Jun 232014

Phillies draft pick Aaron NolaEarlier this month, the Phillies had what was one of their most important drafts in a while.  Up until now, it had been pretty rare for them to pick in the top 10 in recent years, so it’s pretty important that they hit on this pick.

They departed from their usual strategy of taking higher upside high school athletes.  I understand the frustration a lot of people may have with that approach, but I’m concerned they went too far in the opposite direction with this draft.

Aaron Nola was a good pick at the top though, and it’s important they go back to at the very least hitting on their first rounders like they did for most of the 90’s and early 00’s.

Four Year College Right-Handed Pitchers

1. Aaron Nola, Louisiana State, 6’2 200, 20.99 Y.O.

A lot of times, ‘safe’ is thrown around as a pejorative with prospects.  Nola was a safe pick, but don’t think the Phillies drafted a really low ceiling player in return for that safety.  He could be a mid-rotation starter, and soon.

He has two plus pitches in his changeup and fastball, a pitch with just average velocity that he can command to any part of the strike zone.  His slider should be an average or better pitch, and he works well low in the zone.

4. Chris Oliver, Arkansas, 6’4 185, 20.90 Y.O.

Oliver was taken a bit later than he could’ve been, likely for his DWI arrest days before the draft.

On the mound, the Phillies should try him out as a starter.  His breaking ball is a plus pitch, and his fastball could be too if he gets a little stronger.  In short bursts, he throws it in the mid-90’s, but he’s not able to sustain that over more innings.  That could lead to a move to the bullpen, but another issue is his poor changeup.  If he can’t improve that, he’ll become a reliever for sure, where he could be effective with his fastball and breaking ball.

9. Matt Hockenberry, Temple, 6’3 220, 22.75 Y.O.

Hockenberry is a senior sign to try and save money for other picks.  His Owls career was underwhelming until his senior season in the program’s final year when he struck out 71 and walked 23 in 93.1 innings, not long after he posted a 1.77 ERA in 45.2 off-season innings in the Valley Baseball League.  He throws five pitches, and Marti Wolever says his fastball is plus, but my guess is that’s an exaggeration for a senior sign from Temple.

13. Nathan Thornhill, Texas, 6’1 180, 22.68 Y.O.

To me, Thornhill is a much more interesting senior sign, provided he arrives to Clearwater with his arm intact after the Longhorns coaching staff is finished running him into the ground in the College World Series.  His fastball isn’t as hard as Hockenberry’s allegedly is, but it has movement, and he can command it.  His changeup and cutter don’t really stand out, but he throws strikes, mixes his pitches up and competes.  He’s had success at a big program in a top conference.

15. Jared Fisher, Washington, 6’4 235, 21.75 Y.O.

Fisher’s 2014 with Washington was just mediocre, striking out 60 and walking 47 in 95 innings as their Friday starter.  He signed anyway, and the Phillies will see if they can get anything out of him.  He works low in the zone with a low-90’s fastball.

16. Calvin Rayburn, Barry University, 6’5 195, 22.31 Y.O.

Statistically, Rayburn wasn’t very good with Barry, striking out 43 and walking 25 in 66.2 innings, bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen.  Maybe if he settles into one role as a professional, he can have more success.  He throws sidearm with a mid to high-80’s fastball with a lot of movement.

22. Ryan Powers, Miami University, 6’5 215, 21.41 Y.O.

Powers was actually in Baseball America’s top 500 ranking, so I’m assuming teams were told he wants to go back for his senior year.  He wasn’t great with Miami, but it was his best career season and also his first as a starter.  He throws strikes with his low-90’s fastball and developing secondary pitches, and he might hope to cash in on an improved senior season in 2015.

24. Preston Packrall, Tampa, 6’1 190, 22.63 Y.O.

On a dominant 54-4 Tampa team, Packrall improved on a dismal junior season.  He only struck out 45 in 80.2 innings, but he also walked just 15.  He was a two way player prior to joining the Spartans, and he works with a high-80’s fastball.

25. Bryan Sova, Creighton, 5’11 65, 22.83 Y.O.

Sova was an extremely successful reliever with Creighton for two seasons after transferring from Scottsdale Community College.  He pitches to contact with only 57 strikeouts in 95 innings, but he also only walked 14 batters.  His fastball is a low to mid-80’s pitch, but since he throws sidearm, it worked in college.

26. Jacques De Gruy, Furman, 6’4 200, 22.60 Y.O.

De Gruy was a bit of a prospect coming out of high school with an average fastball and slider, but after not having success at Louisiana-Lafayette and Furman, he was left to sign as a senior.  He did strike out 110 in 127 innings bouncing between the rotation and bullpen, but he also allowed 140 hits and walked 70.

