How many Philadelphia Phillies’ draft picks skipped Minor League Baseball altogether and went straight to MLB?
The pipeline from the MLB draft to making one’s-league debut grows major narrow, like a funnel; Only approximately ten percent of minor leaguers will make it to The Show, and the number who actually stick at the top level is even lower.
However, throughout MLB history, there have also been players who skipped Minor League Baseball (or previous versions of it) altogether and headed straight to the top.
Altogether, four Philadelphia Phillies have bypassed the minors, and of the players on this list, Dick Ruthven is the only one not part of the “Bonus Babies” generation, as he was drafted in the modern format.
From 1947 until the official draft began in 1965, the ever-changing bonus rule was MLB’s first attempt at leveling the playing field. They wanted to curtail the practice of richer teams stockpiling the best players in their farm systems, so they stipulated that if a team wanted to tender a contract to a new player for more than $4,000, they had to place him on the 25-man roster for two full seasons. If they failed to do so, they’d lose the player. In 1962, the rule reduced the roster time to one full season.
Here are the Phillies who went right to The Show…
Tom Qualters (1953)
Tom Qualters was one of the biggest failures of the Bonus Era and a reminder of why the Minors are the lifeblood of the Majors.
Far exceeding the $4,000 “Bonus Baby” limit, the Phillies signed Qualters out of high school for $40,000, the equivalent of $443,911.61 today. The Pennsylvania native was a three-sport athlete and an excellent pitcher in school.
Because of the bonus rule, the Phillies had to put him on the 25-man roster. Unfortunately for the rookie, the rule didn’t say anything about actually playing, so he sat on the sides for almost the entire 1953 campaign. He made exactly one appearance in which he faced seven batters, gave up six earned runs on four hits, walked a batter, and only recorded one out. The first batter of his MLB career homered off him, an inauspicious beginning.
In 1954, Qualters made MLB history as the first player to spend an entire season on the roster without appearing in a single game, further exposing the holes in the Bonus Rule system. Years of his prime were spent on the bench instead of developing his potential in the minors.
Finally, in 1955, the Phillies sent him down to the farm. After seven more relief appearances for the Phillies between 1957-58, they sold his contract to the Chicago White Sox at the end of April. While Qualters went on to have a long and fulfilling life (he’s 87 years old), Phillies fans of that era will always wonder what could have been if he’d begun his career in the minors.