Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reading 1B Stassi named Eastern League MVP

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Brock Stassi, image- Jay Floyd
Via a press release, the Double-A Eastern League announced on Saturday that Reading Fightins All-Star first baseman Brock Stassi has been honored as the league's most valuable player for the 2015 season.
The Eastern League of Professional Baseball is pleased to announce that Reading Fightin Phils first baseman Brock Stassi has been selected as the winner of the 2015 Eastern League Most Valuable Player Award. Stassi is batting .312 (138-for-442) with 32 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 88 RBIs, 73 runs scored, three stolen bases, a .484 slugging percentage and a .402 on-base percentage in 124 games while helping lead Reading to first place in the Eastern Division standings. The 26-year old has reached base safely in 108 of the 122 games in which he's had a plate appearance this season for the Fightin Phils, including reaching base safely in 25 straight games from May 24th-June 22nd. He also has 40 multiple hit games this season, including going 4-for-8 with two RBIs, one walk and one stolen base in an 8-7, 18-inning win over Altoona on June 11th at FirstEnergy Stadium. In addition to his offensive contributions in that game, Stassi was also the winning pitcher, striking out three batters while closing out the game with three no-hit innings of relief.
Stassi, who was selected by the Phillies in the 33rd round of the 2011 draft, is tops in the league in RBI, doubles and OPS (.886).

The EL MVP award was voted on by Eastern League managers and coaches as well as members of the media.

The six-foot-two 190-pound lefty batter spoke with Phillies Nation earlier this season about his turnaround at the plate. Click here to read that interview.

Additionally, the Eastern League also named Reading skipper Dusty Wathan manager of the year. Wathan is in his fourth season managing Reading and took the club t

Patient LHP DeNato promoted three levels

denatoLAKEWOOD, NJ- Left-handed reliever Joey DeNato has had an exceptional season to date with the Lakewood BlueClaws, but couldn't seem to earn a promotion despite dominating Class A competition. Until now.

DeNato, a 19th round draft selection by the Phillies last year out of Indiana University, will jump three levels, as he joins the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Saturday.

Honored as a South Atlantic League mid-season All-Star, DeNato sports a 2-3 record with 10 saves and a 1.24 ERA through 43 appearances this season.

The move may be overdue, but DeNato has kept a solid frame of mind, fending off discouragement in favor of determination.

"There is some frustration because I think this is the best I've ever pitched. Then again, I don't let the frustration get to me," DeNato stated with a look of empowerment during the BlueClaws' homestand this week. "If anything, I can kind of use it as a chip on my shoulder and that's what I've kind of been trying to do. Not trying to let up, not trying to let frustration get to me or anything like that."

The 23-year-old sports a 1.49 overall ERA and a 9.02 K/9 mark in 66 pro appearances since signing with the Phillies last summer.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Injuries lead to roster moves, Ogando & Cozens promoted

Necessary roster moves were made on Friday following the placement on the disabled list for two injured players. Phillies reliever Elvis Araujo will miss time with a groin strain while Reading outfielder Nick Williams is out with a concussion following a collision in the field on Wednesday.

Replacing Araujo on the big league roster is righty Nefi Ogando. The 26-year-old was acquired near the end of the 2013 season from Boston in a trade for utility guy John McDonald. Ogando, a native of the Dominican Republic, sports a 4-5 record with a 3.05 ERA, three saves and a 7.8 K/9 mark in 42 games combined at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season.

Dylan Cozens
Cozens, image- Jay Floyd
Filling the void with Reading will be outfielder Dylan Cozens. The 21-year-old was the Phillies' 2nd round draft choice in 2012. In 96 games with Class A Advanced Clearwater this season, Cozens sports a .282 average with five home runs, 46 RBI and 18 steals.

The 24-year-old rookie Araujo was signed as a free agent last off-season. He had been a solid contributor out of the bullpen this season, sporting a 2-1 record, a 3.38 ERA and a .225 batting average against.

Williams, 21, was one of the prized prospects the Phils acquired from Texas in the trade last month for Cole Hamels. With Reading, Williams tallied a .326 average with four homers and 10 RBI in 21 games.

The Phillies also announced the veteran hurler Jerome Williams would be headed to the bullpen while newly acquired pitcher Alec Asher will make him major league debut and take his spot in the starting rotation on Sunday.

Asher, another player obtained in the Hamels swap, has a 2-0 record with a 2.08 ERA in four starts since joining Lehigh Valley.

