It was a big, big night for young Mick Abel.

Not only was Abel the first high school pitcher taken in the Major League Baseball draft, but moments after the Phillies plucked him with the 15th overall pick, he received a FaceTime call from none other than Bryce Harper.

“I answered and saw his face pop up,” Abel said in a post-draft Zoom call. “I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s Bryce Harper. What the heck?’ ”

Harper’s message to the 18-year-old right-hander: “He just said, ‘Welcome aboard.’ The thing I took away is that the grind starts now.”

Cool stuff. The draft concludes tonight with rounds 2 through 5.

You’re signed up to get this newsletter in your inbox every Thursday while the Phillies season is delayed. If you like what you’re reading, tell your friends it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber. Thank you for reading.

— Scott Lauber (

A 50-game MLB season could turn the standings upside down

Fifty games?


Well, based on the positions staked out by Major League Baseball and the Players Association, the tenor of the negotiations, and the fact that it’s the middle of June, it seems more likely than not that commissioner Rob Manfred will use his authority to implement a 50ish-game mini-schedule that will constitute baseball in 2020.

Nobody will be satisfied by that resolution. Not the players, who want to play more games, albeit for the prorated salaries that they agreed to in March. Not a few hawkish owners, who might actually prefer no games rather than sustaining financial losses. Certainly not the fans, who have no voice whatsoever in this matter.

But hey, 50 games it is! Get excited!

If the schedule does get chopped to roughly one-third the size of the standard 162-game slate, questions will arise about the competitive integrity of it all. The proverbial marathon will become an all-out sprint. A five-game losing streak will be as damaging as 15 losses in a row. A slow start will be irreparable.

And, yes, some of the best teams might miss the playoffs.

Using the “streak analyzer” feature from our friends at, it’s possible to see how teams fared over finite stretches of any season. So, we looked at teams’ records from the first 50 games of each season since 2015 -- the first year of the 10-team postseason format -- and found that only 72% of clubs (36 of 50) that reached the playoffs still would have qualified if the season ended after 50 games.

Three of the last five National League champions -- 2019 Washington Nationals, 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers, and 2015 New York Mets -- would have been left out of the postseason. The worst team that would’ve made it: the 2015 Detroit Tigers, 28-22 through 50 games, 74-87 after 162.

Interestingly, an 82-game season wouldn’t yield much difference. Of the 50 playoff teams since 2015, 38 (or 76%) would’ve qualified at the 82-game mark, with those same NL pennant-winners still left out. Only the 2016 Dodgers and 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates would have benefited from 82 games rather than 50.

An abbreviated season would have helped Gabe Kapler’s Phillies, though. In each of the last two seasons, they were 29-21 through 50 games, tops in the NL East last year and good enough for a wild-card spot in 2018. Through 82 games, the Phillies fell out of the playoff mix last year but still would’ve qualified as a wildcard in 2018.

The Phillies finished 81-81 last year, 80-82 in 2018.

The rundown

The very latest on the MLB-players negotiations, including an 89-game counterproposal by the players and commissioner Rob Manfred’s guarantee that baseball will be played this year, one way or another.

If not for a senior trip to Cabo, Chase Utley might’ve never gotten drafted by the Phillies in 2000, the last time they had the 15th overall pick. Great piece from Bob Brookover on Utley’s draft saga.

Meet the man who is running the Phillies’ draft room for the first time: amateur scouting director Brian Barber.

It’s going to take a while to judge Barber’s first draft pick, Mick Abel. Heck, as Brooky writes, the jury is still out of most of the players selected by Johnny Almaraz, Barber’s predecessor.

Nick Bitsko, the righthander from Central Bucks East, got picked 24th overall by the Tampa Bay Rays, as Marc Narducci writes.

No matter what, Seranthony Dominguez won’t pitch this year. The hard-throwing Phillies reliever is likely headed for Tommy John surgery after returning from his native Dominican Republic.

If there’s a 2020 season, Tom McCarthy, Scott Franzke, and the rest of the Phillies’ TV and radio broadcast teams are preparing to call road games from Citizens Bank Park.

Important dates

Today: MLB Draft concludes (second round through fifth), 5 p.m.

Sunday: Happy 31st birthday, Phillies closer Hector Neris.

June 18: In 1989, Phillies trade Juan Samuel to the Mets for Lenny Dysktra and Roger McDowell.

Stat of the day

The reduction of the amateur draft from 40 rounds to five got us thinking about the most successful players ever to be selected in the sixth round. Turns out, they would form a solid team.

Here are the best sixth-round picks, by position and career Wins Above Replacement, including the year they were drafted and the team that took them:

1B Anthony Rizzo (2007, Red Sox): 33.5 WAR

2B Bill Doran (1979, Astros): 32.9 WAR

3B Sal Bando (1965, Athletics): 61.5 WAR

SS Marcus Semien (2011, White Sox): 21.8 WAR

OF Devon White (1981, Angels): 47.3 WAR

OF Shane Victorino (1999, Dodgers): 31.5 WAR

OF Ben Zobrist (2004, Astros): 44.6 WAR

C Bob Boone (1969, Phillies): 27.4 WAR

DH Cecil Cooper (1968, Red Sox): 36.0 WAR

SP Tim Hudson (1997, Athletics): 57.9 WAR

SP Jamie Moyer (1984, Cubs): 49.8 WAR

SP Mike Boddicker (1978, Orioles): 31.3 WAR

SP Mike Hampton (1990, Mariners): 28.2 WAR

RP Tom Gordon (1986, Royals): 35.0 WAR

Bench: OF Lance Johnson (1984, Cardinals): 30.2 WAR; DH Hal McRae (1965, Reds): 27.9 WAR; OF Matt Kemp (2003, Dodgers): 21.6 WAR; 1B Alvin Davis (1982, Mariners) 20.0 WAR.

Bullpen: RP Joe Nathan (1995, Giants): 26.7 WAR; SP Ed Whitson (1974, Pirates): 21.2 WAR; SP Aaron Harang (1999, Rangers): 20.1 WAR; RP Troy Percival (1990, Angels): 17.0 WAR.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.

Question: Hi @ScottLauber, may I please ask you a question? I haven’t seen this addressed and I’d appreciate your take. When owners of sports teams talk now about “losing money” due to COVID-19, are they conflating that with simply “making less money?” Or are teams at risk of going broke?

--@Andrew_Ervin, via Twitter

Answer: Hi, Andrew. Excellent question. So good, in fact, that I replied on Twitter, but want to expand on my answer here.

In a memo to full-time staff last week, Phillies managing partner John Middleton said the team will lose “substantially more than $100 million” this year. He also said “approximately 40%” of the club’s annual revenue is generated from fan attendance (tickets, food/merchandise concessions, parking, sponsorships), a figure that also has been referenced by commissioner Rob Manfred.

The Phillies’ annual revenue last year was $392 million, according to Forbes. Forty percent of that total comes to $156.8 million. So, when Middleton estimates more than $100 million in losses, I take that to be relative to last year’s earnings. The overall franchise value, also according to Forbes, is $2 billion.

These are all estimates, though, because MLB teams don’t disclose their full financials, a bone of contention with the players’ union. So, unless the owners allow for a thorough audit (not happening), it’s impossible to know the true depth of the economic hardships that they’re claiming.