Friday, February 15, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #21 Catcher Rodolfo Duran

Rodolfo Duran, image- Jay Floyd
Catcher Rodolfo Duran made some big impressions last season and finds himself earning recognition among the Phillies' top rising prospects.  The righty batting Dominican helped lead the remarkable pitching staff for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws and was a considerable contributor to that team's offense.

Signed as an international free agent in 2014 at age 16, Duran made his professional debut in 2015 with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies.  In 36 games there, the five-foot-nine 181-pounder posted a .185 batting average with three doubles, a triple and 10 RBI.

The following year, Duran repeated the GCL, appearing in a pair of games with Class A short-season Williamsport.  In 34 combined games, he batted .315 while slamming three home runs and driving in 14 runs.

In 2017 the Santo Domingo native sported a .252 average with nine doubles, three triples and six RBI in 48 games with Williamsport.

Last year he made the jump to Class A Lakewood, where he had a breakout season.  Showing big improvements in the power department, he pounded 18 home runs.  Duran also notched a .260 average with 48 RBI through 88 games. 

In June, he hit .397 with seven homers and was named South Atlantic League Player of the Month for his efforts. 

He homered in back to back games five times during his BlueClaws campaign, including June 27-29 when he launched round-trippers in three consecutive contests. 

Duran also added three more homers during the BlueClaws' postseason run, in which they were runners up for the league championship.

The Lakewood pitching staff that Duran handled recorded a league-best 2.74 season ERA and many of the team's hurlers credited their battery mates for much of the success.

Defensively, Duran, who turns 21 years old this month, stands out as a sniper for opposing base runners.  After erasing 48% of potential base stealers in 2017, he threw out 39 of 93 (42%) with Lakewood last year, which was the highest percentage among qualified catchers and he threw out the most runners of anyone in the Sally League.

At the plate, Duran will need to improve his efforts against lefties, as he posted an OPS of just .472 against southpaws in 2018 in 98 at bats.  An .866 OPS at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park, which has a reputation as being favorable to pitchers, shows loads of promise, however.


Duran should be expected to move up a level and start the 2019 season at Class A Advanced Clearwater.  The future is bright for the youngster, especially if he can iron out the concerns at the plate.

Track this year's complete Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #22 RHP Connor Seabold

Connor Seabold, image- MiLB.com
Selected in the third round of the 2017 MLB amateur draft, right-hander Connor Seabold made an immediate splash upon debuting as a pro and has continued to impress as he has moved upward in the developmental ranks at a swift pace.

In his college career at Cal State Fullerton, the California native tallied a 23-15 record with a save, three complete games, a 2.96 ERA and a 9.5 K/9 mark in 56 appearances (42 starts) overall.

After signing with the Phillies, Seabold posted a 2-0 record with a 0.90 ERA and a .143 batting average against while striking out 13 batters and walking two in 10 innings of work in relief for the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters.

Last season, Seabold took quite a jump, opening the season with Class A Advanced Clearwater and switching to a starting role. In 12 games there he notched a 4-4 record with a 3.77 ERA, a .213 batting average against as well as an 8.5 K/9 mark.

The six-foot-three 190-pounder earned a promotion to Double-A Reading in late June. With the Fightin Phils, Seabold would post a 1-4 record with a 4.91 ERA, a .241 BAA and a 9.8 K/9 mark.

Command is a big positive for Seabold, who features fastball velocity that generally resides in the 90 to 93 MPH range, a solid change up and a serviceable curveball. He can throw all three offerings for strikes and his walk rate is not a concern for the young hurler.

The ceiling for Seabold could be a back-end starting pitcher in the majors, which would be a valuable piece to the rebuilding puzzle that has been the Phillies of recent years.

Seabold, who turned 23 years old in January, could likely open the 2019 campaign back with Reading, where he would look to build on his success from last year and take strides toward the next level.

Track this year's complete Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.   

Friday, February 8, 2019

2019 Phillies minor league coaching staffs announcement

With select affiliates announcing their 2019 coaching staffs today, here's a complete list of the personnel for each level of the Phillies' minor leagues...

Lehigh Valley (Triple-A): Gary Jones/Manager, Greg Legg/Coach, Darryl Robinson/Coach, Steve Schrenk/Pitching Coach

Reading (Double-A): Shawn Williams /Manager, Nelson Prada/Coach, Kevin Riggs/Coach, Aaron Fultz /Pitching Coach

Clearwater (Class A Advanced): Marty Malloy/Manager, Ruben Gotay/Coach, Tyler Henson/Coach, Brad Bergesen /Pitching Coach

Lakewood (Class A): Mike Micucci/Manager, Adam Goodwin/Coach, Christian Marrero/Coach, Matt Hockenberry/Pitching Coach

Williamsport (short-season A level): Pat Borders/Manager, Greg Brodzinski/Coach, Joel McKeithan/Coach, Hector Berrios/Pitching Coach

GCL Phillies East (short-season rookie): Roly deArmas/Manager, Rafael DeLima/Coach, Charlie Hayes/Coach, Hector Mercado/Pitching Coach

GCL Phillies West (short-season rookie): Milver Reyes/Manager, Chris Heintz/Coach, Bobby Werenes/Coach, Bruce Billings/Pitching Coach

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Phillies to acquire catcher Realmuto for three players

Sanchez with Lakewood in 2017, image- Jay Floyd
We interrupt this Phillies prospect countdown to offer up some breaking news.  Reports have surfaced on Thursday that the Phils have agreed to a trade that would send highly touted pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, big league catcher Jorge Alfaro along with hurler Will Stewart and international bonus slot to Miami for backstop J.T. Realmuto.

