Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Off-season check in with Jesmuel Valentin

Jesmuel Valentin, image- Jay Floyd
Following an outstanding spring campaign with the Phillies last year, Jesmuel Valentin was a big part of playoff bound Lehigh Valley IronPigs lineup, but an injury shortened his season.  Following a considerable stretch on the shelf, the 23-year-old switch-hitter is nearing a return to the diamond.

In 21 Grapefruit League games last spring, the former supplementary round draft pick (51st overall, 2012) by the Dodgers, who was acquired by the Phillies in the 2014 Roberto Hernandez trade, sported a .366 batting average with six doubles and four RBI.

He opened the season as a member of the Triple-A IronPigs, where he tallied a .229 average with a home run and seven RBI in 29 games before injuring his shoulder on a diving play in an extra-inning affair on May 12th.

A native of Puerto Rico, Valentin's off-season has not only been filly with recovery for his injured shoulder, but recovery for his friends and loved ones as well, following the impact of Hurricane Maria.

The son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin, Jesmuel is hoping to get cleared to play in Roberto Clemente League in Puerto Rico once their storm-shortened season gets underway in January.

Recently, I talked with Jesmuel about his off-season, his impending return to action, the recovery process in Puerto Rico and some exciting personal news.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-How is the recovery with your shoulder?  Which one is it?  And what is your rehab routine like these days?

My shoulder feels amazing, I will say is at 95 percent and it's my left shoulder.  I'm at Clearwater right now.  I'm leaving on Thursday to Philly to see Dr. Cowen and take the last test to see how everything's going.  Hopefully, I can get cleared so I can play winter ball and get those at bats I lost this year and get back on track.

Most of my rehab has been in Clearwater with the trainers Joe Rauch and Justin, but also have been back home helping my family out and working out with my dad and trainer Josue Lionel on new exercises and mobility to get the small muscles stronger and prevent any other injuries.

-Are there any teammates you've spent time working with during your rehab?

No other teammates, but a couple friends from hometown that they are also professionals, like Ivan de Jesus Jr., Jose Berrios and Neftali Soto.

-How disappointing was it to miss out on much of this year's exciting IronPigs season?

It was very disappointing not only 'cause it was a huge year overall for every one of my teammates, but also I felt this was the year that my dream (of reaching the big leagues) was going to come true, it was a really good off-season and Spring Training. Started the season really hot then a couple bad weeks but I was already making adjustments when I got injured.

-You and I swapped messages recently and you mentioned working on being a dad.  I think that means you're expecting a new addition to your family.  Congratulations! 

Yeah, God gave us an early Christmas present letting my fiancée Nashalie and I know we are going to be parents.  If everything goes well we are supposed to see our little baby on June 20, early or later. My family is really happy and pumped.  Everybody is anxious to know the gender.

-What is your hometown and what has recovery been like since the hurricane that caused so much damage?

I'm From Manati, Puerto Rico, 40 Minutes from the Capital.  It was destroyed.  Never seen something like that before.  No gas, no water, no food, no groceries.  It was tough, but thank God for the past month everything has been back to normal and people are starting to receive help and get everything that they lost.

-In the news I hear conflicting reports about how much power has been restored.  Do you know people that are still struggling with lack of power or services?

Right now our hometown has power but sometimes will go for hours or two days and then comes back.  Water is the same, with signal is a struggle. Some days works out perfectly, then others there's no signal.

-Did the Phillies reach out to you to check on you and your family following the hurricane?

The Phillies organization, right after the hurricane, they were calling to check on me and my family.  They were always there, asking if everything was okay and making sure if we needed something so they can help.

-Is there any silver lining or big lesson you've learned during the time sidelined that you would want to share?

