There was a lot of hype surrounding the 76ers’ big night at the draft lottery, and rightly so. But before the Sixers lead off the NBA draft, another Philadelphia team will have their choice of the young blood in their sport, and it’s the Phillies. When the MLB draft kicks off Thursday evening, the Phillies will be at the top of the board for the first time since 1998, when they selected Pat Burrell.
To be sure, it’s not a bad thing they haven’t reached the top spot since. But it is exciting to have the chance to select the brightest talent in baseball when the team’s youth movement already appears to be paying dividends quicker than expected. The movement is led by 2014 first round selection Aaron Nola, who was heralded as the most MLB-ready pitcher available and came as advertised.
Nola debuted a year later and already has a record of 11-6 and era of 3.12 in 25 career starts. So if you struggle to get excited about a baseball draft because you won’t see a player for a few years, no matter how talented, there is hope. If you managed excitement for Carson Wentz, you can pull it off here.
Unlike the other sports, and some baseball drafts past when names like Harper and Strasburg topped the field, there is no consensus over what the Phillies will do with the top pick, or even what they should do.
Recent team draft history offers little insight: for the past five years the team has alternated between selecting a pitcher and batter with their first pick. If that holds, they’re due for a pitcher. Nola is the lone college man taken first in that period, though his success, and the Phillies’ quicker-than-expected rebuild may convince the team to look that way again.
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If they do, Florida’s A.J. Puk could be the college pitcher selected. Puk, a left-hander, led a Gators rotation that should be having names called long after his own. Puk is 6-foot-7, has a mid-90s fastball and a good slider. His changeup needs work, but that’s not exactly unusual for a prospect.
A high school option at pitcher is Jason Groome, from New Jersey. Groome, another lefty, is committed to Vanderbilt and is another big pitcher – 6-foot-6. Groome throws a fastball in the mid-90s and a great curveball.
If they take a hitter – and seven of 2015’s first ten Phillies selections were hitters – outfielder Corey Ray of Lousiville might be the best bet. Ray has fine speed to cover centerfield on defense and terrorize the basepaths on offense. Ray, a left-hander, has hit safely above .300 throughout college and improved his power numbers each year while dropping his strikeouts.
Kyle Lewis is the other college bat they might consider worthy of the pick. Lewis, from Mercer, is a fine outfielder whose real calling card is his power from the right side of the plate. He’s working his average up too. The question mark is his competition at Mercer.
Blake Rutherford and Mickey Moniak are high school outfielders who offer other options at the plate.
This will also be the first draft presided over by the restructured front office led by Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak. The team’s scouting director Johnny Almarez will be in his second year.
The lack of a track record for this front office and the competing reports on who the most talented players are make this a volatile draft board. Check back with Metro throughout the draft and after for coverage of who the Phillies take first overall, and maybe even a little on the player they take in round forty. We’re not kidding.