June 06, 2020
If you're reading this you are at least a casual baseball fan, if not a hardcore one. And that means you can read the writing on the wall — the 2020 baseball season might not happen.
It's really sad to be outside again, with summer weather all around us and no baseball to speak of. As the NBA, NHL and MLS all approve plans to get on the field and provide us with a much-needed distraction, the MLB continues to trudge through labor strife with no plan to start a season that will need to get it together in the next week or so if they want to start in July.
And so, the only live MLB event we are guaranteed to see this year right now is the 2020 draft, which takes place June 10th and 11th and will air on ESPN2 and MLB Network.
The Phillies will pick 15th in the first round and make three other selections in the draft which will be a total of five rounds. Normally, the baseball draft spans 40 rounds and takes days to complete, but with no minor league season taking place there would be nowhere for them to play this summer — and with such limited scouting taking place due to coronavirus cancelling college and high school baseball seasons, the 2021 draft could wind up being the deepest and most consequential in recent memory.
Hopefully we'll be deep into a baseball season by that time. But for now, here's a brief primer for the event, which will at least feature baseball highlights. So it's almost like watching a baseball game — hey, we're trying...
The Phillies sacrificed their second-round pick to sign pitcher Zack Wheeler this offseason. At the time, it seemed like a sensible move, as the draft usually has 40 picks. Losing a second rounder in a five-round draft could wind up being a bigger setback than expected.
Here's a look at their four picks...
Exactly 20 years ago, the Phillies were picking 15th overall and they took a second baseman from California named Chase Utley. While hoping for the next Utley may be a bit unrealistic, the Phillies' first selection should net them an impact player. We examined some of the candidates in an earlier story when we looked at some mock drafts. The Phils are pretty loaded at shortstop and catcher in their minor league systems, and their top prospect — Alec Bohm — plays third and first base. There seems to be an expectation that the Phils will go one of two ways with this choice to address a weakness in their farm system:
• Outfield: The Phillies have spent high picks (first rounders in fact) on Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph in recent seasons. Neither appears to be on a big league trajectory. With Bryce Harper under contract for the next dozen or so years, the rest of the Philly outfield has very little to rely on in the future. Adam Haseley (a first-round pick himself) will get a chance to show he deserves to be in the team's longterm plans whenever the season starts up, but Andrew McCutchen is 33 and with revenue for baseball expected to take a big hit, home-grown talent will be more important than ever for cash-strapped teams.
Candidates include: Garrett Mitchell, UCLA; Pete Crow-Armstrong, HS; Austin Hendrick, HS, Daniel Cabrera, LSU
• Starting pitching: As we mentioned just before, the Phillies are lacking when it comes to starting pitching. Aside from their top arm Spencer Howard — who may be on the team's big league roster if/when 2020 begins — they don't have much for fans to be excited about. For a team that has failed so miserably to develop their recent pitching prospects aside from Aaron Nola into much of anything (Nick Pivetta comes to mind...), it seems like a no-brainer for them to take a pitcher with their first-round pick.
Candidates include: Nick Bitsko, HS; Cade Cavalli, Oklahoma; Jared Kelley, HS; Garrett Crochet, Tennessee
Nick Bitsko, RHP, Central Bucks East
Not only is Bitsko a local stud who can throw in the high 90s at the tender age of 17, he is also projected to get drafted right around 15 where the Phillies select. Here's a bit more on the hometown favorite:
His spring high school season was canceled before it even started. But he's been rising on some draft boards because he has impressed in Zoom interviews and has been posting videos on social media that show big league-caliber stuff coming out of the hand of a 17-year-old. He hit 98.5 mph last week and delivers some of the advanced pitch data that clubs covet, which he's been measuring in a warehouse in Pennsylvania while getting remote training from a top independent facility over the internet. Still, scouts aren't allowed to watch or talk to him in person.
