First Mock Draft of the Year Lands Sixers Andrew Wiggins, Montrezl Harrell

First Mock Draft of the Year Lands Sixers Andrew Wiggins, Montrezl Harrell

With the NBA draft just around the corner, a mere nine and two-thirds months away, it's of course time to break out the first mock draft of the season. If that somehow seems a tad premature and excessive, that's because of course it totally is, but excitement about this 2014 draft--any Sixers fan who hasn't already bought a 2014 calendar so they can circle the dates of May 20th (Lottery) and June 26th (Draft) is of course no true Sixers fan--is such that any premature and excessive talk about it is still exceedingly welcome.

Anyway, ESPN draft guru Chad Ford (and we'll be referring to him as that so much over the course of the next nine and two-thirds months that we may as well just call him ESPNDGCF from now on) has projected next summer's draft, using the site's projected standings for all 30 teams to determine the order. Surprise surprise, Ford has the Sixers picking first overall, and surprise surprise surprise, he has them taking Canadian prospect and future Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins with the pick. Writes Ford:

I've been very bullish on the 76ers this summer; having the best shot at Wiggins is why. Wiggins is one of the best prospects to come into the draft in a decade. He has NBA size, elite athletic ability and does just about everything well. With young anchors in the middle (Nerlens Noel) and at the point guard position (Michael Carter-Williams), the Sixers could add an uber-athletic wing to the mix. Combined with the No. 11 pick (see below), they suddenly have one of the most exciting young cores in the NBA. Even if the Sixers don't win the lottery, a player like Julius Randle, Dante Exum or Jabari Parker would add another potential star to the team.

No real news there--the Sixers could start selling Wiggins jerseys at the Wells Fargo Center this upcoming season and he'd outsell actually anyone on the team 5 to 1. He'll be the most talked about player in Sixerland months before he even declares for the draft. More notable, however, is the player Ford has us taking at #11, where he projects the pick owed to us by the Hornicans in the Jrue Holiday trade to fall: Second-year Louisville power forward Montrezl Harrell. Quoth the ESPNDG:

Putting Harrell on a team that already includes Noel, Carter-Williams and, if they win the lottery, Wiggins is just plain greedy. Harrell is a bouncy energizer who should be a great fit in Philly. He has a terrific motor, is an excellent rebounder and he proved this summer that his offensive game is coming along nicely. If he has a big sophomore year in Louisville, he might not be around at No. 11. But if he is, he'll be another great building block for the Sixers.

Interesting. I'll admit to not being nearly as familiar with Harrell as I am with Wiggins at this point--I had no idea he was even on the Louisville title team last year--but after reading Ford's write-up on him, and after watching this one perfunctory YouTube highlights compilation:

I'm pretty well sold. What's more, I agree with Ford's analysis that he'll be a likely target for the Liberty Ballers--he fits the young/athletic/lengthy mold the team has been consistently going for in the Sam Hinkie era to a T, and would be an absolute terror of a frontcourt partner with Nerlens Noel, catching lobs from Michael Carter-Williams and running the floor with (allegedly) Andrew Wiggins. Plus, his first name is Montrezl, and any name with a somewhat superfluous "z" in it is an automatic winner. He's definitely yet another college player worth monitoring for Sixer fans over the course of the year, to help us forget about the 85-68 losses to the Pistons the night before and whatnot.

Oh, and if you don't already watch them nightly as you fall asleep, here's some spare Wiggins highlights for the hell of it:

(s/o to Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers for the Twit-tip here.)

After epically bad game, Odubel Herrera maintains he's 'making good swings'

After epically bad game, Odubel Herrera maintains he's 'making good swings'

Don't be shocked if Pete Mackanin gives Odubel Herrera the Maikel Franco treatment this weekend after Herrera's epically bad game Thursday afternoon.

Herrera, batting third for the first time since May 9, went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in the Phillies' 2-1, extra-inning win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five Ks and the first Phillie to do so since Pat Burrell in September 2008.

(And no, that doesn't mean the Phillies are winning the World Series this season.)

Herrera is in a very bad place right now. He's hitting .226 with a .275 on-base percentage, and he has 28 strikeouts with one walk in May. But you wouldn't know it from talking to him after the game Thursday. Herrera wasn't downtrodden or beside himself. He was typical Odubel, flashing a few smiles and remaining positive.

"I feel that I am making good swings but I'm just missing the pitches," Herrera said. "But I feel I am swinging the bat well. 

"I don't really know what it is exactly. But I am seeing the ball well. I don't know if it's when I charge at the ball or the timing of my swing. It's definitely at that point. Maybe it has something to do with the balance of the bat and my body. 

