Happy Mother’s Day. Call your mother and tell her you love her, if you can and if you do.
My random musings on our prospects and the draft are below the fold
Lets start with our current prospects. As I’ve said many many times in the past, I am not drawing conclusions, one way or the other, after 6 weeks of games, and I certainly won’t really get excited or dejected on a guy unless I read that something meaningful has changed in terms of the player’s ability or skill set. I recommend everyone exercise caution, at least for another 6 weeks or so, and then we might have a better idea of what we have.
The things I am most interested in seeing right now:
* How quickly JP Crawford makes his way to Reading. Picking up the oblique injury at the end of ST was unlucky, and I suspect he’d have probably gone straight to AA, but there is no harm in starting him in the warm weather of Florida to get him back up to speed. Given that he is not on the 40 man roster, he does not have to go on the 40 man roster until after 2017, there is no need to rush him. You figure he’ll finish the year in AA this season, start there in 2016, and then be in line for a September cameo before taking over the starting spot full time in 2017. 2017 seems like an eternity away, but so does 2011, to be honest. If he pushes the envelope before 2017, I’m sure the team will consider bringing him up sooner, but there is no need to rush him.
* On the other hand, Aaron Nola’s timetable could be escalated. When you pick the most polished college pitcher in the draft with one of the first 10 picks, you are taking him because you feel he can help you soon. Pitchers are getting hurt at an alarming rate, and every pitch he throws, he is at risk for an injury. That isn’t to say he needs to be in the majors now, though I think he’d probably be fine if he was, but I would not be shocked to see him in the big league rotation in August.
* The next 2 drafts, and the next 2 international signing periods, are absolutely vital for the Phillies. The major league team is B-A-D and it isn’t going to magically be awesome soon. However, the Phillies have the money to sign free agents, and if they choose, they can “re-launch” in pretty short order. As bad money comes off the books, the Phillies should restrain themselves in terms of giving out massive free agent contracts, unless the right target is available. In the modern MLB landscape, teams are locking up their superstars earlier and those players become free agents at 30/31/32 instead of 26/27/28, which means the Phillies absolutely have to nail the next few drafts. As they begin to spend again on free agents, they need to use their farm system as the base for the core of the team. They are a long way away from being able to do that right now.
Speaking of the draft….
A few of the people I trust on all things amateur baseball, Keith Law and Kiley McDaniel, have started to release updated draft rankings and early rumors about potential picks, especially in the top 10. Obviously a lot is going to change between now and draft day, but its something at least. In Kiley’s mock draft posted this week, he has the Phillies taking prep catcher Tyler Stephenson from Kennesaw Mountain HS in Georgia. Stephenson has intriguing tools, but high school catchers are just about the most risky asset you can take in the draft. If everything pans out, you’ve got a potential superstar, but actually being able to catch at the highest level is the toughest skill in baseball, and most catchers who have great bats in high school end up moving to a different position, and then offensive threshold for that new position immediately goes up by a power of 2. While Stephenson seems interesting, I think I’d probably go in a different direction this early.
The problem with this draft, in addition to the lack of high upside, there also seems to be a lack of depth at just about every position. There are 3 very good college middle infielders, in Kevin Newman, Alex Bregman, and Dansby Swanson, but there is a decent change that all 3 are gone by the Phillies pick, and a decent chance that none of them end up with all-star upside. If you want this year’s version of Aaron Nola, I’m not sure who it is. Carson Fulmer and Kyle Funkhouser both have a lot more question marks than Nola did at this time last year. Dillon Tate is the consensus top pitcher in the draft and will be gone in the first 4 picks unless something crazy happens. Daz Cameron, son of Mike, and Trenton Clark are intriguing prep bats, but neither have wow tools (70s) and both look like solid regulars.
There really appears to be a lack of established talent in the top of this draft. There will be lots of wildcards, prep guys who haven’t played much because of weather, guys who have been used in the wrong role (Tyler Jay), and guys who are raw and you can dream on, but that carry significant risk. The Phillies have about $7.05M to spend in this draft. Slot values:
#10 – $3,231,300
#48 – $1,259,600
#83 – $719,800
And so on…
The Phillies might be better suited taking a guy who figures to go in the middle to bottom of the first round who will take a below slot deal, something in the $2m range, which would basically give them an extra $1.2M to spend after the first round. Maybe you take someone like Jon Harris, a RHP from Missouri State, and offer him $2M, then spread the savings to a few high upside, raw high school guys that slide. I’ve commented before that I’d be happy for the Phillies to take a shot at Mike Matuela or Brady AIken, just because both guys offer more potential upside than the player that is likely to be there for them at #10. I’d still be in favor of that, though I’m not a doctor and I haven’t seen the medicals for either guy. Obviously.
Either way, this draft looks like a big disappointment. The good news is, the 2016 draft looks a lot better, and if the Phillies do what I think they’ll do, they should be in line for a top 5 pick in next June’s draft. A draft like 2015, where things look bleak, is where scouts make their money and prove their worth. There are gems to be had. And the Phillies look they are going to flex their muscles, relatively speaking, in Latin America this summer. So all hope is not lost, but this is a crucial 14 months or so for this franchise.