The Phillies kept tabs on Andrew Painter for more than a year, making sure they dispatched a scout each time he pitched over the last 12 months. They tried to find out everything they could about the 18-year-old right-hander before selecting him Sunday night with the 13th-overall pick.
So it helped the Phillies that they knew the guy who raked the dirt at Calvary Christian High School while Painter watered the grass.
Phillies manager Joe Girardi helped prepare the field the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. school where Painter played with Girardi’s son, Dante.
“We had an opportunity to get some inside information there on his background and his makeup and things we consider really important as well,” Phillies director of amateur scouring Brian Barber said. “Every little bit of information helps with what we’re trying to do and that was a positive for us.”
The 6-foot-7 Painter held his own as a groundskeeper, but he was also on of the top high-school pitchers in this year’s draft. His fastball tops out at 97 MPH and he struck out 54% of the batters he faced this season.
Painter was Florida’s Gatorade baseball player of the year after posting a 0.31 ERA in 45 ⅓ innings while holding batters to a .119 average.
“I’m a power pitcher and I like to establish the fastball,” Painter said.
MLB.com ranked him as the draft’s 18th-best prospect and third-best high-school arm. Painter pairs his powerful fastball with a mid-80s change-up, low-80s slider, and high-70s curveball.
“He’s a large human being,” said Barber. “6-7, 230 pounds. You notice that immediately. You start digging into the baseball attributes that he has. His delivery has an excellent starting point and his arm action works really well. And then he just has really good stuff. The very first time we saw him last summer, he was up to 97 mph. He has a curveball, slider that both project to plus and a changeup that he has a really good feel for as an 18-year-old. Above that, sort of the icing on the cake for us, was a guy that at 17 years old had a feel for pitching and the ability to throw strikes. He was a complete package for us from day one.”
Barber is overseeing his second draft since being hired after the 2019 season and has now used his first two first-round picks on high-school right-handers. Drafting high-school arms brings inherent risk, but the rewards are large if the pitchers pan out.
Mick Abel, last year’s No. 15 overall pick, is averaging 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings through 12 starts at low-A Clearwater. The 19-year-old has a fastball that touches triple digits, but the Phillies are closely watching his innings in his first season as a pro.
Painter and Abel are years away from the majors, but the Phillies allowed themselves to envision having a rotation headed by the first-round picks.
“That was brought up,” Barber said. “But it’s also not why we took Andrew. They’re two separate conversations to be had there. We evaluated Andrew by himself and then when you start talking about the excitement and upside of getting Mick last year and the opportunity to add Andrew to that, and those guys rise up through the minor leagues together and hopefully one day front your rotation in Philadelphia, yeah, that gets us excited.”
This was the eighth straight year the Phillies drafted No. 16 or better. Their last seven first-round picks have combined for 25.2 Wins Above Replacement with the Phillies, but 91% of that was totaled by 2014 first-rounder Aaron Nola.
The Phillies have picked near the top of the draft for nearly a decade, but have not yet gotten rich from it. There is still hope as Bryson Stott (2019) and Abel (2020) have impressed in the minor leagues. Stott, 23, is hitting .258 this season with an .833 OPS between high-A Jersey Shore and double-A Reading. He represented the Phillies on Sunday in Denver at the Futures Game.
The Phillies had focused on Painter for more than a year, but that did not make the pitcher think he was headed to Philly. Painter said being selected by the Phillies “kind of caught us off guard.”
“I was at my house with close family and it was an unreal moment,” Painter said. “It still hasn’t settled in. The blood rush is still kind of going through all of us. We’re still celebrating. Just an unreal moment. Something I worked hard for for a long time and it’s just the beginning of it.”
Painter said he would talk to Girardi about “always talk about different stuff” while they prepared the fields. He watered the grass and picked the brain of a World Champion player and manager.
Girardi’s son, Dante, played at Calvary Christian before graduating and moving last year to play at Florida International University.
Girardi said last week that he liked following the draft because he recognized so many names from watching his son play. Each year, he tracks the players who played with or against his son and sees where they end up.
“Like the Andrew Painter kid,” Girardi said on Thursday. “I’ve known him since he was a freshman because he was on Dante’s team. They played basketball together and baseball together. It’s kind of weird like to see where he’s going to end up.”
Three days later, Painter ended up with Girardi’s Phillies. If everything goes right, they could be together one day in Philadelphia. This time, they won’t have to prepare the fields.