On Sunday, Pat Gillick was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are fewer than 30 executives enshrined in Cooperstown, and it’s clear that he had a large impact in baseball during his front office career. Of all the executives in the Hall, only Gillick has been active in baseball since 1984, so it’s rare for members of a front office to get this honor.
Looking at his resume, it’s obvious why the Veterans Committee elected Gillick. When the Toronto Blue Jays entered the league, he was a high ranking executive from the beginning and quickly became General Manager. After five straight years of finishing last in the AL East, Bobby Cox joined Toronto, and they began to show improvement. In the team’s 9th season, they reached the postseason for the first time. Seven years and two ALCS losses later, Gillick’s Blue Jays, won their first of two World Series Championships.
Gillick didn’t win a World Series at his next two stops, but he was still responsible for assembling very good teams. In three years with Baltimore, Gillick’s Orioles made the playoffs twice but lost in the ALCS both years. They won 186 games combined in those two years but dropped to four games below .500 in his final year there. After one year of not holding a GM position, Gillick got the job and Seattle. The Mariners showed immediately improvement despite Gillick being forced to trade superstar Ken Griffey Jr. They won 12 more games than the previous season to make the playoffs but once again lost in the ALCS. In 2001, the Mariners had an incredibly memorable season, winning 116 games and tying an ML record for wins in a season. However, it ended in disappointment with another ALCS loss. The next two seasons with Gillick still at the helm, the Mariners won 93 games but failed to make the playoffs.
Obviously, most fans reading this will remember Gillick most for his tenure with the Phillies from 2006 to 2008. In his first season, he said it would take three seasons for them to become a true contender, and it proved to be more accurate than anyone could’ve imagined. He faced some serious challenges when he arrived in Philadelphia. He had to decide if he wanted to keep Charlie Manuel as manager or hire his own choice, build a struggling pitching staff and get rid of some veterans (and their contracts) to allow younger players to develop. Not every moved worked out, and no GM always does the right thing, but the Phillies were able to win their first division since 1993 and then their first World Series since 2008. While some may argue how much of a role Gillick played in winning the championship, he is responsible for acquiring several key contributors including Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero, Jamie Moyer, Joe Blanton, Jayson Werth and Pedro Feliz.
Gillick’s teams shared two common traits upon his departure: they’re never as good as they were when they had Gillick, and they were left with weaker farm systems. The Phillies bucked that trend by continuing their success in the NL and still having talented minor leaguers. This is thanks to Gillick staying patient and not trading top talent for quick fixes and a good scouting and development system. Rightly or wrongly, general managers get credit for draft successes and take blame for draft failures even though in most cases, he has little input on the picks. It’s been five years since Gillick’s first draft with the Phillies, and that’s about enough time to evaluate how those picks will pan out. I’ll cover picks in the first 10 rounds as well as significant ones after that. That’ll include some players that did not sign with the Phillies but still eventually made it to pro ball.
1.18 Kyle Drabek, RHP, Texas High School
Where is he now? AAA Las Vegas (Toronto)
Drabek fell to 18th overall due to on and off field makeup concerns, and the Phillies are known to take risks on talented players that fall in the draft. He got torched in his pro debut with the GCL Phillies but came back in 2007 with a decent season in low-A Lakewood before going down with an elbow injury. He pitched 32 innings at the end of 2008 at low levels making his comeback, and at the start of 2009 he started the season in Clearwater and dominated. He was promoted to Reading and involved in a lot of trade rumors. He stayed at the deadline, but he went to Toronto in the Roy Halladay trade in the 2010 offseason. After another good season in the Eastern League, Drabek started 2011 in the majors. He struggled with his control and was sent down to AAA. He’s been awful in the Pacific Coast League, but if he can improve his command, he can still reach his ceiling as a 2 or 3 starter.
1.37 Adrian Cardenas, 2B, Florida High School
Where is he now? AAA Sacramento (Oakland)
Like Drabek, Cardenas’ ultimate value to the Phillies was as a trading chip. He was a polished high school hitter that could make good contact with a nice plate approach, but he had some negatives too: he wasn’t a particularly good defensive player, and he doesn’t hit for much power. After a solid season with Lakewood in 2007 and a good half season with Clearwater in 2008, Cardenas was traded to Oakland as one of the prospects in the Joe Blanton trade. His stock has fallen since then. In 2009 and 2010, he had success in the hitter friendly Texas League, but he struggled in two brief stints in AAA. He came out strong in AAA this year but has tailed off in the last two months. He still doesn’t have a defensive position, and his ceiling may ultimately be as a utility player.
