Sunday, September 10, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading 1b/3b Zach Green

Zach Green, image- Jay Floyd
Corner infielder Zach Green got a late start to his season this year after dealing with hip and elbow issues. Despite a late start and not posting the most ideal statistical production (.227 avg. at three levels), the 23-year-old feels his season was a success.

He did lace 10 doubles and a triple while slamming nine homers and driving in 26 runs over his 57-game season, which isn't too shabby.

Green, who was the Phillies' 3rd round draft choice in 2013, has long been viewed as a prospect that possesses plenty of power potential.  He has missed part of each of the past two seasons with injuries and simply may need luck on the health front in order to put together a bust-out season.  He is expected to play this autumn in the prominent Arizona Fall League.

I spoke with the talented righty batter prior to the end of the minor league regular season about reaching the Double-A Eastern League, rivalries with other clubs and plenty more.  Read ahead for those exclusive comments from Zach.


-Thoughts on your 2017?

It's nice to be up here with all the guys I was with last year to end the year.  So, weird year, but I'm definitely look forward to next year.

-Is it a relief, after dealing with injuries and somewhat of a lengthy tenure in Clearwater, to make it up to Reading?

The injuries, there's nothing you can do about them.  There's nothing to do with preparation or anything.  It's just bad luck.  Yeah, to finally be here and to know that I'm one step closer to the goal, it's great.
 
-Does it make the season a success even though the stats and the game played aren't necessarily where you would want them to be?
 
I'm definitely glad that I got to get a feel for how things are for next year. It was nice to be up here. It was definitely different.  I've been playing in Florida for the last few years.  New feel, entirely different feel, so it's good to get that experience going into next year.


-When facing a lot of the same opposition in these leagues as you move up from the lower levels, is there a bigger advantage for the hitters or the pitchers?

I would say, from a hitter's perspective, there are more advantages, just because everybody's ball comes off more.  Every pitcher's unique in their own way, so anytime you can get more AB's against a pitcher that you're familiar with, it's going to definitely help your timing a lot.

-Have you enjoyed the time playing in front of the Reading crowd, as they're fans that have grown up in the region and always been Phillies fans?

Yeah, 100-percent.  I think the Phillies have a big fan base on the east coast anyway, which is really cool to be playing out here with that.  And then, I mean with Lakewood, Reading and Lehigh Valley all within the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, you know, that fans are awesome.  The fans are true fans, I like to call them.  They understand the game, so it's really cool.

-Do you keep any souvenirs from your playing career as you've moved up the ranks?

Off the top of my head, last year I won a hitter of the month award for the (Florida) State League, so that's at home.  I think Louisville actually sent me an All-Star Game bat, last year which was cool.  Anytime I get something I try to hold onto it.  I think my parents definitely enjoy it more than I do.  But I try to hold onto stuff for sure.  


-Do you notice any rivalries with other organizations throughout your time in the minors?

In Florida in spring training and instructs, you only play about four teams, so it just starts there.  And I would also say the Yankees always have a target on their back, from everybody, so that definitely helps and goes along with it.  You plays guys long enough, stuff starts happening, but at the same time you gain respect for them just as much.  You play a team enough and there's definitely going to be some extra competitiveness when you play them.  

-I talked with Damek Tomscha and he used the word hatred toward the Pirates system.  Do you notice that level of rivalry with those guys?

Yeah, kind of the same thing going on, you start playing in the GCL and in Clearwater and we play them just as much as the Yankees going up in the system.  I am pretty sure they're in every league.  So then on top of that, we're both National League, so I would say there's probably a little more there than with the Yankees.  At the end of the day, you're always trying to beat the crap out of the guy across the field. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Adam Haseley Interview Excerpts

Adam Haseley, image- Jay Floyd
I recently chatted with Phillies first round draft pick Adam Haseley about his successful first pro campaign that wrapped up this week with the Lakewood BlueClaws.  That session resulted in a feature (link here) about Adam collecting souvenirs through his playing career for his father.

Many more topics were touched on during our talk, including his promotion to Class A Lakewood, playing along side another top Phillies draft pick Mickey Moniak, which players Haseley looked up to as a youth and plenty more. 

Read ahead for all the spare quotes from the 21-year-old Virginia product.

-Did you find it tough to adjust here late in the season to a new team or to the higher level?

I think both of it is a little difficult at first.  Being on a new team and then being around new guys and then being at a whole new level.  But the guys were great at welcoming me in.  I knew a couple of them from Williamsport.  I think it's just a combination of both.  The first couple of days are the hardest trying to fit it and then going to play in a game too.  


-When the Phils drafted you, did they come as a surprise or were they on your radar as a possible destination?

It wasn't a surprise.  They were one of the teams I had met with in person in the spring.  The night, going into it, you don't really know who it's going to be for anyone, so it's a little bit of a surprise from that standpoint, but I knew they were one of the teams that were interested.

-After joining the BlueClaws for the last couple weeks of the season, you were playing beside last year's first round draft pick Mickey Moniak.  That seemed to excite a lot of people.  Was it just as exciting for you and Mickey?

It's been cool.  I remember watching him on TV a couple years ago on draft night, obviously, I just was always dreaming that maybe that could be my name coming up on that first night, so it was cool when I figured out that I was coming here and I knew that I would be with him and get a chance to play along side of him.

-What were you impressions of the Phillies prior to being employed by them?

From Florida it's not like I was a die hard fan of anyone from the north, but I do remember those years in '08 through '10 with their runs in the postseason.  I just remember watching them and the guys on the team, (Chase) Utley and those guys, um, just kind of being in (awe) of the fan base that they have in Philly.  It's kind of funny that some of the guys from Virginia are from Philadelphia too, so it's kind of fun to hear their stories and they're die hard fans too.
 
-Are there players that stand out in your memory as players you looked up to or wanted to emulate while you were growing up?

I remember watching guys in high school that were older than me.  When I was a freshman, I remember watching a guy name Jesse Winker who I think just got called up this year with the Reds.  I think from a young age I had memories of seeing guys that were a lot older than me get drafted and just starting this process.  Yeah, just the older guys and I was always a fan of Jacoby Elsbury.  He was from the west coast and everything, but I enjoyed watching him when he was with the Red Sox and I was a young kid in high school and I was trying to be like him and act like him.
 
-Do you see parts of his game in your game?

I like to say that I do (see some of his game in mine).  We're kinda the guys that have more speed than anything, that can play the outfield and just gotta impact from that side of the game than anything else.

-You spoke about looking up to other players.  Now that you're a guy that kids may look up to, what advice might you share with young players hoping to reach this level?

