Well, if you feel like me right now, you’re worn out. The first day of the draft is one of the most exciting days of the year for me, and this year was no exception. This draft had potential for a bunch of exciting moments, as Boras guys dropped, college guys saw their stock jump a bit, and guys on my “wish list” quickly started flying off the board. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of highs and plenty of lows. Tomorrow, I’ll compare my mock draft to the actual results, but for now, I just want to review the Phillies draft choices and give my take on what has transpired. If you’re ready, let’s go. Click the player’s name for a profile/video when available.
A surprise, but not a complete surprise. Jim Salisbury mentioned his name in passing, I’d thought about him a few times over the last week, but I really assumed we were going bat here. When Mesoraco and Ahrens disappeared before us, I started thinking who I DIDN’T want, and I wasn’t thinking about Savery. Before I talk about him, I want to start with this. Back in January, Jim Callis at BA did a preliminary look at the first round of the draft. This is what he said…
1. David Price, lhp, Vanderbilt
No lefthander has gone No. 1 overall since Yankees chose Brien Taylor in 1991.
2. Matt Wieters, c, Georgia Tech
Switch-hitting catcher with power also has thrown 98 mph as a closer.
3. Andrew Brackman, rhp, North Carolina State
Seven-footer can touch 99 mph and has given up basketball to focus on baseball.
4. Matt Harvey, rhp, Fitch HS (Groton, Conn.)
Scouts are divided on which North Carolina recruit is better, Harvey or Porcello.
5. Rick Porcello, rhp, Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, N.J.)
Seton Hall prep teammate Evan Danieli also could go as high as supplemental first round.
6. Daniel Moskos, lhp, Clemson
Tigers use him in relief, but several pro teams believe he can succeed as a starter.
7. Joe Savery, lhp, Rice
If he’s healthy after minor shoulder surgery last fall, he could push himself even higher on this list.
So, basically, we were looking at the 7th best prospect in the draft, based on the notion that he’d be healthy after minor surgery. In January of 2006, this is where Savery was ranked, entering his sophomore year..
1. David Price, lhp, Vanderbilt
2. Andrew Brackman, rhp, North Carolina State
3. Joe Savery, lhp, Rice
That’s right…he was ranked the 3rd best sophomore in the country. Most experts, back in January, were predicting Savery to be one of the players of the year. So what happened? Well, Rice handled him with kid gloves. Some say he was being taken out of games early because he was ineffective, but the reality is, he probably was just trying to focus more on building up his arm strength after the surgery he had, and he never really was “100%” on a consistent basis. Speaking of the surgery, that’s another big issue. I’ll continue to hunt for a specific article on this, but from my non-medically wise learnings, the procedure was to remove a bone growth near his labrum that was causing minor fraying. It was done as a preventative procedure, there was no major tear in his labrum, or anything of the sort. Sure, you always worry when you hear the labrum mentioned, but this does not appear to be a major issue.
Rice pitchers do carry a stigma because of the recent injuries to highly touted players from the program. This excerpt appeared in a recent BA article about that very problem:
“Absolutely, there’s no question that the track record at Rice is a concern,” one American League scout said. “The thing with Savery that may help him is that he’s been a first baseman, too, so his innings and pitch counts have been limited, especially after his injury. St. Clair is a concern again. They’re saying he’s fine . . . but he’s a real wild card.”
Said St. Clair: “It’s unfortunate, but (the perception is) there. I feel like I’m taken care of well here, but if you look at the track record, there is reason for people to believe that.
“It’s an interesting game you have to play, where I have to go out there and do as well as I can and convince them that I feel fine, and they have to be skeptical just to make sure they’re giving their organization a fair shot at really analyzing me as a player.”
That analysis will continue through the run-up to the draft. Savery has slowly worked his way back to form, reaching milestones in pitch count (110 at Alabama-Birmingham on April 29) and velocity (touching 93 mph several times against Tulane on May 13). After he regained his mechanics, St. Clair again featured a fastball topping out at 93 mph.
So here’s the thing. With any draft pick, there is risk. Even the “sure thing” like David Price, he comes with a risk. You clearly don’t want to take guys who are likely to end up in the training room tomorrow, but you also don’t want to take a guy with less chance of being a star simply because he’s never been hurt before. Savery has the Rice factor working against him, and he also has the minor offseason surgery to deal with, but what about the talent..
Area scouts have projected Savery as a 2007 first-rounder since he came out of Lamar High in Houston three years ago. He was the top two-way player in the state, but it would have taken a $1 million bonus to dissuade him from following Jeff Niemann’s path from Lamar to Rice. As with Niemann in 2004, Savery hasn’t been 100 percent in his draft year following offseason surgery. He didn’t pitch for the Owls last June, then had minor surgery to shave down a bone growth in the back of his shoulder that was causing some fraying in his labrum. Savery has taken a regular turn in the Rice rotation this spring, but he has been less than dominant, as his 44-30 K-BB ratio through 68 innings would attest. Savery’s velocity was improving in early May, as he was showing a 90-94 mph fastball for a couple of innings and still touched 90 after 100 pitches. In his initial starts this season, he worked more often at 85-89 mph. His changeup is a plus pitch, and his hard, slurvy curveball can get strikeouts when it’s on, though he hasn’t used it as much as in the past. Savery has continued to pull double duty for the Owls, playing first base and leading the club with a .353 average and 43 RBIs through 52 games. Once he regains full health, he could take off after he focuses his energy and efforts on pitching. The recent litany of Rice pitching prospects who have needed surgery after turning pro concerns scouts, but Savery could be a steal if he slides into the second half of the first round.
So basically, at 19, we took a chance on a kid with potential top 5 overall talent, with a large injury risk. I just want to share one more blurb this one coming way back in 2002:
Cole Hamels, lhp
Hamels qualifies as one of the feel-good stories of the spring. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound lefthander broke the humerus in his left arm as a sophomore and missed all of last season. It’s not the same injury that ended the careers of major leaguer lefthanders Tom Browning, Dave Dravecky and Tony Saunders; Hamels first injured the arm in an off-field accident before aggravating it while he was pitching. He has come back stronger than ever this year, and his performance has rivaled any high school pitcher in the country. He went 6-0, 0.48 with 77 strikeouts in his first 43 innings. He has excellent command of three pitches: an 89-92 mph fastball that has topped out at 94, an outstanding overhand curve and a major league-caliber changeup. He also has a confident mound presence, an easy, mechanically sound delivery and a strong pickoff move. Scouts project even more improvement, and he has shown no fear of a recurrence of his injury. Still, several clubs are wary of investing in a first-round pick with Hamels’ medical history. The hometown Padres have a strong interest, as do teams with extra picks. San Diego’s team doctor helped treat Hamels and says his arm is stronger than before the accident. The circumstances of the injury remain a bit of a mystery, and Hamels will be one of the most scrutinized picks in the draft in recent years. His selection will be based as much on medical judgments as on ability.
Bolding by me. The Phillies rolled the dice at #17, and it turns out they rolled a winner. Let’s see what happens here. Savery has two plus pitches and a good slurve. He’s pitched at one of the best baseball programs in the country, and prior to the concerns over his arm, he was one of the three best players in this crop of juniors. I don’t think the Phillies would take him if they thought he was likely to have arm trouble going forward. Sure, they didn’t give Freddy Garcia an MRI, an unbelievable act, but they DID do a ton of work on Kyle Drabek last year before picking him. They hit that one, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here and assume Savery’s arm and shoulder are fine until we see otherwise. It’s likely he won’t make more than 2 or 3 appearances this summer, probably more to just rest his arm, but he might see some time at 1B and be allowed to hit a bit more.
I give this pick a B+. Sure, I’d have preferred Porcello or Harvey, but I think Savery could be a gem, and maybe more importantly, he’ll probably be major league ready sometime in early 2009, whereas the latter two probably will need at least 3 full seasons in the minors.