With all that, he might be one of the top 10 picks on the night of June 10, and he will certainly be among the first 37 selections. At a time when little seems normal in the world, this is the setting for the rise of the MLB draft's mystery man, Nick Bitsko. [ESPN]
Cade Cavalli, RHP, Oklahoma
The Phillies will no doubt be tantalized by Bitsko's raw talent, but a high school pitcher is a huge risk. We had to go all the way back to 2012 to find the last high school pitcher drafted in the first-round to make an All-Star game (Lucas Giolito, drafted by the Nationals). If the Phillies need pitching, there are several mock drafts linking them to Cavalli, who was drafted previously in Round 29 by the Braves. If not for injury concerns, he would be placed higher than the 22nd best prospect on the big board.
Cavalli produces some of the easiest velocity in his Draft class, working at 92-96 mph and topping out at 98 with riding action while expending barely more effort than he would playing catch. He also can make hitters look bad with a low-80s curveball with power and depth, and he has developed an upper-80s slider/cutter that is catching up to his curve. He shows the potential for an average changeup once he starts using the pitch more often.
While Cavalli has the upside of a frontline starter, he comes with concerns. Though he has a strong 6-foot-4 frame and clean mechanics, he doesn't have much track record of staying healthy or throwing strikes. His lack of command and deception also means that his premium stuff gets hit harder than it should. [MLB.com]
Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA
Mitchell may be the best fit for the Phils. He is a college tested outfielder who has a ton of speed and athleticism. He's got vastly different projections from mock to mock but is a sure first-rounder, landing in some mock drafts as a top 5 pick, and in some going 15th to the Phillies.
Mitchell is reminiscent of a centerfield version of Evan White in college. A highly athletic, potential star defender with raw power that far outweighs current game power and an improving hit tool/approach. A legitimate 80 runner at 6-3 205, Mitchell covers a lot of ground in center, which he compliments with his plus arm. While Mitchell has yet to unlock it in games, he has plus to double plus raw power and could continue to unlock it (as did White). Mitchell greatly improved his approach in 2020, narrowing his zone as pitchers pitched around him in 2020. When it’s all said and done, Mitchell is a high floor player based off of his defensive value and base paths alone with a true superstar ceiling if he can unlock his game power. It’s a five tool skillset. [Prospectslive.com]
Pete Crow-Armstrong, OF, Harvard-Westlake
Let's get the fun part out of the way first. Crow-Armstrong's mom is actress Ashley Crow, who played the mom in Little Big League, and also starred in Minority Report and other movies. Here's just a little more on the Vanderbilt commit, who many describe as one of the most polished prospects in the draft (and a top 20 prospect):
Before his senior season was halted, Crow-Armstrong was hitting .514 in 10 games for Harvard-Westlake, with just one strikeout in 42 at-bats. As a junior, he hit .426 with three home runs and five triples.
But his speed and outfield play are his highest-graded tools right now -- Crow-Armstrong might be the best defensive outfielder in the 2020 Draft class. He's the type of dynamic all-around athlete who reminds some scouts of Grady Sizemore. [MLB.com]
There are a handful of players in the pool for the 2020 draft who have local connections.
Kyle Nicolas, Ball State
The gun-slinging pitcher from Ball State is the 60th prospect in the draft and expected to go somewhere before Round 3. His uncle is Todd Blackledge, a player known to many locals from his days as Penn State QB when they won a National Title in 1982.
Dante Girardi, HS
Yes, that's Joe Girardi's son. He is a star shortstop at Calvary Christian Academy in Florida but is ranked outside the top 200 (there are going to be around 160 picks made). But, you never know. A lack of regular scouting and 2020 season will surely have players slotted differently on every draft board.
Jaren Shelby, Kentucky
Shelby is a talented outfielder who is great with the bat and the son of John Shelby, a two-time World Series winner with the Orioles and Dodgers. But his Philly connection is through his cousin, Josh Harrison, who is a Phillies bench piece (and one-time Pirates star).
Casey Dykstra, Azusa Pacific
Everyone reading this will know what family Casey belongs to, as his famous uncle was a star Phillies outfielder in the 1990s. He could be the fourth Dykstra drafted.
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