Analysis

A Not-So-Brief History of Phillies First Round Pitching Prospects

Nola will become the 19th Phillies first round pitching pick to play in the Majors tonight. Photo: Philly.com

Nola will become the 19th Phillies first round pitching pick to play in the Majors tonight. Photo: Philly.com

Aaron Nola is set to make his Major League debut tonight against the Tampa Bay Rays, looking to extend the Phillies’ four-game winning streak to five. Nola was the 26th pitcher selected by the Phillies in either the first round or the supplemental first round of the June MLB draft.

Of those 26 pitchers selected, only seven did not reach the Major Leagues (1966’s Michael Biko, 1967’s Phil Meyer, 1970’s Mike Martin, 1975’s Sammye Welborn, 2010’s Jesse Biddle, and 2012’s Shane Watson and Mitch Gueller). With Biddle on track to reach the Majors and Watson and Gueller just 21 years old, that number could shrink further.

With a high level of success drafting pitchers and getting them to the Majors, the Phillies pitchers have had varying levels of impact once in the Majors. Here’s a brief grouping of the 18 pitchers (Nola will become the 19th) to reach the Majors and a brief breakdown of their cumulative stats.

By the Numbers

Total Career bWAR: 96.7

Average bWAR per Major Leaguer: 5.37

Highest Career bWAR: Cole Hamels, 43.9

Lowest Career bWAR: Carlton Loewer, -1.7

Longest Phillies Tenure: Hamels, Brett Myers ~10 seasons

Most appearances: Myers, 383

Most career wins: Hamels, 113

Most career saves: Myers, 40

Most homers as a hitter: Larry Christenson, 11

Highest batting average, OPS as a hitter: Adam Eaton, .194, .543

Players that reached the Majors but never played for the Phillies: Johnny Abrego, 1981, Mike Adamson, 1965, Kyle Drabek, 2006, Roy Thomas, 1971, and Pete Smith, 1984

The Cream of the Crop

This category has only one pitcher: Cole Hamels. Hamels has not only been the best drafted pitcher the Phillies have ever produced but is now firmly in the discussion as a Top 10, franchise player, even without his postseason success taken into account. Hamels has the most wins and lowest ERA out of any Phillies first round pitching draft pick and is nearly 30 wins more valuable over his career than the next closest player, Brett Myers.

The Next Level

Gavin Floyd (2001), Brett Myers (1999), and Larry Christenson (1972) comprise the next level of talent, falling between 10-15 wins of value for their career. While Floyd is not particularly identifiable as a Phillie, Myers and Christenson have oddly parallel tracks as contributors to rebuilding teams that ultimately ended up in a championship. Floyd would win just seven games as a Phillie before being dealt prior to the 2007 season with Gio Gonzalez for Freddy Garcia in one of the worst  trades in franchise history while Christenson won 83 games and Myers won 73 games with 21 saves.

The “They Stuck Around For a While” Group

Adam Eaton (1996), Pete Smith (1984), Roy Thomas (1971), and Pat Combs (1988) were worth 5.3, 5.2, 3.2, and 1.8 respectively over their Major League careers. Eaton would originally be drafted by the Phillies before being dealt in November 1999 with another list memeber Carlton Loewer for Andy Ashby and had various levels of success with the Padres and Rangers before signing with the Phillies in 2007 as a free agent. The Phillies would eventually buy out Eaton’s third and final year at a cost of over $7 million following their 2008 World Series win.

Smith saw action in parts of 11 seasons, none with the Phillies, posting a career record of 47-71 and is one of the forgotten rotation pieces of the 1991 and 1992 Braves National League pennant-winning team. Thomas stuck around a bit as a reliever (20-11, 3.82 ERA in 182 appearances with the Astros, Cardinals, and Mariners from 1977 to 1987) while Combs went 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA in his first six starts before ending his Major League career following the 1992 season with a 17-17 record with a 4.22 ERA.

The “Oh, I Remember Them” Group

Wayne Gomes (1993) was tabbed as a closer of the future after being selected fourth overall in 1993 (side note: Billy Wagner was taken 12th). Gomes went 27-21 with 4.42 ERA with 28 saves for the Phillies and never quite materialized into the dominant closer fans hoped he would be from 1997 to 2001 before being dealt for Felipe Crespo.

Dave Coggin (1995), of Coggin’s Crew fame, went 10-12 with a 4.52 ERA across 60 appearances, 27 starts from 2000 to 2002. Scott Munninghoff (1977), with boy-band good looks, made four cameo relief appearances for the 1980 World Champion Phils, giving up three earned in six innings. Coggin was taken one pick ahead of Jarrod Washburn and 19 picks ahead of Carlos Beltran who the Phillies had an opportunity to take twice.

Joe Savery (2007) made an unexpected surge to the Majors for the end of the 2011 campaign and appeared in 41 games for the Phillies with a 4.15 ERA from 2011 to 2013 before signing with Oakland for 2014. Savery was taken with Josh Donaldson and Todd Frazier still on the board.

The Negative Value Group

Kyle Drabek (2006) was dealt to Toronto prior to the 2010 campaign in the Roy Halladay trade. He has posted a 8-15 record with a 5.27 while battling a series of injuries. 1986’s first round pick Brad Brink finally reached the Majors in 1992 and was 0-4 in 10 games, seven starts, with a 3.99 ERA for the Phillies in 1992 and 1993 before finishing his Major League career with the Giants in 1994.

Tyler Green (1991) joins Hamels on the list as the only first round pitching picks to make an All-Star team, doing so in 1995 but was worth negative value in his career, posting an 18-25 mark with the Phillies with a 5.16 ERA from 1993 through 1998. Green was taken four picks ahead of Manny Ramirez and six picks ahead of Shawn Green.

Johnny Abrego (1981) appeared in six games with the Cubs in 1985 giving up 17 earned in 24 innings and was taken 13 picks before Mark Gubicza, 14 picks before Mark Langston, and 17 before Frank Viola. Oops.  In 1965, Mike Adamson became the Phillies’ first ever June draft pick and chose not to sign. He would post an 0-4 record with a 7.46 ERA from 1967 through 1969 with the Orioles. Johnny Bench was still available in the second round. And finally, Carlton Loewer (1994) debuted with a complete game victory over the Cubs on June 14, 1998 but saw little success moving forward. Loewer posted a career 10-18 mark in four years split between the Phillies and Padres with a 6.12 ERA.

Final Thoughts: The Phillies have had success getting their pitching draft picks to the Majors but have had very little success in finding franchise-altering pitching talent or even second or third tier options. The jump from Hamels to the group of Christenson, Floyd, and Myers is vast and the jump from Myers to the Eaton group is almost wider. Where will Nola end up? Only time will tell.

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