The Phillies' present circumstances are not good. The team is scuffling, team meetings are being held, blowout losses are occurring immediately afterwards, and calls for Ruben Amaro's head are increasing exponentially.
But starting today, fans have an opportunity to think about the future. They get to take their minds off Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, A.J. Burnett, the bullpen, Ryan Howard, third base, Ryne Sandberg and everything else.
Today, the MLB Draft begins, the Phils' best chance at building the next contending team.
As was noted by ESPN's Buster Olney, and plenty of other folks, the Phillies aren't going to get their next great player by trading away any of the veterans on this team. There are too many bloated contracts connected to older players that will prevent any general manager out there from giving up anything really good for them.
And while the Phils do have a ton of money at their disposal, free agency is not the place to restock your roster with an infusion of young talent. The international market is always a good area in which to go hunting, and hopefully the Phillies will continue to take advantage of that as well.
But with the #7 pick in today's draft, the team has a chance to at least pick a solid, future contributor to the Major League club, and perhaps even draft the franchise's next cornerstone player or pitcher.
The Phillies have talked recently about changing their draft strategy, as Cormican noted earlier in the week, but whether they decide to pick a more polished college player or another "toolsy" high ceiling guy without a lot of baseball skills, the team can't afford to miss on this one.
Last year's first round pick, J.P. Crawford, selected #16 overall, is off to a terrific start in his brief minor league career. ESPN's Keith Law updated his Top 25 prospects earlier this week and ranked Crawford 19th...
After [Chicago prospect Kris] Bryant, Crawford is having the best 2014 of any player drafted in last year's first round, showing an outstanding approach at the plate and surprising doubles power along with very promising work at shortstop.
I loved him at the time of the draft but thought he'd be a slow-developing prospect; based on his work in pro ball so far, with a composite .324/.418/.440 line in his first 411 plate appearances since he signed, I might have been a little light on him.
Through 217 PAs in Single-A Lakewood this season, Crawford is hitting .314/.412/.438 and is walking in 13.4% of his plate appearances so far and playing good defense at shortstop. Crawford's wonderful start has been great, but it has also raised expectations for this year's first rounder.
The jobs of Ruben Amaro, Benny Looper and Marti Wolever also could be on the line with today's draft, and more specifically, this first round pick. The team's history in the first round of the draft over the last 10 years has been epically brutal. In fact, they are the only team in baseball whose first round picks since 2004 have all played below replacement level baseball (info courtesy of Baseball-Reference).
|2013||1||16||16||J.P. Crawford (minors)||SS||HS|
|2012||1s||40||40||*Shane Watson (minors)||RHP||HS|
|2012||1s||54||54||*Mitch Gueller (minors)||RHP||HS|
|2011||1s||39||39||*Larry Greene (minors)||OF||HS|
|2010||1||27||27||Jesse Biddle (minors)||LHP||HS|
|2008||1||24||24||Anthony Hewitt (minors)||SS||HS|
|2008||1s||34||34||*Zach Collier (minors)||OF||HS|
|2007||1||19||19||Joe Savery (minors)||LHP||0||44||2||0||0||0||44||3||2||3.83||1.26||4Yr|
|2007||1s||37||37||*Travis d'Arnaud (minors)||C||-1.1||67||220||4||0.195||0.562||HS|
|2006||1||18||18||*Kyle Drabek (minors)||RHP||-0.3||37||2||0||0||0||37||8||15||5.37||1.68||HS|
|2006||1s||37||37||*Adrian Cardenas (minors)||SS||-0.3||45||60||0||0.183||0.552||HS|
|2004||1||21||21||Greg Golson (minors)||OF||-0.5||40||41||0||0.195||0.458||HS|
Much of that is because the team made the playoffs or were playoff contenders for much of the last 10 years and picked later in the first round as a result. Also, the team lost their first round picks in 2005 and 2009 as compensation for signing free agents, and only had first round picks in the compensation round in 2011 and 2012.
Still, the lack of production over the last decade from the first round of the draft has been noticeable, especially now, as the team needs young players from the minors to help bridge the Phils into a new era.
So the Phillies need to get this one right, which is why they may be leaning towards selecting a player that has a lower ceiling, but more projectability.
Remember though, the draft is just the first step in the process. The ultimate question is whether this organization has the ability to develop young talent. The struggles this year of Domonic Brown, Cody Asche, and many of the young bullpen arms, have called into question the player development department's abilities. If that area of the team is deficient, then it likely doesn't matter who the Phils draft, starting today.
All that said, today is a day of hope. Today is a day on which to dream, in the hopes that the next franchise player will soon be in the fold. The Phillies desperately need good, young talent, and today is their best opportunity to get some.
So, for one day at least, we forget about the team's terrible record, their uninspired play, and their bleak immediate future. Today, we look ahead, hoping the next big thing will soon be here.