by: Ryan Waldis
Having the first overall pick in any professional sports draft is, in my opinion, quite bittersweet. Sure, it means that you have your choice of any of the available players in the draft class. It also means you don’t have to worry about another team taking the individual you wanted. In some cases, you have the ability to trade the pick on the off chance that you’re not too impressed with any of the top prospects. So, having the first overall pick sounds great. What’s the downside, you may ask?
Well, for starters, it typically means you had one of–if not the–worst records in your respective league. That is definitely not something to be proud of. Perhaps more importantly, you have the possibility of picking the wrong guy. The Raiders took JaMarcus Russell instead of Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, or Adrian Peterson among others. The Portland Trail Blazers selected Greg Oden over Kevin Durant (fun fact: Oden has as many Finals appearances as Durant). The Boston Bruins had the misfortune of taking Gord Kluzak over future Hall of Famers Scott Stevens and Phil Housley. The Pirates thought they found their ace of the future in Bryan Bullington, when in reality they probably would have been better off taking Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels or, if they wanted a bat instead, Prince Fielder.
Having stated both the positives and the negatives of owning the first overall pick, it should be mentioned that every professional sports draft is essentially a crapshoot. Some players dominate in college/juniors/high school/overseas, then proceed to get dominated in the pros. Early round picks become busts, while late round picks and undrafted free agents become major contributors. We’ve seen it happen in the NFL, the NHL, the NBA, and the MLB numerous times. However, it’s safe to say that out of the four aforementioned sporting leagues, no draft features more uncertainty than that of the MLB.
For better or worse, the Philadelphia Phillies own the first pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, and former Phillies scouts can confirm just how much of a crapshoot the MLB Draft is. Admittedly, hindsight is 20/20, but both scouts and those in the front office felt Joe Savery would make more of an impact than Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, or Anthony Rizzo. At the time, Anthony Hewitt seemed like a better choice than Jake Odorizzi, Lance Lynn, Wade Miley and, technically, Gerrit Cole (Cole was selected by the Yankees in 2008 but chose not to sign). Germantown Friends pitcher Jesse Biddle was taken before Noah Syndergaard, Taijuan Walker, and Jacob deGrom. In all fairness, the scouts aren’t fully to blame; those in the player development department deserve blame as well. Still, the aforementioned three examples show just how unpredictable the MLB Draft can be.
So, let’s fast-forward to early June 2016. In my opinion, the Phillies will take one of five players with the first overall pick Thursday evening. If the organization is looking to draft their next ace, Jason Groome or A.J. Puk are the most likely candidates. If they’re looking to add a projected middle-of-the-order bat, selecting Kyle Lewis, Corey Ray, or Mickey Moniak might be the right move. I’d be very surprised if the Phillies don’t take one of the five previously mentioned players. I suppose pitcher Riley Pint or infielder Nick Senzel could also hear their names called before the rest of their peers, but I haven’t seen Pint or Senzel’s names linked to the Phillies as frequently as the five players I mentioned earlier.
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg-type player that is a lock to go number one this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that the Phillies decision is much more difficult than it otherwise would be. The last thing the Phillies want to have happen is watching the players selected second overall, third overall, and so on outperform the guy they took at number one. With that being said, the question now becomes, “Well, in order to prevent that scenario you just described from happening, which player do the Phillies need to take?”
I’ve known the player I want the Phillies to take for a couple of months now, but to be fair I’ll preview all five of the guys I mentioned earlier so you can make your own decision. We’ll start off with the local stud pitcher whose stock has fallen a bit over the past month or so, and progress from there.
You’ll notice that, under the “grades” section, there are some numbers that might be unfamiliar to you. These numbers represent a player’s current and/or potential skill on the widely used 20-80 scouting scale. Baseball Prospectus, in my opinion, describes this scale quite well. Read the excerpt, which is taken from their 2016 MLB Draft Guide (which I recommend purchasing if you’d like to learn more about some of the top guys that will be drafted tonight) below if you’d like to learn more about the 20-80 scale:
20: The lowest of the lows.
30: Organizational fodder; career minor leaguers or tools that create career minor leaguers.
40: Not able to start at the big league level; a below-average big league tool.
50: Tool is good enough to allow the player to start at the big league level; the player is good enough to play everyday.
50+: A tool or player that’s a tick above average.
55: Above-average tool/player.
60: Well above-average regular/ well above-average or “plus” tool.
65: Not quite elite, but a potential all-star or all-star level tool.
70: Consistent all-star player or a plus-plus tool, among the 5-10 best tools in baseball.
80: One of the two or three elite players/tools in all of baseball.
Now that you’re more familiar with the 20-80 scale, you might be wondering exactly what the numbers represent in regards to actual statistics. Not to worry; Baseball Prospectus has you covered. This excerpt is also taken from the aforementioned Draft Guide:
60 hit: A player that hits .280 to .290 and gets on base in the .340/.350 range.
