Friday, April 28, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Joe Jordan talks Phillies Prospects

Occasionally, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan takes time to chat with me about the organization's rising prospects and he was generous once again this week to offer his insight.  With some top names like J.P. Crawford and Dylan Cozens struggling out of the gate and other well-regarded prospects like Nick Pivetta and the talented pitchers at Class A and High-A doing great jobs, Jordan discussed those players as well as first round draft picks outfielder Cornelius Randolph and RHP Shane Watson. Outfielders Jose Pujols and Andrew Pullin, lefty pitcher Austin Davis and others were also among the topics. Read ahead for all the exclusive comments.

Franklyn Kilome, image- Jay Floyd
-Joe, thus far this season the Threshers pitching staff was been excellent, with great ERA's at 2.28 or under from Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras, Alberto Tirado, Seranthony Dominguez and company. How pleased are you with the production from this group?

They're off to a great start.  You know, I just couldn't be happier.  I don't know that we could.  I just think as a group the guys are feeding off of each other.  I mean, it's a good group.  There's a lot of talent, obviously, on that club.  Both in the bullpen and in the rotation.  I just think that they got off to a good start and it's feeding itself right now.  You go down the rotation whether it's Dominguez, Kilome gave up a run last night in the first and went seven (innings), that's all he gave up.  I think a lot of the guys are just pounding the strike zone.  We have our nights were we have big strike out numbers, but for the most part the walks have been very, very low, if at all, so the pitching staff is-- I don't know.  Hell, they're doing just about as good as you could be doing three weeks in. 

-I know some of those guys have gotten plenty of attention at times.  Kilome is well regarded, Taveras had some big strike out games last year with Lakewood, Tirado has some great velocity.  Is there a guy there who hasn't gotten that attention yet that is doing a lot to change that?

I think internally we've seen Taveras really good.  We've seen Kilome, obviously.  Cole Irvin making the jump from the draft and Williamsport last summer to there, I think he's been very steady, kind of what we thought.  He knows what he's doing, knows who he is, pitches to his strengths.  I think he's answered the challenge pretty well.  Tirado I really like.  I don't think he's trying throw 100 (MPH) every night.  He's starting to develop his pitchability.  Dominguez has as good of stuff as anyone there and on the nights that he commands his fastball and has his second pitch, (opponents) have a really hard time dealing with him.  You know, (Blake) Quinn last year he pitched out of the bullpen because he had a lot of innings before the draft and he's been steady.  They're different.  They're a different group.  They all have different strengths.  But I think they're feeding off each other.

-Austin Davis has been great out of that Threshers  bullpen after missing a bunch of time last year.  Seems that he's fully healthy and I saw something that his velocity is up.  Is that the case and what are your thoughts on him right now?

Well, he had some back issues to start the season last year and missed almost half the summer.  But, Austin, his stuff is up.  It's a full grade more fastball than we saw last summer.  His breaking ball and his command of his second pitches has been better.  Discussed during spring training the possibility of him making the Reading rotation, but we felt like Clearwater to start (the season).  So, we'll see how it goes.  Yeah, I think everything you said is accurate.  His stuff is up and he looks healthy.  That's good.  That's kind of what we wanted. 

I think Gilbert going from the rotation in Lakewood, his stuff is up as well.  He's been pretty steady.  (Luke) Leftwich has been really good out of the bullpen, as is (Jake) Waguespack and (Jeff) Singer.  You know, I mean, really it's-- you've got 12, 13 guys there that are really pushing each other and no one wants to get outdone and so far, so good.

-Jose Pujols is striking out a lot, approaching half of his at bats ending that way, with the Threshers.  His manager there, Shawn Williams, had him last year in Lakewood and would cite to me during the year that Jose's pitch recognition was improving, but the numbers don't show that right now.

Well, I think he's got a lot of ability.  I think, not having seen him firsthand yet-- I'm heading there next week-- sounds like he's getting himself out a lot, which means he's expanding the strike zone.  I think that's the thing he did second half of the summer last year.  He basically started swinging at better pitches, so, you know.  April, hitters, he's not the only one doing stuff like that, so he's just got to come back and do what he did the second half of the summer last year.  Swing at good pitches, make them throw strikes.  And if he can do that, he'll calm the strike outs down, hopefully.

JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
-As you mentioned maybe there are other guys not having great Aprils, a pair of guys with the IronPigs are struggling in that lineup with J.P. Crawford slumping and Dylan Cozens hitting for a low average thus far (.109 and .118 averages respectively heading into action on Friday).  Some fans are in a panic, but I'm sure the organization is confident the numbers will bounce back for those guys.  What are your thoughts on the early lack of success for those two players?

They're both off to bad starts.  Sounds like the work's been good, but they've had three bad weeks, so I think everyone goes through this through the course of the summer.  Hopefully, their's is going to be the first month and they'll put together four good months behind it.  I don't feel different about either guy.  I think they're both going to hit.  They're both going to be good players, but obviously they haven't had good Aprils up until this point.  What they need to do-- again, I've seen them.  I've seen them firsthand and what's happened has happened.  They've got about three, four days at the end of this month to get ready for May.  They can't change the last three weeks, but they can learn from it and they have three or four games to build some momentum for May and we'll forget all about April if they have good, strong Mays.

-A guy that has had a strong April is Andrew Pullin at Double-A (.358 avg, 5 HR, 14 RBI in 16 games).  It seems like all he does is hit since he got there last year.  He's been remarkable and a big part of the Reading lineup.  Can you talk about him a bit and maybe what his secret is?

