Tomorrow, MLB will have its annual draft and, if you haven’t heard yet, the Phillies have the tenth overall pick. This is the second top-10 pick the Phillies have had in as many years. Normally, the Phillies have the same philosophy: take young kids out of high school who are raw with high ceilings. Picks like Anthony Hewitt, Zach Collier, Kyrell Hudson, and Larry Greene are just a few that never panned out. Last year, the Phillies flipped the script and chose a bevy of college players including LSU pitcher Aaron Nola with the seventh overall pick. This is an exciting draft as the Phillies have a new director of amateur scouting at the helm in Johnny Almaraz.
The Phillies could go in a number of areas including pitching, infield help, and possibly catcher. The Phillies went into last years draft in desperate need of starting pitching and addressed it with their first two picks (Aaron Nola and Matt Imhof) and also in the offseason with trades of Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins which netted pitching prospects Zach Eflin, Tom Windle, and Ben Lively. While all are solid prospects, most project as middle/back of the rotation pitchers. None are the caliber of Nola who is projected as a future front line starter. The Phillies could go in a number of areas so lets break down some potential picks at number ten.
Tyler Stephensen: C – 6’4, 210 – Kennsaw Mountain HS (GA)
It is widely known that the Phillies front office loves Tyler Stephensen, and if this draft was held a few years ago I would fully expect Stephensen to be their pick, but because of the need for players who can reach the majors quickly I don’t know if the front office wants to wait 4-5 years for a high school catcher to develop. If the Phillies do decide to take a high school player, which would surprise me a bit, its going to be Stephensen.
Stephensen is big for a catcher, standing at 6’4 but scouts say he moves well enough behind the plate and has a good enough arm to stay there. The Phillies drafted Andrew Knapp in the second round out of the University of California in 2013 but he is in High A Clearwater hitting .250/.322/.675. His progression has come along pretty slow for a college hitter and the Phillies might feel he is not the catcher of the future. If that is the case, and they do not mind waiting, they could very well grab Stephensen with pick number ten.
Ian Happ: OF – 6’0, 205 – Cincinnati
Ian Happ does not exactly come from a baseball hotbed in the University of Cincinnati but the Pittsburgh kid is going to make some team very happy on Monday. The Junior outfielder hit .369/.492/.672 for the Bearcats this season and was a semi finalist for the “Golden Spikes Award” given annually to the nations best college player.
Happ’s numbers do not blow you away for a college hitter. He did not lead the nation in any categories, and was not in the top 5 in any either. What impresses me with Happ is his attitude and his Cape Cod League numbers. Ian Happ is coming into MLB with a pro mentality and pro work ethic. Every interview with Happ reminds me of a guy who just “gets it”. He does not expect to hit .500, does not expect to dominate. He just wants to work hard, put together good at-bats, and improve. Prime examples can be seen in the Showtime series “60 Minutes Sports” May edition.
The other thing that impresses me with Happ was the season he had in the Cape Cod League last summer. College hitters struggle in the Cape because they go from playing with aluminum bats to wood, slowing down their swing and making it harder to get hits. Happ didn’t struggle at all playing for the Harwich Mariners, where he hit .329 which was good for ninth in the league. Happ should be able to transition smoothly from college to pro baseball.
I like Happ but I am not sure if he warrants being drafted tenth overall, he is more of a teens pick but his work ethic and attitude might be enough to impress the Phillies front office to reach a bit.
Walker Buehler: RHP- 6’1, 160 – Vanderbilt
Walker Buehler will likely be one of three first round picks for Vanderbilt and the Phillies could be a likely destination for the right handed pitcher. This season for the Commodores started off rocky as Buehler missed the first two weeks of the season with elbow soreness which should be a concern for teams. He bounced back however to have a good year with a 2.97 ERA in 78.2 IP, striking out 81 batters (over a batter an inning). A cause for concern on Buehler is his elbow (soreness) and that batters hit .262 off of him this season.
Buehler gained noteriety after sharing Co-MVP playoff honors in the Cape Cod League this past fall. While he put up extremely impressive numbers with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, I always take pitchers success in the Cape Cod League with a grain of salt because hitters are adjusting from aluminum to wood bats.
Personally, I wouldn’t touch Buehler. His elbow soreness is reason alone to stay away, although I would be the first to admit that its not if pitchers will get Tommy John surgery, but when. But the last thing a team in the Phillies position needs is to draft a pitcher with a top 10 pick and then shut him down for a year with Tommy John surgery.
Scouts say he has a great fast ball that can reach 96 MPH, and he can throw 4 pitches for strikes. He has all the tools, he just also has a lot of question marks for me.
Andrew Benintendi: OF- 5’10, 179 – Arkansas
Andrew Benintendi has shot up draft boards this season and for good reason. If the Arkansas sophomore drops to the Phillies, he will likely be the best player available and an enticing pick for the Phillies at number ten. This season, Benintendi is crushing the ball, hitting .385/.493/.725 for the Razorbacks. His 19 home runs are tied for first in all of D1 baseball. His 55 RBI led the Razorbacks this season, as did his 84 hits and 60 runs scored. He is a finalist for the “Golden Spikes Award” given annually to the best college player in the nation.
His smooth swing reminds me a bit of Chicago Cubs first basemen Anthony Rizzo and. if he can produce like Rizzo, Benintendi would be a steal at number ten. I don’t think he makes it beyond the Cubs at number nine while the Reds, who drafted Benintendi out of high school, would love to see him drop to them at pick eleven. Benintendi seems to be a pure hitter which is something the Phillies system could certainly use.
Carson Fulmer: RHP- 5’11, 195- Vanderbilt
After Dansby Swanson goes first overall in the draft, Fulmer will likely be the second Vanderbilt player taken in the first round and, unfortunately, I do not think he will fall to the Phillies but I will put him on the list because he is projected to go a few picks before ten. If he were to drop to the Phillies I would be doing backflips.
Fulmer, a “Golden Spikes Award” finalist, was the ace of the Commodores this season and pitched like one. In 114.0 IP this season Fulmer sported a 1.82 ERA, while striking out 152 batters. Unlike his Vanderbilt teammate Walker Buehler, Fulmer dominated hitters as they batted just .186 off of him. His 152 strikeouts were good for second in the nation. His 12 K/9 were good for third in the nation.
Fulmer moved from the Commodores closer to a starter last season, and became their ace this season. His fastball tops out at 97 MPH with his curveball having good movement. He’s got what scouts describe as an “electric arm” and he would make a phenomenal 1-2 combo with Nola in the Phillies 2018 rotation.
Jon Harris: RHP- 6’4, 190- Missouri State
While some players I have mentioned are projected to go after pick ten (Happ) and others have been projected to go slightly before (Fulmer), Jon Harris is projected to be there when the Phillies pick at ten. The 6’4 righty helped the Bears to a 48-11 record with a 2.45 ERA in 103 IP while striking out 116
Harris has improved each year at Missouri State and his fastball sits around 93 MPH with movement on it. He also manages to throw a curveball, changeup, and slider but his fastball is his out pitch. The White Sox could be in play for Harris with the eighth overall pick but they would be foolish to draft Harris over Fulmer if Fulmer is available. I would expect the White Sox to take Fulmer which would leave Harris for the Phillies at number ten.