Philadelphia Phillies: Top Outfielders Selected in the 2011 MLB Draft

J SContributor IIISeptember 1, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: Top Outfielders Selected in the 2011 MLB Draft

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    This is the third and final article covering the Phillies 2011 draft.  Previously, the infield and pitching selections have been recapped.  Now it is time to cover the outfield.

    Typically speaking, the Phillies emerge from the draft each year with a glut of ultra-athletic, toolsy but raw outfield prospects.  Sometimes these players hit it big and skyrocket through the system like Domonic Brown.  Other times, these players are duds and stall in A-ball for three years and counting like Anthony Hewitt.

    But it has been an approach the Phillies have had a lot of success with.  They have flipped many of these toolsy outfielders (Michael Taylor, Anthony Gose, Greg Golson, Domingo Santana) for players such as Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, John Mayberry Jr. and Hunter Pence.

    As previously covered, this year showed a shift in draft emphasis.  There were less toolsy outfielders and much more of a focus on infielders.  Given that the system is well stocked with young outfielders and mostly barren of legitimate infield prospects, that may have been a wise decision.

    As a result, the Phils actually only drafted and signed a total of five outfield prospects from this year's draft. So this is a ranking of those five.

Honorable Mention: Carlos Tocci

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    Just signed for a Phillies' Latin American record bonus of $759,000 out of Venezuela, Tocci is only an honorable mention because he technically is not eligible for this list.

    Talent wise, he probably would be at the top of this list, as he was listed as a Top 25 prospect in Latin America.

    Unlike prospects from the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, players from Latin America do not enter the MLB draft. Instead, once they turn 16-years-old they become free agents are can sign with any team.

    At just 16-years-old Tocci is already 6'2" and lightning fast. While its too soon to tell with absolute certainty how his body will fill out, scouts expect for Tocci to maintain a slender build and retain his speedster status as his career progresses.

    Tocci will join the Phillies system as a center fielder.  Providing he matures in the manor that scouts predict he should have no trouble sticking in that position defensively.

    Since Tocci is so young, he will likely spend next season playing in the Venezuelan Summer League.  This is what is typically done with Latin American prospects. 

    However, Tocci is the most talented Latin American outfielder the Phillies have signed since Domingo Santana. The Phillies were aggressive with Santana and placed him in the Gulf Coast League at the age of 17.  So the chance remains the Phils go the same route with Tocci.

5. Matt Holland

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    Matt Holland was selected by the Phillies in the 22nd round.  He was a fifth year senior at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

    Holland was actually a a pretty good pitching prospect in high school, however, an arm injury robbed him of his opportunity to continue down that path.

    During his college career, Holland progressed as a hitter and added a bit of a power stroke to his game.  The result was a power surge in his Senior season that had him named as a Louisville Slugger All-American.

    Holland signed early with the Phillies for an undisclosed amount that is likely to be at or below the commissioner recommended slot level.

    Since signing though, Holland was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Phillies and has struggled.  As a 24-year-old playing 18 and 19-year-olds in competition this is not a good sign.

    It is important to remember this is only a small sample and Holland has potential so he should be back with the organization next season.  But he will be on thin ice and will need to produce immediately.  If he struggles again he could find himself cut loose from the organization before the season is over.

4. Pete Lavin

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    Drafted as a senior by the Phillies in the 20th round out of University of San Francisco, Pete Lavin signed with the Phillies early for an undisclosed amount that is presumably either near or below slot money.

    When drafted, Lavin was originally viewed as an organizational prospect.  Meaning he was a solid ballplayer that was expected to likely be a career minor leaguer.  Since not every roster spot can be filled by major league prospects, teams tend to have players like Lavin around who can hold their own in the lower levels.

    In college, Lavin hit for a decent average but for very little power.  He is mostly a speed based player.  However, during his time in the Phillies organization split between the Gulf Coast League and NY-Penn League, he has shown an increased prowess for extra base hits.

    While this is obviously a good sign that he is outperforming expectations it is too early to draw any judgements about his prospect status over it.  He is 23-years-old playing in a league most populated with 18 and 19-year-olds so he is supposed to be more advanced than them.

    However, the strong performance put forth this year has likely earned him a ticket to start next season in A-ball with the Lakewood BlueClaws.

3. Brock Stossi

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    Brock Stassi is an interesting case.  He was drafted by the Phillies in the 33rd round of the MLB draft and announced as an outfielder. 

    This is intriguing because he was also an accomplished pitcher and since signing has played quite a bit of first base.

    Stassi is a left-handed 22-year-old senior from the University of Nevada.  His brother Max is the top catching prospect in the Oakland Athletics' organization.

    Stassi signed with the Phils for an undisclosed amount meaning he likely had a signing bonus that was at or below slot money.

