Matt Klentak is now officially on the clock.
The new Phillies General Manager has made his first draft choice, selecting outfielder Mickey Moniak with the top overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Klentak, who was hired in October to lead the Phillies into a new era of more analytic-minded baseball, has already begun to reshape the farm system through a series of late-season trades, off-season deals and value signings, putting the Phillies rebuild a bit ahead of schedule.
Still, despite the early-season success of the Major League club, Klentak has been charged with a much larger task of restocking — and in a way rebuilding — the organization. This year’s MLB Draft is where his early decisions will be magnified.
Moniak is one of the top tools players in the draft out of high school, and his long and lean frame should help him develop into an all-around piece for the Phillies to build around in the outfield.
“I love to hit. Who doesn’t like to hit,” Moniak told MLB Network after being selected by the Phillies. “But I definitely like to hit and use my speed to help that out.”
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity to be picked by the Phillies,” the high school senior continued. “I wouldn’t say there’s any pressure [going first overall to the Phillies], I’m just going to go out and play my game. I’m excited to go out and hopefully prove the Phillies right.”
Heading into the draft there was no clear-cut top prospect — no Mike Trout, Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg type — so the Phillies smartly went into the process looking for value.
Heading into Thursday night, rumors were swirling that the Phillies were leaning on Florida lefty A.J. Puk, the presumptive first pick for several months. There was also local Jersey Shore high schooler Jason Groome, also a lefty, outfielder Kyle Lewis from Mercer University, Louisville outfielder Corey Ray, prep outfielder Blake Rutherford and Tennessee Vols third baseman Nick Senzel. Heck, even throw high school righty Riley Pint on the pile; that’s how tight the top of the draft is this season, giving Klentak a lot of options, but a ton of pressure to make the right call.
Popular opinion this week was that Klentak and the Phils were going to take the player most willing to sign for the least amount of money, using those savings on overpaying a player with the 42nd pick, or in later rounds this week. Todd Zolecki explained the allocation of funds well for MLB.com
The Phillies have $13,405,200 in their bonus pool, including $9,015,000 allotted for the No. 1 pick.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club’s selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team’s selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
If a team goes over their bonus pool, they’re essentially taxed by MLB at a rate of 75 percent on the overage and risk the potential — if they go 10 percent or more over — to lose future draft picks. Thus, getting a first-pick talent for, say, fourth-pick money would enable the Phillies to overpay later for a player who may drop in the draft because his asking price is too steep.
Understanding all the inner workings of the MLB Draft is daunting, but the only thing that should matter to the average Phillies fans is knowing that Klentak and his team need to worry about the entire draft, not just the first overall pick. Moniak is a solid pick, and the next few rounds and subsequent negotiations will tell if Klentak made the sensible baseball and financial decision.
If taking Moniak affords the team the ability to reach for a player or two later in the draft, it’s absolutely the right choice.
And yet, with that many options at No. 1 overall, someone is surely going to end up with a better career than him. Analytics or not, the odds in a situation like this are not in Klentak’s favor.
In fact, while the top pick in the MLB Draft usually turns into a solid MLB player, there have been a good number of missed opportunities with the first overall pick. Take the 2013 MLB Draft, for example, when the Astros selected Stanford righty Mark Appel with the top pick over University of San Diego slugger Kris Bryant.
Bryant is already lighting up the big leagues for the Cubbies, while Appel — who was taken eighth overall by the Pirates in 2012 but returned to school and was then selected with the first pick by Houston a year later — is now in Triple-A…for the Phillies, after getting shipped out of Houston in the Ken Giles trade.
At least Houston got some value for Appel. But there are other first-pick horror stories. Like 2008, when Tampa picked toolsy high school shortstop Tim Beckham over Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hosmer, Brian Matusz and, gulp, Buster Posey.
Or 2004, when the Padres went with high school shortstop-turned-pitcher Matt Bush over Justin Verlander. Or 2006, when Luke Hochevar went first overall to the Royals, followed by Greg Reynolds to the Rockies, while Evan Longoria went third overall, Clayton Kershaw went seventh, Tim Lincecum went 10th and Max Scherzer went 11th. Even 2009, when Strasburg rightly went first overall, a plucky outfielder from Millville Senior High School went 25th that year.
Of the current top 10 prospects in baseball, only two were taken in the top 3 picks of their respective draft. Granted, part of that could be top picks getting fast-tracked to the majors, but the point is this: There’s value everywhere in a draft this deep, and finding the right players wherever you can sign them has proven to be as important as making the right pick when your team is up.
Taking a high school player can be a risk, though a hitter is usually less so than a pitcher. Still, rumors had the Phillies leaning toward a college player in the days leading into the draft.
Since taking University of Miami’s Pat Burrell with the first overall pick in 1998, the Phillies drafted 15 high school players to just three college guys in the first round, including supplemental picks. The three college players were UCLA second baseman Chase Utley (you may have heard of him) in 2000, Rice lefty Joe Savery in 2007, who struggled for a few seasons with the Phillies then went to Oakland for a cup of coffee before falling out of the league, and Aaron Nola in 2014, who is fast proving to be one of the top young starters in the National League just two years after being drafted seventh overall.
Of the 15 high schoolers, only Brett Myers, Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels made any impact at the major league level for the Phillies. Granted, Kyle Drabek, a total bust, and Travis d’Arnaud were a big part of the Roy Halladay trade, but many of the Phillies high school selections haven’t matriculated to the majors or made much of anything for themselves.
J.P. Crawford — taken out of high school in 2013 — is one of the top prospects in baseball and last year’s first-round pick Cornelius Randolph is the Phillies’ fifth-ranked prospect, and ranked as the 78th best prospect in the game, so there is value in taking a high school player and hoping he develops.
Still, it can take a long time to develop any high school player, even one drafted first overall, so Klentak is taking a pretty sizable risk, if a calculated one, by taking Moniak.
In his first draft in charge of the Phillies, let’s hope Klentak is right, and let’s hope the other players the Phillies grab this year turn into stars as well. For the next few years, all we can do is hope.