Archive for June, 2013

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In order to succeed as a professional baseball franchise, one must be wise in personnel decisions. That includes, of course, free agency and trades. But, even more importantly, is the rate with which an organization drafts and develops amateur ballplayers. After all, the centerpieces to the Phillies’ dramatic run of NL East titles were Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, and Carlos Ruiz. All of these players, not coincidentally, were drafted and developed by Philadelphia. The future of the franchise will rely on their ability to mimic the quality of their past drafts that helped to propel them to the most successful string of success in franchise history.

As the 2013 MLB draft continues throughout the weekend, one thing has been made clear: Philadelphia is deeply invested in improving their position player depth. That is something they hoped to do with their first few picks in the draft that began on Thursday. Below is a scouting report and in-depth information on each of the Phillies’ first five picks this weekend:

SS J.P. Crawford, 1st round (16th overall)

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Age: 18 (1/11/1995)
Height/Weight:
6-2, 180
Bats/Throws:
L/R
School:
Lakewood H.S. (Committed to USC)
MLB ETA: 2017
Need To Know: 
J.P. Crawford, the cousin of Los Angeles Dodgers’ star OF Carl Crawford, is a toolsy high school talent with elite speed. There remain questions as to whether or not the 18-year old will be able to handle the shortstop position at the MLB level. However, there are few who doubt his ability to hit. His above-average bat speed combined with a line-drive approach should lend to a .300+ average at the MLB level. Crawford’s power potential is considered average. There’s little doubt that Crawford will have pop to all fields. But, he will have to add significant bulk if he hopes to ever have 20+ HR potential. He is incredibly athletic, and that allows Crawford to be very proficient at shortstop at this point in his career. He has room to improve with his first step. But, Crawford gets rid of the ball quick and has, without a shadow-of-a-doubt, one of the best arms of all prep infielders in this draft. Crawford compares favorably to Chicago Cubs’ SS Starlin Castro.

C Andrew Knapp, 2nd Round (53rd overall)

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Age: 21 (11/9/1991)
Height/Weight: 
6-1, 175
Bats/Throws:
 S/R
School: 
University of California
MLB ETA: 2016
Need To Know: 
Andrew Knapp is a multi-positional collegiate talent who was drafted in the 41st round by Oakland in 2010 when he was coming out of high school. After struggling at the dish in his freshman and sophomore seasons as a Golden Bear, Knapp was moved behind the plate full time. In his junior season, Knapp raked .350 with a .434 on-base-percentage. His 16 doubles and 8 home runs complimented a devastating arm behind the plate. Offensively, the switch-hitter projects as a power hitter from the left side, with a short-compact swing. He’ll probably hit more doubles than home runs. But, Knapp has the talent and tools to improve on that stat should he add more bulk to his 6’1, 175 lb. frame. Athletically, you won’t find many more gifted backstops than Knapp. He lacks great speed. But, his mobility should allow Knapp to move to the outfield if necessary. As he only has one full season behind the plate, knapp is not a refined defensive catcher. However, as mentioned, Knapp has an impressive arm and has been successful at limiting opponent running games despite his lack of experience. The former Cal Golden Bear projects as an offensively above-average backstop like Texas’ C AJ Pierzynski.

CF Cord Sandberg, 3rd Round (89th overall)

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Age: 18 (1/2/1995)
Height/Weight: 
6-3, 215
Bats/Throws:
 L/L
School:
Manatee County Private School
MLB ETA: 2017
Need To Know: 
A superstar high-school quarterback, Cord Sandberg has no relation to the current Phillies’ third base coach. He also does not project much like Ryne. The 18-year old has a potent power stroke and a scholarship offer from Mississippi State to play football. However, news broke shortly after the Phillies drafted Sandberg that he has agreed to a contract that includes a $775,000+ signing bonus. At 6-3, 215, the southpaw is very athletic. He projects to have power to all fields and the youngster’s arm strength should adequately allow him to move to the corner-outfield spots should he bulk up as he gets older. Overall, Sandberg has plus tools and projects to be an elite player at the next level. Some compare him favorably to former Phillie OF Hunter Pence. Although, I see a lot more of Jay Bruce in him than the awkward former Philadelphia regular.

SS/3B Jan Hernandez, 3rd Round (96th overall)

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Age: 18 (1/3/1995)
Height/Weight:
6-3, 195
Bats/Throws:
 R/R
School:
Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy
MLB ETA: 2017-2018 (depending on his success moving to third)
Need To Know: 
Born just one day after Sandberg and eight days prior to Crawford, Hernandez became the third 18-year old the Phillies grabbed in the first three rounds of the draft. He comes from the same academy down in Puerto Rico that last year’s #1 overall pick, Carlos Correa, attended. Despite his proficiency at shortstop as an amateur, it appears likely that, with his large frame and projectable weight gain, Hernandez will develop into a corner-infielder at the next level. Offensively, Hernandez already has a sound swing. There remain concerns about his herculean hacks and uppercut finish, and the 18-year old must prove that he can adjust to pitches as his career progresses. Power remains a question mark for Hernandez due in large part to the fact that he is largely an unfinished product. Should he grow into his frame, Hernandez could project as a 25-30 home run talent. His propensity for strikeouts is a concern, and could limit that ceiling, however. In other words, Hernandez is capable of driving a fastball a mile…when he makes contact. By far his best tool is his arm. Hernandez has proven that he is very good moving laterally at shortstop, and that should only help him after a move to third. He should have one of the better arms in the league in the future. Overall, Hernandez projects favorably to Boston Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks. He should hit .270-280 at his peak, with the potential to rake 30 homers down the line.

