Philadelphia Phillies: What Position Should First-Round Draft Pick Be Spent On?
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Ordinarily, you could answer a question like this via simple process of elimination. What do you already have? Once you know that, you know what you need.
Except, with this Phillies team, the answer to the primary question is a bit troubling.
The Phillies have a young, dynamic center fielder in Ben Revere. After that? You tell me.
Maybe you can say they have a young left fielder with some upside left in Domonic Brown. But after tearing it up at spring training, Brown is back to his old underwhelming self, hitting .240 in the early going, or just a few ticks above his career average.
Beyond Revere and Brown, the Phillies do not have an everyday player younger than 30 years of age.
If the Phillies were a dynasty league fantasy team, its owner would making three-for-one and four-for-one trades for keepers and playing for next year.
Good luck to the Phillies there, though. Only in fantasyland would Ryan Howard be tradeable with three seasons and $85 million left on his deal while hitting .245 and slugging .377 thus far this season.
Perhaps the only really good news for the Phillies as far as the upcoming Major League Baseball draft is concerned is that, with so many players (Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley, Michael Young) reaching the end of their contracts, major league spots will become available for some of the talent in the system.
When that happens, minor league spots open up for the Phillies' new draftees—one of whom figures to be the 16th overall pick.
As such, it bears considering what the Phillies already have in the minor leagues by way of players that might be ready to play for the big club sooner than later.
From a raw-skills perspective, catcher Tommy Joseph and shortstop Roman Quinn may be the most ready to make the leap in the short term.
Quinn is blocked next season by incumbent Jimmy Rollins...in theory. In fact, Rollins might be willing to accept a trade to a contender rather than sit through a rebuild.
Quinn has six errors in 11 games at Single-A Lakewood thus far in 2013, though, so it would probably behoove both the Phillies and Quinn for Rollins to play out his contract in Philadelphia. Regardless, the Phillies do not need to spend this first-round pick on a shortstop.
Joseph is off to his own slow start at AAA Lehigh Valley, but with Ruiz likely to be gone after this season the 2014 job seems like it is Joseph's to lose. And Sebastian Valle is in the wings behind Joseph. Catcher is another position where this pick makes no sense.
Third base prospects Cody Asche (Lehigh Valley) and Maikel Franco (Single-A Clearwater) look to be the future at that position. Asche, particularly, is really struggling at Lehigh Valley—he is hitting under .200 in the early going—but he will have all year to sort things out while Michael Young plays for a new contract.
With Utley likely leaving after his deal expires, second base will be open. But Freddy Galvis could slot quickly and cheaply there, and he is still a very young player.
We already addressed the ugly logjam at first base.
At least for a couple of seasons, the Phillies' starting pitching situation seems largely settled. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will be anchoring the staff for the next two seasons (at least).
Help is on the way from the minors, as highly regarded prospects Jonathan Pettibone, Ethan Martin and Adam Morgan have all risen to Lehigh Valley.
And the best arm in the system, Jesse Biddle, is already at AA Reading.
So with all of that said, it seems process of elimination will work just fine after all. The Phillies have reasonable plans for every position on the diamond except for the corners in the outfield.
The Darin Ruf left field experiment failed miserably in Clearwater, and as of this writing, he is hitting .279 at Lehigh Valley. With no home runs.
The Phillies should spend their first-round pick in the upcoming draft on a corner outfielder. Preferably one who can hit for power and average.
Whether one of those players will still be on the board at No. 16 remains to be seen.
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