CD's Phuture Phillie Phenoms... Class of 2001

The saying "quality over quantity" certainly applies to the Phillies class of 2001, a draft that makes up in talent for what it may lack in sheer numbers. In fact, two of the top three Phil's prospects, pitcher Gavin Floyd and first baseman Ryan Howard came from this group. And although they certainly highlight this group, there are more than a few interesting names worth remembering as the remaining players move their way up the organizational ladder. Let's take a look back at this group...

No player in Phillie history, not Pat Burrell, not Mike Schmidt, not Cole Hamels, ever received a bigger signing bonus that the 4.2 million dollar deal Gavin Floyd signed while literally days from attending his first class at the University of South Carolina. The story is well known… while Floyd and his older brother, Mike Floyd, were driving to school after rejecting a Phillie offer of $4 million, they both reconsidered and signed the following day.

Mike Floyd was drafted in the twenty second round by the Phils and received a $65,000 deal, as much to get his brother on board as to get his signature on a contract. However, the gem was Gavin Floyd, a pitcher often compared to a younger Tom Seaver or Mark Prior. He certainly has not disappointed and made a successful debut in September with the Phils.

Many baseball pundits expect Gavin to one day anchor a Phillie staff that might include such stalwarts as Hamels, Ryan Madson, Brett Myers and Keith Bucktrot. Yes, he is that good, with a fastball that touches 92 consistently and a curveball that appears to have dropped off a table. As good as he is, Assistant GM Mike Arbuckle expects Floyd to open the 2005 season in Triple A at Scranton.

Floyd did so well in his September trial that few Phillie fans remember that he actually spent most of the season at Double A Reading and only pitched five games at Scranton. It behooves the Phils not to rush this youngster as he has had arm problems in the past and need not be rushed. Yet his talent is so impressive that it will surprise no one if he is in the starting rotation in Philadelphia after the All-Star break.

Signing Floyd in 2001 was certainly a necessity as they sacrificed their second and third round picks to sign free agents Rheal Cormier and Jose Mesa. The next pick they received was a high school shortstop from Upland, California named Terry Jones. Few players have shown more potential yet produced fewer results in the organization than has Jones, a gifted and personable player.

Jones has been switched to third base and seems to have all the ability necessary to someday play the hot corner spot with the Phils. Yet injuries and inconsistency have stifled him and the 2005 season could be a make or break season for him. No position in the Phillie system has more potential impact players than third base, yet none of these fine athletes has developed any consistency.

Not only is Jones in the mix, but so too is Juan Richardson, Kiel Fisher, and Welinson Baez. All have shown enough potential to wet the appetite, but none have done well enough to warrant a "can't miss" tag. Jones will be watched carefully this season as he will probably open the campaign in Clearwater. The Phils hope his performance warrants a call-up to Reading by August.

"Draftitis" is a disease well known to baseball scouts. It is a serious illness that occasionally affects a baseball player in college when he knows he is being watched as a potential top round draft pick. When it occurs, a player will suddenly forget all the skills that marked him as a top player in the first place. Fortunately, the disease is usually not fatal, in the case of young Ryan Howard, it was fortunate for the Phillies that he even developed the disease.

In short, Ryan Howard was a well known collegiate slugger as a sophomore at Southwest Missouri State. Most scouts projected his as first round pick if he could maintain this level of play as a junior. Unfortunately for Howard, he felt the pressure, began slumping at the plate and eventually had an absolutely miserable junior year.

His season knocked him off many teams charts, but not the Phillies. They remembered his standout sophomore season and drafted him in the fifth round. This may someday be regarded as a brilliant and far-sighted move given Howard's performance. This year, he was voted the MVP of the Eastern League with a staggering display of power and grace. In all, Howard hit 48 home runs in the 2004 season, including two in a September trial with the Phils. Baseball scouts compare his power to former sluggers like Willie Stargell and John Mayberry as well as a current star, David Ortiz with the Red Sox. It seems likely that Howard will one day compete for a home run crown.

Unfortunately, this future prowess seems unlikely to take place in Philadelphia. The Phils appear convinced that Howard can not play the outfield and first base is currently manned by Jim Thome. Thus, it seems apparent that the team will attempt to move him for a top pitcher or catcher. If this happens, it remains the writer's opinion that this will prove a short-sighted move and Howard may one day evoke comparisons to former Phillies Ryne Sandberg and Ferguson Jenkins as players who went on to spectacular careers after being swapped from the Phils

If Howard is not traded, then he probably will join Floyd in Scranton to open the '05 season with a call-up likely by mid season. I remain hopeful that the Phils attempt to play Howard in the outfield this spring to enhance his chances of remaining with the club.

