Cornelius Randolph had a down season last year, but the Phillies 2015 first-round pick still has the raw ability to be an above-average hitter in the major-leagues.
The 2015 MLB draft has already produced two major-leaguers in shortstops Dansby Swanson and Brendan Rogers, and it will certainly produce. The Phillies hope they have one of those future major-leaguers in their 2015 first-round pick, Cornelius Randolph.
Coming into the draft, Randolph was the No. 19 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America. He was clearly higher on Philadelphia’s board as they took Randolph with the No. 10 overall pick. The team signed Randolph to a $3.2 million bonus, right at the slot value according to BA.
Randolph started off his professional career on the right foot with the rookie-level GCL Phillies. He carried a .302/.425/.442 line for a 163 wRC+, which is considered “excellent” according to Fangraphs. He also displayed strong plate discipline, walking just as much as he struck out with 32 strikeouts and 32 walks in 212 plate appearances.
Unfortunately, Randolph could not continue that success into 2016. He started the year with Low-A Lakewood, but he played in just 12 games before he strained his left shoulder during an at-bat April 19. He told Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"“The first pitch I saw – fastball in – I swung and laced it over the second baseman’s head and right when I hit it I felt my shoulder pop. As I took the first step out of the box, I felt a sharp pain. I got to first base and started working it out and decided I was going to play through it.”"
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Randolph played in just two more games before landing on the disabled list for two months. After returning from injury, Randolph had a meager .655 OPS in 62 games. Altogether, Randolph finished 2016 with a .712 OPS in Lakewood, more than 150 points lower than his mark in 2015.
However, Randolph maintains that he will only get better as the years go on.
On Twitter, he said “I don’t think people understand I’m 19 … I’m still growing, still getting stronger. THIS IS NOT THE FINISHED PRODUCT.” Randolph’s value as a future major-leaguer does come with some projection mixed in, and he does understand it.
The biggest aspect of Randolph’s game that still needs to be projected is Randolph’s power at the plate. Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs projected Randolph to have somewhere between above-average and plus raw power in his future depending on his development. However, he has done little to show that he can hit for power in his future, as he has just three home runs so far in his minor-league career. In addition, his slugging percentage barely topped his on-base percentage in each of his first two seasons.
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Randolph’s lack of power thus far comes from the fact that his approach is geared towards line drives the opposite way. Josh Norris of Baseball America said “[t]he Phillies worked with him this fall to get him turn on inside pitches instead of pushing them the opposite way.” If Randolph can learn when to pull the ball, he could conceivably hit double-digit home runs each season.
However, one tool that doesn’t require much projection is Randolph’s overall hitting ability. Norris said Randolph is “an extremely balanced hitter with a compact lefthanded swing geared for line drives.”
Norris also stated Randolph “does an excellent job staying back on the ball and then using his strong hands to whip the bat through the zone.” Randolph should hit for average in the future, and the hope is that ability can help his power.
Turning towards his defense, the high school shortstop was moved to the outfield after being drafted. Randolph still has a solid arm from his shortstop days, but otherwise his defense projects to be below-average overall. Randolph had a .978 fielding percentage in 2016, so there may be some hope for him in left field.
Overall, Randolph has disappointed in his first two years with the Phillies, but he still has the potential to be an above-average hitter. Considering how he has performed so far, his hitting still needs to take a step up as his defense won’t do him any favors in the future.