Phils narrowing options at No. 1 ahead of Draft

Amateur scouting director studying trends dating back to 1965

Phils narrowing options at No. 1 ahead of Draft

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz has studied every Draft since the A's selected Rick Monday with the first overall pick in in the first Draft in 1965.

Almaraz is looking for trends. He is looking for any edge that can help the Phillies take the best possible player with the first overall pick in this year's Draft, which begins at 7 tonight.

Sources said last week the Phillies are leaning toward a hitter. If that happens, the hitter is expected to sign for less than the $9,015,000 allotted for the top pick, which would allow the Phillies to spend more money and sign more talented players in the later rounds.

"We're narrowing things down now, hopefully a few hours before the (Draft) we'll be pretty much on target with who we want," Almaraz said.

Mercer University outfielder Kyle Lewis, who is a potential No. 1 pick, worked out Monday at Citizens Bank Park. More players are scheduled to work out Tuesday and Wednesday. Other hitters in the mix for the top pick include La Costa Canyon High School (Calif.) outfielder Mickey Moniak, Louisville outfielder Corey Ray, Chaminade College Prep (Calif.) outfielder Blake Rutherford and Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel. Many still believe the Phillies will take Florida left-hander A.J. Puk.

Almaraz declined to tip his hand, but he offered a few ideas about what the Phillies want in their No. 1 pick.

He said they are not looking for a player that can be fast tracked to the big leagues. In other words, the Phillies are looking for the player with the best talent and the highest ceiling, regardless of how long it takes him to make the big leagues. Of course, knowing there is no consensus No. 1 pick and no player has truly separated himself from the pack, the Phillies also are looking for the best combination of talent and price tag.

A player like Moniak, who could fall to the sixth or seventh overall pick, might be willing to take less money as the No. 1 pick knowing it will still be more money than if he is selected five or six picks later. Recent history has shown those talents have just as much of a chance of being successful as arguably the best overall talent.

"If you look back to 2005 and look at the first overall pick and the performers in their class, a lot of the No. 1 picks are eight, nine, 10 as far as performance is based," Almaraz said. "A lot of guys that were taken between the fifth and 20th pick have outperformed the No. 1. We're doing our job to take the best player with the best ability. But knowing that, it's helped me widen the range of prospects as far as we're concerned at No. 1."

Almaraz said an ideal scenario is the Phillies get a hitter and a pitcher with their first two picks. The Phillies also have the 42nd overall pick. They are hoping to get a first-round level talent with that second-round pick, having used some of the money saved at No. 1 to sign somebody of more talent.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.