Friday, June 6, 2008

Phillies Draft Analysis

The Phillies have had a lot of success through the draft in recent years, as a large portion of the current team is home-grown. Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Pat Burrell were all drafted by the Phillies. So what future stars did they take in this year's draft?

With the 24th overall pick, they selected Anthony Hewitt, a high school shortstop from Connecticut. Hewitt is a five-tool talent with tons of upside, but a fair amount of risk involved. First off, he has committed to Vanderbilt and the Phillies will have to talk him out of going. If they can manage that, there are still some issues to work out. For example, what position does he play? He's played shortstop in high school, but scouts believe that he projects as more of an outfielder in the majors, as he lacks the instincts to be a major league infielder. While he is an excellent athlete with good speed, his fielding is not what got him drafted in the first round. He has the potential to be a superb hitter, particularly in the power department. The main knock on him, offensively, is his poor plate discipline. That could change as he develops in the minor leagues, but more likely he projects as another strikeout prone hitter. The Phillies have plenty of those guys already, but it hasn't exactly worked out badly for them. Hewitt is a risky pick, between his signability issues and his need for further development, but if he lives up to that potential, he can be as good as just about anyone in the draft.

The first supplemental round landed the Phillies Zach Collier, a high school outfielder from southern California. Collier played right field for his high school team, though he has the range and instincts to play center. More likely he projects to a corner outfielder. Like Hewitt, he is a five-tool player, though not as raw. He has good power at the plate and it appears that he can improve as a home run hitter, as he has primarily looked to make hard contact, rather than drive the ball out of the park. Collier appears to be a fairly similar prospect to Hewitt in that he has tremendous upside but needs a lot more experience and polish.

With their first pick in the second round, the Phillies took another outfielder (that's three in three picks, if you count Hewitt as an OF). Anthony Gose, another high school outfielder from California, was the pick. Gose is an interesting pick because it is unclear what position he will play. The Phillies appear to have drafted him as an outfielder, but he has also gotten some looks as a pitcher, with some scouts believing he has a better future on the mound. As a pitcher, he boasts an excellent fastball with good movement and a developing curveball. Also, he is left-handed, which would help him on the mound more than it would at the plate. As an outfielder, he projects as a good defensive center fielder with a nice line drive swing. He has yet to show a great deal of power, but that might develop in time. Once again, the Phillies have taken a player with great upside but who has a long way to go before he's major league ready. Should he struggle as a hitter, the Phillies could move him back to the mound, but he may not be very receptive to the idea, as he has insisted on being drafted as a position player.

With their later second round pick, the Phillies added Jason Knapp, a high school pitcher from New Jersey. Knapp has good velocity on his fastball, with decent movement. He projects as a setup man or perhaps a 4th or 5th starter. The main knock on him is his lack of a consistent secondary pitch. As with the three previous picks, he is a high risk/high reward prospect. Because he's so young, there's reason to believe he can develop another pitch or two, but as he is now, his reliance on the fastball makes him a better fit as a relief pitcher.

In the third round, the Phillies finally drafted a college player, selecting Vance Worley, a pitcher from Long Beach State. Worley struggled a bit in his last season as a starter, but he could be an effective relief pitcher (so says Keith Law, anyway). He's good a decent four-seam and two-seam fastball, but got better velocity in '06 pitching out of the bullpen.

Three of the last four picks on the day were pitchers, as the Phillies took Jonathan Pettibone, Trevor May, and Colby Shreve, plus first baseman Jeremy Hamilton. Pettibone and May were high school prospects, continuing the Phillies' trend of the day: taking raw players with high upside.

On the whole, it seemed as if the Phillies had a strong Day One of the draft. It's always risky to take players based heavily on potential and less on performance, but with their raw ability, one has to think most of the early picks project to at least be productive major league players, even if they don't exploit their star potentials.

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