Honestly, it kind of sounds cliche, but just working hard and you have to decide for yourself what you want your future to be and if you give everything you have for one thing, then you're going to wind up in a good position as time goes along so, that's the thing I was working on at college; it was just working as hard as I can and then hoping that junior year would come and that I would have a good year and then I would have a chance to be drafted.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Haseley has high hopes for future after successful initial campaign

Adam Haseley, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- In Florida, Rich Haseley has a growing collection of baseballs.  Kept in a basket in a room at his home, each of the balls are scribbled with notes and dates.  Every one is a souvenir of a special moment achieved on the field by his son Adam.

The younger Haseley was the Phillies' top draft selection this year, taken with the 8th overall pick out of Virginia.

As Adam has progressed through his baseball career, even dating back to high school, the outfielder has regularly kept baseballs and given them almost as payment to his father for making sure he could compete in all the leagues that helped him to develop as a player.

Not to be forgotten, though, Adam also stresses that his mother, Mary-Kay, also helped with the taxiing and making sure he got to step between the lines in all of the beneficial leagues throughout his younger playing days.

Not only has Rich been supportive of Adam in terms of rides, travel costs, dues and the like, but he's also somewhat of a coach from afar.

"He's more of a guy that will just listen to me," Adam said of his father.  "Whether I just shoot him a text after the game or if I have a good game or a bad game and need to vent, he's just quick to listen for me and then he'll give me a bigger perspective when things aren't going too well."

Staying grounded, the younger Haseley had a solid campaign in half a season in the minors since he signed his first professional contract.  Splitting time at three levels in 58 games, the 21-year-old posted a .284 batting average with 13 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 28 RBI overall.

Also having played 58 games of collegiate ball this year, the left-handed batter led the Atlantic Coast Conference in batting average with a .390 mark while lacing 16 doubles, a triple and 14 home runs while adding 10 stolen bases to the mix.

Additionally, in college, Haseley was a strong hurler (7-1 record, a 3.58 ERA and a 10.1 K/9 mark in 11 starts this year as a junior), but his professional placement in outfield, seems permanent. 

With Class A Lakewood failing to clinch a postseason berth, Haseley expressed disappointment that the season is over already, as he felt ready for more baseball, with his comfort level on the team and in a new league, after joining the BlueClaws' lineup on August 15th, peaking of late.

Haseley was not let down, though, with his efforts after turning pro, expressing satisfaction with being able to give minor league baseball his all.

"I think effort wise I've given pretty much everything.  Every night I feel like I've given a good effort," Haseley shared.  "You know sometimes with so few of games I think results can kind of go either way, but I just try not to worry about that.  I just focus on about how much attention I can give and how much effort I can give every night."

Despite the South Atlantic League's regular season schedule wrapping up, there's still a bit more baseball in store for this year's draft class.  In order for an array of Phillies instructors, front office staff and developmental coaches to get a look at many of the players they may not have seen during the season, players will report to the fall instructional league in Clearwater.

A true student of the game, Haseley is ready to gain more exposure before he heads home to enjoy the off-season.

"Looking forward to learning from more coaches that have been in the big leagues compared to the experiences that have happened in college baseball, so it'll be interesting and exciting to listen to them and take their pointers and what they want to teach," Haseley said.

Prior to signing with the Phillies, Haseley's primary impressions of the organization were the playoff teams he saw on television from 2007 to 2011.  His goal, clearly, is to help the club make similar runs into the big league playoffs in the years to come.

Commemorative baseballs used in MLB postseason series would make some welcome additions for Rich's collection.  Let's hope his ball basket is big enough to hold all the mementos that Adam hopes to collect.


For more from Adam Haseley, click here for interview excerpts.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Reports: JP Crawford promoted to big leagues

JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
IronPigs beat reporter Tom Housenick was first to report, with others confirming, that top Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford is slated to join the Phillies for their road series against the Mets that gets underway on Monday night.

Crawford, 22, struggled in the early going this season, but sported a .287 average with nine home runs and 29 RBI in 51 games since the International League All-Star break.

Overall on the season, the Phils first round draft choice from 2013 posted a .243 average with 15 homers and 63 RBI in 127 games with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Crawford, an outstanding defensive shortstop, has added third base and second base to his defensive skill set in recent weeks, playing six games and five games at those positions respectively.  

With Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis yet to sit out a game this season, the Phillies may need to get creative in order to squeeze Crawford into their lineup.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading 1b/3b/LF Damek Tomscha

Damek Tomscha, image- Jay Floyd
It's been a very productive season for Phillies prospect Damek Tomscha (pronounced like DAME-eck TOM-shay), who has posted a .304 batting average with 11 homers and 52 RBI in 106 combined at two levels with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers and the Double-A Reading Fightins.

Tomscha, who was the Phillies' 17th round draft selection in 2014 out of Auburn, has split time on defense, playing third base, first base and taking on left field this year in order to stick in the daily lineup.

This weekend I spoke with Damek, a 26-year-old righty batter, about his successful campaign this year, how is compares to last year when he struggles in Clearwater, the depth of the Phils' developmental ranks, a surprising rivalry in minor leagues and plenty more. Read ahead for that full interview.


-You've had a solid season overall. Putting up good numbers at two levels and making it to Double-A for the last quarter or third of the season. What are your thoughts on your 2017?

Yeah, I mean I feel like I obviously was successful at the plate. I mean, I did what I think I had to do throughout the season to be consistent and put up the numbers I needed to put up and be a consistent guy for each team that I got to play with. So, I'm happy with how it's going and I'm looking forward to see what will happen next.

-In 2016 you started the year with Lakewood and took a step up to Clearwater, but didn't enjoy success there at that time. You ended up taking a step back to Lakewood last season. What was the difference for you this year to have success there and avoid hurdles that can come with promotions?

I think it's just how you approach the game. I was taking it one (at bat) by one (at bat) and each game by each game and not trying to look too forward with what you can't control, and that's where you play, and I feel like I did a good job with going out there and playing and trying to get a hit every time, doing whatever you can for the team and, you know, I think that was the main reason for the success this year.

-You added some positional versatility this year, playing outfield more and more. Does that come with some challenges or is that something you are prepared ready for?

I just think it's good-- playing three different positions puts more value to you. I mean, it's a little tough. You want to get your ground balls. I'm a guy that likes getting the ground balls at third base and feel comfortable. And it takes a little time. Going out to the outfield, obviously, it's a little different. Haven't played that-- I mean, I played a little bit last year, but before that Little League. (Laughs) I'm glad I was able to make myself more valuable as a player.

-I've talked to other guys that have made positional switches, and they'll credit the coaching staff, like Andy Abad, with taking strides to improve defensively. Was that the case for you, or was there someone else who helped a lot with the transition?

