Phillies' surprising success uncovering undrafted free agents

Corey Seidman
NBC Sports Philadelphia

Ricky Bo!

No MLB franchise since the draft began in 1965 has signed more undrafted free agents who became All-Stars than the Phillies, according to this interesting piece at Baseball America.

The Phillies had five (tied with the Pirates and Mets), though only two of them reached the All-Star Game as Phillies.

One was Phils legend Larry Bowa, who made the NL All-Star teams in 1974, '75, '76, '78 and '79. Bowa played 12 of his 16 seasons with the Phillies and has been in uniform as a player, manager, coach or front office member for 35 years. A true Phillies lifer who is always around the team and, even at 74, still has the zest and ability to throw some BP.

Your one and only Phillies Pre/Postgame Live analyst Ricky Paul Bottalico is another. He was signed by the Phils as an amateur free agent in the summer of '91 and five years later, he pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game in his home ballpark, the Vet. 

Ricky Bo actually thought he was toward the end of his baseball career when he was signed out of a beer league.

"In a strange way, I was on my last legs playing baseball," Bottalico said. "I was a catcher, all-state catcher in high school, catcher in college. I didn't think about pitching until really, accidentally. One of our pitchers got hurt, we had a mid-week game, there weren't enough pitchers, I decided to pitch and struck out like 12 in a row. I didn't know how hard I threw. I had no idea. 

"I didn't care about scouts, I thought it was too late for me to even be scouted. I mean, I got signed out of a beer league. That's no joke. The Hartford Twilight League. I got signed out of a beer league. They asked, 'Do you want to sign a contract?' I was like ... yes, yes I do. Let's see what happens. I was 19 years old when I started pitching. I wasn't thinking about going pro at that point."

Do you see yet why I call this man the real-life Kenny Powers?

The other three players signed by the Phillies as undrafted free agents who went on to become All-Stars with other teams were right-hander Andy Ashby, infielder Toby Harrah and 1B/DH Andre Thornton.

Third baseman and Philly native Rick Schu did not make an All-Star team but he did compile nearly 1,000 plate appearances as a Phillie, hitting .250 over five seasons.

Ashby made the NL All-Star teams in 1998 and 1999, his final two full seasons with the Padres. That was more than a decade after the Phillies signed him as an amateur free agent. After those two All-Star seasons, Ashby was reacquired by the Phillies in November 1999 for Adam Eaton, Carlton Loewer and Steve Montgomery. 

Ashby lasted 16 starts with the Phillies, had a 5.68 ERA with an ugly strikeout-to-walk ratio and was traded to Atlanta for Bruce Chen and Jimmy Osting.

Thorton, as a Cleveland Indian, made the AL All-Star teams in 1982 and 1984. He had been signed by the Phillies in the summer of 1967 and was traded to Atlanta five years later with Joe Hoerner for pitchers Jim Nash and Gary Neibauer. Nash and Neibauer made a combined 18 appearances with the Phillies. Good trade.

Harrah made the AL All-Star teams in 1972, '75, '75 and 1982. The Phillies signed him in 1966 but lost him to the Washington Senators a year later in the minor-league draft.

This year, the draft (June 10) will be only five rounds. Many, many undrafted free agents this summer will go on to have long big-league careers.

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Phillies' surprising success uncovering undrafted free agents originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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