Well, he can hit.  Bottom line.  He's got a fast, short swing and he can hit a good fastball.  He can hit a big fastball.  He's just developing as a hitter.  If he uses the left-center gap to the right field line, he's going to be a complete hitter.  He really, really is.  And if he can just stay in the center of the field enough to keep through the baseball-- you know, but I don't know what else he can do.  He's off to another good start, building off of another good year last year.  So, he's healthy.  His arm's strong, he's getting stronger.  Coming back from an elbow injury.  So, it's all good news so far and I like what I'm seeing.  I'm here with the club right now.

-Continuing with the Reading questions then since you're with that club, is there anything going on with Temple product Matt Hockenberry?  He hasn't gotten in a lot of games out of the Fightins' bullpen this year.

Well, he's gotten off to a rough start and right now we're going with some other guys.  And he's trying to get some things worked out so we can get him back in there.  But he's just one of the guys that got off to a rough start and right now we've got some other guys in front of him.

-Shane Watson was excited to open the season at Double-A.  Maybe the result thus far hasn't been as he has wanted it or as the team has wanted it, but could you share some thoughts on his production?

Well, I can't reference all of his outings, but he's done some good things.  I mean, I think that with what he's gone through, he may have been a little surprised that we put that on him to start, but he's capable and I wouldn't say that (his) April has been a disappointment in any way, to me.  Get some warm weather up here and he's going to build a little more arm strength, get loosened out.  I think Shane's going to have a good summer.  So, I've been happy with what he's been doing.  I got to talk to him the last few days and I think he feels good about where he's at and what's in front of him the next four months and the rest of the summer.

Nick Piveetta, image- Jay Floyd
-Nick Pivetta's been exceptional for the Triple-A IronPigs so far and is getting some attention for it.  Has an ERA under 1.00 through three starts.  What have you seen from Nick thus far this season?

He's just growing as a pitcher in every phase.  He's calm.  Very, very confident.  I think he really has realized that he can execute his delivery.  That his stuff and his weapons are very good.  He's got total trust right now in himself and what he's doing.  All that being said, he's off to a great start, so it's really no more complicated than that.  He's executing about three above average major league pitches and Triple-A hitters have had a hard time. 

-I know that (righty hurler) Victor Arano is dealing with some arm setbacks and stuff.  Are there any guys rehabbing down in Florida that you can share progress details on?

Well, I think Arano is getting closer.  I think our expectation is sometime in June to have him up and running.  And John Richy is close. He's throwing, I think he's up to three innings now, so he's very close to getting back and getting going.  You know, I mean (Arquimedes) Gamboa should be down there no longer than 10 days.  We're being very conservative and cautious with his hamstring, but he's feeling good and we're starting to ramp up his activities.  We need to get him back to Lakewood, where he was off to a very good start.  We have some guys coming back.  It's not a deep list down there, but we have some guys down there that are pretty talented just trying to come back and get ready to play. 

-At 19, Cornelius Randolph is rather young at the High-A level with Clearwater (.230 average in 17 games, had 3 HR and a double in first five games this year, no extra-base hits since then).  I know you mentioned that you haven't seen the Threshers yet, but what have you heard on him thus far in 2017?

I've heard good things.  I think that Cornelius is, for me, it's April, it's High-A at a young age.  He's done fine.  He's been engaged.  He hit some home runs early.  I think he's probably struck out a little more than I would like, but I think the plate discipline, the strike zone awareness is still there.  He's done fine.  I think, you know, he's going to have a good summer and the first month is almost over.  I've have no issues at all with what has happened with him down there.

-We talked about how gleaming the Threshers' pitching staff has been.  I think the BlueClaws have had similar success out of some of their starters with names like Ranger Suarez, Adonis Medina and JoJo Romero, Nick Fanti and Sixto Sanchez all doing some good things. How about that group so far?

It's a very exciting group!  I mean, it's talented, they're different.  There's power right-handers, there's left-handers with good arms with breaking balls-- you know, it's a good group.  And it's young.  It's exciting for me that we've got the group there that we have and we've got some guys in Clearwater in extended (spring training)that  will be looking for a similar opportunity sometime here soon.  I think it's been really good.  I'm very, very happy.

-You mentioned guys in extended and I definitely wanted to touch on that before I let you go.  Could a pair of guys like Kevin Gowdy or Cole Stobbe out of last year's draft see time with Lakewood this year, or are there other names you would drop as possibilities to get time with the BlueClaws?

Well, yeah, I mean both guys are going to be good options at some point in time.  I think, you know, if you talk to the guys down there, Cole has been very good.  Has swung the bat well, continues to develop at third base.  Gowdy, pretty much the same.  Both guys were good enough to make the Lakewood club out of spring training. We're managing innings on Gowdy.  We've got a number we're going to get him to this summer and it's easier to do it with him starting down there.  But, if nothing happens, he go to Williamsport and so will Cole.  If we decide that it's better for them to jump to Lakewood before that, then that's what we'll do.  We'll see what happens.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

IronPigs Quotables: LHP Hoby Milner

Hoby Milner, image- Jay Floyd
As a Rule 5 draft pick, lefty reliever Hoby Milner got plenty of exposure in big league spring training this year, but an imperfect exhibition campaign along with limited room on the Indians' roster resulted in the 26-year-old coming back to the team that drafted him (7th round, 2012).

With Cleveland in the Cactus League, Milner allowed seven earned runs in seven innings over seven appearances while striking out nine and walking three. 

After the Indians decided they could not keep Milner around, he rejoined the Phillies, where he was assigned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to open the regular season. 

Earlier this month, I spoke with Milner, who spoke on his experience with Cleveland and coming back to the Phils.  Read ahead for that interview.

