The 2010 Major League Baseball Rule 4 Draft is upon us. The first round will be aired tonight at 7:00 p.m. on MLB Network (and on MLB.com for those of us without a fancy pants sports tier as part of our cable package), with the other 49 rounds taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday. There's going to be a lot to digest, both in the next few days and in the aftermath of the August 15th signing deadline, but MLB is nice enough to spoon feed us just 32 picks to whet our appetites.
Now, it's still impossible to know exactly what the Phillies are going to do, especially given the general unpredictability of Marti Wolever (as Andy Seiler noted in his Q&A on Friday). But I figured it would be a good thought exercise to identify some possibilities for the Phils at #27, based on a couple of different categories. Check below the jump as we run through a list of names...
Prep Arms Galore
As Andy noted in last Friday's Q&A, this is a very pitching heavy draft, especially at the top end. The Phillies haven't taken a prep pitcher in the first round since 2002, and while that guy may be an un-clutch head case who the organization would be better off without, I guess we can still call that a successful pick. While Jameson Taillon is likely to go #3 overall, and I'm hard-pressed to see Karsten Whitson and Dylan Covey still on the board, there will be a number of intriguing prep arms available at #27.
Keith Law, among others, had been linking the Phillies to local product Jesse Biddle, a 6'6", 225-lb. southpaw from Germantown Friends School. Biddle has had some serious helium in recent weeks as his velocity has jumped into the mid-90s at times, and the latest rumor from Frankie Piliere links him to the Brewers at #14 overall. The last time the organization was so strongly linked to a local product was back in 2008, when Jason Knapp was identified as a probable draft choice early in the process. In a draft of few certainties, I'll admit I'd be a bit surprised if the Phils bypass Biddle in the event he's still available.
If the organization does go the high school pitcher route and Biddle isn't on the board, there are a couple of additional possibilities. A.J. Cole and Aaron Sanchez are classic projectable righthanders, with Cole standing 6'5", 190 lbs., and Sanchez checking in at 6'3", 175 lbs. Given the organization's recent history of focusing on California and Texas (as opposed to Florida), as pointed out by James from Phuture Phillies last week, perhaps Sanchez is a touch more likely, although I'd personally prefer the generally higher rated Cole. One more name to watch is Texan flamethrower Tyrell Jenkins -- no, not Leroy Jenkins -- a two-sport star committed to play quarterback at Baylor. The 6'4", 180-pounder may come with a higher price tag due to the football commitment, but could be worth it if he makes the expected improvements by virtue of focusing solely on baseball.
Ruben Amaro has made no secret of his fondness for Austin Wilson, with Rube visiting Wilson and his family in California a few weeks ago. The 6'4", 210-lb. Wilson is perhaps the premiere athlete in the draft, a muscular outfielder with plus-plus raw power whose package should probably evoke comparisons to Mike Stanton. But Wilson is not without risk, as there are serious concerns about his pitch recognition. That, combined with the fact that his strong Stanford commitment makes his price tag a huge question mark, leads me to hope the Phillies will steer clear of him in the event that he's on the board at #27.
A couple of prep infielders seem like good fits for Marti Wolever's drafting strategy as well. Yordy Cabrera has a profile that might remind some of Anthony Hewitt: an older (19 years old) prep shortstop who's destined to move to third base or maybe even right field, with huge raw power but questions about his ability to make contact. Kaleb Cowart is less likely to still be on the board when the Phils are up, and his Florida State commitment will have him asking for more than slot money at #27, but he's another upside play who would immediately become the best third base prospect in the system. A switch-hitter with good power, Cowart has the arm (he's a top prospect as a pitcher as well) and the actions to be a quality defensive third baseman.
Aside from Wilson, there's another outfielder who could intrigue Wolever & Co. -- I know, toolsy outfielders, who'd have thunk it? Gary Brown is a center fielder from Cal State Fullerton whose calling card is his speed, which scouts grade as plus-plus. That speed makes him a potentially excellent center fielder, and he also uses it effectively on the basepaths, but he's an impatient hitter with little power potential. Given what the Phillies already have in their system, it might behoove them to diversify a bit.
Under Wolever, the Phillies have generally shied away from grabbing college players in the first round, with Joe Savery the lone exception. I get the sense that the organization aims for the fences with its first round selection, and views most college players as lacking the sort of upside they're looking for. Depending on how the board breaks this year, however, there could be some possibilities from the college ranks.
On the pitching side of the ledger, Jim Salisbury has already linked the organization to Citadel righthander Asher Wojciechowski, a 6'4", 235-lb. flamethrower. Wojo's fastball is a special pitch, touching 96 at times, and his slider is a wipeout offering as well. His stuff offers more upside than the typical college selection, and I'd venture to guess that he's a backup option for the Phils if some of their top tier targets fall through.
A college hitter the organization has been linked with is University of Minnesota catcher Mike Kvasnicka. A switch hitter, Kvasnicka just moved behind the dish this year, but has the potential to stick there, and his bat would be above-average for the position, as he offers excellent plate discipline with solid power.
In addition, there are some high school hitters that don't fit the classic Phillies mold, but could be appealing to the organization nonetheless. Keith Law's latest mock had the Phils taking Christian Yelich, a prep first baseman from California, though the scouting community seems to have questions about Yelich's power ceiling, making it a dicey pick from my perspective. Drew Vettleson is an outfielder from Washington (the organization has seemed to focus on the Northwest in recent drafts) who lacks elite athleticism, but has a polished bat for a prep product, and would be a nice complement to the Kyrell Hudsons and Zach Colliers that currently comprise the bottom of the organizational outfield depth chart.
Now that I've spent 1200 words guessing at the organization's first round pick, I feel pretty confident they'll go ahead and take a name that I didn't mention. That's the nature of the beast, but whatever winds up happening, I'll be here to provide analysis. If there are any names you are curious about, feel free to ask in the comments, and even though I'll be on the road today, I'll try my best to answer any questions. In the meantime, Phuture Phillies is likely to have a lively banter during the draft tonight, and of course, MLB Bonus Baby will be a hub of activity.