It is not a deep revelation to say that a major problem for the Phillies has been drafting. Their record of ineptness is of public record, and the result are showing (or not showing) on the field for the Phillies. The worst moment was after the 2013 draft when it came out that the Phillies had ratted out two draft picks, Ben Wetzler (4th rd) and Jason Monda (5th rd), who changed their mind about signing to the NCAA for having agents. Wetzler ended up being suspended for part of the 2014 college season. The consequence of these actions was a wide believe that the Phillies would have trouble making pre-draft agreements. This brought about a 2014 draft class that had only one high school player signed.
The Phillies entered the draft with the 7th overall pick and picked LSU right handed pitcher Aaron Nola. Nola has been up and down for the Phillies, but just turned 24 and has already logged 247 major league innings for the Phillies. But, what about the other 39 picks?
Still in the Phillies Organization
- Aaron Brown (3rd) – converting to pitcher after not performing at the plate
- Rhys Hoskins (5th) – Has just kept hitting and is on the cusp of the majors
- Brandon Leibrandt (6th) – 3.34 ERA for Reading, fastball still isn’t breaking 90
- Emmanuel Marrero (7th) – 24 years old and hitting .291/.343/.424 for Clearwater playing SS
- Matt Hockenberry (9th) – Has a 7.77 ERA across Reading and Clearwater
- Drew Stankiewicz (11th) – Utility infielder profile who was just promoted to Reading, showed surprising pop after a down 2016
- Austin Davis (12th) – Breakout reliever prospect, mid 90s fastball from the left side for Reading
- Damek Tomscha (17th) – 1B/3B for Clearwater, nearly 26 years old, but hitting well
- Derek Campbell (20th) – 2B/3B/LF for Clearwater who turns 26 in a few days
- Matt Imhof (2nd) – Career was already trending in the wrong direction before a training accident cost him an eye
- Chris Oliver (4th) – Half of a trade that got the Phillies the money to pay of Jhailyn Ortiz, he is now out of baseball
- Sam McWilliams (8th) – The only HS players the Phillies signed was traded straight up for Jeremey Hellickson
The draft was bad for the Phillies. Right now only Nola and Hoskins project as meaningful contributors to a major league team only 3 years after the draft occurred. In contrast, the 2012 draft had misses at the top, but later high school picks like Dylan Cozens, Andrew Pullin, and Drew Anderson have allowed the draft class to remain relevant to the Phillies’ rebuild. Even the college players taken by the Phillies lack upside with Austin Davis standing out as the only college player with projection they took. It turned out that Rhys Hoskins had some extra power in his bat that the coaching staff was able to unlock, but even his value remains somewhat capped by his position. The blunders of 2013 left the Phillies with a very undiversified draft class that has left a gap in the Phillies’ developmental pipeline.
The Phillies under Johnny Almaraz have been accused by fans of being conservative in their drafts, not going for projectable athletes (it is a complete different post to talk about how those misses set the Phillies up for failure), and instead focusing on players with fundamental skills. It is still early to judge the 2015 class completely, but it has some misses and it has some hits. What it and the 2016 and 2017 classes have is some diversity. The Phillies were able to pair two hit first prospects in Cornelius Randolph and Scott Kingery with their first few picks and while one has flatered, one has stepped forward.
I think this is a lesson that can be applied to a farm system as a whole. You need to fill the full system with every avenue, you can’t just get pitchers or hitters, you can focus on the draft and trades, and not Latin America. If you go to college heavy, you give up on some upside, but if you go to heavily on high school players you add a lot of risk to your portfolio. There are no quick answers to rebuilding a system. Taking a bunch of college guys to restock quickly may just leave the cupboard bare in the future.