As we inch closer to the midnight deadline, it appears the Phillies are done signing picks for the 2010 draft, which means I can write my final wrap-up piece. As you know, I’m a big draft fan, I love the process, I love the buildup, and then I love waiting to see who does and doesn’t sign. If you’re new to the site, you can find all of the stuff I’ve written about the 2010 by following this link. My long draft recap, written right after the draft in June, can be found here and the more philosophical piece I wrote about draft strategy can be found here. That should be a good primer. I’m going to try and not repeat myself too much from the links above, so lets get to it.
As the dust settles, it appears the Phillies have signed 30 of their 50 draft picks. If my count is right, they signed 34 of their 49 picks last season. I’m not a big fan of looking at things on that broad a level, because the reality is, most of the picks signed will never make it to the majors, and that’s true whether they sign 30, 35, 40 or even 45 guys. As with most things, it comes down to the quality of the player taken, not necessarily the quantity. Back in June, I was on record as saying that I liked a lot of what the Phillies did in the draft, and after 2 months, I feel the same way. The Phillies were active in signing a few of their riskier guys, and a few of them predictably got away because of bonus demands. That’s how the process goes. I’m a big believer in sample size, and because of that, I’m not really going to focus too much on the results of any of our draftees, so I’m not going to spend much time talking about what the likes of Biddle and Garner have done in rookie ball. Most college guys are worn down after a long season, and most prep guys have played a lot more than they ever have before in their baseball lives, so the stats aren’t that reliable. Instructional league is where you start to learn more, and then their first full year is where you start to draw more conclusions.
Let’s look at the key guys in this draft.
I’ll give you my thoughts now, in bullet point format.
* The Phillies have spent about $1M on deadline day, but instead of giving it to one guy (Frazier), they chose to spread it out across 3 guys, Musser, Walter and Pointer. I know that some people are going to be upset about this, but look at it this way. Are the Phillies better off risking all of their money on one guy, or spreading that risk over 3 guys? Which brings me to
* “Why don’t the Phillies spend more?” This is a valid question. The Phillies major league payroll sits in the $140M range. You can’t call the org cheap, especially if you lived through the 90’s. What it comes down to is a situation that is not unique to the Phillies. MLB teams in general are missing the boat with the draft. The draft offers you the chance to invest a small amount of money for a huge potential reward. By spending, say, $12M, you can sign 6-8 blue chip prospects. There is no guarantee that any of these guys will become stars, let alone average big leaguers. But if one of them does, you’re investment will pay itself off, and then a lot more, based on the value you will get from the player in his first 4 years in the majors.
* But this brings me to another important point. I’ve harped on this quite a bit the last few months. Most drafted players will not make the major leagues. In a given draft class of 50 players, if 5 make it to the majors, that’s about average. That’s just making it to the majors. If you get 10 guys to the majors, you’ve had an awesome draft. If you get one all star from the group, your draft investment has paid off and then some. The baseball draft is a simple math equation. You’re trying to deal in probabilities. If you draft x number of players, with y ability, you’re tying to determine where the potential reward outweighs the current cost. Which is why I think the Phillies plan is the right one. Scott Frazier is probably a better prospect than Kevin Walter. But I don’t think Frazier’s potential is greater than the potential of Walter, Musser and Pointer combined. The Phillies view this gamble, taking 3 guys instead of 1, as the proper gamble. And when you play the numbers game and consider probabilities, they are probably right. The Phillies, with their resources, probably should be spending more. A lot more. But every team in baseball should be spending more. And this is something I’ll discuss in more depth later this winter, when there isn’t a whole lot of news.
* What has to be noted, however, is that the Phillies have done an excellent job identifying talent in the draft, talent that has either flown under the radar, or talent that was seemingly not attainable. The Phillies have signed premium guys like Domonic Brown and Jon Singleton for just $200,000 each, they haven’t needed to spend $1.5M on these guys after the 5th round. That’s not to say they shouldn’t still be spending big money, but it is to say that they have a great network of scouts who do a great job. If they had more money, they might land more quality guys. Then again, if they knew they had more money to spend, they might not work quite as hard to identify the sleepers, and the overall draft work might suffer. Who knows.
* I’ve covered the guys in the first 10 rounds in my initial draft review. You can read reports on all of the prospects here. As I said above, I’m not concerned with early results. The Phillies took some gambles in the first 10 rounds, banking on guys who had down seasons rebounding. In most cases, the light doesn’t suddenly flip on, you have to work to out the kinks. My opinions on these guys haven’t changed since June.
Now, the three guys the Phillies signed in the last 24 hours
– Kevin Walter, RHP (Legacy HS, Colorado) is a great addition. I mentioned in yesterday’s deadline preview that his scouting report seems really intriguing. At present, he’s in the 88-92 range with his fastball, but his secondary pitches are refined for a prep pitcher, and if the Phillies feel they can unlock a bit more velocity, his ceiling is fairly high. He has a great frame (6’6/220) and the nice thing about that is, he’s probably maxed out physically, which should help him improve his command and control quicker as he’s able to repeat his mechanics. When you’re still filling out/growing, your mechanics are tougher to keep in line. If his fastball ticks up a bit, he has top of the rotation potential. If he remains in the 90-92 range, he still looks like a middle of the rotation guy. I like this pick and signing a whole lot. While Frazier has more upside, Walter seems like a safer bet, and he still has substantial upside.
