I have resisted writing about the draft because I honestly can’t get a good grasp on it. With the lack of a transcendent player at the top we are left with a bunch of players being maligned for not being transcendent players. For me Corey Ray, Kyle Lewis, Mickey Moniak, A.J. Puk, and Jason Groome are in Top 5 discussion in any draft and Riley Pint, Nick Senzel, Delvin Perez, and Blake Rutherford are all Top 10 type players. Based on the Mock Drafts we are seeing recently, the Phillies are narrowed down to Kyle Lewis, Mickey Moniak, and A.J. Puk with some saying it is actually a two player race between Puk and Moniak. I have narrowed my focus down to those three players, but some quick thoughts on some other guys first:
- I like the idea of Delvin Perez. He is not Carlos Correa, but he is a true shortstop and he is extremely young. The number of top shortstops of late have hidden how valuable this profile is, the problem is that there is very little public information on Perez to have much opinion beyond this.
- Jason Groome might be the best player in the class, but he has a ton of risk and he does not seem as special as he did 10 months ago. Maybe it is fatigue with Jason Groome or high expectations, but I expected more of a step forward this year as a 17 year old, but he was just kind of what he has been.
- Corey Ray just seems fine to me, if you are picking 3 or 4 he is a great pick, but he just feels very ordinary at #1.
As for the three remaining, I think if it was my decision I would take Kyle Lewis, but I lack conviction about that. The big problem is Lewis is that he has not proved he can do something that he had no chance to prove he could do. He is currently facing very mediocre arms, and scouts have just not had the chance to get a lot of looks at him vs good offspeed and premium velocity. On the surface Lewis has all of the tools to be an impact player, but it is hard to not have a lot of doubt about his outcome. As we have seen over the years in the Phillies system, if you cannot handle offspeed and velocity and are just about bat speed and power, it can fall apart quickly in the upper minors. I am sure the Phillies (and everyone else) is doing a lot of homework on Lewis, if they take him I am likely inclined to trust them, because I honestly can’t say whether it will work or not. For all those reasons, I completely understand why he seems to have dropped off.
Puk looks like a #1 pick. He doesn’t physically look like one, he really doesn’t physically look like any former pitchers. However, he is a giant lefty with a mid to upper 90s fastball, feel for offspeed with a breaking ball and changeup that have the foundations to get to plus with pro development. His command is not great, but he will flash it. He even plays for a top program in the top conference in the college game. If it all works, he is a front of the rotation monster and he anchors your team for the foreseeable future. All that being said, he is not too athletic, does not use his body well, seems to put stress on his back, and has had back injuries already. If you take Puk you can drop him in Hi-A let him work short outings to keep his innings down, maybe even push him to AA if he succeeds and he could be in the majors by the middle of next season. Puk probably also will demand the highest bonus in the draft since he almost certainly goes #2 overall if the Phillies pass on him.
Moniak does not look like a #1 overall pick. He is fairly young for the class (just turned 18 this May), he is listed at 6’1″ 175lbs and that might be generous. The first big knock against him is going to be the power projection, because it just is not there, at least not in a traditional sense. However, what is there is a true center fielder with most evaluators putting a future plus grade on the glove (and some going a bit higher than that). He has a good arm, and has recently put up some run times closer to plus plus than plus (according to Baseball America). That is all well and good, and is probably a late first round pick on those skills alone. However, Moniak can really hit. Even if all you see is grainy footage from showcases and high school games you can see the feel for contact and the bat speed. If there is something I have learned over the past few years, if you want to bet on a player to beat their power projection, it is guys who can really hit. Moniak is never going to be a slugger, but I am willing to bet he is going to out homer his projections and pile on a large amount of doubles in the process. Moniak is the pick most likely to cause an outrage in Philly because the team has Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, and Carlos Tocci all who are center fielders, and they took a high school outfielder in the draft last year. If Moniak is the pick he instantly becomes a better prospect than most of those names. If Moniak and everyone works out, then the Phillies can acquire whatever they needed. Moniak also should have a bonus that is at least $1million less than Puk’s.
I am fine with Moniak or Puk (or Lewis) with the pick. Either player will allow the Phillies to push a lot of money towards their second round pick. The Phillies are unlikely to be able to count an individual player falling, but there are enough high bonus demand high school arms, that a very good player is likely to fall to them. So while the Phillies are not going to get a no doubt superstar at #1, this year’s draft is not that much worst than the last 2 (2014 ad 2015) and there were very good players taken in both of those drafts.