Inside the Phillies: Wolever works to keep the farm fertile for Phillies

in charge of scouting, knows what he's up against. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
in charge of scouting, knows what he's up against. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer (Marti Wolever, assistant general manager)
Posted: March 25, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - In the short term, the pressure is on Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels.

The three aces must be at the top of their games again this season to compensate for a Phillies lineup that is going to be without first baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley for an indefinite amount of time.

In the long term, the pressure is on Marti Wolever, the newly named assistant general manager who remains in charge of amateur scouting.

As the Phillies' string of National League East titles has stretched to five and the streak of winning seasons has extended to nine, it was inevitable that the core players most responsible for all those victories would begin to weaken some with age.

Wolever, with the organization since 1992, is in charge of supplying reinforcements through the draft and the team's international signings, with the latter department being headed by supervisor Sal Agostinelli. It's a job Wolever has done remarkably well, especially when you consider the obstacles in front of him.

He took over the role of scouting director in 2001 after former assistant GM Mike Arbuckle selected Gavin Floyd in the first round of that draft. Wolever's first-ever selection was Terry Jones, a fourth-round high school shortstop out of California. That did not work out so well.

In the next round, he took a power-hitting first baseman from Missouri State University, a pick that caused even some of his own coworkers to roll their eyes. That pick was Howard, a high-risk, high-reward selection because he had amazing raw power and a knack for missing a lot of baseballs.

You know the rest of the story.

Wolever's initial first-round pick the following season was Hamels, and you know the rest of that story, too.

In the nine drafts since 2002, the Phillies have not had a first-round pick four times and they have not selected higher than 18th in any draft.

And still when you look at Baseball America's top 100 prospects, five of them came from drafts conducted by Wolever. Only the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees, and Texas Rangers have produced more.

The Phillies, however, were recently ranked 27th among 30 teams in Baseball America's organizational report. That's understandable, too, because only one of the five players - pitcher Trevor May - drafted by Wolever among BA's top 100 is still with the organization.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he apologizes to Wolever every time he trades away a prospect to help fill a need on the major-league level.

"Yeah, he does, and it's not necessary," Wolever said. "The objective for me is always to win a championship. When you win at the major-league level, the consequence is picking low and not picking often. I think over a period of time it starts to show."

It's showing.

But Wolever remains resolute in his scouting team's ability to supply reinforcements.

"We kind of view it every year the same way," he said. "Regardless of how the big-league team is doing or injuries or whatever is going on there, we always view it as our priority to get quality players. Hopefully that will help replenish what we've lost and what is hurt."

It appears as if Freddy Galvis, one of Agostinelli's prized finds from Venezuela, will fill the void left by Utley at second base.

Like the big-league club, the organization's greatest strength is considered pitching, but Wolever tried to address some positional needs in the 2011 draft, taking seven position players among the first 10 picks before paying above slot for infielder Tyler Greene in the 11th round.

As selections from that draft worked out around him last week at the Carpenter Complex, Wolever said he was excited about last year's selections, but only time will tell if that enthusiasm is justified.

Wolever is also anticipating good things in the 2012 draft, even though the Phillies will once again be without a first-round pick after signing free-agent closer Jonathan Papelbon.

The Phillies do have four picks in the top 100, starting with the 40th overall selection as compensation for losing free-agent closer Ryan Madson to Cincinnati. It is the most picks they have had in the top 100 since 2008, when Wolever selected Anthony Hewitt, Zach Collier, and Anthony Gose, three unpolished high school kids considered outstanding athletes.

Gose has been the best of the three, but he's the only one no longer in the organization, having been shipped to Houston, then Toronto, as part of the three-team Roy Oswalt trade in 2010.

The rules for this year's draft are different because of the new collective-bargaining agreement. The commonplace procedure in which teams selected high school players in later rounds and then signed them for an amount above their slotted bonus will now be severely penalized.

It's a practice the Phillies used to their advantage for players such as Madson, Jarred Cosart, and others in the past. Wolever said he welcomes the change in rules. Restrictions and penalties also now exist for international signings.

"I like the changes," Wolever said. "Every organization is trying to look for . . . potential loopholes to enhance your ability to sign certain players in the draft, but, quite honestly, I'm not aware of any and, trust me, we've exhausted hours upon hours of ways to do that."

Inside the Phillies: Rating the Phillies' Picks

Here is a look at Marti Wolever's first-round picks since he took over as the Phillies' amateur scouting director in the middle of the 2001 draft:

YEAR                PLAYER             POSITION

2002                Cole Hamels       Lefthanded pitcher

COMMENT: It doesn't get any better than World Series MVP.

2003                No first-rounder

COMMENT: Michael Bourn was taken in the 3d round, Kyle               Kendrick in the 7th.

2004                Greg Golson       Outfielder

COMMENT: Golson for John Mayberry Jr. was Ruben Amaro             Jr.'s first trade.

2005                No first-rounder

COMMENT: Lefthanded pitcher Josh Outman was taken in                the 10th round. It was not a good draft.

2006                Kyle Drabek       Righthanded pitcher

COMMENT: He was the centerpiece in the Roy Halladay trade          with Toronto.

2007                Joe Savery          Lefthanded pitcher

COMMENT: He resurrected his prospect status in 2011.

2008                Anthony Hewitt   Outfielder

COMMENT: He has struggled to make contact in the low                   minors.

2009                No first-rounder

COMMENT: The best prospect, Jonathan Singleton, was                   traded to Houston.

2010                Jesse Biddle       Lefthanded pitcher

COMMENT: He is a local guy who will pitch in Clearwater this             season.

2011                No first-rounder

COMMENT: Power-hitting outfielder Larry Greene was the                team's 1st pick.

- Bob Brookover


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