But this one is especially vital for the Phillies, who have the seventh-overall pick in the first round tonight -- their highest since they made right-hander Gavin Floyd the fourth-overall choice in 2001. They also selected Cole Hamels with the No. 17 pick in 2002. But since then, the best thing that can be said about the organization's first-round picks is that two of them (Kyle Drabek and Travis d'Arnaud) helped them acquire Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays in December 2009.
Greg Golson, Joe Savery, Adrian Cardenas, Zach Collier, Anthony Hewitt and Larry Greene are among some of the names dotting that list.
"Circumstances are a little different," Phillies assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever said. "Seven or eight years ago, you had to have an opportunity to play here. If you were a first baseman or a second baseman or a shortstop or a catcher, guess what, you weren't going to play here for a while. ... You reach out and you take Golsons and Saverys -- and you roll the dice on Anthony Hewitt -- and you hope that you hit, based on their tools and their athletic ability. Some do, some don't, and some of them haven't -- and we need to do a better job in that regard. But [making picks is] based on a lot of factors that come into play."
Forty-six Phillies Draft picks have reached the big leagues over the previous 10 Drafts (2004-13), which ties for seventh-best in baseball. But the quality of those picks ranks last. According to Baseball Reference, the combined WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of Phillies Draft picks over the past 10 years is 20.7, which is a remarkable 24.6 points lower than the 29th ranked Blue Jays (45.3).
The Red Sox (142.7), Braves (133.3) and Angels (124.4) are the top three teams.
There are things to consider with those rankings. First, recent Draft picks do not figure into the equation as much, if at all, because they are still coming through the farm system or just beginning their big league careers. Class A Lakewood shortstop J.P. Crawford, whom the Phillies selected in the first round last year, could be a superstar. But he nets the Phillies nothing to date. The same can be said for former Draft picks Jarred Cosart and Jon Singleton, who are with the Astros.
Second, the Phillies have not selected higher than 16th overall in the past 10 years. There is a big difference drafting high in the first round compared to the low first round. Third, the rankings consider players drafted, whether or not they signed with the organization. So the Angels get credit for selecting Buster Posey in the 50th round in 2005 and Matt Harvey in the third round in 2007, even though neither signed.
But, generally speaking, the Phillies have not fared well in those Drafts. Their top three performers based on WAR are J.A. Happ (5.6, third-round pick in 2004), A.J. Griffin (4.4, 34th round in 2009, but did not sign) and Vance Worley (3.6, 20th round in 2005 and third round in 2008).
"I think Marti has done a very good job," Amaro said. "We've got players who are on this field right now -- like [Darin] Ruf, [Ryan] Howard and others -- that are products of Marti's Drafts. Guys like [David] Buchanan and others. Those are guys that have made an impact on the organization. Is there room for improvement? Yeah.
"We want to do better in all of our areas. I think we've done pretty darn well, but there is room for improvement anywhere."
Amaro has scouted amateur players in previous Drafts, but he has been scouting more this year. Asked if one could infer he is asserting himself more, based on recent Drafts, Amaro said, "I go pretty much every year. This year, it's a little easier to target. When you're at seven, as opposed to be being at 17 and 30, you just don't have any idea who to scout. You don't have any idea of who's going to be there in those spots. You have a little better idea when you get your top 10 lists from all the area guys. You have a better idea of who may be there."
"We never talk about the guys on the back end," said Wolever. "All people talk about is those first-round picks. Well, the Draft for me is a [heck] of a lot deeper than that. We've had very good luck behind that. First-round picks are important, certainly. That's where most of the money is spent. But this goes 40 rounds, and we try to bear down all the way through."
The 2014 Draft will take place Thursday-Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m. ET, with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and fans can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft and tagging tweets with #mlbdraft.
In about 50 words
Wolever offered an interesting take on the organization's drafting philosophy, when he said, "Baseball's mindset has changed. I think baseball players with great makeup -- and maybe not as much ability -- sometimes have a way of getting there and being better than you ever anticipated them being. We've tried to have a balance here, where we've incorporated baseball players but also picked high-ceiling guys. I think it's even more important to be a baseball player with good makeup now more than ever before."
The Phillies have plenty of short-term needs, but do they choose a player who is close to big league ready and pass on a potential superstar? They have reached in the past and come up short, but they also may have hit big last year with Crawford.
"We certainly would like to have a guy that could get in here quickly and contribute to this club, considering the age of the club and where we're at," Wolever said. "That would certainly be something I hope to consider. And you have to weigh your options. If the option is a guy who you think has a chance to be a No. 1 starter in the rotation down the road, what do you want to do? I think, at that point, it's a great discussion we'll have again and make a decision."
Wolever said there is no chance the Phillies will take a pitcher with health issues, not when they are picking this high. High school shortstop Nick Gordon could be had, but Crawford already looks like the shortstop of the future. There are plenty of college pitchers available. Maybe the Phillies break from tradition and take a more polished arm.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has -- and the earlier it picks -- the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax, plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage, as well as the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax, plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Phillies have a combined $10,118,500 for international signings and Draft picks. They have $6,896,700 for the Draft, which is 14th in baseball.
The Phillies cannot be terribly picky. They could use a bit of everything, but they have had trouble finding quality outfielders in the system. It is a focus.
"We've had some high-ceiling guys," Wolever said. "We've had trouble keeping them healthy. For whatever reason, we've had a lot of trouble with that. It's a real long process -- especially for the high school kids. It's a long, tedious process, and we need to do a better job with that."
The Phillies have selected a high school player or pitcher with their top pick every year since selecting Savery in the first round in 2007. But that could change this year.
"I hope we have the choice between a high-ceiling high school guy and a close-to-Major League-ready player," Amaro said. "That'll be up for a very, very good discussion. When the time comes, we'll know. We'll try to make the best decision for the short term and long term. You always like to get a guy that's going to be close to the big leagues. But if that guy doesn't exist, if that player isn't there to be taken, then you want to take the best player you possibly can."
* RECENT DRAFT HISTORY *
The Phillies selected right-hander Ken Giles in the seventh round of the 2011 Draft. He could be in the big leagues soon, based on his success this season at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, his ability to throw 100 mph and a struggling big league bullpen.
Left-hander Mario Hollands surprised a lot of people in Spring Training, as a non-roster invitee who was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft. Hollands, a 10th-round pick in 2010, made the team out of camp and has been an effective member of the bullpen.
In The Show
Buchanan, a right-hander whom the Phillies selected in the seventh round in 2010, joined Hollands as one of Spring Training's bright spots. He recently earned a promotion to the big leagues, as injured left-hander Cliff Lee's replacement in the rotation. He picked up a win in his first big league start.
The Phillies' recent top picks
2013: Crawford, SS, Class A Lakewood
2012: Shane Watson, RHP, injured
2011: Larry Greene, OF, Class A Lakewood
2010: Jesse Biddle, LHP, Double-A Reading
2009: Kelly Dugan, OF, Double-A Reading