C Jake Sweaney, 4th Round (121st overall)

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Age: 18 (11/17/1994)
Height/Weight: 
6-2, 175
Bats/Throws:
 R/R
School:
Garces Memorial High School
MLB ETA: 2018
Need To Know: 
After selecting Andrew Knapp two rounds earlier, the Phillies decided to grab another catching prospect in Garces’ Jake Sweaney. The move is curious considering Philadelphia already has Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp in the system, among others. However, Sweaney was too tempting of a prospect to avoid. A two sport athlete, Sweaney is the rare combination of speed and strength behind the plate. A fabulous high school wide receiver and defensive back, the 18-year old scored 14 touchdowns and grabbed 6 interceptions last fall. It remains a question as to whether or not he will remain at catcher. But, with his athleticism and stellar arm, Sweaney should not have much of a problem adjusting to a corner-outfield position if the organization is so inclined. Granted, there’s plenty of room for improvement offensively. But, most pundits do not believe that Sweaney is anything more than average across the board at the plate. His swing is compact, and 20+ home run power is possible. This is definitely a project pick (as most prep prospects are). Sweaney was named his high school’s player of the year after hitting .489 with a .565 on base percentage his senior season.

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Since he was named General Manager in the winter of 2008, Ruben Amaro Jr. has spent a majority of his tenure with Philadelphia sacrificing prospects for veteran impact performers. A penchant for overspending on pitching whilst sacrificing the team’s once powerful offense has left the franchise at a crossroads. After half-a-decade of success, it is time for the Phillies to blow it up and start over.

The only question that remains is whether or not Amaro is the right man for the job. After all, his past efforts to acquire prospects for veterans have not materialized the way he, or most Philadelphians would have imagined. The December, 2009 trade of Cliff Lee to Seattle and last summer’s sales of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence have left the Phillies with Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, J.C. Ramirez, Tommy Joseph, Ethan Martin, and Seth Rosin. Of that crop, only Aumont has appeared in the majors, and few would suggest that he has lived up to the hype that made him the centerpiece of a deal for a former Cy Young winner.

Granted, most of these players are still very young, and Martin has performed admirably recently in Lehigh Valley. Joseph, meanwhile, has plenty of potential. He has, however, missed over a month with a concussion, the second he has suffered since his professional career began. Rosin has looked good this season. But, proficiency in the low-minors is a far cry from professional success.

Meanwhile, the crop of prospects acquired from Seattle have drastically underwhelmed. The erosion of Aumont’s command has left him toiling in AAA, where he went just 0.2 IP in his last appearance, surrendering 4 BB and 2 wild pitches. Ramirez, whilst talented, is as inconsistent as any Phillies prospect. One game, he will resemble the live-armed phenom they envisioned four years ago. The next, he will spend most of his time looking towards the sky wondering what went wrong. Gillies, the speedy outfielder once perceived as the heir apparent to Shane Victorino, has battled injuries and inconsistency throughout his Phillies career. After beginning the season in Lehigh Valley, the 24-year old was demoted to AA-Reading for more seasoning. 

The most profound candidates for sale are Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, and Jonathan Papelbon. The latter still has 2 years and $26 million remaining on his contract with a vesting option for 2016. He has also performed as well as anyone on the roster. Therefore, a deal of the Philadelphia closer seems unlikely. The rest are either upcoming free agents or, in Rollins’ case, have a manageable contract in the future. Many still believe that Utley should be a Phillie for life. But, it is that type of mentality that can cripple a franchise for a generation. After all, if Amaro had taken a more conservative stance with Ryan Howard or Cole Hamels, perhaps the team would not be in this current mess. 

Utley has not played a full season since 2008. His knees have eroded, and now the former All-Star’s oblique is keeping him out for extended time this season. If the Phillies can get value for Utley, they would be remiss to not listen. As much as it may hurt fans to see Utley in an Athletics or Tigers uniform, it would hurt the franchise even more to commit millions of dollars over multiple-seasons to a player who cannot stay on the field. 

One thing is for sure, the Philadelphia Phillies’ dominance of the NL East is over. It will take some time, but, the only chance Philadelphia has of once again parading down Broad St. is a yard sale of epic proportions this July. Is Ruben Amaro the right man for the job? We had better hope so.