At this point, I’d caught my breath from the Savery pick, and I was hoping for something special. Needless to say, I was really disappointed. My first reaction was an expletive that will remain unprinted. My second reaction was similar. My third reaction was “well, maybe it’s not so bad”. My fourth reaction on my drive home from work was another expletive. When I heard we took Mattair, I didn’t feel as bad about the pick. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I’m not “mad” with the pick, more just disappointed. The Phillies have a lack of impact bats in the system, and I felt there were guys available here. I’d have even been okay with taking a big arm here. But this pick seems like a “safe” pick in order to save some money. Here is the scouting report from BA:
Scouting Report: In several ways, d’Arnaud resembles his older brother Chase, a two-year starter at third base for Pepperdine, and Travis has also committed to play for the Waves. Chances are he won’t get to school, though, because he’s a more athletic version of his brother with premium catch-and-throw skills behind the plate and a more advanced bat. While he’s still a streak hitter, d’Arnaud has showed an improved ability to stay inside the ball and drive it to all fields. It’s a quick, line-drive swing for the most part, but he has shown some loft power, with seven home runs, and he ranked among state leaders in RBIs. Defensively, he grades as above-average as both a receiver and thrower, with a plus arm, soft hands and quick feet. While he’s athletic enough to play an infield spot, he’s too good behind the plate–consistently getting his throws to second base in 1.9 seconds–to move.
So…we drafted a defensive catcher at #37 overall? Now, I haven’t seen him play, maybe I’m missing something, but it doesn’t appear that his bat is going to be a plus tool, and the best case is almost that it becomes major league average. To me, that’s not the type of player you should be targeting at 37 overall in a draft loaded with high ceiling offensive prospects. Now, some reports label his bat as being better than BA has let on, so maybe he’ll be much better than I am expecting. I sure hope so. In February, he was rated the 66th best high school senior by BA, but he jumped up to #37 on the same list which was released in late April, so he was clearly going in the right direction. Here is a blurb on him from around the same time:
The 6-foot, 180-pound d’Arnaud has been the high school senior that has taken the biggest step forward this spring in the eyes of many So Cal scouts. His assent was punctuated with a two-run blast into the bleachers beyond the left-field fence in the third inning that gave Lakewood a 4-1 lead.
It was d’Arnaud’s second home run of the tournament, and the younger brother of the Pepperdine sophomore third baseman Chase d’Arnaud drove in nine runs in five games and was named to the all-tournament team. He was known mostly for his prowess behind the plate, but he’s been just as impressive at it this spring, batting .409-5-34 in 71 at-bats.
Lakewood coach Spud O’Neil compares d’Arnaud with two of his former players, Damion Easley and Chris Gomez, and has reveled in his success this season. “I’m just so proud of him,” O’Neil said. “He started out fairly slow, although he’s been driving in a lot of runs, but now it’s hard to get him out.”
So I guess there is some upside here, and he was definitely trending in the right direction. I give this pick a C+ at this point. I don’t hate it as much as I did when it happened, or even an hour ago, but I still don’t love it.
As low as I was after the pick of d’Arnaud, I was that high on the selection of Mattair. On May 29th, I brought up Mattair as a guy to target in the 2nd round, and then a few days later actually put him into consideration for the supplemental round pick. Over the last few days, buzz had started to circulate that he could go as high as #20 to the Dodgers, or land in the supplemental round. With most guys you personally like after the first round, you kind of hold out hope for a certain guy, but for guys who aren’t getting a lot of mainstream pop, you just assume they won’t be taken. So, I was ecstatic to see him end up our pick at #83.
On to the scouting report:
Scouting Report: While Washington prep righthanders Greg Peavey and Julien Sampson (breaking ball went backward) vexed scouts this spring, Mattair came off the basketball court and onto the baseball diamond and emerged as the state’s top high school prospect. He’s athletic to a fault, in that he’s never focused on baseball, and he was good enough as a basketball point guard to attract Division II scholarship interest. His power potential makes him a much better prospect in baseball. He has leverage and obvious strength in his swing and has shown power to all fields. His lack of experience was exposed at showcase events by pitchers with consistently better stuff than any he had seen in southeast Washington, but scouts are confident his athleticism will allow him to adjust once he focuses on baseball. He’s a shortstop now who profiles as a third baseman as a pro. He’s committed to Oregon State.
