3.) Who will the Phillies select with the first overall pick?
The key to every successful rebuilding process is a good farm system. The Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs are great examples of that, with each team having ranked in the top five among farm systems over the last handful of years. The Astros have seen players like Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa lead their recent resurgence, while the Cubs have been led by players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell.
The Phillies are in the process of following those successful blueprints, and have seen good (initial) reaction. Leading the charge from the Phillies minor league affiliates are J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, Mark Appel, Vincent Velasquez, and Jake Thompson. While this is a great crop of young talent to build around, the most important piece of the team’s farm system is still yet to arrive. That’s right, I’m talking about the upcoming 1st overall pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft.
When the draft rolls around in June, it seems like a foregone conclusion that a pitcher will be taken first overall. The only question is, who will that pitcher be? There’s currently a trio of pitching prospects, that would all be great fits for the Phillies. Let’s start with a southpaw out of the University of Florida, named A.J. Puk. The 20 year-old stands at 6’7″, and his fastball runs anywhere from 93 mph to 97 mph. He’s shown that he can hold his velocity, when going deep into starts. However, his control remains his biggest question mark.
If you take a ride up the east coast to New Jersey, that’s where you’ll find the top overall prospect in this year’s draft; Jason Groome. Already drawing comparisons to Clayton Kershaw, the New Jersey native has all the makings of a top-of-the-rotation starter. His fastball has some serious heat on it, ranging from 93 to 96 mph, while his curve has a wicked bite to it. The 17-year-old pitcher has already committed to play at Vanderbilt, making for a very difficult choice. Does he forego an education, in favor of a multi-million dollar signing bonus, or does he solidify his backup plan in life by completing his education? Whatever he decides to do, he will likely find success no matter what.
Finally, if you travel out to the mid-west, you’ll find Oklahoma’s Alec Hansen. A 6’7″ right-hander who is entering his junior year in college, Hansen has drawn a lot of comparisons to former teammate and current Colorado Rockies prospect Jon Gray. His fastball hovers around the mid-to-upper 90’s, sometimes closing in on 100 mph. His slider likes to hang in the mid-80’s, with a curveball in the upper-70’s. In order for him to live of to his potential as a top-end arm, he’ll need to find the strike-zone more.