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.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood hitting coach Nelson Prada

Nelson Prada, image- Jay Floyd
Last week, I sat down to chat with the hitting coach for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws Nelson Prada about much of his team's lineup.  Key topics included second baseman and lead-off hitter Daniel Brito, the South Atlantic League's RBI leader first baseman and designated hitter Darick Hall and last year's first overall draft pick outfielder Mickey Moniak, among others. 

The BlueClaws were in the midst of a four-game win streak to start the month and had just beaten division rival Greensboro in walk-off fashion at the time of this discussion.  Read ahead for the full interview.

-Huge win. Brito with a big hit there to win it.  He's had some ups and downs this year.  Can you talk about Brito a bit?

Yeah, I mean, we've been working with Brito honestly to hit the ball the opposite field and he's been pulling some balls through the year.  Even Hagerstown, they shift him sometimes, which is something that's not good for him.  You know, he's a hitter and he's supposed to use the whole field and hitting the way like he did today.  He went to the opposite field today.  He's been good.  In the second half, he's been trying to do that a lot and we've been working with him to use the whole field and he's had good results. 

-Is that the same thing that Hall needs to be doing, working on hitting the other way?  I've seen teams shift him.  That seemed to be where he needed to improve earlier in the season.

Well, I think, you know, with Hall it's a little different.  I really believe that all the hitters, they have to use the whole field, but Hall is, you know, he's a power hitter.  He needs to use the whole field, but not for base hits.  He needs to drive the ball out of the park. You know, to all fields.  He did it already.  Out of 20 home runs, he's got maybe four to the opposite field.  Maybe three or four to center field and then another 12 pulling.  So, I think he's been using the whole field.  Not very consistent, but he's on his plan. 

-Talking about a plan, I am sure Mickey Moniak has had a plan from the start.  With a lot of high expectations for a guy like him, what have you seen from him this season?

I think Mickey is having good success, for a 19-year-old kid.  He's facing a lot of 23, 24-year-old kids from college.  It's not an excuse, but I think the results for me they're really good.  I think he has really good plate discipline, even when he's swinging a little (at) some pitches out of the strike zone now, we had a little conversation the other day.  He's thinking about, maybe, the results.  Being a guy that has been hitting all of his life, you know, he doesn't see the .300 (average) on the board and it's a little in his head.  And he's going out of the strike zone trying to do too much.  And we've had that conversation already.  Maybe like a week ago.  From there he's been good again, taking walks, and he's got a couple hits yesterday and I think two hits the day before.  You know, he-- if we can get him to finish .270, maybe 50 RBI, maybe 8, 10 homers, we'll be good.

-Jesus Alastre has had some success since coming here and maybe can be a guy to add some energy to this club.  Can you comment on him?

Yeah, Alastre, he's a player.  Um, he's a guy that has played already in the Winter League in Venezuela for a little bit.  He got maybe 50 at bats with the big league team over there, so he's got some experience for a young guy.  I think he brings a balance in the (bottom on the lineup).  Marty (Malloy) keeps him down there and he gets hits at the right moment at the bottom of the lineup.  It's not like we bunch the better hitters on top and then you don't have anybody down.  He have him down there hitting .300 and, you know, I think he's a good hitter and he gives us a little experience in the lineup. 

-In recent weeks, maybe the club hasn't scored as many runs as it has in earlier parts of the season.  Is there a big focus on changing that?

Well, we won 40 games in the first half and I think we got hits at the right time.  This team has been pitching well all year.  We got, like I said, we execute well, you know, to score runs.  And in the second half we have-- as the year goes we've been better.  In the first month, we hit .220 as a team.  the second we hit .250, the third we hit 260 as a team.  And then in July we went down again to .230.  But already in August we've (been winning).  So, I think the guys we've been focusing on executing.  That's the Phillie way.  Move the runner, score the run, get the bunt down.  And when you can do all that, you can create runs and that's what we're trying to do right now.


