I have been taking a look at a few prospects I am looking forward to seeing come 2016. I started with the Cardinals Carson Kelly, took a peak at Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez and gave some thoughts on the future of 2015 fifth rounder Drew Jackson. Today, it is another 2015 draft pick that caught my eye.
I’ll admit it, I have a little bias behind this one. I have been keeping an eye on Cornelius Randolph since draft day. Why is it bias you ask? Well, the last first round draft pick to come out of Griffin High School was a student of mine.
Before I became a writer, I was a High School English teacher. I taught Tim Beckham his freshman year, so you can bet I have watched the roller coaster of a career he has had. Constantly under scrutiny for his slow start to his career after being the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, I patiently wait for his day to come. This season, he showed some ability and finally looks like he will be ready to compete for a starting job in 2016.
Seven years later, the Griffin Bears produced another first round draft pick. This time, the 18-year old Randolph became the 10th overall pick by the Philadelphia Phillies. While Randolph was a somewhat sloppy fielder in high school — and a decent pitcher as well — he was considered by many to be the best left-handed high school bat in the draft (he hit .528 with four home runs and 18 stolen bases during his senior campaign). MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds even compared him to Tony Gwynn. No pressure, kid.
Playing for the Gulf Coast Phillies, Randolph slashed .302/.425/.442 over 212 plate appearances. He added one home run, while tacking on 24 RBI. He scored 34 runs and showed some nice speed, although his base path awareness needs to improve (6-for-11 on the season).
Known for great patience at the plate and sound pitch selection, Randolph drew an impressive 15.1% walk rate drawing 32 walks last season. Surprisingly enough, it was the same exact numbers as his strikeout rate (15.1% and 32). His innate ability to use the entire field with what appears to be an inside out swing certainly helped with his .362 BABIP.
Like Beckham before him, the 5 foot 11, 205 pound Randolph was a shortstop at Griffin High. Unlike Beckham, the Phillies immediately moved Randolph to the outfield. As I mentioned, Randolph was never really known for his defense in high school (he made 41 errors combined over his junior and senior season), and there was no reason to have him compete with 2013 first round pick J.P. Crawford. Randolph was drafted to hit, where he fields is seemingly the least of the Phils concerns.
The move can be seen as a success, however, by no means complete. Randolph began the season as a DH (side note: he went 3-for-3 with a triple and an RBI in his professional debut), but settled in as the GCL Phillies left fielder for 41 games by season’s end.
Remarkably, Randolph was perfect on the year, not committing an error in 63 chances, including two outfield assists. As I mentioned, he is still learning the gaps and range, but at 18, his athleticism was on full display in a seemingly flawless career switch.
The Phillies are in total rebuild mode, and that was exemplified in how quickly Crawford and Aaron Nola have moved up the ladder. Randolph is easily still three years away at the bare minimum, but it will be interesting to see how he responds next season over a full year. He has definitely been added to my prospects to keep an eye on in 2016.