2.65 Andrew Carpenter, RHP, Long Beach State
Where is he now? Philadelphia
After taking two high school talents in the first round, the Phillies went with Andrew Carpenter in the second round for a safe, signable selection. He never had great stuff, a fastball sitting in the high 80’s, and it was hard to tell how far he could go. He got off to a nice start in his first full year in 2007 with Clearwater, winning 17 games at the head of a championship winning rotation. After coming to camp out of shape the next year, he got bombed in Reading. He still got a brief stint in the majors that year, as well as the three following seasons. He was decent for Lehigh Valley in 2009 and 2010, but the Phillies switched him to a reliever for 2011, and he’s been much better. His upside is a long reliever, but if he doesn’t start showing something with the Phillies soon, he’ll never get an extended look.
3.97 Jason Donald, INF, Arizona
Where is he now? AAA Columbus (Cleveland)
Donald had a mediocre college career, but the Phillies taking him in the third round paid off. He came out crushing pitching in the low minors and improved his stock. The Phillies hoped he could be a solution at third base, but in 2009 he struggled with injuries and poor performance with Lehigh Valley. He was hitting below .240 with no patience or power and wasn’t the same hitter. Nevertheless, Cleveland took him in a package for Cliff Lee. While with Reading, Donald appeared to have a chance to be an every day player, now he profiles as a decent-bat utility player. He got a lot of ML time in 2010 but has spent the entire 2011 season in the minors after dealing with injuries in spring training.
4.127 D’Arby Myers, OF, California High School
Where is he now? High-A Clearwater
Myers is a really good athlete that was expected to go to USC rather than sign right away. In his first year with the GCL, it looked like he made the right choice. He hit over .300 and didn’t have a disastrous plate approach which is acceptable for a high school hitter in that league. He went to Williamsport in 2007 when a wrist injury derailed his career. He came back and was never the same hitter. Toolsy, athletic players often don’t pan out, and maybe Myers wouldn’t have even if healthy, but I wonder if he could’ve done better if he stayed healthy. He’s up to Clearwater in a reserve role now, but at some point, he’ll be replaced and out of pro ball.
5.157 Quintin Berry, OF, San Diego State
Where is he now? AA Carolina (Cincinnati)
The Phillies love athletes, and Berry fits that bill. He had back to back 50 steal seasons in 2007 and 2008 for Lakewood, but it takes more than speed to reach the majors. He had a nice approach at the plate, but once he got to Clearwater, his average dropped, and he never had any power. In 2010, he was waived by the Phillies after a second consecutive bad year at Reading and claimed by San Diego. He signed with the Reds, and in his third year at AA, he’s hitting really well, but at 26 and in AA, he doesn’t have much of a future.
6.187 Dan Brauer, LHP, Northwestern
Where is he now? Not in affiliated baseball
Brauer was an accomplished college pitcher that did something not a lot of pitchers do: come back from labrum surgery. The Phillies took a chance on him in the 6th round, but he didn’t pan out. He dominated the New York Penn League after signing like a lot of college players do, but from 2007-2009, he wasn’t very good for Clearwater. His career best BB/9 with the Threshers was 6.3, and obviously that’s not going to get a pitcher very far. He pitched briefly in an independent league in 2010.
7.217 Charlie Yarbrough, 1B, Eastern Kentucky
Where is he now? Not in baseball
Yarbrough was an accomplished college hitter that was expected to hit for some nice power with patience. That never materialized as a professional. He hit .215 in 451 AB between two NYPL affiliates in Lakewood and only hit six home runs.
8.247 T.J. Warren, OF, California High School
Where is he now? Not in affiliated baseball
Warren was another athlete that just never developed. He spent 2006 and 2007 in the GCL and never hit at all. In 2008, he got 231 AB in Lakewood filling in for some injuries and did much better than expected with some surprise patience, but it didn’t last. He struggled there in 23 games the next season and last played independent league ball in 2010.