Sanchez, a much-raved-about 20-year-old right-hander that reaches triples digits with his fastball, was the key to the deal and had long been mentioned in trade talks.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Sanchez has missed time in each of the past two seasons with injuries and sat out of the prestigious Arizona Fall League this off-season due to an ailment.

Last season in eight starts with Class A Advanced Clearwater, Sanchez posted a 4-3 record with a 2.51 ERA and an 8.7 K.9 mark.

Alfaro, a 25-year-old righty batter, posted a .262 average with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 108 games with the Phillies last season. He was acquired in the 2015 trade that sent Cole Hamels to Texas.

Stewart, a 21-year-old lefty, was a standout contributor for the division winning Class A Lakewood BlueClaws last season.  In 20 starts, the Alabama native posted an 8-1 record with record with a 2.06 ERA, two complete games and a .218 batting average against.   Stewart was a 20th round draft choice by the Phillies in 2015.

Realmuto has a .279/.327/.442 slash line in roughly four big league seasons with the Marlins.  The 27-year-old righty hitter was a 3rd round draft selection my Miami in in 2010. 

Realmuto was named to his first All-Star team in 2018 when he notched career highs in homers (21) and RBI (74).  The six-foot-one 210-pounder remains under team control for two seasons.  

My annual Phillies top prospects countdown will require adjustments due to this deal and will continue here on the site throughout the coming weeks.

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #23 LHP Tyler Gilbert

Tyler Gilbert with Reading in 2018, image- Jay Floyd
Left-handed reliever Tyler Gilbert took strides in the minors last year and proved to be a reliable prospect ready to take on big challenges.

A 6th round draft choice in 2015, Gilbert swiftly debuted with short-season Class A Williamsport as a starter. The University of Southern California product would post a 4-3 record with an impressive 2.79 ERA and a 9.4 K/9 mark in 10 appearances (eight starts).

That year in his junior season with the Trojans, Gilbert posted a 5-2 record with two saves and a 2.79 ERA in 22 appearances (six starts).

In 2016, his first full professional season, Gilbert moved up to Class A Lakewood, pitching the complete campaign as a starter. In 23 games, the California native had a 7-9 record with a 3.98 ERA, a .264 batting average against and a 7.3 K/9.

The following season saw Gilbert moved to the bullpen where, with Class A Advanced Clearwater, he notched a 1-6 record with three saves, a 2.95 ERA, a .271 BAA and a 7.7 K/9 mark in 35 games for the Threshers.

Gilbert opened last season with Double-A Reading, where he tallied a 4-1 record with a pair of saves, a 2.86 ERA, a .208 batting average against and a 10.6 K/9 mark in 23 contests. That effort earned him a promotion by late June to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he would continue his success. In 25 regular season outings there, the six-foot-three 190-pounder sported a 3-1 record with three saves, a 3.63 ERA, a .214 BAA along with a 7.3 K/9 mark.

In 13 appearances in the Dominican Winter League following last season, the 25-year-old posted a 3.68 ERA with no decisions, a .294 batting average against and nine strike outs over 7 1/3 innings. Used primarily as a lefty specialist with the Tigres, Gilbert enjoyed the success and feels that exposure to the league was beneficial to his progress.

Coaches like the way Gilbert, a strike thrower, challenges the opposition.

A cutter that he added, taught to him by teammate Seth McGarry in late 2017, has helped Gilbert excel. His repertoire also features a low-90's fastball, a curveball that touts nice movement and a change up.

Gilbert will be in big league spring training this year as a non-roster invitee. I would expect him to open the season back in Triple-A with the IronPigs, but if he continues to be a key part of the bullpen there, he could be one of the first guys called upon if the Phillies have a need for a lefty reliever at the top level.

Keep tabs on this year's complete Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #24 Catcher Deivi Grullon

Deivi Grullon, image- Jay Floyd
At the time of his signing with the Phillies at the age of 16, backstop Deivi Grullon was one of the top baseball prospects in the Caribbean. Following six years in the minors, the 22-year-old is still looked at as a very promising player.

Grullon, who signed for a reported $575,000 in July 2012, looked very good upon making his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2013, posting a .273 batting average with eight doubles, a home run and 14 RBI in 41 games at the Rookie level.

He followed up that campaign with a season in which he split time at three levels in 2014. Grullon started his season in mid-April with Class A Advanced Clearwater out of extended spring training. He notched two hits in ten at bats in two games there. A move to Class A Lakewood, where he would get more playing time, followed. In 24 games as a BlueClaw, Grullon posted a .237 average with five doubles, a home run and seven RBI. Grullon would be demoted once more to short-season Class A Williamsport when their season began in June. With the Crosscutters, he batted .225 with nine doubles, a triple and 18 RBI in 53 games.

In 2015 back with Lakewood, the Dominican Republic native tallied a .221 batting average with eight home runs and 50 RBI in 107 games.  He closed out his season on a positive note, posting a .301/.370/.470 slash line in 25 August games after struggling at the plate for much of the summer.

The following year, Grullon repeated Lakewood, posting a .256 batting average with six home runs and 45 RBI in 87 games.

In 2017 he would open his campaign with Clearwater, sporting a .255 average with eight homers and 24 RBI in 71 games there, earning a promotion to Double-A Reading.  He did fairly well at the higher level, as Grullon would notch a .229 average with four home runs and 13 RBI in 23 games.

Last year, Grullon would spend the full season at Reading, standing out as an All-Star and winning the Eastern League's Home Run Derby, putting some power on display.  In 90 games for the Fightin Phils, the talented youngster sported a .273 average with a career-high 21 homers and 59 RBI.

Grullon went 0-for-16 in eight Dominican League games this off-season before he was removed from the Aguilas' roster.

A right-handed batter, Grullon generally hits better against lefties (.969 OPS in 2018) than he does against righties (.778 OPS in 2018). 

