CD's Phuture Phillie Phenoms... Class of 2000

In the final of our series on the Phillie draft classes of the last 5 years, we will take a look at the draft class of the year 2000. This group can be categorized as simply as one, two, three. In this case, one is the number of players who have made the major leagues, two is the number who still might make it with the Phils, and three is the number of potential major leaguers who are in other organizations. One, two, three…let's take a closer look at this list.

If it continues to be a baseball truism that a successful draft will cultivate 1.5 major league players a season, then this draft still has a chance to be a positive one. However, the simple fact remains that in the incredible run of drafts under the direction of Mike Arbuckle and Marti Wolever since 1993, this draft does appear the weakest.

To be fair, there certainly were mitigating circumstances. The Phils relinquished their second round pick in a free agent signing, and this was not considered a strong draft anyhow. Yet, in the area where the Phils tend to flourish, the rounds 6-10, not a single player from that group will make it to the majors with the Phillies. Thus, the single plum from this group appears to be Chase Utley, heir apparent to the starting second base position in 2005.

In fact, if Utley becomes the offensive star that many believe he will be, then this draft will be considered a success. Many baseball scouts see a future Jeff Kent in the power swing of Utley. If true, the team is set at the position for the next five years. However, an equal number of scouts see a player who will ultimately become a Adam Kennedy-Todd Walker type of player.

While Kennedy and Walker are solid major leaguers, neither is of all-star material, and neither would rate the status of a number one draft pick. Kent is another story, a player who is a potential Hall of Famer at his position and a player who is still an offensive force in his mid 30's. This is the burden that Utley carries into the 2005 season.

A collegiate All-American at UCLA and the consensus "best hitting prospect" in the draft, Utley has done nothing to disappoint despite the Phils less than stellar treatment of him. Not only did they attempt an ill-advised switch to third base in his initial year of Triple A, but they have moved him back and forth between the majors and minors almost to the point of exhaustion.

This was a constant source if irritation to Phillie fans, who not only liked Utley hustling style of play, but recognized the power potential of this sweet-swinging lefty hitter. To his credit, Utley has never complained publicly though it is known that he often became frustrated with ex-manager Larry Bowa's preference for veteran players over the younger Utley.

With Bowa, as well as second baseman Placido Polanco, no longer in the picture it behooves Utley to establish himself as a solid regular in 2005. If the past is any indication, expect a player who hits 25 home runs with about 85 RBI. He also has shown a penchant for clutch hits and in the gap power.

This writer thinks Utley will prove a welcome addition to the offensive force of players like Jim Thome, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu. Watch for him to hit anywhere from second to seventh in the order and flourish under the patient guidance of new skipper, Charlie Manuel. Utley should repay the Phil's faith in his number one selection with many fine seasons at Citizens Bank Park.

I mentioned in the beginning of the column that the Class of 2000 was as simple as one, two, three. Utley is obviously the one who has made the leap to the major leagues, while two other players await their chance. Both have shown glimpses of major league potential, yet both remain question marks that must soon turn to exclamation marks if they are achieve big league success.

Pitcher Keith Bucktrot, undoubtedly one of the best athletes in the organization, was drafted in the third round and remains a top ten prospect. Tall, lean and blessed with a solid fastball and sharp breaking curveball, Bucktrot should dominate minor league hitters. In fact, on occasion he does. But these occasions are few and far between, and 4-7 record in 20 starts at Reading in 2004 are not befitting of a pitcher with his skills.

Not yet 24 years of age, Bucktrot remains an enigma. The Phils have even discussed moving him back to the outfield, where he starred in high school. He has a solid bat and naturally a strong arm for the outfield. Yet the Phils still believe in his pitching abilities, and it should be noted that Bucktrot is performing in spectacular fashion in the tough Arizona Fall League.

While the jury remains out, expect him to open the season in Scranton in 2005. A solid year could lead to a September promotion to the big leagues while a poor season could lead to his exclusion from next year's 40 man roster. Bucktrot is a name worth watching in '05.

Another player worth keeping an eye on is former fourth round pick, shortstop Danny Gonzalez. A former high school All-American from Puerto Rico, Gonzalez was considered by many draftniks to be the plum of the entire Phillie draft in 2000. He was that good coming out of high school and it was considered a Phillie coup when they signed him away from a University of Miami baseball scholarship.

His rise through the system has been a steady if unspectacular one, and he now rates as possibly the top minor league shortstop in the organization. Always rated below the flashier Anderson Machado and the more skilled Carlos Rodriguez, Gonzalez makes up for in consistency what he lacks in talent.

