Thoughts on the first 10 rounds of the draft

Hello, its me. I apologize for not writing up a final draft prep piece on Sunday, life sort of got in the way. I did want to pop back in and write up some thoughts on the first two days of the draft. This is not going to rival the draft recaps I wrote up for 5 years, where I spent waaaay too much time dissecting draft picks and potential signability concerns, but I do have some thoughts, so I figured I’d share them with the masses, in case you were interested to see what I thought.

Before I dig in, I want to mention a few caveats. When I stepped back in 2012, I really did step back. Prior to my departure from this space, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading, studying and trying to understand amateur baseball and the minor leagues. I wrote volumes of words, trying to figure out the formula for predicting and projecting success, and in most cases, I was really wrong in a lot of the things I wrote. Some of the philosophical stuff panned out, most of it didn’t. And really, when you step back, you realize that is the nature of this game. Its a small white baseball, thrown at crazy fast speeds, and a guy with a wooden stick tries to hit it even harder and avoid the 9 guys trying to catch it. Its a game of inches (or fractions of an inch) played by actual human beings, and as you probably have experienced in your life, human beings are largely unpredictable.

When I stepped back, I stopped following things obsessively. I still paid attention to the major league team, I casually followed the prospects I already knew and the high draft picks from 2012/2013/2014, but I wasn’t invested. And to a large degree, I am still not fully invested. But I think this change in perspective actually improved my understanding of how this game works, the prospect game. And as I stepped away from overanalyzing baseball prospects, I devoted more time to studying the human brain, psychology, neurology, and why we behave the way we do. Some of the things I learned in those areas have shaped how I look at prospects, baseball, and life in general.

Now that I got that out of the way, lets talk about actual baseball draft stuff. Here is what the Phillies have done so far:

10. Cornelius Randolph, OF (High School)
48. Scott Kingery, 2B (College Junior)
83. Lucas Williams, SS (High School)
114. Kyle Martin, 1B (College Senior)
144. Bailey Falter, LHP (High School)
174. Tyler Gilbert, LHP (College Junior)
204. Luke Leftwich, RHP (College Junior)
234. Greg Pickett, OF (High School)
264. Mark Laird, OF (College Junior)
294. Joshua Tobias, 3B (College Senior)

Before I talk about these picks, I have some general thoughts on the draft. The first thing is pre-draft rankings. When I used to immerse myself in this stuff, I obsessed over pre-draft rankings from Baseball America, Perfect Game, ESPN, Baseball Prospectus and pretty much anyone else who wrote stuff about these guys. There were always divergent opinions on many of the prospects. And I think this is one of the things that we, as fans on the outside, lose track of. In each draft class, there are normally very discernible tiers of talent. A “strong” draft and a “weak” draft will differ based on the quality of the first 15-20 prospects. If a draft has talents like Bryce Harper at the top, people are going to call it a strong draft. If the top 3-5 picks lack true potential superstars, people are going to say the draft is weak. The reality is, outside of the first 20 or so prospects, most drafts are the same. Between the 2nd and 10th rounds, teams are going to draft similar types of talents every year. The projectable righthanded pitchers who throw in the mid 80s now, but should throw in the low 90s in 3 years, the shortstops who will have to move to other positions, and then the college grinders, the guys who don’t have superstar tools, but who have well rounded tool sets and can make a contribution at the major league level. This section of the draft also contains a lot of guys who appear to be one thing now, at age 17/18,  who will be completely different players in 5 years. Guys who look like non-prospects now, go to college, and turn into 1st/2nd round picks. Every draft is like this.

So, this year, the draft was considered weak, because it lacked the true superstar talent at the top. But of course there was plenty of talent to be had. As I read about the draft, I of course went to ESPN to see what Keith Law had to say, and Fangraphs to see what Kiley McDaniel had to say. These guys are good, they have solid reputations, and most importantly, they have front office experience, so they actually understand the process. But even they are limited. I know that both guys put extra emphasis on what they personally see when they scout these prospects. But they are likely only getting a few looks a year, if that, at each of the guys they rank. For Keith, that is 100 guys, for Kiley, that is 200 guys. 100 guys is roughly 3 rounds worth of talent, 200 guys is roughly 6 rounds of talent. The draft goes 40 rounds. There are going to be guys that flew under the radar for whatever reason, whether it is misuse by one of their coaches, weather, injury, or whatever else. Because one outlet ranks a player 158th and another ranks him 92nd, it doesn’t really mean all that much.