– Jonathan Musser, RHP (Dowling Catholic HS, Iowa) is another prep arm to add to the mix. I didn’t know much about Musser at draft time, but after doing some reading today, I like him more than I did even 24 hours ago. He suffered a freak injury to his shoulder in a non-pitching incident, which dropped him down draft boards, but he was reportedly back up in the 91-93 range recently, and the Phillies must have been convinced. His $300K bonus is 3rd round money. From the really rough youtube video I found of him, he’s lowered his arm slot a bit now, which should add life to his fastball.
– Finally, Brian Pointer, OF (Galena HS, Nevada) might end up being the best of the lot. Pointer has a very calm setup in the box, and more importantly, a very short and compact swing. He’s shown average power and has good speed, meaning he should have a chance to stick in CF. Scouts thought he might benefit from 3 years at college, but had he gone that route and played well, it would have cost more than $350K to sign him. This is again a solid showing for the Phillies to grab a potential first few rounds guy for 3rd round money and attempt to develop them.
* I don’t have Walter’s bonus as I’m writing this, but my guess is somewhere between $350-550K. When you add that to the $650K from Musser and Pointer, you get somewhere between $1M and $1.2M. Add that to the $2.6M spent on the first 10 rounds, and you’re around $3.5M. We all want the Phillies to spend more. But the totals are a bit superficial. Teams with top 5 picks in the draft will spend a lot more money, because those guys taken in the top 5 to 10 will cost a lot more. The Phillies will have spent over $1M on bonuses after the first 20 rounds, which will likely put them in the top 15 among all teams. They chose to go with more college guys with upside coming off down years in the first 10 rounds, and then go with high school guys later. And they signed a bunch of the high school guys. So I like that.
* I think its really impossible to label this draft as “average” or “mediocre” or a “disappointment” at this stage. I say that because I look at the 13 best guys taken, and I see it like this;
Potential elite prospects; Biddle, Walter, Pointer
Potential above average prospects; Garner, Musser, Rupp, Eldemire
Potential average prospects; Morgado, Malcolm
And then you’ll invariably have the guy who comes out of nowhere next year and puts up ridiculous numbers at Lakewood. Maybe Buchanon, maybe someone else. But I see the potential for 3 elite guys, maybe even 4 if one of Garner or Musser has a monster full season debut. The upside is there.
* Here’s the bottom line. Right now, the Phillies do not seem willing to go crazy in the draft. We can speculate as to the reasons. For all we know, the Phillies have an incredibly complex model they’ve developed that shows the optimal amount of money to spend. Or maybe they are completely clueless. But we have no way of really knowing what the directive is. If Amaro wants to spend a ton of money, but Montgomery/ownership won’t allow it, then there isn’t much he can do. And in that case, you have to be even more appreciative of what the scouting department does. The big league club is flourishing, and despite trading away a billion prospects in the last 18 months, the farm system is still a Top 10 system, maybe even more. The Phillies have done extremely well spreading out their bonuses, finding gems in the $200K-500K range, both in the draft and in Latin America.
* The reality is, we fall in love with names. Baseball America liked Frazier, they hyped him up, and we bought into it. He might go to Pepperdine, have an awesome college career, and become a first round pick. Then we’ll read how he wanted $800K, we offered $650K (I have no inside info, thats hypothetical), and he turned it down. And he’ll sign for $2M as the 15th overall pick. And we’ll shake our heads. Or he’ll go to college, struggle, and be a 5th round pick, getting a $180K bonus. And he’ll have lost $400K plus 3 years of pro teaching. As I pointed out in the Jarred Cosart profile, Cosart wasn’t hyped up by BA leading up to the draft, he was more of an afterthought. Then the Phillies sign him for $550K, and he’s now a top 25/50 prospect in all of baseball. Its easy to fall in love with the names we’re spoon fed, but the hard truth is, the Phillies have an excellent track record, and if they like these 3 later round guys more than Frazier, for the same money, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. Frazier might still work out, and really, best of luck to him, but we’ll see what happens in 3 years.
In an ideal world, the Phillies would draft 15 blue chip guys every year, spend $20M to sign all of them, and we’d have the best farm system in the history of farm systems. In the real world, the Phillies look to spread out their risk, avoid making one high profile mistake, and instead trust their scouts on the mid range guys. Everyone would rather the Phillies sign a $1M bonus guy every year instead of signing a re-tread like Baez. But its not the world we live in, and for now, we have to deal with it. The Phillies drafts now, as opposed to say, 5 years ago, have improved greatly. The 2010 draft class already looks better than the 2009 draft class, and there are still some interesting guys from last year’s draft that haven’t really gotten out of the gate yet.
If you’ve been here long enough, you know that I’m not afraid to criticize the front office. In this case, I truly believe they had a very solid draft, and I like what they did with their signings today. Sure, Frazier would have been nice, but if they’d signed the 3 they did, plus Frazier, we’d have asked where the money was for Palka too. I see plenty of reasons for excitement in this draft crop, and I’m excited to see how these guys develop.
Update –> One final thought. If you look back at the last 5 or 6 years of drafts, the Phillies have really only “lost” 2 guys that they probably would have loved to sign, all things considered. Those 2 guys were Brandon Workman (3rd round, 2007) and Kyle Gibson (36th round, 2006), and I still don’t truly believe the Phillies were only $50K apart on Workman. Outside of those 2 guys, none of the unsigned guys really have come back to bite us. If you go down the lists of other teams, I bet you find more than 2 guys in 5 years who were big misses. Hell, the Red Sox didn’t sign Pedro Alvarez (14th round, 2005) or Jason Castro (43rd round, 2005) and those two guys became Top 15 overall picks. Every team misses guys like this. Frazier may be added to this list, or maybe not. The Phillies shouldn’t have many regrets over the last 5-6 years though.