Jun 012011

The 2011 draft is less than a week away, and this is a very important one for many teams. This is the last draft under the current CBA, and there could be major changes to the draft in future years. A world draft similar to the NHL and NBA is unlikely, but that’s probably not the only thing on the table. There’s a lot of discussion that there will be limits to how much teams can spend in the draft, and that could happen in a couple different ways. The league could institute hard slotting for every pick where bonuses couldn’t exceed a certain amount, similar to the NBA draft. Another potential idea to limit bonuses is to give teams a signing bonus cap. Teams could then decide how they spend their money in the draft, whether pour it all into one big bonus or spread it out, as long as they don’t go over the cap.

Limiting signing bonuses in either of those ways would be bad for the sport. The gut reaction by many may be to say it would prevent the Yankees and Red Sox from outspending everyone like in the free agent market, but it would actually hurt the small market teams. Teams like Kansas City and Pittsburgh have realized that spending in the draft is how they can improve their chances of winning. By spending a little more on bonuses, they can get cheap, major league production in the future which is how teams like the Rays have success.

In addition to affecting competitive balance, the quality of the talent pool could decrease too. Consider Puerto Rico, whose players were added to the draft in 1990. The quality of Puerto Ricans in baseball has declined since then, although there are some All-Stars like Carlos Beltran. Prior to 1990, Puerto Rico was developing as a great baseball nation. Now, Major League teams can’t invest in players there at younger ages and develop them, and scouts and coaches in the county have less incentive to develop the talent themselves with less money involved. The same thing could happen here. Many of the top high school draft picks are multi-sport stars, and if they’re not drafted early under a hard slotting system, it would be worth it to go to college. However, college baseball does not have the scholarships its more popular counterparts like football and basketball do, so it would probably be better for those players to advance their careers in other sports.

To get away from speculation and back to reality, the Phillies will have 51 picks in this year’s draft. Due to the departure of Jayson Werth and addition of Cliff Lee, their first pick won’t be until 39th overall which is in the supplemental round. They’ll have Washington’s 2nd round pick, #66 overall, their own second rounder which is pick #90, pick #120 in the 3rd round, and every 30th pick starting with #151 in the 4th round. In this entry, I’ll discuss some players that could be available at either #39 or #66, even if some of them aren’t realistic, Phillies-style picks. These are just some names to keep an eye on next Monday and Tuesday.

Josh Bell, OF, Dallas Jesuit HS– Bell is likely the best pure high school hitter in the draft, and he won’t be taken in the top 10, and probably not even in the first round. He’s been considered a difficult sign with a commitment to Texas, and it was believed that it would take a lot of money to get him away from that. Over the weekend, it was revealed that he sent a letter to the scouting bureau indicating he does not want to be drafted at all, but Keith Law says it could just be posturing. That’s certainly possible, but there are always players that truly want to go to college, and Bell seems to be one of them. On the field, his athleticism will probably limit him to LF, but he can really hit. He has a nice approach, quick hands, and he has power from both sides of the plate. The Phillies won’t draft him and it’s really just a pipe dream, but someone will eventually and hope they can somehow change his mind.

Nick Delmonico, C/3B, Farragut HS– Delmonico hasn’t had his best spring this year, but he’s probably still going to be taken in the supplemental or second rounds. His brother players catcher for Georgia, and another brother is already a professional in the Dodgers’ system. Nick actually has a pretty similar game to his brother Tony with the Dodgers but with more upside. He has the potential to stay behind the plate, but like his brother who had to move away from catcher, he could move to a corner position like 3B down the road too. He shows potential power and patience at the plate, a characteristic missing from many of the Phillies’ toolsy prospects. However, he could be considered a tough sign with a commitment to Georgia.

Jason Esposito, 3B, Vanderbilt– Esposito was once considered to be a first round pick, but his stock has fallen this spring. One thing that’s certain about him is he’s an above average defender at the position, but he’s also played other positions around the infield. Statistically, his power may have decreased with the new bats in college, but he does have raw power. One major negative is a bit of a slow bat, and that could obviously limit his upside. The Phillies won’t take him with their first pick, but the second is a possibility. They haven’t taken a college hitter in the first round since Chase Utley in 1999, and they haven’t taken a college hitter with their first pick since Mike Costanzo in 2005.

Derek Fisher, OF, Cedar Crest HS– Fisher is closer to a classic Phillies pick. He’s not a supreme athlete like Jiwan James or Anthony Gose, but he’s extremely raw. He’s another guy that the Phillies will gamble on and hope their player development staff can get his tools to translate into baseball production. Eventually, his average speed and average at best arm will limit him to LF where hopefully his defense will be better than the point guard who shares his name. His bat will carry him, but it will take some time for that to come. This spring, he’s been striking out a lot and kind of disappointing, so he won’t be a first round pick like many expected a few months ago. However, if a team can sign him away from Virginia, there’s potential for really good power.

Brandon Martin, SS, Santiago HS– This year’s draft has a pretty weak crop of middle infielders, and those that can truly play shortstop will probably be drafted higher than he should be. Martin has had a very good spring, and he’s one of a few guys at the top of this draft that can play shortstop in the majors. He has a good arm and a pretty good athlete, and that bodes well for his future in the field. At the plate, he’s a bit aggressive with a swing that produces line drives, and there are some scouts that consider him a five tool player. There’s some debate about his future power, but even considering that, a guy with a decent bat at the shortstop position is a valuable commodity. He could be there are the Phillies’ 2nd pick.

