The Rule 4 Amateur Draft is approaching. The first round begins on June 12th. That leaves 5 weeks for discussion. For some time now, I have been considering running a weekly draft discussion along the line of last year’s weekly discussion for the 1:1 pick. I followed the half dozen or so prospects who were likely to be selected with the first overall pick, and missed on the eventual selection, Mickey Moniak. I’ve been putting off beginning that kind of coverage. I think the amount of work could have doubled, maybe even trebled for the 1:8 pick. I wasn’t looking forward to tracking 15-18 possible 1:8 selections.
Then, thankfully, our friend John Yarusinsky submitted the following article through our friend Eric on the Phillies’ possible selection with the #8 pick. John’s article will serve as a good opening discussion piece this week. The Rule 4 Amateur Draft is likely going to be at the fore front of most discussions for the next 5 weeks. So, here is John’s submission, unedited but for the removal of photos and the addition of some basic formatting to maintain the clarity of John’s original Adobe file.
2017 MLB Draft: Who will the Phillies select at 8th overall?
By John Yarusinsky
On June 12, 2017, the annual MLB First-Year Player Draft will begin. For prospect gurus like myself, draft day is heaven. It’s better than my birthday, plus every major holiday combined. Well, maybe not as good as a birthday, but you get the idea. In this analysis, I attempt to predict who the Phillies will select when general manager Matt Klentak is on the clock with the 8th overall pick. In order to determine the possibilities, I researched four mock drafts; compiled by three sources: Baseball America, Mlbpipeline and MyMLBDraft. In total, five players (2 outfielders, 2 first basemen and 1 pitcher) were highlighted as potential targets. They are as follows:
- Player School Position Souce
- Kyle Wright Vanderbilt RHP Baseball America
- Pavin Smith Virginia 1B Baseball America
- Nick Pratto Huntington Beach HS, CA 1B MyMLBDraft
- Jeren Kendall Vanderbilt OF Mlbpipeline
- Austin Beck N. Davidson HS, NC OF Mlbpipeline
The players are ordered randomly and aren’t the result of my preference from best to worst case scenario. For each player, I break them down based on five components:
- Intro and signability concerns (If applicable)
- Scouting report (based on video I’ve witnessed and actual context from reports)
- What a given player has done lately
- Why should the Phillies take a chance on this player
- Why should the Phillies pass on this player
Lastly, I will pick a player who is a darkhorse and explain why the Phillies should pass on the five players analyzed and select the darkhorse instead. Enjoy!
Player: Kyle Wright, RHP
School: Vanderbilt University (Junior)
H&W: 6’4” 220 lbs.
When Kyle Wright was a senior at Buckhorn High School in New Market, AL, offers from major league clubs weren’t forthcoming. His fastball averaged in the high 80’s and his secondary pitches were considered raw at best. The saving grace for Wright was a national showcase called Perfect Game where he received considerable attention from D-1 college coaches. Shortly thereafter, Wright was off to attend college in 2015 at Vanderbilt University. In his freshman year, Wright was a lights-out reliever for the Commodores. In 29 total appearances, he punched out 62 batters in 58.2 innings pitched, good for a 1.23 ERA. The following year, Commodores head coach Tim Corbin tabbed Wright as a full time starter. The experiment paid off. In 16 appearances, Wright went 8-4 and pitched to a 3.09 ERA across 93.1 innings. The sophomore sent 107 hitters back to the dugout and finished with a respectable 10.3 K per 9 ratio.
Since his time at Perfect Game showcases, Wright has added 40 pounds of muscle. Put simply, he has the perfect frame that scouts look for in pitcher. Wright has a high baseball IQ and his willingness to learn and develop is something you cannot put a statistic on. Wright has a free and easy delivery with little moving parts and he can repeat it with ease which adds to his deception. For the time being, Wright throws four pitches. His fastball velocity increased by 10 MPH since his senior year of high school and it normally sits between 94-97 MPH. His two seamer has excellent movement. At times, Wright has the tendency to miss up in the zone and he still needs to do a better job of locating. His changeup is a tick above average and scouts agree it’s his best put away pitch. Wright throws a curve and slider, with the former being his better pitch. Wright should get rid of the slider as it’s flat with no late breaking movement. The problem with Wright is that he walks a ton of hitters.
