PHILADELPHIA -- For a team with a pipeline full of pitching prospects, identifying the names on the Phillies' wish list seems a simple exercise. "We'd like to improve position-player wise, offensively, and in catching," said Mike Arbuckle, the team's assistant general manager/scouting and player development.
Filling those needs, especially grabbing a catcher in the first round, may not be so easy.
"There's probably not a catcher right now who we would envision fitting at [No.] 21, and we've tried to invent a couple," Arbuckle said. "I saw some catchers myself, hoping I'd like them better than some of our other guys, and there's not a guy right now who we're excited about."
Philadelphia holds the 21st pick in the First-Year Player Draft, which will be held June 7, and it is preparing. That the Phillies have a first-round selection at all is significant, since they didn't pick until late in the third round last year. They forfeited picks in the first two rounds because of the signings of Jim Thome and David Bell in the previous offseason.
While the Phillies are thrilled to have those two players contributing mightily at the Major League level, the organization was careful not to sacrifice two straight drafts. That's why they traded for Billy Wagner instead of pursuing say, Keith Foulke, and why they waited until the Giants didn't offer salary arbitration to Tim Worrell -- meaning the team that signed him wouldn't have to surrender a draft pick -- before snatching him up.
It also was a consideration when offering Kevin Millwood salary arbitration. They wanted him to return, but protected the draft pick just in case.
"We were hell bent that we weren't going to give up draft picks in the free-agent market," said general manager Ed Wade. "We were going to try to do it differently, and use the talent that we had to go out and make trades, or sign people who weren't draft-compensation eligible."
Now the Phillies, like most teams, will use the amateur draft as a way to restock a farm system that dealt away farmhands to bring in Wagner and Eric Milton. Arbuckle said he likes more potential catchers this year -- just none enough to merit first-round consideration. There are outfielders, and of course, pitchers worthy.
The Phillies are among those teams not afraid to select high-school arms, as evidenced by the selections of Ryan Madson, Brett Myers, Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels. High on the Phillies' draft board include high-school hurlers Mark Rogers, Homer Bailey and Philip Hughes, though they may not slide that far. University of Oklahoma southpaw David Purcey is another possibility.
Position player possibilities includes high-school outfielders Greg Golson and Dexter Fowler, Stanford outfielder Danny Putnam and Princeton outfielder B.J. Szymanski.
Past five No. 1 picks Year Player 2003 Timothy Moss, 2B 2002 Cole Hamels, RHP 2001 Gavin Floyd, RHP 2000 Chase Utley, 2B 1999 Brett Myers, RHP
"Athleticism is key," said Arbuckle. "The only exception to that would be the absolute big banger that can hit 45-50 home runs. Usually that individual is going to strike out 100-150 times, so sometimes I'm not sure if getting away from athleticism is wise in any area. I go back to the same philosophy: Athletes with tools for the position."
Arbuckle and Wade also stressed that Citizens Bank Park will have little, if anything, to do with the draft philosophy. Sure, it's hitter-friendly, but that can't factor in. Consider it experience as Arbuckle once worked for the Braves, when they played in Fulton-County Stadium, also known as "the Launching Pad."
"We drafted every non-athletic, bad body (slugger) we could find, then we looked up and they couldn't hit their way out of Double-A, so I don't think that's going to impact us too much. We still have to keep the same philosophy."
That philosophy was handed down from the legendary Paul Owens, who built the Phillies' teams of the mid-70's, to Arbuckle, who built the current nucleus of Pat Burrell, Randy Wolf, Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, Myers and Madson. Mike Lieberthal was also drafted by the Phillies, but not under Arbuckle's watch.
"Pope always told me, if you get a player and a half every year in the big leagues, it's a good draft, and I believe that," Arbuckle said, referring to Owens. "I try to work on the philosophy of two decent players a year. If we can do that, it will be a good day."