For years, Ruben Amaro and Mike Arbuckle were one and two - their ranking depended on who you asked - when other teams were looking at the Phillies front office for potential general managers. Now, with Amaro in the big chair and Arbuckle in Kansas City, perhaps one of the next big names will also come from the Phillies front office in the form of Minor League Director Steve Noworyta.
Noworyta has worked with the Phillies minor league system in one form or another for over ten years now and has seen the rise of players like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, who have all helped form a World Championship club. Now, in his capacity as the Phillies minor league director, he can look with pride at the next phase of talent poised to reach the majors via the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
"A few years ago, we were not able to get those first or second round picks and it really hurt us. Last year, we had six picks in the top 110 and it really helped out system out," explained Noworyta. Those picks provided younger players that the Phillies could plug into the lower levels of their minor league system as players like Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson prepare for moves to Triple-A this season. For a while, the bulk of the Phillies farm system was centered in towns like Lakewood and Clearwater, where players were still going to be a few years away from helping out in the majors. Now, the Phillies are seeing a more spread out talent base in their system, which impacted how they approached their off-season.
"We're finally getting out own players from our own system coming up," smiled Noworyta. "This year, we didn't really have to sign many players for Double-A. We still had to sign some players for Triple-A, but the players that we got, I really feel comfortable that they can help us out at the big league level."
While the Phillies had a nice bunch of picks in the 2008 Draft, they've lost their first round pick for next June by signing Raul Ibanez. A few years ago, that would have bothered Noworyta, but now, he thinks the Phillies can turn elsewhere to make up for that loss. "I think with our people, we're going to look - whether it's Pacific Rim or Latin America - we're going to try to find a player that's just as good as a first round pick, so we don't lose out on that first round pick," said Noworyta. That approach would be somewhat new for the Phillies, who haven't been able to strike gold when looking for international talent, but Noworyta believes that with Amaro in charge and with some of the new faces that he's brought on board, that will change in the future. "He [Amaro] brought on Benny Looper and Chuck Lamar, both with great scouting backgrounds, I think they've come in at a great time. I think that they'll help us build to where they'll help us get to that next level," said Noworyta.
While their international efforts haven't been as good as they might like, Noworyta is seeing some good players come to the states through the Phillies Dominican Summer League program and he believes that some of those players will turn out to be the top prospects of tomorrow. "There were probably about eight to ten new guys that we'd like to bring in. Sal Agostinelli has done a tremendous job as our Latin Coordinator and every time he brings players in, we're just impressed because of the type of player or pitcher they might be," remarked Noworyta. "Last year, we brought in a few that will help us at the lower levels and could be special big league guys in the future."
Noworyta talked about other aspects of the Phillies minor league system and premium members can hear Chuck Hixson's full interview: