The deepest aspect of this year's MLB draft is college pitching and that could be exactly where the Phillies turn with the eighth overall pick Monday night.
The Phils have been linked in recent mock drafts to prospects like North Carolina right-hander J.B. Bukauskas and Florida righty Alex Faedo, one of whom will likely be available at 8.
Other pitchers to monitor are Oregon State lefty David Peterson and UCLA right-hander Griffin Canning (see story).
Bukauskas' delivery looks similar to Jeremy Hellickson's with a long, slow motion with his front leg. He throws 93 to 97 mph with his fastball and has been clocked as high as 98.
What sticks out most about Faedo is his energetic, bouncy delivery.
Scouting director Johnny Almaraz didn't divulge much Friday, but he did say he expects the Phillies to come away from this draft with a healthy amount of college pitching.
"We will get our share of college pitchers that are big and strong," Almaraz said. "They will be fast movers through minor-league systems."
After taking high school outfielders in the first round two years in a row in Cornelius Randolph and Mickey Moniak, it would make sense for the Phillies to go with a more developed player this time around. If they draft a college pitcher eighth overall, he could potentially be ready in a year or two when the Phillies hope to be closer to contention. Aaron Nola, for example, debuted in the majors 13 months after being drafted.
"When you talk about ceiling, you talk about floor, it's dealing with the older, mature players where a lot of them, they are what they are," Almaraz said. "So you know the worst-case scenario is they may be a bullpen piece, may be a starter if they could function in that role and pitch every fifth day. We view things that way as far as the college players are concerned. Their true ability that they possess right now really isn't going to change a whole lot."
Thus, college players are typically safer. There's a school of thought that the Phillies should go after a high-upside arm with a big fastball because that's what they lack at the top of their farm system, but Almaraz maintains he's most concerned with command, pitchability and love of the game.
Almaraz also cautioned that the draft lasts much longer than the glitz of the first round. He cited eighth-round first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, 19th-round outfielder Adam Eaton and 32nd-rounder Kevin Pillar as examples of why you can't lose focus or punt away any pick.
The last two first-rounders
Moniak is hitting .267 with a .720 OPS in his first season at Class A Lakewood. At 19 years old, he's 2½ years younger than the Sally League average. When the Phillies drafted him first overall last summer, they knew they were getting a player who could hit for average and run, and they are hopeful his power will develop as he gets older and stronger.
Cornelius Randolph, the prep outfielder the Phillies selected 10th overall in 2015, is at High-A Clearwater this season hitting .232 with a .686 OPS. He has just nine home runs in 721 plate appearances as a pro.
"They're right where I thought they would be," Almaraz said. "They're doing what I thought they'd be doing. They're young, high school hitters and they're learning each and every at-bat. The one thing that you learn about players who can hit is they're going to get better as they get stronger, as they mature in their bodies and start driving the ball and becoming threats with one swing of the bat."