Every now and then, we are able to talk with some of the prospect industry’s leading experts about the Phillies. They have a tremendous job to do - not only do they have to cover the minor leagues in depth, they have to have at least some amount of knowledge of tons of the latest prospects to enter the national fray, those that are entering the MLB Draft. On the night of the draft, we are lucky enough to chat with Jarrett Seidler of Baseball Prospectus about the Phillies and how they’re approaching the draft this year. Here is that conversation.
Jarrett — glad to have you with us. There’s lots of local hype surrounding the Phillies and Nick Bitsko. That said, there’s also a lot of love for Garrett Mitchell, too. Between those two, who’s your pick?
Thanks for having me!
We have Bitsko ranked a little further ahead at BP currently. He was 15th in my colleague Keanan Lamb’s final rankings, with Mitchell at 19th. That was adjusted based on industry feedback from earlier rankings when we had Mitchell slightly ahead, and I agree with the final ranking. Either is firmly within the tier of players that the Phillies will be picking from at 15 and would be a perfectly good pick there.
Bitsko’s the most fascinating player in this draft for me. I think front offices are generally speaking surprisingly comfortable with having the 2020 Draft and having it today. Most of the scouting for this draft, especially in the rounds that they’re actually drafting, was already done by the time baseball stopped. Bitsko is the biggest exception to that, because he reclassified from 2021 to 2020 and then his season didn’t get going as a cold-weather high school kid. As much as you can have a pop-up guy in a draft that hasn’t seen baseball in three months, he’s a pop-up guy.
Yet Bitsko’s still extremely well-known to scouts in general. He’s been a high profile kid on the showcase circuit since he was a pre-teen, and he’s been pretty active posting bullpens (including advanced data) online even during the pandemic. But teams just don’t have the depth of follows for him that they do for, say, Mick Abel or Jared Kelley because he wasn’t supposed to be in this draft and wasn’t a scouting focus last summer and fall. So there’s a lot of variance in how he’s seen, and he could go anywhere from the top ten to the 30s.
Based on the current state of their system, what area should the Phillies be emphasizing in the draft?
Outside of Alec Bohm, there isn’t a lot of potential big impact hitting talent in the system. The next tier of position player talent is all up-the-middle guys, and I don’t see a lot of pop there. It would be good to get some high upside bats in the system, especially with more promising signs over the past few years in their hitting development.
I’d also focus on college pitching that could contribute soon. Teams rarely draft for need in the MLB Draft; it’s usually just the best player available on your board, subject to bonus pool concerns. But there’s certainly been a lot of conjecture that between a bumper crop of advanced college pitching and the unique nature of the 2020 season that potential contenders drafting in the first 18 or 20 picks will be looking at college arms like Max Meyer and Garrett Crochet for 2020 impact, and we could see the best pure relievers like Burl Carraway come off pretty early on day 2. Philadelphia is a potential contender and could certainly use pitching depth, so that would fit their needs as well.
How much of a miss is Mickey Moniak and how bad is it for a farm system long term to do so poorly with a rare 1-1 pick?
The Phillies got unlucky during their rebuild in that they got the first pick in a year where there wasn’t a clear cut first pick. The general perception at the time of the draft was that Moniak had a very high floor for a high school bat because of his advanced hit tool and elite barrel control. He still has plus barrel control, and it’s what’s been keeping him going offensively as a prospect to the extent that he’s kept going, but he’s consistently struggled at the other aspects of hitting professional pitching.
Despite a now-muted offensive projection, we still have Moniak as the 7th-best prospect in the Phillies system. He’s got a decent chance to be a well-rounded starting center fielder within the next couple years. If we had done a 2020 Top 200 or 250 prospect list instead of a Top 101, he’d probably have made it. That’s not nothing, it’s just not what you want drafting first. You’d definitely take A.J. Puk or Nick Senzel over Moniak if you were redrafting right now, let alone guys like Gavin Lux or Carter Kieboom that weren’t in the 1-1 mix at the time.
Exacerbating the miss is that the Phillies had a weak draft behind Moniak, too. The Phillies trimmed nearly $3 million under slot with that pick — Moniak got slightly less at 1 than Senzel got at 2. They used the savings to sign Kevin Gowdy for mid-first round money, and he looked like a virtual non-prospect for me in Lakewood last year. Despite the giant draft pool, it doesn’t look like they’re going to get a lot from the rest of that draft; the second-best prospect is probably JoJo Romero and he looks very relievery. This would all look a lot better right now if they’d used the extra pool money from Moniak on Kyle Muller, who went a couple picks later to Atlanta instead and is now BP’s no. 60 prospect.
Of all the names the Phillies might have a shot at at #15, who is your favorite?
I’ll go with the prep pitchers that might be on the board there, specifically Mick Abel and Bitsko. Those guys would’ve been at the very top of the draft in past years, but models are pushing down prep pitchers (who are admittedly only topped by prep catchers in broad strokes as a poor investment). Combine that with the lack of reps this spring, and they’re sliding a bit. I believe there’s value in zigging where everyone else is zagging, and the upside on those guys is enormous.
We certainly thank Jarrett for his insight into the Phillies. You can follow him on Twitter at @jaseidler and can find his work on prospects and other baseball things at Baseball Prospectus.