-Another guy I wanted to ask about before I let you go is Austin Listi.  He's joined the club and has seemed to fit in, with a couple teammates from college Darick Hall and David Martinelli on the team as well. 

He's a guy that he fits right in.  He's got a couple guys that he's played with, like you say, D. Hall and Martinelli.  You know, he came and he hit really good the first couple games and then he struggled a little bit the last two games.  He's chasing too many breaking pitches in the dirt.  We gotta work a little bit on being more patient, get your pitches, don't go out there and swing at everything you see.  It's just about plate discipline and having a plan.  He just got here.  He's had a couple good games, he's had a couple bad games and we're going to talk about discipline tomorrow and a plan at the plate.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Nick Fanti Interview on the Felske Files Podcast

This week I spent some time chatting with Class A Lakewood hurler Nick Fanti, who has tossed two no-hitters this season, for John Stolnis' Felske Files Podcast.

In the interview, the left-hander shares thoughts on his Nicky No-No nickname, how his pitching coach Brian Sweeney has helped his efforts this season and plenty more less serious subject matter.

Also on the show, John talks with Phillies beat writer Steve Gross on the Phils' depth at shortstop and ESPN's Jerry Crasnick about the MLB trade deadline.  The Phillies cancelling Pete Rose's Wall of Fame induction is also discussed.

Check out the player embedded below for the latest episode.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Top pitching prospect Sanchez promoted to Clearwater

Sixto Sanchez, image- Jay Floyd
It was announced on Friday that the Phillies have promoted top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez to Class A Advanced Clearwater.  Though, savvy Twitter followers of this writer were tipped off to the news on Thursday night.

The 19-year-old right-hander had garnered much attention this year with excellent command and remarkable velocity, clocking 100 MPH and higher on a regular basis for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. In 13 starts there, the Dominican native sports a 5-3 record with a 2.41 ERA.  He notched 64 strike outs and walked only nine batters in 67 1/3 innings.  He held opponents to a .191 average.  Additionally noteworthy is that Sanchez allowed just a lone home run this season.

Sanchez was part of a strong BlueClaws pitching rotation that helped the team come within percentage points of winning a first-half division title. 

In a recent interview, Sanchez told me that his BlueClaws teammates helped him improve and achieve success this year.  Joining a new club won't set him back at all, as he'll join JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez as key Lakewood contributors that made the jump up a level during this season.

Competition in the Florida State League will prove to be a nice challenge for Sanchez, a six-foot tall 180-pounder.  He had begun to look unmatched for Lakewood, where his ERA over his last eight starts since returning from a stint on the disabled list with a neck strain was 1.47.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Arauz tosses no-hitter for Clearwater

Harold Arauz, image- Jay Floyd
With just two outs remaining to wrap up a perfect game, Clearwater hurler Harold Arauz issued a walk to Ft. Myers third baseman Brandon Lopez.  Arauz would bounce back to retire the next two batters, wrapping up a no-hitter to lock down a 2-0 victory.


Earlier in the day, the Thresher lost game one of the double header by a score of 4-0.  In the minor leagues, games of double headers are slated as seven-inning contests. In his seven frames on Sunday, the 22-year-old Arauz was dominant, as he would strike out 10 Miracle batters in his third start of the season. 

The right-handed Panama native would see his record go to 4-2 with the Class A Advanced Threshers on the season.  The strong effort on Sunday saw his ERA with Clearwater drop to 2.03. 

Arauz, a six-foot-two 185-pounder opened the season with Class A Lakewood where he posted a 1-2 record with a 1.99 ERA in eight relief appearances. He also appeared in one game this season for Reading in late June.

Primarily a reliever this year, Arauz started all 22 of his appearances in the organization last year.  He was acquired from Houston as part of the Kenny Giles trade in 2015. 

The Threshers are 19-18 in the second half.  They sit in third place, six games behind the Tampa Yankees for the top spot in the Florida State League North division.

