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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Philadelphia Phillies

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Philadelphia in 2016

3 – Mickey Moniak
22 – Kevin Gowdy
152 – Cole Stobbe
175 – Jake Kelzer
182 – Josh Stephen
216 – David Martinelli
219 – Darick Hall
289 – Cole Irvin
316 – JoJo Romero
457 – Danny Zardon

Complete List of 2016 Philadelphia Phillies Draftees

And now a few words on some Phillies draft picks…

1.1 – OF Mickey Moniak

Ten thoughts on Mickey Moniak (3)…

1. This was not a good year to have the first overall pick.

2. I actually think that the Phillies looked at this past year’s draft landscape, saw a disappointing lack of high-end talent, and decided to “settle” for a guy they considered to be the safest bet to be a long-term quality big league player. If that decision came at the expense of some star upside, so be it. That belief runs seemingly counter to the fact that they took a 17-year-old hitter with marginal power as a “safe” choice, but this was a weird year. I think they viewed Moniak’s package of speed (above-average to plus), center field range (same), and arm (average) as being enough to get him to the big leagues. Beyond that, his feel for hitting, bat speed, and textbook swing mechanics would make up for any supposed offensive deficiencies. Moniak may never be a conventional star, but he stands as good a chance as any other prospect in this class to be an above-average offensive contributor at a premium defensive position. An Adam Eaton who can play a credible center isn’t the kind of flashy upside (or topside, as Marti Wolever used to say) typically associated with 1-1, but it’s still pretty damn valuable. The risk-benefit ratio makes sense here. Better chance to hit than Kyle Lewis or Corey Ray, fewer defensive questions than Zack Collins and Nick Senzel* (it’s my own list, but this is the only one I’d quibble with myself on…), no red flags like Delvin Perez, not a pitcher like AJ Puk, not a HIGH SCHOOL pitcher like Jay Groome or Riley Pint…there’s a clear reason for preferring Moniak and his relative certainty over just about any of his peers.

* Going back to Senzel a bit, I wonder if the Phillies liked him — he checks many of the boxes we’ve seen appeal to Johnny Almaraz since he took over drafting in Philadelphia — but didn’t like him so much more than a guy like Moniak that putting up with the eventual positional traffic jam would be worth it. It’s silly to pretend in 2016, a year in which we’ve seen many fast-rising college bats reach the big leagues at unprecedented speeds for the modern game, that need should be completely ignored in the MLB Draft. Should you go best player available (whatever that means) when there’s a clear best player available sitting on your board? Of course. But if things are muddled and different voices are championing different prospects, the composition of your big league club and organizational depth chart absolutely should come into play. Why shouldn’t it matter? I know the situation is very different, but it brings to mind what has happened to one of the other rebuilding teams in Philadelphia in recent years. I’m one of those Cult of Hinkie devotees (shocker, right?), but even I can’t fully understand how he (if it was him…still not entirely convinced there wasn’t strong ownership pressure that led him to Okafor, but maybe that’s just me being an apologist) thought the accumulation of assets (a good thing) could withstand the real life consequences of drafting three straight centers. Now they are left with a problem that can only be solved via trading a depressed asset (bad) or watching attrition and/or injury work things out for them (also bad). The Phillies could have put themselves in a similar spot with a potential Senzel, Maikel Franco, and Scott Kingery playing time triangle. The counter to all of this is that projecting a ballplayer’s future is hard and patience will eventually win out. Since June, Franco has struggled, Senzel has taken off, and Kingery has been up and down (more up than down, though he ended on a relative low note in AA). Maybe you’d be forced to move Franco for less than he’s worth a year from now when Senzel is ready to take over, but you’d a) still be getting something for Franco, and b) you’d have the guy you want playing third every day after all. Would a team with Senzel and whatever they got for Franco be better in the long run than a team with Franco and Moniak? We’ll see.

3. I still would have taken Groome with the first pick. As frustrating as he was to watch at times this past spring, it was still clear that what he has you just can’t teach. My alternate timeline has Groome and Nolan Jones as the 1-2 high school punch at the top of the draft for the Phillies. Shockingly enough, nobody from the Phillies asked my opinion on the matter. Hopefully, Moniak, Kevin Gowdy, Groome, and Jones go on to long, successful big league careers, rendering this entire hypothetical moot.

4. The player Moniak was most compared to during the draft process, Christian Yelich, was six months older than Moniak when drafted. Yelich went on to spend his entire first season tearing up Low-A. That got him recognized as a top fifty or so prospect (on average) on a combined ranking from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB.com. If Moniak does what Yelich did in his full season debut, I don’t know how you could reasonably keep him out of the top ten heading into 2018. Not that prospect rankings matter all that much, but national recognition certainly doesn’t hurt. That’s especially true when it comes to a player’s trade value…which we’ll get to later. Anyway, from that point in his career on Yelich was a level-to-level player before skipping AAA altogether and making the leap to the big leagues in his age-21 season. That would mean Lakewood for Moniak in 2017, Clearwater in 2018 (AFL after that), and a half-season in Reading before getting the call to Philadelphia in July 2019. Aggressive to be sure and yeah yeah yeah I know that’s not how comps work, but still fun to dream on. Clock is ticking, Mickey.

