Why the Philadelphia Phillies keep missing the playoffs

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The last time we saw the Philadelphia Phillies in the playoffs was the last stand of Ryan Howard—almost quite literally.

Howard grounded out to second base to end the 1-0 St. Louis Cardinals victory and in the process, tore his Achilles tendon. He was never the same ever again.

The Phillies haven’t been to the postseason since. The season always ends, at its best, with regularly scheduled game 162. The big reason why ten years have now passed since the Phillies were playing meaningful October games: poor drafting.

Bad drafting has doomed the Philadelphia Phillies for the last decade and created the current playoff drought

Not every Phillies draft pick has been a complete bust. However, they’ve swung and missed more times than anyone would like in the first round alone.

The team has had some major misses in round one. Larry Greene, Shane Watson, and Mitch Gueller were three supplemental picks that never became big leaguers let alone top prospects with much hype in the team’s farm system. Lots of winning baseball and free agent signings put the Phillies in a position where they didn’t have many, if any at all, high draft picks for several years.

This changed in 2013 when they took J.P. Crawford 16th overall. His time with the Phillies was a slow-moving progress with a big question about whether or not there was any progress. Eventually, they shipped him to the Seattle Mariners in the Jean Segura trade.

Aaron Nola was the 2014 first-round draft pick. Taken seventh in the entire draft, the Phillies did seem to get a true stud. Nola fast-tracked his way to the major leagues. Occasionally, he looked like a big league ace. Then there are those other seasons, mostly because of his tendency to finish the year poorly, where Nola looks like he’s a back-of-the-rotation arm.

But at least Crawford (at least with Seattle) and Nola are true big leaguers. This hasn’t been the case for many other Phillies draft picks before and after them.

Continuing to the present, the Phillies took Cornelius Randolph (10), Mickey Moniak (1), and Adam Haseley (8) in consecutive seasons from 2015-2017. The following year, the team snagged Alec Bohm with the third-overall selection. Randolph looks like a complete bust while Moniak’s struggles in the minors and majors have him profiling best as a fifth outfielder with no one truly great gift. Haseley has been better than Moniak but not by much.

Only Bohm has had some success in the major leagues. His shortened 2020 campaign was terrific. It gave the fans some hope that they could end their playoff drought. However, a down year in 2021 has many second-guessing his abilities.

The organization has not been an exceptional franchise at drafting in the first round. They missed plenty but one stretch shows how effective the team could be.

From 1996-2002, the Phillies managed to snag five players in the first round that would end up with their 2008 World Series squat. Adam Eaton (1996), Pat Burrell (1998), Brett Myers (1999), Chase Utley (2000), and Cole Hamels (2002) make up this group. Sandwiched between the Eaton and Hamels bread, we have J.D. Drew, Eric Valent, and Gavin Floyd. Drew, as your battery salesperson knows, never signed with the Phillies. Valent and Floyd saw minimal big league action. Ask the baseball cards still sitting in my closet, they were going to be future stars.

Poor draft choices have put the Phillies in a tough spot where they have tried to outspend their mistakes. Guys like Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, and J.T. Realmuto have helped reshape the franchise. They’re relevant again.

But free agents are often best utilized as finishing touches.

A 2022 Phillies team built around Moniak and Haseley in the outfield, Randolph at shortstop, and Bohm at third base could be an exceptional squad. Add in a couple of successful draft picks in later rounds, the Phillies might be the favorites.

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Instead, we live in a reality where the Phillies have missed regularly. Because of those misses, the drought continues on.