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading pitcher Cole Irvin

Cole Irvin, image- Jay Floyd
Starting pitcher Cole Irvin has had a swift rise thus far in his pro career.  A 5th round selection last year, the 23-year-old lefty is the first player from that Phillies draft class to reach the Double-A level.

Irvin opened his 2017 campaign with Class A Advanced Clearwater.  In 12 outings there, the California native posted a 4-6 record with a 2.55 ERA and a .265 batting average against.  In June, he was promoted to Reading, where he has tallied a 4-1 record with a 2.70 ERA and a .244 batting average against.

Earlier this month, I sat down with Cole to chat about his success as a pro, which players (including a Phillie) he looked up to as a child, social media and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview...

-It's been a swift rise through the minors.  Just a short year after making your pro debut, you're at the Double-A level and you're pitching with success.  Can you offer some thoughts on this quick pace ?

It's been kind of crazy.  It's been kind of nuts.  I didn't expect myself to be here this quickly, more or less this soon.  You always have expectations of yourself and what you want to do, and what your goals are for the year, but for myself, I'm happy that I've kind of got to my goals as quickly as I have.  I wasn't expecting to be in Double-A till August/September time, when guys start moving around.  But now I'm here, made my Double-A debut about a week before I made my professional debut a year before that.  It's been kind of a whirlwind of crazy things going on, but it's kind of funny- I was talking to my dad and I said, "I made my professional debut and July 4th and I got my first professional hit July 3rd."  It's kind of cool that things revolved around July 4th for me, because it's my favorite holiday.  So, I love playing baseball on July 4th.  Nothing better than beers and hot dogs and watching some fireworks, you know?

-You mention your dad and I imagine you've got a lot of support from your whole family?

Yeah, absolutely.  You know, I keep my family really close to me and the people that know what's going on in my everyday life will know what's going on and it's a big deal, especially when I told my dad that my Double-A debut was going to be with me batting 9th, so he got super happy.  My best friends were hazing me a little bit.  "Don't strike out!" kind of stuff and I'm glad in my debut that I didn't.  But it's been fun and, like I said, my family's real close to me and they've been behind everything.  They haven't seen me throw for an affiliate till I reached Double-A, so they can see me on TV, so they can see my starts now and, eventually, they'll make it out to the east coast to see me (in person).  We'll see when that happens.  

-You're a Cali guy.  What is hometown for you?

Home town is Anaheim.  Yorba Linda to be exact.  Um, I grew up in Anaheim, went to high school in Anaheim and then I went to the University of Oregon.

-Is there anyone from your youth, maybe an Angels player, that really made some memorable impressions for the game of baseball with you?

I was a big, big Jim Edmonds fan as a kid.  So, watching him play, the way he played the game and then realizing when you're older the two knee surgeries that he's gone through, you know, he wasn't your stereotypical center fielder.  You look at him and he could barely move out there and he's out there making arguably, to me, the greatest catch in major league history, diving backwards, Willie Mays catch.  It was just insane.

I actually had a chance when I was a kid to interact with him, because he was with the Angels and we had a family friend that had a Christmas party and- What do you know?- They were friends with the Edmonds.  So, I got to experience being around him and I don't really remember the interaction.  

I think I was like four or five (years old).  My dad and my mom always told me that I practically fainted, I was so excited.  I was so in awe.  I couldn't talk to anyone else.  It was a cool memory, growing up loving baseball.  Baseball's always been my driving force.  I could never get tired of it.  I want to stay in the game as long as I can.  It's been fun. 

-What's it like on this team with you, Zach Coppola and some other guys moving up from the Threshers to this team with Reading?