Lakewood's Viza developing despite lack of success in win column

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Tyler Viza, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ- Atlanta's Shelby Miller has garnered plenty of attention of late for his losing ways. The 25-year-old former first round pick, has not notched a win in his last 18 starts, losing 10 consecutive decisions over that stretch. The lack of success isn't Miller's fault though, as he sports a remarkable 2.63 ERA this season and a solid 3.24 mark during this stretch in the big leagues. In the minors, the Phillies have a poor luck loser of their own.

Right-hander Tyler Viza surpassed his win total with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws from last year with his fourth victory on June 1st of this year. The 20-year-old has not recorded a win since that date over a span of 12 appearances.

Like Miller, Viza's lack of wins certainly isn't due to poor output. He has tallied a 3.38 ERA this season through 21 games (20 starts). In his last 9 starts, the six-foot-three 170-pounder has gone 0-7 with a 2.58 ERA. The BlueClaws, however, are averaging just 2.11 runs per game in those contests.

His pitching coach, former Phillies reliever Aaron Fultz, asserts that he feels frustration for the young hurler.

"This year, I mean, it's frustrating," Fultz admitted. "He's been probably our best starter for two months and he hasn't had a win since June 1st. Like I tell him, as a pitcher, we don't control that. We can do everything right and get a no decision. We just have to give our team a chance to win and he does that every time out."

Viza, though, is not bothered by his own lack of W's and has his mind firmly focused on the bigger picture.

"I would look at it like I want to get my team a win. I'm trying to do my best for the team and I know they're trying to do their best. When we come out with a loss, it's harder to take than a win, but I'll show up tomorrow and do it all again," Viza said in the home dugout at FirstEnergy Park this week.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Catching prospect Alfaro debuts with GCL Phillies

milb logoNew Phillies prospect Jorge Alfaro made his Phillies organization debut on Thursday, going 1-for-1 while reaching base twice after being hit with a pitched ball. Starting at catcher for the Phils' rookie level Gulf Coast League team, the Colombia native left the game early after three plate appearances.

Reached via text message, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said he saw Alfaro play in person and asserted that the 22-year-old is fine after the HBP's. Jordan also stated that the youngster will play again with the GCL club on Friday.

Alfaro was a key return from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade just a few weeks ago. He was previously sidelined following ankle surgery.

Opposing runners went 0-for-1 against Alfaro in his organizational debut, as the young backstop gunned down the only potential base stealer.

Also competing in the game for the GCL team was 28-year-old Cuban Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who tossed four scoreless frames, earning a no decision as the starter. Through four appearances, the right-hander has not allowed a run in 11 innings pitched. Gonzalez has struck out 10 batter and walked four thus far.

PhoulBallz Interview: RHP Ben Lively talks Reading postseason push

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Ben Lively, image- Jay Floyd
Activated on Thursday from the disabled list after dealing with a shoulder strain, right-hander Ben Lively will help the Double-A Reading Fightins push toward the postseason.

In 22 starts this year for Reading, the 23-year-old sports a record of 8-7 with a 4.17 ERA while striking out 96 batters and walking 42 in 127 1/3 innings.

Lively was acquired last off-season from Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd.

Earlier this month, I spoke with Ben about some ups and downs this season, his excitement level to be chasing the Eastern League crown and more. Read ahead for that interview.

-You've mostly been consistent this season, but have had some shaky outings. What are your thoughts on your 2015 thus far?

We've been working on a lot of stuff this year. I kind of got in a little funk and that got me down, and that's what kind of got me up and down and I haven't been consistent. But, this past outing we were watching stuff from last year, kind of nit picked little stuff we needed to work on and it's been working out. I feel like everything just snapped in and I've been working in my bullpens and everything's been feeling great and hopefully, it turns on the rest of the way.

-You spoke of reviewing film and making adjustments. What can you share about what you worked on?

I mean, just like kind of worked on my front side. Tried to stiffen up my front side, to get more power and stuff. I was spinning off and I was throwing the ball all over the place. I feel like I have to get everything where I want it. Everything felt ten times better (in my last start) with the things we adjusted to.

-In a recent outing, you probably had one of your worst lines in a game this year. When you allow six earned runs and get tagged with the loss, are you able to take positive things from that?

