I’ve gotten a number of emails asking when I was going to write about the draft. I’ve tried to incorporate draft talk into my weekly notes column, and I’ve shared some thoughts here and here. I also wrote a lengthy piece on ways to fix the draft, which you can find here, and I shared some initial thoughts on this year’s draft in a longer piece which you can find here. So that’s everything I’ve written about the draft so far. But as we’re getting closer, I figured I should maybe add a bit more. So check below…
In one of the linked pieces above, I gave some broad ideas of what the Phillies generally do in the draft. I decided to go into a bit more detail here. I looked at every draft from 2002-2009, as 2002 was Marti Wolever’s first draft, I believe, and he’s been in charge of the whole thing since. I’ve created some basic tables so I don’t have to type out all of the info.
Let’s start with a broad breakdown of the Phillies picks from 2002-2009 in Rounds 1 through 5.
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This chart is fairly self explanatory.
HS = High School
4C = 4 year college player, both juniors and seniors
Of the 8 drafts listed here, the Phillies were missing their 1st round pick on 3 occasions, which is a big handicap. In 2003, they didn’t have 1st or 2nd round pick, but some of these lost picks were offset with an extra pick in 2006 (Adrian Cardenas) two extra picks in 2007 (Travis D’Arnaud and Matt Spencer) and three extra picks in 2008 (Collier, Gose, Pettibone)
Now lets look at how things broke down by state
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The takeaways here are pretty obvious as well. The Phillies (like a lot of teams) draft heavily in California and Texas, the two biggest baseball hotbeds in the country. Unlike some teams, they generally seem to shy away from Florida in the early rounds, and Florida normally has a decent crop of players to choose from. Adrian Cardenas is the only player drafted out of a Florida school in the first 5 rounds under Marti Wolever. Of the 8 first and supplemental first round picks, 3 of them have come from California, 3 from Texas, and then one from Florida (Cardenas) and one from Connecticut (Hewitt) In the first 3 rounds, the Phillies took 9 guys from Cali and 6 from Texas, which accounts for 58% of their picks in the first 3 rounds from 2002-2009. I think that’s pretty significant.
Finally, lets break it down by position
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This chart basically indicates that the Phillies have spread their picks among the three big subsets (pitchers, infielders and outfielders) almost evenly, and they’ve also taken 21 high school and 21 college players in their 42 picks in Rounds 1-5 since 2002. There are a few prevailing themes to take from this chart though
* The Phillies have drafted 5 third basemen in R1-R5 since 2002, and 4 of them have been prepsters
* The Phillies have drafted 4 second basemen in R1-R5 since 2002, and 3 of them have been college players
* The Phillies have drafted 6 LHP in R1-R5 since 2002, and 5 of them have been college players
Almost all of the other trends fall close to the center line.
You’re going to see a lot of mock drafts over the next 2 weeks. And to be honest, most of them will be wrong, especially right now. Bryce Harper is going #1 overall. Manny Machado and Jamison Tallion are probably going to go 2/3 in some order. Drew Pomeranz will be a top 6 pick, Deck McGuire and Chris Sale will top 10 picks. That’s about all that is known for sure. Every year you read “this is a down year” for the draft, and every year the draft turns out the same way. There will be guys who aren’t really on the radar now that end up first rounders come draft day, there will be guys who slide for unknown reasons, and there will be one or two picks that are complete head scratchers. When you have 30 teams, with hundreds of scouts, you are going to get really divergent draft boards. Player X could be ranked 7th on one team’s board, and 37th on another board. Some teams refuse to even put Scott Boras advised players on their board. Some guys take prep pitchers and drop them 50 spots. Some teams drop guys they know won’t sign for slot. Every draft board is different, especially outside of the first few spots. Its not surprising, but different teams place a different emphasis on different traits and tools.
Because of this, I think its really pointless to try and guess names, especially outside of the top 10. At least for me, because I don’t have access to a Rolodex containing the numbers of scouting directors, cross checkers, and general managers. I simply know what teams have done in the past, and I think past actions in the draft go a long way toward predicting what teams will do in the future. Notice I said “a long way”, not all of the way. Every year there will be a surprise. A team that typically avoids HS players pops a high school guy early. A player expected to go in the Top 10 slides into the 20’s. A first round talent plummets because of signability. It happens. Every year.