60 power: A player that hits between 20-25 homers a year.
60 speed: As a left-handed hitter, someone who gets from home to first base in 4.1 to 4.15 seconds. As a right-handed hitter, someone who gets from home to first base in 4.2 to 4.25 seconds.
60 arm: An example of a plus arm would be a Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield or Kris Bryant in the infield. Strong–but not elite–throwing arms.
60 glove: Among the top 5-10 defenders at their positions.
60 fastball: 91-94 mph fastball with good enough movement.
60 curveball: A pitch with hard spin and quality break, but not elite depth and not always a strike.
60 slider: Same thing as the curveball, but we’re looking for more tilt than break.
60 change: Deception from arm speed, a little bit of fade to the offering, and occasionally a strike.
60 command: Rarely beats himself with self-inflicted damage, puts the ball where he wants to on a consistent basis.
Basic Information: Standing at 6’6 and 220 pounds, Groome is a 17 year old southpaw who currently attends Barnegat High School in New Jersey.
High School Statistics: FRESHMAN: ~40 IP, an ERA close to 2.00
SOPHOMORE: 6-2, 0.57 ERA, 107 strikeouts, 61.1 IP
JUNIOR (at IMG Academy in Florida): 5-0, 1.22 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 81 strikeouts, nine walks, 43 IP, .154 BAA.
SENIOR (per nj.com): 35 IP, 3 runs allowed (1 earned), 9 hits allowed, 81 strikeouts, 11 walks, 1 hit batsman
Scouting Report: Groome’s fastball tends to sit between 91-94 mph, but he can touch 96 with ease. I know what the grades below say, but his curveball has the potential to be a future 80-grade pitch, hands down. Groome’s change isn’t anything to scoff at, either; you won’t see it compared to Cole Hamels’, but it’s a solid complimentary pitch to his fastball and curve. Groome’s mechanics are smooth all throughout, and his delivery lends itself well to durability. In a draft class with no clear-cut number one choice, Groome has the highest ceiling out of everyone. Heck, he’s been compared to Clayton Kershaw of all people–that’s not a comparison that’s thrown around lightly.
Grades: BP: 65 fastball, 65 curve, 50 change, 55 control/command, 60 overall
Fueled by Sports: 70 fastball, 65 curve, 65 change, 60 command, 75 overall
Why The Phillies Should Take Him: Groome is not only arguably the best pitcher in this year’s draft class, but arguably the best overall player as well. Selecting Groome would give the Phillies their ace of the future.
Basic Information: Another southpaw with intimidating size (6’7, 230 pounds), the 21 year old Puk has attended the University of Florida for the past three years.
College Statistics: FRESHMAN: 5-2, 3.19 ERA, 42.1 IP, 46 strikeouts, 18 walks, .210 BAA
SOPHOMORE: 9-4, 3.81 ERA, 78 IP, 104 strikeouts, 35 walks, .210 BAA
JUNIOR: 2-3, 3.21 ERA, 70 IP, 95 strikeouts, 31 walks, .195 BAA
Scouting Report: Puk’s fastball sits between 92-94 mph for the most part, but, similar to Groome, he can add a little at times, as his fastball can touch 97. His slider is a solid offering, and at it’s best is a useful pitch against both right-handers and left-handers. Puk’s changeup is his least impressive offering, and it will definitely be something he needs to work on in the minors. Command has always been an issue of Puk’s as well, but that of course is something that can bet worked on before he reaches The Show.
Grades: BP: 70 fastball, 55 slider, 50 change, 50 control/command, 55 overall
Fueled by Sports: 70 fastball, 65 slider, 55 change, 55 command, 65 overall
Why The Phillies Should Take Him: The same reason they’d take Groome; while the Phillies have a plethora of arms in the system at this point in time, none of them really project to be an “ace” like Groome or Puk would.
Basic Information: A right-handed hitting outfielder from Mercer University, Lewis stands at 6’4, 195 pounds. He’ll be 21 in July.
College Statistics: FRESHMAN: .281/.340/.382, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 21 R, 2 SB, 17 strikeouts, 9 walks
SOPHOMORE: .367/.423/.677, 17 HR, 56 RBI, 49 R, 3 SB, 41 strikeouts, 19 walks
JUNIOR: .395/.535/.731, 20 HR, 72 RBI, 70 R, 6 SB, 48 strikeouts, 66 walks
Scouting Report: You’ve probably heard questions about Lewis in regards to the conference he plays in. Disregard them. Lewis’ skills are definitely for real, major conference or non-major conference. His swing could use a little tweaking, but it’s not terrible. He has a good eye that should continue to improve, and while he might not consistently hit .300 in the bigs, Lewis should be able to keep his batting average somewhere between .250 and .270. The power is obviously very appealing, and for good reason. He doesn’t have the speed of, say, a Corey Ray, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He projects as a solid corner outfielder and, more specifically, a right fielder. Some have called Lewis a “right-handed Jason Heyward.”
