Sunday notes – 2015 MLB draft preview

Hello.

I wanted to spend all of my words today talking about the upcoming MLB draft, which starts on June 8th. I’ve written about the draft in all of my previous notes columns, and I’ll write about it again here. After the draft, I’ll start focusing more on our prospects, the breakouts, the disappointments, etc. But for now, my focus is the draft. Check below the fold

As I’ve written in this space previously, the 2015 draft isn’t looking great. Before a pitch was thrown in 2015, many had labeled it as a down year. That was before 2 of the top talents, Brady Aiken and Mike Matuella, both suffered injuries. A number of other high profile guys have either had minor injuries, down springs, or have been misused by their college coaches, leading to a lot more questions than answers. The various outlets are starting to roll out their mock drafts. You can check out the fangraphs mock here, the ESPN mock here (Insider, obviously) and the BA mock here.

If you read each mock draft, you’ll come away with a few consistent points:

* There are 3-4 guys who are going to go in the first 6-7 picks, that is almost a guarantee. They are Dillon Tate, Alex Bregman, Dansby Swanson, and Brendon Rodgers.

* There is no consensus #1 overall. Kiley McDaniel and Keith Law have Dansby Swanson going 1st overall to Arizona, while Baseball America has a wildcard at the pick, in Tyler Jay, the misused LHP from Illinois. Swanson was considered a top 8 pick heading into this season and has performed well, but everyone seems to think he’d go #1 for a discount

* When you get past the 4 guys mentioned above, names are all over the board. A few weeks ago when Kiley put his first mock out, he had Kyle Funkhouser going in the top 4. Now it looks like he might slip into the late teens or even further back. Carson Fulmer was in the teens a few months ago, and is now a candidate to go in the top 6 or 7.

* There haven’t been many “pop-up” guys this spring. Guys who were not getting much press and now are suddenly in the top 10 or so on draft boards. Kyle Tucker’s stock is rising, as is Jon Harris from Missouri State, a guy I mentioned last time. But there have been far more guys falling back (like Stroudsburg’s Mike Nikorak) than there have been jumping forward.

So now that the dream of landing Alex Bregman or Dansby Swanson appears dead, what should the Phillies do with their pick? Well, that is a good question, and I am not sure I really have the answer. If we’re trying to figure out what they will do, I think that is even less clear. The Phillies have a new scouting director. Marti Wolever had a big say in previous drafts, based on everything that was written, and I’d imagine the new guy will be given a chance to do his thing with minimal interference from the rest of the front office. What will his style be? He was previously focused on the international markets for Atlanta and Cincinnati, so I don’t think we can look at the drafts of those two teams when he was there and make any kind of assumptions. Prior to last season, the Phillies were always heavily focused on prep players in the first few rounds, then they’d take college guys who could potentially move quickly, and then take prep guys late. Last year they went really heavy on the college front, and at least the Aaron Nola gambit looks a wise decision right now. This year? Who knows. But I have some suggestions for the Phillies in terms of mapping out there draft plan for this year:

1. Get Brady Aiken’s medicals and study them very closely. Consult every orthopedist in country. Then try to figure out what Aiken’s number is. And then figure out if it makes sense for the Phillies. Right now, there are lots of rumors swirling about Aiken. They range from “his surgery wasn’t just a routine TJ surgery” to “he is actually a mutant alien without a left elbow”…and really, no one knows. To the best of my knowledge, no team has seen his medicals yet, they haven’t seen the surgeon’s notes from the TJ, and they haven’t seen anything regarding his follow up. The rumors are that his surgery was not straightforward and there are other concerns about his elbow. If that is the case, then yes, you shouldn’t draft him in the top 10. Taking a player with a 10% chance of making it to the majors because he has a time bomb in his left arm is a bad strategy. That said, if this is all Yeti-esque rumor mongering (and different people have different motives for making up rumors) and his elbow is fine, then he is the most talented player that will be available at #10.

2. Do not draft Mike Matuella unless he is willing to sign for less than slot money. Matuella’s TJ surgery was supposedly routine, so you’d think he would be more of solid bet, but he has no real track record of sustained success or health. This spring, before blowing out his arm, he barely pitched because of back trouble. Assuming they have the same elbow health, he is a bigger risk than Aiken, even though Aiken is a prep pitcher.