5. Speaking of minor league assignments, the same glut you’ll read about below concerning starting pitchers in the system also applies to outfielders. Moniak is a lock to begin next year in Lakewood, but figuring out the pieces around him takes some serious mental gymnastics. Moniak should presumably be flanked by his former GCL teammates, Jhailyn Ortiz and Josh Stephen. That part is easy enough, at least from where I’m sitting. They’ll also have to find at bats for Jesus Alastre and Malvin Matos. Then there’s sixth round pick David Martinelli, a quality hitter potentially capable of double-jumping his way to Clearwater. Those plans might have been foiled, however, by Martinelli’s lackluster pro debut in short-season ball. That might be for the best considering the glut of talent in High-A. Cornelius Randolph, Jose Pujols, and Jiandido Tromp are the headliners, but guys like Cord Sandberg and Herlis Rodriguez are still interesting enough to warrant steady time if possible. Then there’s the question of figuring out what to do with Zack Coppola and Mark Laird, two players seen as organizational types at the onset of their careers who have hit their way (albeit with no power) into some degree of meaningful prospect consideration. You could bump one or both of those guys to a thin Reading outfield (Carlos Tocci, Aaron Brown, Joey Curletta, Derek Campbell) depending on their apparent readiness this spring. There’s a refreshing amount of options for the Phillies for the first time in what feels like a lifetime.

6. Adam Eaton and Christian Yelich were some of the pre-draft names mentioned when discussing Moniak. Some post-draft digging revealed three additional comps worth passing along. These are from two different sources who saw Moniak play down in Florida this summer. One called him a “Jackie Bradley/Andrew Benintendi type,” but with more functional speed on offense. Bold. The other one was a lefthanded AJ Pollock, a somewhat ironic comp (or not, I give up on knowing what that word really means anymore) because that was one of the ideas I threw out there for Benintendi in his draft year. Would you take that for a first overall pick? I think it’s an emphatic YES, caveats about the imperfect nature of comps and all expected developmental trials and tribulations acknowledged.

7. You can search the site for updated information — or just look below to see the final pre-draft notes piece I wrote about Moniak in June — but I thought it would be more interesting to look back at the first time I wrote about Moniak here. The following is from December 2015 just before the Moniak vs Blake Rutherford battles began…

The extra bit of youth isn’t what gives Moniak the edge for me, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. What separates Moniak at this present moment is his ability to hit the ball hard everywhere. Sometimes simplistic analysis works. The manner in which Moniak sprays line drives and deep flies to all fields resembles something a ten-year veteran who flirts with batting titles season after season does during BP. Trading off a little bit of Rutherford’s power for Moniak’s hit tool and approach (both in his mindfulness as a hitter and his plate discipline) are worth it for me. Of course, check back with me in a few months…I had Meadows ahead of Frazier for a long time before giving in to the latter’s arm, power, and approach (as a whole-fields power hitter, not necessarily as an OBP machine). History may yet repeat itself, but I’ll take Moniak for now.

8. It’s fun to imagine a future outfield in Philadelphia with Cornelius Randolph, Moniak, and Dylan Cozens (note: this is for entertainment purposes only and not a prediction as the Phillies are currently well-stocked with high-variance outfielders, so predicting which three will make it is damn near impossible at this point) where one outfielder (Cozens) stands to double up the combined power output of his outfield partners. I wonder how many times one outfielder had twice the total home runs of the other two starting outfielders in big league history. Probably more than I think. Barry Bonds hit 3.65 times as many homers as Calvin Murray and Armando Rios in 2001. It dips to around 2.5 times if you sub in Marvin Bernard for Murray. All of Bonds’s fellow outfielders (starter, backup, whatever) combined for 51 dingers that year. 73 for Bonds, 51 for all other Giants outfielders. That seems crazy to me. Turns out my hunch that it’s not all that rare to have one outfielder double up on two outfielders is correct, so feel free to email me about a full refund for the thirty seconds of reading you’ve just wasted. If you’re the curious type, you might be interested in my quick research focused on the best power season for outfielders on the all-time top ten home run list. Turns out every one of them doubled up their outfield mates at least once in their career. Hank Aaron did it in 1969 (44 HR to 21 HR), Babe Ruth did in 1927 (60 to 14), Mays did it in 1965 (52 to 13), Griffey did it in 1998 (56 to 27), and Sosa also did it in 1998 (66 to 33). Some of those figures are dependent on which player Baseball Reference deemed the starter at a position, but the general idea remains the same. Now obviously all of those players were literally the very best at hitting home runs in the history of the sport, so, yeah, keep that in mind as well. Wait, what were we talking about again? Right, Mickey Moniak…

9. Here’s the last thing I posted about the eventual first overall pick before the draft got rolling…

OF Mickey Moniak (La Costa Canyon HS, California): plus bat speed; legit plus hit tool; above-average to plus speed; pretty swing; average raw power; great approach; hits it everywhere; average arm; massive improvements to arm and bat this spring; ESPN comp: Trenton Clark; BA comp: Christian Yelich and Steve Finley; have heard Adam Eaton; really like Sam Monroy’s Joe Mauer swing comp; defense and hit tool make him a very good prospect, development of functional power and a more refined approach (with a great willingness to work deeper counts) could make him a star; FAVORITE; LHH; 6-2, 190 pounds

10. I made a non-public prediction last year via email to a pal that Cornelius Randolph would grow up to be the centerpiece of a trade to Oakland. The Phillies would land one of the final pieces needed in their return to glory, staff ace Sonny Gray. That prediction now seems…off. You might think that would discourage me from trading away another recent first round pick, but my deep love of making terrible roster predictions simply can not be stopped. So, here we go: the Angels will make Mike Trout available next offseason and, thanks in large part to his Philadelphia or bust request, Mickey Moniak becomes the big piece sent to the Angels to make it work.

