.”

          and then go on to mention a bunch of names and comment that the Phillies didn’t sign them. How exactly do you know that those players DIDN’T ask for more than they were worth in the Phillies eyes? This is the part of the argument that loses me.

          I would LOVE it if the Phillies would spend more money and all of these guys were in the system. But they aren’t, and I (and nobody else here outside of the Phillies front office) have no idea what happened during negotiations. Maybe Palka really wanted to go to college. Maybe he thought he was worth more than the Phillies thought he was worth. Or maybe the Phillies are cheap. My gut feeling is that the first two are just as likely (if not more so) than the third.

          1. This really isn’t as difficult as everybody is making it out to be. The Phillies are “cheap” when it comes to draft and LA spend. Those are just simple facts when compared to the rest of MLB. There isn’t anything subjective about that. I refuse to buy the Koolade by some that the excuse for the Phillies being the lowest spending team in MLB…or close to it…is some well thought out and genius plan. They are trying to save money…and the place they have always tried to save money since this ownership group took over is in the minor leagues.

            Guess when the Phillies were also the lowest spending team in MLB in the draft and LA? From 1985 to about 1995. It was terribly short sighted approach then and it is terribly shortsighted approach now.

            But because the MLB club is winning now, everybody is complacent about current draft spend. I find this ironic on a draft specific website that is about 2014 and beyond…not about what the Phillies are doing now at the MLB level with a rapidly aging core.

            We’ll see how they approach what is called one of the deepest in years.

            1. You are correct that it’s not that difficult. Just need to look at the results of how the organization does turning their draft into prospects.

              Do the Phillies have a good minor league system or don’t they?

            2. If the Phillies are always cheap when it comes to the draft, how have they managed to produce the 10+ prospects used in the last 2+ seasons to acquire Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton, and others? And beyond that, after trading those 10 prospects, which they cheaply drafted/signed, how have they also managed to not drop out of the top 10 in terms of farm system rankings?

              Like most areas of life, its often times not how much you spend, but what you spend it on. The only draft pick I’m sure the Phillies regret let getting away over the last 5 years is Kyle Gibson, and I don’t think they ever really had a chance to sign him.

              The Brandon Workman story has been repeated over and over again. The Phillies thought they had a deal worked out with him for an agreed dollar amount. Near the signing deadline, he changed his asking price and wanted more. The Phillies didn’t feel he was worth it. The Red Sox took him last year and gave him a nice bonus. Hes having a nice year in the SAL, though he’s way too old for that league, but his ultimate worth and value won’t be determined for a while. Same deal with Susac. He looks like a borderline first rounder, but his asking price was extremely high when he was drafted in 2009. Will he ultimately merit that asking price? Maybe.

              You can review the Phillies draft history at baseball-reference.com and see the guys they drafted and didn’t sign. For a while, it was Joe Saunders who was the big “oh my, how did we not sign him, look at how great he’s going to be”, and now hes basically Kyle Kendrick.

              I think the important point, one that is tougher to tangibly quantify, is that once you develop a reputation for paying big money for draft picks, every future player you take is going to use that as leverage in negotiations. The Red Sox will end up paying over the odds for a lot of their picks, because guys know they have endless pockets. The Red Sox may strike gold every once in a while, but they’re going to lose a lot of money too because of his pattern.

              Ultimately, its pointless to really get worked up over the Phillies spending. We all agree that we want them to spend more. If you’ve been a regular here, you know I’m not a Phillies apologist, and I’ve been more than critical of a number of decisions the org has made. But I understand that they’ve done a great job of evaluating talent in the draft over the last 7-8 years. They’ve had their share of misses (in the first round, especially, which is odd), but the late round hits, signed to great bonuses, have more than paid off.

              Its the old adage that ties back in to Moneyball. If you gave Billy Beane a $150M payroll, would he spend the money wisely? He’s been successful by knowing he has to work that much harder than everyone else to make due with what he has, and that extra due diligence pays off. Maybe Phillies scouts operate under the same way of thinking. If you told Marti Wolever he has a $10M draft budget, is he going to hammer down as hard on the under the radar guys or is he going to relax a bit and just take the safer guys with bigger price tags who might not merit the bonuses?

              Either way, the Phillies strategy is what it is, and when hard slotting of some kind is implemented in the next CBA, everyone will have to play by the rules the Phillies seemingly follow now, which should only amplify their advantage in the draft.

            3. Just about every one of Nobody’s assertions of “facts” in this post are flat out wrong–and serious distortions of the real facts in each instance.

              He continues to claim as “fact” that “the Phillies are cheap when it comes to draft and LA spending.” Well, the obvious “facts” in this instance is that NONE of the MLB clubs publishes the details of the costs involved in capital expenditures, debt management, minor league operational costs, expenditures on player acquisitions, full payroll data on management & personnel for the scouting, minor league clubs, front office costs related directly to player acquisiton & development.