You definitely have to take things from it. I know what I did. I was just leaving too good of pitches- even when I was ahead in the count- I was leaving too many pitches over the plate and they got a hold of me. But that's why we made the adjustments and it paid off.

-As the season begins to wind down, the buzz around this Fightins team is that this group could run through the playoffs with ease. Is the club really excited for that playoff chase?

Absolutely, I mean we've turned it on lately and with the news guys, everyone's been turning it on. We need to keep building forward and keep shooting for the postseason.

-People would expect Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson to be the top two guys in the rotation for a playoff run. Are you confident that you can help the team just as much as those guys?

Absolutely. I mean, yeah it can be anyone's night in the postseason. You just have to do your thing, keep working and do what you're best at.

-The team got plenty of new additions in recent weeks with the signing of Destin Hood and acquisitions at the trade deadline. Has that given the team a boost of energy to push toward the postseason?

I mean the way they've been playing, it definitely brings a lot of energy in the dugout and in the locker room. You know, everyone's excited. Everyone knows these new guys are going to do nothing but help us and it's getting us excited for the postseason. Everyone is starting to look forward to it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

PNTV Segment: Catching prospect Andrew Knapp feature

On this week's edition of Phillies Nation, I sat down with rising catching prospect "The California Kid" Andrew Knapp to discuss his recent success. Since he was promoted to Double-A Reading in June, the 23-year-old switch-hitter is batting .380 with 10 homers and 51 RBI in 46 games.

The segment also features remarks from teammates Jake Thompson, Nick Pivetta and Mark Leiter Jr.

Don't miss this profile...check it out in the media player below and look for new episodes of PNTV premiering each Tuesday at 6PM on The Comcast Network.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

PhoulBallz Interview: 6th round draft pick LHP Tyler Gilbert

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Tyler Gilbert, image- Jay Floyd
After being drafted in the 6th round out of USC in this year's MLB first year player draft, left-hander Tyler Gilbert has looked impressive for the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters. In nine outings (seven starts), the 21-year-old California native sports a 3-3 record with a 3.00 ERA while striking out 38 batters and walking just five in 36 innings pitched.

Recently, I spoke with Tyler about his draft experience, his transition to the pro ranks, which players he looks up to and much more. Read ahead for the full interview.

-You've posted some solid number thus far in the minors. What are your thoughts on your time with the Crosscutters thus far?

It's been good the whole season. I've been keeping my numbers relatively good and I've got a low ERA. I had one shaky outing a few weeks ago and that was about it. I think so far, five or six outings I've been relatively good. So, I've been really happy with how everything is going.

-As an early-round draft selection, what was your draft experience like?

I had really no idea when I'd be drafted. I heard various scouting reports and stuff and I actually didn't see my name on the prospect lists for the top 200 picks. So, I really had no clue what was going to happen until the Phillies called me in the sixth round and said, 'Will you sign in the sixth for slot?' And I said, 'Of course!' I mean, it was the second day of the draft and I was with my family, so it was a pretty exciting day. It was awesome.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

PNTV Outtake: Potential 2017 Phillies Lineup

On the heels of Chase Utley being traded to the Dodgers, the focus of the Phillies and their fans further focuses on the future. And not the immediate future. We're talking years down the line.

In this Phillies Nation TV outtake, Rudy Mezzy and Jay Floyd discuss the possibilities of how the Phils' lineup could pan out in 2017 with so much talent in the minors while keeping it real, knowing the team will use some of their depth to allow themselves to bolster the offense and spend salary. The discussion ranges from names like Aaron Altherr and J.P. Crawford to a perennial MVP candidate.

The segment was filmed for an upcoming episode of PNTV, but will not be used, so here it is, in the media player below, as a web exclusive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

OF Quinn will not return to Reading this year

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Roman Quinn, image- Jay Floyd
Reading outfielder Roman Quinn will not return to baseball this year for the regular season or the playoffs.

According to Phillies' director of player development Joe Jordan, the 22-year-old switch hitter is progressing well after injuring his hip on June 12th and he could be available in time for Reading's potential post-season run, but instead the organization prefers for Quinn to take things slowly, for his long term benefit.

Avoiding any rush to return, in an effort to help his team chase the Eastern League crown, the Phils' brass prefers for him to prepare for winter ball later this year.

Prior to being sidelined with the injury, the Phillies' 2nd round draft choice from 2011 was having a breakout season for Double-A Reading, posting a .306 average with four homers, 15 RBI and 29 steals.