I think there's a lot of camaraderie.  A lot of guys know each other, believe in each other and knows what the others can do, so when things aren't going right, you know how to talk to your teammate.  And that's a thing that's important and losing stinks.  So, the importance is just being able to back your teammate the best way you can so, if you're not playing and he's having a bad day you should be able to interact with your teammate and say, "Hey, we got you right here.  We're going to back you up.  We're going to pull for you and everything's going to turn around for you.  You're going to get one more (at bat).  You're going to get one more pitch.  You're to come out of the situation on top.  Just don't worry about it."  The biggest deal is trying to understand your teammates.  So, having guys from Clearwater and now interacting with some of the guys here, the camaraderie is awesome.  The guys are all best friend with each other and it's really cool.

-What is the pitch menu for you right now and is any of the offerings a go-to pitch for you?

Four-seam, two-seam, one-seam- I haven't been throwing that here yet, because it's so unpredictable- but, change up, slider and curve ball.  My out pitch is my change up.  I can throw it in any count.  All my pitches I can throw in any count, but change up, slider, curve ball, those are my out pitches and every once in a while if I know a guy is a free swinger, I'll throw a fastball up 'cause he's gonna be able to swing at it.  You just gotta understand the situation in terms of kind of what's going to be an out pitch, especially at this level.  Guy are going to start being patient.  There is a difference between High A and here with patient hitters, guys not exactly jumping out at the first pitch they see.  You know they understand that the might get one more decent pitch to swing at.  So, the biggest thing for me is to minimize how many decent pitches they see.  (Laughs)

-I know mental coaching and guidance on the mental side of the game is something that has helped some of the pitchers on this club.  Roy Halladay is down in Florida, helping a lot of the guys with that.  Did you take advantage of anything like that?

I only met with him once.  It was really just a get-to-know-me meeting.  It wasn't really baseball related or anything like that.  I never had a chance to pick his brain.  As a pitcher coming up in the high school ranks, Cole Hamels is a pitcher that I watched.  I was very much compared to him.  So him being a Phillie and playing with Roy Halladay was something of a- kind of a big deal for me.  Especially, when he became our mental skills coach, down in Clearwater.  I didn't get to meet with him as much, but I've met with so many mental strength coaches, I don't know if I was going to talk to him about anything mental.  I think I wanted to talk to him what Cole Hamels is like and everything he was and what that rotation was like. 

Things were going well and when things are going well, you tend not to think about, "How do I handle the bad?" You don't think about the bad because things are going well.  

He's an awesome guy and I know a lot of guys have talked with them and it's helped them along the way.  It's awesome to have him, an unbelievable big leaguer in your corner and be able to talk to him and have him as a mentor.  Austin Davis and a couple other guys in the organization will stay in contact with him.  For me, I got his number and I texted him about when we were meeting and the next thing I know on my Snapchat, Roy Halladay can be an option for a friend.  And I didn't hit add friend, as much as I wanted to.  But it's kind of cool to think, "Do I hit Add Friend for Roy Halladay?"  

But it's kind of fun and cool and kind of humbling to have a guy like him in your corner. 

-Is it crazy to think that this elite level Cy Young Award winner messes around on the same stupid applications that every young person does?

I don't think so.  'Cause I feel like parents have to be involved with what their kids do.  So, him being a father, I'm sure he's trying to stay on top of the social media and understand what's going on, so his kids can't spook him.  I don't know what his deal with it is, but it's cool because also through the years of playing I also met Bret Saberhagen and I'm a huge baseball buff, so I got to play golf with him when I was younger.  And a guy, he played at Richmond, he's in the Giants organization, Tyler Beede, he and I were buddies and we got the pleasure to work with Bret Saberhagen for a little while in our younger high school years.  And seeing him, he's on social media, Twitter and stuff.  Big Royals guy, obviously.  But you see these professional athletes, especially the older athletes like Halladay and Saberhagen, to be able to use social media in a positive direction.  They're promoting their teams, their clubs.  They're also giving it a positive outlook, so that's something that I kind of like to see myself as, is more as a positive light on other people in my social media instead of, "Hey, here's me!"  Every once in a while, you're going to have those things...

-Right.  "Look at me!",  "Look at my watch!",  "Look where I am!"

