Phillies favor college players in MLB Draft

Phillies assistant general manager for amateur scouting Marti Wolever. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

With a minor league system in dire need of depth, particularly on the pitching end, it was hardly surprising that the Phillies came away with six pitchers and nine college players after the first two days of Major League Baseball’s Draft.

After selecting two college pitchers on Thursday - righthander Aaron Nola (1st round, fourth overall) and lefthander Matt Imhof (2nd round, 47th overall) - the Phillies selected eight more players on Friday, the second of the three-day event.

Six of the eight players the Phillies drafted Friday were at least 21 years old, meaning they could move quicker through the farm system than the usual array of high-ceiling high schoolers the team has chosen more regularly in the last decade.

“It was a coincidence - it certainly wasn’t planned that way,” said assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting Marti Wolever. “But we’re pleased with the way it went.”

The Phillies used their first selection on Friday - the 81st overall pick in the third round - on Pepperdine Univeristy’s Aaron Brown. Brown is listed as a lefthanded hitting and throwing center fielder, and the Phillies will move forward with him as a position player.

But Brown also pitched in college and Wolever did not rule out keeping that in the 21-year-old’s development process.

“I think if he stayed on the mound he could be a back-of-the-rotation starter,” Wolever said. “In center, he’s an above average center fielder with a good bat.”

Brown was the third of seven college players the Phillies selected with their first seven picks. Arkansas righthander Chris Oliver (4th round, 112th pick), Sacramento State power-hitting first baseman Rhys Hoskins (5th, 142), Florida State lefthander Brandon Leibrandt (6th, 172) and Alabama State shortstop Emmanuel Marrero (7th, 202) followed.

With their college experience, it’s not out of the question that some of these names could arrive at the lower levels of the minor leagues before the end of the summer. Class A Clearwater could use the help - it entered play on Friday with a 12-47 record, in last place and 29 games behind division leader Dunedin in the Florida State League’s North standings.

“They’re certainly ahead physically than the high school players,” Wolever said. “From Team USA to the Cape Cod League, they’ve seen a lot more and different competition the high school kids haven’t been through when they show up. As far as how quickly they progress, that’s anyone’s guess. It depends on how they perform and produce. But they’ll be ahead when they show up, and that should be beneficial to them and us as well.”

The Phillies finally selected a high school player with their 8th round pick, drafting 6-7 righthanded pitcher Sam McWilliams out of Beech High (Tenn). They used one of of their last two picks Friday on a local product.

Before taking Matt Shortall, a University of Texas-Arlington outfielder, with the 292nd pick in the 10th round, the Phillies selected Temple righthanded pitcher Matt Hockenberry in the 9th round (262nd overall).

“Matt came and worked out for us and threw very well in front of a bunch of us,” Wolever said. “Outstanding young man. But more importantly all of his stuff was above average. We thought he was the best choice we could make.”

The draft concludes with rounds 11-40 on Saturday.


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