With that said, I’m going to go over my predictions for what I think the Phillies are likely to do, based on previous history.
Prediction 1: The player taken here will NOT generate a huge above slot bonus. While have the Phillies have begun to spend a bit of money in the draft over the last 2 seasons, they still generally stick to slot in the first round. Hewitt and Savery signed for slot, and I believe Drabek signed for close to slot, maybe slightly over. The Phillies have shown a willingness to go above and beyond, but not until after the first round.
Despite the chatter about Ruben Amaro Jr loving Austin Wilson, the prep outfielder from California, there have been rumblings that Wilson is going to require top 5-10 money to sign. This goes against the Phillies MO. Wilson fits the bill of what the Phillies love; hes a premium athlete, he has plenty of raw power, and its not crazy to envision him turning into a 30/30 guy in the majors, or at least a 30/18 guy. Unlike Hewitt (who was lauded for his athletic ability), the second thing all scouts say about Wilson is that he’s a tireless worker and has outstanding makeup. But like Hewitt, the big question is going to be his ability to make consistent contact. All of that said, I don’t see Wilson making it to the Phillies at #27, as I think the Red Sox are a candidate to take him at #20, and I think even if he gets to Philadelphia, the bonus demands might scare them off. The one point that goes against this is that the Phillies have generally been excellent when it comes to determining signability (with a few misses, but lots of successes), and if they think they can sign him for what they are willing to pay, then I think they’d take him. But I think there’s less than 20% chance that Wilson is there, and 15% that he’s the pick. It could happen, but I’m not buying it yet. Oh, and Wilson is committed to Stanford, and Stanford rarely loses recruits out of high school.
I mentioned Anthony Ranaudo and his injury worries that could slide him toward the end of the first round in a earlier post. But he posted a nice start his last time out, his velo is coming back, and even if he were to be there at 27, the Phillies likely wouldn’t pony up for him, as his advisor Scott Boras isn’t the type to do discounted deals.
So yeah, I think the Phillies are sticking to slot in R1, which is going to limit their player pool somewhat.
Prediction 2: The player comes from either California or Texas. Again, this just goes along with recent history/logic. Texas and California are always the two deepest states, with the most Top 100/Top 200 prospects, and the Phillies obviously trust their guys in both states enough to consistently go back there for picks. So who are the top prospects in each state?
Will be gone by #27
Christian Colon, SS (Cal-State Fullerton)
Dylan Covey, RHP (prep)
Might/Will be there at #27
Austin Wilson, OF (prep)
Christian Yelich, 1B (prep)
Tony Wolters, 2B (prep)
Michael Lorenzen, OF/RHP (prep)
Peter Tago, RHP (prep)
Rob Rasmussen, LHP (UCLA)
Dan Klein, RHP (UCal-LA)
Aaron Sanchez, RHP (prep)
Gary Brown, OF (Cal State Fullerton)
Griffin Murphy, LHP (prep)
Chad Lewis, 3B (prep)
Adam Plutko, RHP (prep)
Will be gone by #27
Jamison Tallion, RHP (prep)
Brandon Workman, RHP (Texas)
Michael Choice, OF (UT-Arlington)
Might/Will be there at #27
There have been some rumors indicating the Phillies are really looking at Jesse Biddle, a tall lefthanded prep pitcher from Germantown Friends Academy near Philly. Biddle was a consensus R2, maybe sandwich round guy until this news came out. As someone pointed out in the comments before, the same rumors started around Jason Knapp heading into the 2008 draft, and the Phillies took him in the 2nd round. The Phillies have drafted 1 prep LHP in R1-R5 since 2002, and that was Cole Hamels all the way back in 2002. Within the above linked Jim Salisbury article, he also name drops
PNR Scouting ranks Frazier 81st in the country, Walker 79th, and Woj at 29th. Obviously Woji at 27 is much more believable than Walker or Frazier, who would both fit better in the 2nd round.
I’ve posted links to the scouting reports/videos of the above players, just click their names. Some of these guys are more 2nd/3rd round guys, but again, anything can happen leading up to the draft. I don’t have a strong feeling about any of the names outside of Aaron Sanchez, but I have a feeling he will be gone before #27.