Not really.  It just was a hard time for me and my family.  We felt this past year was the one for us, but it has been a learning process and getting the positive side of it. We have worked more than normal to better in everything; mobility, agility, strength, conditioning, spiritually and focusing. My trainer, Josue Lionel, and I have a nice connection we have been together three years and I have learned a lot of different thing.  I not only lift weights and go to the park, we spend four to five hours in the gym working on different aspects, so we can learn how our body moves, reacts and recovers. We have a nutrition also that is the most important thing for me.  Without that there's no point of training, because you need to eat the right food and condiments so your body can react the right way. Also he has been the person besides my Grandma to show me how big and special God is.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Phillies Arizona Fall League Notebook

Running down some numbers from a crop of Phillies players participating in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Statistics listed are through games played on Saturday, November 11th.
 
In the AFL, which wraps up at the end of this week, Phillies minor leaguers play on the Glendale Desert Dogs along with players from the Dodgers, Indians, Pirates and White Sox.  The team is managed by 2017 Clearwater Threshers skipper Shawn Williams. 

Typcially, the Arizona Fall League features many prospects on the verge of the big leagues.  With close proximity to the majors, it's not far-fetched to think that it won't be long before some of these players aren't far from making an impact at BetOnline.ag Sportsbook.
 
Right-handed pitcher J.D. Hammer is having tremendous success in the AFL.  The six-foot-three 215-pounder has a 0.00 ERA and is holding opponents to a .081 average through nine appearances.  Hammer, 23, was acquired from the Rockies last season in the trade for All-Star Pat Neshek.  After joining the Phillies organization, Hammer, who was a 24th round draft pick in 2016, posted a 2-0 record with a 0.57 ERA in 12 relief outings for Class A Advanced Clearwater. 
 
Lefty pitcher Garrett Cleavinger has a 0-1 record with a 7.71 ERA and a .359 batting average against in nine appearances.   The 23-year-old was acquired from the Orioles in the Jeremy Helickson trade last season.  Cleavinger was a 3rd round draft pick of Baltimore in 2015.  After joining the Phillies organization, he joined the Double-A Reading staff, where he would record a 0-1 record with a save and a 5.28 ERA in 11 games.
 
Righty Trevor Bettencourt had his stats marred by a couple of tough outings in which he recorded just an inning of work and surrendered eight total earned runs.  Overall in seven games, the reliever sports and 13.50 ERA while notching a save and a .333 batting average against.  Bettencourt, the Phils 25th round pick in 2016 out of UC Santa Barbara, had a strong regular season in 2017, posting a combined 5-2 record with 10 saves and a 2.61 ERA for Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater. 
 
Lefty starter Elniery Garcia is through with the AFL, leaving the Glendale team after four starts for undisclosed reasons.  He sported a 1-2 record with a 5.79 ERA during his time there and struck out 13 while walking four in 14 innings.  Garcia missed much of the 2017 season following a suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.  In seven total regular season starts this year (two in the Gulf Coast League as warm-up appearances and five with Double-A Reading), Garcia went 2-1 with a 1.47 ERA.  He also pitched in the post-season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
 
Converted outfielder Aaron Brown took Garcia’s place for the final week of the AFL season.  Through one outing, Brown has a scoreless frame under his belt.  In 14 regular season appearances on the mound this year, the 25-year-old lefty posted a 0-1 record and a 4.74 ERA.  Brown was a 3rd round pick of the Phillies out of Pepperdine in 2014.  He was a standout both on offense and as a hurler in college, so last year when his bat stalled, the move to pitching was made. 
 
Backstop Edgar Cabral has enjoyed success with Glendale, batting .333 with a double and three RBI through 12 games.  The righty batting Californian posted a combined .260 batting average with four homers and 26 RBI this year with Lakewood and Clearwater.  The 22-year-old was an 11th round draft choice by the Phillies in 2015 out of Mount San Antonio College. 
 