-What can you share about your whirlwind off-season and spring after being selected in the Rule 5 draft, going to the Indians and then coming back to the Phillies?

I thought it was a great experience, a great opportunity.  It was a win-win for me.  They picked me and I was going to get the opportunity in big league camp.  They signed Boone Logan in the off-season after they Rule Fived me and, basically, I would have had to have been perfect to get an opportunity there and things just didn't fall into place for me to stay there, so I'm back. 

-Was it a surprise to any members of the team that you were coming back or did the Phillies guys have a heads up?

I talked to a couple of the guys.  Said, "I'm coming back.  I'll be there tomorrow." And I'm pretty sure that most people knew I was coming back at that point.  Yeah, 'cause I went to big league camp.  Fortunately the Phillies were like, "Hey, we want you to come to big league camp so you can get to know the staff and let them see you a couple times."

-You mentioned win-win, so overall you're happy with the exposure you got and the time you spent with the big clubs this spring.  Do you feel like you've developed more?

Yeah, definitely.  I feel like I've got more confidence.  I got to pitch in big league camp all spring and it was fine and just I thought it was good exposure.  The teams that are all out in Arizona, I got to pitch against team I've never faced ever in the minor leagues.  So, it was good.

-Is there anybody that you picked up a lot from in big league camp out there?

You know, not really.  I think the only guy who throws close to how I throw was Andrew Miller and he was at the (World Baseball) Classic the whole time, so I really didn't get to talk to him.  I really just watched how that clubhouse went about their business and they had a lot of veteran guys in that clubhouse and they all seemed to know what they were doing, so I learned a lot that way.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

BlueClaws Quotables: Manager Marty Malloy Talks

Marty Malloy, image- Jay Floyd
During their opening home stand recently I had the opportunity to chat with new skipper of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws Marty Malloy. 

The 45-year-old spent time as a player in the big leagues with the Braves and Marlins.  Since he retired from playing, Malloy, the 12th manager in BlueClaws history, has managed the Astros' Gulf Coast League team for the past three seasons.

Among the topics Malloy touches on are highly ranked prospects such as starting pitcher Sixto Sanchez and outfielder Mickey Moniak.  He also speaks on the leadership of some returning players, the crowds in Lakewood and more.  Read ahead for those quotes.

-I asked about his early impressions on Sixto Sanchez as well as Mickey Moniak...

It's a great impression what they've done.  You know, I'm very fortunate, lucky if you will, to have two guys of that caliber at that age at this level on this team.  And what they do bring to the table, it can only rub off in a good way for other kids that are here to go along this journey as well.

-I asked about returning players Harold Arauz, Zach Morris, Cord Sandberg and if they could be leaders toward guys wearing the Lakewood uniform for the first time...

It's so early in the season I don't think we have truly reached that point yet.  I kind of think behind the scenes is where this has happened, as far as what to expect, what to look for.  Rather it was it Hagerstown or it was in Kannapolis now leading up to (the team coming home).  Just for them to be able to share their past and what they've seen in this league for all these new guys that didn't know what to expect and what was going to take place.

-Speaking on his early impressions of Lakewood...

Unbelievable!  I've played in a lot of stadiums, including in the big leagues, and this stadium in a lot of ways reminds me of Louisville, Kentucky when I was in Triple-A.  One of my favorite places of all time.  So...to walk into this stadium, after coming off the road, to see this, is for the South Atlantic League I don't think you can beat it. 

-Additional thoughts on Sandberg...

He's somebody that has been in the trenches, that's had success, that's had failure, has been through the leagues, has been through the bus rides, just little things that he can share and be a positive influence on a day to day basis.  And, you know, a position player or a pitcher, so to speak, may be having a bad day or when everything's just not right and he's been through some ups and downs, so the fact that he can share experience from this league with these kids can only help.

He's got off to a good start, which we would have expected, but just to have his presence in there when times may not be going good, you know what you're going to get out of him.  It's, obviously, a good thing for the team.

-A few words on what fans can expect of pitcher Adonis Medina...

A power arm.  Got a good mix.  He's going to be consistently in the strike zone with a power arm.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Catchphrase influencing players' approach

Photo courtesy of Cord Sandberg, pictured 3rd from right
It’s all part of it!

Are you wondering what that means? That’s okay. You’ll be in the know soon enough.

It's a simple saying that has become a slogan for baseball players for life inside and outside of the game.  In a sport where its competitors are faced with an immense amount of failure while life presents similar outcomes at times, It's All Part of It has become an important adage for scores of players to lean on for reassurance and motivation.

“Whatever happens, the bus breaks down (or) you break a bat- hey, that’s all part of it,” Phillies outfield prospect Cord Sandberg excitedly shared in the home dugout of Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park recently.

Seems like an insightful thought process.

The motto has really caught on quite a bit and seems to be making an impression at multiple levels, in various organizations and even across continents.

The phrase “It’s all part of it” or sometimes referred to as just “part” or “part-part” for short, was brought to the Phillies organization after outfield prospect Cord Sandberg and organization mate third baseman Mitch Walding played alongside catcher Jack Murphy down under, in an off-season league.

"It spread down to Australia because I played down there in Canberra and we used to talk about it all the time," Murphy said.  "Since there are a lot of guys from different organizations down there, the Phillies picked it up."

Murphy is a long-time Blue Jays minor leaguer and a Princeton University product that currently plays with Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Dodgers organization. When he was in the Toronto system, Murphy picked up the phrase from his manager Mike Redmond while with Dunedin in the Florida State League in 2012. Redmond had adopted the mindset when he played for veteran skipper Jim Leyland during his time with the Marlins.

Redmond has since gone on to manage at the big league level for Miami and coach in the majors for the Rockies.

