Phillies raid UCLA recruiting class, believe they can sign both picks

Phillies raid UCLA recruiting class, believe they can sign both picks

The Phillies raided UCLA’s recruiting class for the coming year when they selected two of the Bruins’ top commits in the Major League Baseball draft Thursday night.
First overall pick Mickey Moniak of La Costa Canyon High School near San Diego was considered by many to be the best high school hitter in the country (see story).
Right-handed pitcher Kevin Gowdy of Santa Barbara High School was rated as the best high school arm in Southern California by Baseball America. He was the first pick in the second round (see story).
Now, the Phillies must sign both of these players away from UCLA.
That should not be a problem. No team would spend the No. 1 and No. 42 picks on players they weren’t pretty sure they could sign.
“I hope so. I think so,” was general manager Matt Klentak’s response when he spoke about the chances of signing both players. “That’s a big factor for us, taking players that we like that we’re pretty confident are going to sign.”
The Phillies have been allotted $13.4 million by MLB for signing bonuses in this draft. The slot for the No. 1 pick — Moniak — is $9.01 million. You can bet that the Phillies have ascertained that they can sign Moniak, a gifted centerfielder, for less than slot, a strategy that would allow them to increase the slot money assigned to the 42nd pick (just over $1.5 million) as they move to buy Gowdy out of his UCLA commitment.
“Don’t know yet,” Klentak said when asked point-blank if Moniak would sign under slot.
The draft continues with the third round on Friday. The Phillies will lead it off.
Twenty different Phillies scouts saw Moniak play this spring. Scouting director Johnny Almaraz said Moniak, ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the draft by Baseball America, started to separate himself about a month ago (see story).
“When you're scouting the entire country, you don't come to those conclusions right away,” Almaraz said. “You have to cover the entire 50 states plus go to Hawaii. Probably toward the three-quarter mark [of the season] he started to define himself as a superior talent.
“Mickey Moniak is a middle-of-the-field player. He’s going to impact the game on both sides, in the outfield and offensively. He’s a perennial base stealer. He’s got what we feel is the best hitting ability in the country this year.
“In my eyes, he can play center field probably in the big leagues right now. His ability to hit the baseball is above everybody else in the country right now and his defensive ability is about a 70 (out of 80) as far as our grades are concerned.
“He was No. 1 on my list. He was the best player in the country.
“I believe one day he will hit anywhere between 15 and 22 home runs. I think you'll have a Gold Glove centerfielder who will hit in the middle of the lineup and be a leader on the team.”
Klentak made a trip to California to see Moniak, 18.

“He’s a very good-looking kid,” Klentak said. “It’s important to note this is a middle-of-the-field player. The way baseball is today, that was a major factor for us. This is a kid who is athletic. He can really hit. One of the top bats in the country and he’s a centerfielder. That’s a pretty good combination.”
Almaraz was pleasantly surprised that Gowdy, 18, was still on the board at 42. Baseball America had him rated as the 39th-best prospect in the draft.
“He’s a young right-handed pitcher who has the ability to command the baseball at such a young age,” Almaraz said. “He has an above-average fastball and good breaking stuff. I’m a believer you can’t teach somebody how to pitch. He’s got that innate ability to pitch and get hitters out and that’s what we want in this organization, frontline pitchers.”
Four months ago, the Phillies seemed to prefer selecting a college pitcher who could rise quickly through the system with the No. 1 pick, but they didn't believe such a pitcher emerged in this draft.
So the Phillies get two high school talents — a hitter and a pitcher — from Southern California. Player development is an inexact science, but both project to be major-leaguers. When?
“Their development will dictate that,” Klentak said.

Phillies hire new scouting director Brian Barber away from Yankees

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Phillies hire new scouting director Brian Barber away from Yankees

Brian Barber is the Phillies new director of amateur scouting.

The team announced the appointment on Tuesday afternoon.

Barber, 46, pitched in the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals. He comes to the Phillies after spending the last 18 years as a member of the New York Yankees amateur scouting department. He spent the last 10 years in the high-ranking position of national crosschecker.

Barber replaces Johnny Almaraz, who stepped down from the position in early September. Almaraz came to the Phillies from the Atlanta Braves in the fall of 2014 and presided over the last five drafts. 

It had been widely assumed that the Phillies would replace Almaraz with Greg Schilz, their No. 2 man in amateur scouting. Schilz, who joined the Phillies as assistant scouting director in the fall of 2016 after 12 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was a finalist for the position, but the team ultimately decided to go outside the organization for the hire.

Barber, who was influential in identifying Yankees power hitter Aaron Judge as a first-round talent in 2013, is the latest man with Yankees roots to join the Phillies organization. Major League bench coach Rob Thomson joined the Phillies before the 2018 season after 28 seasons in the Yankees organization, including 10 on the big-league coaching staff.

The Phillies, of course, could add another former Yankee to the organization in the coming days. Former Yankees catcher and manager Joe Girardi remains a top candidate for the Phillies’ open managerial job. He had a second interview with team officials in Philadelphia on Monday. Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker are the other candidates for the post. The Phils could announce a hire as soon as Thursday, which is an off day in the World Series.

Girardi is also a candidate for managerial openings with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs. He has interviewed with both teams.

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The Joe Girardi-to-Phillies connections keep getting louder

The Joe Girardi-to-Phillies connections keep getting louder

Joe Girardi was in Philadelphia Monday for his second interview with the Phillies. Will he be the next manager? As this process has played out, it's looked more and more likely.

Beyond our own reporting of how the week is shaping up for the Phillies and that Girardi may very well be the preferred candidate, there were these two items:

If true, it would make sense that of the Phillies' three top decision-makers, John Middleton is the most pro-Girardi. He has to recognize that Girardi has an extremely high approval rating in this city already. Girardi is the overwhelming fan preference. An organization should not base a decision around fan preference, but the Phillies have shown that they do consider it a piece to the puzzle.

A few weeks back, we ranked the eight managerial openings in attractiveness now and over the next three years. The Mets were first but not by a significant margin over the Phillies. They're in slightly better shape with Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso and Noah Syndergaard, but how many more years will anyone other than deGrom be in that rotation? Syndergaard trade rumors have persisted, Zack Wheeler is a free agent after the World Series and Marcus Stroman is a free agent after 2020.

The Phillies have also been more willing to spend over the last decade than the Mets. Their average end-of-season payroll from 2011-14 was more than $171 million. Last year, their opening day payroll was $140 million and all signs point to more spending this winter.

In all four of those years earlier in the decade (2011-14), the Phillies ended the season with a payroll higher than the Mets have ever carried. If you're Girardi and your two best offers are jobs in major markets that involve immense pressure, wouldn't you rather be with the ownership group you trust more to spend?

The Phillies also have the money to pay Girardi himself — another obviously important factor. Manager salaries don't count against the luxury tax. As Jim Salisbury pointed out on our At the Yard podcast Monday, the next manager's salary might cost the same as a middle reliever. At that point, what is an extra couple million if it means firmly landing the most appealing veteran manager on the market who has the qualities the top of the organization and vast majority of the fan base want?

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