Pitcher? Position player? Phillies will be flexible in first round of draft


Brian Barber has one of the most important jobs in the Phillies organization. The decisions that he and his staff make next week will impact the organization for years to come.

Barber, the Phillies' director of amateur scouting, will preside over his second draft with the club beginning Sunday night when the first round will be held.

The Phils hold the 13th pick in the first round. The draft will be 20 rounds, up from five during the pandemic last year, and will run through Tuesday.

It's too early to tell where the Phillies will go with the 13th overall pick. Much will be dictated by what the 12 teams above them do. Last year, they picked 15th and selected right-hander Mick Abel, the highest-rated high school pitcher in the draft. At the time, Barber described Abel as having "top of the rotation" potential. 

"I saw him in instructional league and in spring training," Barber said Thursday. "I would tell you he's exactly what we thought he'd be come this time. He still has a long way and a lot to learn to get to the big leagues. But as far as the talent level on the field goes, he's exactly what we thought he'd be."

According to Barber, this year's draft is deep on high school talent, both on the pitching and position-player side. There is also depth in college pitching.

Baseball America, in its mock drafts, has at various times had the Phillies connected to Andrew Painter, a high school pitcher from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Benny Montgomery, an outfielder from Red Land High School in York County, Pennsylvania. Montgomery is committed to the University of Virginia. He is a fan of the Phillies and Chase Utley


Barber has a policy of not talking about specific players. He would not commit to taking a position player or a pitcher, or going the high school or college route, with the team's first pick.

"We'll break down each pick and take who we believe is the best player, whether it's a pitcher or a position player," he said. "We'll go after the player we feel will be the best big-leaguer in the end, and hopefully we'll get 20 of them."

The Phillies' farm system is considered one of the weakest in baseball with an overall shortage of top position-player prospects. Barber said the club would not consciously look to fill one area of need because those are always changing.

"We're always working two, three, four years into the future," he said.

Barber and his staff have been freer to travel and see more players in person as COVID restrictions have eased in recent months. In-person looks were harder to get last year and the team relied on pre-pandemic looks and video. It was a headache, but all teams dealt with it. And it's not like teams didn't have years' worth of reports on players to fall back on. For instance, the Phillies took infielder Casey Martin in the third round last year after his junior season had been cut short at Arkansas. The Phils had reports on Martin dating to his time in high school. Martin is currently playing at High A Jersey Shore.

Barber raved about the level of talent in the Northeast states, "from Maryland right up the coast." He said it rivaled what he'd seen in talent-rich areas such as Florida, Texas and California. Year-round indoor training facilities and technology-based training methods have resulted in more skilled players. The greater Philadelphia area features three potential first-round picks in Bishop Eustace pitcher Anthony Solometo, Mainland pitcher Chase Petty and Malvern Prep outfielder Lonnie White.

"I'm not comfortable talking about any specific players before the draft," Barber said. "But those are three talented players that are probably excited for the draft and hoping for good things and probably good things are going to happen."

Barber had been the No. 2 man in scouting for the New York Yankees when he was hired by the Phillies in the fall of 2019. Matt Klentak was still leading the Phillies baseball operations department when Barber was hired. Now, Dave Dombrowski leads the department.

"Dave has been involved in just about every meeting we've had in Philadelphia," Barber said. "He's a great sounding board for me and very supportive of me and our staff.

"He's done a lot of things in this game. He's part of the process and I think we work well together. I don't see it as any, 'it's my decision,' or 'it's his decision.' It's going to be our decision in the end."


Pittsburgh has the first pick in the draft, which starts at 7 p.m. Sunday night.

Subscribe to Phillies Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube