July 06, 2023
The Phillies are going into the MLB Draft with a first-round pick far later than what they've been used to over the past several years.
But you won't find Brian Barber complaining about it. It's a great problem to have.
"Maybe you don't have the options that are available picking higher," the Phillies' director of amateur scouting said earlier this week in a Zoom call with the media. "But I hope we pick late in the draft every year because that means the big league team is doing very well."
So picking 27th overall when the first round begins Sunday night out in Seattle? Hey, just a small price to pay for a miracle run to the World Series and renewed postseason contention.
Besides, it's not like that's going to keep the Phillies from finding a good prospect this weekend. They just have to search a little more thoroughly this time and brace for every move that could happen in front of them.
"I feel really good about where the player pool is possibly going to be for us this year," Barber said. "You do cast a little bit of a wider net because you do want to have all the evaluations on the players up top as well, and really, when you go into February and March, these guys tend to separate themselves a little bit during the spring.
"So you cast a wider net in the beginning and then you have your group of, at this point, I would say there are 8-10 guys that are possibly in the mix of players that we think we have a chance to get at 27."
One of those potential options could be local product Kevin McGonigle, an on-the-rise infield prospect out of Delaware County's Bonner-Prendergast who grew up idolizing Chase Utley and developed a game that has drawn comparisons to the former Phillies great.
Barber himself wasn't necessarily ready to draw that same comparison given how much Utley meant to the organization as a player, nor was he willing to go into detail on any specific prospect in the draft class. However, he did say that the Phillies are well aware of McGonigle, and given that the 18-year-old is the 33rd-ranked prospect on MLB.com's draft board, there's a chance he could be there for the taking at No. 27.
As a quick gauge of who else might be on the radar, here's a list of 10 prospects in total, based on MLB.com's rankings, who could be available to the Phils once they're on the clock:
|Prospect||MLB.com Ranking||Age||High School/College|
|Brock Wilken, 3B||25||21||Wake Forest|
|Nolan Schaunel, 1B/OF||26||21||Florida Atlantic|
|Dillon Head, OF||27||18||Homewood-Flossmoor (IL)|
|Charlee Soto, RHP||28||17||Reborn Christian (FL)|
|Colt Emerson, SS/3B||29||17||Glenn (OH)|
|Walker Martin, SS||30||19||Eaton (CO)|
|George Lombard Jr., SS/3B||31||18||Gulliver Prep (FL)|
|Sammy Stafura, SS||32||18||Panas (NY)|
|Kevin McGonigle, SS/2B||33||18||Bonner-Prendergast (PA)|
|Ralphy Velazquez, C/1B||34||18||Huntington Beach (CA)|
This year's draft class, based on Barber's read of it, leans more in favor of position players across both the college and the high school ranks – not to say that there isn't any depth to be found amongst the pitching – and with their first-round pick, the Phillies will have to weigh the benefits of taking the long-term upside of a high school prospect against the faster track and generally safer guarantee of a college one.
There's recent precedent for the Phils to do either or.
They took Alec Bohm third overall out of Wichita State in 2018, then drafted Bryson Stott 14th overall out of the University of Nevada in 2019. Both made it to the majors within a couple of years and have since become regular parts of the Phillies' lineup.
The past three firsts, however, were spent on then high-schoolers Mick Abel (15th overall in 2020), Andrew Painter (13th in 2021), and Justin Crawford (17th in 2022). All three still have a ways to go down in the minors but are viewed as crucial pieces to the future, with Abel and Painter standing as the two top pitchers in the Phillies' farm system and Crawford readying up to play in the All-Star Futures Game this Saturday as a top outfield prospect.
"Obviously yeah, we have a lot more history with the college players," Barber said. "You have a higher level of competition that they've played against, and then you try to compare that with the upside of the high school players. It's not an easy answer to be able to give you on how you necessarily do that, but it is something we dive into on a daily basis and try to figure out the best that we can.
"We've obviously done that the past couple years – whether it's Mick, or Andy [Painter], or Justin last year – and we feel we're in a good spot to be able to do that, but there are a lot of things that you talk about...It's not an easy thing, but it's something I guess we're used to doing at this point with the experience that's in the room...
"You try to weigh what you think is the certainty with the uncertain upside, and you have to figure out a way to line those guys up."
We'll see who lines up next for the Phillies on Sunday night.
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