Reading currently leads with Eastern League's Eastern Division by 4 1/2 games over Binghamton, with Trenton four game behind them in third place. The top two clubs in each division advance to the postseason.

At this time, details on which off-season league Quinn will participate in have not been made available.

Last off-season the five-foot-10 170-pounder sported a .250 batting average with two home runs, nine RBI and a league leading 14 stolen bases in 24 games in the prestigious Arizona Fall League.

PNTV Feature: New Prospects Thompson and Williams Shining in Reading

On the latest edition of Phillies Nation TV, the fine men at 20/20 Visual Media and I put together a feature on two of the key prospects acquired from Texas for Cole Hamels, as I sat down to chat with starting pitcher Jake Thompson and outfielder Nick Williams.


Check out this great segment in the media player below and look for new episodes of Phillies Nation to premiere each Tuesday on The Comcast Network at 6PM.  To view this week's full episode, click HERE.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading pitching coach Dave Lundquist talks Thompson, Lively, Eflin, more

Over the weekend I chatted with Double-A Reading pitching coach Dave Lundquist, who spoke about his staff. Among the topics are new addition Jake Thompson, standout starter Zach Eflin, team saves record holder Stephen Shackleford the injured Ben Lively (shoulder strain) and more. Read ahead for all the exclusive remarks from "Lundy"...

Jake Thompson, image- Jay Floyd

-Since being acquired in the deal for Cole Hamels, Jake Thompson has gone 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three games started. In his latest out, he kept the team in it and earned a win despite walking five. If I asked him, he probably wouldn't like his output, based on the walks. What are your thoughts on his latest effort?

They never want to see that, but you’ve got a situation where a guy can command four pitches and the misses, the fastball was moving a little too much off the plate. But, you have a guy that’s able to find a way to limit the damage to just two runs on a solo home run and you don’t want the walks but you’ve got a competitor that’s able to find a way to pitch around them.

-Zach Eflin had a strong outing in the weekend series against Trenton, going seven scoreless frames. What have you seen from Zach lately?

For me, (Friday) night was the best I’ve seen Zach in, since early in the year. You know, he commanded the fastball, probably had the best movement, slider was as good in and out of the zone as it’s been and he had a plus change up. The thing that has helped Zach a lot is we added a curve ball. I’ve kept it on the side a lot and made him develop it and get it game ready, but his last two starts he’s used it and it’s a very good weapon. It’s already a solid average and maybe at times a touch above major league average pitch. It helps him out a lot.

-Was the curve a completely new pitch for him or just something that he hadn't thrown since coming over in the Jimmy Rollins trade last off-season?

It was something that he threw in high school, but he was more of a power guy. He was wanting to throw it a lot early in the year, but at that point we really needed to get that slider to be a consistent major league pitch and then once we achieved that, it was matter of let’s get this (other) pitch game ready and let’s- I don’t want him going out there and getting hurt on a pitch that’s not ready, but he probably was working on it three weeks to a month before we unleashed it in games and we made sure we got it right before we went out and put it in games. It’s been a good weapon for him.

-Shackleford seems really locked in and recently notched the team saves record. How big has he been for the team?

I love Shack back there. It takes a different mindset to close a lot of the games. You get different situations in different stadiums in different lineups and you know and you have to have a specific plan and I love him back there. He’s got the right mindset and the right mentality for that role.

-Has he been just lights out, making it an easy call to put him out there in those spots?

He’s been very good. There was a little stretch early where he got into a little funk, but he was able to right the ship and figure out to get back to who he is as a pitcher.

Ben Lively, image- Jay Floyd

-Ben Lively missed a start here with the shoulder issue. I saw him throwing a bit pre-game. What's his status for a return to action?

He started just playing a little catch (Saturday). We’ve just going to go day to day. We’ve got a throwing program started for him. Hopefully, around another week or so. It’s late in the year. He’s already got a lot of innings and I want to make sure everything we do is in his best interest, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be anything major.

-What vibe do you get from the team toward this chase of a division title and a league championship?

You see a lot of confidence. You can see it. It’s within sight. The guys they know where they’re at. I think the closer the games are and you get to the end, the guys are having more fun with it. When you talk about developing winning players, that’s what does it. I think they’re in a pretty good place.

-Something else I wanted to ask was about the other new guys, aside from Thompson. What can you share about Jimmy Cordero and Nick Pivetta?

