Phillies 1st Pick a Nice Perk, But Not Essential to the Rebuild
By David Gough
The Philadelphia Phillies have the first overall pick in the 2016 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft for just the second time in franchise history.
The one thing that Phillies fans were able to salvage after a rough 2015 season was seeing the team receive the first pick in this year’s MLB Amateur Draft.
There has been much debate about which player the team should take, whether a pitcher such as Jason Groome, a bat such as that of Mickey Moniak, or somebody else. In a year without a Bryce Harper or David Price, no surefire 1:1 player, there is no definitive choice.
That’s why it is important to remember that there are 40 rounds. The Phillies will have 40 chances to pick their next big star, more than one if they are good and lucky. Many of the best Phillies players of all time were not first round picks.
The top two hits leaders in franchise history were each taken in the second round.
Mike Schmidt was the sixth pick in the second round at 30th overall way back in 1971. Jimmy Rollins was taken 40th overall in the 1996 MLB Amateur Draft.
Sure, picking those two in the second round isn’t necessarily a steal in what is a long MLB Draft. After all, second rounders are also highly considered. However, plenty of the players picked in front of those two did not put together great careers.
Danny Goodwin was selected first overall by the Chicago White Sox in 1971, but he never played a game for them. Instead, he spent a combined seven MLB seasons with the Angels, Twins, and Athletics while never playing more than 58 games in a season.
The Phillies selected pitcher Roy Thomas with the sixth overall pick the same year. He never played for the Phillies and spent his eleven year MLB career with the Astros, Cardinals, and Mariners primarily as a reliever.
The Phils did use Thomas as a piece in the late 1975 trade which landed them veteran left-handed starting pitcher Jim Kaat, a move which helped secure three straight division titles. This highlights another way to gain legitimate value from these types of still-developing youngsters.
In the year Jimmy Rollins was drafted, the Pirates took pitcher Kris Benson at number one. His first two years in Pittsburgh were promising at the very least, but then he underwent Tommy John surgery and never reached number one pick material.
As for the Phillies that year of 1996, they selected pitcher Adam Eaton. He would wind up making his MLB debut with the Padres.
Eaton did come back to Philadelphia in 2007. In the middle of the 2008 season, the Phillies decided to send him to the minors for his struggles. One final stint in the majors came in 2009 with Baltimore and Colorado. He would never finish a season with an ERA lower than four.
Eaton also received a 2008 World Series ring despite not being on the Phillies’ postseason roster, so he’s got that going for him.
Fan favorite and Phillies Wall of Famer Darren Daulton was drafted by the Phillies in the 25th round in 1980. Ryan Howard was selected in the fifth round of the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft. As you can see, there are gems to be dug up even deeper down.
It’s noteworthy to point out that there are plenty of great players outside of the organization that were drafted very late.
Hall of Famer John Smoltz was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 22nd round in 1985. Mike Piazza, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this July, was drafted in the 62nd round in 1988 only because his godfather was Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.
There are over a thousand picks each year in the draft and only one person will have the ability to say that they were first. That person, like many others before, may not live up to the hype.
The MLB Draft is not like the NFL or NBA, where the early picks in those drafts are expected to make an impact right away many years. Players drafted by an MLB team normally have to work their way up multiple levels of the minor leagues before they can even set foot in a big league ballpark.
Still, for the Phillies’ sake, let’s hope the player picked number one is deserving of it. Whether in the end he is or not, there is always the possibility that the club may unearth another Daulton or maybe even Piazza later in the process.