A World Series and World Baseball Classic winning manager’s lessons getting passed down via a man that was virtually groomed to take on that skipper's duties and on to players that both men may never encounter sounds precisely how good coaching should work.  Teach what matters and let those lessons thrive.

Murphy feels the sentiment has become a critical way of thinking for many players he has encountered.

"I mean, it's mostly a life motto for most of the guys," Murphy asserted.  "The livelihood of playing can be a real grind.  But when you say, 'Hey, it's all part of it!', you realize that's just how things are and keep going."
 
In addition to leaning on his faith, the 22-year-old Sandberg found peace of mind in the expression when he learned that he was going back a level to open the 2017 season after spending last year with Class A Advanced Clearwater and playing with Lakewood two years back.

“We have a lot of talented guys that deserve to be where they’re at. So, obviously, I was hoping to be in High A to start the year, but when Joe (Jordan) let me know that I was coming here and my at bats would be in Low A, I was like, ‘Hey, that’s all part of it.’ I’m just going to come down here and do what I can to produce and show what I can do at this level and then let the rest just take care of itself,” Sandberg said.

Phils corner infielder prospect Zach Green, currently sidelined with hip and elbow issues with Clearwater, has found solace in the phrase while dealing with repeated stints on the disabled list during his career.

"Injuries will happen.  0-for-4's.  But, it's all part of it and that's why it shouldn't affect your character or confidence," said the 23-year-old Green.

It’s all part of it may be bordering on sensational.

A great catchphrase these days is nothing without some manner to display your statement, so Sandberg and company have created t-shirts and are using the hashtag #PartPart on social networking sites. 

The phrase has drawn the attention of Phillies developmental coaches, as Sandberg’s manager with the BlueClaws and former big league infielder Marty Malloy has requested of Sandberg, “Where’s my shirt? I want to be part of it!”

Malloy has grown fond of the outlook simply because of the way it can turn a negative into a positive for his players.

Also embracing the movement: Complete strangers.

“One night we went out in Tampa and we were all wearing our shirts and just random people would ask, ‘What’s all part of it?’ And we would be like, ‘Yeah, that’s correct. You’re right!’ And they’d say, ‘What do you mean, ‘I’m right’?’ ‘It’s whatever you want it to be. It’s all part of it. Oh, you spilled your drink? It’s all part of it.’ And they were loving it, so I was able to get some more people on board,” Sandberg explained, assuring me that part-part is for everyone, not just ball players.

So, how can you get down with the concept and be part of it?

“If anybody wants (a t-shirt), find me thr ough social media, Twitter, Instagram or whatever and give me an address, a size and a color,” Sandberg stated. “No official web site yet. Venmo and straight cash.”

According to Murphy, though, a more ideal shopping option, a complete and proper website, should be coming soon.

But, don't worry about any delay on that front, everyone, because...well, you know why.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Moniak day to day with injured finger

Moniak, image- Jay Floyd
Last year's first overall draft pick Mickey Moniak is listed as day to day, according to a source, after injuring a finger on a play at the plate in Lakewood's loss to Hagerstown at home on Wednesday.

While trying to score from first base on a double by designated hitter Brett Barbier, the 18-year-old was gunned out and hurt his hand in the process.

The lefty batting outfielder played another inning in the game before being removed from action.

Moniak was 0-for-1 with a walk in the contest.  Overall in 11 games, Moniak is batting .283 with four doubles, a triple, 11 RBI and four stolen bases.

The 2-1 loss on Wednesday afternoon was the finale of the BlueClaws' first home stand of the season.  They'll hit the road for a week then return home to FirstEnergy Park for a four-game series against Kannapolis starting Thursday, April 27th.

PhoulBallz Interview: Fightins RHP Shane Watson

Shane Watson, image- Jay Floyd
Right-handed pitcher Shane Watson was the Phillies’ compensatory round draft pick (40th overall) in the 2012 draft. Since then, the six-foot-four 235-pounder has undergone two shoulder surgeries and has slowly tried to get healthy and climb through the minor league ranks.

After reaching the Double-A level to open the 2017 season with the Reading Fightin Phils, the California native has recorded two weak starts. Overall, Watson sports a 1-0 record with a 7.71 ERA and has struck out five while walking five in 9 1/3 innings.

Recently, I spoke with Shane about reaching the Eastern League, his infant daughter, his battery mate Chace Numata and plenty more. Read ahead for that full interview.

-I think some people might feel it’s been a long road for you to reach the Double-A level. Maybe you feel that way too?

It was a long road. From the first surgery in 2013 to another one 10 months after. I don’t even know, I don’t care to keep track of it. It was a long road. It’s exciting to be here finally, you know? We have a great team and I think we’re definitely better defensively than last year. We’ll have some guys who will have 20-plus bombs this year and it’s a good team. I’m excited to be here.

-What are your thoughts on your primary battery mate Chace Numata?

I’ve been roommates with him since 2013 in Lakewood. He’s come a long way since 2013. Just his mental side of calling games and knowing what to call. Just keeping things simple, but also keeping (opponents) off guard. I’m used to Chace. I’ve lived with him every year since 2013, except this year, so me and him are real close.

-How has fatherhood impacted you? Do you approach the game differently?

No, not really. Not yet. I’m still pretty young. I’m not playing for (my daughter) or my wife necessarily. Still trying to get there for me. It’s just another thing to look forward to, though. It’s not just me and my wife. We have a little one and that makes it a little more exciting.

-Has it been beneficial having your family with you in Reading? Is it less of an adjustment for you?