Cornelius Randolph with Lakewood in 2016, image- Jay Floyd
Outfielder Cornelius Randolph has dealt with some struggles in the AFL.  The left-handed hitter is batting .203 with three doubles, a triple and five RBI through 16 games.  Randolph, who was the Phils’ 1st round draft choice in 2015, is the youngest player on his team and one of the youngest players in the league at 20 years old. 
 
Zach Green, a corner infielder, is batting .184 with a homer and three RBI in 15 games for Glendale.  A 3rd round draft pick by the Phillies in 2012, Green batted .227 with nine home runs and 26 RBI in 57 combined games at three levels this year, following a stint on the disabled list with multiple ailments this year.

Follow me on Twitter for daily updates on off-season leagues all throughout the autumn and winter months.  

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Excerpts from my interview for Phillies Minor Thoughts

I recently answered some questions on the 2017 Class A Lakewood BlueClaws for Matt Winkleman's Phillies Minor Thoughts site.

The interview was part of Matt's season review for the team. He's running a series of such posts for each level of the Phils' minor league system.

Below are a few quotes, but you can check out his site for the complete feature.

Sixto Sanchez, image- Jay Floyd
Tim Tebow got the national headlines, but Sixto Sanchez was the spectacle in Lakewood this year. What was the environment in the park when he pitched?

Sixto was quickly becoming the name to see in the Phillies’ system this year.  There was some extra fan buzz for sure, as the season went on.  His 2nd half stats (1.91 ERA, 8.7 K/9, .179 BAA) just ensured the BlueClaws would get a shot at a win each time he took the hill, which energized the team behind him.

He’s a combination of both talented and smart, which is why he stands out.  He’s able to fire it up and hurl triple digits, but he can wisely vary the velocity.  Sanchez can pitch with great command and all the positive reviews are on point.  

When he was out there, Sixto electrified the game.  He was the sensation of the 2017 BlueClaws.

This was the second year a Lakewood hitter went on a home run binge. Last year, Jose Pujols went 12/12 Home and road with his home runs, this year Darick Hall hit 22 of his 29 on the road. Can you speak to how the park effects hitters?

Hall’s presence in the Lakewood lineup was a huge key for that team.  His home/road splits display pretty clearly that Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park plays larger than other fields.  I wouldn’t say the park effects the BlueClaws hitters much.  It’s a place that many of them hear about before they step on the field.  They understand that the place is tough to hit the ball out of, just the same as Reading pitchers know ahead of time that their numbers could show the opposite- favorable factors for the offense- when they pitch at home in Reading’s FirstEnergy STADIUM.

The coaching staff in Lakewood references their place as “Yellowstone National Park” because it plays so huge.  They call center field “BigBoyVille”.  Seven out of 27 for Hall is telling about Lakewood, but the road numbers are just as telling to what a batter can do in more typical facilities.

If anything, that park gives Class A batters an extra level of hurdles to deal with as they attempt to develop their game.  Struggles and difficulties can be good things for players to deal with.  They are part of the game.

Coaches, instructors and other evaluators are very tuned in with keeping mental tallies of things that more or less give them sort of an adjusted average (or simply adjusted impressions) to accommodate for tough luck scenarios.  I can’t tell you how many times coaches and managers have cited how stats aren’t telling the full story for a hitter because he’s hitting the ball very hard right at people, or some similar thing.  They give that same feedback to the players.  That’s a reason I don’t think Phils prospects would be dragged down by a park that can sandbag some of their statistics.

There are also positives that come with the park in Lakewood.  It’s a newer venue with great amenities and a terrific fan base.  The BlueClaws led their league in attendance for 15 straight years and they have access to top notch training equipment and a full sized gym.  It’s a special place that hundreds or thousands of other players probably wish they could call home.
  

Click here for additional thoughts on Mickey Moniak, Daniel Brito, Arquemedes Gamboa, Nick Fanti and more.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Kapler to be named Phillies manager as per reports

Multiple reporters, starting with Jon Heyman, posted online Sunday night that the Phillies are close to announcing they'll hire Gabe Kapler as their next manager.

