MLB Draft 2011: As Draft Nears, Philadelphia Phillies Strategy Still a Mystery

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MLB Draft 2011: As Draft Nears, Philadelphia Phillies Strategy Still a Mystery

What is the price of success? Since 2007, the Philadelphia Phillies have been the cream of the crop for Major League Baseball. They've won the National League East in four consecutive seasons, appearing in the World Series twice—back to back—in 2008 and 2009, bringing the title to Philadelphia in 2008.

Over that same span of time, they've seen a lot of great players dressing in the red pinstripes. The Phillies have sent nine different players to various All Star Game venues across the country. Over those years, they've housed an MVP (Jimmy Rollins in 2007) and a Cy Young (Roy Halladay in 2010.) So what exactly is the price for this level of talent?

Well, that's a broad conversation with a plethora of answers, but in a crude sense, the price for this level of talent revolves around the level of success a team has in the First Year Player Draft, which will take place this Monday, June 6.

Looking around baseball, it isn't hard to see that the Phillies have used the draft to build a lasting success. They've used their picks wisely, be they on "can't miss" talents like Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, or gems found in later rounds, like Ryan Howard, Ryan Madson and Domonic Brown, the Phillies have built their current core through the draft, but that's hardly where the production ends.

You see, building a strong Minor League system is how the Phillies have become and remained successful over their current run. Not only do they draft players that will help them at the Major League level, but they draft players that other teams will eventually have interest in, and trade them for the final piece to a contending team's puzzle, be it Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge or any other name you can think of that the team has acquired in a trade.

So needless to say, the Phillies invest an incredible amount of resources into the draft each year, and all in all, they've been incredibly successful, using the draft picks they have wisely. But being a contender year in and year out has its drawbacks in regards to the draft, if you can believe it.

Because of their success at the Major League level, the Phillies haven't selected higher than 19th overall since 2007, when they took pitcher-turned-slugger Joe Savery. In 2009, they didn't even have a pick in the first round, when they handed their pick to the Seattle Mariners as compensation for signing "Type A" outfielder, Raul Ibanez.

That hasn't deterred the Phils, though. They've simply found ways to be more efficient in the draft, investing more time and money into scouting than ever. They've drafted local players, like last year's top selection Jesse Biddle, and thanks to some due diligence, have found gems like Jarred Cosart in the back end of the draft.

Already with one of the strongest farm systems in baseball, it's difficult to imagine which direction the Phillies will head this year. While rumor has it that the Phils will scour the draft boards for catchers, middle infielders and left-handed pitchers, scouting director Marty Wolover hasn't been shy in saying that they'll take the best player available at any given time.

That said, they'll have to be creative. Yet again, the Phillies do not have a selection in the first round, having lost their first-round selection to the Texas Rangers for the signing of Cliff Lee. However, they do have a pick in the supplemental round, where they'll pick 39th overall as compensation for losing Jayson Werth to the Washington Nationals.

So which players can we expect to see the Phils target on day one? Well, that's still a mystery.

Even with the rumor that they'll look towards middle infielders, catchers and left-handed pitchers, one of the names that continually pops up on mock drafts is Charles Tilson, who is an outfielder yet to graduate high school. He may not play in a position of need for the Phils, but he has a sweet left-handed swing and above-average speed that may be too good to miss.

But what if they don't go in that direction? Who are some of the players the Phillies could take with their 39th pick?

I recently finished my mock draft of the first round, and I projected that both of these catchers would be off the board well before the Phillies pick, but they would love for Austin Hedges or Andrew Susac to fall into their hands. Hedges is one of the best catchers available, but could slide thanks to his asking price. On the other hand, questions about Susac's swing could drop him down the board.

With just a day remaining before the Phils' first pick, nabbing Hedges or Susac seems like a pipe dream, at best. They could always target a middle infielder with the 39th pick, and while Kolten Wong is exactly what the doctor ordered, he'll probably be long gone by then. There simply aren't many middle infielders to be had at this point in the draft.

Outside of Levi Michael, whom some project the Toronto Blue Jays to take with their first pick, common names around this spot are Brandon Martin and Phil Evans—both shortstops out of high school that are going to need a good amount of time for development. The Phils need reinforcements in the middle infield as soon as possible, so expect them to take a middle infielder out of college.

If I was forced to make a prediction, I think the Phillies pick a left-handed starter here, and there are a few good ones to be had. One interesting name is Matt Purke, who has fallen way down the draft boards. He has the potential to be a top-five pick, and would have been last year, but injuries and inconsistency have moved him down. If the Phils are willing to take a small chance, Purke could pay dividends.

A couple of other interesting left-handed pitchers that could go in this position are Andrew Chafin and Sean Gilmartin, whom the Phillies would love to have at 39th overall, seeing as how they're shooting up the draft boards during the final weekend.

All in all, it's hard to go wrong in the first couple of rounds. This is one of the deepest drafts in recent history, and there is plenty of talent to be had. What does that mean for the Phillies?

This is the perfect draft to build upon. One of the best farm systems in baseball is about to get better.

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