The Philadelphia Phillies’ latest first-round pick Mick Abel appears to have a fan in one of the highest-ranking positions in the organization.
Newly-hired president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski offered praise for the young right-handed pitcher during his virtual introductory press conference on Friday afternoon.
“I loved the Phillies’ No. 1 draft choice last year,” Dombrowski said, referring to Abel. “He’s impressive as can be.”
The veteran executive and two-time World Series champion joins the Phillies almost exactly six months after the team selected Abel with the 15th pick in the 2020 draft. Abel is a hard-throwing 19-year-old out of Jesuit High School near Portland, Oregon, with a feel for his slider and changeup that is not typically seen in pitchers his age.
Dombrowski’s words about Abel are especially notable due to his reputation of being willing to unload prospects in big-name trades.
Dombrowski traded a rookie Randy Johnson for Mark Langston in 1989 when he was the general manager of the Montreal Expos. In his tenure as GM of the Detroit Tigers, he traded highly-touted prospects such as Cameron Maybin and Willy Adames in blockbuster deals for players such as David Price and Miguel Cabrera. As president of baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox, Dombrowski dealt prospects like Manuel Margot, Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada to acquire star pitchers such as Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale.
But, while Dombrowski does have a record for trading prospects, that does not necessarily mean he will be looking to ship out the Phillies’ whole minor-league system in just any deal, and especially not a player with ace-level potential like Abel.
Dombrowski spoke about his philosophy regarding prospects in the press conference, saying, “I’m a firm believer in young players.”
He discussed the importance of developing and producing a few players each season that can play in the majors.
Dombrowski also mentioned how his 2018 World Series championship team in Boston included players developed within the organization such as Rafael Devers, who the Red Sox signed as an international free agent, Andrew Benintendi, who the Red Sox drafted, and Eduardo Rodriguez, who the Red Sox acquired as a prospect in a trade.
Still, Dombrowski acknowledged that he is willing to move prospects in the right deals.
“So, the question becomes,” he said, “Which young players do you trade?“
Dombrowski said he would trade a quantity of prospects if the team deemed them incapable of playing at the major-league level.
“I would trade 10 young players, if we didn’t think any of them could play, for a guy that we really liked,” he said.
The tougher part is deciding when to trade prospects that the team does think can play. Sometimes a team knows a prospect will end up being a real contributor, but will part with that player to get a piece that will improve the team’s championship odds in the short term. This was line of thought when the Red Sox traded Kopech and Moncada for Sale, who ended up closing out the 2018 World Series.
“We knew we were giving up quality,” Dombrowski said. “… We knew in Moncada we were trading somebody that was going to be a good major-league player.”
It remains to be seen what group of young players Abel will end up belonging to in the long run. At some point, Dombrowski will have to decide whether the young starting pitcher fits the mold of a player that can be part of a contending core, just as he did with those young players in Boston.
Dombrowski could also decide that Abel is best used in a trade that could help “retool” the Phillies’ current core by adding an established major-league talent.
Any choice on Abel could help determine the direction of Dombrowski’s tenure in Philadelphia — commit to winning now with a core centered around Bryce Harper, or try to sustain a core for the future?
Whichever way he decides, it seems the new man in charge thinks Abel will have something important to offer.
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