What has Wright done lately?
Wright is pitching decently for the Commodores, but for a college junior, he’s been ho-hum. Wright is off to a 2-5 start in 11 appearances with a 3.66 ERA in 66.1 innings. Walks continue to plague him as he’s racked up 24 free-pases after surrendering 32 in 93.1 innings last year. The stuff is still there, as Wright is averaging more than a K per inning. The kid just needs to learn some command and control.
Why should the Phillies select him?
The Phillies should select Wright because he’s a born leader and he pitches for an immaculate college program. Former Vanderbilt aces David Price and Sonny Gray, as well as recent draft picks Carson Fulmer, Tyler Beede and Walker Buehler, know what it’s like to pitch for a winning program and succeed at baseball’s highest levels. Wright also has the determination and work ethic to get better everyday. Wright is never going to be an ace; however, his ceiling is a number 3-4 in a rotation if all goes according to plan. Given how quickly 2014 college first-rounder Aaron Nola flew through the Phillies minor league system, the Phillies could be tempted to take Wright. The slot value for 8th overall is $4.78 million and the Phillies are capped at $8.72 million through the first ten rounds. Wright should receive well under the $4.78 threshold, so it would be a cost effective sign.
Why the should the Phillies pass on him?
The Phillies should not select Wright because his current walk rate is troubling for a college junior. Also, the Phillies already have viable pitching options in their minor league system, so they don’t necessarily need Wright. Granted the idea is to take “the best overall player available”; however, the Phillies are in rebuilding mode and their offense has been horrendous.
Wright is too raw for my liking at this stage in his development. There’s a lot of potential here in this pick, but I think the Phillies should avoid developmental headaches and go elsewhere.
2. Player: Pavin Smith, 1B
School: University of Virginia (Junior)
H&W: 6’2” 210 lbs. Bats: Left Throws: Left
The Colorado Rockies had their eye on Smith in 2014 by selecting him in the 32nd round; however, the Palm Beach Gardens, FL native decided to honor his college commitment and attend the University of Virginia instead. Smith was destined for greater things, coming off of a senior season where he hit .395 and only struck out 7 times. Smith also had success on the mound where he went 5-0 with a 0.66 ERA. During his 2015 freshman season with the Cavaliers, Smith split time between first base and outfield. Needless, to say, it was a good decision. In 68 games, the Florida product produced a slash line of .307/.373/.467 across 270 at bats including 7 home runs. He also registered a .988 fielding percentage by committing a miniscule 5 errors in 419 total chances. Smith only whiffed 40 times in 307 total plate appearances and was named an ACC All-Freshman. He also led Virginia to a College World Series title. His sophomore season was just as good, if not better. Smith carried the Cavaliers to an NCAA Regional appearance by putting up a respectable .329/.410/.513 line in 60 games played which included 8 home runs and 57 RBI’s. In 274 trips to the plate, Smith only whiffed in 23 of them and in the field, he registered a .987 fielding percentage.
Smith is one of the best hitters in the country. The lefty has a level swing and it doesn’t have many moving parts, allowing for a direct swing path to the baseball. Smith is a patient hitter and he goes up to the plate with a plan. His plate discipline and overall plate coverage is far more
advanced than the competition. Smith has incredibly quick hands on inside pitches and his bat to ball instincts are off the charts. Smith can hit the ball to all fields. Power comes naturally to him and as he progresses the extra base hits can translate to more round trippers. There’s 15-20 home run potential in his bat. Smith will never be confused for a speedster, but he has a high baseball IQ and he isn’t afraid to take chances on the basepaths. There’s no doubt Smith will be a first baseman going forward and he’s a decent defender. You can never go wrong with a polished hitting first baseman and that’s what Smith is.
What has Smith done lately?
Oh…he’s only mashing. His slash line of .355/.433/.585 in 47 games is simply bananas. This also includes 10 long balls and 58 RBI’s, both career highs. If you thought that was good, he’s only whiffed 7 times(!) in 217 plate appearances.
Why should the Phillies select him?
