The Draft Philes: Post 1st Round Bats

Every major league team has multiple big boards comparing college and high school hitters and pitchers, on top of an overall board. In the 2017 class, the weakest group is the college hitters, where most of the top talent are either future first basemen, slap-happy speedsters, or big-swinging offensive minded catchers. The Phillies strength right now is their upper level hitters, but based on the volatility of their current club, improving the system with bats that have a chance to move quickly through the system is something they should be looking for in the early rounds, especially with a crop this weak.

Brian Miller, OF, North Carolina

6’1″, 186 lb

B/T: L/R

Previously Drafted: Never

Rankings (as of 6/9): MLB.com #59, Baseball America #45, ESPN #32

Strengths

Swing has some length in his hand load, but his quick, loose hands allow him to make up for it and spray line drives to the outfield gaps. Advanced approach at the plate. Above average raw pull power. Plus speed, strong instincts on the base paths. Athleticism and strong abilty to read the ball off the bat will allow him to stick in centerfield; played first base and right field as a sophomore showing potential versatility.

Weaknesses

Power doesn’t really translate into games with his line drive contact approach. When he does go for power, he rolls over a lot of balls because he overcompensates with his lower half

What the Numbers Say

2015 (Freshman): 52 G, 155 PA, .288/.375/.326, .325 BABIP, 38 H, 3 2B, 1 3B, 16 RBI, 27 R, 10/12 SB/attempts, 19 BB (12.3 BB%), 16 K (10.3 K%); 3 OF assists, 3 E, .750 Fld %

2016 (Sophomore): 54 G, 269 PA, .345/.440/.469, .388 BABIP, 78 H, 12 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 56 R, 21/26 SB, 34 BB (12.6 BB%), 29 K (10.8 K%); 12 assists, 5 E, .982 Fld %

2017 (Junior): 63 G, 314 PA, .343/.422/.502, .371 BABIP, 93 H, 16 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR, 49 RBI, 61 R, 24/30 SB, 38 BB (12.1 BB%), 35 K (11.1 K%); 3 OF assists, 1 E, .995 Fld %

Overall Assessment

Miller’s approach will help him advance through an organization’s system quickly as he will walk just as much as he strikes out. Miller’s issue will be how much of his power will be useable as he continues to progress. He will have to settle for more doubles and triples power instead of trying to sacrifice for pulling home runs. He will likely hit enough to be at least a fourth outfielder on a major league roster but his ceiling is that of a top of the order hitter who will play an above average centerfield.

 

Connor Wong, C/UTIL, Houston

5’11”, 180 lb

B/T: R/R

Previously Drafted: Never

Rankings: MLB.com #112, Baseball America #78

Strengths

Well-built for his size. Has interesting timing, with lead leg tapping down towards back leg before he strides forwards. Above average bat speed able to drive the ball for power to his pull side. Above average speed, rare for a catcher, uses it well (82.6 SB%). Has gotten more comfortable since returning to catcher position in his sophomore season; played shortstop in his freshman year.

Weaknesses

Load a bit long, lead arm barred; some swing and miss to his game with low off-speed pitches. Still below average as a catcher, struggles with blocking balls in the dirt and receiving. Average throwing arm. A bit small in frame for the catcher position.

What the Numbers Say

2015 (Freshman): 62 G, 272 PA, .248/.320/.382, .270 BABIP, 59 H, 6 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 37 RBI, 39 R, 3/5 SB, 24 BB (8.8 BB%), 40 K (14.7 K%); 24 E, 37 DP, .923 Fld % (as SS)

2016 (Sophomore): 59 G, 276 PA, .304/.415/.435, .357 BABIP, 70 H, 13 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 52 R, 9/11 SB, 43 BB (15.6 BB%), 44 K (15.9 K%); 4 E, 16.7 CS% (20/24 SB allowed), 9 PB, .988 Fld % (as C)

2017 (Junior): 63 G, 308 PA, .287/.379/.494, .312 BABIP, 76 H, 13 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 36 RBI, 61 R, 26/30 SB, 31 BB (10.1 BB%), 49 K (15.9 K%); 6 E, 23.3 CS% (56/73 SB allowed), 17 PB, .988 Fld % (as C)

Overall Assessment

Wong’s ability to hit and run for the catching position will make him a valuable asset at the major league level. His fringe average power is mostly to his pull side, and strikeouts will be a concern, but he has shown ability to lay off enough tough pitches where his bat will play well for the position. Wong has a unique future profile where if he isn’t an everyday catcher, he could play shortstop, third base and the outfield because of his athleticism and prior experience. Think a Stephen Vogt or Tony Wolters.

Kevin Merrell, SS, South Florida

6’1″, 189 lb

B/T: L/R

Previously Drafted: Never

Rankings: MLB.com #51, Baseball America #52, ESPN #81

Strengths

Toe-tap stride forward, has quick compact swing. Good barrel control and contact skills, able to slap the ball to all fields. Plus plus speed, top run time from home to first out of left handed box was 3.9 seconds.

Weaknesses

Well below average power; seems to roll over a lot of balls trying to compensate for lack of ability. Well below average infielder, lacks body control and good hands to stay in the middle of the infield.

What the Numbers Say

2015 (Freshman): 60 G, 279 PA, .346/.403/.375, .407 BABIP, 83 H, 7 2B, 22 RBI, 45 R, 21/27 SB, 17 BB (6.1 BB%), 36 K (12.9 K%); 8 E, 23 DP, .960 Fld %

2016 (Sophomore): 41 G, 181 PA, .320/.418/.401, .362 BABIP, 47 H, 5 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 22 R, 16/17 SB, 22 BB (12.2 BB%), 22K (12.2 K%); 8 E, 19 DP, .956 Fld %

2017 (Junior): 52 G, 250 PA, .384/.464/.569, .427 BABIP, 83 H, 11 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 36 RBI, 48 R, 19/23 SB, 29 BB (11.6 BB%), 31 K (12.4 K%); 11 E, 25 DP, .948 Fld %

Overall Assessment

Merrell’s speed is a legitimate plus-plus that if he becomes a starter he could steal 50+ bags a year. Merrell will likely end up in the outfield where his athleticism will play much better than he does as a very raw middle infielder. The lack of power will be Merrell’s biggest concern if he wants to reach the major leagues. He would need to add a bit more strength and add some loft to be considered more of a first division regular, but he’s close to his body potential. His ceiling will be closer to that of a fourth outfielder who can find ways to get on-base and be a base-stealing threat.

 

Author: Jeff Israel