Phillies focus on experience in MLB draft

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Phillies focus on experience in MLB draft

Following the second day of the 2014 Major League Baseball draft, one thing has become clear …

The Phillies have put a premium on experienced players.

Of the 10 picks the Phillies made in the draft, nine college players were selected (see Phillies' pick tracker). Though some are juniors and may have a year of eligibility remaining, the team’s ability to sign its draft picks is very high.

That notion even extends to the lone high school player selected by the Phillies. Sam McWilliams, a 6-foot-7 right-handed pitcher from Beech High School in Hendersonville, Tennessee, is signed to play college ball at Tennessee Tech. However, based on a Twitter post from the coach at the school, it seems as if McWilliams is interested in signing with the Phillies.

Meanwhile, six of the 10 players drafted are pitchers and another, Aaron Brown, doubled as a pitcher for Pepperdine University. Primarily an outfielder, the third-round pick batted .313 with 12 homers in 57 games.

But as a pitcher, the lefty Brown went 12-1 with a 2.07 ERA. He throws a sinking fastball in the low-90s with a slider and a changeup. Brown sounds a lot like another two-way Pepperdine star drafted by the Phillies in Randy Wolf.

Unlike with Wolf, the Phillies prefer Brown as a power-hitting centerfielder.

Another power hitter selected by the Phillies was Rhys Hoskins from Sacramento State. Taken in the fifth round, Hoskins played first base in college, but dabbled in the outfield during summer league. He hit 12 homers with 18 doubles in 56 games in 2014 and cut down his strikeouts from 42 to 29.

The other hitters selected by the Phillies are Emmanuel Marrero, a slick-fielding shortstop from Alabama State and Matt Shortall, an outfielder from the University of Texas-Arlington. Marrero is a defensive whiz, but could be a project as a hitter. Shortall batted .353 over his last two years in college, though he didn’t draw high marks from the scouts for his patience at the plate.

Additionally, in the fourth round the Phillies took hard-throwing right-hander Chris Oliver from the University of Arkansas. At 6-foot-4, Oliver’s fastball is nasty. He also has a decent slider and a changeup that needs some fine-tuning.

Two familiar names selected by the Phillies are Brandon Leibrandt, the son of 14-year major leaguer Charlie Leibrandt, and Matt Hockenberry, a righty from Temple University.

Leibrandt played for college baseball power Florida State where he displayed a knowledge for pitching well beyond his years. Though he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, Leibrandt knows how to pitch and as a sixth-round pick, projects to be a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Hockenberry went 13-17 with a 5.06 ERA in four years at Temple. However, his numbers improved a lot in his senior year and he tossed two complete games.

After two days of the draft, here are the Phillies' picks:

Round 1, pick 7: RHP Aaron Nola, LSU (R/R, 6-2/200)
Round 2, pick 47: LHP Matt Imhof, Cal Poly (L/L, 6-5/220)
Round 3, pick 81: CF Aaron Brown, Pepperdine (L/L, 6-2/220)
Round 4, pick 112: RHP Chris Oliver, Arkansas (R/R, 6-4/185)
Round 5, pick 142: 1B Rhys Hoskins, Sacramento State (R/R, 6-4/225)
Round 6, pick 172: LHP Brandon Leibrandt, Florida State (L/L, 6-4/205)
Round 7, pick 202: SS Emmanuel Marrero, Alabama State (S/R, 6-0/180)
Round 8, pick 232: RHP Sam McWilliams, Beech High School (Tenn.) (R/R, 6-7/190)
Round 9, pick 262: RHP Matt Hockenberry, Temple (R/R, 6-3/220)
Round 10, pick 292: OF Matt Shortall, Texas-Arlington (R/R, 6-3/215)

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The pathway for Andrew Knapp to make the Phillies' opening day roster as the backup catcher was cleared way back in November when he was added to the 40-man roster.

The job all but became Knapp's on Monday when the team released two veteran catchers who were not on the 40-man roster. When Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday were let go, Knapp became one of just two catchers in camp, the other being starter Cameron Rupp (see story).

So it's pretty obvious that the 25-year-old Knapp will open the season with the big club -- even though nothing will become official until rosters are filed with the commissioner's office this weekend.

"Obviously there are four or five days left," Knapp said. "I'm just going to keep trying to make good impressions and try to win a job. I'm keeping my head down, trying not to think about it too much."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round draft pick out of Cal-Berkeley in 2013. He has never played in the majors.