Coaches view Grullon as an all-around strong leader, one of the key qualities for a catcher in the professional ranks. A player that teammates go to for assistance, Grullon is highly valuable to his club.  Additionally, the youngster himself is hungry to learn and has improved his English in an effort to better communicate with his pitching staff.

With a frame that is well suited for the position, the six-foot-one 180-pounder has excellent tools on defense, is a great receiver and features an extremely strong arm that keeps opposing runners reserved.

The upside for Grullon at this stage may be a big league back up catcher, but with the improvements he has made at the plate, he could be pushing for more than that.  

Expect Grullon to open this year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.  He could be an easy call up this year if the Phils catchers experience any injuries at the top level.   

You can keep tabs on this year's complete Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.  

Monday, February 4, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #25 OF Cornelius Randolph

Cornelius Randolph, image- Jay Floyd
Upon being selected with the 10th overall selection in the 2015 MLB amateur draft, outfielder Cornelius Randolph quickly placed among the Phillies' top ranked prospects.

After being drafted out of Griffin High School in Georgia as a shortstop, the five-foot-11 205-pounder was converted on defense to the outfield, where he has looked comfortable and capable

During his senior season in high school, Randolph drew considerable attention from professional organizations, posting great offensive numbers with a .533 batting average, seven home runs, 33 RBI and a 1.631 OPS in 26 games, leading his team into the state tournament.

As an 18-year-old, the man who goes by the nickname "C" had a tremendous professional debut in 2015, posting a .302/.425/.442 slash line in 53 games for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies.

In 2016 as a member of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, Randolph would tally a .274 average with a pair of homers and 27 RBI in 63 games. The youngster missed more than two months of action with an injury (muscle strain in back/shoulder blade area) from April to June, but he finished the season healthy. He spent time during the following off-season working with a strength coach as well as former big league outfielder Mike Cameron at his training center in Georgia.

The following year as a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Randolph sported a .250 batting average with 13 home runs and 55 RBI in 122 games. The Florida State League gave Randolph the kind of challenge the Phillies had hoped for. He improved month to month, seeing his batting average rise a great deal with each turn of the calendar until he cooled off in August.

Over that off-season, Randolph played in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. In 19 games with Glendale, he batted .239 with four doubles, a triple and eight RBI.

Last year, the 21-year-old posted a .241 average with five homers and 40 RBI in 118 games for Double-A Reading.  There seemed to be a learning curve for Randolph, as he really improved his production after the All-Star break (.217/.309/.270 in 77 games prior to the break vs. .286/.352/.415 in 41 games after the break).

Touted by Phils scouting director Johnny Almaraz as the top high school hitter in the country at the time he was drafted, Randolph was an exciting choice by the Phillies. Armed with a quick bat, the left-handed hitting Randolph has the ability to hit for average as well as power. A Clemson recruit out of high school, he is described as a patient hitter that has a good approach at the plate.

On the defensive side, Randolph has played left field exclusively. He has a strong arm and is athletic enough to display quality range in the outfield. He would likely classify as an average defender.

Speed wise, Randolph can be quick but with just 26 steals in 45 attempts in his professional career to date, he doesn't appear to be a runner that will strike fear into opposing batteries as a notable threat.

I would predict Randolph repeating Reading, at least to open the coming season.  The Phillies will want to see more power on display in 2019, in order to prove that he is on the right path.  At such a young age, the youngster has plenty of time ahead to develop into an offensive threat.

Keep tabs on this year's complete Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link

Sunday, February 3, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospect Countdown Prelude

Each year I compile my annual prospect rankings and count down the Phillies organization’s top 25 rising minor league players. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting reviews for each of the top developmental talents that appear to have the brightest futures for the Phils organization.

Taken into consideration when compiling the list is age, minor league performance relative to levels played to date, value to the organization as well as the player’s future potential along with proximity to the big leagues.

These rankings will not include players over the age of 25 or individuals that have already spent lengthy stretches in the big leagues.

For example, pitchers such as Victor Arano and Yacksel Rios, who exceeded rookie qualification limits last season will not be considered for this year's rankings.  Additionally, a hurler like Austin Davis that did not exceed rookie caps, but appeared in more than 30 big league contests will not be ranked here. Individuals that had short stints in the majors will retain their prospect status, for the purpose of these rankings.

Players that garnered consideration for this list but missed ranking among the top 25 names include a remarkable backstop as well as some talented hurlers, among others.

Catcher Rafael Marchan made an impact during his time with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters in 2018.  In 51 games for the 'Cutters last year, the 19-year-old switch-hitter notched a .301 average with eight doubles, two triples and 12 RBI and was recognized as a New York-Penn League All-Star.  The Venezuelan's skill set was said to look well-rounded as he impressed many at the Fall Instructional League last year.

Kyle Dohy took huge strides last season, earning two promotions in the process.  The 22-year-old lefty was the Phillies' 16th round draft choice in 2017.  Opening the 2018 campaign with Class A Lakewood, he helped that club lock down the first half division title by posting a 0.80 ERA and a 16.8 K/9 mark in 24 relief appearances there.  After moving up to Class A Advanced Clearwater, the six-foot-two 188-pounder would notch a 1.64 ERA and a 14.7 K/9 mark in seven outings.  He closed out the season on the Double-A Reading roster, where he would tally a 5.56 ERA and an 11.9 K/9 mark through 18 contests.  Dohy may open this year back with Reading, in order to see if his Class A dominance can translate to the higher level.

