By now you know the Phillies have called up J.P. Crawford to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. The 21-year-old shortstop is the second-youngest player in the International League, and his arrival signals that the young stud could join the big league club later this summer.
Crawford was the first of three darn good first round picks for the Phils the last three years. He was selected 16th overall in 2013.
Aaron Nola, the starter with the third-best FIP in baseball (behind Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard) and an fWAR of 1.9 that is 7th-best in the Majors, was the Phils' first round selection the following year. He was the 9th overall selection.
And last year's first rounder, Cornelius Randolph, was taken with the 10th pick in the draft. He's still a ways away from the Majors, but all indications are he's going to be a solid hitter when he does arrive.
In 53 games at Rookie ball last season, he slashed .302/.425/.442 with a wRC+ of 163. The Phillies moved him up to A-ball this year where he's batting .240/.321/.340 in 12 games so far. He's still just 18 years old.
All three players, Crawford, Nola and Randolph, appear to be outstanding first round selections. And it is the success of those three guys that has raised the bar for whoever the Phillies select with the No. 1 overall pick in next month's MLB Draft.
Of course, the bar was going to be high no matter what. All No. 1 picks have greater expectations attached to them, even in a draft class that is without a clear-cut No. 1 pick. But fans are expecting the Phillies to land a good player, someone like Crawford, Nola and Randolph. And while it's impossible to account for injuries, it does appear as if the Phils are targeting players who have a higher floor in order to minimize any potential "bust" factor.
ESPN's Keith Law reported in Thursday's Baseball Tonight podcast that the Phillies were not only apparently "out" on New Jersey high school phenom Jason Groome, but also that they were out on all high school pitchers in this draft. As I discussed with Baseball America's JJ Cooper on the most recent edition of The Felske Files, high school pitchers like Groome are much further away from the Majors than the top college pitcher in the draft, A.J. Puk.
If the Phils go with Puk, it would make sense. As Cooper noted, Puk would likely start next season in Double-A, whereas a high school kid like Groome would start in Low-A ball. If Puk progresses as expected, it's possible he could get a call-up to Triple-A at some point in 2017 and perhaps even be a September call-up next season.
Meanwhile, it could be four or five years before Groome sniffs the Majors, no matter how talented he is.
There is also a greater risk in signing a high school pitcher. As Cooper noted in the podcast, high school pitchers take longer to develop which could lead to a greater risk of injury. We've already seen Puk manage to survive his late teens and early 20s unscathed, whereas high school pitchers have yet to go through that period.
The Phillies have shown in the recent trades of Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley and Ken Giles, that they are interested in acquiring prospects who are more advanced, either in Double-A or Triple-A, and have a higher floor - even if that means their ceiling is a bit lower.
That's worked out so far with Jerad Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez, and other players, like Jake Thompson, Mark Appel, Alec Asher and Thomas Eshelman, are pitchers who have a higher floor than past prospects like Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies.
The Phils don't want to draft a bust at 1-1, and they are going to lean towards players who are less likely to flame out.
Of course, there is no guarantee of anything. Groome could end up being healthy as a horse and make his Major League debut in 2019, and Puk could hurt his arm next year and be nothing more than MLB filler or a career minor leaguer.
But one thing is for sure. The success of recent Phillies first round picks has raised expectations that the team will be getting another future piece that could really bolster the team in the years to come.