As the Philadelphia Phillies were busy losing their sixth game in a row and getting swept by the Washington Nationals in a 4-2 loss, the front office was busy trying to improve the team’s future at the 2014 draft.
To that end, the Phillies picked right-handed pitcher Aaron Nola out of LSU with the seventh overall pick. For a team who has had stunningly bad luck with draft picks over the last few years, the choice to go with a college player who most agree will be one of the first prospects from the 2014 draft to be called up to the big leagues is a significant shift in thinking for the Phillies. It shows just how desperate the team is for some help and that maybe someone is starting to think outside the box for a change.
Nola impressed a lot of people at LSU with a fastball that tops out at 97 mph, which he has an uncanny command of and used to pitch his way to the SEC Conference Pitcher of the Year title for the last two seasons, going 23-2 with an ERA of 1.52. He finished his time at LSU with a 30-6 record, a 2.09 ERA and 345 strikeouts.
In the second round the Phillies continued the trend of going for players who will be able to help them in the here and now when the picked Matt Imhof from Cal Poly. A left-handed pitcher with a 94 mph fastball and a curve that has to be seen to be believed, the hope is that he will also rapidly move through the farm system and be ready to join the Phillies sooner rather than later.
The fact that the Phillies organization used their first two picks in the draft to chose players that they won’t have to wait years to join the main ball club and get results from is telling. Practically everyone and their brother realizes this Phillies team just isn’t working and that there is a pressing need to blow it up and start over. But the perception was that the the Phillies’ front office, especially Ruben Amaro Jr., seemed to be in denial about how dire the situation really is. And while the jury is still out on Amaro Jr., at least someone upstairs is thinking beyond today and starting to put the pieces in place for a future without Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins or Cole Hamels.
The MLB draft is never as exciting or dramatic as its counterparts in the NBA or NFL. In baseball, you know you are picking players who won’t have any serious impact on your ball club for years to come, if ever. But it seems for once the Phillies might have grabbed a couple of solid prospects in Nola and Imhof who fans could see playing at Citizens Bank Park in the very near future.
That is, as long as Amaro Jr. doesn’t trade them away like he has so many of the Phillies good prospects in the past.