Let's try this theory out for size:
The amateur draft in baseball is the most important draft in all of the major professional sports. It's more important than all the hoopla associated with the NBA and NFL drafts and it's certainly more important than the NHL draft. Sure, those other drafts get much more hype than the baseball draft simply because the casual fan has heard of all the top players, but as far as sheer impact on an organization goes, nothing has a greater effect than the baseball draft.
Tomorrow the Phillies will entrust director of scouting Marti Wolever, assistant GM Mike Arbuckle and their scouts and baseball people to shape the organization for (hopefully) the next decade. Gripped with a dearth of prospects in the minor leagues, Wolever and the gang can really replenish the system during tomorrow's draft because they have seven selections in the first 136 picks.
"It's the first time in 16 years we have this many picks that I can remember," Wolever said. "It's real significant. We have a chance to impact the system by putting some quality players in."
The Phillies have to wait until the 24th overall pick on Thursday afternoon to make their first pick, but after that they come quickly. The Phillies also have the 34th, 51st, 71st, 102nd, 110th and 136th picks. The 34th selection is a compensation pick from the Giants from when they signed free agent Aaron Rowand away from the Phillies.
Nevertheless, the reason why baseball drafts are so important is because the player/prospect becomes such an integral part of the organizations' plans. Certain prospects, like Cole Hamels was, are deemed "untouchable" in things like trades or potential Rule 5 drafts. Because of that, guys like Hamels are earmarked spots in the rotation well into the future, which causes the team to act accordingly. Why would a team like the Phillies make a deal for a pitcher if they have someone like Cole Hamels down on the farm?
Additionally, baseball players spend a long time in an organization. Teams invest time, money and resources in developing ballplayers even if they aren't labeled as "prospects." After all, baseball organizations are more than just one, Major League team. Instead, they are chains of teams located all over the hemisphere that need players, coaches, trainers, scouts, etc., etc. in order to function. They are, indeed, franchises that need a lot of different moving parts.
Therefore, the players selected in the draft matter.
What's more, certain prospects not labeled as "untouchable" are perfect for helping teams over the short term. In fact, it's difficult to find significant trades in baseball that do not include prospects because every team covets them. So in order to land a player that could put a contending team over the top during the stretch run, a prospect or two might be the cost.
Before the 2000 season the Phillies thought they were a team that would be in the mix for a wild-card spot if they could get another starting pitcher to compliment Curt Schilling. In thinking veteran right-hander Andy Ashby was the pitcher they needed, the Phillies dealt away first-round draft picks Adam Eaton and Carlton Loewer to San Diego.
It was a controversial deal at the time, but with the aid of hindsight it appears as if the trade were a push. Injuries wrecked Loewer’s career, Eaton came full circle and back to the Phillies, while Schilling and Ashby were both traded away during June of 2000 when it was clear the Phillies weren’t contenders.
So yeah, a good draft pick can help out a team now or later.
On Thursday, Wolever is hoping for both. However, based on the team's drafting strategy, the down-the-road part appears to be the best analysis - at least in terms of the pick joining the Phillies. See, Wolever likes to target "high-ceiling" players, which means the Phillies often select high school players as opposed to more polished college prospects in the draft.
Still, Wolever has selected four college players with the team's first pick dating back to 2000.
"You can't take all high-ceiling players," Wolever said. "When you need to reach down into Triple and Double-A and he's still in [Single-A], that doesn't help."
At least not yet.
Regardless, the Phillies will take a big step toward shaping their future on Thursday afternoon. Tune in to hear about players you'll be talking about a lot a few years from now.
The Phillies drafted Anthony Hewitt, of Brooklyn, N.Y. and the Connecticut boarding school, the Salisbury School this afternoon with the No. 24 selection of the 2008 draft.
Read all about it here.
I'll write something interesting later.