2.42 – RHP Kevin Gowdy

A minor injury cost Kevin Gowdy (22) some time in his debut run as a professional, but his out-of-sight first few months in the organization should not diminish any of the excitement Phillies fans had for this guy back in early June. Gowdy is the real deal. The pre-draft report on him sums up why…

RHP Kevin Gowdy (Santa Barbara HS, California): 86-92 FB with sink, 94-95 peak; plus FB command; average 78-82 CU, above-average upside; well above-average 77-84 CB/SL, plus upside; ample deception; very good overall command; love his delivery; wise beyond his years on the mound, can look like a college pitcher mowing down overmatched competition on his best days; FAVORITE; 6-4, 170 pounds

In April, I went in on Gowdy a little bit in the comments…

Love Gowdy. Command, deception, and frame are all really promising. Puts his fastball where he wants it better than most of his college-aged peers. Velocity is good and breaking ball looks legit. And on top of all that, his delivery is a thing of beauty to me. I normally leave mechanics alone — don’t care what it looks long as long as the pitcher can repeat it consistently — but Gowdy’s stand out as being particularly efficient. I’m a big fan. Likely a top five prep pitcher in this class.

He wound up as my sixth overall high school pitching prospect in this class. Only Jay Groome, Riley Pint, Ian Anderson (a similar prospect to Gowdy in many ways), Braxton Garrett, and Alex Speas finished higher. Getting the sixth best high school pitching prospect in this class with the forty-second overall pick is a very good thing for Philadelphia. Whatever games they had to play with wink-wink signing bonus agreements was worth it. Gowdy has future postseason starter upside.

It’ll be fascinating to see where many of the experts rank Gowdy and Sixto Sanchez this offseason on Phillies lists. Franklyn Kilome is pretty obviously the best pitching prospect in the system — this felt obvious to me even before the Jake Thompson promotion, but what do I know — so the real battle will be for second place in the Philadephia pitching prospect pipeline pecking order. I think I might go full hypocrite and give Gowdy the edge based largely on the height/weight bias that I’ve tried to fight for years on this site. Sanchez has the bigger fastball (92-96, 99 peak), the more advanced present changeup (close call), and arguably the more impressive breaking ball (a POWER slider deserving of all CAPS that has been up to 92) at times. He also has the benefit of a season of dominant stateside ball in his back pocket. Gowdy gets the obvious edge in frame (6-4, 170ish), amateur pedigree (though it’s fair to ask how much this matters once pro games begin), fastball command, and mechanics (something I only point out in extreme cases…I think Gowdy’s delivery, in terms of both his ability to repeat it and the extra layer of deception it causes hitters to contend with, is that nice). I’d like to conclude that it’s ultimately a matter of preferring ceiling (Sanchez) or floor (Gowdy), but I think doing so undersells the other guy in each facet of his game. Assuming reasonably good health, Sanchez is a guy you can easily begin to dream on excelling in a late-inning relief role. Gowdy, meanwhile, is no slouch in the upside department; he’s a little bit light on velocity to perhaps think of him as a future ace, but believing in him as a future excellent number two doesn’t seem crazy to me. Maybe that’s the real conclusion here: both guys are potentially great, so let’s just enjoy the ride.

3.78 – SS Cole Stobbe

If you’re the type who values comps, then Cole Stobbe (152) is your man. Perfect Game dropped pre-draft comps of Jed Lowrie and Mark Ellis on him. I’ve always gotten a Brian Dozier vibe, though, to be fair, that was before 40-homer Brian Dozier came into our lives. Stobbe’s relatively high floor (for a HS hitter, anyway) fits a larger Phillies draft trend of selecting exactly this kind of player in 2016. Obviously Mickey Moniak got it started, but later picks like Stobbe and eleventh rounder Josh Stephen officially make the high character, advanced hit tool, well-rounded high school prospect a thing with the Phillies. Stobbe’s card is full of future five’s: hit tool, power, speed, and arm (maybe a touch more here) are all right around average tools. Many overlook the value of what an average tool really is; in Stobbe’s case, the idea of him being a well-rounded high floor prospect (again, relative to his teenage peers) sells his actual ceiling short. There’s a reason that Stobbe’s game elicited comparisons to so many above-average big league infielders. He brings an unusually mature whole-field approach to the table and a great deal of strength is packed into his 6-1, 200 pound frame. His intriguing defensive skill set makes him playable at short for now, but I see him as being particularly interesting at either third or second, my preferred long-term destination for him. Depending on where you slot him on the diamond, he’s either the best (3B) or second-best (SS behind JP Crawford, 2B behind Scott Kingery) prospect at that position in the system.

