Seventy-one players came flying off the board between the Phillies’ first and second picks in the Major League Baseball draft. So when their turn finally came back around Thursday night, they took a big swing.
Just like the player they selected in the third round.
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Casey Martin once was considered a potential first-round pick. But the University of Arkansas shortstop’s stock plummeted as his strikeout rate and error total soared over the last two years. Despite being projected as the 38th-best draft prospect by Baseball America, he slid into the Phillies’ lap with the 87th overall pick.
A steal? Some evaluators think Martin has that look.
“There’s a power-and-speed combination in this player that doesn’t exist with a lot of other players,” Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said on MLB Network’s telecast of the draft.
In the fourth round, the Phillies took University of South Florida pitcher Carson Ragsdale, a 6-foot-8 right-hander who returned to the mound for four starts this spring after missing last season while recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.
The Phillies wrapped up the truncated draft -- MLB reduced it from 40 rounds to five -- by selecting all-or-nothing slugger Baron Radcliff, an outfielder from Georgia Tech.
When the draft opened Wednesday night, the Phillies pounced on Oregon high school pitcher Mick Abel in the first round (15th overall). But when it resumed Thursday, they sat idle, having lost their second-round pick when they signed right-hander Zack Wheeler as a free agent last December.
Martin, 21, was the second Arkansas player taken in the draft. But if outfielder Heston Kjerstad was a surprise No. 2 overall selection by the Baltimore Orioles, Martin's slide was equally unexpected.
At 5-foot-11, Martin has a running stride similar to Dustin Pedroia’s. His size draws favorable comparisons to that of Houston Astros star Alex Bregman. And as a freshman, he batted .345 with 13 home runs and a .974 OPS in 252 at-bats to help Arkansas reach the finals of the College World Series.
But Martin led the Southeastern Conference with 79 strikeouts (in 283 at-bats) last year and went hitless in the SEC tournament, part of an 0-for-19 spell that came when the most eyes were on him.
Martin’s strikeout rate continued to rise this year in a pandemic-shortened season. He whiffed 22 times in only 59 at-bats over 15 games before the NCAA canceled the season.
But the biggest questions about Martin pertain to his defense. He led the SEC with 23 errors at shortstop last season, prompting suggestions that he might eventually have to move to second base.
Ragsdale, 22, made 25 relief appearances over his first two collegiate seasons and had mixed results. He averaged 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings but also 6.03 walks. He posted a 6.30 ERA as a freshman and a 3.38 mark as a sophomore.
After returning from surgery, Ragsdale moved into a starting role and posted a 2.84 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 19 innings before the season was canceled. In his final start, he struck out 10 in only four innings.
Radcliff, 21, didn’t sign with his hometown Atlanta Braves after getting drafted in the 40th round in 2017. In 112 games for Georgia Tech, he batted .236 and struck out in 33.9% of his plate appearances. But he also connected for 19 homers, including 12 last season.
The Phillies have until Aug. 1 to sign their draftees. Teams also can sign undrafted amateurs for a maximum of $20,000 apiece. But it’s unclear how aggressive the Phillies will be or how many players will be willing to sign considering the bonus for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-round picks last year ranged from $300,000 to $160,000. More players might opt for college or junior college.