Phillies hoping college draftees can move up quickly
Aiming to help the club soon, older players become focus in 2014 Draft
Since claiming the NL East title back in 2011, the Phillies' have struggled.
Back then, when things were going better for the Phillies, they saw the Draft as a chance to gamble on high-ceiling players. As a result, you have to go back to 2002, when Philly drafted Cole Hamels 17th overall, to find a first-round pick who has contributed to this team.
"We had the luxury here for a number of years, where we could roll the dice and take high-ceiling players," Phillies assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever said on Friday. "And we didn't have some No. 1 picks. We had some sandwich picks, but not true first-round picks. And we rolled the dice on a few of those guys."
Now, the Phillies are in last in the NL East, and there's no quick fix. They are looking for help everywhere. Their strategy heading into the 2014 First-Year Player Draft was simple: grab guys who can make an impact soon.
Philadelphia selected only one high school player in the first 28 rounds of the draft. In fact, 23 of the first 27 names the Phillies took are 21-years-old or older.
Case in point: Philly's first-round selection, Aaron Nola. The 7th overall pick, Nola "likely will be the first starter to appear in the big leagues," according to MLB.com's scouting report.
"We would hope that in a couple of years he could be here pitching here in the organization with the Major League team," Wolever said. "It's hard to say, but within a couple of years, I think that's a pretty safe estimate."
Phillies second-round selection, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo left-hander Matt Imhof, could also taste Major League action sooner rather than later. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Imhof is considered a late bloomer, having not been drafted out of high school.
"He's got a chance to go through [the farm system] a little quicker," Wolever said. "Not as quickly as [first-round pick Aaron] Nola, but he throws strikes and he commands the strike zone so that certainly works to his advantage."
The first high school player Philly drafted was Nashville native and right-hander pitcher Sam McWilliams in the eighth round. The Phillies wouldn't select another high schooler until the 29th round, when they scooped up shortstop Al Molina.
"I think there's more of a risk with high school guys, just because they're farther away," Wolever said. "They haven't matured physically, mentally. Most of them haven't faced any adversity so they don't know how to deal with that when that happens."
After making college experience an important criteria toward the top of their draft, as the later rounds approached, the Phillies became more inclined to roll the dice. They drafted 10 of their last 12 picks out of high school.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.