Phillies amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz touted Alec Bohm — the third baseman the Phils drafted third overall on Monday — for having the potential to be the type to zoom through the minor leagues. It sounds like the Phillies found another quick mover on Tuesday.
The Phillies think Notre Dame centerfielder Matt Vierling, who they drafted in the fifth round, can follow Bohm's trail through the minors. Vierling batted .310 as a junior this season in 210 at-bats, with a team-high 10 homers and a .958 OPS.
"We feel that we got a really good college player that's advanced and has the chance to move quickly through our system," Almaraz said.
Vierling, 21, fell to the fifth round due to a rough summer last year at the wooden-bat Cape Cod League in which he batted just .182 in 99 at-bats with 30 strikeouts and eight walks. He struck out just 28 times this season at Notre Dame in more than double the at-bats. Almaraz said the Phillies had no concerns about Vierling's struggles last summer as he took batting practice last week with a wooden bat at Citizens Bank Park.
"He had a tremendous workout," Almaraz said. "He checked all the boxes as far as us liking him in that spot and believing that he's a prospect for us."
The steal of the Phillies' draft could end up being Dominic Pipkin, a righthander they drafted in the ninth round. MLB.com ranked him as the draft's 92nd-best prospect. The Phillies found him with pick No. 257.
Pipkin is signed to play at the University of California, but Almaraz said the Phillies do not have any concerns about being able to sign the four high-school players they drafted. Pipkin will likely require a sizable bonus. The 18-year-old grew up 20 miles north of Oakland and has an electric, mid-90s fastball. He finished his senior year with a 2.12 ERA and 88 strikeouts with 21 walks in 46 1/3 innings. Opponents batted .192 against him in his three years of varsity baseball.
"He's an extraordinary talent," Almaraz said. "He's a young man who has some ability. We like him. The scouts that followed him for the last three years at all of these showcases and Area Code games saw him as a high-ceiling guy. He's a projectional case. With our player development, we're hoping we can develop a pretty good starter one day."
The Phillies started the second day by drafting Colton Eastman in the fourth round after they lost their second- and third-round picks due to signing free agents Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta. Eastman is a command-oriented righthander from Cal State Fullerton, the same school that produced Phillies prospects Tom Eshelman and Connor Seabold, both of whom have a low tolerance for issuing walks.
Eastman, a junior, threw a no-hitter this season and has a 2.20 ERA in 16 starts. He has walked just 27 batters in 110 2/3 innings. The 21-year-old can change speeds with his fastball, which tops out around 95 mph, and pairs his looping curveball with a change-up.
"He's a polished college pitcher who has performed and comes from a great program," Almaraz said. "College pitchers who can do it at a high collegiate level are pretty good in professional baseball."
Along with Vierling, the Phillies added two other college position players. Seth Lancaster, drafted in the eighth round, turned his career around last season after having Lasik eye surgery. He batted .305 as a senior at Coastal Carolina with a 1.100 OPS. Madison Stokes, a third baseman from South Carolina, is batting .331 with a 1.004 OPS and bats third for the Gamecocks, who are gearing up for an NCAA Super Regional.
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The Phillies' other high-school picks were Kendall Logan Simmons, a sixth-round shortstop from Georgia who is signed to play at Georgia Tech, and Gabriel Cotto, a lefthanded pitcher from Puerto Rico who is signed to play at a Florida junior college. Cotto is 6-foot-4 and can throw four pitches.
"He has a really good fastball, anywhere from 88 to 93, and has a feel for his breaking ball," Almaraz said. "He's a young pup who shows the feel for pitching and has the chance to potentially be a power pitcher down the road."