Liberty Draft History

There’s really no way to sugar coat this: Philadelphia sucks at the draft. In the now decade-plus history of the CBA, the organization is tied with Brooklyn for the fewest first round selections made at five each– for Philadelphia, two of those five picks came in the same year, 2028.
        The team also sits near the bottom of another inauspicious list: draft picks with professional WAR above 1.00, claiming only eleven players as contributors to that list. What’s more, eight of those eleven players are current Philadelphia players who have debuted in last few years and one of those players, former first round pick Kevin Simmons, never played a single game in a Liberty uniform. Simmons was traded less than a year after being drafted to San Diego for outfielder Alejandro Lugo, who contributed 7.38 of his 9.39 career WAR to the Liberty before retiring upon finishing the 2028 season back in San Diego. 
        Simmons has the distinction of being the first ever first round selection made by the club, picked 22nd overall in the inaugural draft proceedings. The club would start their trend of trading away first round picks in the same Simmons-Lugo deal, sending their 2022 first round selection out west and San Diego would go on to select stud shortstop Ryan Gomar with the pick. Gomar is still an everyday starter in Portland and owns a career WAR of 21.16, more than ten full points higher than any selection made in Philly that we’ll be reviewing today.
        Philadelphia’s first round activity in 2023 brings us the curious case of Josh Green. An award winning defender in college, “Gunner” picked up Rookie of the Year honors for Philadelphia in 2024 and a Dominant Defender plaque for his 2025 campaign. But that’s about where the feelgood story ends with Green, who was among the worst ranked defensive third basemen in the league for 2026 and became a defensive liability at the hot corner for the rest of his time with the Liberty.
        2024 would bring another dealt first round pick, and the clean lens of history allows us to see further proof of my opening statement here. Philadelphia dealt Sean Chase and their first round selection to Austin in exchange for Chris Greenwell and Franklin Vizcarra. Now, “Cracker” has become a legend in Philly and owns a career WAR of 28.30 while Vizcarra’s Swiss Army knife ability to play anywhere on the field proved invaluable despite his meager 7.00 WAR contribution. Had the Liberty held onto that draft pick, however, and not brought the pair to Philadelphia they could have instead drafted Jason Surface… which is what Austin did with the pick they gained in the deal.
        However, the club would also make moves to pick up a later pick in the first round that year, turning the 20th pick in the draft into switch-hitting catcher Tim Wheeler. While “Waffle” never took over completely behind the dish, he put up respectable numbers for a back-up and was a key piece in the recent Jordan Gutierrez deal.
        Bay Area picked up Philadelphia’s first round pick in 2025 before dealing it away down the line. 2026 and 2027 bring a pair of first round selections traded to Boston, then used by the Rogers to select catcher Allen Weber and shortstop Craig Sherer. That brings us to 2028, where not only did the Liberty keep their first round pick, but they grabbed another as well.
        Those two picks were used on Miguel Sandoval and Mike Weaver, who cover two more of the mere eleven players mentioned earlier with a WAR over 1.00. Sandoval was the earlier selection, but it’s been Weaver thus far putting up the better numbers. While “Sandy” struggled to stick in the rotation this past season, “Boomer” put up MVP-caliber numbers for the Liberty in left field.
        Picks in 2029 and 2030 would go to Detroit, while the 2031 selection was dealt to Austin– second basemen Paul Rudin is the only player made with those selection to have debuted with his big league club. Even this early in his career, Rudin has the makings of a star and just one more name on a long list of near-hits for the Philadelphia Liberty.
        As for the other six players drafted by Philadelphia with a positive career WAR, all have come under the guiding hand of GM Michael Queen and look to play key roles in Philly’s future: second round selection Bobby Arnold; third round pieces Ed Altman, Adam Blackman, and Rikio Honda; and fourth rounders Roberto Sanchez & Casey Manion.
        Looking ahead to the 2032, Philadelphia enters the off-season for the first time ever with a full assortment of picks (nevermind they dealt a 2nd rounder before getting a later 2nd round pick back from New York). GM Queen seems dedicated to maintaining a better draft presence and searching for more draft success in the coming years, but the results have yet to be seen while his early years at the helm saw a continuation of questionable trades that cost the Liberty those precious early picks.
        As they say, only time will tell.

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