Honestly, they haven't really said a whole lot to me. Last year I played (out there) a little bit, but you know they were kind of like, "Hey, just go play." I mean, I feel like I'm a good enough athlete they can just stick me out there and not embarrass myself too much out there. I think they're comfortable with me being out there and I'm the same too. I'm comfortable playing left field.

-Cool. Have you noticed any similarities to the Florida State League and the Eastern League or is there a noticeable learning curve or adjustment period when you come up here?

Sometimes with just pitch sequencing or maybe getting ahead in counts and seeing more fastballs in the Florida State League. The main thing with me I started off kind of slow, just being anxious and with confidence of just, alright, "You're ready to play. Just go out there and do what you do. As long as you keep hitting, you'll have a spot." I feel like the biggest thing was just adjusting to some of the pitches.

-I have heard also that there's some adjusting to be done with the umpires when you move up levels. Do you find that to be true as well?

Yeah, I mean I feel like the zone's definitely a little bit smaller and I feel like that helps us. You know, you're still going to-- obviously, you have to cover a little bit more in the Florida State League and obviously in low-A. You know, to be able to not have to cover as much makes hitting a little bit easier. So, that's always kind of nice.

-There a lot of buzz about the prospects in the Phils organization with players moving up, a lot of names being exciting or buzz worthy. It's gotten tough of late to rank guys and acknowledge some guys along with that. What is it like to be in this system right now, a system where a pitcher like Jose Taveras can dominate every level and barely get recognized and a system where Mitch Walding mashes and shows a lot of power and doesn't get very much attention because there's so much depth and so many other names garnering hype?

It's obviously great for the Phillies. There's a lot of competition, so you've got to go out there and play as well as you can. I feel like it's fun. I mean, it's such a competitive business, but we have a great group of guys here and I know a lot of us follow what everyone else is doing in ths system and we root for each other, because we know if it's not (with) the Phillies we may have an opportunity with someone else. So, the friendships that you build here are great, so it's definitely fun to see guys have success, like (Scott) Kingery doing what he did. He roomed with me in Lakewood. You know, other guys like (Rhys) Hoskins too. So, I mean it's fun I think overall, as a system.

-So, there's no trouble-- with all the competition, there's no trouble getting excited for other guys' success, because they're still your friends.

Oh, yeah. None at all really. We all just like going out, having a good time, playing relaxed. When other guys get promoted, they're happy for each other and all you can control is how you play. So if you play well, maybe someone else will pick you up. You know, the Phillies might move you up too. You just have to be happy for the guys and keep doing what you need to do to get better.

-Let me wrap up with you and ask you about the guys on the other side of the field. Throughout the season I've asked some guys about a rivalry between the Phillies and Yankees in the minor leagues, with a lot of competition between the organizations at each level all the way down to short-season and rookie ball. Do you notice that there's a budding rivalry?

I mean, maybe a little bit, because down in (Florida), you play them in spring training, you play them in every league. Obviously, there's some. I wouldn't say it's a hatred rivalry like you get maybe with the Pirates. It's pretty well known throughout the system that we don't really like the Pirates.

-I didn't know!

Yeah, so I feel like that's more so than (a rivalry) with the Yankees. I think a lot of us have some pretty good friends over in the Yankees organization, so it's just fun to play them. They have a great organization too, so when you get two top organizations going at it, it should be good ballgames.

-I'm not asking you to dish dirt, but share with me more about this Pirates-Phillies rivalry. What can you tell me about this Keystone State rivalry in the minors?

I'm from the midwest, but I feel like that already should be known. I feel like, just that's what we've kind of been taught. We play hard and they play hard. When you have two teams that are playing the game the right way, then you're going to have some heated rivalries and that's what we have more of in the minors down here at least.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Reading Eagle survey: Kingery ranked as top Phillies prospect

Scott Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
Recently Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle conducted a survey of media members that cover and broadcast the Phillies minor league teams , designed to rank the top talents in the organization's developmental system.

The participating individuals were asked to rank their personal top 30, which were tabulated on a points system based on each ranking to determine the paper's published list of top prospects.

Participating individuals included Lehigh Valley beat reporter Tom Housenick, Tony Graham of the Lakewood BlueClaws, Mike Ventola of the Reading Fightins, Williamsport beat writer Mitch Rupert, Matt Winkleman of Crashburn Alley and several others including me. 

Second baseman Scott Kingery, who represented the Phillies in the MLB All-Star Futures Game this summer and has been raking all year in a split season between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, tallied the most overall points.  Ranked best overall by the group, the 23-year-old was the Phils' second round draft selection in 2015.

In 124 games thus far this season, Kingery has tallied a .305 batting average with 25 home runs, 64 RBI and 28 stolen bases. 

First baseman/outfielder Rhys Hoskins landed in the 2nd spot on the Reading Eagle's list.  The 24-year-old is off to an historic starts to his major league career since his promotion to the Phillies earlier this month.  In 18 games, Hoskins, who was the Phils' 5th round draft choice in 2014, sports a .297 average and has driven in 24 runs.  His pace in reaching 11 home runs in his big league career is the swiftest ever.

Shortstop J.P. Crawford, widely ranked as the Phillies' top prospect in recent years, since he was their 1st round pick in 2013, fell back to fourth with surging pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez coming in at third on the Reading Eagle's list.

The full top 30 is listed below.

2017 Phillies prospect list
(with position, current club)
1. Scott Kingery, 2B, Lehigh Valley 519
2. Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia 479
3. Sixto Sanchez, P, Clearwater 470
4. J.P. Crawford, SS, Lehigh Valley 441
5. Cornelius Randolph, OF, Clearwater 385
6. Adam Haseley, OF, Williamsport 384
7. Mickey Moniak, OF, Lakewood 379
8. Franklyn Kilome, P, Reading 371
9. Jorge Alfaro, C, Lehigh Valley 357
10. Adonis Medina, P, Lakewood 326
11. Jhailyn Ortiz, OF, Williamsport 301
12. Thomas Eshelman, P, Lehigh Valley 294
13. JoJoRomero, P, Lakewood 267
14. Carlos Tocci, OF, Lehigh Valley 244
15. Ranger Suarez, P, Lakewood 229
16. Roman Quinn, OF, Lehigh Valley 228
17. Drew Anderson, P, Lehigh Valley 218
18. Dylan Cozens, OF, Lehigh Valley 203
19. Jessen Therrien, P, Philadelphia 164
20. Seranthony Dominquez, P, Gulf Coast 146
21. Daniel Brito, 2B, Lakewood 144
22. Ben Lively, P, Philadelphia 137
23. Elniery Garcia, P, Reading 127
24. Cole Irvin, P, Reading 109
25. Ricardo Pinto, P, Philadelphia 108
26. Kevin Gowdy, P, (injured) 88
27. Spencer Howard, P, Williamsport 69
28. Andrew Pullin, OF, Lehigh Valley 61
29. Jonathan Guzman, SS, Gulf Coast 56
30. Yacksel Rios, P, Philadelphia 53
Players not considered based on service time in the big leagues included Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Mark Leiter Jr. and Nick Pivetta. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Threshers RHP Luke Leftwich

Leftwich in 2016 with Lakewood, image- Jay Floyd
Right-handed hurler Luke Leftwich has had a successful campaign in 2017 that has seen the youngster change roles from a starter to a reliever.  Following an April in which he posted a 5.84 ERA in seven appearances with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, the 23-year-old has tallied a 2.20 ERA in 33 games since then.  Additionally, Leftwich sports an overall 10.8 K/9 mark, has notched eight saves and leads Florida State League relievers in innings pitched with 73 2/3.

