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Cole Hamels: A Draft Retrospective

The last time the Phillies had a mid first round pick, they had the #17 pick in the 2002 draft. With that pick they took a LHP out of Southern California named Cole Hamels.


In the spirit of the upcoming draft, it seems only fitting we revisit drafts of the past. And who better to begin this retrospective than veritable draft jackpot, Cole Hamels.

What They Were Saying Then:

Hamels broke his humerus during his sophomore year of high school, and the injury caused him to miss his entire junior season. He returned strong for his senior year with a 6-0 record, a 0.48 ERA, and 77 strikeouts over 43 innings pitched.

Scouting reports for his senior year had his fastball at 89-92, touching 94, noting an outstanding 12-6 curveball and a changeup that was already a major league plus pitch. Scouts also noted that Hamels had great mound presence and a strong pick off move. Some quotes by Phillies Scouting Director Marti Wolevar included:

He's got an average to above curveball and this spring we've seen an average to above change. So he's got three pitches that are at least average to above. We're pretty confident about his health.

Makeup-wise, (Hamels) is right there with (Myers and Floyd). He has tremendous poise on the mound and great mechanics. Nothing rattles this kid. He's got great makeup.

The injury, however, scared many teams away despite the potential and, as Baseball America then noted:

Scouts project even more improvement, and [Hamels] has shown no fear of a recurrence of his injury. Still, several clubs are wary of investing in a first-round pick with Hamels' medical history. The hometown Padres have a strong interest, as do teams with extra picks. San Diego's team doctor helped treat Hamels and says his arm is stronger than before the accident. The circumstances of the injury remain a bit of a mystery, and Hamels will be one of the most scrutinized picks in the draft in recent years. His selection will be based as much on medical judgments as on ability.

What Happened:

Hamels spent four seasons in the minors but had years cut short by injuries in each year, including a forearm injury and a broken hand from a fight. He pitched a total of 201 innings with a 1.43 ERA, 74 BB, and 276 Ks. He was dominant at every level along the way before reaching the majors in 2006 at age 22. After the 2003 season, Baseball America rated Hamels as the top prospect in the Phillies system and wrote:

Hamels should have three above-average pitches when he reaches the majors. He already shows plus command of a fastball that sits between 89-92 mph with plenty of movement. He can reach back for more when he needs it, topping out at 94. His best pitch might be his plus-plus changeup, which was neck-and-neck with Ryan Madson's as the best in the organization and possibly the minors. Hamels displays exceptional control of his changeup at such a young age, and it drops and fades away from hitters. Hamels shows a businesslike demeanor, with no great highs or lows. He's a great athlete, allowing him to repeat his delivery, hold runners and field his position well. Hamels' curveball should become a third plus pitch, and its movement is already there.

Through his first 7 years, Hamels compiled 29.2 WAR, and was named the MVP in both the 2008 NLCS and World Series. While his curveball has regressed to an average pitch, he has picked up a cutter which can flash plus plus when he can control it. His changeup is one of the best in the majors and is a true 80 grade pitch.

Who is the next Hamels?

The closest comparison to Hamels in recent drafts was the Nationals' 2012 first round pick at #16, Lucas Giolito. Giolito was considered by many teams to be the most talented HS pitcher in the draft but injuries caused him to drop. Unfortunately, this year there is no player with that kind of talent falling down in the draft due to injury concerns.

If you're looking for the next Hamels in a high school lefty with a major league ready pitch, the most comparable players are Ian Clarkin and Rob Kaminisky. Both pitchers sport curveballs that are almost major league plus pitches at present, but neither is of the caliber of Hamels' changeup out of high school. The truth is that the next Cole Hamels likely isn't going to fall to the Phillies unless Kohl Stewart or Trey Ball fall through the cracks. But, on the positive side, there is a lot more talent at #16 than there is at the point in the draft the Phillies have been used to picking.

A big thanks to Cormican for encouraging me to write this even if work has made it a much more abbreviated look at the subject than original intended.