Trevor Story, SS, Irving HS– Story is one player that will surely benefit from a lack of quality shortstops in this draft. Recently, Jim Callis said he’s likely going to be taken early in the supplemental round, and that’s probably a bit high. That means if the Phillies want him, it’ll have to be at pick #39. He’s a very good defender, and teams will have to hope they can develop him into an adequate hitter. He has serious mechanical issues at the plate that need to be resolved, and a team has to weigh if that’s worth the risk of a high pick. A team will believe they can develop him at the plate, and if so, they’ll be happy with his plus arm, good athleticism and hands at shortstop. He’s committed to LSU, but he’s expected to sign to play professionally.

Tyler Beede, RHP, Lawrence Academy– Beede separates himself from a lot of high school arms by being more polished than most. By no means will he move through a system quickly though, and he still has a lot of projection left. He’s just a little more advanced than many of his peers. At a listed 6’4, 200 pounds, to many scouts he has the perfect frame for pitchers. He’s shed concerns about his mechanics this spring and shown more consistency. He has a pretty deep arsenal with a couple different fastballs, one of which has touched 95 in the past. His changeup and curveball have room for an improvement, and Beede is also working on a slider. Committed to Vanderbilt, he may not be an easy sign, but it was just three years ago that the Phillies signed a northeast prep player committed to Vandy, Anthony Hewitt.

Hudson Boyd, RHP, Bishop Verot HS– Boyd is a pitcher that will probably be available at #39 but may not last until their 2nd pick. His frame is a little different from Beede, standing at 6’3 and 235 pounds. That may sound concerning to some, but he’s strong and expected to become a workhorse with great durability. Baseball America says he could develop two plus pitches, and Keith Law says the same offerings will be above average. His fastball sits in the 90-94 range and touches even higher, and he probably won’t develop anymore velocity. His mid 70’s curveball is his second best pitch, and it’ll be the development of his changeup that determines how good Boyd becomes. High school pitchers rarely need the pitch, and prep pitchers with advanced changeups like Cole Hamels are rare.

Andrew Chafin, LHP, Kent State– It’s important to note that Chafin missed the entire 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery, but the Phillies haven’t shied away from pitchers with prior injuries before. 2011 is actually his first full year in a college rotation, and although he wore down during the season, it’s probably not a big deal since he’s coming off the surgery. He shows nice fastball velocity, sitting in the low 90’s and touching 95, and that’s not common from the left side. According to Baseball America, some scouts believe his slider has plus-plus potential, and pitches that good are rare in baseball. He may have some mechanical issues to clean up, but he should have starter potential if his changeup continues to develop. If not, his fastball and slider could offer a late inning bullpen option.

Kevin Comer, RHP, Seneca HS– Vanderbilt has a nice potential recruiting class coming in next spring with Beede and also Kevin Comer, a New Jersey product. He’s also considered a tough sign, but like Beede, the Phillies have gotten players away from Vanderbilt before. He’s more raw than Beede, and there’s a bit of a wide range for where he could go. Talent wise, he should be a supplemental or 2nd round guy, but Baseball America rates him a little lower than that. His athleticism should allow him to clean up any mechanical flaws he may have. His fastball is in the 90-94 range, and he adds a power curve to compliment it. He’ll need to develop a 3rd pitch, and the Phillies have proven before they don’t mind taking raw players as long as they’re athletes with a lot of potential.

Michael Kelly, RHP, West Boca Raton HS– Like the other high school pitchers mentioned here, Kelly has an athletic frame (6’5, 210) that lends itself to future projection and durability. This is the kind of pitcher that the Phillies like taking. His fastball currently sits in the 89-92 range while sometimes touching higher, and he’ll probably add MPH to that pitch in the future. Like a lot of high school pitchers, especially tall ones, Kelly struggled to find consistent mechanics, and that can take away from his stuff. His curveball is a potential plus pitch, but he struggles with the command of it. He has the potential to throw an average changeup, but it’s going to take awhile. He’s very raw, and it’s going to take some time for a team to develop his mechanics.

Fans shouldn’t get too attached to specific names because in a draft where picks can’t be traded, it only takes one team for a player to be drafted much higher than everyone expects. Fans scoffed (and probably rightfully so) at the Cubs taking Hayden Simpson in the first round last year, but it’s been said that every time they scouted a Simpson start, the Angels’ front office was also well represented. Guess which team picked five times after the Cubs’ first pick and before their second? Phillies fans may want them to draft a lot of position players, particularly infielders, early this year because the organization is lacking in those areas, but this draft’s strength is on the mound. They need to take the best players, not draft according to current needs.

If there are changes to the draft next year, hopefully the Phillies are prepared. Their scouting and development staffs are among the best in the league, and it’s hard to complain about the job they do. They do a great job working with limited resources, handcuffed by ownership that rarely allows them to sign players to overslot bonuses. Spending more on the draft isn’t a guarantee, but this year teams will be spending more on bonuses to add talented prospects before potential changes to the draft. The Phillies will need to be more aggressive to get the best players, and that may require them to spend more than they have in the past.

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Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out!  Scott also regularly updates the PSC Minor League Thread with player stats, game results, and more…


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