2013 Phillies Draft Preview - What to expect

Rich Schultz

The Phillies can be unpredictable on draft day (Did anyone foresee past pick Hewitt, Cozens or Savery?), but they do have certain things they like, such as risky guys oozing tools, Left Handed Pitchers and hitters with big power potential. They also like certain regions. So what can we expect this week?

The sixteenth pick sits right on the edge of the First Round's typical breaking point.

The 2000 Draft was not great, but the Top 16 included Adran Gonzalez, Chase Utley and Rocco Baldelli. The bottom half had just Sean Burnett and Adam Wainwright.In 2001 the top 16 had Mauer, Prior, Gavin Floyd, Teixeira and Kotchman, while the bottom was just Fontenot and Jeremy Bonderman. 2002's Top 16 had B.J. Upton, Zack Geinke, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir and Nick Swisher, while the bottom half had Cole Hamels, James Loney, Denard Span, Jeff Francoeur, Joe Blanton and Matt Cain (That's damned fine draft there). There are a lot of similar examples. I profiled over a dozen players. All of them could be good baseball players, but, in all likelihood only a handful will be Major Leaguers and maybe only 2 or 3 will be anything approaching stars. Sometimes you can get great picks in the bottom half of the round though. Guys like Cole Hamels, Mike Trout, Shelby Miller, Adam Wainwright, Jacoby Ellsbury and current Minor League stars Christian Yelich and Michael Wacha.

There's legitimate reason to hope the Phillies could grab a future superstar, but there's equal reason to look at the player they pick's flaws with a fine toothed comb. This draft is more 2000 than 2002, with a few big names, then a steep dropoff with lots of risks. No draft pick, of course, is without risks. Sometimes they're character issues (Delmon Young), sometimes they're injuries no one sees coming (Mark Prior), sometimes they're just guys who never quite put it together (too many to bother listing). In this current draft class there is one guy who may fall to the Phillies who I think could be pretty special. That player is Dominic Smith. If he were to somehow fall to 16 and the Phillies didn't pick him I would be apopleptic. His power rivals anyone in this draft. He'd immediately become the Phillies best prospect and he will likely need 4 years, or there about, in the Minors, which would time pretty well with the end of Ryan Howard's contract. The chances of Smith falling to 16 are probably something around 10%, so I'm not getting my hopes up for that.

Sans Smith, I think our most likely selection will be J.P. Crawford, the Shortstop from the LA area. I'm not entirely sold on Crawford. He's an incredibly risky pick as High School Shortstops almost never make the Majors as Shortstops. Crawford is so deep in things the Phillies love that I can't see them skipping him, if he's available.

If Crawford and Smith are both gone at 16, what will happen? Well, this is where things would get funky. I'd love to see the Phillies take the best available of Pitchers Ian Clarkin and Phil Bickford. Or, grab Reese McGuire the High School Catcher from Seattle or Rob Kaminsky, the short Lefty from North Jersey. Of course, it's entirely possible that the Phillies go completely off the grid and overdraft someone they can sign for less in the hopes that they can draft a signability risk in the Second or Third rounds. The benefit here is that most of the remaining First Rounders are pretty equal risks. The downside is you leave Day 1 of the draft with 2 Second Round talents, because another team or two ahead of you took similar risks on guys with a signability red flag. I never like the idea of Overdrafting a guy for signability reasons. In 2004 the San Diego Padres didn't want to pay Justin Verlander top dollar, so they overdrafted High School Shortstop Matt Bush who may be one of the most collossal busts in the history of any pro-draft. Of course, on the flip side, the benefit of drafting a signability risk is that if he goes unsigned, you get a 2014 Compensation pick. It currently looks like 2014 will be a much better draft, so maybe 2 picks there isn't such a bad thing.

The perfect draft for me would be Dominic Smith falling to 16. Kaminsky or Aaron Judge falling to the Phillies in the Second round and Justin Williams in the Third. Ultimately, given the Phillies history under the current regime, it seems safe to assume a hitter or High School Pitcher in the First Round, with the other being selected in the Second. In the Third and Fourth, expect a College arm (possibly a reliever/closer type) and either a High School Infielder or Outfielder (depending on which was not picked in the first 2 rounds.

In an interview this weekend Marti Wolever, Asst. GM in charge of Scouting, stated the following (Link to interview with Jim Salisbury):

“You have to have a balance,” Wolever said. “People always target us as taking all high-ceiling athletes and we know that's not true. We love those guys, but we've also taken some players throughout the draft that are good college players, that are good baseball players, where the ceiling might not be quite as high but they have a chance to play in the big leagues quicker and maybe they would reach their potential a lot easier than other kids. You have to have a balance. Yet we still subscribe to high-ceiling athletes.”

So, per Marti, they'll draft a high ceiling High School player or they'll draft a College player who can get to the show quickly. It's not included here because it's enlightening; it's here because, like the Phillies draft strategy, it's more complex and varied than the version discussed mostly in message boards and bars. The Phillies will gamble on high upside, sure, but they'll also go for safer bets with lower ceilings from time to time. They'll probably go with one of those high upside guys, unless they're all drafted in which case maybe they go the safer route with a Phil Ervin type.

At the end of the day Friday, if the first four rounds play out like the community mock draft at Minor League Ball, I'd be pretty happy. Here's the Phillies excerpt:

Philadelphia Phillies 16) J.P. Crawford, SS, California HS 53) Justin Williams, OF, Louisiana HS 89) Dom Nunez, C, California HS 96) Mike Shawaryn, RHP, New Jersey HS 121) Adam Plutko, RHP, UCLA COMMENT: Does that scream Phillies or what? Uber-tools at the top with Crawford and Williams and the fast-rising Nunez, followed by Shawaryn, an ultra-projectable right-hander who hasn't received much notice. Plutko is the kind of polished college arm that the Phillies often draft in the middle and later rounds.
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