Although not particularly fast nor quick, Gonzalez relies on hustle and instinct to make the plays a shortstop should make. His batting average has never been especially high, ranging from .240 to about .260 but he is the type of player who tends to succeed in the major leagues on hustle and grit. This writer believes that Gonzalez will eventually become the second player, behind Utley, from this draft to wear a Phillie uniform.

The chances are that he will never be a major league regular, but should carve out a career much like Tomas Perez, as a utility infielder and switch-hitting pinch hit specialist. He will join Bucktrot at Scranton in 2005 and it will reveal much about the Phil's faith in his future by whether or not they place him on their 40 man roster this December. This will be an interesting, and quite revealing statement about the Phillie view of his future with the club.

If Utley was the one who made it, and Bucktrot and Gonzalez are the two who still might, then just exactly who are the three players from the Class of 2000 that got away and what are their chances of a big league future? The players are pitcher Taylor Buchholz and infielders Travis Chapman and Scott Youngbauer and each has his own story to tell.

Buchholz is the gem of the group, a future big league starter in Houston. A native of the Philadelphia area, Taylor Buchholz grew up a staunch Phillie fan and was thrilled to be drafted by the team in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. A first round talent, Bucky as he is affectionately known was thought to be headed for the University of North Carolina after his stellar high school career.

However everything changed when the Phils not only drafted him but offered him third round money to sign. He signed quickly and made a spectacular climb through the minor league system, twice being named the Pitcher of the Year in the Florida State and Eastern Leagues. Most scouts considered him to rank just a notch below Cole Hamels and Gavin Floyd on the Phil's minor league pitching chart, and he was widely considered to have the bulldog mentality of a future closer.

His future is still bright but it is now with the Astros, who acquired him last off season for current Phillie closer, Billy Wagner. It is worth noting that Bucky immediately became the number one minor league prospect in the Astros system. His talent is immense, from the dazzling curveball to the big league changeup he throws.

Even more impressive is his mound presence and the way he rebounds from adversity. Clearly, this was a major loss for the Phillie system and it will be interesting to chart Buchholz's progress in the major leagues with Houston. As much as the Phils needed Wagner, it still was painful for Phillie fans to watch Buchholz leave, and it will surprise no one if he becomes not just a major leaguer, but a solid starter in Houston. Remember the name…Taylor Buchholz.

Travis Chapman is an equally fascinating ex-Phillie farmhand, a player who never could quite impress the organization despite his constant on field success. A solid college player, Chapman had no problem adjusting to wooden bats and his high average and on base percentage was a join for minor league aficionados to discuss on Phillie chat lines.

So solid was his bat that he even made a cameo appearance in the big leagues in September of 2003, striking out in his only official appearance. Still, it is a long way from a seventeenth round draft pick to the major leagues, and many Phillie fans hoped that Chapman would receive an opportunity to win the third base spot after David Bell's future looked in jeopardy.

Sadly, the Phillie brass saw only warts, and overlooked his obvious gifts of a strong bat, and excellent batting eye. They chose not to place him on the 40 man roster and he left as a minor league free agent. He eventually signed with Kansas City but had shoulder surgery that curtailed most of his '04 season.

At the moment Chapman finds himself once again a minor league free agent with hopes of continuing his career. If completely healthy, he remains a prospect, a player with good skills, a great attitude and the versatility to even be considered as a possible third catcher on a club. Regardless of his future, Chapman remains the only player other than Utley to make the major leagues to this point from this class.

The final player worth noting, if only in passing, is infielder Scott Youngbauer, a switch-hitting first baseman in the Cleveland organization. Never widely considered a major league prospect, Youngbauer has carved out a nice minor league career with his ability to play all four infield positions and with a bat good enough to produce 15 home runs last year at Akron in the Eastern League.

If there is strength in numbers, then the Class of 2000 ranks as a fairly weak one. Gone are such failed Phillie prospects as Anthony Hensley, Gregg Foster and Reggie Griggs. No more to we speak of such once highly rated minor leaguers like Mark McRoberts, Tony Cancio and Lawrence Alexander. Injuries have probably destroyed any hopes for lefty Ryan Carter.

All were once part of the Class of 2000 and all were spoken of with the term "potential" in front of their names. None remain. All that is left from this class are Chase Utley, Keith Bucktrot, Danny Gonzalez, Taylor Buchholz, Travis Chapman and Scott Youngbauer.

One appears headed for stardom, two face the crossroads of their Phillie careers, while three have cast their lots with other organizations. It will not be difficult to chart the future success of the Class of 2000. Only six remain and each in their own way faces a year of decision.

How they will do may be as easy as one, two, three. Stay tuned!

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

Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories