Major League Baseball feels like it almost doesn’t exist at the moment. The owners and the players are still butting heads over how a potential season will happen. This year has been the first to not have professional baseball in America in April and May since the 19th century.
Luckily for baseball fans, the annual first-year player draft is coming up on Wednesday. Granted, it’s much shorter than usual. In this weird year, we live in, there will be only 5 rounds.
The Phillies find themselves with the 15th pick in the draft. They’ll most likely take a hitter, but a local standout could change that.
Let’s look at those prospects.
There appear to be 3 outfield prospects on the Phillies radar. On MLB.com’s top 200 draft prospects, they fall at numbers 13, 16, and 20 on the list.
If Austin Hendrick were to fall at 13 where he is ranked, he’d go to the San Francisco Giants. Hendrick will be 19 years old in less than a week and stands at 6 feet tall. He features elite bat speed that can translate into power in the future. His bat is most polished of any high school hitter. He also comes from around the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania. There is a chance that Hendrick could be picked earlier in the draft.
At number 16, we find Robert Hassell III, a 6′ 2″ 2-way prospect committed to Vanderbilt. He can hit 91 MPH with his fastball and bombs with his bat. In his junior year of high school, Hassell hit .423 with 14 homers.
Last summer, Hassell dominated in the 18-U World Cup, slashing .514/.548/.886 with 18 hits and 14 RBI. His lefty bat looks great when he’s trying for line drives, but he struggled a bit when trying to hit more homers. The jury is out on how his power will translate in the majors.
At #20, is the 3rd HS outfielder and second Vandy commit, Pete Crow-Armstrong. Fun fact: his mom was the mom in the movie “Little Big League”. He’s touted as the purest center fielder in the draft. Before his season was ended, he was hitting .514 in 10 games. He doesn’t supply a ton of power but could be the best defensive player in the draft. Former Phillie Grady Sizemore is the best comparison for Crow-Armstrong.
Other Position Players
It looks like there will be 2 other hitters the Phillies could be interested in drafting, a shortstop and a catcher.
The shortstop is 6′ 2″ 18-year-old Ed Howard. On MLB’s top 200, he sits at 15, right where the Phillies draft. He was first connected to the Phillies on Keith Law’s latest mock for the Athletic and repeated by Joe Giglio of NJ.com. His selection seems odd with Bryson Stott being selected last year.
Shortstop is considered a premium position and players tend to become coveted trade pieces. Good bat speed, projectable power, and smooth defensive give Howard the possibility of becoming a true star at the position.
The last time the Phillies had the 15th overall pick they selected Chase Utley out of UCLA. While they don’t seem to have their eyes on anyone from there, they might be interested in a UCLA commit.
Tyler Soderstrom is a 6′ 2″ lefty-hitting catcher, although listing him at catcher might be generous. He was the backup catcher for his high school (mostly because their starter was so good defensively). Usually with catchers defensive is the top priority. For Soderdtrom it’s his bat that takes center stage. As a high school junior, he had a 1.340 OPS in 28 games.
His arm and pop time are both solid, but his skills behind the dish will have to improve if he is to stick at catcher.
A Local Standout
The only pitcher the Phillies have been connected to is also someone from their backyard. The Doylestown native, Nick Bitsko, is only turning 18 this week. Despite that, he’s already 6′ 4″ 225 lbs and tops out at 97 MPH with his fastball.
Being a pitcher from the Philly area possibly being selected in the first round by the Phillies, many people have had Jesse Biddle pop in their heads. The Inquirer actually just interviewed Jesse Biddle about being a local talent in a system. You can check out that piece here.
In the 20-80 scale system, Bitsko already has 2 pitches grade at 60 by scouts, his fastball and curveball. To that mix, he adds a changeup that grades currently as an average pitch. Add in plus command and Bitsko has all the looks of a future ace if the Phillies select him at 15…if he’s still there.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Alan Poizner / For The Tennessean, Nashville Tennessean via Imagn Content Services, LLC