4.107 – LHP JoJo Romero

The Phillies won big betting on Yavapai Roughrider Kenny Giles in the seventh round in 2011. They’ve gone back to the well in selecting JoJo Romero (316) in 2016. The two young pitchers are about as different as can be. Romero is a highly athletic lefthander who gets by with a pair of average offspeed pitches (slider and change) that can flash better when his back is against the wall. His fastball velocity doesn’t quite reach the same heights as “100 Miles Giles,” but it’s average to above-average (88-92, 94 peak) for a lefty with his build. I didn’t have Romero as a fourth round value on my personal board (saw him more as a potential slightly overslot eleventh round type), but the logic behind the pick is sound. Romero has the stuff, pitchability, and track record to suggest he can continue to start as a professional. Whether he eventually has to shift to the pen or not remains to be seen, but I’m coming around to liking his chances to fulfill his back of the rotation destiny.

Romero’s long-term prospects are one thing, but I’m just as intrigued about his 2017 assignment. It’s easy to mentally pair him with Cole Irvin — “college” lefties with fairly similar stuff selected in back-to-back rounds (same bonus!) who both started together in Williamsport — but that ignores the fact that Romero is a whopping 2.5 years younger than Irvin. Pushing him to Clearwater would be exciting, but it seems more likely he’ll get treated more like a high school draftee and begin at Lakewood. Although, even that could pose a problem. Simply put, something has to give when it comes to the Phillies low-minors pitching surplus. By my preliminary count, there are 21 potential starting pitching options ready for full-season ball that will need to find a way to share ten to twelve potential rotation openings to start the year. Clearwater (High-A) could have Franklyn Kilome, Alberto Tirado, Drew Anderson, Cole Irvin, Shane Watson, Jose Taveras, Harold Arauz, Tyler Gilbert, and Luke Leftwich. Lakewood (Low-A) is even more loaded. They’ll have to find homes for names like Sixto Sanchez, Kevin Gowdy, Adonis Medina, Edgar Garcia, Bailey Falter, Seranthony Dominguez, Nick Fanti, Mauricio Llovera, Julian Garcia, Ranger Suarez, and Felix Paulino. I don’t think this is pie-in-the-sky local guy optimism, either. All of these names are legitimate prospects, though admittedly some at the back end of each list might be best served switching to relief down the line.

Even if they get aggressive with some of the Clearwater guys (Anderson, Watson, and Tirado?), there’s no real clear place to put them yet in AA where Tyler Viza, Thomas Eshelman, and Elniery Garcia, among others, are set to begin the year. The bullpen is always an option for some, as is being left behind in extended for some of the younger arms (a less than ideal solution to be sure), but this pile-up is real. So squeezing Romero into either rotation is going to be a challenge. His stuff and draft pedigree make it extremely likely (99%, give or take) that they’ll find a way, but I couldn’t tell you at which pitcher’s expense. Too many prospects for the Phillies…who would have ever thought?

5.137 – LHP Cole Irvin

Cole Irvin (289) does a lot of things well but no one thing exceptionally well. Players of this ilk are often undervalued on draft day — I’ve certainly been guilty of underrating them in the past, though I’m not sure that’s necessarily something to amend going forward — but the Phillies obviously liked what they saw out of the Oregon lefthander enough to pop him in the fifth round. As much as I personally like to see a knockout pitch (or exceptional command or athleticism or performance indicators), I can at least see the merit of taking a well-rounded veteran arm like Irvin. We’ve seen a lot of guys with similar scouting profiles wind up as better big league players than minor league prospects due in large part to making their “jack of all trades, master of none” tag obsolete through hard work, the right coaching, and unlocked physical gifts. If you can be a “jack of all trades, master of one” pitcher, then you’ve got a chance to outplay expectations at every turn.

Maybe that’ll be Irvin. Maybe not. His debut was certainly encouraging. In fact, it brought to mind a decent little organizational comp. To the numbers…

7.21 K/9 and 2.35 BB/9 in 53.2 IP (2.01 ERA)
7.29 K/9 and 1.58 BB/9 in 45.2 IP (1.97 ERA)

Adam Morgan’s debut is on top, Irvin’s debut is on bottom. Morgan was the 120th pick in the draft. Irvin was selected with pick 137. If we take the comparison to the next logical step, it’s worth noting that Morgan made a very successful double-jump to Clearwater in his first full season. I think there’s little chance Morgan doesn’t start next season with the Threshers as well.

Here’s a quick take on Irvin from April 2016 that gets to the heart of what kind of pitcher I think he’ll be…

Krook’s teammate with the Ducks, Cole Irvin, has seen his stuff rebound this year close to his own pre-TJ surgery levels. I was off Irvin early last season when he was more upper-80s with a loopy curve, but he is now capable of getting it back up to 92 (still sits 85-90) with a sharper upper-70s slider that complements his firmer than before curve and consistently excellent 78-81 change. It’s back of the rotation type starter stuff if it continues to come back.

