Cole Hamels has spent the last 25 months in the same division with the Houston Astros, who are running away with the American League's best record. And the former Phillies pitcher thinks his old club is shaping up to resemble the franchise that went from baseball's worst team to a World Series contender.
"They're going to get a few top-round picks, and they're going to be like the Houston Astros pretty soon," said Hamels, who spent the Texas Rangers' off day Thursday by hosting a Hamels Foundation event at Arasapha Farm in Glen Mills. "You rack them up, and you build a core around these types of guys, you're going to make a huge impact in the next few years. It'll be an exciting organization, and I think the fans are going to be happy."
The Phillies will make a top-10 selection in June for the fifth straight draft. Include shortstop J.P. Crawford (No. 16 in 2013), and those are six first-round picks — including pitcher Aaron Nola; outfielders Cornelius Randolph, Mickey Moniak, and Adam Haseley; and the 2018 selection — who could play a role on the next contending Phillies team.
The Astros made five straight top-10 selections before reaching the playoffs in 2015, two years after they finished with MLB's worst record. They found a cornerstone with the No. 1 pick in 2012 by drafting shortstop Carlos Correa and grabbed third baseman Alex Bregman with the second pick in 2015. Centerfielder George Springer came one spot outside the top 10 in 2011, but has been a key piece.
Houston had its misses, as the Phillies likely will. Pitcher Mark Appel was traded to the Phillies just two years after the Astros drafted him No. 1 in 2013. Pitcher Brady Aiken, the No. 1 pick in 2014, went unsigned. But the Astros still had five chances — five pulls of the slot machine — to try to find a winner.
"It's nice to see that they're building something," Hamels said about the Phillies.
Perhaps that "something" could include Hamels, who will turn 34 in December and will be a free agent after the 2019 season. He still owns a home in Delaware County, he spent the all-star break in Ocean City, and his children attend Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square. The Hamels Foundation, which donated $20,000 Thursday to Roxborough's AMY Northwest Middle School to build an outdoor-garden classroom, still has a large footprint in the region.
Hamels has not pitched for the Phillies for more than two years, but he has yet to leave Philadelphia. The former World Series MVP is leaving the door open to a possible return. So Hamels could rejoin the Phillies just as they hope their rebuilding process begins to produce the success that the Astros are enjoying.