3. If the board doesn’t fall the way you want in the first 9 picks, and there is no one there at 10 that you feel is the full value of the pick, then take someone you have in the 20s that will sign for below slot and use that money to take more chances later. If the Phillies don’t feel good about Aiken, the odds of an elite talent falling to them at 10 is very low. The player they end up with there is likely to have a number of warts or flaws, and there really is no sense in paying full freight in terms of the slot bonus if the guy isn’t worth it. The Phillies have about $7M to spend in this draft. They should maximize that amount. If that means taking someone they like who will sign for $2M at #10, so they can spread that saved $1.2M around to high upside prep guys later, they should.

4. The downside of this, of course, is that they are not the only team that will try this strategy. The Cubs have done it successfully the last few years, as have the Astros. Because of this, and because of the high volatility of the draft after the first round, I tend to lean toward strategy #1. If Aiken is okay and your doctors are comfortable with his medicals, take him. He turned down $5M last year from the Astros, but that was before he blew his arm out. I have to think he’d be willing to take $4M this year. That leaves the Phillies with $3M to spend for the rest of their draft. They’ll have to take a college guy or two who will sign for under slot, but it is manageable.

5. If they decide to pass on Aiken, and they want to pay a guy full value at #10, try to take a player who isn’t extremely limited with 1 or 2 plus tools. Right now, given the way the board looks, my suggested pick would by Kevin Newman, SS from Arizona. I know what you are thinking…why draft a SS when JP Crawford is a bonafide stud and locked in at the position? Well, because JP Crawford hasn’t made it to the majors yet, and because Newman was considered one of the best players in the college ranks all spring. Newman has a .391/.441/.481 line this season, with more walks than strikeouts. He hasn’t hit for over the fence power, but hes a fantastic pure hitter, makes tons of contact, is a smart baserunner, and if he moved to 2B as a pro (in deference to Crawford) he would be an elite defender at the position. The Phillies do not have an upper echelon 2B prospect in their system. Newman would fill that void. As a seasoned college performer who has hit all 3 seasons in a good conference, he could jump on the fast track. An up the middle duo of Crawford and Newman could sort the Phillies out for the next decade. The new Rollins/Utley….obviously I’m not comparing either guy to Rollins or Utley, relax.

Newman’s stock seems to have stagnated. He was a potential top 4-5 pick to start the year, and is now looking like he might fall into the teens or even further. He’s a college junior, so he doesn’t have a ton of leverage, given his profile moving forward. The Phillies may be able to get him for less than the slot value at #10. He’d be a quick moving college player at a position of need and an important position at that. Of course if the Phillies believe that the Freddy Galvis mini-breakout is real, they may shy away from drafting a middle infielder at #10. Though I think that might not be a great decision.

If the Phillies go a different direction, I hope they take a guy with not only upside and potential, but also at least a 50 hit tool.

I’ll have more thoughts on the draft next weekend. Thanks for reading.

23 thoughts on “Sunday notes – 2015 MLB draft preview

  1. Looking back a year later do we like the college approach Phillies took? Personally, I would continue with it.

    1. With Marti Wolever gone, I would think the new guy would want to do things a little differently. It will be interesting to see what the new plan will be.

  2. I agree with this. If there isn’t a pitcher worthy of the #10 selection when the Phillies pick (and that very well could be the case), take the best pure hitter available. Don’t worry about position, and don’t get hung up on tools.

    Newman makes much more sense than a toolsy but unproven prep OF (e.g., Whitley), for all the reasons you mention.

      1. FWIW, Keith Law answered a chat question about Kevin Newman being drafted by the Phillies and actually liked the idea for the same reasons Gregg mentioned. I think it would be a great selection given the draft’s strength.

  3. Personally, I like the idea of going college bat at 10. I don’t see Bregman getting passed Boston at 7. He was the guy I was holding out hope for. Realistically, thats not gonna happen, though.
    I wdn’t mind Newman or Happ at 10. Newman is prob a bit safer but if Happ can stick at 2nd he can be special. That is a big “if” , though.
    Now my gut tells me Phils go prep bat at 10. The new director did an interview a couple weeks ago and he talked about upside a lot. Just a hunch on my part here. Guys i think they could go for are Stephenson, Whitley or Tucker. They’ve been linked to all 3 recently.

