It's tough to focus on the future when the present is so fruitful, but that's exactly what the Phillies brass—that means you, Mr. Arbuckle—have to do on Thursday.
They must forget for a day that they have an all-world second baseman leading the bigs in homers in Chase Utley, an MVP shortstop in Jimmy Rollins, and a future 20-game winner in Cole Hamels.
They must disregard Shane Victorino, Pat Burrell, and Brad Lidge, the current keys to the club's success. They must forget about the hundreds of home runs—and strikeouts—in Ryan Howard's future.
On Thursday, the Phillies must draft. And draft well.
They have six selections in the first 106 picks of the 2008 MLB Draft. Traditionally, the Phils have favored promising high-school talent in the first few rounds of the draft.
This approach is hit or miss: for every Rollins or Hamels, there's a Greg Golson or Gavin Floyd (although Floyd has showed signs of life recently with the White Sox).
High school players are, understandably, unpredictable—it's impossible to judge how an 18 year-old will adapt to big league pitching years down the road.
So, the question for the front office is obvious: Do they take chances on kids, or do they go with more established college players who may not have as much upside?
With those six high picks, the Phils can do both.
Last year, the Phils plucked Joe Savery, a left-hander out of Rice University, in the first round. While Savery is struggling so far at Class-A Clearwater, posting a 2-6 record with a 4.63 ERA, he appears to have the potential to be a valuable second or third pitcher in the Phillies' rotation.
A year before, the team drafted prep RHP Kyle Drabek, who, at only 19, has posted a 5-1 record at Class-A Lakewood this year. Like Savery, Drabek appears to have the stuff to crack the rotation in a few years.
But while it's clear that the Phillies can draft both high schoolers and college players effectively, the team's farm system doesn't exactly echo the promise of their two most recent first-rounders.
Philadelphia has three Baseball America Top-100 prospects in their system—RHP Carlos Carrasco (#54), INF Adrian Cardenas (#76), and Savery (#90)—but the rest of the farm lacks the kind of prospects that the savage Phillies fans will accept in pinstripes.
Plus, the Phillies' core, while extremely potent, won't be in its prime forever. Burrell is 30, Utley and Rollins are both 29, Howard is 28, and the team's second-best starting pitcher, Jamie Moyer, is 45.
24 year-old Cole Hamels and 23 year-old Kyle Kendrick keep the pitching staff young and promising, and key offensive contributer Shane Victorino is still in his mid-20s. But this team is on the older side.
So Thursday's draft will be incredibly important to the future of the Phillies. They could strengthen the farm system by drafting talents such as high school infielders Anthony Hewitt (Salisbury HS, Conn.) or Ethan Martin (Stephens County HS, Ga.) or college hitters like Stanford's Jason Castro, a catcher, or ASU's Brett Wallace, a third basemen.
They could also go for more pitching. While there isn't a huge need at any specific position (although Philly is beginning to run low on reliable catchers and third basemen), with all those draft picks, they simply can't blow this opportunity to get better.
It's a little unclear how exactly they'll draft, but one thing is certain: on Thursday, Mike Arbuckle and his scouts must overlook their promising present situation and look towards the next generation of Phillies.