Draft Preview: Looking Back To 1998

<center>Jason Michaels...<br>Underrated?</center>

With Draft Day closing in, taking a look back at previous drafts can't hurt. In 1998, the Phillies had a pretty good time at the draft table and the youngsters that they took five years ago are developing nicely. When all is said and done, the Phillies hope that the '98 Draft will go down as one of the better ones in recent memory for the Phillies. The big catch was Pat Burrell, but the Phillies still think that they may wind up with a number of decent players.

While Pat Burrell's season-long slump continues, don't be fooled. Burrell is still regarded as one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball and his long-range projections are still well above solid. The Phillies grabbed Burrell with the first overall pick in the draft. At the time, the University of Miami product was playing third base. The Phillies however, had other plans and quickly moved Burrell to first base. As he rose quickly through the minor league system, the Phillies were seemingly unsure of where to play Burrell, but he eventually wound up in left field. Three rounds later, the Phillies went back to Miami to grab Burrell's teammate Jason Michaels. Michaels could still be one of the better sleepers of the draft. He was the clean-up hitter on that National Championship team, not Burrell and Michaels is a guy that a lot of scouts put very high on their list of potential stars of the future.

In between Burrell and Michaels, the Phillies made three picks and only one of them didn't have a connection to the state of Florida. Eric Valent was a sandwich pick out of UCLA. While the left-hand hitting Valent has struggled in his brief major league exposures and has tailed off the past couple seasons, he could still wind up as a valuable commodity, if not in Philadelphia, then elsewhere. Numerous teams have tried to acquire Valent over the years and the Phillies have resisted letting him go. Brad Baisley and Jorge Padilla went to the Phillies in the second and third rounds, respectively. Injury problems derailed Baisley and Padilla is repeating a season at AA Reading in 2003. Padilla is starting to come around, but seems to be blocked on the Phillies roster, at least for the time being.

Ryan Madson, Greg Kubes and Geoff Geary came to the Phillies in the middle rounds. Madson, who was drafted out of high school, is at AAA Scranton and is putting up good numbers. He could be an addition to the 2004 Phillies rotation if the Phillies aren't somewhat forced to include him in a trade before then. Kubes and Geary, drafted out of college, moved up the ladder quicker than Madson and have stalled a little at AAA.

The Phillies waited until the 18th round to take a junior college infielder named Nate Espy. The Phillies had very high hopes for Espy, but he is currently struggling through a disastrous season at AA Reading. The Phillies figure to reevaluate Espy's future after this season.

A couple other picks made good early progress, but have fallen by the wayside at least slightly. Jeremy Wedel, Nick Punto and Cary Hiles were all taken in lower rounds and looked early on like they might be nice surprises. While Punto has made it to the majors as a utility infielder, he doesn't project much higher than that. Wedel and Hiles will likely get a look this September, but the Phillies aren't exactly writing their names in stone for future rosters. Mike Wilson, a high school pitcher taken in the eighth round, was recently traded to San Francisco for infielder Damon Minor.

Jeremy Salazar, Matt Bailie, Buzz Hannahan, Abraham Ayala and Wes Rachels were the Phillies other picks in 1998.

Where Are They Now?

Pat Burrell - Phillies starting left fielder. Struggling through his worst season in majors.
Eric Valent - AAA Scranton. Rebounding from a pitiful start to the 2003 season.
Jorge Padilla - AA Reading. Hitting .315 with 11 SB. Had some minor injury problems early in the season.
Jason Michaels - Philadelphia. Utility outfielder who Larry Bowa keeps saying will get more playing time, but doesn't.
Mike Wilson - Traded to Giants and is with AA Norwich Navigators. 4-2, 4.12 combined with Reading and Norwich in 10 games with 7 starts.
Ryan Madson - AAA Scranton. 5-3, 3.59 in 9 starts.
Greg Kubes - AAA Scranton. 1-1, 2.80 with 2 saves. Has made three starts and 12 relief appearances.
Geoff Geary - AAA Scranton. Pitched in 16 games (3 starts) and is 4-1, 2.54.
Nate Espy - AA Reading. Hitting just .179 with 2 homeruns.
Jeremy Salazar - AAA Scranton. Splitting time behind the plate with Jesse Levis. Hitting .233 with 1 homerun and 12 RBI.
Jeremy Wedel - AAA Scranton. 0-0, 4.76 in 9 relief appearances.
Nick Punto - Philadelphia. Utility infielder lost somewhere on the Phillies bench.
Matt Bailie - Berkshire Black Bears (Northeast League – Independent). Hasn't allowed a run in 3 innings of work.
Cary Hiles - AAA Scranton. 0-1, 3.06 in 9 games out of the Red Barons bullpen.
Buzz Hannahan - AA Reading. Hitting .262 with 1 homerun and 9 RBI. Playing mainly in the outfield, but has also played at second and short.
Abraham Ayala - Brooklyn Cyclones (short-season A ball). Last seen catching and hitting .202 with 1 homerun for the 2002 Cyclones.
Wes Rachels - Who knows? Hope that degree from USC is working out for him.

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