Phillies excited to see Draft strategy play out

College prospects with discipline selected in early rounds

Phillies excited to see Draft strategy play out

With their first three picks in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Phillies drafted three college players. Last year with those picks, they selected three high school players.

So why the switch?

Since general manager Matt Klentak stepped into the driver's seat before the 2016 season, Philadelphia has craved a certain type of player, namely one that controls the strike zone. For pitchers that correlates to avoiding walks and living around the zone. For batters, it's the ability to be selectively aggressive, not chasing pitches out of the zone and maximizing their offensive potential by putting good, hittable pitches in play.

There was no philosophical change in the talent evaluation from 2016-17, there were simply better college players atop this Draft fitting that mold compared to last year when prep prospects -- like 19-year-old Kevin Gowdy, the Phils' second-round pick and eighth-ranked prospect -- fit that bill.

Top Prospects: Gowdy, PHI

Plate discipline is a vital component to the Phillies' player evaluation process.

"You have to have the innate ability to pitch and command the baseball, show a level of that in manipulating the baseball and as a hitter you have to show that you have some type of barrel control and you can make consistent contact with the baseball," Klentak said.

Philadelphia's selection at No. 8 overall, Adam Haseley, could do both of those things in college.

Although he was drafted as an outfielder and lauded for his polished hitting prowess, Haseley was also a member of the University of Virginia starting rotation.

Haseley had the ninth-best ERA in the nation in 2016 as a sophomore playing against top-notch college talent in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Now that he's solely focusing on hitting, he could improve there even more. That's quite the concept, given he was the 2017 ACC-leader in batting average (.390) and on-base percentage (.491). Already able to make consistent solid contact from the left side, his plate discipline is another advanced tool. Haseley walked 44 times this season and struck out just 21 times, the second best strikout-to-walk ratio in the ACC.

Almaraz on Haseley

Recently, advanced college bats like Haseley -- Kyle Schwarber and Michael Conforto in 2014, Andrew Benintendi and Ian Happ in '15 -- have skyrocketed through Minor League systems. All displayed great plate discipline in college with numbers comparable to Haseley's.

"I think he has demonstrated the ability in college, he's a pretty mature player and if he demonstrates those same skills at the professional level in the Minor Leagues, I think it's reasonable to suggest that he might be able to zip through the Minor Leagues," Klentak said.

College pitchers benefit from the same added polish -- like Aaron Nola, who was drafted in 2014 and debuted in the Majors in '15.

Philadelphia's second-round pick, right-hander pitcher Spencer Howard from Cal Poly, could be a quick riser with a fastball they ranked as one of the best in the Draft class. Moving from the bullpen to the starting rotation during his breakout season, his control increased. Howard struck out 10 batters per nine innings, a 97/23 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a Big West conference-leading 1.95 ERA.

Phillies draft RHP Howard No. 45

Connor Seabold, third-round pick from Cal State Fullerton, is remarkably similar to another Phillies prospect who attended the same school, Thomas Eshelman.

Eshelman displayed control of historic proportions with 321 career strikeouts to just 18 walks. Seabold, while not quite at that level, still held a sterling ratio of 292 strikeouts against 43 walks, best among all Big West starters while he led the conference with 11 wins.

Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.