Looking for gems

Is there another Cole Hamels or Chase Utley or Ryan Howard out there?

That’s what the Phillies scouting staff is doing….zeroing in on the First-Year Player Draft that will take place via a telephone conference call with Major League Baseball and the other 29 clubs.

The Phillies will have the 18th, 37th and 65th selections in the first two rounds.  Their 18th slot comes from the Mets for signing Billy Wagner.  The Phillies also receive a compensation pick for that signing, the 37th selection. 

Marti Wolever, the Director of Scouting, has been living on the road basically since February.  He and the West and Midwest supervisors just met for three days in Las Vegas.  Next, the Eastern area supervisors will meet in Atlanta for three days starting Sunday.

On May 31 at Citizens Bank Park, Wolever will be joined by Jim Fregosi, Jr. and Mike Ledna (Scouting Coordinators), John Castleberry (East Regional Supervisor), Brian Kohlscheen (Midwest Regional Supervisor), Billy Moore (West Regional Supervisor) and the top executives in baseball administration. Their home for the next week will be a room called the Draft Room, located on the Hall of Fame Club level, just down the hall from Pat Gillick’s office.

The huge table will be filled with laptops, written reports and telephones.  White, erasable magnetic boards will nearly circle the room.  The job in the final days before the draft is to boil down the prospects and list them in numerical order of preference.   

There are four main ranked boards, high school pitchers, high school players, college pitchers and college players.  There’s also a “draft and follow” board, prospects that we will draft and then watch them play the rest of the summer and next spring. 

Every player on every board has his name on a magnet.  Dallas Green usually has the duty of removing the names as they are selected.

Area supervisors have been combing the country looking at high school and college players.  Mike Arbuckle, Assistant General Manager, Scouting and Player Development, has been zigging and zagging across the country checking out the top prospects.  Pat Gillick, John Vukovich (Special Assistant to the GM), Green (Senior Advisor to the GM) and Don Welke (Special Assistant to the GM) will also do occasional amateur scouting.  Idea is to compile as many opinions as possible.

Welke is a new name for Phillies fans.  He came to the Phillies last November after Gillick was hired as the GM.  Welke has been scouting since 1965, working for Pat in Toronto and Baltimore.  He recently flew from Philadelphia to Atlanta, drove to Birmingham, AL, to scout a high school pitcher; then, flew to Houston, drove to Lubbock, TX, to see a college pitcher; then headed for Springfield, MO, to see another college pitcher.  That took three days.  His fourth day? “I don’t know until day three,” he said smiling.

During his Toronto career, Welke served as the Blue Jays’ advance scout for two seasons, 1992-93.  Welke was smiling that October.  We, in Philly, were heartbroken.

When it was suggested that he must live out of a suitcase, he replied, “That’s the life of a scout.  When I was the advance scout, I stored a suitcase in the Marriott Hotels in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.  That way I had clothes in those cities and I didn’t have to carry a lot of luggage,” he said smiling.  Smiling, by the way, comes easy for Welke.

Of the current 25-man roster, 36% were drafted by the Phillies.  It is a tribute to men who spend hours and hours sitting at small high school fields, looking for gems.  From Therron Brockish to Roy Tanner, the area supervisors do a job that is so important to the organization.  Their efforts result in the players that Phillies fans pack Citizens Bank Park to see.

2 Comments

Finally a peek behind the draft curtain, great post…

Thanks Larry. There are many of us who follow the Phillies minors and draft closely and we eat this info up. Personally, the college crop looks pretty weak so I’d lean towards HS guys. Give me bats who can hit not raw toolsy athletes whose bats need to develop. The Phillies were two time losers with Jeff Jackson and Reggie Taylor. Greg Golson is having an awful year in Low A. The Phillies should recognize what they do well (HS pitching) and what they don’t do well (raw toolsy athletes) and adjust the board accordingly. I don’t mind position players but hitting eye, hand eye coordination and plate discipline are all way more important than how fast the guy runs from home to first.

Also, it would be great if the Phillies let us know whether they signed any of their draft and follow picks from 2005 (Andres Ibarz, Jason Stacy, Travis Jones, Nick Monette, etc.)

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