Phillies MLB Amateur Draft Planning

Mar 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford (77) against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford (77) against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Phillies hold the top overall pick in the 2016 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, which begins on June 9th.

Everywhere you look, mock drafts are starting to show up, with each writer hoping to do the near impossible and correctly predict the opening round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

While that might be considered a fool’s errand, it does make for some interesting internet fodder for people to argue and debate about in the days leading up to the actual draft.

This past week has given us some of the big ones: Baseball America and Keith Law have each put out their mock drafts, with each varying slightly.

Hardcore baseball fans are interested in the entire first round, as it helps formulate future prospect lists that lead to even more discussion in reference to trades.

Most Phillies fans, though, really only care about the answer to one question: who will our team take first overall?

Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your viewpoint), the team has that first pick in the draft this year, meaning they have their choice of any amateur baseball player available in the process.

It is simultaneously a great position to be in, especially as a rebuilding team, and a dangerous one, as this draft pick is extremely important to the future of the franchise. This narrows their margin for error to almost a razor-thin edge.

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After a few conversations with writers and research on various articles, I’m pretty sure I’ve narrowed down the team’s choice to one player, but I won’t reveal that yet until our website reveals their choices for the top pick later on this week.

Instead, I wanted to briefly touch on one of the reasons I think the team will choose who they choose. It comes down to what everything comes down to nowadays: money.

As a brief refresher, Major League Baseball changed their draft bonus rules by allowing teams a certain allotment to spend on signing bonuses for their draft picks.

This was done as a way for ownership to curb the (in their eyes) astronomical bonuses some of these amateurs were receiving. Basically, the higher a team’s pick, the more money it has to spend.

Additionally, each draft slot has been assigned a certain dollar value by MLB as to what that position is worth. For this year, the Phillies have $13,405,200 to spend, with the top slot being valued at $9,015,00.

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While my preference is for the team to choose the top available talent, it seems as though the past practices of spreading that draft allotment around is strongly in play here.

The most famous example of this execution in recent years were the Houston Astros, who managed to land both Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers in the 2012 draft.

At the time, Correa was seen as a top five selection, but almost no one believed he would go 1:1. Instead, the Astros surprised much of the industry and picked him in that slot.

Houston then signed Correa for a underslot deal (signed for $4.8 million, slot value of $7.2 million), meaning they could save some money and choose a player later on that was considered tougher to sign, which they got in McCullers.

Utilizing this draft strategy, the Astros were able to acquire two talents that ultimately were huge pieces to their playoff appearance in 2015.

It’s a very smart way around MLB’s attempts to control draft spending. When the new rules were first implemented, it seemed to many to be the death knell for small market clubs in acquiring talent which they would otherwise not be able to compete for in the free agency market.

Drafting in the way demonstrated by Houston allowed teams to add a bulk of talent to their system, thus creating a better path to winning in their particular market.

Having the Phillies management team correctly execute this draft strategy, especially in a year where there is no consensus top pick, is especially important at this stage in their history.

There is much clamor for the team to select Jersey shore high school pitcher Jason Groome (including from this author), who many draft experts believe to be the best available prospect.

However, the young lefty’s contract demands might be too much for the Phillies to spend, leading to a decision to instead spread the wealth among more talent.

It’s debatable whether or not this is the best path to use in the draft, but from all the signs being put out in public, it sure seems that this is the direction the Phils will take come Thursday night.

If the Phillies are able to continue the drafting success from the past three years (J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola, Cornelius Randolph), it will only help speed and lengthen their return to prominence.

Selecting the correct player based on evaluations and monetary considerations will only help speed up the wider rebuilding process, and could perhaps add a piece that could contribute as early as 2018.

Consider that Nola was drafted just two years ago today, and there he was, already out on the mound working for the victory at Citizens Bank Park this afternoon.

Since that 2018 season is the year when the team should really be next competing for a playoff spot, it’s all the more important to get the pick right.

Make no mistake: the Phillies cannot afford to miss on this pick. Let’s hope Andy MacPhail, Matt Klentak, and their talent evaluators had a great scouting season.

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