Last year as a starter with Class A Lakewood and Clearwater, Leftwich posted a 10-7 combined record with a 3.38 ERA in 23 games.

The six-foot-three 205-pounder was the Phillies' 7th round draft selection in 2015. 

I recently talked with Luke about his success this year, his switch to the bullpen, his approach in the new role, facing Tim Tebow and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-You've enjoyed success this year.  Share some thoughts with me, if you can, about your satisfaction with your season, going from starting to relief down there with the Threshers this year.

It started out a little unsatisfactory for me.  I have pretty high expectations for myself and to start out kind of slow like that it was a little frustrating, but I worked a lot with Aaron Fultz, our pitching coach, and focused on mentality and pitch calling and over the course of the year it started turning around.  And now, looking back through on the season, I'm pretty content with how the season went. 

-You talk about Fultzy there and I imagine advice from a guy that's had to go through a lot to reach the big leagues and then having success there can help you a lot.  Are there any lessons from his career that he's shared that have helped you?

Yeah, it's actually been wonderful working with him because he's a guy that had to spend a long time in the minor leagues to end up having a really long major league career and then everybody's goal is to pitch in the big leagues.  That's why we're here.  That's why we're doing this.  It's been good to hear his point of view on trying to stay level through the ups and downs of minor league baseball because the end result of being in the big leagues is worth the ride.  So, I've tried to just-- I've been trying to take in everything he's given me.

-I just wanted to ask you about the conversion, from starting to relief, because I'll talk to coaches, and they'll say sometimes when that switch is made, maybe a guy wasn't mastering a third and fourth pitch, so they want to see how he might get by with just the two key offerings.  What was the case for you?  How was the switch brought to you?

They let me know at the end of spring training that they were going to be switching me and they made a point to tell me that it wasn't because they thought I wasn't good enough to be a starter.  They just kind of thought the way I pitch played better as a reliever and they wanted to try that out and pretty much told me right at the beginning of the year, they said this might not be a permanent switch, we just want to see how you project as a reliever.  And after they watched me a bit, my velocity took a jump and my pitches and aggressiveness all developed well and they told me this is where they like me.  And I like relieving now and it's definitely been a fun change of pace and I think I've gotten better out of it.  

-What was the velocity jump for you?  Where were you before and where does the fastball reside right now?

Last year I kind of sat low 90's, anywhere 90, 93.  Touched a few 94's every now and then.  And this year, I've been mostly sitting 94, 95, 96.  And hitting 97 every now and then.

-How about the repertoire.  Any changes to the pitch repertoire with the role change?

No, I kind of kept it the same.  (I've changed) more when I'm throwing pitches, rather than what pitches I'm throwing because as a starter, you've got to mix a little bit more because you see people maybe three or four times through the order.  (As a reliever) you may only see them once.  So, you kind of just attack with your best and don't leave anything in the tank.

-What is the go-to pitch and what offerings do you have?

It is fastball, slider, curve ball, change up and I like to stick-- it depends on the day, between I always pitch with my fastball, that's the kind of pitcher I am, and then whatever secondary off-speed pitch is the best that day is kind of what I roll with and that's why I keep all three off-speed pitches because there's a pretty heavy chance that one, if not two, will be on that day.

-Looking at your stat line your strike out rate is outstanding and there's a nice strike out to walk ratio as well.  If I go to the team stat page and I rank guys by strike outs, you're among the team leaders, which is outstanding for a reliever.  And you've got a lot of innings thrown out of the bullpen.  What do you attribute all of that to?

For me, it's all about being aggressive.  It's about attacking hitters and trying to get them out of the box in three, four pitches and if you're not going to put the ball in play, then I'm going to strike you out, so, that's kind of my mentality out there on the mound.  As far as which pitches I throw (to do it), I'm big on reading swings and after the first two pitches of an at bat, I can usually tell which pitch to go to for the strike out after that and attack. 

-What other feedback have you gotten outside of the tips from Fultz or stuff about how they wanted to see you play out in the bullpen?

Nothing in particular.  It's all been positive from the coordinators and coaches.  Everybody keeps saying, "Keep doing what you're doing."   Just trying to keep up the positive streak right now.

-There's been a lot of turnover with the roster there this year and a guy added to the roster during the season is Aaron Brown, a guy that's going from playing the outfield to pitching.  Is he a student at all among the guys in the bullpen?

He pitched a lot in college and he had a really successful college career.  I wouldn't necessarily call him a student with us.  We were joking about it the other day about how he's slowly turning into a pitcher, as far as the goofiness and that kind of stuff that comes with sitting in the bullpen for nine innings.  He's been fun to have around and has been a good addition to our bullpen.  It's kind of fun to see him learning how to pitch again and learning how to be a bullpen arm and we've got a good group of guys here to help him out if he needs it.  So it's been good.

-I know you picked up your first win of the season last week when you guys knocked off St. Lucie.  You got to face a guy in that one that's still drawing a lot of attention.  What can you share about facing Tim Tebow?

Yeah, I came into the game with two outs and Tim Tebow up and it was one of those pretty cool moments because every American that follows football knows who he is and what kind of a person he is.  And now him being a minor league baseball player, it was kind of fun to step on the mound against him.  We had great crowds and it was kind of funny because I got him to hit a routine ground ball to shortstop and the crowd reacted like he just hit a walk-off in the World Series.  So, it's fun to have environments like that.

-Labor Day and the end of the season are coming fast.  Do you have plans in place for the off-season?

I'm gonna graduate from college in December, so that's kind of exciting for me.  

-That's cool.  

Yeah, but as far as baseball goes, I just want to kind of stick to what I've done the last couple years because I feel like I've taken positive jumps in each off-season, which is hit the weight room pretty hard, stick to our conditioning program and really spend a lot of time perfecting the art, which is pitching.

-Now that you mention it, I remember when we talked last off-season, you mentioned that you made the pledge to your mom to make sure you graduated, right? 

