Baseball America is calling the upcoming draft class one of the weakest in years, and especially thin with polished bats. Too bad, because that's what the Phillies need most.
According to the magazine, pitching figures to dominate the first round of the June draft, happening Tuesday, June 6. The Phillies are picking 18th thanks to the Mets signing of Type A Free Agent Billy Wagner. The Yankees received the Philadelphia’s 21st pick for the same reason when they signed Tom Gordon.
The Phillies have a poor reputation for developing pitching, but have quietly improved this area in the past year. The best arms are in Reading, including a solid stable of four legitimate big-league prospects in Scott Mathieson, Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haigwood and Zach Segovia. Segovia was recently called up to Reading and has perhaps been the best surprise in the farm system this season.
The best bulk of position players actually resides in Triple-A, but it is an older group of minor league free agents and slow-risers that has nothing left to learn in the farm system. Several players, including catcher Carlos Ruiz and Chris Roberson, have graduated to the big leagues, but neither is expected to be a regular contributor anytime soon.
If the draft was stacked with position prospects, the Phillies would do well taking a second baseman or shortstop. I’m dismayed to find that Baseball America has the Phillies taking exactly the type of player they should avoid in their mock draft:
"Philadelphia is hurting for position players in a draft with few sure things," Jim Callis writes. "The Phillies may have to roll the dice on someone like Louisiana high school outfielder Jared Mitchell, a Louisiana State-bound wide receiver with raw baseball skills. They'd also have to consider any of the previously mentioned pitchers if they dropped."
Projected Pick: Jared Mitchell.
The Phillies have a horrendous record of turning projects into players, and currently have a project outfielder working his way through the system in center fielder Greg Golson.
The 20-year-old Golson was the first pick in the 2004 draft and is playing this season for Low-A Lakewood. Golson is one of many slashing outfielder the Phillies have tested over the years, a list that includes Reggie Taylor and Marlon Byrd.
Like many high-ranking Phillies prospects, Golson is struggling badly, hitting .154. with 49 strikeouts in 162 at bats. Golson is still young enough to hold off on raising the red flag, but others are less fortunate.
Tim Moss, the Phillies third round pick in the 2002 draft, has fallen flat. Moss began his Double-A career in a 0-for-25 slump, including a stretch that included 13 strikeouts in 18 at bats. The 24-year-old second baseman, ranked in the top 10 for Phillies prospects by most publications, is still hitting just .194 with 53 strikeouts in 134 at bats.
Bright spots among Phillies position prospects are few. Center fielder Michael Bourn is offering a little more hope, playing his second season in Reading. The 23-year-old speedster is hitting .261, plays a great outfield and scores runs, but has no power to speak of and does not appear to be the sure bet his No. 3 organizational ranking would indicate. Twenty-year-old shortstop Brad Harman is hitting .260 with Clearwater, but has committed 17 errors. Mike Costanzo, the Philadelphia-born college third baseman taken in last-year’s draft, is hitting .241 with Clearwater. Welinson Baez, a third baseman/shortstop ranked 5th by BA, is hitting .220 in Lakewood with 1 homer.
So, what is the strategy? Best available, it seems. Picking 18th, they could theoretically snag the best second baseman or shortstop in the draft if it fell to them, but should avoid this if there's any doubt the kid can play.
There's no question these are areas the Phillies must start retooling, but if the only sure bet at 18 is a pitcher, this is the direction they should take.
First round: 18 (for Wagner)
First round supplemental: 37 (for Wagner)
Second round: 65
Third round: 97
Fourth round: 127
Fifth round: 157