It’s nice. You know, some guys aren’t as fortunate. It’s nice having them there. I get to go home and spend time with the baby and my wife. So, it’s pretty nice. I spent two years rehabbing alone, so that was tough. I think it makes it easier having people with you, behind you, at home. The feeling is good.

-What can you share about the coaching staff here with Reading?

Well, I was actually with Schrenky (pitching coach Steve Schrenk) my first year in GCL, so I know him very well. And Legger (manager Greg Legg) was a great manager last year with Clearwater and we won a lot of games. I don’t know Rock (hitting coach John Mizerock) very well really. We have a great staff.

-Do you have any specific goals for the season?

Be healthy the whole year.  I want to give the team as many wins as I can.  It would be nice to have a good ERA, to have a lot of strike outs, of course, but I just want to give the team as many wins as possible, however that may be. 


-What have you heard about FirstEnergy Stadium, Reading’s home park?

I’ve heard the ball flies. I’ve seen it in batting practice. Smaller guys were hitting the ball out and I was like, “I will keep the ball down, I guess!” I’ve been told that before about Double-A. On the road, they said, it’s not too bad, but at home the ball absolutely flies and I’ve seen it in batting practice as well.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Jay Floyd on The Felske Files Podcast

I regularly get inquiries about the old PhoulBallz Podcast and when that program might return to the web that is worldwide. While I remain hopeful that one day that baseball show will come back with new episodes, there's nothing firm on that front. In the meantime, enjoy a pair of recent podcasts from the fine folks at TheGoodPhight. Embedded in the media players below are the most recent two episodes of The Felske Files Podcast, hosted by John Stolnis.

In the first show, John interviews longtime Phillies beat reporter Jim Salisbury about the team's 2017 start and me about an array of talented prospects in the organization.

Also, in the second episode, I interview Phillies outfield prospect and last year's number one overall draft pick Mickey Moniak.  In 12 games with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, the 18-year-old is batting .298 with four doubles, a triple and nine RBI.

Enjoy the shows!



Monday, April 17, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Pitching Coach Brian Sweeney Talks 2017 BlueClaws

Brian Sweeney, image- Jay Floyd
Last week I sat down with Class A Lakewood pitching coach Brian Sweeney to chat about his new collection of hurlers as his BlueClaws were opening their home schedule.

Among the topics of discussion were highly regarded right-hander Sixto Sanchez, starting pitchers JoJo Romero, Adonis Medina and Bailey Falter as well as returning relievers Zach Morris and Harold Arauz and others.

Read ahead for the full interview.

-I missed Sixto Sanchez’s start in the home opener on Thursday. He had a good outing, going five innings, striking out five on one earned run. What are your early impressions of him as a guy who has gotten a lot of attention?

You know, he garners that attention. He goes about his business the right way, pitching well, working hard, just getting his experience in, here in full-season.

-I got to meet JoJo Romero for a second in the clubhouse. He’s got 11 strike outs in nine innings so far this season. What are your thoughts on him?

Same as Sixto, another guy getting a full season under his belt, you know, embracing the process of getting better. Learning how to build outs and pitching in some cold weather. So, he’s doing a great job as well.

-Adonis Medina has performed well thus far for the club. Can you talk about him a bit?

Another solid arm. A guy embracing the process of learning. It’s been fun to watch him work hard and get on the mound. And these guys are so young and it’s exciting for them to get out there against some better competition.

-Zach Morris might be the only guy on this staff I’ve seen pitch before. He’s back here once more after being here the past two seasons. Was there a lot of disappointment for a guy like that, who has performed very well at this level to come back here?

Oh, I’m sure he was disappointed. He definitely put up the numbers and was an important part of the bullpen, but that doesn’t change anything for him. This year will be just as important and, hopefully, as he continues to put up numbers, he can get his opportunity.

-Are there any defined roles among the relievers right now?

The cool thing about this level is that they’re going to learn to do everything. They’re going to pitch in long relief, they’re going to close, they’re going to set up, everyone’s going to have to be a fireman at some point, so it’s nice to see who steps up in certain situations and as the season goes on, there will be a more defined role.

-Bailey Falter is a guy that could become a big contributor for this team. What can you share about him?

Bailey is— I’m excited for him to be here. He had success last year in Williamsport and has done a nice job. In his first start, pitched very well with good fastball command. The kid’s still growing, getting stronger and I’m excited for his future.

-(Glancing at the roster in hand) Is there anybody else on the roster that I should be asking you about?

Oh, yeah! We can talk about every single one of these guys…

-(Cutting him off) Harold (Arauz) has been here before…I’ve seen him!

That’s right, you forgot about Harold! He pitched four innings for us (on Thursday) night in a very important role and held the game where it was and gave up one run in four innings and, you know, just continues to get outs with an attack mentality.

I could talk about all of them. I see a big leaguer in every one of these guys. And, you got Ranger (Suarez) going (Friday) night, who has improved with his delivery so much and (Felix) Paulino I had in the GCL and these guys have a lot of promise. And the most important part is their development.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Crawford and Thompson off to weak starts in 2017

JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
One of the primary stories out of the Phillies developmental levels in the early going this season is the weak offensive production of minor league shortstop J.P. Crawford and two poor outings from promising hurler Jake Thompson.

Crawford, the organization's first round draft choice in 2013, is among the youngest players in the Triple-A International League, at 22 years old. Through 10 games for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the talented lefty batter sports a .086 average with a triple and one RBI.

Thompson, who was a significant part of the return from Texas in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade, has been alarmingly ineffective in two starts for Lehigh Valley. In both outings he has lasted just 2 1/3 innings, while allowing nine earned runs on opening night and being tagged for six earned runs in his second game. In 4 2/3 total innings, the 23-year-old has allowed 15 hits and three walks while striking out three.