Howard was not the only first baseman drafted in the top ten rounds by the Phils in 2001 and many baseball scouts actually liked sixth round first sacker, Bryan Hansen better. Certainly Hansen was younger and a better defensive player, but until this past year his bat remained questionable.

Not so in 2004 as Hansen hit a solid .275 at Lakewood and began to display the power the Phillie brass always hoped for. Hansen hit 28 doubles, five triples and nine home runs in a solid year that once again made him a Phillie prospect. Still only 21 years of age, Hansen is a strapping 6'2" left handed hitter with quick wrists and an excellent batting eye.

He will open the 2005 season with Jones at Clearwater and remains a player worth watching. Perhaps the most intriguing player from this draft outside of Floyd and Howard is ninth round pick, Chris Roberson. After several seasons as a "tools" player, high on physical talent but low on results, Roberson had a breakout year in 2004.

Much like many of the Phil's top prospects, Roberson was hampered by injuries, but when healthy he was one of the top players in the system. Not only did he hit .307, but slammed 9 home runs and stole 16 bases in less than 100 games. Even more impressive, he was voted the MVP of the Florida State League All-Star game after garnering three hits in the game.

Roberson is now healthy and playing well in the Arizona Fall League. He remains a player in a hurry as at 25 years of age he is fighting the clock. Look for him to play center field at Reading or Scranton this season and he is occasionally mentioned as the heir apparent in that spot at Citizens Bank Park. Clearly, much like Jones and Hansen, the 2005 season is a crucial one for Roberson.

The Phillie draft picks after the ninth round appear to be non-prospects but it is worth mentioning that any player who is still with an organization after three full seasons in the minors has done well. Thus, pitchers like Matt Sweeney, Ryan Hutchinson, Layne Dawson and Matt Squires deserve special mention, though none is considered a major league prospect at this time.

So too, hitters like Vince Vukovich, Jeff Phelps and Sean Walsh, none of whom is expected to play in 2005 but had their moments during the previous three seasons. However, there are still three players worth watching who were picked in the later rounds, including an unlikely player picked in round forty-eight!

Michael Floyd has already been mentioned, the older brother of number one pick, Gavin Floyd and up to now a platoon type player in the lower minors as an outfielder. However, something happened to Floyd last July that could have long term ramifications if they prove real rather than illusionary.

Up to July of 2004, Floyd was a non-descript player, with no power and no future. Suddenly, he changed his swing, learned to pull the ball, and hit 10 home runs in a month, a very impressive performance indeed. In fact, Manager Mike Schmidt called Floyd his "MVP" of the second half at Clearwater.

Whether his July heroics were a one time thing or a sign of things to come will be worth watching as Floyd moves to Double A this spring. If nothing else, he certainly had a month to remember, and one that no one quite knew how to explain.

A high school teammate of Jones at Upland named Julian Williams made a late season appearance in the Gulf Coast League after previously spurning the Phils efforts to sign him. Still young at 21, he is a swift and daring base runner, and had some solid success in junior college. At round twenty one, he is certainly an intriguing late round player to watch.

No late round pick is more intriguing, however, than a short right handed hurler named Maximo Reyes, selected with the Phils last pick at forty-eight in 2001. Seemingly against all odds, Reyes had a sparkling 9-3 record at Lakewood, and remains a long shot but an interesting one. He might open the 2005 season at Reading, but is more likely to begin the year in Clearwater.

One more note about the Class of 2001. At the end of every season, the fine publication, Baseball America, does an in-depth evaluation of each team's draft. Included in their synopsis is always a category entitled "The one that got away", and chronicles the best draft pick that did not sign. In the Phillies evaluation, it was determined that the team had let a future star get away, albeit a high school catcher drafted in round thirty nine.

The Phils tried to get this highly rated backstop to spurn a college scholarship to Oklahoma State and join the Phil's organization. Their efforts proved fruitless, and he went on to an All-American type career at OS. Seems the Phils never forgot this player and they were determined not to miss out on him again.

With the number two pick in the 2004 draft, the Phils quickly gobbled up this highly rated player and made sure they would not repeat the same mistake by letting him get away again. He is now in their organization and seems sure to one day become the Phils starting catcher. The name of this reluctant signee?

Fellow named Jason Jaramillo, and he could someday join his other 2001 draftees like Floyd, Howard, Roberson and Jones as Phillie stars at Citizens Bank Park. Stay tuned!

Columnist's Note: Please send comments or suggestions to connectthedots@earthlink.net and I will respond. Thanks! Allen Ariza aka CD from the Left Coast

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