With the first round of the MLB Draft slated to commence tomorrow, the dream of playing professional baseball for hundreds of college and high school athletes will soon become a reality. The Phillies, who have 19 total selections in this year’s draft, hold the 17th overall pick and have a signing bonus pool of $6,307,000––the fourth lowest pool of the 30 teams. The club’s first round selection is an important one considering they don’t select again until the middle of the third round, pick 93 to be exact. This is the consequence of signing Nick Castellanos, who received and declined a Qualifying Offer this past offseason from his prior team, the Cincinnati Reds. As a result, the Phillies forfeited their second round selection while the Reds were rewarded the 32nd pick in the draft. Nevertheless, the first round of this year’s draft is stocked with high end prep talent and advanced college bats. Despite a middle-of-the-pack selection, there should be plenty of intriguing options for the Fightins who have multiple avenues to pursue.
The MLB Draft works in a peculiar way in comparison to other professional sports leagues as each team is allotted a certain amount of money to be used as signing bonuses for their draft picks. This allocation is mostly determined by a club’s free agent expenditures and penalties for exceeding various competitive balance taxes. Typically, rebuilding or smaller market organizations are likely to have a higher bonus pool than contending and larger market clubs to emphasize a balance in future competitiveness. Since the Phillies have the fourth lowest pool to spend, they will likely spread that money around to all of their picks to increase signability rather than selecting players who are more likely to request high bonuses. As a result, the Phillies will have to find more diamonds in the rough and count on their development or focus on drafting college seniors who are likely to sign for under slot since they cannot return to play in college.
Despite this seemingly gloom outlook for a team that has consistently struggled to find and develop young talent, this year’s draft could have more potential hits than misses. In addition, with Amateur Scouting Director Brian Barber and Director of Player Development Preston Mattingly at the helm, the club is in a much better position to develop young talent than they have been in past years. Below are five names the Phillies could target ahead of tomorrow night’s draft.
1. Chase DeLauter OF, James Madison
My personal favorite out of potential options for the Phillies, DeLauter hit .437 in 24 games this past season with an astronomical 1.404 OPS until he broke his foot in April. With a 6’4” build, DeLauter provides plenty of thump in his bat to go along with an advanced approach. With a strong arm and a power profile, DeLauter may fit more as a corner outfielder, but is athletic enough to stick in center field. Though there is some length in his swing, he pulls his hands in well and covers all parts of the plate without sacrificing his power stroke. Player comp: Kyle Tucker.
2. Gavin Cross OF, Virginia Tech
Like DeLauter, Cross is a power hitting outfielder who hit .328/.411/.660 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs this past season. Though he can run for his size, Cross is likely a better fit for a corner outfield position or first base at the next level. He has the chance to be an above average hitter if he continues to improve his plate discipline, which he showcased this year by walking 30 times with 41 strikeouts. He is currently mocked to be selected ahead of the Phillies, but would be an excellent pick if he falls. Player comp: blend of Christian Yelich/Kyle Schwarber.
3. Drew Gilbert OF, Tennessee
Known for his fiery competitive nature, Gilbert provided a spark at the top of the Volunteer’s order all season, hitting .362 with 11 homers, 70 RBIs, and a 1.128 OPS. He’s a plus defender with a great arm and excellent speed that allows him to cover both gaps well as a center fielder. Being just 5’9”, Gilbert is more of a gap-to-gap hitter who can use his speed to gain extra bases. Despite his smaller frame, he has sneaky pop in his bat and could develop average power at the next level. Also, he did this in the NCAA tournament this year. Player comp: Cedric Mullins.
4. Brock Porter RHP, St. Mary’s Prep (MI)
WIth prospects Mick Abel, Andrew Painter, and Griff McGarry headlining the Phillies’ minor league pitchers, it would be a surprise to see the club target a prep arm in the first round for the third year in a row. However, Brock Porter could be too good to pass up on. Sitting 94-97 with his fastball, the ball explodes out of the hand as he has topped at 100 MPH. With a devastating changeup that dives in on right handed hitters and hard breaking pitches, Porter could have at least three plus pitches with the potential for at least an average fourth. He uses his lower half extremely well, and has an explosive, repeatable delivery that will play in a starting rotation. Player comp: Pablo Lopez.
5. Peyton Graham SS, Oklahoma
As the first college player to have 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases since 2004, Graham led Oklahoma to a second place finish in the College World Series. With an excellent feel for the barrel, Graham made consistent hard contact while showcasing an improved approach and plus speed. With a 6’3” frame, Graham will likely grow into more power and has quick hands that should help him adjust to offspeed pitches. In addition, he can be at least an average defender at multiple positions with his primary home likely at second base. Player comp: a taller Whit Merrifield.
If I were a part of the Phillies’ draft committee, these would be the five names I’d look at most closely heading into the draft. If by some chance none of these players are on the board at the time of the club’s selection, three additional names to keep an eye on are SS Zach Neto (Campbell), OF Jordan Beck (Tennessee), and RHP Dylan Lesko (Buford HS, GA). Regardless of who’s available, the Phillies should have their pick of exciting young talent that could help the big league club in the near future.
Photo: Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos