Draft Preview: The Cost of Thome and Bell

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Remember that, my friends. Eventually, the bill comes due and the bill for signing Jim Thome and David Bell is due and payable on Draft Day, 2003. Since the Phillies wrote those big checks over the winter, we all knew that this day would come when we would see future super stars to elsewhere, but it never really hit home. Tuesday, we can officially attach names and faces to the cost of spending big.

The Phillies did the right thing by signing Jim Thome and David Bell. While neither of them have put up quite the numbers we expected – especially Bell – they are both important additions to the Phillies. There is no second guessing. The moves were good and we all know it. Still, missing out on some of the young talent that could have been ours is a bitter pill to swallow. So, just who did we miss out on?

Had the Phillies not signed Thome, they would have held the eighteenth pick in the draft, which now belongs to Cleveland. With that pick, the Phillies would have had a legitimate shot at drafting the premier catcher in the draft, Mitch Maier. Maier projects as close to a superstar as the eighteenth overall pick can be. Out of the University of Toledo, the 6-2, 200 pound Maier has power potential and much more speed than most catchers. Some have compared him to a young Craig Biggio with more power. By the way, that power comes from the left side of the plate, which makes him even more attractive. Probably, the dream center fielder, Schwenksville, Pennsylvania's Chris Lubanski will be gone right around the number ten spot, so it's not worth dreaming about him. Still, we would have been closer than we are now to getting Lubanski.

If Maier and Lubanski were both gone by 18, the Phillies could have gone after young pitching like they usually try to do. Chad Billingsley would have been a nice addition to an already pitching rich system. A lot of scouts think the Defiance (Ohio) High School product won't be hanging around the minors too long. He's a big, strong right-hander who is already throwing in the low 90s and has a slider that's nearly major league ready. Nick Markakis, a Georgia JUCO star would have been another possibility. The Reds love this kid, having already drafted him twice. Last year they took him in the 23rd round and this year he will likely be gone by the 23rd pick. The left-hander can also swing a bat, so if the pitching plan doesn't work out, he can pick up some lumber, providing he can switch to real lumber and not the stuff made from those metal trees.

The Phillies second pick would have been the 55th overall pick, but the Giants will now make that decision. If the Phillies didn't get Maier in the first round, they could have reached a little for Landon Powell. Powell is actually projected as an early third rounder, but the Phillies might have been tempted in round two. He's a switch-hitter, has power, is more than solid defensively and comes equipped with a cannon for an arm. What's not to love? If the Phillies did get Maier in round one, their center fielder of the future would likely still be there in round two. Tim Battle has speed to burn, out of McIntosh (Georgia) High School. He hasn't made a college commitment, so he may be looking to sign quick. His skills aren't all there yet, but with some work, this kid could be a quality major leaguer some day.

I know, I know, it's all about pitching. Since it's possible that the Phillies would have taken a position player in the first round, the second round might have been spent on pitching. No problem there. How about Chad Cordero out of Cal State Fullerton. This kid exudes power. Cordero has been used a lot in relief and whiffed 81 in 55.2 innings of work in 2002. This kid lives for pressure situations and throws in the low to mid 90s. Luis Atilano out of Puerto Rico's Gabriela Mistral High School could still be there in the second round, if the Phillies had a pick. Atilano already has one of the better curve balls that you'll see for a high school kid and it's getting better all the time. Before all is said and done, Atilano might be backing up that curve with a mid 90s fastball, too.

Ah, yes. The joys of free agency. Paying lots of money to established players, so you don't have to shell out millions in signing bonuses to unproven kids. If there is any justice in the world, Jim Thome and David Bell will each hit homeruns off Seattle's Jamie Moyer – another guy the Phillies tried to give lots of money to – Tuesday night, so the pain of resting through the first two rounds won't feel quite so unbearable.

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