Yeah, she's an assistant principle at an elementary school and she's big on education, obviously.  And when my dad went through the same process when he was drafted he never went back and finished school.  So, I told her, and more-or-less she told me that, you're finishing school no matter what.  And, so, this December I will have a degree and I'm pretty excited about that. It's been a long time coming.

-That is exciting!  Congratulations in advance on the degree and congratulations on the season as well.

Thank you very much!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

PhouBallz Interview: Joe Jordan talks Taveras, Hall, Irvin, Moniak, Haseley, Brown, more

Throughout each season, I get opportunities to chat with Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan.  The boss of the Phils' minors is always open and offers solid insight on his players. 

This time around I asked Joe to talk about loads of prospects including bust out pitching performers like Jose Taveras, Nick Fanti and Cole Irvin.  He also shared thoughts out the team's past three first round draft picks Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph, a trio of outfielders.  Aaron Brown's conversion from outfielder to pitcher was discussed, as was Lakewood offensive stud Darick Hall.  Additionally, he spoke on the organization's acquisitions from the trade deadline, a pair of top performers for the Gulf Coast League team and plenty more. 

Read ahead of the interview.

Taveras w/ Lakewood in 2016, image- Jay Floyd
-Jose Taveras has had an excellent season and has been a lot of fun to watch.  Can you share some thoughts on him?

I think he's had a great summer.  The beauty of Jose is it doesn't matter what ballpark he's in, what league, what venue.  It doesn't matter.  He's gonna go do what he does.  Every now and again, you come across guys that they just have to prove it a little bit more than some other guys and I think he's been tremendous.  He's gonna pitch in the big leagues and I just-- a lot of guys get talked about way in front of Jose, but I think that he's been a huge plus for us this year and he's had a huge summer.

-Another guy that may not get as much attention, but also has drawn some at times because of the no-hitters in Nick Fanti.  What have you seen from him this year?

Yeah, I mean, I think Nick has-- he's obviously forced his way into the conversation as far as recognition and notice as far as what he has done.  But, I think in our industry left-handers have different rules than other guys.  He's not a guy that throws 95 miles an hour.  He's not a guy that a lineup worries about as far as getting beat with big stuff.  But what he can do is use a combination of three or four pitches.  And he's a guy that has a chance to pitch in a major league rotation one of these days.  This year, for the first time he got out of the complex (in Clearwater), got out of short-season ball and had a chance to go pitch and I think his body of work speaks for itself.

-Cole Irvin has had a fun-to-watch and rapid rise in the organization, reaching the Double-A level just a year out of the draft.  I got to talk with him last month.  He seems like a really positive guy.  Can you comment on him?

Well, from the left side-- I don't want to compare him to Taveras, but what I can say is that his approach to pitching is like Jose's.  He knows what he can do.  He studies the lineup he's facing and he's got a game plan every time his number comes up, every five days.  He can go up to 94 miles an hour on both sides of the plate and he has a great feel for his change up.  He's got a curve ball and a slider.  And he's left-handed and he knows what he's doing.  So, this guy, barring injury, is gonna pitch in the big leagues for a long time.  He's smart.  He knows who he is and he's got a lot ability.  I think he was a terrific pick by our scouting staff last year.  (Laughs)  It's hard to believe it was just last year!  But, he's a joy for me to talk to.  I get to sit next to our guys (while they're) charting and scouting in the stands a lot and he pays attention.  His time is coming, but he's a major league pitcher and that's what we're trying to build.  

Rios, image- Jay Floyd
-Another pitcher- just to go back to guys that may not get a lot of attention- Yacksel Rios has made a lot of progress in the last year or so.  Can you share some thoughts on Yacksel?

I think Yacksel is-- you know, if you look at it, you can kind of group him with Jesen Therrien.  Both guys have been in our system for a while, have shown major league stuff for many years.  I think consistency has been the key in 2017 for Yacksel.  He spent his time in winter ball trying to refine and gain consistency with his slider.  He's-- for the last two or three years, he's had the same type of fastball and confidence in his fastball.  It's the second pitch that has been the big key for him.  Obviously, Jesen's in the big leagues and Yacksel is doing everything he can to force his name into the conversation of the next group to come.  I give credit to our staff.  It's taken a while, but the kid's hung in there and he's really, really looking the part of a major league pitcher.

-How about the transition of a guy that's gone and converted from outfielder to pitching in Aaron Brown?  What went into making that decision to move on from hitting and give pitching a full go?

Well, I think that if you look back on his draft year, our scouts were basically split down the middle on how we should send him out.  I thought it made sense to send the guy out as a position player.  I agreed with those in the room that thought that.  And, you know, when I approached Aaron earlier this year about converting, he was really 100-percent on board and anxious to get started.  You know, if you read last night's game report from Clearwater, he had two major league pitches and his ability to use them is improving and I don''t know-- I'm really excited.  We're expecting him to pitch this winter in winter ball, just to gain more experience.  He needs some time on the dirt, mound time.  But, you know, honestly, it's very exciting what can happen here.

-I wanted to ask you about the pair of outfielders now with Lakewood, following the promotion of Adam Haseley.  He's this year's first round pick, joining last year's first round pick Mickey Moniak.

Moniak, image- Jay Floyd
I've had this conversation multiple time and I will speak first on Mickey.  Moniak was a high school player in last year's draft.  He's our first pick, the first overall pick taken and I, personally, have seen everything I've needed to see this summer from a young player that has a chance to be really, really good in the big leagues when it's his time.  He's physically got work to do.  He knows that.  It's a long season and he showed up early in spring training and he's been at this about six and a half months and you can't tell them what they're about to get into.  They've got to go and experience it.  And it's been a long summer, but I think he's shown our staff everything he needs to show us, it's just a matter of staying strong and being able to do it over the course of a six, seven month season.  So, for me it's all good there.

On Adam, he was taken a couple months ago and I was in the room listening to our guys describing the player and what he has a chance to do and what his strengths were and I've seen all that.  I've seen it.  I've seen everything that they described.  And this will be the first winter that he's got a chance to go be a position player in 2018 and so I'm anxious to see what he does and what he looks like in spring training.  

But, both guys have a lot of strengths.  They have a lot of things they can do and they're on the same club now.  We're gonna alternate them in center field.  We're going to expose them to the corner, use the DH spot.  They're going to finish the season there on the same club and, so you know, I think it's good that they're together.  I think it's good that Adam is with that club now.  And, for me, they're both going to be right in the middle of what we're doing when this organization is putting a major league team on the field that has a chance to compete for a world championship. 

-With the Gulf Coast League team, many people don't get to see that club, so exposure to those guys can be limited to just what you see in box scores.  Is there anybody on that team you feel is rave worthy that you've seen this year?