    1. I guess a good prep catcher would be alright, due to the position premium. However, all things being equal, I still prefer the “best pure hitter available” approach, regardless of position.

  4. There are couple of kids that are intriguing . They are anthony Toribio norman thomas high school catcher and outfielder alex bautista from lindsey wilson college in kentucky. Sure locks to get get drafted in the top 3 rounds.

  5. I’d rather take a shot for a star with a lower likelihood. Aiken is still interesting to me although I was really hoping this pick would result in a guy who could ultimately bat 3rd. Unfortunately I don’t see that guy this year at 10. We need some luck.

  6. Please please no cather Lino, Knapp, Grullon, Pusso, Rodriguez, etc is enough for me. When you draft a cather your really only 1 place postion. Newman you can put at ss, 2b, of, . I like Tucker , happ, Newman or the pitcher from Pennsylvania. I ‘d go college over hs but in this draft it’s kinda allover . Get me an outfield that can hit 300 25 hr and under 200 k ‘ s I’d be happy.

  7. David you cant be sure that there isn’t a trout or great outfielder in this draft. No one really knows if these kids develop. on paper maybe its a weak draft but there will be allstars that come out of these draft. The good scouts find them.

    1. Exactly right. Just because there’s not many sure things and some guys coming off injuries dsn’t mean there won’t be any good players or All Stars. It’s up to the scouts to find them. Not saying there’s a Trout but he lasted until the 20’s.

  8. I respect the knowledge of the writers here, but I just can’t see taking Kevin Newman that high. Newman has no power, zero home runs in his 3 year college career and an ISO of less than .100 in each season. His upside in the majors is probably similar to what Galvis is doing right now, a nice batting average but not much power behind it. When JP Crawford comes up in a couple of years, I could see the Phillies simply shift Galvis over to 2B if he keeps hitting this way.

    I realize Newman is a fairly safe pick being a college player and could be up in the majors fairly quickly, but I’d rather take a prep kid with more upside. Yes, there’s a greater risk of a bust, but if it works out, you’d have a better player. I’m not sure who will last till pick # 10, but if Kyle Tucker or Daz Cameron make it that far, I’d grab either of them. If not, I could see them taking a chance on Garrett Whitley. All 3 have projected 55 or better hit tools according to MLB.com’s prospect ratings but all have potential useful power to go along with it.

    1. I agree that #10 is too high for Newman based on talent/projection alone, but if he is willing to take a discount relative to slot, it may make sense.

      If the Phillies are looking for a prep position player at #10, Tucker and Cameron are good choices, but they may not be available. I’d stay away from Whitley or Trenton Clark at #10. Both are the typical Phillies toolsy OF, but like so many others, the hit/contact tool is a question mark. The best prep hitter may be Nick Plummer from Michigan, though it’s not clear what position he plays.

      I don’t think the Phillies will roll the dice with a prep pitcher, though it wouldn’t shock me either.

  9. If Funkhouser falls to 10 I’m not passing on him. I think the value at 10 is in the pitching unless Swanson were to fall.

    I love Fulmer too. He has a great FB with serious run to it and that kid flat out competes. Reminds me a little of Clay Bucholtz in terms of stature so durability could be a concern. Vandy pitches the hell out of him.

    1. One publication has the Phillies picking HS LHP Justin Hooper in the first round. The reports on him are that he is 6’7″, throws 96-97 with movement, good secondary pitches and has a college commitment to UCLA. This will be a interesting draft.

  10. The Kolby Allard medicals are very important as well. He was getting Aiken comps before the season. Everything about his arm action is clean. He was up to 95 mph this summer at the PG Nationals. He would be an easy top 5 pick if he hadnt hurt his back. Polished So Cal lefty. Kiley finally mentioned the Phillies have been doing their research on him.

  11. James, It is always fun to read your thoughts, especially on the Draft. I hope all is well with you. The Phils have to get this right in the vein of the Crawford and Nola picks. I wish I knew who I want them to take, but this is going to be a challenging draft.

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