    Since signing, Stassi has been assigned aggressively to the NY-Penn League.  Being put directly into that level means the Phils thought more highly of his abilities than other college players who went to the rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League first.

    Stassi struggled with the Crosscutters and will likely repeat with Williamsport next year.  If he struggles again the Phillies may be apt to try him on the mound. Especially because he is a lefty who while inconsistent did have some success in college.

2. Jonathan Knight

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    The selection of Jonathan Knight in a way signals a return to normalcy as he is the type of raw athlete the Phillies have often targeted in years past. 

    Of course the Phillies waited until the 49th round (out of 50) to nab him.

    Knight is the epitome of a raw, toolsy high school athlete.  He was set to play college ball at St. Petersburg College until the Phillies bought out his commitment with an overslot bonus of $100,000.

    The thing about Knight is that he is somewhat of an unknown due to only hitting .221 his senior year and not participating in any major showcases. 

    So why is Knight ranked so high?  Well for one, it is apparent the Phillies believe in him since they paid him double the slot to bring him aboard. 

    Second, he has great physical tools.  Right-handed hitting, 6'3" and fast.  Additionally, he is relative late comer to baseball and he has very little formal coaching to his offensive approach.

    So what you see from him right now is just pure athletic ability.  It would not be the least bit surprising if the Phillies stash him in Extended Spring Training next year for the full season to give him an opportunity to just work on fundamentals through lots of repetitions.

    When he does emerge either next year, or in 2012, he will likely make his debut in the Gulf Coast League.

    Given his rawness and physical abilities Knight's potential is limitless.  He very well could emerge as the next Matt Kemp or he could be the next Anthony Hewitt and never make it past A-ball.  Regardless of what happens, the Phils are playing with house money, as this was a fantastic gamble for the 49th round.

1. Larry Greene

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    Selected in the sandwich round as part of compensation for the loss of Jayson Werth, Larry Greene was the Phillies' highest overall draft choice this year.  He was a deadline day deal and signed overslot for $1,000,000.

    Interesting sidenote about the signing bonus: Typically players are given their bonus in a lump sum at the time of their signing.  However, there is a provision for two-sport athletes to receive their signing bonus in equal installments over the course of five years.

    The reason for this is so players don't take the money and then retire a year or two later to pursue another sport such as basketball or football.

    Because Larry Greene was a heavily recruited football player who turned down a scholarship to the University of Alabama, it is believed the Phillies have sought permission from the commissioner's office to pay Greene in this manor.

    Greene is known for his incredible power.  In fact, he was said to have had the best power of any prospect in the draft.  The knock against him is that he did not always play the best competition in high school and may still be a bit raw.

    Additionally, there are questions whether Greene can stay in left field for the long term.  He is already a big boy at 18-years-old and many scouts project him to be a first baseman in the long term. 

    However, the Phillies are a team that has put out a steady stream of slow footed left fielders such as Greg Luzinski, Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez over the years.  So expect them to give Greene every opportunity to stick in the outfield.

    Expect Greene to start next season in Extended Spring Training until the NY-Penn league starts when he will join the Williamsport Crosscutters.

Draft Coverage Wrap-Up

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    As aforementioned this was a very uncharacteristic draft for the Phillies.  They usually emerge from the draft each year with a handful of legitimate prospects in the outfield.

    Unless Roman Quinn ends up in center field, Larry Greene is really the only top prospect to be an outfielder, but even then most scouts consider Greene to be a future first baseman.

    Jonathan Knight has a lot of potential but is raw.  These picks are known as lottery tickets.  The thought process is that players of his nature have worlds of potential but are very unlikely to fulfill it so they are a gamble. 

    In recent years the Phillies have learned to play these picks perfectly.  Do not use top picks on them and stockpile as many as you can since just like playing the lottery most of the time these picks do not pan out.

    So when some of these lottery tickets start to pan out you can either deal them outside the organization for value or you can promote them from within to fill you own needs (Domonic Brown).

    Stossi, Lavin, and Holland all have a tough road ahead.  None of them appear to be major league prospects so they are going to have to prove on every level they belong.  They will not be given the opportunity to struggle and develop as someone like Jonathan Knight will.  Part of that is age, part of that is their limited ceilings. Unfortunately, the most likely scenario is that none of them ever reach the major leagues.

    This is where the Phillies draft really varies. With the infielders and pitchers, almost all of the players listed are seen as having legitimate potential to someday be a contributor on the major league level. 

    But again, given the abundance of outfield prospects already in the system and the dearth of infield prospects going into the draft, this was likely the best approach the Phillies could have possibly taken in the draft.

    Years down the line, when these players either pan out or bust, the biggest impact of this draft will likely come from the infielders selected.  Until then, all we can do is sit back and watch their development along the way.