As if this needed any further elaboration, Tommy Joseph’s struggles at first base have been mind numbing. Smith is a polished-hitting college junior who should fly through the minor leagues. Also, being he’s a college junior, Smith should be willing to take less than slot value so the Phils can load up on talent through the first ten rounds. Smith’s teammate Matt Thaiss was selected in the first round of last year’s draft and some scouts believe Smith is the better hitter. Considering Thaiss is regarded as a top ten first base prospect and second best in the Angels farm system via Mlbpipeline, there’s a lot to like about.
Why should the Phillies pass on him?
The answer is very simple. If Smith continues on this trajectory, he will be selected before the 8th overall pick. If he slips this far, there’s something seriously wrong here. The Phillies have also selected two high school bats (Moniak and Randolph) in the first round of the previous two drafts, so the Phillies might continue down this road and pass on Smith.
3. Player: Nick Pratto, 1B
School: Huntington Beach HS, CA
H&W: 6’1” 193 lbs. Bats: Left Throws: Left
Pratto has been on the national radar for quite sometime. In 2011, he lead Huntington Beach to a Little League World Series appearance. Although he’s always been known for his hitting prowess, Pratto can pitch as well. His fastball has been clocked in the high 80’s, which isn’t too bad for a first baseman. Like most highly regarded high school players, Pratto has played at Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) tournaments, tournament of the stars in Cary, NC and has been an integral part of Team USA in junior tournaments. Pratto has already committed to the University of Southern California for the 2018 baseball season.
Pratto is one of the best high school bats in the country. The lefty has a smooth swing and it’s easy for him to repeat it. Pratto has excellent plate discipline and he has incredible bat to ball skills. His bad speed is a tick above average and he hits the ball to all fields. He can become an easy .290 hitter in the minors. Pratto has added some serious pop in his bat and this should only get better as he matures. There’s a chance for 15 homer potential which suggests that he won’t be an empty singles hitter. Pratto isn’t the biggest first baseman in the world and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some scouts believe he can play corner outfield to increase his versatility and whoever drafts him, there’s a good chance this happens. Pratto will never be confused for someone who is fleet of foot; however, his high baseball IQ is something scouts rave about. Pratto is athletic and he plays with a chip on his shoulder.
What has Pratto done lately?
It’s difficult to find Pratto’s offensive stats as Maxpreps hasn’t updated their database and they require a premium membership (lame); however, Pratto on May 3rd lifted Huntington Beach to an extra inning win by smacking a one out; two run triple. He’s still hitting according to the LA Times, so that’s good!
Why should the Phillies select him?
The Phillies should select Pratto because his bat is far more advanced than your average high school senior and there’s so much potential here it isn’t even funny. As it stands, Pratto is a number three hitter in any given lineup because he makes solid contact. As mentioned before, he’s limited at first base, but if he becomes a corner outfielder, it’s a nice project for the developmental staff to undertake.
Why should the Phillies pass on Pratto?
Pratto has a college commitment to USC and that’s going to play big in negotiations. The slot value for the 8th overall selection is $4.78 million. With most high school prodigies, they historically exceed the recommended slot value and it isn’t by a few pennies, either. If the Phillies take Pratto, they would be getting dangerously close to exceeding their $8.72 million bonus pool through the first ten rounds. Pratto is good, but the track record for high school first baseman taken in the first round is ugly. Like real ugly. In the past 15-20 years, only Freddie Freeman and Adrian Gonzalez stick out. Otherwise, it’s a wasteland. Given these facts, the Phillies will most likely look elsewhere.
4. Player: Jeren Kendall, OF
School: Vanderbilt University (Junior)
H&W: 5’10” 180 lbs. Bats: Left Throws: Right
In the 30th round of the 2014 draft, the Boston Red Sox attempted to sign Jeren Kendall. He’s not related to former Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Jason Kendall. Like most high school bats with strong college commitments, teams will select players in the later rounds with the hope of them signing. It rarely pans out for those clubs and it was no different for the Holmen, WI product. Instead of signing for peanuts, Kendall honored his college commitment and attended Vanderbilt University in 2015. During his freshman year with the Commodores, Kendall put up a more than respectable .281/.394/.530 slash line, across 60 games. In 229 total plate appearances, Kendall only struck out 60 times, including a very painful 14 hit by pitches. The speedy outfielder also stole 19 bases. Kendall returned for his sophomore season and he was even better. In 62 games, Kendall recorded a .332/.396/.568 slash line and only whiffed 62 times in 288 plate appearances. Kendall added 28 stolen bases to his resume in 36 total chances. He joined Team USA this past summer and led the team in hits, extra base hits, RBI’s and steals.