Cordero, you got a huge arm. A guy that can light up the gun. He’s even got a pretty good slider and a pretty good curve ball. You know, just a matter of him not trying to throw 105. You got a real nice arm there, a guy that has a chance to be a power arm at the back end of a major league bullpen.

And Pivetta, another power guy. He can run the fastball up there mid-to-upper 90’s as well. Power curve ball and he’s got a pretty good feel for a change up, so I like that package also. We’ve got some pretty good arms and some guys that know how to pitch.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fightins Quotables: Knapp and Martin speak on recent success

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Andrew Knapp, image- Jay Floyd
A key contributor for the Double-A Reading Fightins' lineup in recent weeks has been catcher Andrew Knapp. The 23-year-old is riding a 14-game hitting streak and sports a .401/.450/.678 slash line since his promotion from Clearwater, after he was a mid-season All-Star there. Knapp, who was the Phillies' 2nd round draft choice out of Cal in 2013, will be the focus of an upcoming segment on Phillies Nation's weekly TV program, but in the meantime, he offered some thoughts on his recent offensive output and more.

-He spoke about his nickname, "The California Kid"...

I kind of like it. I like my California roots, but I think someone up in the front office started it and it kept rolling. I think people like it. I think it's cool to represent and entire state, but I wouldn't necessarily call myself "The California Kid".

-Comments on his current hitting streak...

I don't really try to think about it too much. It's nice to go out and get a hit every night, but I'm just trying to keep doing what I'm doing. You know, one day if I hit four balls hard and I don't get a hit, it's not really a big deal. All I'm worried about it getting a good pitch to hit and hitting balls hard. I kind of, last couple days I haven't been producing the way I want to with runners in scoring position as much. I'd like to hit better situationally. That comes and goes. That's the way baseball is. I'm just trying to keep doing what I'm doing.

-Talked about working with roving catching instructor Ernie Whitt to help him throw out four potential base stealers in the past two games...

Ernie came this past week and we worked pre-game on some stuff- transfer and footwork and it's just stuff that we've been working on all year. It's just nice to get him in town to kind of redefine some stuff or fine tune some things here and there. I think it's getting there. It's getting better every day and getting where I like it, throwing wise, I think, trusting the arm a little more every day. I'm almost two years out now (from Tommy John surgery) so, you'd think the trust would be there, but it still kind of lingers a little bit. I mean, everything feels great and it's nice to get Ernie out here and work on some stuff.

Ethan M.
Ethan Martin, image- Jay Floyd
Righty pitcher Ethan Martin had his best outing of the year on Sunday, notching a win with five scoreless innings in a spot start in place of the injured Ben Lively. Overall, the 26-year-old, who pitched with the Phillies in each of the past two seasons, has a 2-0 record with a 4.33 ERA in 16 games (three starts). Martin talked about his win against Trenton and more.

-Speaking about his solid outing...

It's just one of those things. Whatever they need me to do this year. I hit the zone early, got ahead of hitters. Had a couple hitters I couldn't get out, got the pitch count a little bit up and couldn't finish them, but I went five innings. Felt good. Kept the ball down low in the zone except until the last inning, I got a lot of ground balls.

-Addressing the excitement level with the Reading team as they push toward a playoff berth...

It's a great atmosphere in there. Basically, it brings it back to when I got traded over here in 2012. You know, I think everybody's excited and we all want to do well. If it happens, it happens, but we've just got to play our game. Right now, we're playing really well.

-Sharing thoughts about how this year's Reading team compares to the 2012 that fell short in the post-season...

We got good pitching, we've really got one of the best clubs I've ever been on in the minor leagues. You got the hitting, got the pitching, you got the back end of the bullpen. You know, the other thing is how much we gel as a team. That's one thing you don't find much in minor league baseball, realistically, you're trying to beat out the guy next to you because they're competing for the same job as you are at the higher level. But, you know, you take this time and while we're all playing for ourselves, we're all playing for each other too. You don't that too much in the minor leagues. It's a fun way to play baseball. That's for sure.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Video: Nick Williams and JP Crawford triple against Yankees RHP Michael Pineda

In the finale of Double-A Reading's road series in Trenton on Sunday, Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda made a rehab appearance for the hosting Thunder.

The 26-year-old Dominican native, recovering from an elbow issue, looked strong in his initial frame, shutting down rising Phillies prospects J.P. Crawford, Nick William and Andrew Knapp in a quick 10-pitch, 1-2-3 inning.