Which brings me to these guys the Phillies picked. The Phillies, contrary to what some fans think, are not trying to sabotage the organization by picking bad players or non-prospects. I’ve outlined it before in great detail, how this whole process works. Every MLB team has area scouts, responsible for one state, or a collection of states. These guys watch amateur baseball 6-12 months a year. They see high school kids 25+ times over the course of their 4 year high school career. They sometimes see a guy 25 times in high school and another 20 times in college. These area scouts know these prospects inside and out. They aren’t writing up reports based on 45 seconds of grainy youtube footage. Above the area scouts, the area crosschecker will also see all of these guys multiple times. The crosschecker usually has more experience. Then you have the national crosschecker, and of course the scouting director. A prospect doesn’t get picked by an MLB team unless they know the prospect and have some base of knowledge with which to pick the player. And they’ve seen these players more than you, me, Keith Law, Kiley McDaniel and anyone else at any other media outlet.

That doesn’t mean the Phillies scouts are always right, or any team’s scouts are always right. Baseball is a high attrition sport. Most guys don’t make it. To play at the highest level, you need to not only have physical ability (tools) but you need to have the mental aspect as well, you need to stay healthy, and you have to put everything together all at once, for multiple seasons, to even get a shot. Its a difficult game. Things happen. High school kids ramp up their velocity their senior year of high school, pitching once a week, get drafted in the 3rd round, lose their velocity, and flame out of baseball 2 years later. College hitters rake with metal bats, but can’t make the necessary adjustments with a wood bat, don’t generate the same bat speed, and never make it to the majors, instead toiling at AA/AAA making up the numbers. It happens.

But I’ve realized that from where I am, with what I know, I’m in no position to tell you what pick is a good pick and what pick is a bad pick. For years, I either talked myself into or out of a prospect. I watched youtube videos, read the reports from ESPN or wherever, and I was convinced I knew what that player would become. And most times, I was wrong. Take a player like Joc Pederson, the rookie CF for the Dodgers. Out of high school, he was a good prospect, but BA calls his tools “average across the board”. He was drafted in the 11th round in 2010 by the Dodgers, one pick after the Phillies selected RHP Garett Claypool, a RHP from UCLA. At the time, I don’t remember sitting and hoping the Phillies would take Joc Pederson. I had no idea who Joc Pederson was. He got a $600,000 bonus, so clearly the Dodgers were big believers. He was ranked 154th overall by BA that year. His “average across the board” tools wound up being much better than that. He’s on course to hit 30 HR this year with a solid OB%.

I don’t know if the Phillies drafted the next Joc Pederson today. I honestly don’t know how any of these players will turn out. But that is the point. I don’t know, because I’ve never seen these guys play. I can watch a few clips on mlb.com or youtube, but what does that really tell me? A highlights compilation can make anyone look like a superstar or a total dud. If a guy strikes out 10 times in a high school season and you filmed all 10 at bats, you can make him look like a garbage hitter. Likewise, if a guy hit 8 HR, you can just show his home runs and you’d think hes a future superstar. I’m not going to tell you that you can’t draw conclusions on these 10 guys the Phillies took. Everyone has an opinion. I’m going to wait and see.

I can say that I do see the merits in drafting Randolph, if the scouting reports hold true. High school players that can control the strikezone are normally the easiest to project. I’m not sure how much power he’ll hit for, but power is so tough to project in general right now given the state of the game. If he puts up a .290/.360/.450 line in the majors, that will work. Moving him to LF right after drafting him is surprising, I suppose, but the best player on a high school team usually plays SS, even if he isn’t going to be a SS at the next level. If the Phillies feel that moving him to LF will expedite his bat and help him settle into pro ball, then cool, I am okay with it. I like the Kingery pick, for the same reason that I was high on Kevin Newman. He can hit, he is an even better runner, and he’ll be a solid defensive 2B. He’s also very advanced, so he can probably finish next season at AA, if not AAA.