6.167 – OF David Martinelli

David Martinelli (216) got off to a surprisingly slow start to his pro career, but that doesn’t obscure the fact that he’s one of this draft’s finer mid-tier (18th at the position here) college outfield prospects. His scouting blurb on this site said this about his game: “shows all five tools as consistently as almost any college hitter in this class.” Now that’s a fairly bold claim — albeit one with a key qualifier snuck in there — but it speaks to Martinelli’s extremely well-rounded game. Athletically, he checks every box with four of the five tools consistently showing at least average or better. His lone underwhelming tool has been his raw hit tool. Fortunately, he’s made some very encouraging progress in the batter’s box over the years: his BB/K ratios have moved from 28/59 to 22/67 to 24/30 from freshman to sophomore to junior year. If those gains can be maintained and he can keep up his brand of hard contact at the next level, Martinelli could have a long, fruitful career as a fourth outfielder.

Also, his name makes me want apple juice. So that’s reason enough to root for him.

Final tangential thought that can be skipped if you’re more into learning about what players the Phillies drafted than whatever it is we’ll categorize this as: Martinelli is the first of three Dallas Baptist Patriots selected by the Phillies in this draft. It seems that taking multiple players from the same school is something done by just about every team at some point in every draft. Logically, it makes sense: good teams have good players that are covered more frequently than other less good teams with less good players. I won’t dispute any of that. However, it does get me a little bit curious about the actual amount of canvassing that goes on by big league clubs tasked with covering as much ground as possible. My weird analogy for this takes us to Hollywood. I find acting silly. It’s pretending to be somebody else, something I considered a lot of fun when I was four but quickly grew out of. I can still enjoy a great performance, so maybe I’m just a big old hypocrite but I generally don’t respect the profession. One of the many gripes about acting is how actors are chosen for given roles. Nine times out of ten, it’s more about getting the right “look” rather than finding the “best” actor. That’s why I like sports: they might not perfect, but they represent the closest thing to a meritocracy in our present day society. If you’re good, you play. Anyway, Hollywood doesn’t feel the same way to me. Consider the top twenty most famous actors in the world. How many would you consider great at what they do? How many would actually rank in the top twenty solely on merit? Take somebody like Scarlett Johansson. Or a Gerard Butler. You really mean to tell me that they are two of the very best actors in a world of over seven billion people? There’s no way. They had the opportunity and the look, they took advantage of an opportunity (fair or not), and they let inertia do the rest. I’m very confident when I’m watching Major League Baseball that I’m watching 750 of the very best people on the planet doing their thing. Can’t feel the same way about TV or movies.

All of this gets us back to the idea of how odd spending 7.5% of your draft on players from one university comes across. I like Martinelli. I like Darick Hall. I like the unsigned Camden Duzenack. I have no problem with each individual pick. I understand the reality (good players, good team, trust in area scout, more frequent looks, etc.) that led the Phillies to tripling up at a school, too. However, I find it hard to believe that they deemed Martinelli, Hall, and Duzenack three of their forty favorite realistic targets in this draft. It’s just a little bit of a wake-up call to counter those who often speak about how infallible pro teams are in their amateur scouting process. Teams have tons of information at their disposal, but it is a a finite amount. There are limits to what they can possibly cover and sometimes shortcuts are taken. This isn’t a knock on the Phillies (or every other MLB team that does the same thing), but rather a tiny attempt to chip away at the long-standing logical fallacy that bogs down many conversations about sports. So many rush to appeal to authority when it comes to any sports-related disagreement — if the pro team thinks so, then it must be true — instead of trying to understand individual situations on a deeper level. Pro teams know a lot, obviously, but if you’re only argument to defend a specific move is “well, they must know what they are doing…” then maybe it’s all right to wonder if they actually do know in this singular instance. Nobody likes the smug know-it-all sports analyst who insists at every turn that he or she is more qualified to run a team than those who actually do so. But those who defend pro teams on the basis of “well, THEY are the professionals so they are automatically smarter, cooler, and handsomer than you nerds who dare question them” need to chill out, too.

Anyway, since I feel guilty my tangent is longer than the actual Martinelli content above, here’s a quick note on him from March 2016…

David Martinelli is another quality Dallas Baptist outfielder who has shown all five tools and plenty of athleticism. His power has always been the main draw, but his improved approach makes him even more appealing. I’m in on Martinelli.

Nice pick.

7.197 – C Henri Lartigue

Criticizing a team’s selections in the MLB Draft is a tricky thing. Scouting amateur talent is a challenging endeavor, and one that ultimately generates more opinions about more players than any rational human being could ever effectively process. This country (plus Canada and Puerto Rico!) is just too big to have a strong opinion about every draft-worthy player, yet that’s exactly what weirdos like me set out to do. I don’t think it’s wrong to at least try to have some general feelings about as many players as possible, so long as one understands the limitations inherent in the process. This is a long way of saying that I wasn’t all that enamored with the Philadelphia Phillies seventh round pick. Lartigue is fine — he’s a good athlete for the position with a strong arm and some power upside who’s better days could very well be ahead of him — but he was the 29th ranked college catcher on my board for a reason. Tyler Lawrence, Michael Tinsley, Gavin Stupienski, Jack Kruger, and Tyler Lancaster, among others, would have been my preferred choice. Heck, even Keith Skinner and his $10,000 price tag might have been the better option.