Mattair is also reportedly off the charts in terms of his makeup and baseball IQ, and his swing is geared towards wood bats, two very promising signs. He was ranked as the second best prospect in Washington, but the best prep prospect. Not much else to say here. I loved him coming into the draft, would have liked him at 37, and love him at 83. A+++++
3.12 Brandon Workman, RHP (Bowie Texas)
This was a really interesting pick, but it makes some sense after you read the scouting report.
Scouting Report: On the right day, Workman can look like a first-rounder. He’ll show a low-90s fastball that tops out at 95 mph to go with a plus 12-to-6 curveball, and that stuff comes from a projectable 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame. He’s still growing too, having added two inches and 20 pounds since last summer. But the problem is poor arm action that scares scouts and robs Workman of any consistency. His mechanics will need an overhaul, and though he has enticing raw arm strength, it’s going to be difficult to draft him high enough to lure him away from Texas. He’s a top student and scouts don’t think he’ll sign for less than third-round money.
What the Phillies did here, it appears, is draft a guy they really wanted to sign higher than he’d have normally been drafted prior to the changes in the CBA. This is the type of guy you take a 17th round flier on and try to sign him through the summer before he attends Texas. It appears that the Phillies knew exactly what type of bonus would be needed to sign him, so they drafted him at the appropriate slot to give him that money. He’s the classic Phillies draft pick for a RHP, good pitcher’s frame, good velocity, great arm strength, lots of projection. I think he signs, and if they can smooth out his mechanics and remake his delivery, they might have found themselves a first rounder in the 3rd round. Tough to grade this pick, but I like it, and it could be a sign of foresight on the Phillies part in terms of being able to sign him.
3.18 Matt Spencer, OF (Arizona State) [scroll down for video]
This pick is kind of curious to me. Wolever commented about the sheer number of prep bats available, then takes a college bat in the 3rd round, and a kind of pedestrian bat at that. Scouting report..
In terms of tools, Spencer is the same player who was part of a banner 2004 draft class in his home state of Tennessee. He went to North Carolina for his first two college seasons and helped the Tar Heels reach the College World Series last season, often playing center field despite his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame and finishing second on the team with 15 stolen bases. Spencer returned to UNC for his junior year after a poor performance in the Cape Cod League (.197, one extra-base hit) and lost his job, so he transferred between semesters to Arizona State. He burst back on the prospect scene with a pair of homers at an early-season tournament in Houston with most of the industry’s scouting directors in attendance, but his season was plagued by as much inconsistency as his Tar Heels career. Spencer has above-average raw power and profiles as a right fielder if he can make consistent contact. After pitching just five innings for North Carolina, Spencer had worked into a set-up role with Arizona State. Though he lacked command (16 walks in 10 innings), he has hit 94 mph, and some scouts who doubt his hitting savvy like him better on the mound. Either way, he’s still far from a finished product, just as was the case out of high school.
I can’t get excited about this pick. Spencer has power, clearly, but he doesn’t appear to have great contact skills, and he isn’t a premium defender. This pick screams “we need to save money”, and I really don’t see the upside. Maybe the Phillies see something in his swing that they think they can correct, but I won’t hold my breath on that. I give this pick a C, we’ll see what happens.
4.18 Tyler Mach (Oklahoma State)
I don’t like this pick. Mach is a college senior, again, with all of the prep talent available, why this guy in this spot? It again just screams “cheap”. With a number of interesting guys available, why go here? Here is the scouting scoop on him..
In 2006, his first season at Oklahoma State after playing at Washington and then Edmonds (Wash.) Community College, Tyler Mach won the Big 12 home run title with 16 and shared player-of-the-year honors with Texas outfielder Drew Stubbs. Stubbs went eighth overall in the draft to the Reds, while Mach lasted until the Cardinals took him in the 40th round. Scouts saw Mach as a dead-fastball hitter who took advantage of the hitting conditions in Stillwater, but he has proven himself again in 2007. He was battling teammate Ty Wright for the league batting title (Wright was at .417, Mach at .410 entering the NCAA regionals) and led the conference with 76 RBIs. He also moved from third base to second base to make room for Matt Mangini. Mach is still seen as an all-bat player, and he’s probably going to have to play first base in pro ball. But he can hit and his bat makes him an interesting senior sign.
