As Dr. Phil says "the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior," meaning that the Phillies won't be afraid to go for high school talent even though some teams try to avoid high schoolers in the first round. The Phillies also aren't completely overwhelmed with high school talent either, meaning that the first round would be up in the air, even if you do use their past as a gauge.
The current news out of Philadelphia is that the choice is looking more and more like one of four players and they all happen to be high schoolers.
Perhaps the highest ceiling player on the list is catcher Devin Mesoraco. Yes, the Phillies have young catching prospects coming along, but depth behind the plate is never a bad thing. With Carlos Ruiz, Jason Jaramillo and Lou Marson all working at different levels, the Phillies may take on Mesoraco as a bit of a slower progressing backstop.
Mesoraco underwent Tommy John surgery as a sophomore and was unable to play defensively in his junior season. He spent the year as a DH and put up productive numbers at the plate. This season, he returned to catching and showed that his arm is strong enough to throw out runners with consistency and his defensive skills that he showed early on in high school are still there. He's got above average power and speed and if his offense develops the way most scouts believe it will, he could be a five-tool player before all is said and done.
Would he be good enough to surpass any of the big three behind the plate? Hard to say, but he projects as a solid major league catcher and if the Phillies can't use him, odds are they could find someone to part with other players to get him from them down the road. Since he may take a few years to get to the majors, they could also use him as leverage against losing another catcher to free agency or being priced beyond where they would want to go in arbitration. That's down the road though. For now, Mesoraco would be a strong addition to the lower levels and would give the Phillies a lot of depth at a key spot.
The other position player on our list is Michael Burgess. Many scouts believe that Burgess has been distracted by all of the attention that he's received and that's the reason for the slip in his numbers this season at Hillsborough High in Florida. Yes, the same high school that produced the likes of Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield among other big league stars. The truth is that the spotlight has been shining on Burgess pretty strongly and you couldn't really fault him if it did get into his head a little.
Teams that scouted Burgess before all the glare of attention remember him as a guy who has the potential to hit 40+ homeruns at the major league level. Late in his senior season, he started to show a little more of that power and it may have been enough to wake up some memories. He doesn't have great speed and his defensive skills are just average, except for the gun that he calls an arm.
As things stand now, 18 would be a bit of a stretch for Burgess, but the Phillies also have the seventh pick of the Supplemental First Round (37th overall) as compensation for losing David Dellucci to free agency and it's not out of the question that his early season struggles will drop Burgess far enough that the Phillies will have a second shot at him.
The final two prep prospects are pitchers; one is a righty and the other a lefty.
Right-hander Matt Harvey is unlikely to last until the Phillies pick. There are a couple of teams drafting ahead of the Phillies that have shown a lot of interest in the Groton, Connecticut product. Harvey already has a mid-90s fastball and a curveball that buckles hitters. His change-up has shown a lot of development through the season and if he gets some more coaching on how to throw that pitch, he's going to be near deadly. If you want to get picky, you can find flaws in his mechanics, but it's more of an inconsistency issue than anything else and will likely be fixed by simple maturity and professional coaching. You could also point to the fact that Scott Boras is his agent and some teams will let Harvey slide past them because of that. If he's there for the Phillies, odds are that they'll look to let the past be the past and grab him.
This is the first example of why it hurts to finish ahead of the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have shown just about more interest than anybody in Harvey and they draft ahead of the Phillies this season.
Last, but not least is lefty Madison Bumgarner. Like Harvey, Bumgarner could also be gone when the Phillies pick, but there's at least a decent chance that he'll be there.
The catch with Bumgarner is that he's basically a one pitch pitcher right now. His fastball is strong and clocks into the mid-90s when he rares back and fires. There is no speakable curve or change-up to go with the heat though and that will hurt Bumgarner's chances unless he develops one. Further complicating matters is that he has truly tried to develop a breaking pitch and has had no success. The beautiful part of it though is that his fastball is dominating enough that in a worst-case scenario, Bumgarner could wind up as a closing prospect.
Just for fun, we'll throw a couple more names out there. Remember former Phillies coach Brad Mills? His son Beau transferred from Fresno State to Lewis and Clark State in Idaho, but scouts apparently found him because he's on a lot of radars. Mills is a prospect at third and first base, although he may need to DH because of defensive shortcomings that make him a long shot at third and questionable at first. He's got a big bat though and hit 31 homeruns in just over 200 at bats this season. Keep in mind though that he was somewhat of a man among boys at Lewis and Clark and was used to a higher level of competition. The good news is that he may be a relatively easy sign, unless he falls ridiculously low.
Then, there's Kentrail Davis, another Boras client. The high school senior has a build that brings Kirby Puckett to mind and has the power to show for it. Scouts are divided on how well he translates to the major league level though and some see him taking a free fall on draft day. Besides the power, he's got speed and is an all-out type of player, but his defensive skills aren't the best and his arm will likely limit him to playing in either right or left field.
Davis insists that he's completely healthy, but he was in a car accident prior to the season and has had some back and neck problems throughout the year. He's also got a commitment to attend the University of Tennessee and if he falls far enough, you can bet that's where he'll end up and look to add to his resume for down the road.