That said, I don’t think it was a “bad” pick. I don’t think Lartigue is a “bad” prospect. It’s not what I would have done based on what I’ve seen, heard, and read, but, let’s be real, that doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of things. Firm opinions on seventh round picks are part of what make following the draft fun (if you can’t have an opinion, then what’s the point of all this, right?), but unflinching priggish opinions are a bummer. Acceptance that different sets of eyes can see two entirely different futures for a young ballplayer is a freeing thing. Maybe I’m right. Maybe the Phillies, a team with far more combined resources, brain power, and experience than myself are right. Maybe the very idea of “right” is off the mark here; the blurred lines between a singular amateur evaluation and all subsequent professional development muddle the process/results matrix a great deal. As a native Philadelphian and a fan of literally all draft prospects, I hope it works out for the Phillies and Lartigue.

8.227 – RHP Grant Dyer

I like the pick of Grant Dyer a lot and not just because of a pro debut as good as any reliever in this class. Dyer checks a lot of college draft sleeper boxes that are often overlooked (I speak from experience here) when trying to find a college draft sleeper: early contributor (69 IP as freshman), lots of big game experience (UCLA is pretty good, I’ve heard), and, most interesting to me, a draft year shift in role that benefited the team but not the player’s pro prospects. Dyer’s stuff took a predictably dip in 2016 as he was asked to do more than he’d ever done before by pitching out of the rotation rather than the bullpen. This turned some short-sighted thinkers off from him — I’ll note that he wasn’t ranked in my top 500, so feel free to do with that what you may — but those, like the Phillies front office, who stuck with him look pretty smart after his sterling debut back in his comfortable relief role. Dyer’s stuff jumps from 88-92 as a starter to 92-94 in relief (up to 95) with an outstanding curve (flashes plus) holding up no matter how he’s used. I thought his mid-80s changeup had a chance to develop into a pretty nice third pitch with continued use, but the firmness of the pitch combined with his diminished velocity as a starter caused him to more or less scrap it at UCLA. Changeup or not, Dyer’s 1-2 punch of two above-average pitches and impressive command should be his ticket to a long, successful career of middle relief.

9.257 – RHP Blake Quinn

I write these out of order for some reason and the Trevor Bettencourt pick has already been written, so feel free to scan down a little bit and read that one as a reasonable substitute for what I think about Blake Quinn. Both guys have missed bats in the past (9.32 K/9 for Quinn in 2016 at Cal State Fullerton), both guys have gone from one good baseball school to another (Quinn started at Fresno State), both guys sat out the 2015 season, both guys have had their bouts of wildness (4.32 BB/9 for Quinn this past college year), and both are fastball-leaning relief arms. Quinn was taken sixteen rounds ahead of Bettencourt for some good reasons — better stuff, better body (6-5, 210), longer track record — but the two are closer than that gap might suggest.

10.287 – RHP Julian Garcia

I knew very little about Julian Garcia before the draft, so learning more about him in the months that followed has been a lot of fun. I’m in on this guy. Garcia has a starter’s repertoire and a history of backing it up on the mound. My only concern about him at this point is finding him innings in the Phillies crowded low minors. Very slick pick in the tenth round.

11.317 – OF Josh Stephen

I don’t know what to make of Josh Stephen (182), one of the 2016 MLB Draft’s most divisive prospects. Those who like him point to his above-average or better speed, mature approach at the plate, burgeoning lefthanded pop, and solid chance to remain a center fielder over the long haul. Those who are more bearish on him paint him as more of a future reserve outfielder good enough to hang in center only occasionally with not quite the kind of all-around offensive game (average speed, power, and on-base skills) to make it in a corner. Most, however, do agree that Stephen can really hit. I’ve had more than one contact tell me he’s a future .300 hitter in the big leagues. If that’s the case, almost all of that other stuff won’t matter beyond being icing on the cake; a .300 hitter in a corner with modest power and speed is still pretty damn useful. If you’re a believer in the rest of his game coming through, then an above-average regular with sneaky star upside isn’t out of the question.

12.347 – RHP Justin Miller

Coincidental or not, the Phillies selection of Justin Miller is the first of a back-to-back run on high school pitchers out of California with only junior college commitments keeping them from the pros. Miller has an upper-80s fastball that has gotten better over the years, plus a 6-4, 180 pound frame; both of those things suggest more growth to come, at least potentially. He’s a long way away and a long shot even if things break right, but a worthwhile shot in round twelve.

13.377 – RHP Andrew Brown

Andrew Brown is a little bit of a post-tenth round $100,000 bonus prep pitching oddity in that he’s got more present stuff than long-term projection. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is somewhat unusual. Look no further than the pick directly above this one for a small slice of evidence. We spend so much time talking up teenage arms with physical upside remaining (with good reason, I should add; scouting and development is all about playing the long game) that the guys with more of the “now” stuff can get overlooked. That’s part of my rationale for personally overlooking Brown before the draft. Now that I am looking at him, I see a fairly generic (a term many assume is a slight, but not necessarily so) righthanded pitching prospect — his present 88-92 fastball MPH band is by far the most common in my scouting notes — with average or slightly below height, some room to fill out his 180 pound frame, and underdeveloped yet playable secondary stuff. The good news for Brown is that the opportunity is going to be there, at least in the short-term. International prospects and 2017 draftees will make the short-season leagues a lot more crowded next summer than they currently look now, but it still has to be nice for some of the youngest prospects in the system to see very little in their way presently at the GCL and New York-Penn League levels. Innings will be there for Brown, Kyle Young, and Justin Miller for the taking.