Prediction #3: The Phillies will be take at least one highly rated prep prospect from the state of Washington in the first 12 rounds. The Phillies presence in Washington has grown in recent seasons, as they’ve gone there quite a bit since 2007;
2009, R3 – Kyrell Hudson, OF (prep)
2009, R5 – Matt Way, LHP (college)
2008, R4 – Trevor May, RHP (prep)
2007, R2 – Travis Mattair, 3B (prep)
2007, R12 – Julian Sampson, RHP (prep)
This year, Washington again has a few interesting guy.
Josh Sale, OF (prep) – Will likely be gone in the top 15 picks, but if he somehow got to 27, I think there’s a great chance the Phillies would grab him.
Drew Vettleson, OF/RHP (prep) – He’s actually a switch pitcher, with great arm strength and athleticism (duh), but his future power output is in question. He profiles as an every day RF who will hit for good averages and modest power.
Here are a few more thoughts I have on this draft and general draft philosophy
1. At #27, you should either; a.) Roll the dice with a really raw, huge upside player or b.) take a college closer who will be in the majors in 1 year.
The draft is all about maximizing value, no matter what your big league team looks like. But I think different teams have to address the draft in different ways. For a big market team like the Phillies, Red Sox, or Yankees, drafting guys who project as fringe regulars probably isn’t going to give you much value, unless that player has some sort of untapped potential. This applies really to the first round or two in particular. Even the biggest teams still need good utility guys, but I think its best to use these utility type picks on middle infielders, and there are normally a bunch of those guys available in R3-6. But when you’re picking 27th, the odds are that there won’t be a legitimate #1 starter type on the board for you, or a stud .300/.400/.550 hitter available for you. So you either need to completely roll the dice and hope to hit the lottery, or you should take a very high probability pitcher, someone you know will be able to help your big league team in a very short time. This is actually a change in philosophy for me over the last few years, as I generally shunned all college closers, but I think if you find the right guy (and maybe its a starter with only 2 pitches that you immediately turn into a fast track reliever) it makes sense. If you draft a corner OF who projects to maybe hit .280 with 18-20 HR, that might be a decent enough line for a small market team. But for a team with huge aspirations and high demands, these types of second division starters tend to get lost in the shuffle.
2. Don’t focus on “overdrafts”, which is something you’ll hear a lot of when the draft begins. Because teams can’t trade picks, when it comes to you, it comes down to a simple equation. You know where you pick, you know when your next pick is, and you know how many spots there are between picks. If you think the guy you really want won’t be there at your next pick, and you love that guy more than someone who experts rate higher, you should take your guy. 20 years after a player is drafted, if he goes 10th overall when he was rated the 19th best player, and he has an all star career, all anyone will remember was that he was a first rounder, not that he was rated 19th and taken 10th. Just take the guy you like.
3. Kind of going along with point 1, the Phillies should be looking at polished college guys that are able to help early on, and then load up on the signability, high upside guys in the R5-15 range. The current Phillies system is very top heavy in the short season/Low A level, and very thin at the upper levels. Over the next few seasons, the Phillies will have very few real “needs”, based on who will still be here. In this draft, which is generally considered fairly low on elite talent, I’d be looking to add a hard throwing guy who you think you can fast track to the majors as a reliever, a solid up the middle fielder who can play solid defense and hit enough to be a good utility infielder, a quality college catcher, and then load up on high school arms and up the middle guys, attempting to sign a few of them at the end of the summer.
If I put aside my bold predictions, here is both my dream scenario and realistic scenario for the first three picks
Dream Pick: Brandon Workman, RHP (Texas)
Workman isn’t going to be there at #27, and it remains to be seen if the Phillies are still peeved over him changing his bonus demands right before the signing deadline a few years ago. But he is polished, he’s improved his command, and with the addition of a cutter, he looks like a rock solid #2/3 SP who will only need 1 to 1.5 seasons in the minors before being ready to step into the rotation. That would coincide nicely with Joe Blanton’s impending free agency after 2012. But like I said, I think there’s like a 3% chance he’s still there at 27 unless he gets hurt.
More Realistic Pick: Asher Wojciechowski, RHP (The Citadel)
I view Woj as the ideal guy to turn into a reliever and mold into a shutdown closer. His fastball is 92-95 as a starter, but might tick up to 94-97 in short stints, and his slider is a plus pitch already. He has a simple, repeatable delivery, and has been a model of health in college. He’s a big guy (6’4/235) and with the uptick in velo, he could be lights out. His fastball and slider are big league pitches now (or close to it), and he won’t need much time at all in the minors, as I could see him actually making it to the majors by late 2011 if he’s used in relief.