(Laughs) Right.  As much as you don't want it to be like that, every now and again it's going to be, but you want to limit those things and you want to shed light to people like, I'm a good person too and I just want to make sure everyone else's day is better.

-I've had a great time chatting.  One last thing before I let you go, you talked about being a big baseball buff.  Are you keeping a lot of mementos like that first hit ball as you move forward in your career?

I've got 'em all.  I've got the first pitch in Double-A.  I've got the first professional debut.  I've got the first double- first hit technically, but I like saying first double!  (Laughs)  I have them all, so hopefully, when that first home run I'm going to be able to get that back.  But, who knows when that'll happen.  It's not up to me.  But for anyone out there, please give me that home run ball back.  I'll pay for it!  (Laughs)  I want that ball!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Aaron Judge Continues Magical Season with Home Run Derby Win


During the 2017 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees once again demonstrated while he's the leading candidate to win both the American League MVP and Rookie of the Year awards.

Coming into the Derby, Judge led the major leagues in home runs hit through the All-Star break with 30. And on the night of the derby, he bested three different guys who have hit 20 home runs themselves this season, en route to dethroning Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins as the Home Run Derby champion.

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On the way to winning this year's Derby, Judge beat out some of baseball's elite sluggers, including Stanton and Justin Bour of the Marlins, fellow Yankees teammate Gary Sanchez, Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies, Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals.

In the first round of the Derby, Judge faced Bour in what resulted in perhaps the most thrilling battle of the evening. After crushing 23 home runs in the opening round -- easily representing the highest total of any player in any round for the evening -- he still ended up narrowly escaping with a victory against Bour, who ended up hitting 22 home runs himself.

Judge faced Bellinger in the second round, with far less dramatics. After the latter hit 12 home runs to start the round, Judge easily cruised past this number by hitting 13 home runs with more than a minute to spare.

In the final round, Judge took on third baseman Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins. Sano went to bat first and started off the round slowly, hitting only one home run through the first two-and-a-half minutes of the round. But he came on strong after calling a time out, pushing his total to 10 home runs, including a 449-footer at the end of the round.

But like in his match up against Bellinger, Judge responded swiftly and decisively, again cruising past his opponent with time to spare. Unlike Sano, Judge came out of the gates hot, crushing home runs off the first three pitches he faced; two of them went for more than 458 feet.

At baseball’s midway point, Judge is hitting .326 with 30 homers and 66 RBIs. He has been anointed by none other than commissioner Rob Manfred as possibly the next face of baseball. As lofty as this might seem, people around the organization say that Judge’s combination of patience, intelligence, and power as a hitter could lead to him to a home run total higher than anything Mickey Mantle ever achieved.

In other words: the Home Run Derby was just another chapter in Aaron Judge’s magical rookie season.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez

Sixto Sanchez, image- Jay Floyd

A big buzz name around the minor leagues this season is right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez.  The 18-year-old Dominican Republic native touts a high 90's fastball that steadily gets into triple digits, a solid slider and a change up that compliments the other offerings well.  On top of all that, his command is likely what impresses most of all.

In 56 1/3 innings for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws the six-foot tall 185-pounder has struck out 54 batters while walking just six.

Sanchez has a 4-3 record with a 2.88 ERA and a .199 batting average against through 11 starts this season in the.

Much like many Phillies minor leaguers, the talented youngster uses his legs to drive toward home plate, he varies his speeds to his advantage and features a strong and consistent delivery.

Previously a shortstop as a youth player, Sanchez switched to the pitcher's mound three seasons ago.

He has transitioned remarkably, displaying strong poise as he mows down the competition.  At this pace, it may not be long before Sanchez reaches the top level of the sport and has fans ready to check baseball betting options online with William Hill.

Recently, I spoke with Sanchez, with the help of a translator.  He spoke a bit about adjusting to the South Atlantic League, working closely with his staff mates and more.  Read ahead for that interview.

