Time to re-Phil the farm system
Phillies' recent success buoys scouting staff heading into draft
PHILADELPHIA -- Before Brett Myers, Gavin Floyd and the recently disabled Cole Hamels formed 60 percent of the Phillies rotation, they were star pitchers for their respective high schools.All three of were drafted in the first round of the June First-Year Player Draft, in 1999, 2001 and 2002, respectively. Before Jimmy Rollins vacuumed up grounders against some of the NL's best hitters, he patrolled the dirt at Encinal High School in California. Current hitting stars Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell all did it in college before turning pro. And don't forget Mike Lieberthal and Ryan Madson, two other high school players who made good. Yes, the Phillies have found some pretty good players over the years. "That gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction and re-emphasizes how lucky we are to have the staff that I work with here," said Marti Wolever, Philadelphia's director of scouting. "I feel that once we get a player, they have opportunity to succeed." Wolever, like most in his vocation, hasn't been home much since February. He and the West and Midwest supervisors just met for three days in Las Vegas, then in Atlanta. On June 6-7, Wolever and company will select who they hope will be the next impact players, in what will be a culmination of all the meticulous and well-traveled preparation. Unlike last season, when the Phillies had to wait until pick 65 (second round) to select Mike Costanzo, the organization will have made three selections that point this year. They own the 18th, 37th and 65th picks in the first two rounds. The 18th and 37th selections come from the Mets for signing Billy Wagner, though they lost a first-rounder by signing Tom Gordon. The draft is widely believed to be rich in college pitchers, with names like LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Brad Lincoln, Brandon Morrow and RHP Tim Lincecum topping the list. High school arms include pitchers Kasey Kiker and Clayton Kershaw. "I think college pitching might be a little bit heavier than some of the other areas," Wolever said. "I think it's the smallest pool of college position players that I've seen in a long time. There's a very small group that separated themselves from everybody else -- position-wise and pitching-wise. There are a few guys who are top-of-the-first-round guys, and then everybody else after that. You have to sift through that." New general manager Pat Gillick has found some gems over the years, including pitchers like Jimmy Key and Dave Steib, dating back to his days in Toronto. Gillick's philosophy meshes pretty well with the Phillies' plan. "He just likes athletic players with some aptitude," Wolever said. "That philosophy is what we've had here since I've been here. He's been through this many more times than any of us and understands exactly what's involved."
The Phillies, as they do every year, will balance their selections with the current makeup of the club. While looking for the best available players, they'll still keep an eye on the current Major League roster. First base, second base and shortstop, for example, may be lower on the priority list."Window of opportunity is certainly something to consider and you have to look at the age of your club and where you're at this point, and try to determine whether there's someone who can stabilize it," Wolever said. "I'm not going to rule that out. At the same time, you have to look down the road." Before looking too far down that road, here is a look at how Philadelphia's previous three first overall picks are faring. Costanzo, 3B, 2005, pick No. 65: His left-handed stroke has been compared to Robin Ventura, though he may never equal Ventura defensively. Costanzo, a local kid who grew up a Phillies fan, has gotten off to a slow start with Class A Clearwater, and hasn't shown the power that is expected of him. He started slowly at Class A Batavia in 2005, but finished the short-season with a .274 mark and 11 homers. Greg Golson, OF, 2004, pick No. 21: The speedy outfielder is in his second disappointing season with the Phillies, and is hitting below .200 with Class A Lakewood. His handlers still love his talent, but need to see it turn into results. Tim Moss, 2B, 2003, pick No. 85: The right-handed hitter, who was part of the University of Texas' 2002 National Championship team, is hitting below .200 at Double-A Reading after seemingly taking a step forward at Class A the season before. There were some who though Moss' future might be in the outfield, but the plan now is to keep him at second base.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.