After leaning on high schoolers a majority of the time since the 21st century began, the Phillies will change their approach in this year’s draft.
The Phillies have taken high schoolers in the first round of the MLB Draft every year since 2001 besides Joe Savery in 2007 and Aaron Nola in 2014. Their approach of looking for high-upside, high school players has not done them well as Savery, Nola, and Greg Golson are the only first-round picks to reach the majors in Philadelphia since 2002.
With the 2017 MLB Draft beginning Monday, the team has to decide where they want to go with their first-round pick and the 39 picks that follow. According to scouting director Johnny Almaraz, expect several college pitchers to join the team before the draft is over.
Almaraz explained to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly why the team might go with college arms this time around:
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"“We will get our share of college pitchers that are big and strong,” Almaraz said. “They will be fast movers through minor-league systems…“When you talk about ceiling, you talk about floor, it’s dealing with the older, mature players where a lot of them, they are what they are,” Almaraz said. “So you know the worst-case scenario is they may be a bullpen piece, may be a starter if they could function in that role and pitch every fifth day.“We view things that way as far as the college players are concerned. Their true ability that they possess right now really isn’t going to change a whole lot.”"
Philly’s last two first-round picks, Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph, were both high-school outfielders. When the team drafted them, there was some projection needed to see them as potential major-leaguers. For a college player, there is far less projection needed.
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One pitcher Philadelphia could go with is North Carolina junior J.B. Bukauskus. His MLB.com profile raves about his arsenal:
"At his best, Bukauskas can blow away hitters with a pair of double-plus pitches in a mid-90s fastball with sink and a mid-80s slider with tilt. His slider isn’t as consistent as his heater, but it’s still a plus offering more often than not. Bukauskas made good progress working on his changeup while with Team USA, and it shows signs of becoming at least an average pitch with armside run."
Another pitcher the team could select is Florida junior Alex Faedo. The righty has a plus fastball-slider combination, but he relies on the two pitches mostly. He has the workings of an average changeup but it is still in development. He pounds the strike zone but he still needs to add some finesse to his game.
There is still some chatter that the Phils could go with a hitter, and Jim Callis’s most recent mock draft projected Philadelphia to select Virginia first baseman, Pavin Smith. We will have to wait for Monday night to see what the team does with their No. 8 overall pick.