Entering the season, Crawford was widely ranked by nearly all outlets offering such rankings as the Phillies' top prospect. The six-foot-two 180-pounder has posted capable numbers at all levels (OPS'ing at a combined .774) until reaching Lehigh Valley last summer. A season ago, Thompson, who was originally a 2nd round draft pick of the Tigers in 2012, was exceptional for the IronPigs (2.50 ERA in 21 starts) and earned a promotion to the big leagues. In 10 starts at the top level of the sport, the six-foot-four 235-pound right-hander tallied a 3-6 record with a 5.70 ERA.

Jake Thompson, image- Jay Floyd
Despite the small sample size involved with this year's slumps, some fans seems to be in a panic about the duo that had long seemed to be key pieces of the Phils' rebuild.

Rest assured, gang, it's not a sign of things to come for either man.

This argument may be more appropriate for players with longer track records than Thompson and Crawford, but, because these players have posted such consistent numbers in the past, it's not crazy to expect that their statistics will get to a more typical place for each of them.  And imagine just how exciting it will be and what type of production is in order for Thompson get his ERA down toward his career 3.05 mark he had entering the season. The same applies for Crawford's impending efforts to get his average back to the .278 he tallied in four professional season prior to this one.

So, don't fret, Phillies fans, when it comes to these two top prospects. They will bounce back and the rebound is going to be glorious.  Take the advice that is commonly given to a player that may be struggling...be patient.

On the other side of things, some top performers in the Phils' minor league ranks include the organization's top catching prospect and a threesome of remarkable second basemen among others.

With Lehigh Valley backstop Jorge Alfaro hit safely in eight of his first nine games. The 23-year-old Colombian is batting .361 with a double, a triple, a home run and five RBI thus far for the IronPigs in nine contests.  Alfaro was also part of the return for Hamels from Texas.

Switch-hitting second baseman Jesmuel Valentin has continued his hot 2017 into the International League regular season. In 10 games, the 22-year-old sports a .355 batting average with a double and five RBI with the IronPigs. The son of former big league Jose Valentin was excellent in the Grapefruit League for the big league Phillies this spring as well, batting .366 in 21 games.

Also for Lehigh Valley, powerful first baseman Rhys Hoskins has enjoyed success, posting an impressive .324/.452/.676 slash line in 11 games.  The 24-year-old righty hitter had a tremendous campaign last year at the Double-A level where he batted .281, launched 38 homers and drove in 116 runs.  Hoskins was a 5th round draft choice in 2014.

With Double-A Reading, right-handed hitting second baseman Scott Kingery, the Phillies' 2nd round pick in 2015, is batting .313 with four homers, 12 RBI and three steals through nine games.  The 22-year-old spent time last off-season playing in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

For Class A Lakewood second baseman Daniel Brito is off to a strong start as well, looking like a catalyst at the top of the BlueClaws' batting order.  In 11 games the lefty-batting Venezuela native has a .370 average with three home runs, eight RBI and three stolen bases.  The 19-year-old is getting his first taste of full-season ball, after playing the past two seasons in the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League respectively.

For Class A Advanced Clearwater, starting pitcher Alberto Tirado has not allowed a run in two starts (12 innings pitched), notching a 1-0 record for the Threshers.  Tirado, a 22-year-old righty, was acquired from Toronto in a trade for Ben Revere in 2015.

Also for the Threshers, local reliever Jeff Singer has tossed four scoreless appearances, recording a win and three saves in the process.  The 23-year-old lefty is a Rutgers-Camden product and a Philadelphia native.

PhoulBallz Interview: Former Phils catcher, Greensboro manager Todd Pratt


Todd Pratt, Image- Jay Floyd
Former Phillies catcher Todd Pratt has returned to professional baseball for the first time since he played with the Braves in 2006. He’s now the manager of the Marlins Class A affiliate, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a team that he played for when it was a Boston affiliate 21 years ago.

In 14 big league seasons, primarily as a backup, Pratt posted a .251 batting average with 49 home runs and 224 RBI. He also played with the Mets, Braves and Cubs.

This weekend, I talked with Pratt about his transition to the coaching ranks, differences in the minor league lifestyle now compared to when he was riding the buses from town to town, his team and more. Read ahead for that full interview.

-I was surprised to see you today. Didn’t know you were managing this club, till I saw your name on the roster today. Talk to me about the new gig. Is this a brand new venture for you, or have you coached in the pro’s before.

This is my first year as a professional manager. Last six years I started a junior college program right outside of Atlanta, in Caroll, West Georgia Tech and I was having fun at the junior college level and I actually became the (athletic director) there and be there at the school. And it was kind of a shot in the dark, I got a call from Marc Delpiano, vice president of player development, and kind of went off of there.

-You’re known for your time playing mostly with the Phillies and Mets and now you’re with the Marlins organization. What’s it like working for the enemy, a division rival, in the Marlins?

You know, I don’t know if I’m the enemy any more, but yeah, my whole career was in the East, except for a little hiccup over there in Chicago, and you know- great division. It was great time with the Phillies and the Mets and my last year with the Braves. It was good baseball.

-It’s a young season, but what do you notice as some of the biggest differences in these “bus leagues” now versus when you played in these leagues?

The bus, obviously. We have sleepers now! It’s incredible. 22 beds that these guys can sleep in with the long trips. You know, I remember when I played here in Greensboro in 1986, our bus was basically the Bull Durham bus. So, definitely, organizations have taken an investment in these young kids and all going through the equipment, the buses, the travel, the meals. They’re really taking care of their investments here and that’s a pleasure to watch.

