The Phillies’ most intriguing selections of the 2017 MLB draft will likely come from the pool of 10 players they took in the first 10 rounds. Some clear trends in the team’s early selections laid bare just what they’re looking for out of this draft as they continue to set the course for the future of the franchise. Before we get to that, a quick roundup of their 10 newest players:
Round One – Adam Haseley, OF, University of Virginia
Round Two – Spencer Howard, RHP, University of Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo
Round Three – Connor Seabold, RHP, Cal State Fullerton
Round Four – Jake Scheiner, 3B, University of Houston
Round Five – Ethan Lindow, LHP, Locust Grove High School
Round Six – Dalton Guthrie, SS, University of Florida
Round Seven – Nick Maton, SS, Lincoln Land Community College
Round Eight – Jhordany Mezquita, LHP, No School
Round Nine – Jack Zoellner, 3B, University of New Mexico
Round 10 – Connor Brogdon, RHP, Lewis-Clark State
It is clear that the Phillies are looking for immediate help.
For the third straight year the team spent their top 10 pick on an outfielder, but unlike the last two picks, Haseley is a polished college product. In fact, among these top 10 picks, he’s one of eight coming straight from college, including two seniors in rounds nine and 10. Only one player, pitcher Ethan Lindow, was drafted out of high school in the fifth round.
This is a fairly shocking departure for the Phillies, who have shown an organizational attachment to the boom-or-bust high schooler. Haseley is only the third college product the Phillies have spent a first round pick on since drafting Chase Utley out of UCLA in 2000.
The quick assumption to take from this sudden infatuation with college players is that the Phillies’ rebuild appears to have hit quite a road bump in 2017, and the more players the team can bring through the system quickly, the better. After years of taking chances by drafting boom-or-bust prospects that left the organization without a pipeline of competent MLB players to fall back on when the wheels fell off the World Series juggernaut, the Phillies no longer have the luxury of drafting without focusing on talent that is easy to project into the majors.
They want position players who can hit the ball.
It may seem an obvious desire, but the Phillies as a team are 22nd in baseball in hitting and 27th in walks drawn. Even at their peak, the Phillies were a lineup built on power that made up for record-setting strikeout numbers and a lack of .300 hitters. Take a look at the stats and traits of the batters they’ve selected and the desire to change this jumps out.
Haseley, their first pick, hit .390 this season and walked twice as many times (44) as he struck out (21). He’s a promising pitcher as well, but the Phillies seem set to add him to the crop of outfielders they’re stockpiling in the minors.
The next batsman they took, Scheiner had a .346 average for Houston in 2017. Guthrie walked (47) almost as many times as he struck out (61) over his last two seasons. Maton hit .408 with an eye-popping .507 on-base percentage and more walks than strikeouts this season. Zoellner saw his average jump 61 points to .368 as a senior, and changed his walk-to-K ratio from 27-54 to 37-26.
Their new hitters aren’t the only players they want to have command of the strike zone however.
The Phils major league staff is average (15th) in walks allowed, but third-bottom in strikeouts. Unlike the backseat contact took to power during the World Series runs, this wasn’t always the case with pitching while Cliff Lee and others filled the battery. It’s likely more a case of talent depletion here, rather than organizational neglect. Aaron Nola, who came in as a control champ, still has a 230-62 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a major leaguer.
So who’ll hopefully be joining him there sooner, rather than later? Well apparently not Haseley, but second round pick Howard had a career 136 strikeouts to just 36 walks, and made that ratio 97-23 in 2017 (97 K’s in 87.2 innings). Seabold had a 2017 ratio of 120-22 on his own. He was drafted a round later out of the same school as current prospect Tom Eshelman, who is working his way through the minors with 43 walks allowed and 186 strikeouts.
Their eighth round pick, by the way, Jhordany Mezquita of “No School” fame, was scouted by the Phillies as an international prospect before he moved to Hazleton. He’s a player with a unique story among these top 10 draft picks and one to keep an eye on.