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Was Cornelius Randolph the right Pick? A look back at the 2015 MLB Draft

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Swanson, Bregman, Tucker, but where’s Randolph? A look back at the 2015 MLB Draft.

Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Coming off of back-to-back 73-89 seasons, the Phillies were fully embroiled in the rebuild. The 2015 MLB Draft would mark the second time in three years the Phillies would be making a top 10 selection. In 2014, they selected Aaron Nola at number seven overall. Just a year before that, they landed J.P. Crawford with the 16th pick. With the 10th pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, there was optimism the Phillies would be able to add another top prospect to a weak but improving farm system.

Pre-Draft News

Before we jump into the selections and specifically the Phillies selection, there are some storylines to take note of. The Houston Astros would be awarded pick two as compensation, as they failed to sign Brady Aiken from the 2014 draft. This would allow the Astros to hold picks two and five. The New York Mets forfeited their first-round pick (15th overall) after signing Michael Cuddyer to a two-year 21-million-dollar deal. A deal in which he would play 117 games and retire after year one. The Toronto Blue Jays lost their pick to sign Russell Martin, which allowed the Pirates to gain a compensatory pick.

The Top Ten

The first couple of picks were not entirely surprising, as Dansby Swanson (1) and Alex Bregman (2) were coming off stellar seasons and had built a considerable amount of hype. The Rockies would hold the third pick and select Brendan Rodgers, who has seemingly been a top prospect the last five years. Dillon Tate would be the first pitcher selected as he came off the board to the Rangers at pick four. Tate, now 27, finds himself with the Baltimore Orioles and sports a career 1-9 record and a 4.61 ERA. Returning to the spotlight at five, the Astros selected Kyle Tucker. Tucker is coming off a 2021 season in which he posted a 4.8 fWAR and a 147 wRC+. The Twins would be selecting at pick six and in doing so they took a highly touted prospect in the form of Tyler Jay. Jay has not pitched at the big-league level and does not appear to be signed to any contract at this time. At seventh overall, the Boston Red Sox would select Andrew Benintendi. Now with Kansas City, Benintendi was a solid piece in the Red Sox 2018 World Series Championship. The third pitcher taken in the 2015 Draft would head to the White Sox in the form of Carson Fulmer. Now with the Reds, Fulmer sports a career 6.41 ERA in 130 2/3 IP. Selecting just one pick before the Phillies, the Cubs would take Cincinnati outfielder Ian Happ. Still with the Cubs, Happ hasn’t lived up to his full potential, but has been a solid piece for Chicago.

After nine selections, the Phillies would have the chance to make their selection. They would use this opportunity to select Cornelius Randolph as the 10th overall pick. Randolph was coming off a senior season at Griffin High School in Georgia, in which he batted .533 with eight home runs. Listed as a shortstop, Randolph would be moved to left field almost immediately upon being drafted. So, what prompted the Phillies to take someone so young and unproven like Randolph?

Why Randolph?

It seemed there wasn’t much of a discussion, as everyone within the organization felt Randolph was the best pick they could make. Six years ago, after the selection, Johnny Almaraz, the Phillies scouting director at the time, said “He’s somebody who we feel is one of the top three hitters in the country as far as this year’s Draft is concerned. Very rarely do you ever get a consensus from an entire room. There’s no doubt we feel he’s got a chance to be a hitter in the Major Leagues that hits for both average and power”.

It’s easy to look back on this selection and these comments and to criticize how far off the Phillies were. The fact that the entire organization seemingly agreed on the pick, doesn’t necessarily show that this pick was the right pick at the time. The fact that Randolph never reached the majors shows the Phillies lack of ability to develop prospects. Maybe they could’ve gone in a direction of a player with a lower ceiling but higher floor, but there really wasn’t much around that pick that turned out better than Randolph.

Underwhelming minor league seasons have held Randolph back from ever reaching the highest level of baseball.

Fangraphs

He finally reached AAA at age 24 and did not exactly give the Phillies much production. A massive 30.5 K% to an 11.6 BB% in 2021 helps to depict the struggles he had. Ideally, Randolph’s numbers would’ve shown a bit of progression even if he struggled to adjust to the next level of pitching. It just seemed like the talent increased, Randolph never really was able to catch up. Of course, there were some injuries along the way which threw his progress off track, but nothing severe enough to deter him from the progress the organization hoped he would make.

Other Notable Selections

In the following selection, the Red selected Tyler Stephenson a high school catcher. A plethora of scouts and current analysts like what Stephenson brings to the table and he was solid in 132 games as the Reds primary catcher in 2021. A slash line of .286/.366/.431 and an OPS of .797, while finishing sixth in NL ROY voting, suggests there’s plenty of upside for the young catcher. This could be the one prospect the Phillies wish they had taken ahead of Randolph. However, there may not have been many scouts that saw Stephenson as the superior player at the time.

Besides Stephenson, there was no real breakout selections from picks 12-23. A few have cracked the majors, further than Randolph has gotten, which somewhat reflects on the Phillies lackluster developmental system the last decade.

The most notable selections in the remainder of the draft included Walker Buehler at pick 24, Mike Soroka at 28, Ryan Mountcastle at 36, Austin Riley at 41, and Triston McKenzie at 42. There was a reason the Phillies didn’t select any of these prospects at 10. None of them were even in the conversation to be picked at 10, so it is unfair to say they should’ve been drafted by Philadelphia.

Hindsight is truly 20/20, and it’s easy to hear the names selected after Randolph and wish they were sporting the red pinstripes. However, Stephenson might be the only real argument we can make for who they should’ve taken. There is still a chance Randolph lands back with the Phillies and their somewhat rejuvenated developmental system could attempt a last-ditch resurrection effort.