Kendall can literally do everything on a baseball field. He has five tool talent that scouts simply dream about. Kendall has a level swing and a good approach, but scouts will admit his pitch recognition is too raw for their liking. Kendall is definitely more than a slap happy .280 hitter. Since his freshman year, he’s added more loft to his swing and scouts believe with maturity will come more home runs, perhaps 15 per year. Kendall is a speed demon on the base paths and his aggressiveness adds to his overall value. He’s easily a 30-40 stolen base threat going
forward. Kendall is also a defensive wizard. His arm isn’t the greatest, but he takes excellent routes to fly balls. One can see a combination between Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner when comparing Kendall’s skill set. He’s playing centerfield for now and there’s a chance he moves to a corner position sooner rather than later.
What has Kendall done lately?
Through 44 games with the Commodores, Kendall’s slash line is as follows: .301/.384/.579. Yeah…that’s stupidly good. Kendall also has 13 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 19 chances. The bad part is that Kendall has 52 strikeouts already, showing he’s more free swinging than in the past.
Why should the Phillies select him?
As you can see, Kendall is the total package. There are some holes in his game, but college bats like Kendall are incredibly coachable. Given his impressive makeup, Kendall should fly through the minor league system. The Phillies need someone who can get on base and steal a bag or two. Kendall will also provide some flare at the top of the lineup as he has some sneaky power there. Also, as a college junior, the Phillies have leverage in negotiations. They should save at least $500,000-$1.0 mil below the recommended slot value to sign him.
Why should the Phillies pass on him?
Although Kendall is athletically gifted, it’s difficult to gauge what kind of player he will be going forward. The uptick in power is nice, but is it legitimate? Based on his skill set, Kendall is better suited to put the ball on the ground and leg a few out. At this point in his collegiate career, his pitch recognition is a bit raw for my liking. His swing has some moving parts that could impede his ability to barrel up balls against more advanced pitching.
5. Player: Austin Beck, OF
School: North Davidson HS, NC
H&W: 5’11” 190 lbs. Bats: Right Throws: Right
The Clemmons, NC product appeared on the prospect radar in 2014 when he began attending Perfect Game showcases. Beck was named to Perfect Game’s top ten prospect team after his impressive performances, including running a 60 yard dash in 6.64 seconds. At North Davidson High, Beck was ranked the best prospect in the entire state of North Carolina. In May of 2016, Beck tore his ACL and meniscus in his left knee, which forced him to miss the rest of the year. Since that time, Beck has added 20 pounds of muscle to his athletic frame. With a college commitment to attend North Carolina University on his plate for 2018, Beck has established himself as one of the most intriguing players in the country.
Beck has the chance to be a multiple year All-Star in the majors. He has five tool talent that screams super star and a few scouts have thrown the name Mike Trout around, when comparing Beck. There’s no way Beck reaches that ceiling (think Clint Frazier or Wil Myers), but it speaks to how good he can become. Beck has excellent plate discipline and pitch recognition. His bat speed is off the charts. Beck has incredible bat to ball instincts and his short; yet compact swing is explosive. He has the potential to be a.300 hitter in the majors and there’s enough room for growth where 25-30 homers and 25 stolen bases isn’t a far cry from reality. Beck is really fast and his instincts and ultimate work ethic are something you can’t teach. He’s really good defensively and there is gold glove potential as he matures.
What has Beck done lately?
Beck has led North Davidson to a Carolina conference title game against their rival West Forsyth. Beck is currently hitting number two in the Black Nights’ order and has provided some serious thunder power. Currently, Beck is ranked the 9th best draftee in the entire country by Baseball America.
Why should the Phillies pick Beck?