Edgar Garcia, image- Jay Floyd
Another reliever who narrowly missed making the Phils' top 25, for me, is righty reliever Edgar Garcia.  The 22-year-old Dominican native was honored as a Double-A All-Star with Reading last year, notching a 7-2 record with eight saves and a 3.32 ERA in 47 appearances.  After earning a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Garcia would record a 0-1 record with a 7.71 ERA in five games.  Coaches like his fastball-slider combination and feel it could translate well to a big league bullpen in the future with some more minor league seasoning. 

Lefty pitcher Kyle Young is a talented hurler that will garner attention on similar lists this year.  The 21-year-old is listed at six-feet-10, 205 pounds and is known to his teammates as "Stretch".  The Phillies' 22nd round draft selection from 2016 missed time due to injury and made just nine regular season starts for the Class A BlueClaws last year along with four rehab outings at lower levels.  Overall he sported a 3-3 record with a 2.73 ERA and a .222 batting average against.  Young features excellent control with a low 90's fastball and some quality secondary offerings that keep opponents guessing.

Center fielder Simon Muzziotti spent time last season with Class A Lakewood and looked like a very promising prospect.  The 20-year-old Venezuelan missed two months after suffering a broken finger after being hit by a pitch in April.  In 68 contests with the BlueClaws, Muzziotti tallied a .263 average with 12 doubles, two triples, a home run, 20 RBI and 18 stolen bases.  Speed and defense are strengths for this lefty batting youngster, who is bound to climb future versions of this list.


One additional pitcher that many fans may not have heard of yet, but could make big moves toward becoming a considerable prospect is Rafi Gonell.  The 21-year-old right-hander made his professional debut last year as a member of the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies West team.  In 10 games (eight starts) the promising Dominican tallied a 5-1 record with a 4.65 ERA.  Gonell struck out 41 and walked 20 in 40 2/3 innings there.  He should continue to work on his outstanding offerings at the Class A level this year.

Check back here on PhoulBallz.com often, as the new season approaches, for the unveiling of this year’s top 25 ranked prospects within the Phillies organization.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Eight non-roster invitees announced for Phillies Spring Training

This weekend, the Phillies announced news of eight players that will be included in big league camp during this year's upcoming Spring Training workouts.  The list includes mostly familiar names including the top overall pick from the 2016 MLB draft.

Left-handed pitchers Tyler Gilbert, JoJo Romero and Cole Irvin will join the team from the start as will outfielder Austin Listi, the organization's offensive Paul Owens Award winner from last season.  Backstop Deivi Grullon, infielder Malquin Canelo as well as outfielders Adam Haseley and Mickey Moniak are also set to take part in sessions with the big league team.

Romero and Irvin, both starters, are steadily ranked among the Phillies top pitching prospects.  Gilbert, a reliever, has flown under the radar a bit, but took advantage of his 2018 campaign and made a name for himself.  The Southern California product sported a combined 7-2 record with five saves a 3.25 ERA and a .211 batting average against in 48 total outings for Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year.  The 25-year-old was a 6th round draft choice in 2015. 

Tyler Gilbert, image- Jay Floyd
Speaking specifically on the possibility of getting an invitation to big league spring training in an interview with me last month, Gilbert stated, "That's my main goal right now, even though I can't control it, but that's something that I think I deserve and I believe in myself that I can compete in big league camp next year, so I really want that to happen."

The 22-year-old Romero was a 4th round draft selection in 2016.   With Double-A Reading last year, the Yavapai Jr. College product sported a 7-6 record with a 3.80 ERA with an 8.4 K/9 mark over 18 starts. 

Irvin, who was his division's All-Star starting pitcher notched a 14-4 record with a 2.57 ERA and a 7.3 K/9 mark in 26 games in the Triple-A International League for Lehigh Valley.  Irvin, 24, was the Phils' 5th round draft pick in 2016 out of Oregon. 

Listi, a 25-year-old, was the Phillies' 17th round draft pick in 2017 out of Dallas Baptist.  Last season, splitting time at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading, Listi posted a .312 average with 18 home runs and 84 RBI.

Grullon, a 22-year-old Dominican native, was a Double-A All-Star and won the Eastern League Home Derby last July.  In 90 games with Reading last year, Grullon, a righty-handed batter, tallied a .273 average with 21 homers and 59 RBI. 

Canelo, a 24-year-old righty hitter, batted .251 with nine homers, 32 RBI and 24 steals in 128 games with Reading last season. 

Haseley, the Phils' 1st round pick (8th overall) in 2017, had a great season last year, split between Clearwater and Reading.  Combined in 118 games the 22-year-old lefty batter posted a .305 average with 11 home runs, 55 RBI and seven stolen bases.

Moniak, the number one overall pick from 2016, has struggled to fully show his stuff offensively as a pro and spent last season with Clearwater where the lefty hitting 20-year-old batted .270 while launching five home runs and driving in 55 runs in 114 games. 

The group overall is a talented bunch, but outside of the hurlers, I am not sure if any of them could genuinely make a big enough splash to actually compete for an opening day roster spot.  That isn't to say that time in the big leagues isn't in each of these guys' futures, but it simply may not come as soon as opening day on March 28th.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season Check In with catcher Logan O'Hoppe

Photo via Logan O'Hoppe's Twitter
The Phillies Gulf Coast League West team saw a promising backstop emerge last summer as 18-year-old Logan O'Hoppe impressed with his statistics and his work behind the dish.

Selected in the 23rd round of last year's draft by the Phillies, O'Hoppe quickly signed and made an impact in the Rookie level short-season GCL.

In 34 games, the righty batting Long Island native sported a .367/.411/.532 slash line and was a standout leader for his pitching staff according to coaches.

If O'Hoppe continues to pile on the production and enjoys some swift progress, it won't be long before the youngster is impacting betting odds, like those found on this page.

