Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Friday, June 06, 2008

2008 Draft Recap: Day One 

The 2008 MLB Draft began yesterday afternoon with the Tampa Bay Rays taking shortstop Tim Beckham with the #1 Overall Pick, perhaps the last time the Rays will be in that position for a long time. The Phillies were busy with nine picks in the first six rounds. Here are a few thoughts:

In a draft that was deep on corner infielders and catcher prospects, as well as college players, the Phillies weren't afraid to be different. Their first four picks and six of their first seven, were high school players. The Phillies first three picks were high school players projected as outfielders. The Phillies chose:

1. Anthony Hewitt (SS/OF) - Salisbury, High School
1A. Zach Collier (OF) - Chino Hills High School
2. Anthony Grose (OF) - Bellflower High School
2. Jason Knapp (RHP) - North Hunterdon High School
3. Vance Worley (RHP) - Long Beach State College
3A. Jonathan Pettibone (RHP) - Esperanza High School
4. Trevor May (RHP) - Kelso High School
5. Jeremy Hamilton (1B) - Wright State
6. Colby Shreve (RHP) - Southern Nevada Community College

Obviously your attention is drawn to Hewitt and Collier, a pair of talented outfielders with a lot of raw tools who are anywhere from 4-6 years of development away from the major leagues. I wouldn't expect to see them crack the Phillies lineup until 2013 or so at the earliest. But both players are interesting picks in that they break with the Phillies recent focus on pitching and they also buck the trend in baseball towards drafting MLB-ready college kids who could crack lineups by 2010. The Phillies took two guys with a lot of raw talent who could anchor the Phillies outfield in the future. Hewitt looks like a future compliment to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup as a #5 hitter, while Collier looks like a future #2 hitter who has been compared with the Angels Garrett Anderson.

It is interesting to me that the Phillies were able to snare the two guys they really wanted, Hewitt and Collier, after it looked like the team might have to choose between them. Keith Law of ESPN thought that Collier was going to slide to the Minnesota Twins at #27, but then Collier slid out of the first round and fell to them in the supplemental first round. The focus, especially from small market teams, on college-ish MLB-ready talent really might pay dividends as the Phillies secured a pair of first-round guys who probably would have gone much higher in the draft in previous years.

According to Baseball America, second-round pick Jason Knapp had an outstanding outwork with the team and the Phillies considered taking him in the Supplemental First Round at #34, but he fell to them in the second round at #71. What impresses me about Knapp is his size: six-foot-five, 215 lbs, which hopefully means that his fastball will come screaming down on hitters like Randy Johnson. Knapp and fellow-second rounder Anthony Grose are raw talents like Collier and Hewitt, which means that the Phillies are going to have a lot of work ahead of them in terms of talent development, but nearly all of these players are guys rated by the talent experts as having big upsides. Grose looks like a lead-off guy with a lot of speed and terrific defensive abilities. Some have compared him to the Dodgers Juan Pierre.

Starting with Knapp, the Phillies took four pitchers with their next five picks. The one who really interests me is May, a Washington State High Schooler who apparently has a fastball clocked in the high-90s and a devastating knuckle-curveball. Can the Phillies keep him from attending Washington State University?

-Generally I thought this was a very good draft for the Phillies. If their first four picks turn out well, the farm system could be dramatically restocked. This is a risky draft which could lay the foundations for great things in 2013-2014, or it could be a disaster and a wasted opportunity. We'll see.

Look for the Phillies to stock up on some mid-level pitchers today and a few project-type players. I think you'll see the Phillies take some catchers and middle infielders in the mid-level rounds today ....

-I thought ESPN's coverage of the Draft was pretty good but there was too much filler at the end and the failure to cover beyond the first round and supplemental first round left an incomplete picture to the viewer. In the future I'd like to see ESPN try and expand their coverage, perhaps starting the first round earlier in the day than two o'clock and following into the second and third rounds.

ESPN's panel was good - any panel featuring Peter Gammons is going to be good - but I would have liked to have seen more of Baseball America's Jim Callis or ESPN's Keith Law. Chris Singleton did a nice job as the token player giving the draftee's perspective on the system amidst the pundits, but he seemed like he had big stretches of time where he had nothing to say. One of the reasons why the NFL Draft does so well is because Mel Kiper, Jr., is there on Draft Day to deliver the definitive word on who this guy from Central Appalachian State is. I would like to see Law, a knowledgeable and articulate presence, on the panel as the expert on all things talent.

-Ed Wade and the Astros earned scorn for taking catcher Jason Castro with the #10 pick. I hope Wade knows what he's doing.

-The Pirates decision to take Pedro Alvarez is a real watershed moment for the Pirates. Either the team has helped itself by laying the foundation for future success - Alvarez has been compared to Manny Ramirez and is the powerful RBI-machine that the Pirates badly need in the middle of their lineup - or they have just doomed themselves to disaster. A year removed from a draft that earned them scorn for ducking on taking a Scott Boras client because of signability issues, they stepped up to the plate and took Alvarez, a major talent who also has Boras negotiating on his behalf. Also given that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is Boras former nemesis ... well, this is a big moment for the Pirates. They need to sign Alvarez and they have little leverage in these negotiations. They are a small-market team that needs to develop talent quickly. This will be interesting ...

Oh yeah, the Phillies played some baseball yesterday, wrapping up a four-game series with the Reds with their third win, a 5-0 shutout by Cole Hamels. The big moment in the game was Manager Charlie Manuel's decision to bench 2007 N.L. MVP Jimmy Rollins for failing to run out a pop fly that turned into a single after a silly little-league-type error by the Reds. It was a gutsy decision which could have blown up on everyone had Rollins reacted badly. Instead, the message was received by Rollins and he took it with a lot of dignity. Manuel's hold on the clubhouse was secure and Rollins displayed a lot of humility and maturity in accepting responsibility and putting team harmony first. This is the kind of moment that separates championship teams from also-rans.

The Phillies went 8-2 on their homestand and sit two and a half games in first heading into a road trip with the Atlanta Braves. More later on today ...

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I didn't see the play live of Rollins pop up that was supposed to be an easy out but dropped.

I did tune into to Phillies website and saw the play. I say Manuel was wrong to do that to the reigning NL MVP, he deserves a lot more respect than that.

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