I can speak to the drafted guys-- well, it's hard for me to do.  I'm not looking at the roster, so I don't want to leave guys out.  Who do you want to talk about?

-Well, just when you look at stats, I see the good average and a lot of multi-hit games coming from Ben Pelletier.

Yeah, I mean, high school kid out of Canada.  I think historically, those guys are a year, year-and-a-half behind the high school seniors in the states.  Ben's had a great summer.  He's gotten stronger. He's seen good stuff day in and day out.  I think we can stack his numbers up against anyone there.  It's a good start to his career.  He's had a good summer.

-I know stat wise another guy that might stand out is Manuel Silva, who is undefeated at 5-0 for that pitching staff.  Thoughts on him?

You wish you could add three or four of these guys to your system every year.  Our Latin staff has proven that they can identify young player that have ability that just need to get in the system and progress.  It's left-handed, 94 with a breaking ball and a change up.  He just needs experience.  It would not surprise me two, three years from now if you start talking about our system that this guy's in the top six, seven guys that we're talking about.  He's got that kind of ability.

-I also wanted to just touch on the new additions from recent trades.  Mills, Hammer and others come in.  Have you gotten to see all of those guys? Is there any body you haven't seen that you're still trying to catch up to?

I think if you just start with (Alejandro) Requena and (McKenzie) Mills, both guys have had terrific summers.  I've seen them both.  They're both-- starting with Requena, for me, this is a kid that can pitch.  He's got now stuff.  He's the complementary pitches to go along with his fastball.  He's had a lot of innings this year and he's not going to pitch any more this summer.  But, I'm really, really excited to see this guy in spring training.  

I saw Mills this summer against our Lakewood club and we were really happy to trade for him because we had no answer for him.  But, it's left-handed, it's big, it's physical.  He's got a feel for kind of a four-pitch mix.  I think both guys are tremendous additions.  Great job by our scouts and, you know, I think Jose Gomez is a kid that can swing the bat.  All of these guys, for me-- we're going to bring them to instructional league.  We still have a lot of the process of getting to know them to do.  And what they need from us.  But again, I think our scouts did a great job in these trades, getting guys with ability that really have above average change to be major league contributors.  

Randolph w/ Lakewood in 2016, image- Jay Floyd
-In the Threshers outfield Jose Pujols is a guy that showed a lot of power last year in Lakewood and it hasn't translated up a level, average has been a concern as well.  And then Cornelius Randolph is there.  He's taken some strides this year to improve.  Any thoughts on those guys?

Cornelius, for me, has gotten better month to month all summer.  We knew going in that the Florida State League was going to be a challenge for him.  And I think that the progression, from month to month, he's done what he needs to do.  I really like the summer he's had.  Jose he's had a bad year.  I don't think I can sit here and dress it up any way other than that.  He's had a tough year, from an approach stand point and a consistency stand point, it's been a tough year.  So, we're looking to get through the year and we've got plans for him this winter.  We've got a place for him to play.  He hasn't forgotten how to hit.  He hasn't forgotten how to drive the ball.  He's just had a bad year, so we're going to use the winter to re-set him and get him back on track in 2018.

-I mentioned Jose having a good season power wise with Lakewood last year.  A guy there now that's doing it and is about to break Jose's single season home run record for that team is Darick Hall, a 14th round pick last year.  He's hitting for a lot of power there.  Is he as exciting to the team as he is for the fans?

Absolutely.  I mean, it gets back to our scouts.  You look at where he was taken in the draft, and he's got a chance to hit his way to the big leagues.  I think the thing that I'm excited about when you look at him is that he's an RBI guy and you take three weeks away in the first half where he was not with that club (due to injury), you know that club finished three one-hundredth of percentage points out of a playoff spot and it was basically due to he wasn't there.  He's been a stabilizer.  He's been consistent.  It's a very, very young roster and it has been all year.  And this guy has-- he's gonna be in a lot of conversations at this point in time next summer.  I think he's done a hell of a job and he's got a chance to win the MVP in the Sally League and we'll see where it goes from there.

-I know there have been lots of guys promoted throughout the year and that's just going to continue.  Players generally will get that news of a promotion from their manager.  Is there any part of you that misses out on getting to give guys the rewarding news of a promotion?

No, not at all and I'll tell you why.  I did not understand the importance and impact that the manager has on all of our clubs until I began this job.  I didn't get it.  I just didn't know.  And I think that the-- other than the players-- the most important figure at every level is the manager.  They set the tone.  They deal with the good.  They deal with the bad.  They have to release guys, the least I can do is let them take care of when we get to tell a player good news.  So, I really-- I've got a good relationship with our players.  I work really hard to get to know the players along with our staff.  And I always try to follow up with the players once they're promoted, but that's the managers' job and they've earned the right to do it. 

Joe also shared updates on several injured Phillies prospects, namely Roman Quinn, Alberto Tirado, Mitch Walding, Grant Dyer and Kevin Gowdy.  Click this link for all of those details. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Quinn nearing return to full baseball activities and other injury updates

Roman Quinn, image- Jay Floyd
Phillies fans that have gotten recent doses of well-regarded prospects Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro may be wondering which other stars of the future could be making their way toward the big leagues when rosters expand in September.  A player that stands a chance at getting the call for the second year in a row is outfielder Roman Quinn.

The 24-year-old has been on the shelf since late May dealing with a strain of his UCL in his non-throwing elbow.  However after a lengthy rehab period, Quinn is nearing readiness for full baseball activities in the coming days according to Phils director of player development Joe Jordan.

The minor league schedule wraps up on Labor Day, so he won't be back with Lehigh Valley this year.

"Quinny is feeling good," Jordan said.  "He's getting close to getting really amped up with his baseball activities.  I'm gonna guess that if we were pushing him to action, we could probably get him ready in two weeks."

Though, not likely, Jordan stated that there is a chance of Quinn spending time in the big leagues during final month of the season. 

The more likely option is that Quinn will return to the Dominican Winter League to see action.

"He's been in the league before and he wants to go play," Jordan said.  "He understands, obviously, the fact that he needs to play and get ready for next year, so Quinny's doing fine.  He really is."

With Licey in 2015, Quinn tallied a .212 average with a pair of home runs, seven RBI and eight stolen bases in 25 games played in the DR.

In 15 games with the Phillies last September, the switch-hitting Quinn sported a .263 batting average with five doubles, six RBI and five stolen bases.

This year with the Triple-A IronPigs, Quinn, who was the Phillies' 2nd round draft selection in 2011, posted a .274 average with two homers, 13 RBI and 10 steals.

Quinn has developed a reputation as an injury prone prospect, missing time with various injuries including a broken wrist, a ruptured Achilles tendon, an oblique strain and a muscle tear in his hip region.  It's been virtually something new for Quinn to rehab each season.

