TBOH Debate: The Philadelphia Phillies college-heavy draft and expectations for Ken Giles
By Mike Lacy
Aaron Nola. Image Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Every week, the writers of That Ball’s Outta Here debate the key issues facing the Philadelphia Phillies. Joining me this week are Spencer Bingol, Alex Cheremeteff, and Michael Lecke. We will discuss the Phillies’ college-heavy approach in the draft and what to expect from Ken Giles
What do you think of the Phillies’ college-heavy draft approach?
I don’t hate the college heavy draft approach, despite many complaining about how “unexciting” it was to follow. When a farm system is relatively weak but with “toolsy” upside players, adding some high-floor guys creates needed depth. I also would disagree with the notion that there were no exciting picks in the draft.
3rd round pick Aaron Donald (presuming he signs) has impressed with his bat, from the field, AND on the mound in the NCAA tournament.
4th round pick Chris Oliver dropped in the draft due to both an off-field issue and on-field control issues, but has a 97 mph-hitting fastball and a possible plus slider. With further development of his change-up, he could be a steal, and a starter in the big leagues.
In general, everything from Bill James 26 years ago to analytics today reinforces the belief that the average college player is a better investment than the average high school player.
Were this farm system already flush with pitching depth, I might be more non-plussed with not reaching on a risky guy.
Who knows? Next year the Phillies might be looking at a system where a higher risk, higher upside player can be added, with less riding on the selection (next year’s first round pick has certainly been drifting earlier in recent weeks).
It is no secret that the Phillies are in dire need of a makeover. The Phillies are notorious for drafting raw, high-upside, toolsy, high school players the past 20 years. Unfortunately, most never panned out.
The major league club needs help and the minor league system needs replenishment. The quickest way to address both needs is to draft polished college players who can help at the major league level sooner rather than later.
Most scouts were in agreement that Aaron Nola would be the first pitcher in the 2014 draft to reach the major leagues. The fact that the Phillies will start him at High-A Clearwater is an encouraging sign.
It’s no secret that the Phillies needed some guys who would help the team sooner rather than later, and Aaron Nola certainly fits that description.
The team has notoriously gone after the high-ceiling, high-risk guys in the past, and this draft was a dramatic departure from that approach. It will be interesting to see if this marks a philosophical switch, or was just a one-time deal, done to replenish the minors in a relative hurry.
The Phillies college-heavy draft speaks to a lack of confidence in the same old approach of developing raw tools and teaching baseball skills to unpolished athletes. The minor league development team hasn’t been effective enough to warrant drafting that way. There have been too many misses.
I think there’s also a sense of bare cupboards in the system in general. Injuries and backsliding has hurt the minor league system more than the trades. There’s an obvious need for fast-tracking young talent; college players are older, more polished and more likely to arrive sooner.
Ken Giles. Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
What do you expect from Ken Giles?
Ken Giles is not Mariano Rivera. He’s a guy who throws hard as hell, but lacks movement on his fastball and will likely get hurt by leaving a couple up in the zone. Jake Diekman‘s early season struggles showed what can happen when you have a lot of velocity, but not a lot of control as to where it’s going.
So, really, that’s what I expect: Inconsistency early on. He’ll look lights out at times, but will sometimes get beaten up when major league hitters time his pitches. He was called up a little bit earlier than he should have been with his control issues in Triple-A, but he’ll get some outs at the major league level. Just don’t expect dominance.
I expect nothing but old-fashioned country hardball from Ken Giles. He will more than likely strike out well over a batter an inning, not give up many hits, and walk more batters than he should.
If he can keep his BB/9 rate below 3, the Phillies have their future closer. He reminds me of a young Rob Dibble.
Giles is still reportedly a work in progress, so if they’re smart, they’ll limit his appearances at first. Bring him into situations where they absolutely need a strikeout and hope his 100 MPH heater is enough to get it.
I will facepalm if they start using him in the eighth inning within the first month. He likely isn’t ready for that kind of role yet, and would be a great way to destroy his confidence.
I expect Giles to struggle. If his slider is flat and his command is shaky, which it often is, big league hitters will wait for fastball counts and torch even the 100 gas. He can be timed like anyone else. He lacks deception and bite in his slider. He is a work in progress.
Promoting Giles was akin to promoting Aumont. It is a desperation move by the Phillies.
Everyone who was screaming for Giles to get The Call are way too gaga over velocity. Remember the Papelbon rant earlier this season? You guys are way too into the Veelow!
Fingers crossed with Giles in the pen. It’s getting late early around here. A rebuild seems inevitable. Guys are seeing the handwriting on the locker room walls. They can’t even manage a half-decent winning streak.
On the other hand it’s about time the Phillies got lucky, so maybe the rookie flamethrower can help for a stretch. Now would be the time.
What do you think? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments section below.
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