What To Expect When You’re Expecting (Too Much)
I trust you all read Corinne’s piece earlier, and so you’re up on the big picture. I’ll try to get a little more detailed and throw out some of the names that everyone who follows the draft closely has been discussing the last couple weeks and months.
We all have this problem right now. Our team has this very valuable commodity, and they want to turn it into the best player they can. In another year, you may turn that commodity into a Harper, or a Griffey or Rodriguez, or a grown-ass man named Chipper (eww) or Pat the Bat (hmm).
But alas, transcendent talents don’t necessarily come along every year. This year we have a choice between a couple very good college bats with differing levels of risk/reward at the plate and differing levels of defensive ability and speed, a couple prep guys with equally warty baseball complexions due to bust potential and “character” questions, and a Big Old Southpaw from a Big Old College Conference, who would probably be an easy pick if he weren’t so danged inconsistent with his danged command. Yes, I imagine everyone from Florida talks like that.
And such is the conundrum we face, as we wonder just who, in fact, the Phillies will take just after 7pm Thursday night with their hard-earned 99-loss first overall pick in the MLB Draft, (it sure was hard on all of us to watch). The club’s front office’s version of the problem is far worse, of course, as their jobs depend on the answer and the outcome in years to come, but one would hope they’re equipped to deal with it a little better than we are. If not, we all should start rooting for The Cubs or something.
So who is the pick? You can throw out any mock draft more than a few days old as mainly irrelevant at this point, aside from a “sense of thinking”, but we’ve seen varying mocks over the course of the last week showing The Phils taking AJ Puk (LHP, Florida) or Mickey Moniak (Prep OF from California) over pretty much anyone else. And we’ve had press reports from local media and national media saying the pick is likely to be either of those two, sourced perhaps from someone leaking strategically from inside Citizen’s Bank Park. And we even had one tweet late last night from @JoelSherman1 of the NY Post that said a scouting director he respects said the “buzz is #Phillies will take OF Mickey Moniak”, for whatever that’s worth.
It doesn’t sound like the Phils are in heavy on Corey Ray (OF, Louisville) or Kyle Lewis (OF, Mercer U – though MLB.com guys gave him a little steam Wednesday in the article I link below), and Cali prep OF Blake Rutherford has been climbing up boards as well, and was just this morning linked to 1.1 as a real possibility for the first time I can recall, in Keith Law’s intro to his latest mock draft. No one seems to be giving any indication they’re going to be willing to part with 1.1 for local kid Jason Groome from Barnegat HS, in Barnegat Township, NJ (which, I’m told, is “near Philly” somewhere. I don’t know Jersey.)
And so, a couple questions:
1) Who among them is the best player available? and
2) Is it really true that you should always draft the best player available?
1) I don’t know, and
2) Well, sure, kind of.
The Phils have money to spend at 1.1; more money than they will be willing to give to any one of these players, and that means a savings that can be used on 2.1 or beyond, (Round 2 is Thursday night as well, in case you were wondering). A bunch of players who want to be drafted very high and paid accordingly will not be, and hence fall in the draft to the next team that wants them and has extra bonus money lying around to pay “over slot”, which Corinne explained earlier.
Jason Groome, for example, very well may slide if he isn’t grabbed early, as he is positioning himself to go to Junior College next year and come back into the draft in 2017. If you don’t pay him what he wants, he may just take his chances. Would he fall all the way to the Phils at 2.1? Perhaps. But a handful of teams have multiple picks in round 1 and the Sandwich Rounds before round 2, the “Bread and Meat” portion of the draft, if you will. So The Phils may well be able to land someone at 2.1 who costs a lot more than the pick value of $1.56M. Based on a couple different media reports, I would guess Groome is back on everyone’s radar as an over-slot option, as well as Rutherford, who I like a lot but probably won’t last, and Kansas Prep Lefty Joey Wentz, among a bunch of others, (Another Wentz? Can the town handle it?) (Yes that’s the only reason I mentioned him by name.) Callis and Mayo listed six guys Thursday, plus talked about Groome and Lewis, so give that a look if you want more info.
So if Mickey Moniak only needs $5.2M to sign, (this is a guess that could be reasonable but I really don’t know), the Phils could have a lot of money leftover from that pick’s $9M value to pay, say, Jason Groome an extra $2.5M over the available $1.5M bonus for the first pick in round 2, and still have some to spare to try to pry a decent 3.1 pick from a college commitment. And so, while you certainly want the best player you can get, you also have to consider whether you can snag two Top 10 or Top 15 talents with all that extra bonus money, and how much better you can do at 3.1 or later.
And therein lies the rub for The Phils: they have to know the player they get at 1.1 is a good enough player to stake their careers on, but they also don’t want to waste all the talent the extra $3M or $4M can buy because they paid AJ Puk (maybe) $6.2M instead of Mickey Moniak (maybe) $5.2M. And so they work the phones, making sure they know everything they can know about each player on and off the field. They learn how much green the guys like Groome will need to get in order to sign from a later pick, and try to learn or guess which other teams might both want and be able to afford to sign Groome in the bread and meat rounds.
Were it me, I would probably take Puk and call it the safe and natural pick for a team looking to complete in the next couple years – every contender needs starting pitching, as starting pitching can break down. And if you can improve that via the draft, you should do it. (And no, I’m not saying you take Puk because Vincent Velasquez just showed up hurt. You take pitching because you always need pitching and pitching always gets hurt). But if I know that Puk’s bonus would leave the door a little more closed on a guy like Rutherford if he falls to 2.1, that’s a hard call to make. There is some money to be saved elsewhere, too, so maybe you can get exactly who you want by signing a nobody College Senior in the fourth and fifth and sixth rounds and paying them like nobodies.
And that’s what I think the Phils have to do – make the strongest play you can for two real players in the first two picks. Maybe that means drafting Moniak and giving him the lowest offer he’ll accept and hoping the big name you need to fall to 2.1 actually doesn’t get snapped up by Atlanta or something (oh please God, not from within the division).
And so I’ll predict – with a total $13.4M bonus Pool
1.1 Mickey Moniak, $5.5M bonus
2.1 Jason Groome, $4.3M
3.1 Some Dude Everyone Thought Would Go To College But Texts His Area Scout At 3AM Friday Morning After His Buddy Got Picked In The Bread and Meat Rounds And Says “If You Pick Me and Give Me $3M, I Will Tell My Dad To Go To Hell And Sign With Philly”, $2.5M (they work him down Friday morning after he shows his hand a little too much).
4.1 & 5.1 College Seniors, $5-10k each
6.1 Back near pick value through Round 10.
If I’m right about rounds 1 and 2, local media gets their local kid and we get two big talents with little immediate impact without hearing nearly as much from said local media about this not “helping us now”. Win, win, if you ask me.
And also, if I’m right about 3.1, how wild would that be? Totally freaking wild, IMO. I would be insufferable for quite a while, I suspect.
Anyway, enjoy Day One. And we’ll see who’s left for us on Day Two with pick 3.1 on the clock all night long tonight.