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2020 Draft recap: Philadelphia Phillies

High school right-hander Abel leads high-ceiling class
Mick Abel led Jesuit High School to an Oregon state title with a 10-0 record and 1.26 ERA in 2019.
June 25, 2020

Following the five-round 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft, takes an organization-by-organization look at each pick with help from team scouting executives. This year's Draft was different for the Phillies, not just because of its shortened format but because of who they had in charge. Philadelphia hired Brian Barber as

Following the five-round 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft, takes an organization-by-organization look at each pick with help from team scouting executives.

This year's Draft was different for the Phillies, not just because of its shortened format but because of who they had in charge.

Philadelphia hired Brian Barber as director of amateur scouting in October. A former Major League pitcher, he spent the previous 18 years in the Yankees’ scouting department, most recently as the team's national crosschecker. Barber replaced Johnny Almaraz, who joined the Phillies in 2014 and stepped down last September after overseeing the previous five Drafts for the club.

Barber had only four picks with which to work because the Phils forfeited their second-round selection by signing former Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler in December. But in those four picks, Barber made it clear that his approach -- at least in 2020 -- was unlike that of his predecessor: he and the Phillies swung for the fences.

First round: RHP Mick Abel (No. 15 overall)

Taking a high school pitcher in the first round is a risk because there are so much variables in predicting what a teenager's arm will look like three, five or 10 years down the line. The Phillies hadn’t picked a high school pitcher in the first round since Jesse Biddle in 2010. Abel, ranked as MLB Pipeline's No. 11 Draft prospect, enticed them enough to try again -- as the first team in 2020 to do so. The hope is the 6-foot-5 right-hander turns out more like Cole Hamels, who did just fine after Philadelphia made him a first-round pick out of high school in 2002.

On Draft night, analysts used names like Jack Flaherty, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello to make comparisons to Abel. The 18-year-old did not get to pitch this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic but earned the Gatorade Oregon Baseball Player of the Year Award twice at Jesuit High School, where his 10-0 record and 1.26 ERA with 111 strikeouts over 72 1/3 innings led the way to a 2019 state title. He’s shined for Team USA. He’s reached triple digits with his fastball. And he’s already got a masterful slider.

Abel will become the club’s top pitching prospect whenever second-ranked Phillies prospect Spencer Howard graduates to the Majors, which should be this year. Of course, Abel will still be years from contributing to the big league club. But with the Phils’ starting pitching development stalling out in recent years -- whether it's the back of the big league rotation or prospects like Adonis Medina (No. 5) and JoJo Romero (No. 13) struggling in 2019 -- Abel’s presence in the system will give another premier arm to dream about atop the rankings.

“I know Mick has tremendous potential and tremendous upside, and our scouts were just in unanimous agreement with that,” Barber told reporters on a conference call after Philadelphia took Abel. “He has the potential to be a future workhorse and just a dominating factor and presence and a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.”

Casey Martin, nicknamed "The Jackrabbit," stole 24 bases in 27 attempts at Arkansas.AP

Third round: SS Casey Martin (No. 87 overall)

The Phillies did not think Martin, the No. 30 Draft prospect, would be available in the third round. They were glad he was. Martin thrived as a freshman at Arkansas in 2018, hitting .345/.418/.556 with 13 home runs to help lead the team to the College World Series finals. His numbers dipped in his sophomore and abbreviated junior seasons, and he struck out in 24.1 percent of his career plate appearances, but the Phillies were too enticed by Martin’s tools. He hit 30 homers as a Razorback and gets a 75 for his speed on the 20-80 scouting scale.

“We have some different testing things that we've done with Casey that were really high as well that led us to believe there's upside,” Barber told reporters. “There are things that we can believe in the hit tool. It wasn't just a raw toolsy athlete here.”

Martin played third base as a freshman and shortstop in the two seasons since. He also could end up at second base or center field. Perhaps that versatility helps him climb through the system the way it helped Scott Kingery, a similar power-speed combo threat, crack the Phillies' Opening Day roster in 2018. Regardless, Martin gives the system the upside it lacks beyond its top position player prospects in Alec Bohm (No. 1), Bryson Stott (No. 3) and Luis Garcia (No. 6).

Fourth round: RHP Carson Ragsdale (No. 116 overall)

On March 8, Barber saw Ragsdale -- a 6-foot-8 right-hander out of South Florida ranked as the No. 169 Draft prospect -- pitch at Florida. He allowed one run on two hits with 10 strikeouts over four innings. Sold.

“To be able to see him compete at that type of level against a quality team as the University of Florida, it probably gave us more comfort with what we had seen in the other starts as well,” Barber told reporters. “I don’t know if anybody has seen the video. He just completely dominated a high-level team like Florida with his curveball and with the mid-90s velocity.”

Such an impressive look at Ragsdale was important because the chances to see him pitch in the past were scarce. He was a reliever his first two seasons, then missed 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. This spring, though, he made four starts and posted a 2.84 ERA with 37 strikeouts and seven walks in 19 innings.

MLB Pipeline reported last week that Ragsdale signed for $225,000, which was less than half his slot value. The Phillies will try him as a starter initially, per But his fastball-curveball combo could work better out of the bullpen long term. It’s a mold that also seems to fit several other hurlers in the system. No. 15 Phillies prospect Damon Jones, for example, broke out in 2019 with a 2.91 ERA across three levels and could pitch out of the 'pen for the big league club in 2020. Other arms like Mauricio Llovera (No. 15), Cristopher Sanchez (No. 17) and Connor Seabold (No. 21) fall into the same category.

Don’t be surprised to see Ragsdale slot somewhere toward the bottom of the Phillies’ Top 30 list with a chance to rise with a larger sample size.

Baron Radcliff hit 19 home runs and slugged .470 in three seasons at Georgia Tech.AP

Fifth round: OF Baron Radcliff (146 overall)

There are two undeniable truths about Radcliff: he struck out in 33.9 percent of his plate appearances at Georgia Tech and he can hit some absolute monster dingers. The Phillies -- and their $330 million right fielder -- were drawn to the latter.

“Baron has some of the best bat speed and power out of anybody in the entire Draft,” Barber said. “We know Baron well, we love the makeup there, we love the athlete and we love the bat speed and power combination.”

Radcliffe immediately has some of the best raw power in the system -- no Phillies prospect hit more than 21 homers last year. Top prospect Bohm, a DH candidate in the big leagues this year, was one of two to reach that mark. No. 18 Phillies prospect Jhailyn Ortiz signed for $4 million in 2015, primarily because of his power. He’s struggled with pitch selection but is still only 21 and went deep 19 times in the Florida State League last year. If the Phils can help Radcliff cut down on his strikeouts, the potential to be a potent slugger is there.

Overall outlook: While top prospects Bohm and Howard appear to have the makeup of impact Major Leaguers, the Phillies went into the Draft without many high-ceiling players in the system. They used all four of their picks on players who fill that description. Abel was dominant in high school, but will he be the same as a pro? Ragsdale impressed in a small sample as a starter, but was that indicative of his true potential? Both Martin and Radcliff strike out a lot, but can the Phillies mitigate that weakness while tapping into their strengths? The more yesses that come in response to those questions, the better for Philadelphia.

Joe Bloss is a contributor for Follow him on Twitter @jtbloss.