"It's unfortunate we're in the situation we've been in-- he's been in multiple times," Jordan stated.

Jordan also spoke on other injured players including 19-year-old righty pitcher Kevin Gowdy.  The Phillies' 2nd round pick in 2016 posted a 0-1 record with a 4.00 ERA while striking out nine and walking two in nine innings of work over four appearances last year with the Gulf Coast League (rookie level) Phillies.  He has missed this entire season and recently underwent Tommy John surgery.

"His outlook is he's going to miss most of, if not all of, 2018.  I think, Jay, it's been reported that he's undergoing elbow reconstruction.  So, that's where we're at.  We've been through it many times with a lot of the guys and, so..." Jordan stated.

Alberto Tirado, image- Jay Floyd
Double-A reliever Alberto Tirado, sidelined since August 4th was also a topic of discussion.

"Alberto had a little bit of kind of inflammation, shoulder discomfort.  It's nothing serious.  But he's at the complex now in Clearwater.  He may, he may not pitch the rest of the year," Jordan said. 

Double-A All-Star third baseman Mitch Walding, injured on a collision with teammate Chace Numata while each tracked a pop up in the infield on July 25th, was also spoken of.

"I think, optimistically, I mean he had obviously he's past any concussion type symptoms, but he had some fractures in his face, so we're hopeful at the end of the month he's going to be able to play, but we'll see.  It's still a little of a wait and see." Jordan said.

Lastly, Jordan offered some good news on the return of 22-year-old righty pitcher Grant Dyer, who helped the Class A BlueClaws reach the postseason last year after the Phillies made him an 8th round draft choice.  Dyer missed this entire season following Tommy John surgery.

"Grant obviously underwent UCL reconstruction.  He's had a great rehab.  He's probably going to throw some for us in instructional league and we'll see how it goes from there.  We're going to get a chance to see him throw in instructional league," Jordan shared.


For more exclusive quotes from Joe Jordan talking Phils prospects, click this link.

Monday, August 14, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood OF David Martinelli

David Martinelli, image- Jay Floyd
As a member of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws this season, David Martinelli has had a steady presence in the club's lineup.  He's helped the team compete all season long as the 'Claws remain hopeful of having an outstanding final month and locking down a postseason berth.

Martinelli, the Phillies' 6th round draft selection last season out of Dallas Baptist, has posted a .207 average with six home runs and 26 RBI in 87 games played.

I recently spoke with the lefty batting Texas native about his season, teammates Mickey Moniak and Daniel Brito, his draft experience last year and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-I'm hoping to get your thoughts on your 2017 with the BlueClaws.

Yeah, we're a different team now than we were at the start of the season.  There's a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces.  We have a shot here, we have 30-some games left.  We have a shot to win some games, make the playoffs and this is going to be a tough month.  Everybody-- you have to, mentally, just grind through it.  But, I started off, myself, I started off slow and then I picked it up there in the middle and have kind of been struggling here lately, but definitely gonna try to finish the season strong.  It's a mental thing, you just have to grind through everything.

-It's great that you're talking about the team, but how about your individual efforts?  Is there satisfaction with your production?

I mean, it definitely could be better.  I think everyone thinks they could be doing better.  So, for myself, I just want to drive the ball more consistently and just do everything I can to help the team win.

-You talk about the "drive-the-ball" focus, is that feedback you've gotten on where to improve from the coaches?

I mean, yeah, sort of.  Just in general I'm trying to hit the ball harder.  If you hit the ball hard I think good things are going to happen.  Just trying to stick with that right now and keep it simple.

-The Lakewood outfield has gotten a little bit of attention as a group.  It started when Cord Sandberg was here with some post game celebrations on the field after wins, doing a bit of football choreography.  You guys have still stuck with some celebrations since he's left, but maybe it has been toned down since Cord was promoted?

Well, Cord was kind of the ring leader, I'm gonna be honest.  We see all these big leaguers doing things after they win and Cord was a good football player in high school, so we thought we might run some plays, like you know after we win and stuff.  And since he's left, it's been kind of a bummer, because we had some tricks up our sleeves we didn't get to put out.  You know, we can't do any football without him.  It's definitely gotten more tame just, I mean, we were trying to hold off till we were back, doing a bit better as a team.  We don't want to put too much attention on individuals.  We want to keep it more as a team.

-I just saw Daniel Brito go by.  He's credited by players and coaches alike as having a positive impact on the club.  He's a big smiles guy.  A big positivity guy on the team.  Do you see that coming from him?

Yeah, absolutely.  He's a fun guy, man.  He's full of energy.  He's a great young talent.  It's kind of fun to be hit teammate and just see what he does.

-Speaking of teammates, a guy that's out there with you in the outfield is (last year's top overall draft pick) Mickey Moniak.  He gets a lot of attention.  Is it fun to be part of the outfield with him?

Yeah, absolutely.  He's a great guy, man.  There's a lot of hype behind that kid and there's a lot of attention given to him and I feel like sometimes it's not always positive.  Just, you know, there's always people that are going to try to bring you down. He's a tremendous baseball player and he's super young.  And there's so much talent.  It's fun to watch him.  Just to be in the outfield with him and get to know him.  I think he's going to shock the world one day.

-You're a southern guy, right?

Yes, sir.

-So I don't imagine that you spent much time in New Jersey before coming here to play, right?

No.  I've never been here before.

-What were your impressions of New Jersey before coming here to play?

 Well, I just thought everybody would be really tan and have a bunch of accents.  From watching the TV shows and all that stuff.  It's good.  It's difficult driving around here with no left turns, I'm going to be honest with you.  That's kind of tough.  There's a bunch of nice people.  I never thought that anybody would be rude or mean, by any means.  But, my host family, they're amazing.  Billy Quinn and Kristy Quinn, they're awesome people.  She's from around here and we kind of joke with her about that stuff every now and again.  But, yeah, the people up here are great.

-How about the coaches?  Have they been really helpful for you and your progress?

Yeah.  Any coaching staff-- you need a good coaching staff.  No matter where you go, it's weird calling them coaches.  You get to know them more on a personal level and they're great guys and they want us to succeed and they want the team to succeed.  The Phillies do well in putting our entire staff with our trainers and guys and everybody together.  The Phillies did a good job.

-Your pal Austin Listi is (nearby playfully looking in on our chat) and he's from this year's draft class.  What do you remember from your draft experience last year?

Yeah, well I was-- it was kind of funny.  I was going to the bathroom upstairs at my house when my name was called.  I hear everybody downstairs going crazy and I thought, "Wow!  I just missed it.  I just missed my name being called."  So, that was funny.  And I came back downstairs and everyone was cheering.  

