At first glance, the names are just a conglomeration of ages, positions, and schools, from as far off places as Hawaii and Florida. Middle America is well represented, from Oklahoma, and Michigan and Texas has a few interesting names. Yet, these are just places of residence, and although where you play is often as important as how you play for, it is not the most important thing.
Of more importance is the talent of the player, both projectable talent and current ability. Scouts like to use terms like “projectable”, “high ceiling” and “5 tool player.” These terms may mean little to the average fan, but to another scout, or to the team that scout represents, it can be worth thousands of dollars, sometimes even millions.
What do these phrases mean? Can we decipher from the baseball speak and truly understand how these words mean anything to a fan who is more interested in a base hit with the bases loaded than in a pitcher with a “projectable” fast ball. Yes we can, and here are some definitions.
When a scout says a player is “projectable” it means the scout or scouts can look at a player and project what he will be like in four to five years. Especially with a pitcher, this is very important. Scouts are as interested in what a pitcher will be like in five years as they are in what the pitcher looks like today. One of the reasons that the Phils are so high on right-hander Gavin Floyd is that he is a projectable pitcher.
With wonderful arm speed, and an easy throwing motion, Floyd, who is still growing, projects to be a possibly dominant pitcher in the future. This projectability ended up giving Floyd a 4.2 million dollar signing bonus, and to this point it appears as if its money well spent.
The term “high ceiling” means a player can become a top-notch player… his potential for excellence is high. When scouts see a player with a “high ceiling” they mean that if this player continues to improve and become the best that they can be, they will be potential stars, not just regulars or players who contribute from the bench.
When the Phils drafted a high school third baseman out of Indiana, he was regarded as a player with a “high ceiling.” His name was Scott Rolen, and the evaluation was prophetic. Although now with St. Louis, his ability has lifted him to among the best players in baseball… a “high ceiling” athlete.
In baseball, scouts rate players by their tools, or talents in five areas. These are hitting, throwing, running, fielding and hitting with power. A player referred to as a “five-tool” player is a guy who could excel in all five areas. This is among the most rare of abilities… in today’s baseball there are only a handful. Certainly Barry Bonds was one, though his speed has diminished with age.
Vlad Guerrero is certainly one, and Carlos Beltran of Kansas City is another. Do the Phils currently have any five-tool players? The closest is right fielder Bobby Abreu. Blessed with a great batting eye, very good speed, a rifle throwing arm, and solid power, he is the closest thing to a five-tool player on the Phils. Only his average defensive skills keep him from that elusive and tiny group of players known as five-tool talents.
With these phrases in mind, lets take a look at some of the Phils more notable draft picks from 2004 and see how they rate in scout’s eyes. This is significant because the Philadelphia Phyllis are considered to have a first rate scouting system, and their current success as a team is due in large part to the drafting of Mike Arbuckle, Marti Wolever and their fine group of scouts over the past decade.
The first draft choice was a high school outfielder from Texas named Greg Golson. Referred to as a potential “five-tool” talent, Golson was rated the fastest player in high school, with solid power potential, and great skills in the fielding and hitting arena. In fact, Golson is so highly thought of that a coach who is well known for his excellent eye for talent, University of Texas Head Coach Augie Garrido has offered Golson a full baseball scholarship to the school. This is high praise indeed, and bodes well for Golson’s future.
Expect the Phils to sign him soon, and when he does, the Phils will have three players in their organization, Michael Bourn, Javon Moran and Golson who are potential top of the order center fielders with the future Phils. This is enviable depth, and sets up trade opportunities that few teams have.
Golson is a gem, and it will be well worth watching him grow over the next few years. Unless the scouts are very wrong about him, the Phils made an excellent choice in the first round of the ’04 draft.
The phrase “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is aptly appropriate when discussing round two draft pick, Jason Jaramillo of Oklahoma State. A college All-American, blessed with the best defensive skills of any catcher in college, Jaramillo was drafted by the Phils out of HS in 2001. In fact, when he chose college over professional baseball, he was rated by no less an authority than Baseball America as “the one that got away” in the Phils ’01 draft.
Don’t expect a repeat of this scenario this year. The Phils are fully aware that Jaramillo is their catcher of the future, and Jaramillo is wise enough to see the opportunity to move quickly to the big leagues with the Phillies. He is probably the most talented player the team drafted, and he should make his debut in Philadelphia by 2007 at the latest.
In fact, the Phils, whose dearth in catching prospects is well known, drafted three fine catching prospects in the first ten rounds. High school catchers Louis Marson and Charles Cresswell were drafted in the fourth and tenth rounds respectively, and are both are highly regarded receivers and hitters. Wolever said he expects to sign all three players, though I suspect that getting both Marson and Cresswell under contract will be difficult.
My expectation is that Jaramillo will sign soon, and that either Marson or Cresswell will sign shortly thereafter. It may behoove the third candidate to attend college and increase their chances of being drafted by a team as the top catching prospect, instead of merely one of three.
Nevertheless, if the Phils can pull off the coup of signing all three, a position of weakness quickly becomes a position of strength. With the sudden rise of youngster Jose Cortez at Lakewood, the Phils would have the happy prospect of suddenly having four solid catching prospects in their minor league system.