Grades: BP: 50+ hit, 60 power, 50 speed, 50 arm, 55 glove (RF), 55 overall
Fueled by Sports: 65 hit, 70 power, 60 speed, 60 arm, 55 glove, 70 overall
Why The Phillies Should Take Him: It’s not a secret that the Phillies are in dire need of offensive help. By taking Lewis, the Phillies would have a future middle-of-the-lineup bat at their disposal.
Basic Information: The second of two collegiate outfielders on this list, the 21 year old Ray has attended the University of Louisville for three years. He’s the smallest outfielder on this list, measuring at 5’11, 185.
College Statistics: FRESHMAN: .325/.416/.481, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 11 R, 4 SB, 23 strikeouts, 12 walks
SOPHOMORE: .325/.389/.543, 11 HR, 56 RBI, 46 R, 34 SB, 60 strikeouts, 24 walks
JUNIOR: .319/.396/.562, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 55 R, 44 SB, 39 strikeouts, 35 walks
Scouting Report: Could Ray develop into a five-tool player? Maybe. If not, he’ll still be an excellent 4-4.5 tool player if everything works out. For lack of a better term, Ray’s swing mechanics are great. If his power fully develops, there’s no reason to think Ray couldn’t be a 25/25 or even a 30/30 player in the majors. With his exceptional speed, 30 SB’s a year should be an easy feat. If Ray doesn’t end up hitting for power, he’ll definitely hit for average. His arm strength could use some work, but Ray’s solid in the field otherwise.
Grades: BP: 60 hit, 50 power, 60 speed, 60 glove, 50 arm, 55 overall
Fueled by Sports: 65 hit, 65 power, 65 speed, 65 glove, 55 arm, 65 overall
Why The Phillies Should Take Him: While Lewis primarily projects as a corner outfielder, Ray could conceivably play anywhere in the outfield, although CF would probably be best due to his speed. Ray could be slotted anywhere in the lineup, giving the Phillies a dangerous weapon.
Basic Information: Rounding out this list with a high school bat, Moniak is a senior at La Costa Canyon High School in California. The 6’2, 190 pound outfielder just turned 18 last month.
High School Statistics: JUNIOR: .426/.488/.574, no HR, 28 RBI, 29 R, 12 SB, 10 strikeouts, 12 walks
SENIOR: .476/.540/.942, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 40 R, 11 SB, 6 strikeouts, 13 walks
Scouting Report: A two-time gold medalist for the U15 and U18 USA National Teams, Moniak has been described as, “one of the best hitters in the country.” Becoming stronger and improving his arm strength should be at the top of his to-do list, but he’s only 18, so there’s no reason to think those two aspects of his game won’t develop with time. Moniak, like Ray, can definitely impact the game on the basepaths, as his speed should be close to elite. Unlike Ray, power probably won’t be a part of Moniak’s game; maybe he’ll hit 10 if he’s lucky and in the right ballpark, but that’s probably the peak. Moniak should be able to hit for average, though; his swing lends itself well to an average around .280 or .290, if not higher.
Grades: BP: 60 hit, 40 power, 60 speed, 50 glove, 45 arm, 50+ overall
Fueled by Sports: 65 hit, 50 power, 65 speed, 70 glove, 55 arm, 65 overall
Why The Phillies Should Take Him: He’s one of the closest things to a potential five-tool player in this year’s draft class. He has an extremely high ceiling, but the downside is that he has a floor of a backup outfielder, which isn’t usually a risk you’d take with the number one overall pick in the draft.
So, after reading through some information about Groome, Puk, Lewis, Ray, and Moniak, you might have a good idea of who you want the Phillies to take tonight. Who do I want them to take, you might be asking? It might come as a bit of surprise, but I want them to take Groome.
I’ve wanted the Phillies to take Groome for a couple of months, as I mentioned earlier. In the Phillies position, you have to select the best player available, regardless of position. I know that a bat would be great, but there are 30-plus other rounds to get a bat. Groome is without a doubt the best player in this draft class. His ceiling is one of the best pitchers in the game, and his floor is a solid #2 or #3 starter. I’ve seen him pitch live, and he’s the real deal. I don’t care that he’s the “hometown” kid. What I mean by that is if he was pitching at some high school in Oregon or whatever, I’d still want the Phillies to take him. I know the stigma surrounding high school arms, but I ask that you try to forget that. I know it’s said so much when it comes to high schoolers in the draft, but Groome honestly isn’t your typical high school southpaw. He’s much better, and there’s no reason to think that he can’t be in the majors by the second half of 2018.