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).
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:
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!