"We tried to identify some weaknesses in the organization, depthwise," said assistant general manager Marti Wolever, who oversees the draft. "We like to have a little bit of everything. But I would like offensive players. There are a couple kids we’ve targeted. If they’re there and it’s a fit, we’ll look there first. If not, we’ll probably go to the pitching board and see what we can find there."
Any notion that the Phillies have struggled with their early-round picks over the last decade is a flawed one. There have been some misses, namely in 2008 when the organization selected Anthony Hewitt with the 24th overall pick and Zach Collier 10 spots later. But as you scroll down through their performance in the first two rounds, you find an impressive list of names. They just happen to be wearing different uniforms now.
While Hewitt and Collier do not appear destined to fulfill their potential, the 2008 draft also saw the Phillies select Anthony Gose and Jason Knapp in the second round. Gose, an outfielder, was a key player in the trade that landed Roy Oswalt in 2010. He is now in the Toronto system and entered the season as one of Baseball America’s Top 50 prospects. Knapp, a hard-throwing righthander who was drafted as a 17-year-old, has not appeared in a game since 2010 thanks to shoulder injuries. But that is more of a concern to the Indians, who acquired Knapp in 2009 as part of the deal that sent Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to Philadelphia.
In 2007, the Phillies used the 37th overall selection to nab high school catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who they dealt to the Blue Jays in the Roy Halladay deal. Last year, d’Arnaud hit .311 with a .371 on-base percentage, .542 slugging percentage and 21 home runs for Double A New Hampshire. This year, the 23-year-old has already hit 12 home runs at Triple A Las Vegas, posting a .322/.377/.570 batting line in the process.
On and on it goes: righthander Kyle Drabek with the 18th overall selection in 2006 (Halladay trade); utility man Adrian Cardenas with the 37th selection in 2006 (Joe Blanton trade); and third baseman Mike Costanzo with the 65th overall pick in 2005 (Brad Lidge trade).
"It’s always about balance for me," Wolever said. "Everyone always says, ‘Marti, you’re a high-ceiling guy.’ I certainly am. But on the flip side, you forget about a lot of guys over the years, from Jason Donald ... to college guys that are a little further along and may not have quite the ceiling as the high school guys do but they’re going to be good major league players. That’s how we look at it."
The simple truth is that the Phillies are unlikely to select any player — high school, college, hitter, pitcher — who is ready to help them in the next two or three seasons. The baseball draft is about the long term. Any short-term fix will likely come from elsewhere. n
Contact David Murphy at email@example.com. Read his blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese. Follow him on Twitter @HighCheese.