Phillies Mailbag: Draft Day, Williams, Kendrick at 2B
We are back with another edition of the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and then discuss them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill each Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Tune in to hear your responses.
What do you think of the Phillies draft haul in the first two rounds?
The Phillies did something that they have not often done in the draft too often: they used their first round pick on a college bat. When the Phillies have taken a bat in recent years in the first round, it has been the likes of Cornelius Randolph and J.P. Crawford. Both players are still not ready, though it feels like it has been some time since the Phillies drafted them.
In taking Adam Haseley, the Phillies are getting a well-rounded college outfielder who has a chance to contribute to the Major Leagues in the near future. Haseley has shown the ability to make a lot of contact and scatter hits around the diamond. Scouts say that while Haseley has not shown a tremendous amount of power, he is coming around to show more of it.
The last time the Phillies took a college bat in the first round was someone named Chase Utley back in 2000.
Taking a college bat might represent a little less risk. Teams generally know what type of player they are getting as his development is further along. While not selected in the first round, second round pick Scott Kingery is making a quick rise to the Major Leagues.
In the second round, the Phillies went with pitcher Spencer Howard. Like we saw with pitcher Aaron Nola, a collegiate arm can rise through the system quickly and contribute to the Major Leagues relatively soon. The Phillies are very high on him.
Phillies director of scouting Johnny Almaraz called him the best right-handed pitcher in the 2017 draft. Considering Hunter Greene went second overall, that is as bold statement.
I think the Phillies did pretty well. At pick eight, the Phillies still had the opportunity for a strong Major League player. While neither player is a guaranteed super star, it is reasonable to think that both players will have the talent to make it to the Major Leagues. I also think there is good balance in the pick.
Since last year's number one pick overall Mickey Moniak came out of high school, we probably will see Haseley first. Drafting a collegiate outfielder on the back of a high school outfielder helps balance the Phillies system a bit. The Phillies say that both Howard and Haseley will report to Class A Lakewood, joining former high school draft picks Randolph and Moniak.
There is plenty of time for them to develop before they need to be added to the 40-man roster, too. This gives the Phillies some advanced options while retaining the batch of prospects the club already has at the upper levels.
Do you think Nick Williams is ready?
Over the last month, Williams has been showing tremendous improvement at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Williams continues to grow in his power, average, and most importantly, overall consistency in his game. The consistency will be the key as the Phillies make a decision whether or not to promote Williams.\
I think that Williams has shown this consistency over the last month. I would like to see this for a few more weeks, and maybe over the next six or so weeks until we approach the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. When the players are ready, the Phillies will give them the opportunity.
One other frequent question that comes up in the Williams discussion is the status of outfielder Michael Saunders. I think at this point, Saunders is headed for the bench. Since signing a free agent contract with the Phillies that will pay him $9 million this year, Saunders has provided the Phillies very little.
The Phillies seem like they're not going to play Saunders. Even with Cesar Hernandez hitting the disabled list and Howie Kendrick moving to second base, the Phillies are using Daniel Nava in the outfield instead. The Phillies are currently facing a stretch of left-handed pitchers which would put Nava in the right-handed part of the platoon, but it sends the message that Saunders will not be in the way if it is time for Williams to arrive in the Major Leagues.
The Phillies could promote Williams at any time between now and the year end and have six years of team control beyond this one. So, it does not matter when Williams comes up, really. The Phillies just want to be sure he is ready for consistent play, because if he does not make it up in Philadelphia, sending him back down to Triple-A will be no help.
Howie Kendrick has a nice bat...but can he handle second base?
Howie Kendrick put together an outstanding offensive performance on Monday in Boston. Kendrick went 3 for 6, with three stolen bases. Kendrick also had two errors at second base.
We also saw a play or two on Sunday that Hernandez would have made at second base that Kendrick did not. Phillies fans should recognize just what they have in Hernandez defensively and come to know that Kendrick will represent a downgrade defensively. That is okay.
The Phillies need the offense right now more than anything. The Phillies needed a designated hitter both Monday and Tuesday in Boston, and while Andres Blanco played third base (allowing Maikel Franco to be the DH) the team would be much better off if Nava and Kendrick both are in the lineup than had Kendrick been in the outfield and Ty Kelly getting the start.
I think we can expect Kendrick to make most of the regular plays, but understand that he has not played the position regularly in some time. Kendrick is probably going to be moved to a contending team, and getting re-acclimated to second base now only boosts his trade value, which helps the Phillies. Instead of finding a trade partner who needs just an outfielder, the Phillies might find one that needs a second baseman. Or, someone who can play some of each.
Kendrick is a fine leader and a fine Major Leaguer. Since offense remains a premium for the Phillies, the Phillies will position Kendrick as they need to so as to maximize offensive production. A couple miscues here and there is something they can tolerate. Kendrick will get more comfortable and get better.