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Heeeeeere's Johnny: Almaraz in control for first time

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Johnny Almaraz took over as the Phillies' scouting director late last year, replacing the departed Marti Wolever. Monday marks Almaraz's first time running the Phillies' draft.

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Bud Selig Rob Manfred will stride across the stage Monday night, probably some time after 8:00, read a name of a person that 98% of the Phillies' fanbase has never heard of, and set in motion the life of another minor league prospect.

Somewhere in a war room in the bowels of Citizens Bank Park, Phillies scouting director Johnny Almaraz will likely be all smiles, shake hands with his area scouts, crosscheckers, and other staff, and claim that the Phillies got their guy. On the night of the draft, there's not really much else you can really say, right?

For Almaraz, it will be his first dip in the pool, his first time running a draft. After years spent in the Cincinnati and Atlanta organizations, Almaraz will be calling the shots for the Phillies come Monday night. And the best part? We don't really know what to expect.

Sure, we know Almaraz had some nice signings in his times in other cities. He found Adam Dunn and signed him in his time with Cincinnati when he was an area scout. He delivered Johnny Cueto to the Reds when he was an international scout. In Atlanta, it was uncovering Julio Teheran.

Here, his role is quite a bit different. He's now the man in charge, and there's certainly a lot on his plate. This will be the first time in over 20 years that Marti Wolever wasn't involved in the draft in some way, shape or form, and the strategies will surely be different.

While we might not know everything about Almaraz, we do know this: He's looking for "baseball players."

Almaraz told the media as such last week:

I've harped on it all year long with us. We're going after baseball players with ability. You guys know more than me, sometimes when you get somebody who is extremely talented in any sport, and you try to teach them the game, sometimes they cannot ever learn it.

If that doesn't sound like a complete indictment of someone like Domonic Brown, Anthony Hewitt or Larry Greene, I'm not sure what else does.

So while we may not know much about what Almaraz is going to do, as it's hard to pin down some sort of track record, we may see the Phillies try to avoid that toolsy high school player they have coveted in the past, and go with a more sure-fire thing. More of an Aaron Nola than a Cole Hamels, if you will.

There certainly were successes for Wolever when it came to taking a chance on a high-schooler, though. Hamels panned out. It appears J.P. Crawford is destined for at least some sort of Major League career, which you can't even say about Hewitt, Greene, Greg Golson, etc.

The selection of Nola last year was made by Wolever, of course, but it may have been a complete organizational philosophy change coming from the top and working its way down. The Phillies simply seemed to think Wolever wasn't doing a good enough job, whether it was high school or college, pitcher or position player. In the end, that cost him his job.

The funny thing about all of this is that you could have made the argument that the Phillies were one of the best drafting teams from the late 90s through about 2004. As the team got better, they gave up draft picks to sign players in free agency, found themselves in worse drafting position and failed to restock the cupboard.

Wolever had his back against the wall in many ways, but the performance was still not up to par. There's a chance you've seen this one before, but as Todd Zolecki broke it down last year:

According to Baseball Reference, the combined WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of Phillies draft picks over the past 10 years is 20.7, which is a remarkable 24.6 points lower than the 29th ranked Blue Jays (45.3).

That's what Almaraz is trying to fix. While he has to find a way to fix the amateur draft, that won't be the only way that Almaraz can influence things. The Phillies will be spending more in the international signings area, and there is little doubt about that.

There are the rumblings of course that the team will sign highly touted power bat Jhailyn Ortiz out of the Dominican come July. He should be the first of many, and the Phillies should allocate more to international signings over the next few years.

Finding guys like Hamels, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the draft is all fine and dandy, but international signings like Carlos Ruiz and Maikel Franco can literally be franchise-altering. That's where the Phillies have fallen behind in recent years.

Monday's amateur draft can be another step forward for an organization trying to fix things when it comes to finding youth. That, combined with a complete philosophical change and further mining of talent beyond just the States is the only way the Phillies will be competitive in the future. You're up, Johnny.