Final thoughts on the Phillies’ draft

 In MLB, Sports

My search for commentary on the Phils’ first-round pick, Mick Abel, wasn’t exhaustive, so negativity must be out there somewhere. But I couldn’t find anyone who considered the selection a bad one. Many analysts raved about it, actually. And they often did that even after noting how drafting high school pitchers in round one is usually a bad idea. They’re so hard to project at that point in their careers and physical development. But even guys like baseball writer Keith Law, whose rule of thumb is not to draft high school hurlers in the first round, said that Abel is worth making an exception. He just has everything you want in a top-end starter: the right body type, high velocity and multiple effective pitches.

While acknowledging that Abel was impressive, some analyses thought the Phillies should’ve taken a college pitcher. Their argument? He would be quicker to the majors and provide help to a contending team. Abel is likely at least four years away. I understand that concern, but if the Phils are indeed entering a window of contention, I don’t believe it’s going to close that fast. Bryce Harper will still be just 31 in four years.

Wait till you see their next pick …

The Phils also earned kudos for their third-round choice, University of Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin, taken 87th overall. Lacking a second-rounder, the price for signing Zack Wheeler, the Phillies were quick to grab Martin. He was rated much higher – as the 30th best prospect by MLB.com – but slid because he has some hit tool issues. Basically, he strikes out too much. But Martin possesses an intriguing combination of speed and power, so if he puts it all together, he’ll be a good one.

A new direction?

This was Brian Barber’s first draft as the team’s director of amateur scouting. He came to the Phils after 18 years with the Yankees, and was highly regarded. I’m sure it was a challenge for him and every other scouting director to deal with a truncated draft that only lasted five rounds. But I love the first two picks. And even the fourth-rounder, right-hander Carson Ragsdale from the University of South Florida, is intriguing. Maybe a future closer?

The bottom line is, Barber was strategically bold, especially with the first two selections. Both were risky, but not recklessly so. And the potential upside on Abel and Martin is big. This is the kind of draft that clubs with good scouting systems have, in my opinion, and it’s finally happening with the Phils.

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