              In short, he doesn’t know what he is talking about. He can only surmise and imagine the unknown financial data–just like the rest of us. But what we do have available in the way of known, published details of basic costs–such as the extent of the capital investments in the training complex in Clearwater, the academies and facilities in the Dominican Republic & Venezuela, the sheer numbers, the experience & status of the training & coaching staffs in the system, the “first-class” travel. housing, training, therapy, etc provisions throughout the farm system, even the numbers of more highly paid veterans stockpiled in the high minors…all these factors strongly support the conclusion that the Phillies now are clearly in the upper half of MLB clubs in spending for the future as well as being in the top tenth in spending on the major league team in salaries, facilities, maintenance, first-rate accomodations, travel, etc.

              Nobody even goes so far into the realm of absurdity as to contend that “the Phillies are the lowest spending team in MLB” in player acquisition and development. That suggests that he has never visited the spring training camps in Florida & Arizona, or attended minor league games in MOST of the farm club parks. The truth, which is immediately & glaringly obvious, is that EVERY ONE of the Phillies affiliates plays in one of the best ball parks in their leagues, and the simple truth is that no other organization can match overall the quality of the parks & facilities from the DR & Venezuela to Clearwater to Williamsport to Lakewood to Reading to Allentown.

              Which leads directly to the most preposterous and woefully ill-informed of all of Nobody’s assertions: “The Phillies are trying to save money and the pace have ALWAYS tried to save money since the present ownership took control is by trying to save money on their minor league teams.”

              Clearly, Nobody was either not around or not paying any attention back when the Carpenters owned the Phillies, and the club was riding a wave of success similar to that of the present. The consensus was that the Phillies had the most productive farm system in baseball 30 years–one that played in the most abysmal ball parks and the poorest facilities in struggling minor league towns. The only exception was Reading, even then a jewel among minor league franchises. But MOST high schools and jucos across America played in better conditions than those of the Phillies clubs in Spartansburg, SC; Martinsville, VA; :Peninsula” (outside Norfolk, VA), and the playing field in Clearwater (for the minor league clubs) was disgraceful for aN MLB organization that had just won the World Series.

              Truth is, simply, that there is not another MLB club that by use of its own resources and by being the kind of first-rate organization that has enabled them to enter into cooperative ventures with local ownerships has surpassed–or even equalled–the Phillies in building a farm system based in minor-league franchises that arewithout exceptions among the most dynamic and successful at the gate in all of minor league baseball.

          2. It’s a good point. One has to assume all those guys asked for more money than the Phils thought they were worth, otherwise the Phils probably would have signed them. I probably chose the wrong examples. To try to clarify my fuzziness:

            – If you are very far apart on valuation, then move on. If not, then step up to the plate for the talent.
            – Sign a couple more of the $200-500k guys (I see how the examples I chose did not fit into that category)
            – Don’t be so budget restricted that signing one guy for $1m will preclude signing three guys for $200k-500k. (This is what most people assume happened last year with Frazier – when they couldn’t come to agreement with him, they used his money to sign Musser, Walter, and Pointer (I think)). If the main guy signs for $1m, but you still like the other players at their lower price tags, sign them too. If all four of those guys have a 20% chance of being an MLB player or at least top ten in your system, you can give yourself more chances to succeed without breaking the bank (I do not think adding $1m to their budget would break the bank, though I admit it would be a large % increase over their historical levels).

            I guess if I were to summarize in one sentence: If the Phils are good at identifying high upside talent for $200k-500k, then sign a couple more of those guys to increase the chances of getting future major leaguers without drastically increasing total spending.

      3. Once again, you sidestep the conclusions of your own analyses. It doesn’t matter that only a small fraction of these guys make it. The only thing that matters is whether or not that small fraction adds more value than the cost of all the bonuses. Your analysis says that it does. Thus, this is a cost effective way to add talent to an organization. If your WAR value were less than the total bonus costs for your pooled group of either first rounders, or over-slots, then the conclusion you state in this post would be correct. It seems quite clear that when we get past the team-controlled 6 years of the careers of all the guys in your 2006-08 list that the WAR value will blow away the total bonuses paid. The beta means nothing other than that you’re going to have to sign more than a handful of over-slots over the years to be reasonably sure of WAR value exceeding the cost of bonuses paid. That is not revolutionary — it is true for any high average yield, high beta investment. You clean up on Google and Amazon when they went public, got slaughtered on a handful of companies nobody has heard from since, and on the whole you walk away with a very nice return. Invest all your $ in 2 IPOs that your financial advisor likes, make that your only investment of the decade, and you have no diversification and are just gambling. Could hit a HR, could equally well lose all your $. But that is an argument for numbers and diversification, not one for either sticking with the safe 3-month treasuries and certainly not an argument for investing next to nothing, because, you know, it’s risky and if you spend everything you earn on cars and big-screen TVs, at least you know you’ve bought something that has actual, for-sure value.

