It has been quite a roller coaster start to the season for the Phillies, who currently sit at 19-17 and in second in the NL East. From bullpen explosions to stranded runners, it doesn’t feel like the team should be in second. However, the team is two games over .500 and sitting right in the thick of the division standings.
I am sure that part of the front office and Dave Dombrowski are looking for ways, both from inside and outside, to improve the team. However, a good portion of the front office has another thing on their plates.
The MLB Draft is two months away and the Phillies have the 13th overall pick in the first round. While the pick will almost certainly not help the team this year, it will be the first pick under DD. This is an important pick for a system that could use a influx of high-end talent.
Here’s a look at five players that Phillies’ fans should keep their eye on:
Gunnar Hoglund, RHP Ole Miss
Hogland was a supplemental first round pick back in 2018 by the Pirates, but didn’t sign due to medical issues. Instead, he landed in Oxford and immediately became an important part of their rotation. He pitched well for the Rebels his first two seasons there, showing the stuff that got him drafted 36th overall in 2018. Much to the delight of MLB scouts, though, his stuff took a step forward this year.
Usually working in the 88-92 mph with his fastball, Hoglund sat comfortably in the 93-96 mph range this season. Pairing that with a really good and tight 84-87 mph slider, Hoglund looked the part of, at least, a mid-rotation starter in the Bigs. He looked to be firmly entrenched as a top-10 pick, but, unfortunately, suffered an elbow injury and was forced to have Tommy John.
While he will be out for the foreseeable future, I don’t see him falling much farther then the top-20. The 6’4″ right hander has certainly impressed people with his makeup and stuff. While elbow reconstruction surgery is a big deal for a pitcher, players are coming back more and more frequently just how they left. If the Phillies like the high-floor potential that he brings, Hoglund could be the pick at 13.
Sal Frelick, OF Boston College
It has been well documented how the Phillies have struggled in CF this year. If the team wants to bring in some depth at the position, Frelick may be the best available option at 13. He has experience in all three outfield spots, but played center in 2021. He was able to make the necessary adjustments to the new position, and teams think he can stay there long-term.
Frelick is exactly the type of kid you want to bring into your franchise. His incredible mental make-up makes it easy to root for the kid. While he will not wow anyone with his power, Frelick relies on his above-average athleticism and bat-to-ball skills to make noise. He has a strong history of getting on base and making contact. In a game that increasingly relies on power, Frelick is a bit of a throwback.
A highly gifted defensive outfielder, Frelick has the pedal to the medal playstyle that Philly fans love. I see him as a top-of-the-order bat with Gold Glove potential. At pick 13, the Phillies could do a lot worse than that.
Benny Montgomery, OF Red Land High School (PA)
If you like players with loud tools, Montgomery is the player for you. Somewhat of a local kid from outside of Harrisburg, Montgomery popped onto the scene last summer. The first thing that pops off the page when you see him is his speed. MLB Pipeline ranks his speed at a 70 on the typical 20-80 scale, however some scouts see it as an 80. Not only is he fast, but he has some of the best raw power in the draft.
The Virginia commit won the Perfect Game All-American Classic Home Run Derby, and they were not wall scrapers. He hits LOUD home runs to all fields in BP. His mechanics are a bit rigid and almost robotic. His power does not always translate to games because of smoothness he lacks in his swing. However, it is much easier to correct a mechanical issue to unlock the power than it is to teach the kind of power he has.
While his speed could make him a potential CF in the future, his 6’4″ frame might make it more likely he ends up in right. Wherever he ends up, he will be an above-average defender with the plus-plus speed and plus arm. A quick-twitch athlete with an undeniable work ethic, Montgomery has the potential to be the best player picked in his draft class. He definitely has some risk in his game, but if he puts it all together, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Jordan Wicks, LHP Kansas State
From a player with loud tools to a pitcher that has average tools, Wick will be the first player from Kansas State ever picked in the first round. He is the best lefthander in the draft and for good reason. His fastball will not overpower hitters, as he typically sits in the 90-93 mph range. He does have good movement on it and is able to throw it on either side of the plate for strikes. The pièce de résistance for Wicks is his changeup, which is the best in the draft.
A plus-plus pitch according to some scouts, it will sit in the low 80’s. Against lefties, it is almost unhittable. Using the same arm speed and release point as his fastball, his changeup will tumble out of the zone as batters swing over the top of it. He pairs the fastball/changeup combo with an average slider which he can manipulate speed on. While sometimes it will be hard breaking, he will add a little more speed on it to make it look more like a cutter. He also has a curveball, but it is definitely his fourth best pitch.
Wicks has a very smooth and repeatable delivery that allows him to command the strike zone with ease. He is a bulldog on the mound when he pitches, and it’s hard to find a bigger competitor then him in this draft. Baseball has become a power sport, both at the plate and on the mound. In my opinion, the best pitch to counteract power is the changeup. Wicks’ dominate changeup will allow him to have a long and successful career.
Matt McLain, SS UCLA
A first round pick (25th overall) in the 2018, McLain instead opted to fulfill his commitment to UCLA. A definite risk turned out to be the smart play for him, as he will probably be selected higher than where he was. He started three years for the Bruins, playing all over the diamond for them. While he struggled his freshman year, he improved each and every year. Regarded as one of the top college bats in this class, McLain has always had above average contact skills. However, since getting to UCLA, he has physically matured to where he now has some thump.
Now, he will not be someone who is a perennial home run champ, but it is surprising power for someone who’s 5’10”. Not only did getting stronger give him that extra power, but improved his arm strength. He has worked tirelessly on his defense at shortstop. While he may not be able to stick there long-term, there is definitely a chance. Like at the plate, he has great hands in the field, paired with quick footwork.
Watching film on him, he reminds me a lot of Scott Kingery. Before you get upset, I mean the college/MiLB version before he decided to sell out for power. The Phillies lack depth in middle infield down on the farm. Adding McLain to the prospect pool will only strengthen that depth. He is definitely on the smaller side, but teams will not be concerned by that. Combine his bat-to-ball skills with the chance to stick at SS, and teams will be lining up in the first round to select him.