The Phillies' 2008 draft has already been fruitful.
Third-round selection Vance Worley is in the starting rotation while Joe Blanton recovers from an elbow injury, and 11th-round pick Michael Stutes is one of the most trusted members of manager Charlie Manuel's bullpen.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. used the team's two second-round selections - outfielder Anthony Gose and pitcher Jason Knapp - in trades that brought the Phillies Roy Oswalt from Houston last year and Cliff Lee from Cleveland the year before.
Meanwhile, in Lakewood the two first-round picks - Anthony Hewitt and Zach Collier - are trying to prove they are still worthy of being highly touted prospects.
Hewitt, the 24th overall selection, is back for a second straight season at single-A Lakewood after a miserable 2010 season, and he's aware of the high stakes involved.
"This year determines my future," he told the Asbury Park Press earlier this season.
Hewitt, 22, went into Saturday hitting .261 with eight doubles, four triples, six home runs, and 23 RBIs for the BlueClaws. He also has stolen 15 bases in 17 attempts.
"Right now, he's off to the best start of his professional career both statistically and attitude-wise," said Chuck LaMar, the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of player development. "He came into spring training as ready as we've ever seen him. Does he still have a long way to go? Absolutely. He has to continue to work on making better contact."
Hewitt, a righthanded hitter who was moved from shortstop to the outfield, has struck out 61 times in 161 at-bats. Still, the Phillies are happy with the strides he has made.
"He's worked so hard at everything," Lakewood manager Chris Truby said. "Defensively, he's better. He's having better at-bats and he's doing a lot of the little things. He likes to steal bases, so I said go ahead and steal whatever you want. He's relaxed and he's having fun. He's got a different swagger about him."
Collier, still only 20, was taken 10 picks after Hewitt and excelled in the Gulf Coast League during his introduction to professional baseball in the summer of 2008. The two seasons that followed were unnatural disasters. He was demoted from Lakewood to Williamsport in 2009 and did not play at all last year because of an assortment of injuries.
"It was a dark place," Collier said. "I was real depressed. I was hurt and I felt pressure because I thought I should be playing. I had surgery for the hamate bone before spring training, then I hurt my wrist and then I pulled my quad three times."
Now, the lefthanded hitting outfielder has a sound mind and a sound body. He went into Saturday hitting .274 with seven doubles, three triples, a home run, and 12 RBIs. He had stolen 12 bases in 16 attempts.
"When we drafted him he was a major-league prospect and we still think he is," LaMar said. "He's on fire right now."
After hitting just .171 and missing time with a minor back injury in April, Collier has rebounded to bat .325 in May. That included a season-high four-hit game Thursday night against Greensboro.
"I'm loving it right now," Collier said. "I'm really enjoying and appreciating the game. I feel like a different player than I was before."
In an interview with The Inquirer after the 2008 draft, Baseball America's Jim Callis was intrigued by the Phillies' selection of Hewitt and Collier. Callis described Hewitt as the best athlete and biggest risk of all the first-rounders.
"He can hit the ball 450 feet, but there are questions about his contact," Callis said. "The Philadelphia parallel I would use is Mike Mamula, who blew away everyone at the NFL combine because he was physically talented. There's a lot of risk here, but the payoff could be huge because the tools are so good."
Three years later, the talent and risk remain in play for both Hewitt and Collier.
Claypool off to a fast start
(Low A, 24-23, sixth place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)
Righthander Garett Claypool was the fourth of five pitchers drafted out of UCLA last June, but he appears intent on climbing the minor-league ladder in the early stages of his professional career. In 11 games this season, including seven starts, Claypool is 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA, which is second only to teammate David Buchanan in the South Atlantic League. In his last three starts, he has a 0.90 ERA and has struck out 24 and allowed just eight hits in 20 innings.
"It's not really surprising, especially seeing him last year at Williamsport," Lakewood manager Chris Truby said. "His radar readings don't jump out at you, and stuff-wise it doesn't really jump out at you, but he knows how to pitch. He has a great feel for pitching and he can locate. You combine those things and you can pitch for a while. You can definitely pitch in A-ball and beyond. If he stays consistent, he'll move."
After struggling as a 17-year-old at Lakewood last season and eventually being demoted to Williamsport, Domingo Santana has shown considerable improvement this season. He entered Saturday hitting .265 with seven doubles, five home runs, and 13 RBIs.
Aaron Altherr, 19, is an outstanding defensive centerfielder and has stolen 11 bases in as many attempts. But his .194 batting average makes him a candidate to be sent to Williamsport when the New York-Penn League begins its season next month.
(High A, 30-18, second place, Florida State League North Division)
Joe Savery's two scoreless innings in the Threshers' 23-inning loss to Jupiter last week marked the first time the 2007 first-round draft pick has pitched since last season, when he was at Lehigh Valley. According to Phillies assistant general manager Chuck LaMar, it will not be the last time Savery pitches this season.
"It will probably be in a relief role," LaMar said. "He has been throwing on the side all season. His arm is still in good shape. He wanted to hit and we felt like we owed it to him to just let him hit. He has now had a couple months as an offensive player, and as the summer goes on he'll have more pitching outings with Clearwater."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Savery was clocked at 92 m.p.h. in his relief outing.
"He did fine, but we're not going to judge anything based on those two innings," LaMar said.
Savery, 25, was batting a team-high .331 with eight doubles, two triples, a home run, and 17 RBIs through 40 games. After hitting .450 in April, he was batting just .203 in May.
(AA, 24-22, fourth place, Eastern League Eastern Division)
Outfielder Tyson Gillies, who is officially on the Reading disabled list with hamstring problems that have lingered since the middle of last season, is finally expected to start playing in extended spring training this week.
"I think he's scheduled to play Tuesday," LaMar said.
If all goes according to plan, Gillies will play for about a week in extended spring training, which shuts down this month, and then will be sent to one of the Phillies' minor-league teams. LaMar said Gillies would likely be assigned to a single-A team rather than Reading, which is where he played last season.
"He missed almost a complete year, so we don't want to put him in over his head," LaMar said.
(AAA, 29-18, first place, International League North Division)
In addition to Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo in the big leagues, LaMar believes the Phillies also have a cast of relievers in triple A who are capable of being successful at the next level.
"We have several pitchers down there that continually pitch well at the triple-A level and now they have to prove they can stick at the big-league level," LaMar said. "It's a journey a lot of young pitchers go through."
The list includes lefty Mike Zagurski (1-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 131/3 innings) and righthanders Scott Mathieson (3.63 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 171/3 innings) and David Herndon, who was just sent back to the IronPigs after pitching five shutout innings for the Phillies.