        1. thank you. This is tiresome.

          People sit here and say what a crapshoot the draft is, write numerous wordy, nearly unreadable paragraphs even, then people come on here and say “but the Phillies are cool cause they know more than everyone else.” DO YOU NOT SEE HOW THAT LOGIC DOESN’T WORK????

          Guys… Do you have 401ks??? the draft is just like investing, pure and simple. The phillies scouting director is not Yoda. They are investing much less, and expecting better returns, when everyone has more or less the same information.

          While this piece is written to emphasize that they are spreading risk around, in fact, in this case that is to avoid saying they are avoiding the more expensive investments. But spreading risk around and making expensive investments are not mutually exclusive. Investments are expensive for a reason.

          Any other argument. Literally any. Is relying on myths like clutch hitting, closer mentality and pitching to contact.

    2. I agree that ‘star’ talents are going to be chosen either high in the draft or require overslot money (otherwise they will chose college and if they stink they will not be a high pick anymore). But I think a huge percentage of stars are going to be in the Top10 to Top20. The current draft system does not allow the Phillies to draft in that range. That really only allows them to sign the ‘huge’ overslot type that is typically the Tigers/RedSox/Yankees territory.

      Another benefit given to high draft picks in WAR is that they are likely given a chance to play. I know my argument will be poor but if Barnes or Rizzotti were first round picks both would likely be a level higher and have more buzz. There is a reason they were not (smaller school / less talent) and they have to fight harder to make it.

      I like the Phillies strategy of going after some supposed Top300 talent but with some flaw that sends them into later rounds then seeing who will sign for $350K. Of course, any of those guys who do not sign feels like a loss:
      Coy (did not see on ASU’s baseball or basketball rosters) and Weber (drafted by Braves in 2009 in 22nd Round)
      Susac (considered 1st Rounder) and Stewart (have no idea) in 2009 and Frazier last year.
      Choosing the best possible players and signing them all would be the ideal case and I am not sure why every team does not do it (Red Sox get pretty close) given the huge cost of free agency.

        1. Yeah, and I see on some draft lists he is also eligible for this year’s draft. Maybe if the stars align right for a few criers, they can work him in in the 50th round or so, sign him below slot, and people can finally dry their bitter tears.

      1. Drafting the best players and signing them all. Now, that’s a great strategy. Add 50 guys every year, and give them any amount of money they can dream up. Bunk, not worth it, Alot of draft lists reviewed every year, it shows that outside of one or two players, they are basically a bunch of unknowns. And usually, the two players who are remembered were the teams first two picks in the draft.

        As to the theory that going hog wild on spending really pays off due to some formula, it does not pay off at all, because you must add the money spent on the failures to the money spent on the player himself. I like Philly’s current draft strategy, to selectively pay a reasonably good fee to those who might warrant it, and to pay somewhat less promising types according to what is reasonable for both parties. If a player has the strategy to simply maximize his signing bonus, just move on, because if the player would be a worthwhile player, he could easily make up what he misses in signing bonus with an earlier ascension to the MLB. If he is looking to maximize signing bonus, he might be looking to take an early retirement.

        1. Marfis, please show me anybody who ever suggested they sign all 50 players every year and pay them whatever they want.

          The reality is that the discussions have almost always focused on adding $1M-$3M to draft spend each year and using that money to target 1-2 additional overslot players each draft that rank in the Top 1oo or Top 150 but have fallen due to signability issues.

        2. I’m sure you realize how far away this strawman is from our current situation of being among the 5 lowest spending teams in each of the past two drafts. And no, we don’t spend that much more on scouting, or TH’s bricks and mortar in LA academies, to make up for the underspend in draft and LA bonuses. People say look at our lower minors — look what we got in the 2008 draft. Guess what, we actually spent a reasonable amount of money in that draft.

          1. Yes…it just so happens that what some of us are calling for…for the Phillies to consistently being in the Top 15 in spend every year…or come close to the MLB average…is exactly what they did in 2008.

            The 2008 draft was fantastic…and it just so happens the Phillies spent (or were forced to spend with the extra picks) just over the MLB average. The MLB average was $6.275M and the Phillies spent $6.74M. That is what happens when you give great scouts the money to sign the guys they identify.

            In 2009 and 2010 the Phillies spent about $3M under the MLB average each year. Put another way they spent only half of the MLB average the last 2 years. That is pathetic by any measure. Only the Braves and White Sox have spent less in the last 3 years.