-Is there anything that stands out on this roster of Grasshoppers players that you’re in charge of this year?

Well, we’re a team consisting of some young guys and some guys that have been here for one or two years. I think that’s a good mix. You have some veterans and you have some rookies. Overall, our team makeup is we have some team speed. We have four or five guys that are on their own and just run with abandonment, so I think that just puts a lot of pressure on opponents. We have a couple big left-handed sluggers, the third baseman (Brenden) Berry, kind of pits that middle of the lineup there. And pitching, we have—they’re very intelligent. They’re older guys, all pretty much college guys except for a couple. Everything so far has been so good. We’ve won games a lot of different ways. A lot of different aspects of the game with our power, with our pitching, with our speed.

-I got to talk with Charlie Hayes, who also just got into pro coaching for the first time, last week and he was describing some guys from his playing days that he keeps in touch with. Is there anyone from your days with the Phillies that you remain close with?

Oh, well, you know, Pat Burrell I’m really good friends with. Tim Hudson with the Braves. You know, we all meet up. Heck, tell Charlie I said hello. He was a good guy that I was with before and, you know, I live outside Atlanta and I just concentrate on my kids and my wife. Being back in pro ranks I would start to see faces that were familiar. It was great in spring training, we’d play other teams and ex-teammates or guys I played against would come up to me and congratulate me and say this is where you belong and I feel like I do belong here.

-Obviously, you wouldn’t do this if you didn’t find it rewarding and if you didn’t like grooming the next wave of talent. Can you talk about what you like most about coaching?

Yeah, I just—it started, you know, my last season. They told me get into coaching right away and I just kinda didn’t feel it was fair to my kids. I played 21 years. My wife had been with me many of those years, honestly, and you know I’m lucky to get back into it. The junior college ranks it kind of gave me an outlet and it was me being the A.D. and building that program up and now here, it’s just a better talent of player and it’s just enjoyable to watch these guys work and for me to give—obviously, it’s not for the money. It’s just being in the baseball life and me helping these players out.

-Did you miss the game a lot while you were out of it?

No. Not really. I was coaching at the college, like I said, was my little outlet and no. I’m not one of those players that feels bad or missed it too bad or a bitter ex-player. I’m just trying to give back to the game that gave to me.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: IronPigs OF Roman Quinn

Roman Quinn, image- Jay Floyd
Rising Phillies prospect Roman Quinn got a taste of the big league as a September call-up last year and had a successful spring with the big league team this year.  Opening the 2017 regular season with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the talented outfielder is hopeful to return to the Phillies soon.

The 23-year-old was a second round draft selection of the Phils in 2011.  Through six games with the IronPigs thus far, Quinn sports a .320 batting average with two doubles, three RBI and a stolen base.

Last week, prior to Lehigh Valley's season opener, I spoke with Roman about his spring, the IronPigs' roster, new coach Charlie Hayes and more.  Read ahead for that interview.

-Talk about your time in the Grapefruit League this year.  You got time with the big club in spring training, had some success down there (.289 avg., three doubles, a homer and six RBI in 21 games), looked exciting.

It was exciting, man.  Always, being in big league camp is a great experience.  And being here is going to be a great experience.  I'm just looking forward to it and looking to have a lot of fun here.

-It looks like a tremendous collection of talent on this IronPigs roster.  There's a lot of names that fans are very excited about.  What's it like for you to be part of this club?

This group is a bunch of fun.  Coming up through the system, that team chemistry together is big and it's a good feeling to have.  Everybody here is like brothers.  That's always a good feeling to have on a team where you never have too many issues.

-Talking about feelings there, what were the feelings like last year when you get that call after the minor league regular season is done and you get promoted to the big league roster?

Oh, man.  I felt like I was on top of the world.  It was a great experience, man.  Dream come true and made me feel like all my hard work paid off.  But the thing is to get back to the big leagues and stay and that's my goal?

-How's the family?

Really good, man.  My daughter is doing great.  Here mother is doing great and everything is going really good.

-Beautiful!  Good to hear.  I was just talking with Charlie Hayes and he was a bit of a surprise to see among the coaches here.  Talk to me a bit about him.  What impact has he had or what impressions do you have of him thus far?

Charlie is a funny guy and very relaxing to be around.  And just to talk to him is pretty cool.  He's a really good dude and was a really good player.

-You're quite young and may not remember watching him as a player, but he's got quite a nice resume on the field with a couple landmark final out catches that fans of two organizations will remember.  He caught the final out on a line drive of a Phillies no-hitter by Terry Mulholland and he caught the final out, I think, of the '96 World Series for the Yankees.  Do you recall any impressions of him before encountering him as a coach?

Uh, I actually have seen highlights of him on YouTube, but that's the only impressions I've got of him--

-Okay, so you had to go search him out?

I had to go search his name, man. He was a new face and the first time meeting him was this spring and I had to go research him a little bit.

-That's cool.  I know some guys on the roster here expect to win each time out.  Do you feel that same way?

Absolutely.  We've got a bunch of competitors on this team and, especially, competing like we did last year, there's some of the same faces, and bringing it to Triple-A, man, I hope we have the same year we had last year (in Double-A when the Reading team won their division) and everybody got the same mindset of winning.

-And the mindset of taking the next step...

Most definitely.  Most definitely.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: IronPigs OF Dylan Cozens

Dylan Cozens, image- Jay Floyd
One of the Phillies' most promising prospects is slugging outfielder Dylan Cozens.  After leading the Double-A Eastern League in both home runs (40) and RBI (125) last year, the 22-year-old lefty batter is set to be an offensive threat for the Triple-A Lehigh Valey IronPigs.