The rest of the picks, I couldn’t really tell you much of anything. I do like the look of Kyle Martin, he’s another guy who can really hit. Will he hit enough to be a regular 1B in the majors? Who knows. But he has a pretty well rounded bat, and if they plan to save a bit of money there to do something else later, okay, cool. I know nothing about the rest of the picks. It appears they did not have a “college v prep” preference in this draft, they just took the guy they wanted. And again, it comes down to trusting the scouts. That is what you pay them for.

We’re not going to really know anything at all about this draft class until this time next year. If Randolph is raking at Lakewood and Kingery is already at Reading, things will look pretty good, even if they strike out from rounds 3-10. And the odds are, at least 1 or 2 of those guys taken from 3-10 will have a solid debut and show value. In 2 years, we should have an idea of what we got from this draft. Until then, its all conjecture, blurry youtube videos, and fragments of scouting reports.

The draft is of course still quite interesting, and with potential changes coming, it could be even more interesting in the years to come. I’m probably not going to write up rounds 11-40, for reasons you can probably figure out based on the above. My hope? That the Phillies find the next Joc Pederson. Thanks for reading.

39 thoughts on “Thoughts on the first 10 rounds of the draft

  1. James, it is always great to hear from you, and thanks for this site, and for your analysis. I am hoping that Kingery is the future 2B and # 2 Hitter in the Phils lineup, and feel pretty good about him. So far, that is my highlight.

  2. “Which brings me to these guys the Phillies picked. The Phillies, contrary to what some fans think, are not trying to sabotage the organization by picking bad players or non-prospects. ”

    I see they’ve gotten to you. What’d they promise you?!?!

    1. Nepp, why do come on this site at all if you are always going to be negative? Are you Derekstairs alter ego?

      1. You actually took that above comment seriously?

        I stop by occasionally to post because I’ve been coming here since 2006 and I used to post a ton but now I just read the threads for the most part. Honestly, what was “negative” about the above comment anyway? It clearly wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.

        1. Personally, I don’t see how one can comment on the Phillies these days without a healthy dose of humor.

  3. Thanks for this site man, I have spent alot of time on here going back almost 5 years. I don’t comment much but I always here.

  4. Great article James. I always enjoy your writing. I also like Kyle Martin. Hoping for the next big power bat in this organization.

  5. Always a great read – you’ve done it again and put some serious perspective to the whole process. Yes, the sun will come tomorrow, despite the Phillies putting the entire franchise on the line. Thank you !

  6. The Phillies have done fine in the amateur draft the last few years. Crawford and Nola alone make these drafts good. What’s missing is the LA spending. Of all the large market teams the Phillies have been the most frugal in the LA markets. They need one or two big signings to keep pace.

    1. Jhg no one is allowed a opinion on here only you and bj, I am amaze at how the first thing most do is , say well your not a college graduate. like that is the answer for someone to know baseball. Shame how ignorant most college people are. like they are better, and your titled answer just proves it to me. I will voice my opinion like others. and you have the choice not to read it. just like the ignorant person you seem to be. based on what I have posts by you I have read,. just like my opinions its based on what I have seen. ty

  7. Franco 100,000 Encarnacion 1.5 mil Kilmore was only 40,000 MAG well never mind . there’s some not a hole lot they do have some talented LA players. The Cuban market nothing no reason why who knows.

      1. Better formatting:
        Franco 100,000
        Encarnacion

        1-5 mil, Kilmore
        was only 40,000
        MAG well nevermind

        there’s some not a whole
        lot they do have some talent
        Latin Am players

        The Cuban market
        nothing at all no reason
        why who knows. I don’t.

  8. Well said James. And from a huge fan of yours that has been visiting this website from its inception, a huge thank you for your work back then, and for allowing it to grow and continue. I applaud you on your individual growth and share with you the joy that comes with clarity of purpose and value. But come on! admit it, you miss living and dying the week after the draft scouring the internet for small town newspaper articles indicating if players would sign. Those were the glory days, and maybe, just maybe, I might do a few quick google searches on my lunch hour.

  9. catch……I like the first few picks this year…fill future needs. Interested in your thoughts?
    Did the Phillies draft best available or for need?
    You have maintained a stance that best available is the only way to go.
    Randolph was the best aavailble hitter on the board…..but was he the best valued player still on the board? Allard and Kaprielian could be argued as equal, though pitchers.