  15. Story has a unique swing, IMO. In BP it looked bit like a cricket swing. Going down for pitches and whacking it with an uppercut. That was not as pronounced in games, but there. Swing looks a bit loopy, but with very good, whipping bat speed, seems to use his wrists and turn his body nicely from the hips for leverage. Looks thin. Could put on weight and wind up hitting 15-20 HR?

  16. PP, where do the Phillies rank in terms of scout-spending? My theory is this: what if the Phillies do spend a ton on the draft, but instead of player bonuses, they spend it on their scouts?

  17. Gary is right on when pointing to the scouts. The current Phillies regime has shown the willingness to spend for talent they believe in when they like the risk reward. So it all comes down to what sort of information they receive from their scouts on weather a player is worth over spending for. Currently it is tough to say if they are willing to pay big $ for high talent because they have been drafting near the bottom of each round and as shown there are very few givens at the top of the draft. Unlike other professional drafts sign ability is a large factor in baseball and i am sure we do not hear 1/4 of the issues with trying to sign draft picks.

    I agree with their strategy of drafting great athletes who have not peaked yet when it comes with baseball, because you can teach the finer points of the game you can’t teach athleticism. The only issue with that is you end up with a lot of OF prospects and little IF prospects. But if you are going to take this approach you need to be willing to fill hole via trades or FA and they are currently doing both. This make it very tough to argue with their method. The only thing I hope is that they draft the best available talent at each pick(as per their asessment) and not try to fill holes in the system through the draft (i.e. SS, 3B) as that leads to reaching and overpaying.

    1. If the Phillies take a 5’11, Right Handed, college pitcher with their 1st pick, I would be very surprised.

  18. How about Chris Reed, the lefty closer from Stanford? Seems to be healthy and sitting in the mid-9os. We’d make him a starter, obviously.

  19. Nice writeup. This isn’t a commentary on its conclusions, which seem solid, but I find the description of your intellectual migration interesting. For the last decade, baseball fans have been engaged in this civil war pitting (for lack of a better way of putting it) objectivity vs. subjectivity. So, in Moneyball, Michael Lewis describes Billy Beane throwing a chair because one of his scouts dared to pick a high school pitcher based on his physical projection rather than his statistical performance. (Incidentally, it was Jeremy Bonderman, who went on to have a major league career, though one marred by injury, so maybe Beane was wrong.) That book and the wider sabermetric movement emboldened people like us to think that maybe we could discover hidden value in prospects we’d never even seen based on scraps of statistical data. But I think what this post boils down to, if I may be so bold as to summarize, is that scouts really do matter, and so does knowledgeable firsthand observation. Assessing talent turns out to be a subjective game, which is what makes arguing about all this stuff fun.

    1. Depodesto’s and Beane’s approach to drafting was not a success at all. Chasing stats while sifting through minor league metrics was a success.

    2. Scouts views are extremely important. At the top under the “Primer” button I did a long writeup of how I like to try and evaluate prospects. You can’t look at only stats. And you’d be naive to only ever read scouting reports. You need both pieces to complete the puzzle. You can’t make a steak sandwich without both the meat and the roll. Scouting can be either the meat or the roll, it doesn’t matter.

      And much like the roll you use for a cheesesteak, the value is dependent on the quality of the product. If you have a scout that isn’t good at his job giving you reports, and you put a lot of weight in those reports, you’re gonna end up with a bad draft pick. Likewise, if you use a stale roll, your steak sandwich will suck.

  20. Sticking with the theme of middle infielders, I was wondering if anyone could compare and contrast Phil Evans with Trevor Story. I’ve seen a lot of posters pushing Story and am wondering how Evans stacks up.

  21. There is a tidbit in ESPN’s Draft Blog from today saying the Phils are more open to the college player in this draft. I suppose we shall see; usually Wolever does an interview or two ahead of the draft commenting on where they see value.

  22. Salisbury column at csnphilly.com mentions the following names:

    Salisbury column on Phillies draft at csnphilly.com – drops the following names:

    Kevin Comer, RHP, Seneca HS (NJ) – BA Rank #102
    Cameron Gallagher, C, Manheim Township HS (PA) – BA Rank #64
    Charles Tilson, OF, New Trier HS (IL) – BA Rank #80
    Andrew Chafin, LHP, Kent State University – BA Rank #38
    Brad Miller, SS, Clemson University – BA Rank #68
    Austin Hedges, C, JSerra HS (CA) – BA Rank #28
    Jake Hager, SS, Sierra Vista HS (NV) – BA Rank #122
    Brandon Nimmo, OF, East HS (WY) – BA Rank #38
    Jose Fernandez, RHP, Alonso HS (FL) – BA Rank #20.

  23. Finally draft day is here. I predict if he is there they go Brad Miller and hope he is ready as their SS of the future. Rollins gets one more contract if he is reasonable with his demands.

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