Recently, I chatted with O'Hoppe about his thoughts on his initial professional campaign, an injury he suffered at Fall Instructs, how he's preparing for his first full professional season in 2019 and more.  Read ahead for that complete interview.


-In hindsight, what are your thoughts on your 2018 pro debut season?

It was a lot of fun. I learned more than I imagined and I mean both from the coaches and other players.  Mostly, the things I learned most weren't on the baseball side, just mainly life and being on my own and starting off to being a professional, so those are the biggest things that I took out of it.

-Were there any key names, whether coach or player, that gave a considerable lesson, something that you'll take a long way with you?

Yeah, Ben Brown was my roommate.  He helped me a lot, just getting my feet wet and knowing the little things that go on and doing those little things the right way.  On the coaching side, Matt Hockenberry and Chris Heintz really helped me develop as much as a could this summer.

-I'm sure you got  to attend the fall Instructional League.  How was that experience for you?

I did.  Yeah, I went for the first week and then I was hurt, so I took some time off and got back at it the last week of Instructs.  It was good.  It was a lot more instructional based than I had assumed.  But it was awesome.  I just love being in Clearwater with the freedom you have and the environment that you're surrounded with.  I love it.

-What was the ailment that you were sidelined with?

I strained my pec.

-Pec strain isn't one you hear of too often.  How did that happen?

Yeah.  I mean, it's totally fine now, but at the time I just ended up doing a bunch of things and I think natural wear and tear is what did it.

-Did you attend any of those additional seminars that the Phillies host down there in Clearwater?

I did.  I went to strength camp at the end of October into November and that was the most productive session that I went down there for.  Strength camp is what you make of it and I definitely felt like the coaches and the coaches helped me get the most out of it, so that was a really good time.

-Who's down there for something like that?  You mention coaches getting you right, so who are you working with most closely at the strength camp or is it the trainers that you deal with?

It's all the strength coaches and trainers, so there's not instructors there for that at that time.

-Is there anything unique that you picked up there and will continue to do?

No, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary.  It was to learn how the Phillies do their off-season training.  You get the gist of what they're about, so I think it really prepared me for the rest of my career as far as the off-season goes.

-I have heard that at those seminars there are Spanish classes that are mandatory for the American players.  How was that for you and is that more important for you, as a backstop?

We had it.  I took four years of Spanish in high school, so I had a pretty good idea going down of just having the ability of getting my point across, but, yeah Spanish was good.  It was kind of a refresher to what I learned in high school, but you know how important it is down there to be able to communicate with your teammates.

-I know your pitching coach Matt Hockenberry is big on that too, so I'm sure you've heard about it.

Yeah, last year any time there was a mound visit with anyone from a Latin country, then Hock's good with it and always getting after it.

-You're home now...what do you do to stay busy?  Do you do any clinics or work a job of any sort?

Yeah, I'll work catching clinics on the weekend, just with my travel organization that I played with in high school.  So, that'll be my job, quote-unquote.  But, I participated in those clinics that I help out with a couple years before, so it's good to see familiar faces and coaches that helped me get up to this point.  So, it's good to be home because I know I'll be gone for a while starting in spring training, but yeah, it's been really good so far.

-When you come back after being drafted, signed and playing pro ball do any of those familiar faces greet you or treat you any differently?  Are the smiles bigger?  Are the hugs tighter?

I mean, the coaches that I played with were proud of how I played my first year, but I wouldn't say it was a different look at all.  That's what I love about being around those guys is that I try to surround myself with people that knew me before the draft and everything that went on.  That's what I feel like I've done a good job of, is keeping myself surrounded with people that will keep it real and not treat me any different based on what's happened.  So, that's part of why I love being home, because I just get to be treated like Logan.

-Perfect.  So, what's the workout routine of late?  How long do you put the bat down for and where are you on the path to ramping things up toward spring training?

I'll lift six days a week and that's just based off a bunch of things that I'm doing that day, but that's kind the general gist of it.  And then my time off at instructs kind of served as my break, so I was swinging moderately with my rehab stuff at strength camp and after strength camp and then I'd say about two weeks ago was when I got back into my routine and was feeling really, really good.  And then I started throwing last week, so I'm starting to get back into all the baseball specific things, which I'm excited about, because I know spring training isn't that far off. 

-What sort of facility do you get to use?  Do you have the luxury of using something that's nice?

I do.  My travel organization that I was talking about before, they have a facility ten minutes from my house and I'm lucky enough to be close enough with those coaches that I have a key there and I can go hit or throw do whatever I need, whenever I want.  That's really, really nice and beneficial to have that as something to use.  And then I'll train with my trainer, who's about twenty minutes from me and he has his own gym and that's really great too because in the gym we have a family atmosphere and I have gotten a lot out of working with him.

-Is there anything specific that you work on with the trainer or is it your own routine and you have his supervision?


We'll take the program that the Phillies give us and then different things individually for my goals that I want to achieve this off-season and then we'll work from there.

-How strict are those things, 'cause every year I'll here from players about the Phillies' team fitness assignments that you can log into and follow.  Is it a check list of musts or is it more of a guide?

I mean, not just with that in pro ball but anything, it's what you make of it.  It's there for you if you need and obviously the coaches are going to want you to do that, and that's what I've been doing because I know the coaches, they know more than me in that aspect and using whatever they give me will put me in the best spot to do well.  So, it's really kind of what you make of it, but I've been trying to stay diligent with it.

-What are you doing for fun over the off-season?  Any vacations or trips planned?

No, no vacations.  I went to a couple Ranger games here and there, but sporting events are the only thing.  Just trying to enjoy my time at home.  I went down to East Carolina, where I was going to go to school, a couple times, 'cause my sister was a student down there, so I got to see her and caught up with all those baseball kids, so that's really the only things that's going on.  I've been staying home the majority of the off-season.

