Matheu Nelson flew in a plane with "captain" Roy Halladay just three days before the former Phillies pitcher's fatal crash. He played for Halladay in high school, caught Halladay's son and spent the last seven months honoring his former coach's memory.
Nelson was able to honor Halladay again on Wednesday when the Phillies drafted the high-school catcher in the 39th round. Nelson is all but guaranteed to play college baseball at Florida State, as he's one of the best high-school catchers in the country. The Phillies, with whom Halladay played his final four seasons, understand that. This was just a nice touch.
Halladay was an assistant coach at Calvary Christian Academy in Clearwater, Fla., before he died last November when his plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. Calvary Christian won 60 straight games, a stretch that started in 2016, before falling last month in the state title game. Braden Halladay, Roy's son, pitched the first four innings of the game. He'll be a senior in the fall and is signed to play at Penn State. But first, perhaps he'll hear his name next June.
"It wasn't a gesture, it was more strategy," amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz said. "You have to go out and keep drafting because you never know what's going to happen in front of you as far as the picks are concerned. If we want to get somebody signed, then maybe we think this is an option for us. We feel like he's a major-league prospect."
The Phillies opened Wednesday by drafting college pitchers as they selected Stetson University righthander Jack Perkins in the 11th round and Ole Miss righthander James McArthur in the 12th.
Perkins made 16 starts for Stetson and registered a 2.34 ERA in 103 2/3 innings. Perkins, who turns 21 in August, struck out 214 batters and walked just 61 over the last two seasons in 203 1/3 innings. He spent last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he struggled with a 5.93 ERA in seven starts.
McArthur had a 4.48 ERA in 16 starts with 58 strikeouts and 38 walks in 66.1 innings. Opponents batted .239 against McArthur, whose 6-foot-7 frame makes him an appealing pick. He had some success on Cape Cod, registering a 3.00 ERA last summer in eight starts. His father, Gregory, pitched for four seasons in Baltimore's minor-league system.
The Phillies might have found a solid player in the 14th round if they are able to sign Nebraska catcher Jesse Wilkening. He batted .310 as a junior with a 1.033 OPS in 199 at-bats. His nine homers were second on the Huskers and he struck out 36 times with 24 walks. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder had a .970 fielding percentage behind the plate and made the All Big-Ten second team.
They'll also be pressed to sign Long Island high-school catcher Logan O'Hoppe, who batted .511 last season at St. John the Baptist High. He's signed to play at East Carolina and was projected to go a bit earlier than the 23rd round. So the Phillies will likely have to spend some money here. He played in high school with a wooden bat after his league banned metal bats.
The Phillies didn't just draft starters as they returned to Wichita State in the 17th round to pick a college teammate of Alec Bohm, their first-round pick on Monday night. Keylan Kilgore, a 6-foot-3 lefthander, pitched almost exclusively in the Shockers' bullpen as a sophomore and struck out 40 batters and walked 19 in 39 innings with a 2.54 ERA.