The second time around, though, the 2011 big league All-Star wasn't as lucky. With a run already home in the 3rd inning, Williams, a key return from Texas in last month's Cole Hamels trade, slammed a fastball to deep center field for a three-base hit. Crawford, an Eastern League All-Star, would lace a liner down the left field line for another triple to score Williams.

Knapp, the owner of a 13-game hitting streak entering the contest, would get a second shot at Pineda, but he would fly out to end the inning.

That ended Pineda's outing, as he was charged with two earned runs in three innings on four hits while walking none and striking no batters out.

The Reading Fightins, winners of 11 of their last 12 games played, lead the Eastern League's Eastern division by three games over Binghamton, at the time of this writing. Trenton was in third place, three games out of the second place Wild Card spot.

Video footage of the pair of triples can be viewed in the media players below.



PhoulBallz Interview: Williamsport manager Pat Borders

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Pat Borders, image- Jay Floyd
First year manager of the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters (35-19, 1st place in the New York-Penn League's Pinckney Division) Pat Borders took time recently to answer questions about his club, his history of crushing Phillies fans' hopes in 1993 and much more. Read ahead for my full interview with him.

-The team got off to a hot start this year and has maintained a lead in the division standings all season. What can you tell me about this 2015 Crosscutters team?

They’re a pretty energetic bunch of guys. They play hard. Seems like they’re always banged up because they’re really go-getters. They go the extra step. They’re really energetic. They’re the kind of team that anybody likes to coach.

-You’ve got a great pitching staff on this team. We talked about Franklyn Kilome, but what other pitcher has stood out to you.

Mitch Gueller…changes speeds really well. He throws like a veteran pitcher. He knows how to pitch, how to call pitches and how to throw softer instead of harder sometimes.

-Is there a guy in the starting lineup that’s really been a catalyst for the team this year?

It’s kind of shifted. Our lead-off hitter (Zach) Coppola has done a super job at lead-off, seems to kind of set the tone all the time. He’s fast, he puts pressure on the infield. And we’ve got (Mark) Laird, we’ve got a lot of guys that hit from the left side that can put pressure on the infielders, coming to get it and it usually makes them crack.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Williamsport's Kilome among next wave of Phils' top prospects

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Franklyn Kilome, image- Jay Floyd
STATEN ISLAND, NY- Coming into the 2015 season, Franklyn Kilome wasn't among the buzz names in the land of Phillies prospects. But as some of the top ranked talents in the organization have successfully climbed the developmental ladder, the 20-year-old righty pitcher has begun to stand out.

With an excellent season thus far for the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters, Kilome has begun to draw plenty of attention. In seven starts, the six-foot-six 175 pounder sports a 2-1 record with a 1.74 ERA and a 7.26 K/9 mark.

It's not just the numbers that have caught people's eyes. It's his blazing fastball and strong secondary offerings, a strong change up and a curve ball that feature good break, as well.

"Kilome throws upper-90's, touching 100 every once in a while," Crosscutters manager and former big league catcher Pat Borders stated. "He's got some velocity. He's very talented and one to watch out for."

Kilome, who has been able to throw strikes more consistently this season, credits his pitching coach Les Lancaster with assisting his growth this season.

"He helped me a lot. He taught me how to throw my change up. A different grip. So, now I have one that's great. My breaking ball is much better. My fastball command, he works hard with me and my command is great, my curve ball I throw for first pitch strikes, my change up, everything's working good. The mental part of the game too- he's helped me a lot," Kilome said in the visitor's dugout at Staten Island's Richmond County Bank Ballpark.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

PhoulBallz Interview: 2015 draft pick, Philadelphia's own Kenny Koplove

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Kenny Koplove, image- Jay Floyd
Drafted by the Phillies in the 17th round out of Duke University this year, righty hurler Kenny Koplove has been living his dream.

The 22-year-old is a South Philadelphia resident and grew up rooting for the team that now employs him.

Through 14 relief appearances with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters, the six-foot-two 170-pounder has tallied a 1-2 record with a 5.62 ERA while striking out 19 and 10 walks in 24 innings.

This week I spoke with Kenny about his draft experience, Duke athletics, his transition to the pro ranks and plenty more. Read ahead for the full interview.

-Take me through your draft experience. What was it like, how did you track it and how did you celebrate?

