"I think people take it for granted for several different reasons, but it is so important," said Marti Wolever, the Phillies' director of scouting. "You have to be focused all the way through because you can acquire players who will shape the club that you become."
A look at the Phillies' current 25-man roster illuminates the value of the draft.
Start with the core.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley, and first baseman Ryan Howard, the foundation for the team's current run of success, were all draft picks. Rollins was a second-rounder in 1996, Utley a first-rounder in 2000, and Howard a fifth-rounder in 2001.
Domonic Brown is in the process of getting his first real chance to prove he is worthy of being the team's everyday rightfielder, and he would be considered a rare 20th-round gem if he does so.
Wolever admitted that as a scout there is a real sense of gratification when you hit on somebody taken that low in the draft.
Cole Hamels is the only one of the Four Aces who is homegrown, but the Phillies' farm system produced the prospects needed to acquire Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in trades, and that part of the equation cannot be understated either.
Lee's first stint with the Phillies was also made possible by prospects, as were the vital acquisitions of Kyle Lohse in 2007 and Joe Blanton in 2008, when the team started its current string of four straight division titles.
"I feel like our scouting department has done a great job," Wolever said. "All the kids we traded away, we still have an interest in how they do and we talk to them, but we realize that is a part of the business."
And it's a part the Phillies have mastered in recent years.
Now, they have another chance to stock the system, albeit without a true first-round pick. This is the fourth time in 10 years that Wolever has had to conduct a draft without a true first-rounder.
"We've had this challenge for a number of years, but that's a reflection of the success of the big-league team," Wolever said. "I think the challenge is not to lose your focus and assume that players are going to be taken in front of you. There might be a handful of players we don't look at because we think they're going to be gone, but we try to get a look at almost everybody."
Like most teams, the Phillies plan to take the best available player with their first pick, but Wolever believes the farm system needs specific help in the areas of catcher, middle infield, and lefthanded pitching.
"I think this is one of the deeper drafts in recent years as far as position players go," Wolever said. "There are some variables as far as signability."
The two local players who have received the most attention leading into this draft are catcher Cam Gallagher from Manheim Township High School in Lancaster and righthanded pitcher Kevin Comer from Seneca High School in Tabernacle, Burlington County.
"We just saw [Comer] pitch Tuesday," Wolever said. "We have interest in him. I'm not sure it's as much as we had in Jesse Biddle last year, but we like him. We also like Gallagher. We think he has tremendous makeup."
Gallagher is a projected second-round pick by Baseball America and Comer is a projected third- or fourth-round selection.
Trevor Story, a high school shortstop from Irving, Texas, and Brandon Martin, a high school shortstop from Corona, Calif., could be around when the Phillies pick 39th, as could lefthanded pitchers Andrew Chafin from Kent State, Josh Osich from Oregon State, and Sean Gilmartin from Florida State.
The Phillies have a history of taking high-risk, high-reward high school players in the first round, so it would not be surprising if they went in that direction.
They also have the 66th and 90th picks in the draft.
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at email@example.com
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