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Phillies Draft Report

By Paul Hagen
June 4, 2002

PHILADELPHIA--Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever figures every draft pick is a gamble anyway. "They're all a crapshoot. None of them has ever been in the big leagues," he reasoned.

With that in mind, the Phillies selected lefthander Cole Hamels from San Diego's Rancho Bernardo High with the 17th overall pick in this year's draft.

Hamels went 10-0, 0.39 in his senior year, and struck out 130 batters in 71 innings. The only logical reason he was still available for the Phillies is that he missed his entire junior year with a broken arm. The humerus snapped while he was on the mound at the end of his sophomore year, though he apparently was unknowingly pitching with the beginning of a fracture after being injured playing street football three weeks earlier.

Wolever said team doctor Michael Ciccotti examined all the available reports, and concluded there wasn't sufficient cause for concern to pass up a prospect with Hamels' ability.

The Phillies scouted every one of his starts this season. "He has great mechanics for a high school kid," said Wolever, who watched him pitch three times. "We felt strongly that he was ready to go."

Hamels admitted that when he was first hurt, he thought his career might be over. Now he's confident he isn't at risk for breaking the arm again while pitching.

"I know I'm healthy and that I'm going to go out there and succeed," he said. "I know it will be better than ever."

By the end of the season, the Phillies consistently clocked his fastball at 94-95 mph. He also has an average to above-average curve and changeup.

If Hamels stays off the disabled list, the Phillies believe they have a worthy successor to the last two high school pitchers they've taken in the first round, Brett Myers in 1999 and Gavin Floyd last year.

The immediate hurdle, of course, is getting him signed. Hamels, a rock 'n' roll surfer dude, has signed a letter of intent to the University of San Diego. While adviser John Boggs could influence his thinking, at the moment every indication is he's anxious to get his pro career started.

"I'm pretty eager," he said. "I want to get started as quickly as possible. I'm pretty eager."

Said Rancho Bernardo coach Sam Blalock: "I think he wants to play. He's conveyed that to me and other people. I don't think he's going to be a holdout guy who wants $20 million."

Hamels figures to command a signing bonus in the $2 million range. Last year's 17th overall selection, high school righthander Dan Denham, got $1.86 million from the Indians.

In the fifth round, the Phillies took Hamels' Rancho Bernardo teammate Jake Blalock. A shortstop in high school, he's the brother of Rangers prospect Hank Blalock and the nephew of Sam Blalock, who said: "He's bigger, stronger, runs faster and has more power than Hank. My clairvoyance tells me someday the Phillies are going to say, 'I can't believe he's that good.' "

The selection of third baseman Kiel Fisher in the third round was a gamble. "He's got a big top side, but signability is a little concern," Wolever said.

The Phillies also took a risk by selecting high school third baseman Brett McMillan in the 21st round. He has a scholarship to UCLA, and most teams expect him to use it. But he told the Phillies the prospect of an opening at third base when Scott Rolen leaves could convince him to turn pro.

Darin Naatjes, the 14th-round pick, also plays tight end for the Stanford football team, and there are indications he'd like to return for his senior year on the gridiron. If he signs, the Phillies wouldn't stand in his way.

The Phillies took two lefthanders in the first four rounds (Hamels and Tulane's Nick Bourgeois), and also drafted catchers Trent Pratt in the 12th round and Brian Manfred in the 13th. Those were areas they wanted to address.

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