Earlier Sunday, I wrote about how I thought the right choice was Dusty Wathan.  The long-time Phils minor league manager may have been passed over for the skipper role, but perhaps there's still hope for him to join the big league coaching staff.

Kapler is currently employed as the LA Dodgers' director of player development. He was among the final candidates to manage the Dodgers prior to the team hiring Dave Roberts prior to the 2016 season. Kapler played as an outfielder in the big leagues with six team including the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox.

The move possibly won't be announced until after the World Series, which involves the Dodgers, is over.


Fans & Twitter react-











The Case For Dusty Wathan as the Next Phillies Manager

Dusty Wathan, image- Jay Floyd
Multiple reports in recent days state that long-time Phillies minor league skipper is in the running among the team's short list of finalists for their vacant managerial position.  With a pedigree in the sport and a history with a majority of the club's talent, Wathan is the right choice for the role.

The son of former Kansas City Royals manager John Wathan, Dusty practically grew up around in a dugout and on the diamond. 

Following his playing career which included time in the majors with the Royals and wrapped up at the Triple-A level for the Phils in 2007, Wathan's managerial got rolling in 2008.  At that time he was named the skipper for the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters. 

The following season, Wathan led Class A Lakewood BlueClaws to their first of back-to-back South Atlantic League titles.

Wathan managed the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers in 2010 and 2011, where a collection of talented minor leaguers like current Phillies standout Cesar Hernandez and more pushed through the Florida State League en route to their own big league careers.

From 2012 to 2016, Wathan managed the Phils' Double-A Reading team.  Wathan would lead that club to the postseason three times and would go down as Reading's all-time leader in managerial wins with 373.

During his 2017 campaign, at the helm of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, that club also went to the playoffs.

In ten seasons of managing in the minors, Wathan tallied a 711-627.  His teams have reached the playoffs five times, including four of the last six years.

The last time the Phillies went on a string of success in the big leagues, a man known to be a players' manager, Charlie Manuel, was the guy in charge.  It's well known that Manuel got a ringing endorsement from a player with a a lot of clout, slugger Jim Thome, who played for a Manuel-led World Series team in Cleveland in years prior.

Wathan is also known as a player's kind of guy.  Big leaguers such as Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, Hector Neris, J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, Aaron Altherr, Jake Thompson, Ben Lively, Maikel Franco, Mark Leiter Jr., Andrew Knapp and Tommy Joseph, who may all factor big-time into the Phillies; next wave of success at the top level, have all played for Wathan in the minors.  

The choice of who will lead the Phils on the field as they head into a new era is critical.  It seems ideal to go with a guy that has a track record with the current core of talent in order to keep their winning culture intact.

I've heard loads of great feedback over the years from many of those players about Wathan, so if the favor of players is going to have any impact on this decision and their upcoming path, as it did for the Manuel era, the call should be an easy one.

Widely considered a prospect in the coaching ranks, Wathan is just as deserving of a promotion to the top level of the sport as the players he has guided toward the spotlight in Philadelphia. 


Additional notes: Wathan's .531 minor league winning percent would average to an 86-win team in a 162-game season.  The National League has featured an 87-win team as its second wild-card entrant in each of the past two seasons.  

The Phils' active roster made an estimated $37 million last season.  The last Phillies playoff team in 2011 made more than $170 million.  

Imagine Wathan with his core group of players he's already enjoyed success with and additional $133 million of talent...

Friday, October 27, 2017

World Series qualifiers show Phils' long road ahead

As the Dodgers and Astros worked their way to the Fall Classic, it became very clear that they were two of the best teams of the last twenty years. These aren’t the 2011 Cardinals or the 2014 Giants – Wild Card teams that got hot at the right time and rode that momentum to a title. These are complete teams set up for long-term success, and much of the league, Phillies included, have a long way to go to catch them.
To put it in perspective, the Astros, who pair a dominant starting rotation led by Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel with a historically good offense that led the league in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, are 5/4 underdogs against LA, according to mytopsportsbooks.com. (Click here for odds and essays on the 2017 World Series.) That’s just how good the 104-win Dodgers are.

