Phils draft high school shortstop Hewitt

Phils draft high school shortstop Hewitt

PHILADELPHIA -- Taking batting practice at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, Anthony Hewitt made a few balls disappear to right-center field. That, according to Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever, "got everybody excited."

Continuing the rigorous workout, the Phils placed the Salisbury (Conn.) School senior shortstop at third base, and peppered him with ground balls. As he scooped and fired each one to first, Wolever thought, "It was like he'd been a lifelong third baseman."

Off that impressive workout -- and a few months of watching the Bronx-born prep school standout -- the Phillies made Hewitt the 24th overall selection in Thursday's 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

"There's so much potential here with athleticism," Wolever said. "The power. We think he's got a chance to play third base. The makeup is outstanding. We thought it was a great package, something we couldn't pass up."

The Phils didn't, reaching into the high school ranks for a high-risk, high-reward talent, starting what would be the day's theme. The club's next three selections were high school kids: Outfielder Zach Collier (Chino Hills High School, Calif.), outfielder Anthony Gose (Bellflower High School, Calif.) and pitcher Jason Knapp (North Hunterdon Regional High School, N.J.).

The organization went to college to select Cal State Long Beach pitcher Vance Worley, then returned to high school for Jonathan Pettibone from Esperanza (Calif.) High School and Trevor May (Kelso High School, Wash.). Six of the first seven picks were high schoolers.

The Dodgers also selected a kid with a familiar last name in infielder Devaris Strange-Gordon (at No. 127 overall), the son of Phillies setup man Tom Gordon.

The Phillies' next task is to lure the 18-year-old Hewitt away from a commitment to play at Vanderbilt University, a potential reason why the budding talent slipped in the first round. Hewitt is represented by Jack Toffey.

Wolever is confident that Hewitt can be signed quickly, suggesting that three years of college would beef up his Draft standing.

"I don't want to drag out the process too long," Hewitt said. "I'm pretty sure [the talks] will go pretty well. I really want to go ahead and pursue my professional career as soon as possible. I'm eager to start."

Last year's 24th overall selection, high school right-hander Michael Main, signed for $1.2 million.

Phillies' top five selections
Pick
POS
Name
School
24.SSAnthony HewittSalisbury School (Conn.)
34.LFZachary CollierChino Hills HS (Calif.)
51.OFAnthony GoseBellflower HS (Calif.)
71.RHPJaosn KnappNorth Hunterdon Reg HS (N.J.)
102.RHPVance WorleyCal St Long Beach
Complete Phillies Draft results >
Phillies scouts were wowed by Hewitt's ability to run and believe he'll hit for power, enough to justify what should be a swift move to third base. His skill set makes a move to the outfield possible, though Wolever sees him as an infielder.

Hewitt is amenable to the switch.

"I feel it would be a good fit for me," Hewitt said. "I played third last year a little bit, and I felt comfortable there. I wouldn't mind that at all."

He shouldn't, especially if it means he's part of an infield with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.

Drafting high school players is nothing new to the Phillies, who have selected and signed high school players like Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Greg Golson and Kyle Drabek in recent years.

In the weeks leading up to the Draft, the organization narrowed its list down to a crop of high school players that included Collier, Kyle Skipworth (catcher) and Hewitt, and college players Josh Fields (pitcher, Georgia Tech), Ryan Perry (pitcher, University of Arizona) and Isaac Davis (first baseman, Arizona State).

The Phils have focused on pitching in the past two years, selecting Rice University standout lefty Joe Savery in 2007 and Drabek (son of former Major Leaguer Doug Drabek) in '06, and wanted to increase their pool of talented skill players.

Who are Hewitt's idols?

"I tried to model myself after a few players," he said. "A-Rod. I look at a newcomer like Justin Upton, his approach to the game. Derek Jeter. I try to combine those guys and put them into one superstar kind of player. I take a little bit from each one and put it in my own game."

Hewitt said he thought the Brewers and Phillies had shown the most interest leading up to the Draft, with the Mets also a possibility. That would've have excited Hewitt's father, who is a Mets fan.

Let the conversion begin.

"I think it'll work," Hewitt said, with a laugh.

Hewitt hopes to be in the big leagues in "three or four years" and is already in love with the idea of playing close to home.

"I've been to Philly three times," he said. "Every time I drove through, I got a warm feeling. I like Philly a lot, especially when I came to the ballpark. It was a blast, I was like, 'Wow, I can see myself here.'"

Before the Draft, the Phils also took part in the honorary Negro Leagues Draft, selecting pitcher Mahlon Duckett, a Philadelphia native who debuted in 1940 with the Homestead Grays. He also played for the Philadelphia Stars. They also drafted Bill "Ready" Cash and Stanley "Doc" Glenn, both of whom played for the Stars.

Here's a look at the Phillies' other Day 1 selections:

Round 1 (compensation): Zach Collier, OF, Chino Hills (Calif.) High School
A slender left-handed hitter, Collier is quick to the ball with a high finish, and he makes good contact. He has power now and more to come. Wolever compared him to the Angels' Garrett Anderson. He projects as a big league corner outfielder.

Round 2: Anthony Gose, OF, Bellflower (Calif.) High School
The third high school position player selected by the Phillies, Gose projects as an outfielder with the potential to be similar to Corey Patterson (flashes of power but little plate discipline) or Juan Pierre (spray hitter with little power). Said area scout Tim Kissner: "Very good instincts in center field with true cannon for an arm. A run-saver in center field. Has shown bat speed and feel for wood bat. Middle-of-field, line-drive approach. Plus runner. Good athlete and good makeup."

Round 3: Jason Knapp, RHP, North Hunterdon (N.J.) High School
Said area scout Gene Schall: "Throws three pitches, fastball (89-93 mph), curve and change. Fastball explodes out of hand and has heavy sink. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds with wide shoulders, excellent pitcher's body."

Round 3: Vance Worley, RHP, Long Beach State University
The first college player taken by Philadelphia, Worley was also a 20th-round selection by the Phillies in 2005, out of McClatchy High School in Sacramento, Calif. He's risen quite a bit since. Said area scout Tim Kessner: "92 [mph] fastball. Throws a good two-seamer with sink. Good feel on how to pitch with solid secondary stuff. Always battles and competes. Potential to be starting pitcher."

Round 3 (compensation): Jonathan Pettibone, RHP, Esperanza (Calif.) High School
The Phillies received compensation for not signing last year's third-rounder, right-hander Brandon Workman. Said area scout Darrell Conner of Pettitbone: "Long, lean athlete who will fill out and get stronger. Projectible high school pitcher. Played basketball. Can be back end of the rotation starter. Father, Jay, pitched for the Twins (1983)."

Round 4: Trevor May, RHP, Kelso (Wash.) High School
Clocked as high as 94 mph, May posted an 11-1 record with 128 strikeouts in his senior year, a season which that included consecutive no-hitters, six complete games and four shutouts. Also has a knuckle curve. He has signed a letter of intent with Washington State.

Round 5: Jeremy Hamilton, 1B, Wright State (Ohio) University
Named one of 50 semifinalists for the Golden Spike Award, which is presented to the top amateur baseball player. He ended his junior year as one of the top hitters in the nation and was named the Horizon League Player of the Year. The Cincinnati native hit .410 with a .716 slugging percentage and a .515 on-base percentage.

Round 6: Colby Shreve, RHP, College of Southern Nevada
Clocked at 89-90 mph last year, Shreve lit up radar guns in the 92-96 mph range, with a fastball that moved. Has an inconsistent curveball, with a good changeup. He doesn't walk hitters, but will leave balls over the plate.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.