-Are you a big hockey guy?  Big Ranger fan?

Not huge, but I'm definitely into it!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season Check In with LHP Will Stewart

Will Stewart, image- Jay Floyd
Lefty starter Will Stewart had a break out season in 2018 as a member of the Class A BlueClaws.  En route to an All-Star campaign the Alabama native posted an 8-1 record with a 2.06 ERA a .218 batting average against as well as a 7.1 K/9 mark.  He also recorded two complete game shutouts in 20 games.

The Phillies' 20th round draft choice from 2015 reached an innings limit (113 2/3) set by the team and was kept back from pitching in the post-season, in which the BlueClaws fell short, losing in the finals to Lexington.

Last week I talked with Stewart, 21, about his 2018 season, missing the playoffs, how he's spending the off-season mentoring young pitchers and plenty more.  Read ahead for that complete interview.



-How do you feel now, in hindsight, about your 2018 season?

I'm still over the moon about it, but you're always told to keep a short-term memory, so I am over the moon about it, but I've put it on the back burner, to get back into the swing of things and get back to being better than I was last year.

-At the time, it's a big season for Lakewood, as the team reached the Sally League finals, and you're a huge part of that, helping to lead the pitching staff and the team's charge toward first and second half titles, but you reach a team imposed innings limit and were kept from pitching in the playoffs.  So as successful as you were you don't get to compete in the post-season.  Does that stick with you?  Is that still a disappointment to not be able to go forth with the team and try to win that league title?

I mean, you know, as a player you always think maybe I could have helped out a little more and I could have done something different and all this other stuff, but honestly it was the organization's decision.  They put my career and my future ahead of winning a few more games and I appreciate it.  But the competitor in me wanted to be out there and wanted to be the guy that could help my team and be the guy that could come in and maybe save the day or maybe put us in a better position so that we could have won, or something like that.  But, I mean, you've kind of just got to drop it.  You've got to move on from it.  You can't let it eat you up.  

I think the big thing for me was that, yeah I didn't get to pitch in the playoffs, but I got to experience it.  I got to be there for my teammates and got to be more of a leader, not on the field, but in the dugout.  Trying to consult with people, see how they were doing, see if I could help in any way like if there was a way that I could help you pitch to a batter or something like that.  So, I mean I took the positive out of everything and I was really proud of myself for that.  But, yeah I wish I could have been in there pitching, of course.

-It's good to make the best of it and help out behind the scenes too, so that's excellent.  It's been a few months.  The post-season wrapped up in September. Obviously, you guys are together every day for over six months.  Are you in touch with many of the guys since the season wrapped up?

Yeah, I do.  We talk every now and again, but everyone has their own training program, their own lives going on.  And people are out here getting engaged, getting married, getting all different kinds of stuff.  I mean, there's a bunch of different stuff going on, but we try to stay in touch as much as possible.  You know, we are human.  There are times we don't talk for a little while, but I actually attended strength camp (hosted by the Phillies in Florida) and I got to see a bunch of the guys from my team, so that was good.  I got to reconnect with them for two weeks and then we all went home and we all obviously wish each other happy holidays and stay in touch for the most part.

-Okay, cool.  I did want to ask about the sessions the Phillies host and you mentioned the strength camp.  Share some thoughts on how that goes and what you take out of it.

It was cool.  I think the biggest part of it wasn't going down there for the strength camp, it was getting back in tune with the baseball life.  Because you leave the season, and you basically come back to the real world and it's not playing baseball everyday, you're not on a bus, you're not surrounded by your people, so you kind of decompress just a little bit from season to off-season and I got the call to come down to strength camp and it gave me a chance to get back into a baseball frame of mind, which was really cool.  And obviously we all worked out, we got our strength up and we did some yoga and cool stuff and it was fun.  And it was a good experience.  I think the biggest thing for me was I got to go hang out with my guys again, which was really cool.

-How's the yoga?  Do they bring in a special instructor?  Is it one of the regular strength and conditioning guys on staff that will coach you through it?  How does it go down and then how do you feel it can be beneficial for you?

Yeah, they bring in a special person for our yoga thing.  It does work.  I love yoga.  I think it works really, really well.  Everyone always says you need to stay loose and stay flexible and being a pitcher there's no one position that benefits more from being loose and flexible than pitching.  I mean, you've gotta be loose.  You can't go in and be tight.  And I think it prevents injury a lot too, so I love it.  It feels good.  I mean, it hurts during, but afterward you're all loose and stuff.  So, yeah, I think it's a great thing that they introduced into our organization and I'm thankful for it.  Some organizations don't get to do that.  The Phillies really set us up nice. 

-When we talked initially to set up the interview, you mentioned something about work.  What are you up to?

Yeah!  I do pitching lessons.  I have a group of guys that I go and help.  I run it out of this building that one of my really good friends owns and they let me have a spot and I do that.  It's really cool because we always talk about giving back to the community and I don't think there's any greater gift than giving kids the hope that one day they can do exactly what I'm doing.  And going out and teaching the kids-- you know, baseball is a great sport and this is what it takes to get there.  Not everything that someone tells you is true.  If someone tells you that you can't make it, well I'm a prime example of that you can because I came from a very small town just like most of the kids I train, who were told, "You come from a small town.  There's no way you're going to be able to get there."  So to be that little voice in the background that gets to tell them, "Yes, you can.", and I get to help them on their journey to hopefully making this their job one day is worth more than any amount of money that they give me.  So, it's awesome!

-That's terrific.  That's good to hear.  Do you have anything lined up like a vacation or anything like that before you go back to baseball?