Not a whole lot of people get to experience (being drafted).  It's definitely something that you've dreamed about so when it happens you're kind of in shock a little bit.  And then you're on that flight and leaving your family to guy play with guys you've never met from all over the country, it gets real, real fast.  

-Had the Phillies been in touch with you, or were they a surprise to take you in the draft?

No, not at all.  I mean, we had a lot of people contacting myself and my agent.  I had a pretty good relationship with Paul Scott, the guy who was my area scout at the time and I had a good feeling about it too.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Austin Listi Interview Excerpts

Austin Listi, image- Jay Floyd
First baseman Austin Listi is enjoying success after he was selected by the Phillies in the 17th round of this year's draft.

Through 32 professional games at two levels, the righty batter has posted a .274 average with five home runs and 21 RBI.

At this rate, it may not be too long before Listi has sports fans everywhere using NetBet, hoping to make his talents work in their favor.

The 23-year-old Dallas Baptist product was the subject of a recent feature I wrote following a chat at Lakewood's FirstEngery Park.  The interview excerpts ahead include Listi's thoughts on earning a promotion, playing in the minors with a pair of college teammates and plenty more.


-With the promotion from Williamsport to Lakewood, what was the jump to the Sally League like for you? 

Obviously, I'm humbled and honored to be here.  I met the team on the road, we were in North Carolina, so what made it an easier transition for me is I have a couple former college teammates here with me.  Darick Hall, David Martinelli.  So with those guy here, just giving me advice on how things work at this level or with this organization, or with this team, this organization as well.  'Cause when I got drafted they were there to lay it out for me with what's going to be going down.  And all the other guys on the team have been great and have welcomed me with nothing but hospitality and a smile.  It's been great.  It's been fun and I'm just happy to be here.
-Can you share more about your relationship with those two guys that were your college teammates?

I played with David Martinelli for three years at Dallas Baptist.  I was a sophomore when he was a freshman there.  And then Darick Hall came there when I return to DBU, I left for a year to go do some stuff.  When I was drafted by the Phillies, 'cause they call me and texted me right away.  They found out and they welcomed me to the extended family now.  They were like, "Welcome to the family again!"
-Coming out of college ball this year, has the transition to the minor leagues been as you expected?

Well, coming from DBU, we have a lot of guys that get drafted, so we'd have guys that come back in the off-season and tell us how it was for them, or tell us what they needed to work on or tell us about what they saw or what their biggest adjustment was, so I took all their advice and kind of put it into myself.  I had to use that to help me to see what I thought and to see if I was kind of like them.
At this level especially, the pitching has been really good, I think.  They're spotting up with different pitches in different locations in different counts.  And they move up, down and it's pretty tough to hit.  You know, I would say it's a pretty big transition from college, where a team might have one guy that can do that.  Or two, a starter and a closer or something.  But here, it's been starter, bullpen, closer, it doesn't matter.  It's been good baseball.

-Now that you're in the pro's, are you keeping souvenirs with all the firsts and landmark moments?

I was pretty lucky.  I didn't get my first hit ball, but I got my first home run ball in Williamsport.  Somebody went and got it and brought it to me.  And then I got my two home runs, I got both balls over in North Carolina, their fans went and got them and gave them to me.  That was really nice, especially for the away team.  Baseball fans, they love the game no matter who it is.  Just, I was really thankful, because- my family, they want it more than I do.  I'm not really sentimental type.  I just give it to my family.

-Coming from Texas, what were your impressions on New Jersey before playing here with the BlueClaws?

Honestly, Jersey Shore.  The shore, the beach, the piers and then the show.  Me and Martinelli are Italian, so we'd joke about it, being Guidos and stuff but...I've never even been to this side of the country other than North and South Carolina till now.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Familiar faces make pro transition easy for Lakewood's Listi

Austin Listi, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- Before June, Austin Listi had never been to the northeast portion of the United States.  Two months later, the Phillies minor leaguer has made the Philadelphia region his home away from home.

A 17th round pick in this year's MLB amateur draft, Listi was lucky enough to join an organization that employed some familiar faces.

A pair of Listi's college teammates made the thought of his first trip to unfamiliar territory a bit more pleasant.  Listi, a first baseman, played at Dallas Baptist with outfielder David Martinelli for three seasons and first baseman/designated hitter Darick Hall for a season as well.

"When I was drafted by the Phillies, they called me and texted me right away," Listi said of the excitement that Martinelli and Hall had when the Phillies drafted him.  "They found out and they welcomed me to the extended family now.  They were like, 'Welcome to the family again!'"

If having friends in the organization wasn't enough to make Listi feel like he was in the right place, perhaps a former big leaguer that he once looked up to could assist with solidifying those feelings.

After signing his first professional contract, Listi reported to Clearwater, taking part in a mini camp, prior to being assigned to a team's rostern.  There, he recognized a face from some of  his earliest of childhood baseball memories.  That of current Phillies minor league infield coordinator Chris Truby.

Long before he signed with the Phils, around the age of six or seven, Listi was in attendance at a Houston Astros game with a lifelong friend and the friend's father.  The eldest of the trio, hoping to acquire a memorable souvenir for the pair of youngsters, hollered toward Truby, who was a player for the Astros at the time, expressing that Listi and his friend were two of Truby's biggest fans.

Truby, a .241 hitter during his Astros days, rewarded his devoted followers with a couple of autographed balls and some conversation.

"I didn't even know that he was part of the Phillies organization as a coordinator, so when I met him down there I told him the story and he loved it," Listi said.

Soon, Listi, who is listed at six-feet-tall and 218 pounds, was assigned to the short-season A level Crosscutters team in Williamsport, PA.  In 22 games there, he posted a .293 batting average with three home runs, 17 RBI and three steals. 

Hall, Listi and Martinelli, image- Jay Floyd
Last week, the Phils promoted the Huffman, TX native to full-season Class A Lakewood.  In his second game for the BlueClaws, the 23-year-old notched four hits, blasting a pair of solo homers in an 11-2 romp of Greensboro on the road.

Through his first nine games with Lakewood, Listi sports a .237 average.  Collecting a handful of "0-fers" during his first week on the Jersey shore area club isn't discouraging, thought, for the righty batter, as he chats about his efforts with positivity and a smile even after an unsuccessful outing.

Listi looks forward to the tough road ahead and will always welcome the ups and downs that come with the pro game.  The Phillies' mid season futures weren't so hot this year. A 90/1 shot at the World Series could be discouraging.

"I'm all about a challenge," Listi explained.  "It's just how my life has been.  I like to challenge myself.  I like difficult things to see what I'm made of and push myself."

With a mindset like that, it may not be long before Listi is making an impact at the top level of the sport.