Absent a minor league baseball season, the Phillies are assembling a formidable pickup basketball team.
The undrafted amateur market opened Sunday, and in less than 72 hours, the Phillies signed eight pitchers, six of whom stand at least 6-foot-3. From a local perspective, the headliner is 6-7 lefty Jake McKenna from Ocean City (N.J.) High School.
Major League Baseball cut back last week’s draft from 40 rounds to only five, creating a larger-than-usual pool of free-agent amateurs who can sign for a maximum of $20,000 apiece.
In addition to McKenna, the Phillies added Northeastern University right-hander Sam Jacobsak (6-5) and University of Central Missouri lefty Jordan Fowler (6-3) on Sunday before landing Lafayette College left-hander JP Woodward (6-6), and righties Noah Skirrow (6-3) of Liberty University, Chase Antle (6-3) from Coastal Carolina University, and Billy Sullivan (6-2) from the University of Delaware on Monday, and Georgia Tech right-hander Jonathan Hughes (6-2) on Tuesday.
All eight pitchers revealed their news on social media, with Ocean City coach Andrew Bristol tweeting out McKenna’s announcement on Sunday.
The Phillies announced the signings on Tuesday evening.
McKenna accepted the Phillies’ offer over a scholarship to pitch for St. Joseph’s. He didn’t pitch this year because the high school season was canceled by the coronavirus, but he struck out 18 batters in 8 1/3 innings as a junior.
Fowler, a junior transfer from the University of Mississippi, posted a 2.01 ERA, 29 strikeouts and eight walks in 31 1/3 innings over six starts for Central Missouri before the college season was suspended.
Jacobsak had a 3.65 ERA and a 25-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in four starts this season for Northeastern. The 22-year-old pitched well in relief last summer in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, posting a 2.91 ERA, 30 strikeouts and only two walks in 21 2/3 innings.
Woodward, 21, had a 5.71 ERA, 117 strikeouts and 55 walks in 115 innings over his three years at Lafayette but flashed his potential in a 12-strikeout performance against Davidson before this season was canceled because of the coronavirus.
“The last few months have definitely been stressful not really knowing what would happen with all the changes to the draft and this entire process,” Woodward said in a press release put out by Lafayette. “Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on the moment, but it just goes to show that it all happens for a reason.”
Skirrow, 21, put up impressive numbers over the last year. He had a 2.76 ERA and a 40-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29 1/3 innings last summer in the Cape Cod League before posting a 1.96 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 23 innings for Liberty in four starts this season.
Antle, 23, transferred to Coastal Carolina from Bowling Green last year and didn’t allow a run in three relief appearances before this season was canceled.
Sullivan, who grew up rooting for the Phillies in New Castle, Del., missed almost all of last season with an injury. He had a standout freshman year in 2018, posting a 2.97 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings for Delaware.
Hughes, 23, passed on signing with the Baltimore Orioles after being drafted in the second round in 2015. He posted a 4.36 ERA in 57 appearances (18 starts) for Georgia Tech, including a 2.08 ERA in four starts this year.