Heading into 2018, the hope from the Phillies front-office likely isn’t a World Series appearance, or even a playoff berth next year. The team is coming off a 66-win season and last-place finish in the National League East division. They have the financial assets to go after big-name free agents, but this year’s FA group isn’t strong enough to turn a 66-win roster into a pennant-winner. 
Jorge Alfaro, image- Jay Floyd
The focus in 2018 should and will be on developing the promising prospects and up-and-comers in the system; left fielder Rhys Hoskins (18 homers, 1.014 OPS in 50 games) and catcher Jorge Alfaro (.318 BA, .874 OPS in 29 games).  Both looked great in big-league action this year, while 27-year-old second baseman Cesar Hernandez had his best season to date (.294 BA, .794 OPS, 3.4 WAR). 
If guys like Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph can rebound from developmentally stagnant years and take steps in the right direction, the Phils’ offense could take a giant leap forward, which it desperately needs to do. Scoring 690 runs (fourth-worst in the NL) is not going to cut it, even if Aaron Nola and Nick Pivetta turn into a strong one-two punch at the front end of the pitching rotation.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Off-season league updates- Twitter is there for you

It's autumn and while the big league postseason is on-going, without any Phillies involvement, I haven't posted much on the site in a while.

Most readers here likely have grown to expect unique content focused on the Phils' minor leagues.  Here's how you can get updates and details even when this site isn't featuring new posts...

Check out my Twitter feed!

For those of you still without the Twitter application or even without a Twitter account, you can simply bookmark this post or my Twitter page for daily updates and stats from several off-season leagues.  Check out the embedded widget below for a sample of what steady details to expect on talented prospects like Roman Quinn, Daniel Brito, Cornelius Randolph and many more along with an occasional remark about professional wrestling or some other random nonsense.

Thanks for the continued interest in my content and pass it along if you know fans that would appreciate this material.



Friday, September 29, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: RHP prospect Jake Kelzer

Jake Kelzer, image- Jay Floyd
Righty hurler Jake Kelzer closed out a solid campaign this month, proving to be a key contributor out of the Class A Lakewood bullpen down the stretch.

The 24-year-old, who stands six-feet-eight and is listed at 230 pounds, pitched in four game with the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters before he was promoted to the Sally League the week of Independence Day.

In 14 outings for the BlueClaws, Kelzer posted a 1-1 record with a 3.74 ERA, a .235 batting average against and a 7.9 K/9 mark. 

Prior to the end of the minor league regular season, I chatted with Jake, the Phillies' 18th round draft pick in 2016, about his season, his coaches, his pitch repertoire and more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-You seem to be closing out the season with a some good outings.  Has your 2017 been as successful as you would have liked it to be?

I mean I think every athlete is going to say that they can do better.  This year's really been a year of fine tuning things and working really hard, you know, with being in extended (spring training) at the beginning of the year and just grinding every day and then coming here and getting together with (pitching coach Brian) Sweeney and stuff.  It's been great and I feel like I'm finishing on a high note.

-You mentioned starting out the season by not making a full season roster.  That's something like that could possibly help a guy by putting a chip on his shoulder and giving him something to prove.  Do you feel that was the case for you?

Yeah, anyone that's in a professional sport should have a chip on their shoulder.  They need something to go out there and prove every single day, so yeah, I totally agree.

-Overall, this year, what did you take from the season.  You talked about working with Sweeney...what were some of the biggest things you learned or was there anything you changed?

Definitely being able  to consistently pound the zone and master that third pitch, get a third pitch in my repertoire and really fine tune those pitches and be able to go more than one inning.  Be able to come out of the 'pen and be able to go two, three innings and be able to contribute to the team and hopefully a victory. 

