The Phillies had an interesting Day 1 with the way things played out. Beginning with how things shook out in the 1st round, Brendon McKay would turn down the Twins slot saving offer for #1, and they ended up taking the best high school bat in Royce Lewis instead. It would then pretty much go status quo once that was settled as Hunter Greene went to the Reds and Mackenzie Gore to the Padres. The Rays picked McKay where they maybe leaning towards making him a 1B, or they will let him try to do both to start the summer (which will be really fun). Kyle Wright went to his childhood team with Atlanta at #5. My #1 player on my big board for the Phillies, Austin Beck was scooped up at #6 by Oakland. Then we got to the Diamondbacks at #7, where like the Phillies, they were down to both of the Virginia bats, Pavin Smith and Adam Haseley. The D-Backs would go with Smith, potentially preparing for Goldschmidt to leave after 2019 (have you seen his contract?). That meant the Phillies would pick the other guy and select Haseley with the very next pick at #8. Haseley fits in well with the Phillies 1st round philosophy in recent years under Amateur Scouting director Johnny Almaraz: selecting prospects with a safe floor and a hitter who has a good hit tool and provide solid defense out the chute, a la Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph. So essentially the Phillies got exactly the same player three straight years in a row, with this year drafting a more polished version out of college.
I want to be clear, I think Haseley will be a solid player in the big leagues. And there’s never anything wrong about taking position players in the draft who can play up the middle and are high performance college players with five tool potential. But where I end up disagreeing is that despite the fact he made some adjustments to hit for power, I just don’t think it will translate well enough to the point where he will hit for above average pull power and hit 20-25 HR as Almaraz has suggested. I think he jumps out in front a lot. He can keep the bat in the zone a bit longer with his lightning quick hands, but his body explodes to the point where he could be beat down and out or upstairs with good heat just on his mechanics. But again my preference doesn’t matter, because I’ve only had so much information and video to go on. They have had to have done their homework to make sure that they ended up with a guy who could end up with a bit more pop than their last two first round picks and still had a safe ceiling. And consider this, if they are all the same and end up good, the Phillies will have a good asset of a quality LH OF who can hit for average at the top of the lineup and hit 15-20 HR to trade from. Haseley could either be a top of the order hitter with good power or a platoon corner OF, where he’d still probably get a majority of the ABs but not vs LHP. I would’ve rather the team have gotten creative and go for Alex Faedo or David Peterson to help their pitching depth and save more dollars. And based on their 2nd round pick (we will get to that in a second), I wished they had. But they got a guy who definitely sounds like he’s determined and will continue to make adjustments to get to the majors quickly, based on some of the things Adam and Johnny said last night.
With that said, as we approached #45, I thought for sure the Phillies would land a high upside pitcher with their 2nd pick. And then they stunned me and everybody else when they took Cal Poly RHP Spencer Howard. Howard is ranked #99 on MLB.com and #137 on Baseball America. I thought I was going to struggle and have no video but Prospect Pipeline came out of nowhere when I went to bed late last night and provided a couple.
He’s 6’3″, 205 lb started out as a reliever in 2016 as a redshirt freshman. He ended up being a starter for most of 2017 where he compiled a 1.95 ERA and 97 K/23 BB in 87.2 IP (17 G/12 GS). He wasn’t even going to play for the varsity baseball team, but play club instead while focusing on his academics. But he transformed himself really well, where he filled out and his fastball went from the mid-80s to the 92-94 range, topping out at 96 mph. He throws his fastball for plenty of strikes and it has good running life where he gets plenty of swings and misses out of the zone from his 3/4 arm action. He likes to set up RH hitters on the outer third of the zone with it and pound the ball in on LH. He also seems to appear to have a cutter, that moves pretty well but seems to flatten at times. He has flashes a plus low 80s breaking ball, with good depth and tilt that when it’s on, it can look like his cutter coming out of his hand, but sometimes he overthrows it and it gets away. He’s also flashed a change-up with good fade every now and then. It appears that his four pitch mix plays well because his mechanics are pretty clean where he gets good drive from his lower half and nothing currently concerns me in the upper half for future elbow injuries or constant command issues. He plays quick, has good deception though it appears his arm can stray behind at times. I think a positive is the Phillies drafted a pitcher who doesn’t have the same type of miles as some of the other pitchers who were selected ahead of him.
The vibe I’m getting is that he could either be a really good reliever or a fringe mid-rotation starter with a sinking running fastball and at least three average offerings. I think he will struggle against better hitters at the major league level if one of his other off-speed offering doesn’t flash plus more consistently and his command doesn’t sharpen more. If this was a fourth round selection this would make more sense. However, remember that the MLB draft is not like other drafts. Teams try to manipulate it by selecting players who could take significant under slot deals for where they are picked. The Phillies 1st round slot bonus was about $4.78 million and 2nd round about $1.52 million. Their 3rd round selection is $676,900. The math would be tough here but if they can squeeze $1-1.5 million out of Haseley and Howard’s slots they could still get a talented, tough signee in the 3rd. And right now it would probably take close to $2 million+ to sign guys like Blayne Enlow, Nick Allen, Tristan Beck, Jacob Heatherly and Alex Scherff. My guess is they won’t go that route because it may end up being complicated in the end. Almaraz believes Howard could be a “frontline starter” which sounds really farfetched to me and could end up being nothing more than positive spin. But again, we know much less than a major league organization no matter how many “experts” there are in the world. Just something to keep in mind in every draft you pay attention to, no matter the sport.
If you asked me my overall opinion on the first day, it’s probably average, and it was leaning towards negative when I went to bed last night, but after seeing Howard’s video, it ends up being a firm 50/50 split. This can change to positive quickly depending on what happens on Day Two, which covers rounds 3-10 and begins at 1 pm EST on MLB.com. I have some names to watch out for early in tomorrow’s continuation of the draft below. Matt Winkelman will be updating the Phillies Draft Tracker throughout the day and give instant pick-by-pick analysis.
Blayne Enlow, RHP (HS)
Nick Allen, SS (HS)
Tristan Beck, RHP (College)
Jacob Heatherly, LHP (HS)
Alex Scherff, RHP (HS)
Connor Wong, C (College)
David Banuelos, C (College)
Chris McMahon, RHP (HS)
Blaine Knight, RHP (College)
Andrew Bechtold, 3B (College)