Make no mistake, however. Jaramillo is the cream of the crop, and it will be a major surprise if he is not the Phillie catcher of the future, he is that good! In fact, it is this writer’s opinion that in drafting Golson and Jaramillo in rounds one and two, the Phils have potentially the best top two picks since 1993 when Wayne Gomes and Rolen were picked and signed.
Gomes became a highly effective relief pitcher for the Phils, though never the star he was projected to become, and Rolen’s talents are well chronicled. In Golson and Jaramillo, the Phils may have two players who both become major talents in an organization that is bent on improving their minor league depth with this draft.
Rounds three and five saw the Phils draft “projectable” college pitchers, JA Happ of Northwestern and Andrew Baldwin of Oregon State. Happ, who is left-handed, is clearly the superior prospect, and projects as a potential middle of the rotation starting pitcher somewhere down the line.
Baldwin, a righty, is less skilled at this point, but has a “projectable” arm and body that may someday see him as a hard-throwing relief pitcher, possibly even a closer. At any rate, the Phils expect both to sign, and if either of these two collegian hurlers make the grade, the Phils will have been correct in their assessment of the pitchers potential.
A name quite familiar to long time Phillie fans was drafted in the six round. Any fan old enough to remember Connie Mack Stadium may be familiar with a player named Oscar Gamble, a young Phillie outfielder at the time. In fact, Gamble has the distinction of getting the last hit at old Connie Mack Stadium, a game winning single in the tenth inning against the Expos in 1970.
In round six, the Phils selected, and have already signed, Sean Gamble, the son of Oscar. He played collegiately at Auburn and was a college teammate of Javon Moran. The younger Gamble has the pedigree to make it, and is considered a player with solid tools but no one outstanding skill.
Shortstops were the order of the day in rounds seven and eight as college players John Hardy of University of Arizona and Samuel Orr of Biola University were taken respectively in those rounds. Of the two, Hardy is considered more advanced, but Orr may have the more long range potential. Look for the Phils to move Hardy to second base if he signs, particularly if they sign Orr also.
As a long time observer of Phillie draft and sign tendencies, it would not surprise me if the Phils lost interest in one of the players, once the other one signed. They almost always have a few prospects that go unsigned in the top 10 rounds, and it may well be that one of the two high school catchers, and one of the shortstop prospects continue this trend in ’04. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Phils are in attempting to procure signatures for all top ten picks.
In round nine, the Phils chose a “high-ceiling, high risk” player in outfielder Andrew Mcfarlane of Treasure Valley City College. Mcfarlane is a tools player with good power potential, and excellent speed. He is the type of prospect that most scouts feel can go either way… becoming a solid major league player, or completely failing in professional ball. At any rate, this was a good risk pick at number nine.
A few players choosen in the later rounds are worthy of note. In round thirteen, the Phils selected a high school left-hander who reminds scouts of former Brave relief ace, John Rooker, left-hander Jon Adkins of Wilson HS in Tennessee. The Phils were hoping to draft Adkins in round six, but when he balked at taking sixth round money the Phils waited until the thirteen round to select him.
Rumors are that he is going to the University of Tennessee, so the Phils would consider it a major event if they somehow convince him to sign. It will be an interesting summer watching the negotiations between Adkins and the Phils.
A player the Phils drafted in the seventeenth round, and already signed, is outfielder Ryan Frith of University of Southern Mississippi. Frith had solid power numbers as a right fielder this collegiate season, and might just be a player ready to fulfill the potential he always had in college. He is slated to play in Batavia this summer.
One other player of note is an infielder taken in the thirty-sixth round, Andrew Romine of Trabuco Hills HS. Romine was a top five talent, who has committed to Arizona State. He let it be known that if he wasn’t given first or second round bonus money, he was going to honor his college commitment. The Phils feel that Romine is a player worth trying to convince otherwise, and if they somehow convince him that playing shortstop for the Phils is better than playing college ball in Arizona, then the team will have effectively signed another top two round player.
Wolever seemed confident that he could get a deal done with Romine by the end of summer so time will tell. The Phils history is signing “flier” picks is not good, so skepticism about signing Romine is justified. Yet, the lure of playing in a brand new ballpark with a solid organization is a strong one, son anything might well happen with both Adkins and Romine.
At any rate, most baseball people feel the Phils had a solid draft, and selected at least 5-6 players with a greater than even chance of someday making it to Citizens Bank Park. June is many things to many people. The end of school, summer vacation, trips to the beach, baseball played in great weather.
All are a rite of passage and for the Philadelphia Phillies, the annual rite of passage known as the June Amateur Draft appears to have been a successful one. As summer appears on the horizon, Phillie fans look forward to following the exploits of Golson, Jaramillo, Happ and Gamble. They will celebrate every success, and worry or every failure.
They will discuss the possibility of signing Adkins and Romine, and fret over the lost fastball of a Phillie prospect. They will print potential lineups with Golson at the top and Jaramillo slotted somewhere in the middle. They will dream of Phillie victories, and anticipate the future greatness of this latest crop of Phillie hopefuls. This is something that happens every summer.
It, too, is an annual rite of passage.
Columnist’s Note: Please send any comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond. Thanks! Allen Ariza aka CD from the Left Coast