Phillies Reportedly May Pass on Pitchers A.J. Puk, Jason Groome
When the Phillies officially obtained the number one overall pick in the 2016 amateur MLB draft, there seemed to be two clear choices. One was 21 year-old left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk, pitching for the University of Florida. Another was high school pitcher Jason Groome from Barnegat High School in South Jersey. Never did a third name enter the discussion. That is, until now.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that the Phillies may move on from either player:
Other teams say the Phillies appear to be backing off A.J. Puk at No. 1 in the draft & moving toward Mercer CF Kyle Lewis. This is the first time I've heard speculation about them taking anything other than a pitcher with that first pick.
Stark had the Phillies linked to Puk previously.
Kyle Lewis is a 21 year-old center fielder at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. In 54 games played, Lewis has 17 home runs and a .367 batting average. Lewis also has driven in 56 runs - an average over one RBI per game.
The speculation began before the 2016 season, and Groome and Puk seemed to be the obvious choices. But, Puk has had his share of struggles with his command and Groome was suspended half the season for failing to comply with high school transfer guidelines. Lewis, meanwhile is getting lots of attention and rising up in the mock drafts.
At 21 years old, the Phillies could reap the benefits of Lewis much quicker than a high school player. If Puk is looking unpolished, the Phillies might be getting nervous that he could not make a quicker rise to the Major Leagues. In June 2014, the Phillies took pitcher Aaron Nola and by July 2015, Nola was already pitching in the Phillies starting rotation. After picking high school player Cornelius Randolph in 2015, the Phillies may wish to go for a more immediate return.