A couple weeks ago I wrote about why the number one overall pick is never guaranteed to be a game-changer for a rebuilding team. However, that doesn’t mean we cannot delve into some of the prospects that are on the radar for the Phillies, because this will be the first time in 18 years, and just the second time ever, that the Phillies will have the first selection in the MLB amateur draft.
All roads seem to lead to A.J. Puk as the clearest choice for the Phillies. He is a 6-foot-7 hurler from the University of Florida. As sure of a thing Puk is, there are still two key issues that may lead the Phillies down a different path when choosing their man one Thursday. His two concerning flaws are his inconsistent pitch control and the back spasms he suffered in April.
Puk has the tools to succeed in The Show with a fastball that tops out at 97 mph, an 88-90 mph slider, and an average change-up (for now). Not to mention again that he is a 6-foot-7, 230lb., left hander. It can be a rarity to find prospects with that combination of build, size, and tools.
For the Gators this season (according to the Florida Gators website: http://floridagators.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=5067 ) Puk has a 2-3 record with a 3.21 ERA, 95 strikeouts, and allowing only 25 earned runs in 70 innings. Good numbers for a tough league like the SEC.
From the looks of it, Puk is about as ‘major league ready’ as an amateur can be. Puk did come back strong after having back spasms earlier this season but a red flag remains raised because of it. Which is why he has dropped to the fourth spot on MLB.com’s Top-100 draft list.
So why not look at the three prospects ahead of Puk? Going in order from first to third on the list:
Groome, a high school LHP from New Jersey moved to Bradenton, Florida to attend the IMG Academy for his junior year. He returned back to New Jersey for his senior season at his former high school, Barnegat.
Two weeks into the year he was suspended for 30 days after breaking a New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association transfer rule. Prior to the suspension he had thrown a 19-strikeout no-hitter.
His fastball has topped out at 96 mph, but he consistently hovers around 92-94 mph. His mechanics are smooth as silk and his curve ball (73 mph) is as nasty as they get. He does not use his change up (76 mph) that often but it could become more of an asset at the next level. With a frame at 6-foot-6 and 220 lbs. it is hard for the Phillies not to take a real close look at this left-hander.
Pint, from St. Thomas Aquinas high school, is a RHP with a power fastball that features late movement. In the off season he put on 15 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame, which helped his fastball top out at an impressive 102 mph this spring. He stays around 93-95 mph with the heater most of the time. Like Groome, Pint’s curve ball is above average but unlike Groome his mechanics are not as sound.
Lewis, an outfielder from Mercer University, was not drafted out of Shiloh High School out of Georgia in 2013. He started to emerge as a prospect when he nearly won the Southern Conference Triple Crown in his freshman season of 2014. Last year he tore up the prestigious Cape Cod League after winning the 2015 Southern Conference Player of the Year in his sophomore season. Lewis has been compared to Jayson Heyward with more power and less defensive ability. He is an inch shorter than Heyward (sitting at 6-foot-4), but still have room to fill-out as he only weighs 195 lbs. What has scouts chirping is his power to all fields. This season he posted a .367 average with 17 home runs, 56 RBIs, and a .677 SLG in 56 games.
Fun fact: A high school pitcher has been taken number one overall in the MLB draft since Brien Taylor with the New York Yankees in 1991 (Brady Aiken was a high school pitcher taken by the Houston Astros in 2014 but never signed). The Phillies will add their name to the short list of teams taking a high school arm if they decide to go with Groome or Pint. Seeing the outfield depth the Phillies have in the farm system it is tough to see them taking Lewis with the first pick.
Look for a starter to be taken on Thursday by the Phillies. Hopefully, one that can emerge quickly and effectively.
You can watch the MLB Draft live on MLB Network starting at 7:00 pm on Thursday, June 9th.