Should Be There Pick: Jesse Hahn, RHP (Virginia Tech)
Hahn was close to triple digits last summer on the Cape, but he’s had some minor injury concerns, which is the only real red flag. He’s good got size, even better raw arm strength, and a knee buckling breaking ball. He’s a bit of a wildcard, and I suppose he could go in the top 20, but I think he’ll be there at 27.
Likely Pick: Tyrell Jenkins, RHP (Henderson HS, Texas)
Jenkins is a Marti Wolever special. He’s 6’4/180, an ideal projectable frame. He is a three sport star, so the premium athleticism is there. He has big arm strength, already running his fastball up to 95 mph at times. And the icing on the cake, he’s quite raw, and will require a lot of time. He’s from Texas, the Phillies love pitchers from Texas. And hell, he’s already wearing a Phillies jersey! I’d actually like this pick a lot, if I was forgetting everything I just said about trying to target good college value guys early and then popping HS guys later. Jenkins will be gone by #77 for sure, unless he throws out a huge bonus $$ amount.
Dream Pick: Micah Gibbs, C (LSU)
Gibbs is a switch hitting catcher with very good defensive chops and is having a career year offensively. He’s spent his college career catching some pretty awesome pitchers at one of the best baseball schools in the country. Scouts question how much he’ll hit, but if the Phillies have shown us anything in the last few seasons, its that they value defense over everything else at the C position. Gibbs is likely to be gone, probably in the Top 50, but I’ll be salivating if we get to pick 67 or 68 and he’s still on the board.
More Realistic Pick: Jordan Swaggerty, RHP (Arizona State)
Following my plan of college early, high upside prep late, I’ll throw Swaggerty’s name in the mix. He’s not as big and tall as some of the guys listed above, but he creates tons of sink and movement on his fastball, it has plus velo, and he has two average or better secondary pitches. He has a deceptive delivery but a very short arm action, which makes the ball appear to explode out of his hand. Like Woj, Hahn, and Workman, he’s not likely to need much time at all in the minors.
Likely Pick: Jesse Biddle, LHP (Germantown Friends School, PA)
The Phillies are being linked to Biddle in the same fashion they were linked to Jason Knapp. The big question will be whether he lasts till 77 or not. I’m inclined to say he won’t, unless he really tells teams hes determined to go to college and its all part of a ploy to get to the Phillies. Who knows.
Dream Pick: Rick Hague, INF (Rice)
Hague had the look of a first round pick back in January, but he looks a lot more like a wildcard at this point after a somewhat disappointing junior season. Some scouts think he’ll have to move to 3B at the next level, where his bat won’t play nearly as well. He doesn’t have one outstanding tool, but he’s a good hitter with decent pop, and I think he could play SS, just not on an every day, starter role for a championship caliber team. I’d view Hague as a near ideal utility infielder on the current big league club, capable of playing SS for a few games, filling in at 3B, 2B, and maybe even the corner OF spots. Draft him, buy him all the gloves he’ll need, and get him ready.
More Realistic Pick: Griffin Murphy, LHP (prep)
I highlighted Murphy above. The Phillies really lack anything resembling an elite LHP in the minors. Murphy isn’t perfect, he’s not Tyler Matzek, but he has a real strong arm, and if the Phillies can tweak him a tad bit, they might be able to unlock a near the top of the rotation type arm. A lot will depend on price tag here, but this is where you start to look in that direction.
Likely Pick: I have no idea.
There is so much uncertainty surrounding the draft, its almost pointless to try and figure out what is what. Teams are not generally forthcoming about their draft plans, so when you hear that Team A “loves player X”, it does have to be taken with a giant grain of salt. When the dominoes start falling, guys who didn’t seem like they’d be available might be, asking prices will change, and it will be a mad scramble.
The Phillies, picking at 27, really have to either roll the dice on a big upside lottery ticket, or they have to take a high probability guy who can help quickly. I almost can’t believe I’ve kind of taken a 180 on my philosophy, but with prospect attrition being what it is, going college early and then prep late, and spending the money required to land a bunch of those guys, might just be the best solution. Hopefully the success of guys like Jarred Cosart and Domonic Brown have convinced the Phillies that spending the money late is almost always the right move and they will continue to do so this summer.