When he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the third round of the 2021 MLB Amateur Draft at 17 years old and 359 days, Jordan Viars became the youngest player selected by the Phillies in the first three rounds in 13 years, since Zach Collier in 2008.
Collier is 31 now, eight years removed from the Phillies system and a tumultuous start to his professional career. Viars, however, has fit right into the Phillies organizational scheme.
He only saw 64 plate appearances in rookie ball last year, but slashed .255/.406/.468 in that time, a remarkable feat for a person his age.
Viars is 2.9 years younger than the average rookie ball player, but his plate discipline seems well beyond his years. In those 64 plate appearances, Viars carried a 17.2% walk-rate, 18.8% strikeout-rate and 4.7% home run-rate. Not one player on the 2021 Phillies matches Viars’ astronomical walk-rate.
With such a composed approach to hitting, his rise through the Phillies organization could be meteoric.
But, Viars' success shouldn’t be too much of a shock for the Phillies, nor for the other organizations that initially coveted the young lefty.
Shortly after the pick was made on July 12, 2021, the Phillies received a slew of texts from competing organizations reported in an MLB.com article by Todd Zolecki, “You just stole our guy,” and “He was our favorite high school hitter.”
Viars didn’t appear on MLB.com’s list of top 250 draft prospects, but his value was well understood. That value was not taken for granted by Viars either, who was committed to play college baseball at Arkansas.
But when the Phillies came calling last summer, Viars was ready to turn pro. “It was definitely going to be the smartest decision for me to get started,” he said.
Viars understands the risk he’s taking, shirking his commitment to Arkansas and spending half a decade or more in the minor leagues, but an attitude towards his life outside baseball speaks to a deeper maturity, “If baseball doesn’t work out in five years, I’m very well set up…I don’t want to be known as just a baseball player. I want to be known as a dude who’s just a great influence on everyone.”
Viars’ risk does put a huge amount of faith in his abilities, but his chances at the major leagues just grew, and perhaps exponentially. With the addition of the designated hitter to the National League, Viars’ defensive shortcomings can be hidden.
While there are still years before the now 18-year-old could join the Phillies, his defensive capabilities are lacking. In just five full games at first base and just over eight full games in left field, Viars committed six errors in rookie ball, severely undercutting his value as a hitter.
There is still plenty of time for Viars to develop, but to start at left field, first base or DH in the majors, his hitting abilities must be extraordinary, so Philadelphia can’t put too much faith in Viars.
Unlike Collier, a 1st round pick in 2008, the hopes of the organization do not rely on Viars’ success. Perhaps Collier was put under too much pressure as a 17-year-old, but it’s a mistake the Phillies won’t make again.
Now, freed from those shackles, Collier still continues his career in 2021. At age 30 in the Atlantic League with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, Collier slashed .324/.450/.594. As a first round pick, Collier failed to meet expectations, but as a 25-year-old dropout from the Phillies organization, Collier’s resurgence should give hope to every other failed prospect.
It wouldn’t be entirely out of the question for Collier to attempt a major league comeback and finally make the big leagues with the club that drafted him in 2008. It’s possible that one day, two of the youngest draft picks in Phillies history could play on the same major league team.
Is it likely? No. But stranger things have happened.
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