Left-Handed Pitchers

2. Matt Imhof, Cal Poly, 6’5 220, 20.60 Y.O.

Imhof is a tough pitcher to peg.  Not in a draft stock kind of way; he went right around where he was supposed to.  He struck out 124 in 99.1 innings his junior season, but he owes that more to deception than good stuff.  His fastball is an average pitch floating in the high-90’s to low-90’s, but it moves in different ways to keep batters off balance.  His breaking ball is an above average pitch, and his changeup needs work.

He’s not really a tremendous strike thrower either.  He walked 43 in 99.1 innings, and he’ll need to improve on that rate as a professional.  Imhof’s ceiling looks like a back-end starter that will move somewhat quickly through the system.

6. Brandon Leibrandt, Florida State, 6’4 205, 21.46 Y.O.

Leibrandt has missed a lot of time over the last calendar year with two leg injuries, but that’s not a long-term concern.  What is a long-term concern is his lack of stuff.  He’s had a lot of success in the ACC with a fastball in the mid-80’s, and a changeup that can be an above average pitch.  He throws a lot of strikes, and he’s going to have to be proved that pitching slow and slower can work as a professional.

12. Austin Davis, Cal State Bakersfield, 6’4 245, 21.32 Y.O.

A velocity spike to the mid-90’s in fall practice had Davis rising on draft boards, but it was not sustained when the games started.  It was only his second season because he was suspended in 2013 for taking a banned substance, so his track record is short and not particularly successful.  He struck out 68 and walked 44 in 96 innings, so he’s a project.  His changeup is a potential above average pitch, and his breaking ball could be average.  Maybe the Phillies can find that lost velocity.

19. Joey Denato, Indiana, 5’10 175, 22.21 Y.O.

Denato is a pretty typical senior, left-handed college ace.  His fastball is in the mid to high-80’s, and he doesn’t have dominant secondary pitches either.  What he can do is throw strikes and mix up his pitches to keep hitters off balance.  In his senior season, he struck out 81 and walked 39 in 109 innings while posting a 1.82 ERA for one of the nation’s top teams.

27. Scott Harris, Buena Vista, 6’4 230, 21.05 Y.O.

Not much is out there on Harris.  He wasn’t good in 2013, but in 2014, he was dominant.  He struck out 81 and walked 22 in 68 innings.  The only scouting info I could find on him is he threw in the mid-80’s in high school.

High School/Junior College Pitchers

8. Sam McWilliams, Beech HS (Tennessee), 6’7 190, 18.74 Y.O.

McWilliams was only committed to Tennessee Tech, so it’s not too surprising the Phillies didn’t need long to sign their first draft pick out of high school.  He’s a major project that’s going to take a lot of time.  In addition to the usual control problems tall pitchers with violent deliveries have, his fastball velocity fluctuates a lot from the low to mid-80’s to low-90’s.  Maybe that can improve as he gets stronger, and his secondary pitches need work too.

28. Tanner Kiest, Chaffey College, 6’3 200, 19.71 Y.O.

Kiest struck out 70 in 48.1 innings for Chaffey this year, but he also walked 39.  His fastball is an average pitch at or about 90 MPH.  The strikeout to walk ratio seems to be similar to his first year of college, but the K rate is at the very least, a little interesting.

He’s committed to Central Michigan for next year, but the Chaffey athletics site says he signed.  I’m not sure if that means he signed, or an IT intern just doesn’t know drafted players don’t have to turn pro immediately.

30. Brandon Murray, Hobart HS (Indiana), 6’3 200, 18.22 Y.O.

Murray is the kind of player the Phillies love taking flyers on late in drafts.  He fell this far because teams are convinced he’s going to South Carolina, and he reiterated that after the draft.  Maybe something changes though.  His fastball sits in the low-90’s now, and he shows feel for a handful of secondary pitches.  I’m sure they’ll keep in touch, and maybe a mid-six figures bonus proves too much to turn down.

31. Shane Gonzales, Fullerton College, 6’2 200, 20.05 Y.O.

Gonzales apparently has a good changeup and a fastball that used to sit in the high-80’s with movement.  He doesn’t seem to be mentioned at all on the Fullerton baseball website, and I think he may have pitched at USC for a year.

33. James Harrington, Mesquite HS (Arizona), 6’2 165, 18.70 Y.O.

Harrington’s fastball sits in the mid to high-80’s now, and he could add to that as he gets stronger.  He already shows good feel for a changeup and mixes in a curveball.  He’s committed to New Mexico.  If the Phillies have some money to send his way on July 18th, they should give it a shot.

37. Keith Rogalla, Oak Park & River Forest HS (Illinois), 6’3 205, 18.71 Y.O.

Rogalla seems pretty certain he’s headed for Creighton.  His fastball sits in the mid to high-80’s, and he could add to that as he gets stronger.  His slider is his best secondary pitch.

38. Kollin Schrenk, Ardrey Kell HS (North Carolina), 6’3 180, 18.17 Y.O.

Schrenk is the son of GCL Phillies pitching coach Steve Schrenk.

Click here to Comment and Discuss on the PSC Phillies message board forum…  Want to comment but not yet a PSC member?  Click here to register!

Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out!