No defensive upside, good bat, where do we put him? I suppose he can play 1B up the ladder, because we lack 1B prospects, but he’s a college senior, he shouldn’t be in A ball for more than half a season next year. What happens when he’s ready to play? Ugh. I don’t like this pick at all. C-
5.18 Michael Taylor (Stanford) [scroll down for video]
This is a really interesting pick to me. Taylor has been on the radar for 4 or 5 years, and was a very highly thought of prep prospect. Check out this laundry list of accolades.
2004, overall draft prospects
15. Michael Taylor, of, Apopka (Fla.) HS
An imposing physical specimen at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Taylor has immense but untapped power potential.
1. Michael Taylor, of, Mat-Su Miners (Stanford)
Extremely physical at 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, Taylor has an unlimited upside. He has solid tools across the board but has barely tapped into them. He struggled early at the plate, but made adjustments to develop a more fluid stroke and hit .317-4-25. He also led the league with 25 stolen bases, covered a lot of ground in right field with his long stride and showcased an above-average arm for that position. With continued improvement over the next two years at Stanford, particularly in unlocking his power potential, he could be one of the top picks in the 2007 draft.
January 2006, Top 50 Sophomores:
1. David Price, lhp, Vanderbilt
2. Andrew Brackman, rhp, North Carolina State
3. Joe Savery, lhp, Rice
4. Matt Wieters, c/rhp, Georgia Tech
5. J.P. Arencibia, c, Tennessee
6. Brad Meyers, rhp, Loyola Marymount
7. Beau Mills, 3b, Fresno State
8. Michael Taylor, of, Stanford
OF Michael Taylor (51) doesn’t have the agility of Borbon or Chalk, but he’s built like a linebacker and has above-average speed once he gets going. He also has mammoth power potential that he has yet to really tap into.
Now the Cardinal had to sweep USC just to avoid a losing season for the first time in 14 years. Pitching had been the problem, not hitting, and junior outfielder Michael Taylor in particular had helped pick up the pace late for Stanford’s offense. Despite type one diabetes, Taylor has a pure pro body at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds and runs average even at his size.
Taylor has an average arm and can play right field; his routes and jumps need improvement for him to be a big league right fielder. His raw power is well-above-average, though like many Stanford hitters, Taylor has adopted an approach that makes it hard for him to pull the ball with any authority. Scouts who saw him late saw him good; he had 16 multi-hit games in his final 19 starts. Taylor has shown power to the deepest part of the park and has the highest ceiling on the Cardinal roster. He will be a beast if he learns to turn on inside pitches and develops a bit more patience. Taylor may not be an easy sign if he falls outside the first five rounds, as he’s bright and academically motivated. He was the No. 99 prospect in Baseball America’s 2004 predraft rankings coming out of Apopka (Fla.) High, but he wasn’t drafted at all because of his Stanford commitment and questions about how his tools would translate into performance.
So, what does all of this mean? It means that the Phillies have drafted a guy in the mold they love, oozing with potential in tools, but this time, it’s not a speed burner, it’s a guy with mammoth untapped power. Taylor was much more than a 5th round prospect entering college, he has yet to realize his potential, but if he does, he represents another possible first round talent. As the last few lines of the above report indicate, he probably wanted 5th round money to sign, and it looks like the Phillies are in position to do just that. I might have gone for a prep bat here, but the upside on this pick is gigantic, just like Taylor’s frame. I’ll give this pick a B.
There we have it, day 1 of the draft. The Phillies end up with a potential top flight left handed pitcher, a high school catcher with some upside, a 3B prospect with outstanding makeup, a prep pitcher with a huge arm and bigtime potential, a mediocre left handed bat, a college senior, and a potential mammoth home run hitter. I know it could have been better, but I suppose it could have been worse. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the action, which will come at a much quicker pace. Of course as always, feedback is welcomed and encouraged.