Disclaimer: I used to get really excited about most every pick under Marti Wolever's running the draft (exception Larry Greene, Jr. where I wanted Jackie Bradley, Jr., which I guess would have been a slight improvement). Wolever drafted exciting High Schoolers with sky high ceilings (and flaws aplenty). There was a ton to dream on, and sure he'd sprinkle in safe College guys in the 3-7th rounds (Worley, Happ, Rupp, etc.), but the stars of his drafts that got me all excited were the toolsy kids like Hewitt, Kyrell Hudson, Collier, Mitch Walding, Gueller, Altherr, etc. A few of those guys, like Altherr, look like they could be decent enough players, but most flamed out badly and quickly. Yet every year, like a lemming I'd get all excited and think "This Trey Williams guy is the real deal. We got a steal!". I'm not really a gambler (I've never even bought a lottery ticket in my life), but as anyone who's played Fantasy Baseball against me knows I'm a sucker for potential and will gamble on high ceilings. In other words: Never put me in a charge of any kind of real draft.
The Phillies of the last decade or so reliably drafted more High School prospects than any other team and it wasn't even really all that close. Especially in the First Round. Between Chase Utley and Aaron Nola the only College Players they selected in the First Round was Joe Savery. That comes out to 13 High School picks and 1 College pick in 12 years. The 2nd and 3rd Rounds were almost 50/50 with a slight tendency to go High School, while the 4th and 5th rounds were predominantly College Players. It was not unusual though for the Phillies to select 50% or more of their players from High School and even some of the College picks were high risk gambles or projects like Perci Garner and Joe Savery.
The Phillies changed course dramatically last year, taking only one significant High Schooler in the entire Draft (8th Rounder Sam McWilliams). It was such a strong break with tradition that I decided to profile everyone this year, as between last year's picks and the hiring of a new Draft Runner in Johnny Almaraz left me with no idea where they'd go (ditto for the established draft writers who all pretty much projected other players (who were mostly still available) to the Phillies at #10). Here's the thing though, In 2013 I Wasn't as thrilled with the Crawford pick as I am now. I worried about Crawford's ability to stick at Short and the long history of failures among First Round High School Shortstops (it really is a rather awful track record, historically). Meanwhile I was thrilled about Cord Sandberg (who I'm still excited about, for the record). Similarly in 2014 I was okay with Nola, but would have rather gambled on Hoffmann or Trea Turner. Meanwhile Nola is doing exceedingly well at a higher level than either of my options and looks like a solid #2 Starter.
This year I played to type and wanted to come out of the draft with Garrett Whitley, David Thompson, Luken Baker and Andrew Suarez (U of Miami Lefty). I still think Thompson might be the steal of the Draft, While I didn't get my big pile-o-gambles, I do appreciate that we got several high floor guys. By all reports Cornelius Randolph can hit plenty and get to the Majors on his bat alone. Maybe that's at Third or in Left or at Second, but he can hit. Kingery, similarly can hit well enough to likely get to the Majors in Center or at Second or Third or as a Utility player. We later got Kyle Martin, a solid College hitter and Tyler Gilbert who can work as a back of the rotation option or possibly out of the bullpen.
The draft wasn't without gambles though. The Phillies took their gambles in unexpected spots. They went well off the BA 500 prospect list early in the Third Round with Luke Williams, a well regarded High School hitter who stayed off radars due to a strong college commitment that reportedly led to him not drawing a lot of scouts out to his games. In the 8th, they grabbed Greg Pickett a High School masher teams skipped due to a strong commitment to Mississippi State (he signed ~24 hours after being drafted). Joshua Tobias was a 10th Round Senior, which might make you think he's like Matt Hockenberry from last year and drafted to create some wiggle room financially by signing cheap, but Tobias is a legit prospect with a 3rd-4th round grade. He battled injuries and was inconsistent until staying healthy this year. He's a contact hitter with some power and continues the theme of this draft as a guy who can hit and they'll figure the position out later (he's a little rough around the edges for a Third Baseman).
In the later rounds the Phillies grabbed some decent potential in Austin Bossart, an Ivy League Catcher with a good bat, even better glove and some level of competition concerns. The ceiling is again unusually high for a College Sr. A few rounds later they grabbed the awesomely named Kenny Koplove. Koplove's ceiling is probably as a bullpen piece, but if he can get his mechanics consistent (he Played Shortstop for Duke as well, so he wasn't focused on Pitching) his ceiling could be as a high leverage reliever with a knockout stuff due to a slightly unorthodox motion and stuff with plenty of late break.
The Phillies were fairly quiet on overslot guys in the later rounds (not bad, as they got a few good ones early in Williams and Pickett), but did pick Von Watson, a High School outfielder whose profile reminds me a bit of Brian Pointer (average tools, power potential if he can get beyond pitch recognition issues) and Jacob Stevens, a High School Righty with a very strong commitment to Boston College. I'd put the chances of signing Watson at better than 50/50, but the chances of signing Stevens in the 25% range or lower, but the 33rd round is a good spot to take that gamble, as the other options are guys unlikely to get beyond Lakewood.
What I take as a good sign from this draft is that the Phillies were much more balanced than last year, in 40 picks they took 27 College Players, but still leaned to high floors players. Well, really the takeaway is that they leaned towards players and not just athletes. Sure there are still some high ceilings (Randolph already got mentioned as a possible future batting champ and Pickett's profile sounds a lot like a young Ryan Howard, in both good and bad ways), but every player shows some current hitting ability or ability Pitch (whether it's location, sequence or movement). The second good sign is a knowledge of the prospects. Almaraz noted how close Scouts remained in contact with these players to ascertain signability, so while others allowed Pickett to slip because he was unsignable (clearly pretty dang signable) or didn't see enough of Lucas Williams believing he was going on to College (to be seen, I suppose), Phillies scouts did legwork and may come out of a pretty weak draft with a pretty strong crop of potential pieces for the future.
On to International Free Agency, and, dare I say, possibly the most exciting group of Phillies prospects in well over a decade.