The strange story of how the Phillies drafted a player without a school

The hosts of Major League Baseball’s draft show became flustered Tuesday afternoon – rightfully so – when the Phillies drafted a pitcher who came from “no school.” No school? Did the Phillies scout this kid in his backyard, one of the hosts joked.

The real story may be even better.

The Phillies drafted Hazleton, Pa. lefthander Jhordany Mezquita in the eighth round and believe they found a steal. The Phillies nearly signed the 19-year-old Mezquita last year during the international signing period, but Mezquita was ruled ineligible to be an international free agent after it was discovered that he had attended high school in America.

He left the Phillies international academy and returned to live with his parents in Hazleton. The 6-foot-1 Mezquita was ruled eligible for the amateur draft, but he never played high school baseball and American scouts never saw him. He was almost a secret. The Phillies, having scouted Mezquita in the Dominican Republic, were ready to draft him on Tuesday.

“Sal Agostinelli did a fabulous job on him and identified him,” said Phillies director of amateur scouting Johnny Almaraz, as he credited the team’s international scouting director. “We knew about him and we took him. We felt like that’s where the talent belonged. We got a really good lefthanded pitcher with power stuff. Throws 90-94 with an outstanding breaking ball with an ability to pitch.”

Mezquita is perhaps the most interesting pick of the team’s first two days. There was virtually no information about him on the internet. The hosts of MLB’s draft show weren’t the only ones flustered. The Phillies may have discovered a gem.

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“Absolutely. This kid is a really good looking kid,” Almaraz said. “Sal Agostinelli did an incredible job with him and were fortunate to have him. A very good young talent. Lefthanded power arm.”