One respected scouting organization, PerfectGame.org, summed up the 18-year-old this way: "Pham has great defensive actions with a strong arm. Attacks pitches in the strike zone with plus bat speed. Pham makes things look easy."
There are lots of talented high school kids with high ceilings, but Pham backed up the hype with results on the field this past spring. He was named the Nevada Player of the Year after hitting .633 with six home runs and 47 RBI in his senior season.
With those kinds of credentials, Pham was considered a consensus top five-round pick with the potential of becoming a third or fourth-rounder had he made it clear he was signable.
Pham was highly-recruited by colleges, making a commitment with perennial powerhouse Cal State-Fullerton. This commitment was viewed to be a firm one, cooling the interest of many professional organizations in Pham.
But, the Cardinals knew the youngster well and thought they had a chance to change his mind, so they selected Pham as a shortstop in the 16th round of the June First Year Player Draft, the 496th player taken overall.
The bet paid off when the Cardinals did convince Pham to sign. He joined the Johnson City Cardinals of the Appalachian League in late June and promptly began his professional career with a four-hit game.
Pham continued fast out of the blocks, completing June with a .345 average, an on-base percentage of .457 and an OPS of .940. But, all was not smooth.
On June 28th, Pham was hit by a pitch in the second inning and left the game. He played the next day but was pulled from the June 30th contest after running the bases with a slight limp, according to an eyewitness account at the time. Pham lost about two weeks of play with what was reported to be a groin strain.
Upon his return, Pham never got back into the swing of things. He initially returned as the Cardinals' designated hitter, but eventually re-assumed his role in the field. Pham split the majority of his 182 at-bats between the lead-off position and the number five spot in the order.
Pham did have three-hit and two-hit games his final week of the season, but ended with a disappointing .231 batting average. He was successful in 12 of 15 stolen base attempts, sharing the team lead in that category and tying for sixth best in the Appy League.
All things considered, this highly-touted shortstop did nothing in his first professional campaign to alter the optimism of the Cardinals organization over his future. In this exclusive audio interview, Scout.com subscribers can listen to Cardinals Vice President of Player Procurement Jeff Luhnow recap Pham's accomplishments, reflect on his strengths and weaknesses and his future.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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