Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell pace the offense.  Cole Hamels, Brett Myers and Kyle Kendrick anchor the starting rotation.  Not many teams can claim to have such a powerful, homegrown core.  Now, it’s time to start reloading.

With their first pick in the 2008 draft, the Phillies grabbed high school shortstop Anthony Hewitt, a New York product whose stock has been on the rise.  The Phillies tend to prefer young players with natural ability and high ceilings over more tested college players, and this selection is no exception.  Hewitt is a great athlete with a good arm and good speed.

Yes, Jimmy Rollins is entrenched at shortstop, but in the first round, you have to take the best player, regardless of position or need.  And think about it… didn’t the best player on your high school team always play shortstop?

The Phillies are excited about this year’s draft, with seven of the first 136 selections as they continue to replenish a farm system that was ravaged by trades during the Ed Wade era.  As more and more teams opt to lock up young players and rely less on free agency, the draft is becoming more and more relevant.  MLB isn’t like the NFL, NBA or NHL, where rookie draft picks become instant stars.  Utley and Howard became regulars in their mid-20’s, although Howard’s path to stardom was temporarily blocked by Jim Thome.

Not only that, but the best player’s “signability” could drop him from the first pick to the bottom half of the first round or lower, where he will still have the same contract demands.  In other leagues, if signability is a factor, the player may slide down one or two slots.  This is part of what makes MLB’s draft so unpredictable and good scouting so important.  Here’s a progress report on the Fightins’ last three first-round picks.

Last year, the Phillies grabbed Joe Savery, a cocky lefthanded college pitcher (and heavy duty hitter) who expected to be in the big leagues sometime this season.  His inconsistency at Class A Clearwater will put that promotion on hold.  Savery is 2-6 with a 4.63 ERA, allowing 83 hits in 68 innings.  He has the tools, but needs to be more precise with his pitches and stay focused.

In 2006, many experts said high school phenom Kyle Drabek, son of Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek, had the best stuff in the draft.  They also said he had a bad temper and he was arrested for public intoxication.  After Tommy John surgery last July, the jury is still out on his stuff, but an injury like this can speed up the mental maturity process.  At age 20, Drabek still has plenty of time to develop.  He’ll start throwing off a mound soon and is likely return to the field this fall.

2005 first-round pick Greg Golson struggled for a year and a half with the Class A Lakewood Blueclaws, then started to show progress after a promotion to Clearwater.  After spending Spring Training with the Phillies, Golson has exploded at Class AA Reading, batting .329 with impressive speed and power (16 stolen bases and seven home runs).  He still needs to cut down on his strikeouts (65 in 213 at-bats), but the speedy 22-year-old centerfielder may compete for a big league roster spot next spring, especially if Burrell isn’t resigned.

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