"Besides being positive, I have to check the video to see what I'm doing wrong and make some adjustment. But I'm staying positive, for sure."

Herrera and Franco, batting third and fourth, went 1 for 10 with seven strikeouts Thursday. They're both hitting below .230. They're supposed to be cornerstone pieces for the Phillies so it's extremely troubling. Even if the Phillies were winning games recently it would be troubling.

Mackanin was elusive when asked if he'd consider benching Herrera Friday. But there's no real reason to believe it would do any good anyway. There's a fine line between giving a player time to clear his head and preventing him from having chances to bounce back.

"You know what, let me enjoy this. We'll discuss that tomorrow. Let me smile for a while," Mackanin said. 

"It's a tough decision. That's a tough decision. You wonder if he needs to be in there seeing pitches and batting or does he need time off? I'll think about that."

Herrera did say that he and Franco have leaned on each other during this rough period. They talk and try to motivate each other every day, but right now the results aren't there. Both are swinging wildly at too many pitches out of the strike zone and just making it too easy for opposing pitchers. When that's coming from the middle of your order, you're going to have problems scoring runs. 

On this date a year ago, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. Franco was hitting .260 with a .748 OPS.

Some of the struggles are because of pitchers adjusting to Herrera and Franco as the book on them expands. 

When asked if that's the case for his two young players, Mackanin referenced the Phillies' own adjustment to Rockies slugger Charlie Blackmon.

"I was pretty happy we got to Blackmon, that guy is a heckuva hitter and we pitched him really well today. There's an example of what you're talking about," Mackanin said. "Little by little, we're going to get there. We're going to start playing better."

Like Herrera and Franco, Mackanin has no choice but to think positive and hope for the best. It's a long summer, after all.

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning Thursday to score Michael Saunders and snap the Phillies' five-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Rockies.

The win is their first victory in a game not started by Jeremy Hellickson since May 1. It also prevented the Phillies from being swept by Colorado.

At 16-29, the Phillies have the second-worst record in the majors. The Rockies, 32-17, have the second-best record in the majors.

Starting pitching report
Vince Velasquez pitched well, allowing one run over five innings to a stacked Rockies lineup, but he again had a short outing because of a high pitch count.

Velasquez put nine men on base and struck out seven. He threw 94 pitches, 70 for strikes.

After Velasquez's last start in Pittsburgh, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the right-hander's secondary pitches simply need to improve, that he needs to be able to show more than just a mid-90s fastball.

On Thursday, Velasquez threw 72 fastballs, 14 curveballs, four sliders and four changeups. The Rockies swung through only two of those 22 off-speed pitches and went 4 for 6 when putting them in play.

Mackanin left Velasquez in to hit for himself with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the fifth and Velasquez popped out on a sacrifice attempt. Many fans have already questioned the decision, but let's keep in mind Velasquez has handled the bat well. He's 6 for 17 (.353) on the season and tied for the major-league lead in hits among pitchers. He had an infield single in his first at-bat.

Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson continued the theme of mediocre starting pitchers stymying the Phillies. Anderson allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.

In the series, Rockies starting pitchers allowed three runs in 27 innings. They had a 1.00 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning. And these four starters — Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Tyler Chatwood and Anderson — entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA.

Bullpen report
Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez each pitched one scoreless inning. It's understandably been overlooked during the Phillies' skid, but the bullpen is finally in a groove. Over their last seven games, Phillies relievers have allowed just two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings for a 0.79 ERA.

Neris threw 10 pitches, all of them strikes. He's allowed one run in 9 2/3 innings since his meltdown at Dodger Stadium.

At the plate
Before the walk-off hit, Joseph stayed hot with a home run off the ivy wall in dead-center to start the bottom of the seventh.

Joseph is hitting .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

Joseph has now played 148 games with 498 plate appearances in the majors — slightly less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. Those numbers are just above the league average for first basemen over that span.

Batting third, Odubel Herrera went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts. He's the first player in the majors this season to do that and the first Phillie since Pat Burrell in September 2008. Herrera is hitting .226 with a .275 OBP. 

Maikel Franco returned to the lineup after a two-game benching and went 1 for 5, singling up the middle in his first at-bat and flailing at a low-and-away, two-strike breaking ball to strike out with two on and one out in the eighth inning. He then struck out on three pitches to lead off the 11th.

Cameron Rupp walked three times, raising his on-base percentage from .330 to .345.

Up next
The Phillies start a three-game series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, who they haven't seen since the opening week of the season.

Friday, 7:05 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-1, 3.52) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 6.75)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. — Jerad Eickhoff (0-5, 4.70) vs. Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99)

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. — Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) vs. Amir Garrett (3-3, 6.00)