The Phillies should select Beck because the potential for growth is enormous. This is a kid that lost a full year of development time and he’s still ranked as the 9th best prospect available in this draft. Imagine if he didn’t get hurt. We could very well be looking at a top 3 pick behind Louisville’s Brendan McKay and high school prodigy Hunter Greene. Beck has played at a high level for years now and no pressure situation is too much for him. He simply has instincts that you cannot teach.
Why should the Phillies pass on Beck?
So far, Beck’s left knee has held up nicely. ACL injuries are incredibly tricky and given this is a blemish on Beck’s injury log, the Phillies might stay away. It could be seen as a big risk. The Phillies are in rebuilding mode and missing on first round picks are costly. If Beck continues to prove the injury woes are behind him, there’s no doubt he’ll exceed slot value. Also, Beck’s offensive ability hasn’t translated to success in wood bat leagues. Maybe it was due to some rust, or it’s simply a matter of mechanics, but this latter concern is striking.
The Dark Horse
6. Player: Jake Burger, 3B
School: Missouri State University (Junior)
H&W: 6’2” 220 lbs. Bats: Right Throws: Right
All 30 teams passed on Burger in the 2014 draft and instead, the hulky third baseman attended Missouri State. The two best position players in the school’s history are 2004 World Series Champion Bill Mueller and former MVP Ryan Howard. Burger began his 2015 freshman season with the Bears by tearing the cover off of the baseball. He smacked 29 extra base hits in 57 games played, good for a slash line of .342/.390/.518. Burger only registered 29 strikeouts in 247 plate appearances. The St. Louis native returned for his sophomore season in 2016 and raised the bar again. In 56 games and 269 plate appearances later, Burger hit 21 home runs, up from 4 the year before. His gaudy slash line of .349/.420/.689 included 21 home runs and 72 RBI’s. He only whiffed 35 times. Burger went homerless with his time at Team USA last summer, but he still provided some serious pop.
Burger is a big boy and even though he’s not considered an athletic specimen, his bat is the real deal. There are a lot of moving parts to his swing and scouts wonder whether or not his power will play well against more advanced pitching. His bat speed is a tick above average, but not the greatest. Burger absolutely punishes mistakes. His pitch recognition is decent, but it should develop into an above average tool. Burger has the tendency to get fence happy and sometimes he swings at pitches that he shouldn’t. He makes very good contact and there’s no
doubt he can be a consistent .300 hitter in the show. If Burger refines his approach, he’s easily a 30 home run threat. As mentioned before, speed isn’t Burger’s foray. He’s a passable defender, but one can see him moving to first base. It’s the bat that everyone should be excited about.
What has Burger done lately?
.357/.474/.737. In 44 games, this is what Burger is doing. This includes 18 long balls and he’s only whiffed 23 times in 215 total plate appearances. That’s unreal for someone with that much pop.
Why should the Phillies select him?
Burger checks of all of the boxes. Durability and versatility? Check and check. Cost saving pick? Check. Power? Check. Organizational need? Check (If the Phils commit him to first base). Hits for average and doesn’t strike out a lot? Check and check. Lack of injuries? Check. Polished hitter who can contribute in two years or less? Check. There’s no further elaboration needed. In a draft short of college bats, the Phillies need someone like Burger.
Why should the Phillies stay away?
Honestly, I tried to look for a reason and couldn’t find one. How this guy isn’t considered a top 10 pick is beyond me. Maybe his lack of athleticism? Who gives a crap. Look at Kyle Schwarber. The dude doesn’t have a defined position and he can flat out rake.
Based on my analysis, Klentak should select a college bat on draft day. There’s a good chance Kendall and Smith will be off the board by the time 8th overall rolls around. Pratto and Beck are options as well; however, they will cost well over slot to sign due to strong college commitments. Burger fits every need the Phillies are lacking, as mentioned above. If they pass on all six players, the next best college bat available is Kentucky Wildcats first baseman Evan White. If it’s not Kyle Wright, another pitcher is LSU Tigers starter Alex Lange. The Phillies found Aaron Nola at LSU, so maybe they’ll go with Lange from a comfort level standpoint. Regardless, the Phillies are in a great position with this draft. Given their successes in first round picks recently with J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola, Cornelius Randolph and Mickey Moniak, I’m confident the Phillies will make the right decision.