    1. Seems this whole draft has been focused on the hit tool so far, and I’m all for that. It’s a complete 180 from what they’ve done in the past — drafting 4-tool players missing the hit tool who never develop it. Hitting is the hardest skill to develop, and if this draft yields a couple of guys who can hit at the major league level, then you have to call it a success.

    2. Wow – someone actually wants to know my opinion – that may be a first! I have always said that I think I’m least qualified to opine on specific draft picks – so I’m really not in any way qualified to know whether Randolph was the best available – I can just give you my impressions from what I read. That said, when I look back at the history of the draft it seems to me that, time and again, teams that draft for need get burned. Even if you have a glut at a position, you draft the guy who is the best player. Sometimes, it’s a close call – if you evaluate two players evenly, I think it’s fine to go for need because the “board” doesn’t dictate a contrary position.

      Then you get into issues with player evaluations and draft philosophy on types of players.

      Don’t just take the best athlete. The best atheletes aren’t always the best baseball players, although athleticism is of course important. Marti Woelover’s love of pure athletes over those with baseball specific skills is one big reason he’s gone.

      Second, the hit tool and plate discipline are huge – the Phillies finally seem to be emphasizing that in this draft – I love it.

      Third, don’t blow a high round draft pick on a pitcher you think will be a middle to back of the rotation guy. Almaraz so much as said this on draft night – and, again, I love it. There are plenty of other ways to get competent starters – blowing your top picks on those guys is how you end up in mediocrity.

      Fourth, beware the lumbering slugger. When a guy starts at age 18 or 22 and he’s already slower than everyone and limited in his position, he’s got to hit and get on base A TON to justify his existence. In addition, I recall studies that that these heavier and limited players tend to have shorter careers, which I believe.

      Fifth, velocity matters. I hate to say it, but it matters an awful lot. Especially with righties, it’s almost a necessary pre-condition of having success. Having great velocity doesn’t guarantee success, but not having it (90s plus for righties; high 80s, touching low 90s for lefties) almost guarantees failure. Drew Carpenter never, ever had a shot at being good but we blew a 2nd or 3rd round pick on him. Why? Hopefully, mistakes like that are less common with JA.

      1. Sixth – command and control matter a lot too. Some guys start out wild and develop control/command. They are the exceptions. It’s okay to be a little wild, but if a guy is a walk machine, I doubt he ever becomes good. Yes, I just essentially said I doubt that Aumont will ever become good, which seems obvious but is a little painful to admit.

  10. James…well put article. And puts things in proper perspective as to the drafting process.

  11. G$, I agree. If all that is accomplished is adding actual hitters to the system, it was a successful draft. You are correct in saying that in the past they signed these 4 tool players that were missing the most important tool, hitting! Now, they drafted a number of hitters, most of whom we don’t have a set position for yet. But, that is secondary to their ability to hit.

  12. So…what do you think of the 2013 draft?

    But seriously, the draft is one of the biggest events of the year. We naturally want to comment on it and evaluate it, and it’s frustrating that we can’t say very much.

    I do think that the radical agnosticism expressed in this post goes a bit too far, even if it’s a valuable corrective to the excessive confidence of many (most?) posters here. If the sentiment expressed in this article were applied consistently, it would be the end of fan commentary altogether.

    Not to mention that fan sentiment has sometimes been correct. The most notable example is Anthony Hewitt. But in general, I think there’s good reason to be skeptical of high picks that greatly deviate from the consensus. The Phillies’ recent draft record doesn’t inspire much confidence that their scouts identified something that everyone else missed.

    In the end, it would be nice to hear your take, James. Of course, I won’t put too much confidence in the accuracy of your opinion, but it would still be nice to read your analysis.

    1. Thing with baseball is that all fan sentiment towards the negative will be correct more frequently than not. It doesn’t take any baseball acumen to declare every draft pick to be a failure and be right 90+% of the time.

      People can not liking a particular draft pick for whatever reason, but don’t try to then come back later and pretend that you were/are somehow smarter than the GM, scouting department, etc.

      It’s picking low fruit

  13. Hope the new commissioner makes some changes to the drafting process.
    First……ability to trade draft choices in the Rule 4..like the other sports.
    Second…..limit the draft to the first ten rounds…..after that UDFA, similar to the NFL with no financial ceiling..

