The annual Major League Draft has come and gone and like all teams, the Phillies have stockpiled young talent that they must now mold into contributing pieces. Some will go on to become Hall Of Famers, All-Stars, everyday players and starting pitchers, bench guys and bullpen relief, others will be used as trade pieces down the road, while most will never make it out of the minors. The casual fan has never heard of these players, and probably will never hear of most of them. For those of us that enjoy following the minor leagues, it will be fun to track their progress and debate where they fit in on the organization’s list of top prospects.
By most accounts, the Phillies seem to have done pretty well for themselves. Obviously, we won’t know the true effect of this draft class for years, but the preliminary marks are pretty promising. ESPN’s Keith Law has called the top of the Phillies’ draft “my favorite top five picks of any draft class in the NL”. Baseball America’s Top 250 prospects list for this draft includes 8 players drafted by the Phils, including 7 of the top 150. The Phillies have been criticized in the past for drafting athletes that weren’t actually baseball players, but had one or two projectable skills. This year, they are receiving a lot more credit for drafting kids that not only show tools, but fundamental baseball skills as well.
Here are a few names to dream on, maybe someday they’ll be wearing red pinstripes:
J.P. Crawford, SS, Lakewood (CA) HS – Crawford is the first guy I mentioned in last week’s post on possible draftees, and he was a guy a lot of people thought the Phillies might take if he fell to the 16th pick. He did, and the Phillies pounced. Crawford is listed at #16 on Baseball America’s 2013 Draft Prospect List. He has talent in his bloodlines (Dodgers OF Carl Crawford is his cousin), a good arm, good speed, and is known for his defensive prowess. As I mentioned last week, his primary selling point is that he will definitely stick at shortstop. The bat will need some work, but if he becomes even an average hitter, he will provide a lot of value.
Andrew Knapp, C, University of California-Berkeley – The early word on Knapp is that he is being looked at as a money-saving pick, meaning he’ll sign either at his slot figure or below it. Each team has a figure designated by MLB that they can spend on their first 10 picks, so these teams will occasionally pick a player that will sign below slot so they can spend more to get a talented player out of a prior commitment such as a college scholarship. While this appears to be the case with Knapp, he is listed at #70 on Baseball America’s list, so it’s not like he’s a stiff. He’s played all over the field, but settled in at catcher this season, earning all-Pac 12 1st Team honors while hitting .350. He needs a little work defensively, and could be a candidate to move from behind the plate since the Phillies have pretty good depth at catcher in their system.
Cord Sandberg, OF, Manatee (FL) HS – Guys like this are why guys like Knapp are taken as under-slot picks. The Phillies have been receiving a lot of pats on the back for this pick. Sandberg is a two-sport star who only fell to the third round because he was thought to be a tough sign. Not only did the Phillies draft him, they’ve already signed him, getting Sandberg to walk away from his scholarship to play QB at Mississippi State with a $775,000 signing bonus. He is listed at #40 on Baseball America’s list and at 6’3” and 215 pounds, he has the physical tools that scouts dream about. I’ve read that this is a high-risk, high-reward pick and that if he pans out, he could end up as one of the best players to come out of this draft.
Jan Hernandez, 3B/SS, Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico) – This is another boom or bust pick, but unlike Sandberg, it appears that Hernandez should be an easy sign for slot since it doesn’t look like he has a current college commitment. Hernandez comes in at #131 on the Baseball America list and projects to have the ability to hit for both good power and average. He’ll likely move over to third base, and has the defensive skills to be above-average there. He is considered a slight reach at where they picked him, but other than his lack of speed, I haven’t seen too many negative remarks on his game.
Jake Sweaney, C, Garces (CA) HS – The Phillies take another catcher relatively early to add to a system that already features Tommy Joseph, Sebastian Valle, Cameron Rupp, Gabriel Lino, Chace Numata, and Knapp. I have to believe they’ll let Knapp and Sweaney work at catcher until they prove they can’t hack it defensively, which could end up happening in both cases. ESPN’s scouting guru Law is high on Sweaney (#115 on the Baseball America list), calling him one of his favorite sleepers for the third round. Sweaney ended up going in the 4th round. He is a work in progress behind the plate, but shows some offensive upside.
The two other draftees that showed up in BA’s top 150 are Cavan Biggio (#66) and Joey Martarano (#147), who are both expected to go to college rather than sign with the Phils. Biggio (son of Astros’ great Craig Biggio) is headed to Notre Dame while Martarano will probably be playing linebacker for Boise State. Martarano has at least a shot to sign as long as the Phillies agree to let him focus on football and play baseball when football is out of season.
It’s important to note that not all of the players I mentioned above will reach the majors despite the positive early reviews. In fact, perhaps none of them will. By that same token, some of the players taken later in the draft (40 rounds overall!!!) might surprise and contribute to the big club someday. Domonic Brown was taken in the 20th round of the 2006 draft. This is all a means to say that we’re at the beginning of a very long road with these kids.
It may be a little strange for one blog to advertise another, but I’m going to show phuturephillies.com a little love here. They are a wonderful resource if you’re looking to follow the Phillies of tomorrow a little more closely. Let’s hope that as Phillies fans, we’re all witnessing the beginning of some great careers.