-I just wanted to get your thoughts on your  2017 so far, with all your success.

Everything is good so far.  I'm feeling pretty good now.  I'll work hard to keep it going.

-Is there any feedback you're getting from the coaches that is helping you along?

Yeah, they look out for me.  Make sure I do things right.  They're helping me thus far in my career.

-How about the competition here?  Was it an easy adjustment to pitch in this league?

There's really good competition here.  It's not that easy.  But, I try to do what I can.

-Other pitchers on the staff have performed well also.  Does that help you, being on a staff with other pitchers that are enjoying success?

Of course, that's helping me. That makes the job easier because we talk together and we keep on communicating every start to get better and help each other.

-When you signed with the Phillies, was there anything about the Phillies organization that made this team appealing more than others?

Yeah, I liked the organization.  I wanted to sign with the Phillies from the start.

-There used to be some appeal for Latin players that the general manager was bilingual and could speak Spanish.  Is there anything now that makes the Phillies a place you would want to go?  Something specific?

It's hard with the language and the team tries to help us speak English.  So, I'm trying to get better with English.

-That campus that the Phillies built in the Dominican Republic with the dorms, have you spent time there over the off-season?

Yeah, we take English classes in the Dominican.  They make sure we work.  So, it's a long process.

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-Is there any player from your youth that you used to watch that you found appealing and maybe wanted to emulate?

Yes.  As a kid, I liked Pedro Martinez.

-He pitched with the Phillies.  Does that stand out in your memory, him pitching with the Phillies for a year?

No.

-Only with the Red Sox?

(Smiling) Yeah!

-Do you have goals moving forward the rest of the year? 

I just want to keep learning and help the team win.  Would be great if the BlueClaws could make the playoffs.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lakewood's Fanti goes distance for second no-hitter of season

Nick Fanti, image- Jay Floyd
Lefty starter Nick Fanti Jr. recorded another historical moment this season, as he went the distance, shutting down the Charleston RiverDogs’ (Yankees affiliate) offense to record a no-hitter on Monday at Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park.
 
In nine innings of work, the 20-year-old struck out 12 and walked one on 113 pitches to put his name in the history books and improve his season record to 7-2 in 15 starts. 
 
Fanti, the Phillies’ 31st round draft selection in 2015, previously helped Lakewood notch a no-hitter this season when he tossed 8 2/3 innings without surrendering a safety against Columbia on May 6th.  His roommate at the time, reliever Trevor Bettencourt, entered the game to record the final out.  Bettencourt has since been promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater. 
 
The six-foot-two 185-pounder, Fanti, stated that he received a congratulatory text message from Bettencourt after Monday’s feat and he replied, “Since you aren’t here anymore, I figured I would do it all myself!” 
 
Hailing from Long Island, Fanti’s father, Nick Fanti Sr., typically doesn’t miss any of his home starts and he happened to be on hand, along with Nick’s girlfriend, for the special outing on Monday.  The Fanti men were able to share a special embrace on the field following the game.
 
“I kind of pointed to him and I had some people clear the way for him and I made sure he got through because I wanted to give him a hug,” Fanti said, admitting that his dad seemed to be getting emotional in the moment, but was able to disguise any watery eyes behind his sunglasses.
 
In the contest, Charleston’s lone base runner, first baseman Brandon Wagner, reached with a free pass in the top of the 2nd inning. 
 
Gregori Rivero, a new comer to the team, caught Fanti’s gem in his third start with the BlueClaws. 
 
According to Fanti, he didn’t know early on that the day had the potential to be special.  His control was not on point during his pregame warm ups.
 
“My bullpen was pretty horrible.  I was pretty much all over the place and my pitching coach (Brian Sweeney) told me, ‘You know the Nolan Ryan story (about how he had a wild bullpen and then threw a no-hitter)?’  And I said, ‘Yeah.’  And he also said that to me before the last no-hitter.  And after the game today, he said, ‘You really take that story seriously!’”
 