Last week I sat down with Dylan, who discussed his time in big league spring training this year, a conflict with teammate Boog Powell in last off-season's Dominican Winter League, his confidence level in his team and plenty more.  Read ahead for the full interview.


-What can you share about your success in the Grapefruit League this year?


It was a lot of fun. I wouldn’t say that it was extremely successful, but I feel like I was successful in showing, you know, who I am as a person and a player. So, that was a lot fun, kind of showing what I can do and stuff like that. It’s hard to show off in a short amount of time like that, but it was tons of fun, being around the big guys and kind of seeing how things are done over there.

-You played off-season ball in the Dominican Republic.  How do you feel that can help you going forward?

It was good. It’s always-- for me, I feel like I went there and I didn’t play good. I failed. And for me, failure is just another reason for motivation. It shows me really what I have to work on and like I said it’s just another way to motivate me and I feel like I always bounce back from something like that, so it was good to be able to go over there and see a different sort of game. It’s played completely different than over here in the United States. You don’t have as much video, stuff like that. Just parts of the game that you normally have over here. To be able to go over there and experience that and see other guys succeed and what they do to succeed and just continue to get better. It was huge.

-While you were there, I know you had a bit of a conflict.  Teammates checking a teammate, I’m just trying to reference it in a cool way as opposed to (saying) "getting in someone’s face" or something like that, but if a teammate has an issue and tried to check a teammate, is that type of feedback beneficial? You’re talking about the failure and learning from the fall, so to speak, can that type of thing where it’s conflict with a teammate where it’s a reality check help the player?


That’s an interesting question. That’s a pretty good question actually. Um, all I can say is after the incident with me and him we became good friends. There was an extreme level of respect that was established and, you know, we continue to keep in touch today and play video games together. I got nothing against the guy. I think he’s a good dude. And I think if we were to play on the same team or against each other we would continue to be friends and have a good relationship. Um, yeah, that was it.

-Well, what I’m getting at there is knowing that a teammate has a concern for the other teammates, like, does that help you? Because you can hear a guy writing an article, you can hear a coach say something, but when a teammates says, “Damn it, guy! What’s up with this?” Does that make a different impression than the article or the coach that says it, when it’s from the same guy who’s doing the job?


Yeah, well I mean as far as that case, the article or articles that came out: completely not true at all. And the only people that really know what happened are me and him and a few people that were close around. Everybody else wants to speculate and say what they thought happened and that’s how you get these articles. That made me sound, you know, terrible, and kind of unfair to me and him, but, I mean, that’s part of it and we’ve got to realize that, you know, there’s better ways to handle issues, obviously. Especially, don’t do it in a place where there’s people watching.

-I’m sorry to keep asking about it, I don’t know that I’m asking it well enough. So, what I’m talking about is just what the concern was. So, if the concern was with an aspect of the person’s game and I’m the teammate and I say, “Hey teammate! Why don’t you get on this better?” or whatever. Is the impression different as criticism from a teammate versus criticism from a media person or a coach?


I think yeah, absolutely. Because that’s who you’re playing with every day. I feel like the writers kind of give it to us enough and you know there’s-- just about on every single team I’ve been on, there’s been conflicts between teammates and people have problems with other people and it’s how you handle it is what matters. There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way. Obviously, the wrong ways can end up turning into right ways, it just depends on how it all goes down. But at the end of the day there has to be a level of respect for all teammates I believe. I don’t think all teammates have to like each other, ‘cause that’s never going to happen. No matter what clubhouse you go in, that’s almost impossible to find a team where every single person likes each other as a person or friend. The biggest thing is to just go out there and when you are in the locker room and when you are on the field and when you are between those lines to be the best teammate you can be. You don’t have to like the guy you don’t have to agree with his life choices or morals, but you have to go out there and bust your ass and try to be the best teammate you can, try to win ball games, try to make him feel like you’re doing everything you can do to go out there and win. That’s most important.


-How about this team that’s here? You’ve got a collection of guys that you went to the postseason with last year down a level at Double-A, and it’s Jorge Alfaro and Roman Quinn and J.P. Crawford and these guys and, obviously, you and Rhys Hoskins were kind of leaders of the Reading club last year. Do you guys expect to win when you take the field?

Absolutely. I feel like we’ve got the most talented lineup out there. Period. I, obviously, expect to win every single ballgame. I know that’s not realistic, but that’s at least how I feel. I take one game at a time and if we go out there and play our best, I don’t feel that anybody can beat us.

-Charlie Hayes was a bit of a surprise to some to be joining the IronPigs roster, as he was hired to coach with the Gulf Coast League team, but he’s here since that group doesn’t get going until June. What are your thoughts on Charlie so far?


He’s awesome. He’s always looking to work. Fun to be around, he makes you laugh. And he said his door’s always open, so if you ever want to work, just go in and grab him and he’s ready to sit there and work on stuff in the cage with you, no matter how long. It’s good to have a guy like that.

-Being around the big club this year…teammate wise or coach wise what there anyone that made a big impression on you or someone you picked up a lot from?


I feel like kind of just-- I wasn’t really talked to or coached up that much. They kind of just sat back and let me do my thing. So, I mean, all the coaches were extremely nice to me and I can see why they are there. They made it a lot of fun. We worked hard. Same thing with the players; just lead by example. That’s how it was. A good guy to follow there, I think, was Andres Blanco. He kind of…he really is good at what he does and he’s a good teammate, has a great work ethic, goes out there and plays well.

-I wanted to ask you about your expectations for yourself this year. Is there any goal you’ve set for yourself or anything like that?

I just want to get better every single day. Be closer to that full potential that I think that I have.