Jim Callis of Baseball America just published his first mock draft with about four weeks to go until the actual picks start on June 4.
The whole thing is worth reading, as Callis gives plenty of analysis along with the projected picks, but to whet your appetite he has the Astros selecting Stanford pitcher Mark Appel with the No. 1 pick and the Twins taking Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton with the No. 2 pick.
This year’s draft lacks a clear-cut top choice and the consensus seems to be that the overall level of high-end talent is lacking, but Appel has been the most talked-about college player since before the season started and Buxton is widely viewed as the high schooler with the most upside.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.