PHILADELPHIA -- This is not how Brian Barber imagined his first Draft with the Phillies.
Could anybody have imagined this?
The COVID-19 pandemic not only canceled Spring Training and postponed the beginning of the regular season, but it reduced the Draft to just five rounds. It means Barber, who became the Phillies’ amateur scouting director in October, will need to maneuver through those five rounds without having seen any of the players he hopes to select in a long time.
“It's definitely a weird one, for sure,” he said. “I mean, not being able to go to the field and see the kids ... that's what we do. We go out. We go to the field and we evaluate talent. We try to combine that with a lot of other different things. And we're missing that component. We've been able to dive a lot deeper into other things to be able to try to fill in those holes. I have been a guy who has used video for a long time now, but not to the extent we've had to do it over the past two and a half months.”
It means lots of talks with amateur players over Zoom, getting to know them and getting a feel for their signability.
The Phillies have the 15th overall pick, but no second-round pick because they signed Zack Wheeler as a free agent in December.
“Picking at 15, you try to come up with who has some type of chance to get there, who you think is going to get there, who’s going to be gone for sure, and it’s really tough this year,” Barber said. “I have some comfort in about eight or nine guys for sure that won’t be there. And after that, it’s a group of about 10 to 12 that have a 50/50 chance, so we’re trying to work through all our scenarios with scouts. ...
"We’ve had a lot of time to discuss those types of things, all of us, because we haven’t been out at conference tournaments and regionals. We haven’t had the games to go to, but we’ve had a lot of time to discuss all those different situations and I feel really good about where we’re at right now.”
Day 1 of the 2020 Draft airs tonight on MLB Network and ESPN at 7 p.m. ET, and includes the first 37 picks. Day 2 begins at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday on MLB Network and ESPN2, and spans the remainder of the 160 picks.
Comprehensive coverage will be available on MLB.com and MLB Pipeline, which will simulcast MLB Network’s broadcast. Go to MLB.com/Draft to see when teams pick, the Top 200 Prospects list, mock drafts from analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, scouting video and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying and to get each pick as it’s made.
Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the Phillies, whose first selection is the 15th overall pick.
State of the system
The Phillies’ farm system ranked somewhere between the bottom half and bottom third in baseball last year, which is disappointing, considering where they have been picking the past few years. But their top two prospects -- third baseman Alec Bohm and right-hander Spencer Howard -- could make a splash in 2020, if baseball returns and if there are expanded rosters. If the Phillies hit on Bohm and Howard, the team's future could look a whole lot differently.
Who might they take?
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo most recently projected the Phillies to select Turlock High (Calif.) catcher Tyler Soderstrom. He is regarded as one of the best all-around high school bats in the country. MLB.com’s Jim Callis had the Phillies taking UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell in this spot. But wouldn’t it be something if the Phillies selected Central Bucks East (Doylestown, Pa.) right-hander Nick Bitsko?
Each team gets an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of its selections in the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. This year, with a five-round Draft, all signing bonuses of drafted players will apply toward the bonus pool total.
For 2020, there is a $20,000 limit on bonuses for non-drafted free agents. There is no limit to the number of undrafted players teams may sign, but they cannot go over $20,000 per player. These bonuses do not count toward the pool total.
The Phillies have a pool of $5,444,200 to spend, including $3,885,800 to spend on their first selection.
The Phillies could use more bats in the system, so it makes sense for them to take another hitter in the first round.
The Phillies have selected college hitters in the first round in each of the past three Drafts. They have selected only four high-school pitchers in the first 10 rounds over the past four years, so they would be giving a different much look if they took Bitsko with the 15th overall pick.