14.407 – 1B Darick Hall

I really like Philadelphia’s selection of Darick Hall (219) in the fourteenth round. It might be asking for too much, but a breakout at Lakewood a la Rhys Hoskins in early 2015 is within the realm of possibility for the former Dallas Baptist two-way star. Hoskins kept it going at Clearwater later that season and then cemented his status as a “real” prospect in Reading this year, so the bar for Hall is high but not completely unreachable. For entertainment purposes only, here’s what Hall (top) and Hoskins (bottom) did as college juniors…

.298/.417/.615 with 30 BB/49 K in 218 AB
.319/.428/.573 with 39 BB/31 K in 213 AB

Hall gets the slight edge in power (plus raw), though the Hoskins of today would surely give that a run for its money. I’m inclined to give Hoskins the edge as a hitter, but it’s really close. Approach is a win for Hoskins, but with the caveat that the move away from the mound could help Hall see some gains in this area. On balance, I like the Hoskins of 2014 a little more than I do Hall today, but it’s close enough that the wishful thinking that Hall can be one of baseball’s next under-the-radar first base prospects feels warranted.

16.467 – C Brett Barbier

If Brett Barbier can catch, he’s worth following. If he can hang in the outfield, he’s still fairly intriguing. If he’s a first baseman, he’ll need to find an extra offensive gear to keep climbing the ladder. The reports I have on his glove behind the dish are mixed, so we’ll have to wait and see what his defensive future holds. I do like his bat, wherever he winds up. He’s a little like Danny Zardon in that his most realistic outcome is as an organizational player capable of playing a variety of spots while piling up big hits to help his minor league clubs win games. You need guys like that.

17.497 – 3B Danny Zardon

My preliminary notes on Danny Zardon (457) after his first professional season wrapped up: “great debut, wish he did it in Williamsport.” With a few more days to reflect on his year, I’d say…well, pretty much the same thing. Zardon’s tools (average power and speed, solid glove with an above-average arm), pedigree (one-time LSU recruit), and junior year performance (.318/.420/.613 with 39 BB/45 K in 217 AB at Nova Southeastern) add up to make him far more interesting than your typical seventeenth round selection. There’s a chance he makes it as a bat-first utility infielder and a smaller chance he keeps hitting enough to be a league average starting third baseman. If neither upside is ultimately reached, he should still serve a very useful purpose as a quintessential minor league “professional hitter” capable of filling in at multiple spots on the diamond.

18.527 – RHP Jake Kelzer

The run on righthanded relievers started very strong for the Phillies with the selection of Jake Kelzer (175) in the eighteenth round. My very aggressive pre-draft ranking (sixth round equivalency) speaks to what I believe is major upside as a reliever. Beware the too tall pitcher, they say. It took me too long, but I’ve finally listened. Big guys jump out at you in person, on the tube, and on the listed roster, but the track record for pitchers over 6-6 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That’s all based on observation and not data, so feel free to dismiss those conclusions if you like. Tall pitchers tend to have more difficulty coordinating their bodies and uncoordinated bodies tend to have command issues. It’s practically science, right? Beware the too tall pitcher.

But this time it’ll be different! In all seriousness, Kelzer is such a great athlete that many of the concerns associated with too tall pitchers are less likely to come into play. Apparently I’ve been banging this drum for a while…

March 2015

Kelzer is the rare big pitcher (6-8, 235) with the fluidity and athleticism in his movements as a smaller man. I’ve yet to hear/see of a true offspeed pitch of note (he’s got the good hard slider and a promising slower curve), but something a touch softer (change, splitter) would be nice.

April 2016

Jake Kelzer is an incredible athlete who just so happens to be 6-8, 235 pounds. Those two things alone are cool, but together are really damn exciting. Enough of a fastball (88-92, 94 peak…but could play up in shorter bursts) and a nasty hard slider (87-88) give him a chance to be a quick-moving reliever, but the overall package could be worth trying as a starter first.

I don’t know if the Phillies plan to try Kelzer as a starter. Doing the math on their current starting pitching, I think it’s probably doubtful. A pessimist would be bummed at this likely development, but I’ll choose to look on the bright side and champion Kelzer as a potential surprisingly swift mover through the system as a reliever. My pre-draft infatuation with him looks a bit silly in hindsight, but a quality reliever is a quality reliever.

19.557 – RHP Will Hibbs

From one tall rightander to another, the Phillies go from Jake Kelzer to Will Hibbs. The Lamar product stands in at 6-7, 235 pounds — a whole inch shorter than Kelzer, so he’s basically tiny, right? — with a solid heater (88-93), better than expected change, and a pair of usable breaking balls. His senior year was strong (9.07 K/9 and 2.73 BB/9 in 96.IP of 3.27 ERA ball) and his pro debut kept it going. This is about all you can ask for in a nineteenth round middle relief prospect.

20.587 – 1B Caleb Eldridge

Caleb Eldrige, a big first baseman from Cowley County CC (via Oklahoma State), has the power you’d hope for in a 6-4, 235 pound human with more speed than you’d expect. Copious amounts of swing-and-miss keep him from being much more than a lottery ticket, but power is always worth gambling on.