Yeah!  My family, we take New Year's Eve vacations every year.  Last year we did New York City, which was ridiculous and incredible.  And this year, we're going to Savannah, Georgia to have that more laid back, just go and have fun type thing as opposed to the hustle and bustle of New York City.  So, I'm excited about that.

-What were some of your favorite things about New York when you visited up there?

The people.  I love the people up there.  They're so different and they're so unique.  The food's amazing, obviously.  And then just being in a city that's so much more bigger than anything I've ever seen was crazy.  I love New York City.  I feel like I could live there one day.

-Were the people similar enough to those you encountered in New Jersey this season with Lakewood?

I mean, yes and no.  There are definitely some very unique people in New Jersey.  I will not take that away from them.  But in New York, there's just so many of them.  There's just so many people that-- there's literally millions of people in that city and if you walk down the street in New Jersey, there's plenty of room, but if you walk down the street in New York and you're bumping up against each other, so it's a lot different.

-I want to ask you about your off-season routine also.  At what point do you pick up a baseball and truly try to start knocking the rust off?

Actually, right now.  I'm on my way to one of my training facilities that I get to use and I'm actually on my way to get started on it now.  We're full force ahead to get ready for March.

-Is that something you've been ramping up toward or is today a genuine first session?

Yeah, I've been ramping up toward it for about four weeks now.  I had an extra month off than everyone because I didn't pitch in September, so I had all of September, all of October and most of November off and probably about a month ago I started to get really deep into it.

-There have been some staffing changes in the Phillies' developmental levels.  Josh Bonifay takes over as director or player development.  Chris Truby earns a promotion to field coordinator.  When those changes are made, is there any communication toward the players or would you expect maybe more of an opportunity to have it addressed or someone introduced once players head back to Clearwater in the spring?

You know, sometimes I feel like some guys are more in the know than others, but I don't know.  It's weird, because I was around when we brought in the new front office and we got our new G.M. and that was more of a "we'll see you in spring training" and everyone reads the headlines, everyone knows.  But it's more of a you go in with an open mind and say, "Hey, you're the guy!  So, let's see how this goes."  Everyone's really excited to see where Mr. Bonifay goes with it and see how this all works and we all love Truby.  He's a great coach, great mentor, great at everything he does, so we're excited.  It's more of a wait till spring training thing.  I don't really know. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Frosty Phillies Favorites: 2018 Christmas Player Survey

Season's greetings!  Everybody loves the holidays and, of course, baseball players are no exception. Every year at Christmas time, I survey a group of Phillies prospects about what they get excited for during the holiday season.

Players taking part in this year's ninth annual player survey include the 2018 Paul Owens Award winner OF Austin Listi, slugging first base  prospect Darick Hall, Class A All-Stars (CI/OF) Jake Scheiner and (SP) Will Stewart, Triple-A reliever Tyler Gilbert and short-season rookie level backstop Logan O'Hoppe.  Additionally, taking part is Double-A Reading Fightin Phils broadcaster Mike Ventola.

Questions and answers listing each individual’s holly jolly holiday favorites are listed below…

-What is your favorite Xmas movie or TV special?

Austin Listi: For the longest time my favorite Christmas movie has been The Santa Claus 2. However, I love just snuggling up on the couch with my wife and crushing Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas. They play Christmas movies all day everyday until Christmas is over.

Darick Hall: A Christmas Story is my favorite Christmas movie.

Jake Scheiner: I got to say Elf. I love Will Ferrell. It's always on TV around Christmas time and I watch it every year. I've seen it so many times, but it doesn't get old.

Tyler Gilbert: The Polar Express is my go-to!

Logan O'Hoppe: Christmas Vacation's up there for sure. And The Polar Express is always one that I watched when I was younger.

Will Stewart: We watch all the Claymation ones at my house. My mom loves those. We always watch The Grinch. We love The Grinch at my house.

Mike Ventola: This is tough, but I'm going to go with A Charlie Brown Christmas. Linus nails the true meaning of Christmas 3/4's of the way through the movie and for me that gives it the edge over my honorable mentions listed. Honorable Mentions: It's a Wonderful Life and The Year Without a Santa Claus.

-What is your favorite Christmas song?

Listi: It might have to be Mariah Carey “All I Want For Christmas is You."

Hall: "Oh, Holy Night" is my favorite. (He really likes Sister Hazel's version)

Scheiner: I like all the songs, all those are great and get me in the holiday spirit.

Gilbert: Let's see. I mean, you put on Frank Sinatra or Micheal Buble's Christmas playlist and I'll get it going. Yeah, anything by them.

O'Hoppe: My cousin Anthony and I would always like to sing "Happy Holidays" (by Andy Williams). It was just something that we always did from a young age, so that's the only song that would stick out.

Stewart: The Grinch song, the one about the Grinch, I love that song! It's amazing. I love that one. It's my favorite movie too, so it's phenomenal.

Ventola: My all-time favorite Christmas song is Lou Monte's Dominick the Donkey. It's my favorite Christmas song because of its fun-filled melody. Plus, Lou Monte is legendary in the Italian-American communities!

-What is your favorite thing to eat around the holidays and who makes it?

Listi: I can’t say I have one favorite meal. I love to eat so I just crush it all.

Hall: My grandma consistently makes some of the best desserts during this time of year! I always have to watch how much I'm eating when I see her (laughs). She makes a lot of red velvet cakes, homemade rice krispie treats, toll house pan cookies and pies. Her apple pie is my favorite food to eat during Christmas!

Gilbert: Just the mashed potatoes and gravy. You know. That's pretty common, but my parents make that pretty well, so I get excited for that. Nothing like it.

Ventola: My all-time favorite thing to eat are my mother's Christmas Cookies. If I said anything else, I wouldn't be allowed back home to visit (laughs)!

-Does your family have any traditions that are a big deal?