  14. Along with Randolph and Kingery the other 2 guys to watch are Falter, who the Phillies called one of the best arms in the country and Pickett who has 70+ pop and an actual idea of what to do at the plate, unlike Hewitt and LGj. Hope they snag 5-6 HS guys today who might settle for 150k-200k to forego their local school of choice.

  15. I often wonder how the team would look now if, on that fateful day in October of 2008, the powers that be had picked low profile, work-a-day Mike Arbuckle as GM and not slick golden boy former player Ruben Amaro. I’m not sure we would have hit the same heights but I’ll bet we wouldn’t be in this crap pile.

    1. To be fair, Arbuckle’s record in KC hasn’t been all that impressive yet either. He started for them in late 08 and was involved (though not completely running things obviously as Dayton Moore is very hands on) with the 09 draft moving forward. Granted, its tough to judge the most recent drafts but here’s guys that he’s hit on so far:

      2009:

      Aaron Crow – decent reliever for them but nothing special…currently out with TJ
      Wil Myers – Obviously a great pick…should be a very legit OF when he’s healthy again. Got them Shields and Wade Davis in a trade so its a win regardless. Granted that wasn’t all him as Odorizzi was also a big part of that deal.
      Louis Coleman – A couple years as a middle reliever…nothing special.

      2010:

      Christian Colon Basically a backup middle infielder so far. Nothing to get excited about. #4 pick overall…Matt Harvey and Chris Sale were notables drafted after him in the 1st that year.
      Kevin Chapman Middle reliever that netted them Humberto Quintero in a trade…not exactly huge.

      2011:

      No MLB players yet (but its only 4 years so maybe)

      Top pick was #5 overall – Bubba Starling: He’s currently in AA and not on any Top 100 lists.
      A couple of other 2011 picks might contribute as they went HS pick heavy early so they’re all still in the low to middle minors.

      2012:

      Top pick was Kyle Zimmer at #5, BP had him at #34 overall coming into this year, BA had him at #75. He’s currently in Low A ball and he’s injured with a apparently major shoulder issue that might derail his career. Nothing to be done there though. He looked good when healthy. Their 2nd pick Sam Selman is in AA with peripherals that look Aumontesque.

      2013:

      Top pick at #8 overall was Hunter Dozier. He was on BP’s top 100 list at #95 this year. In AA as a 23 year old this year with poor stats so far. Way too early to tell anything yet obviously.

      Honestly think its a bit silly to even think about judging anything past 2011…but as you can see, other than that 2009 draft where they hit on Myers fairly late at #91 overall, their drafting success has been mixed at best.

      I don’t know that we’d be in any different shape with Arbuckle at the helm than we were with Amaro. We probably still would have gone all in to maximize our chances at winning another WS. I also think many fans would feel a lot different if Hamels had shown up in the 09 WS or had Pedro stole a game for us or we had won in 2010 or 2011 when we had great teams on paper and were heavily favored to go deep if not all the way both years. None of this is to say that Amaro is a good GM or even average. He’s definitely been a poor GM but I don’t think Arbuckle would have been much better or any better at drafting as it still would have been Wolever’s draft team and scouts.

      1. I was sort of wondering aloud, but that’s a very thorough response. Thank you!

        Actually, I have not praised Arbuckle as much as others have. Arbuckle’s drafts were kind of weird. He had several years where he had one gigantic hit in a year (Hamels, Utley, Howard), but aside from that his drafts were very, very shallow – it was either completely hit or miss. Frankly, I don’t think, from a philosophical standpoint, Arbuckle was that much different from Woloever, although Woloever gave us two great parting gifts in Nola and especially Crawford.

        I am going to wait and see with Almaraz, but so far, I like what he is doing a lot and I love his philosphical approach to the draft.

  16. Good response but I believe that the beloved Charlie Manuel deserves some criticism for 2010 and 2011. Ruben gave Charlie the players he wanted through Manuel’s public complaining and bluntly he was out managed by Girardi, Bochy and LaRussa. Charlie was not patient with Dom Brown which led to the Hunter Pence trades or any young player. Righly or wrongly, I believe that Amaro and Gillick knew that we were going downhill eventually but ownership prevented it(like they did with the 76-83 Phillies team) and ran both cores into the ground. I don’t think any GM would have made an impact with our ownership. Amaro is not a poor GM and he is not the greatest as he is in between.

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