Designated hitter Henri Lartique counted for the lone run in the victory for Lakewood on Monday with his 7th home run of the year. 
 
The effort was the second individual nine-inning no-hitter in BlueClaws history.  The previous one was tossed by former 1st round draft selection Gavin Floyd in 2002.  It was a 1-0 loss to Lexington.  Keith Bucktrot also notched one on his own, tossing a shortened seven-inning no-no in 2001. 
 
The BlueClaws (51-43 this season) will travel to Rome, to open a series begin a three-game set starting Wednesday night.   Following the road trip, which also features a stop in Charleston, where Fanti’s next turn in the starting rotation will likely fall, the ‘Claws return home for a four-game series against Hickory starting on Thursday, July 27th.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading OF Carlos Tocci

Carlos Tocci, image- Jay Floyd
Outfielder Carlos Tocci is having a solid season with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils.  Honored as an Eastern League All-Star, the 21-year-old is batting .307 with a pair of homers, 33 RBI and 43 runs scored in 84 games. 

Signed as an international free agent in 2011 on his 16th birthday, the six-foot-two, 160-pound righty batter has long been a promising player with a high ceiling. 

I recently spoke with Carlos about his improvements, his family back home in his troubled home country of Venezuela, and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-It's been a great year for you.  What does it mean to you to get the All-Star nod?

Yeah, I've been working this season very hard.  It's exciting to me because, you know, you work for that recognition and I feel really good. 

-This week you went two straight games with a home run.  These were your first ones of the year.  As I mention it, you're smiling.  What has been the biggest difference for you lately?

I've been working with my hitting coach (John Mizerock) on some different swings.  The park over there in Reading is crazy, but (the goal is to) not get too long and stay short to the ball.  You know, it's been good for me and it's good results.  (Also, I) don't get out of my plan and I think it's good for me.


-Are there coaches in the system that you've had at other levels that you remain close with?

Yeah, I exchange text messages with (Nelson) Prada from Lakewood.  He talks to me not too much, but we always stay in contact.

-You're in this lineup with some talented guys.  Mitch Walding, one of those other All-Stars with you, is a big power guy on this team and has busted out.  What is it like being in the lineup with him and some of the other guys.

I mean they always seem amazing, you know.  And this team can really hit.  The pitching is good.  We have good defense too.  It's good.  It's really fun that those guys can hit.  The last few weeks since Scotty (Kingery)'s been here, he's been hot all year, but it's been fun that we've kept it up and we can have success.

-Sitting here talking with you, I am impressed with how far your English has come.  A couple years ago we did a TV segment on you in Lakewood and there wasn't a lot of your interview footage that got used because it wasn't the best stuff for the piece.  We used more quotes from the coaches.  Is there anybody that has helped you a lot with the English?

No.  I think I really can talk with the American guys here, my teammates and that helps me a lot.  The teacher helped from my English class.  I graduated, finally.  But, I keep talking with those guys and they helped me a lot.

-You seem like you're at a spot in your career that you might be positioned to play in an off-season league this year.  Do you have any indication that you could be playing winter ball at all?

No, they don't tell me anything right now.  It's too soon.  The place over there, Venezuela, is not good right now.  You know, it's a lot of trouble.  I think it's too soon to know.

-Do you have a lot of family over there still?

Yeah.  I try to get them here, but it's really hard. 

-Do you feel like this career for you can help your family kind of escape the trouble or just be safe or just help them out?

Yeah.  I think I have to work and I can really help my family to come here.

-Do you give that a lot of thought or do you put it out of your mind because it's not that great to think about?

Yeah.  I try to don't think about that a lot, but they're safe over there.

-Okay.  I don't want to dwell on that too much, so what are you most looking toward for the rest of the year?  Are you looking forward to the playoffs at this point?

I mean always that's a thing, we always hope to make the playoffs.  It's good to( set your sights on) that kind of goal, and I think it would be good if the team makes the playoffs.