21.617 – LHP Jonathan Hennigan

I wouldn’t call any of the late-round lefthanders signed by the Phillies better than top five round selections JoJo Romero and Cole Irvin, but I think it’s fair to say they are more intriguing on the whole. Kyle Young (6-10), Alexander Kline (6-5), and Jonathan Hennigan (6-4) all have enough height to be Sixers. Hennigan’s frame (6-4, 180 with room to fill out), present fastball (88-92), and ever-improving breaking ball make him a particularly worthwhile mid-round get. My semi-bold prediction for the Hennigan-Young-Kline triumvirate: two of the three will pitch in the big leagues one day.

22.647 – LHP Kyle Young

A 6-10, 220 pound overslot lefthander who already lives 87-91 with impressive athleticism, repeatable mechanics, and unusually strong early control (2 BB in 27 IP)? Consider my interest sufficiently piqued.

24.707 – RHP Tyler Hallead

The Phillies have liked guys from College of Southern Nevada in the past. That’s all I’ve got to explain the otherwise underwhelming Tyler Hallead pick.

25.737 – RHP Trevor Bettencourt

The well-traveled Trevor Bettencourt — UC Santa Barbara by way of Tennessee — is your fairly typical low-90s reliever capable of cranking it a little bit higher than that in big moments. His final college year showed the kind of impressive strikeout rate (9.66 K/9) and questionable control (5.21 BB/9) that have been a part of his up-and-down college career going back to 2013. A long shot reliever like this is fine in the twenty-fifth round.

26.767 – OF Tyler Kent

Tyler Kent retired after hitting .333/.333/.444 in 9 PA. If you’re going to go out, that’s not a bad way to do it. Get a little bonus, play in a couple games, knock two singles and a double, and leave on a high note. He now has something interesting to point to on future résumés and a fun bar story.

28.827 – RHP Jordan Kurokawa

His last name makes me think of this. That’s something, I guess.

29.857 – LHP Alexander Kline

I didn’t have anything on Alexander Kline, the big lefty from Nova Southeastern (same school as Danny Zardon, FWIW), before the draft. Between June and right this very second, however, public reports on his velocity have trickled in and almost all are positive. Getting ai power-armed lefthanded big league reliever, as many I’ve checked in with see Kline developing into, in the twenty-ninth round would be a coup.

31.917 – RHP Tyler Frohwirth

23-year-old righthander Tyler Frohwirth had ten saves in his debut season in the Gulf Coast League. If you can figure out the good and the bad found in that sentence, then you know a little something something about prospecting. I’m personally still scratching my head a bit about what the Phillies could have seen out of an overaged college reliever with a career 6.75 K/9 and 4.50 ERA in 32.0 career innings at Minnesota State. I’m hoping they saw something special in his funky delivery and didn’t burn a thirty-first round pick on a legacy guy — father Todd was a thirteenth round pick of the Phillies in 1984 — but I suppose only time will tell. Between Frohwirth and Alex Wojciechowski, really great year for the area guy in Minnesota, though.

32.947 – C Daniel Garner

Big power, big arm. That’s the short version of Daniel Garner’s game. Interesting (or not), one-time Mississippi State Bulldog Garner is the second Phillies draft pick that transferred out of an SEC school.

34.1007 – OF Luke Maglich

Luke Maglich has too much swing-and-miss for me, but his size, power, and arm strength give him some universal appeal. He’s about as long as any of the late-round long shots signed by the Phillies this year.

For fun, here’s a Phillies top thirty with 2016 draftees showing up in bold…

  1. SS JP Crawford
  2. OF Mickey Moniak
  3. C Jorge Alfaro
  4. OF Dylan Cozens
  5. OF Roman Quinn
  6. 1B Rhys Hoskins
  7. SP Franklyn Kilome
  8. OF Jhailyn Ortiz
  9. OF Cornelius Randolph
  10. 2B Scott Kingery
  11. SP Sixto Sanchez
  12. SP Kevin Gowdy
  13. OF Nick Williams
  14. SS Cole Stobbe
  15. SP Nick Pivetta
  16. C Deivi Grullon
  17. C Andrew Knapp
  18. SP Drew Anderson
  19. OF Andrew Pullin
  20. SP Bailey Falter
  21. SP Alberto Tirado
  22. SP Edgar Garcia
  23. OF Josh Stephen
  24. SP Elniery Garcia
  25. SP Mark Appel
  26. SP Ricardo Pinto
  27. SP Adonis Medina
  28. SP Thomas Eshelman
  29. OF Jose Pujols
  30. SS Jonathan Guzman

Just missing the cut were names like Cole Irvin, Arquimedes Gamboa, Victor Arano, Ben Lively, Tyler Viza, Jose Taveras, David Martinelli, and JoJo Romero. What the system might lack for sure-thing future stars it makes it up in crazy depth. I’ll take it.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Alex Wojciechowski (FA), Carter Bins (Fresno State), Dante Baldelli (Boston College), Trevor Hillhouse (Auburn), Logan Davidson (Clemson), Trey Morris (TCU), James Ziemba (Duke), Mac Sceroler (Southeastern Louisiana), Jack Klein (Stanford), Davis Agle (Spartanburg Methodist CC)

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