The day before the draft, I went to the pre-draft workout at Citizens Bank Park, which is around the corner from my house. I can walk there, which I did. Then draft day came and we didn't expect anything to happen on the first day and it was quiet. Second day, we got a few calls, but nothing really came about. Third day, we were hoping to get some action and nothing came early. Then the Phillies called and they were basically like, 'Hey, would you sign with us?' And it was kind of like a dream come true type deal. The team I grew up watching. I mean, my favorite player growing up was Jimmy Rollins. He was the shortstop for so many years. So, when that opportunity arose, it was kind of like a surreal moment. My mom started crying. My dad was really ecstatic. So, it was really a special moment for my family.

-You mention the team calling. Was that before the pick?

It was- well, they were corresponding with my agent, my adviser at the time. Kinda called me real quick and was like, 'Hey, would you sign?' And it was like a no doubt moment. I looked at my dad and my mom and I said I want to do it and my parents said, 'Yeah, absolutely!' It was the team we always wanted something to happen with and we're very fortunate that it did.

-So, your spring wrapped up huge with that draft. I imagine with the other Blue Devils, the Duke men's basketball team that won the National Championship, got the spring started on the right foot down on campus.

Yeah, absolutely. The whole campus was pretty ecstatic. We just got into (the baseball) season when they won the title. I remember going out that night and campus was electric. The main thing was the burning of the benches, where they take all the benches from in front of all the dorms and they make a big bonfire. That was a pretty special moment for me, to be there when they won the National Title. It was a really cool experience.

-Do you know any of those guys from the basketball team?

Yeah. I had a couple classes with a few of them. I see them walking around all the time. We have a huge study hall center called the K Center where we, as athletes, have to go there to complete homework. So, I'd see Jahlil and Tyus and Justice, three guys that went in the first round. I didn't know them too well, but I talk to Marshall Plumlee and a few of the other guys. They're all good guys. I mean, and it's pretty cool to say I went to school with three first rounders.

-And that could be a fun goal for you, with Jahlil Okafor being the Sixers' first round pick, to shoot for getting a Duke guy for both them and the Phillies. A nice little thing to shoot for, right?

Yeah, absolutely. Watching the (NBA) draft, I crossed my fingers that the Sixers picked him. I'm a big Sixers fan. Like I said, I'm from Philadelphia. Allen Iverson's one of my favorite athletes of all time. When the opportunity arose that Philly could get him, I thought, 'Oh, that's cool.' And then there were rumors of a trade and I thought that was upsetting. But it looks like we're going to keep him and hopefully, in a few years I can join him!

-Perfect. Now obviously, you've had some success since turning pro and I know players will credit their coaches sometimes for that. How has your pitching coach Les Lancaster helped you transition to the minors?

He's been great. I mean, as soon as I came in here, he pointed out a few flaws in my delivery, especially just trying to speed me up. And the results kind of show for themselves. I had a bit of a slow start, but as of late, I've been pitching much, much better. I feel more comfortable on the mound. Especially being new to pitching. I played shortstop my entire collegiate career. So, being new to the mound and having him basically as a mentor is pretty awesome.

-What is your full repertoire right now and is there a go-to pitch?

My fastball's probably my go-to pitch. (Les) told me be more confident in it, absolutely. I also feature a change up and a slider. The slider's coming along, but I'd say might change up is my second best pitch.

-Talking to guys as they move up, players are always fond of Williamsport. Do you have impressions of the town?

Absolutely. I mean, the town comes out and supports us every night. We draw a good crowd for a very small town, but they're a big baseball city with the Little League World Series right there. Everybody knows the game. They're very supportive of us. So, I mean, it's pretty awesome. My host family- outstanding! I know all the other host families do a great job. It's a special team, a special moment. Something that you can cherish forever.

-How do you feel about how you've transitioned into pro ball? Is it what you expected?

I mean, kind of what I expected. My brother played professional baseball, so he's given me a little bit of a rundown of what to expect. But the biggest change is playing every day. No off days. So, you're just very calm, but when it's game time, you have to go out there and perform and it's every single day you've got to bring it.

-You mentioned your brother Mike Koplove. Is he sort of like an on demand consultant for you with your career in the early stages?

Absolutely. I call him pretty much after every outing. I send him footage after every outing. So, it's- he's there all the time. He'll be here tonight. It's a close drive for him, so that's pretty cool.