The Phillies selected a nice balance of college pitchers, college and high school hitters, and "a really nice high school arm" in the draft Tuesday, Johnny Almaraz said.
That high school arm seems to have the Phillies' director of amateur scouting most excited.
Almaraz flew to California two weeks ago to watch lefthander Bailey Falter, whom the Phillies drafted in the fifth round. The pitcher matched his high-80s fastball with a good curveball and change-up, Almaraz said. He believes Falter was one of the best pitchers in the country, high school or college.
"The ability to pitch and command your pitches, for me, is something you cannot teach," Almaraz said. "And he possesses that innate ability to throw the baseball where he wants to. He has a bright future and has a chance to be a front-line starter."
The 6-foot-4 Falter went 6-2 this season with a 1.20 ERA for Southern California's Chino Hills High. He struck out 97 batters and walked 11 in 752/3 innings. The 18-year-old is "a projection," Almaraz said. Falter has committed to play baseball at UC-Santa Barbara.
Almaraz said he expects to be able to sign each of the 10 players drafted through Tuesday. The draft resumes Wednesday at noon with rounds 11-30.
The Phillies followed Falter's selection with two more pitchers. Almaraz sees all three as starters.
They picked Tyler Gilbert, a lefthander from the Southern Cal, in the sixth round. Gilbert throws a low-90s fastball and a strong splitter. He pitched mostly out of the bullpen this season for the Trojans.
The Phillies selected Luke Leftwich in the seventh round. The righthander from Wofford College struck out 114 batters in 89 innings. His strikeout-per-nine-innings rate (11.53) ranked ninth in the nation. Almaraz said Leftwich's fastball sits between 92 and 95 m.p.h. and he has an above-average curveball and change-up.
"He's an extreme competitor," Almaraz said. "He's somebody who has that grit and has that fight in him to one day pitch at the major-league level."
The Phillies started Tuesday by selecting shortstop Luke Williams from Dana Hills High in Southern California. Almaraz projects Williams as a third baseman. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder stole a school-record 26 bases this season and batted .315. He played two years of high school football as a wide receiver and defensive back.
"We believe he's somebody that has a high ceiling along with the fact that he knows how to play the game and has the ability to hit the baseball right now with some type of power," Almaraz said.
Almaraz said he was surprised to be able to pick Colorado high schooler Greg Pickett in the eighth round. Baseball America said the outfielder has "some of the best raw power among high school hitters in this year's draft." The 6-4 lefthander has committed to play baseball at Mississippi State, which caused some teams to believe he would not sign.
"We stayed on him and we got some information that really made us make the decision of taking him in that round," Almaraz said. "We're pretty sure that we'll be sending him out there pretty quickly to start his career in the Gulf Coast League."
Phillies Draft Picks
Pick Player School Pos.
10 Cornelius Randolph Griffin HS (Ga.) OF
48 Scott Kingrey Arizona 2B
83 Luke Williams Dana Hills HS (Calif.) SS
114 Kyle Martin South Carolina 1B
144 Bailey Falter Chino Hills HS (Calif.) LHP
174 Tyler Gilbert Southern Cal LHP
204 Luke Leftwich Wofford College RHP
234 Greg Pickett Legend HS (Colo.) OF
264 Mark Laird Louisiana State OF
294 Joshua Tobias Florida 3B