9.277 Andrew Cruse, RHP, South Carolina
Where is he now? Not in affiliated baseball
Cruse was a good but not great reliever at South Carolina. The Phillies hoped he could move through the system quickly with his two pitch mix, but it never happened. His strikeout rate dropped as he progressed through the system, and he never made it past Clearwater. Cruse pitched two seasons in the Northern independent league.
10.307 Sam Walls, RHP, N.C. State
Where is he now? Out of baseball
Like Cruse, Sam Walls was a decent college reliever. He dominated at Clearwater in 2008 after missing all of 2007, but he was awful at Reading after his promotion. He pitched just 10.1 IP in 2009 and hasn’t pitched since.
15.457 Riley Cooper, OF, Florida High School (unsigned)
Where is he now? Philadelphia Eagles
Cooper was a potential five tool player if he stuck with baseball. He played high school just blocks away from Brighthouse Field, so the Phillies probably got a good look at him as an amateur. He went to Florida to play two sports, but he never really developed in baseball like he did on the football field. Despite that, the Rangers still drafted and signed him for $250,000. He never played professionally for the Rangers and instead chose to pursue football.
18.547 Michael Dubee, RHP, Okaloosa-Walton JC
Where is he now? AA Altoona (Pittsburgh)
Often in the MLB draft, teams take relatives of scouts, coaches, front office members and players late in the draft because why not? There are 50 rounds, and it’s become an accepted practice. Obviously, Michael is the son of the Phillies‘ pitching coach, but he does have decent talent. In 2007 while having a good season out of Lakewood’s bullpen, he was traded to the White Sox for Tadahito Iguchi. He proved to be a good addition to the Phillies, and Dubee eventually went to the Pirates organization. He’s been great in AA but hasn’t done very well in brief AAA opportunities. He should get an ML cup of coffee at some point.
20.607 Domonic Brown, OF, Georgia High School
Where is he now? Philadelphia
Not much needs to be said about one of the biggest steals of the 2006 draft. On a football scholarship to Miami, he was believed to be unsignable. The Phillies took him late just hoping it would work out, and they were able to sign him for a modest $200,000. When the Phillies take athletes, they hope they can develop half as well as Brown has, but of course it’s rare.
36.1087 Kyle Gibson, RHP, Indiana HS (unsigned)
Where is he now? AAA Rochester (Minnesota)
In their pre-draft scouting report, Baseball America said that physically, Gibson probably wasn’t ready for pro ball, but he could be a top pick in 2009 after three years at Missouri. That’s exactly what he did, and he was Minnesota’s first round pick. He’s now knocking on the door of the big leagues, but his ultimate ceiling is a #3 starter. He was unsignable, so Phillies fans shouldn’t be concerned about not signing him since teams draft players that become high picks in later years every draft.
43.1296 Yazy Arbelo, 1B, Florida HS (unsigned)
Where is he now? Low-A South Bend (Arizona)
Arbelo really isn’t a prospect at all, but he is having an interesting season in the Diamondbacks system. He’s pretty close to a three outcome player with an impressive 23 home runs in the Midwest League along with 58 walks and 115 strikeouts. He’ll never have an extended ML career, but he should be a good minor league slugger for Arizona.
Five Phillies picks, signed or unsigned by the team, have reached the majors. Gibson should join them soon, and after that maybe one or two have a shot at a cup of coffee. It’s hard to judge drafts based on how many players reach the majors because it only takes one at bat to reach that list. Teams have had one to 10 players from the draft to reach the majors, and every team has at least one (it took Washington until this season to get theirs.) Besides Drabek and Brown, there isn’t much impact talent there, but it’s hard to not call it a productive draft, especially from the Phillies perspective. They have a potential All-Star right fielder now, and they were able to sell some talent to improve the major league club.
It’s pretty easy to nitpick drafts in retrospect. For example, the Yankees drafted Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain with compensation picks received for the Phillies signing Tom Gordon, but on the other hand, the Phillies were able to get Kyle Drabek and Adrian Cardenas thanks to the Mets signing Billy Wagner. Trevor Cahill was drafted one pick after Carpenter, and obviously it would be better to have Cahill than Carpenter, in general the Phillies hit in the draft more than they miss. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be having this current run of success with mostly a homegrown core, and they wouldn’t be able to make the high-profile trades they have in recent years without a stocked system, thanks to the 2006 draft and Gillick’s two others with the team.
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