"It would be a dream come true," he said. "Everyone hopes to get called up at some point but to make a team on opening day would be pretty special and it would be the best moment in my career so far."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that Knapp would probably make the club.

Mackanin would like to have the rest of his roster in order over the next day or two.

"As soon as possible," he said. "Because the last four or five games I'd like to play almost as if it were a season -- using the bullpen that way, using the bench in a certain way, seeing what it looks like, our bench guys, all our hitters. We just don't want to make a bad decision so we're just going to string it out as long as we can."

Roster questions that still must be answered:

How many spots remain on the bench? Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp are set. Will the Phillies go with a five-man bench, meaning there are two openings? Or will they go with a four-man bench, which opens the possibility for carrying eight relievers instead of the customary seven?

If the Phils go with a five-man bench, they will pick two from a group of four players that includes Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Jesmuel Valentin. The hunch is Coghlan will make the club, leaving the final spot down to Nava or Stassi. All three of those players are non-roster so the team would have to open a spot on the 40-man roster to accommodate them. Valentin has impressed -- and is already on the 40 -- but he might benefit from playing every day at Triple A.

Mackanin praised the work of Coghlan and Stassi.

"Stassi has obviously made a great impression, mainly because, not necessarily because of his results, but the fact that he had a lot of quality at-bats," Mackanin said. "It looks like he can handle making adjustments to the different pitchers and different situations. He seemed to handle left-handers well. He made a good impression, as has Coghlan. Nava has also been consistent throughout the spring."

If the Phils go with a four-man bench, Coghlan might be the only one to make the club. He is due a $100,000 retention bonus on Wednesday. If he wasn't going to make the team, he might be gone by now.

Going with a four-man bench would minimize the subtractions that the team would have to make from the 40-man roster. In that case, only one spot would have to be cleared.

A four-man bench means the Phillies could choose three relievers from a group of candidates that includes Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Alec Asher and Cesar Ramos. All but Ramos is on the 40-man roster.

How will this all shake out?

More answers could be coming on Tuesday.

Phillies release Hanigan, Holaday; Andrew Knapp likely backup catcher

Phillies release Hanigan, Holaday; Andrew Knapp likely backup catcher

A week before the season opener, it appears Andrew Knapp has won the Phillies' backup catcher competition.

The Phils on Monday released Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday, two veterans battling with Knapp for the backup spot to Cameron Rupp.

Knapp, 25, hasn't had an impressive spring, going 7 for 38 (.184) with 16 strikeouts, but the move makes sense because he's young and has at least a chance to contribute to the Phillies in the future, unlike Hanigan and Holaday. Plus, catcher Jorge Alfaro and first baseman Rhys Hoskins will likely open the season at Triple A, meaning Knapp would not have had an everyday spot with the IronPigs.

Knapp had his best game of the spring at the right time Sunday, hitting a two-run homer and throwing out two runners on the bases (see story).

"It's pretty obvious he seems to be the guy," manager Pete Mackanin said of Knapp. "Nothing's written in stone but if you read between the lines, it pretty much tells you something about it. No secret plans or anything like that. It is what it is right now."

At 25, Knapp isn't really a prospect anymore but rather a player the Phillies want to see sink or swim at the big-league level.

"He's not going to get 500 at-bats, but one of the things you can look at is any exposure to the big-league scene is valuable toward anyone's development," Mackanin said. "Let's say Knapp gets 200 at-bats, it's worth his while and our while to judge him, to give him a sense of confidence or knowing what he's up against.

"In that regard playing in the big leagues, even in a part-time role, is important."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round pick in 2013 out of the University of California. He broke out in 2015 by hitting .360 with a 1.050 OPS and more than an RBI per game in 241 plate appearances with Double A Reading.

Last season, the switch-hitting Knapp was an International League All-Star with Triple A Lehigh Valley, though he didn't have as impressive an offensive season, batting .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs.

"He's got a chance to be a pretty good hitter," Mackanin said. "And he's come along quite a ways defensively behind the plate to where I'm comfortable with him catching.

"Little by little he's shown improvement in the spring, even though he hasn't had the greatest spring offensively. He's had a lot of good at-bats and he's caught well."

Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp look like locks for the Phillies' bench. The final two bench spots are open with Brock Stassi, Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava and Jesmuel Valentin in the running (see story).

CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury contributed to this report.