As we unveil the 2017 Phillies Value 50, we’ll take a closer look at one of the names in our list each day. Today: Director of Amateur Scouting Administration Rob Holiday.
If all goes according to plan, this is going to be a very important MLB Draft for the Phillies.
With an 81-81 season in 2017 – the goal every Phillies fan should be looking for this year – and a continued, planned, hoped-for upward trajectory in subsequent seasons, this could be the last year for a while the Phillies end up in the top 10 of the first-year player draft when they have pick No. 8 in June.
That makes this the last year the franchise could and should have the chance to make an instant impact to their farm system with premium picks not just in the first round, but later when it has picks in the upper half of each round. And if they have even bigger, unexpected success this year and go into the 2018 season thinking the team can contend for a playoff spot, the Phillies may try to sign a top-tier free agent, which potentially means they’d have to give up their 2018 first round draft choice. If that success doesn’t happen in 2017, we’re all hoping it happens in 2018. That’s when the Phillies could go into the offseason with the available funds and success level to tap into what could be the best free agent class in baseball history. Think fans would be cool in giving up a first-round pick in 2019 to nab Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado or David Price, all potential free agents after the 2018 season?
That’s all dependent on about a zillion factors inside and outside the organization. But we know the potential is there for that kind of success, and you can bet the Phillies’ front office has that on their board in big, black letters under “BEST CASE SCENARIO.”
So you better believe they’re taking this draft very seriously. Which is what makes amateur scouting administrator Rob Holiday so valuable this year. He’s not the top man in charge of amateur scouting – that’s director Johnny Almaraz. But if the Phillies front office is anything like every other office setting in the universe, it’s Holiday doing most of the heavy lifting in the scouting process. He’s the one most likely to have dispatched the message to his area scouts across the country that this is the draft the team can’t screw up, under any circumstances, and it will fall on him to make sure to follow through by crisscrossing the country from now until June to get a look at every potential top pick.
When Ruben Amaro Jr. traded much of the team’s top prospects to load the major league product, there was nothing to back it up with. How bad has it been? In 2002, the Phillies drafted Cole Hamels with their top pick. Out of the drafts from 2003 to 2012, the Phillies have received a total of six at bats (all from Greg Golson) and 47.2 innings pitched (all from Joe Savery) from their top pick in each of those 10 drafts. Granted, Kyle Drabek was the centerpiece that nabbed Roy Halladay, but the drafting was just awful for a full decade. From the top-pick draft failures of Anthony Hewitt to Kelly Dugan to Larry Greene, there just wasn’t enough in the draft pool to keep the Phillies contending when the championship roster aged out.
That can’t happen again. Almaraz and his right-hand man Holiday need to completely win this draft to fully stock the system with players who will be ready to supplement a playoff team in 2022 and beyond. Or be attractive enough to draw the interest of other teams looking to dump high-priced, long-term contracts of top players the Phillies will be in a position to accept. (Yes, I’ve led you down The Mike Trout Path here, but there will be others, too.)
That all starts with Holiday and the amateur scouting department for the next three-plus months. We know the mistakes of the the past. Let’s hope the Phillies don’t repeat them, and it’s largely up to Holiday this year to make sure that doesn’t happen.