Listi: We are all Christians, so celebrating Christmas means celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ!  Without him there is nothing. Something else we do is meet up at the family ranch. We hunt and spend quality time in God’s great outdoors. It doesn’t get better.

Hall: One of the big traditions we usually do but have slightly got away from is huge family Christmas's! We usually have all of the family I have I Colorado, Arizona and Texas come down and stay at my great grandparents house and celebrate Christmas together. We would usually have about 18 people in the house. It was very cluttered but was so much fun the catch up and see everyone!

Scheiner: We do a little bit of everything. There are some really nice houses in Santa Rosa, California and there's some really good light shows, so we always go drive by and check out the lights. This year, we're going to Lake Tahoe, so we're going to have Christmas in the snow, which will be fun. I would say just being around family, hearing Christmas music, I actually love the snow and Christmas trees, so I look forward to that and we do play a lot of games. We always play Monopoly and I do not lose in Monopoly. So (my family's) not looking forward to that, but I am.

O'Hoppe: We do. There's a couple, actually. My cousins they have a huge Christmas party every year. My uncle has two-to-three hundred people at their house every year. So, that's a big highlight of the year. We'll spend the weekend there. And that's a good time. More important than that, my cousins, we celebrate "Christmas Adam", so it's the day before Christmas Eve, because Adam came before Eve, so that's where the name comes from. We'll spend-- people will pop in and out all night, but I'll be there from probably eight (o'clock) till probably four in the morning. My family, we're big into food, so we'll cook all night into the next day. That's definitely, for me, the highlight of the year, for sure.

Stewart: My dad's from Louisiana, he's Cajun, so he does the whole Creole thing, he uses all types of Cajun and stuff like that, so my dad has this book that it's The Cajun Night Before Christmas and he reads it to us and it's got Santa Claus with 12 alligators and he's on the roof in the swamp and he reads it to us in his Creole voice and stuff like that. It's been a tradition since I was four.

-Is there a standout Christmas gift from childhood that is the most memorable for you?

Listi: I can’t say there is just one gift that is above all. I loved all my gifts. With that being said, I remember waking up one Christmas and I had a brand new basketball goal for the driveway that was absolutely awesome. I also got a BB gun one Christmas that made me excited as well. My brother Michael and I would have wars in the backyard all the time.

Hall: My uncle last gave me a .243 Remington 700 rifle for Christmas and I still have it until this day. I love it and I will eventually pass it on to my son one day. Very special gift!

Scheiner: I've had a lot of good gifts over the years. Probably baseball stuff. My whole neighborhood was full of kids, so we would all run outside after we opened our presents and play and I would just say getting a really nice baseball glove.

Gilbert: I was about eight or nine years old when I got a baseball glove. It was definitely memorable.

Stewart: My parents did it big for Christmas every year. It was a big time thing, so there was a few...we got a trampoline one year, which was amazing. We got a pool one year. So, they put in a pool that year, that was cool! I think the best one though, it's not some big, fancy gift, but my mom my senior year of high school, my mom got me a necklace that had a baseball pendant on it with a gold chain and she gave it to me. And I don't think I've taken it off since that Christmas. I think the only time I take it off is if I'm going through airport security. I wear it during my games. If you look at any pictures of me on the mound, it's on!

Ventola: As a family we used to go to Walt Disney World every year during the summer growing up. I remember when my parents took my siblings and I during Christmas the very first time. It was a lot of fun!

-Do you or your family have a Phillies ornament on your Christmas tree?

Scheiner: You know what, I might have to surprise them with one this year. I do not.

Gilbert: A little mini Phillies flag! They've got that.

O'Hoppe: Our family friends have gotten us one, so there is this year.

Stewart: No, we do not! We have so many Alabama ones, it's ridiculous. We have LSU. Pretty sure we have a Dallas Cowboys one. My dad's a Cowboys fan.

-Do you recall finding out the real deal about Santa and is there a story that goes with it?

Listi: I really have no idea when I found out the deal about Santa. I wish I could remember but my brother Michael told me he remembers when my dad told him and thinks I was there with him. He’s four and half years older than me...so I must have been pretty young.

Hall: I was never a believer in Santa. I always grew up celebrating Christmas knowing that it was the birth of God's greatest gifts to the world, Jesus Christ!

Gilbert: I caught my dad eating (Santa's) cookies late night once, when I woke up, and I was kind of confused, you know? I asked him the next day, "What were you doing? Those weren't for you!" And he told me, "I think you were dreaming, son." That's when I kind of thought, "I don't know if he's real anymore."

O'Hoppe: There's a little story. My dad blew it for me. It wasn't a big thing. We were just in the back yard one day and that came up and then he told me the sad truth. That was when I was maybe 11.

Stewart: Oh, yeah. My dad was always the type of guy that said, "If you ask me a question, I'm going to tell you the truth." So, I was about ten years old, I walked into my parents' room and it was probably a month and a half before Christmas and I looked at my dad and I said, "Hey, so is the big guy real?" And he was like, "Do you want me to answer that?" And I said, "Yeah! What's up? Is he real? Does he have all these reindeer and stuff? 'Cause I stayed up plenty of nights and I ain't never seen him." And he said, "Yeah, buddy. No. He's not real." So I was crushed for like a month.

Ventola: What do you mean real deal about Santa Claus? Is everything okay? I hope he'll still make it to my place on Christmas Eve night. I'm hopeful for a few gifts this year.


Previous editions of this survey include answers from Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, Dylan Cozens, Adam Haseley, Scott Kingery and loads of others.  

 Those editions of this holiday survey can be viewed at the following links- 2017 survey, 2016 survey, 2015 survey, 2014 survey, 2013 edition, 2012 edition, 2011 edition and 2010 edition.