-What's the whole menu?  What are the three offerings you've got working for you?

I got a fastball that moves a little bit, a change up and a spike curve ball.

-The spike curve ball...describe the difference there.  How is that different than an everyday curve that we would always hear about?

Spike curve ball is not your typical curve ball.  It's not typical in the fact that it's not the slow loopy type.  It doesn't really break the knees.  It's more of a faster, less of a dive, a more sharper dive.

-What's the variance with how the spike curve is thrown versus the traditional curve?

I'd say with the regular curve ball you kind of loop it in there, where I'm just reaching back and chucking it.

-The work with Sweeney I know has helped you.  Is there anyone in the Phils' system that's helped you a considerable amount along the way thus far?

I'd say the whole Phillies staff with Hector (Berrios) and (Rafael Chaves) and Sweeney.  Those three guys are the main guys I've been with since I've been with the Phillies and they've really kind of broken me down and kind of rebuilt me into something that I think can work.

-Your manager Marty Malloy during the final series of the season was planning to meet with the team and confessed that he might get emotional because he views a lot of you guys like his sons.  Does it mean a lot to you to have a coach that cares so much?

Oh, definitely!  This is a wonderful staff that they come in every day and they work harder than us.  They're here earlier than us.  They're with us whenever we need them.  And it's an amazing feeling to, you know, be able to look into the dugout and know that everyone in there, they're your brothers.  They've been here since day one and this coaching staff really set a great example.  

Hibbs and Kelzer, image- Jay Floyd
-It's easy to spot you and your teammate Will Hibbs out in the bullpen, as it's noticeable that you guys are much taller than a lot of the other players.  Do you guys bond more because of this height you have in common?

Oh, we definitely have.  People come up to us and we have the little kids that say, "Wow, you're really tall," and stuff like that.  But, it's really fun to have someone like Hibbs, who absolutely murdered it this year and killed it, just the feedback we have with pitching, because we've got the longer limbs, it's difficult to coordinate everything.  And we bond on that level and he's just a great guy and we just have a lot of fun.

-You were selected in last year's draft, mid-rounds, or so.  How was that experience for you?  Any fun tales to go along with the whole thing?

That was actually the third time I was drafted.  Being drafted by the Yankees and the Cubs, a couple of world-class organizations, and then the Phillies are right up there with them.  It's just wonderful every time being able to get drafted, especially to this organization with such a rich history and such a culture of winning.  And I was actually on the couch watching Game of Thrones with my friends, kind of taking it easy, trying to not hype myself up or worry too much.  And when I got the call I was ecstatic.  I ran around the house a little bit, so it was fun!

As a little kid you always dream about being drafted and as you get older, it kind of dwindles because it's reality and being able to have the opportunity with such great coaching staffs throughout the years, I've just been blessed.  It's been an amazing ride.

-You talked about meeting young fans.  If you had the opportunity to give a young player, who is hoping to reach you level, advice, what would you say?

I'd say don't give up.  I was that little guy too.  I was that guy looking up to the older players, just wanting to be them.  And you've just got to realize that it takes times, takes a lot of effort, takes a lot of work.  You've got to care about yourself a lot.  I'd just say- keep working, keep trying.  Something Marty says, "Prove the doubters wrong!" 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Scott Kingery Interview Excerpts: Speaking on recent accolades, protective netting, more

Scott Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
Last week I talked with Phillies second base prospect Scott Kingery about recent accolades, as he was honored as the organization's annual Paul Owens Award winner and collected a Gold Glove Award for his stellar efforts on defense.

Click here to read my complete feature on those honors.

The following is interview excerpts featuring the 23-year-old's thoughts on the possible need for additional protective netting at big league ball fields and other topics related to his awards. 

Read ahead for those exclusive quotes from Kingery.

-He spoke about being named the top Phillies minor leaguer for the 2017 season...

First of all the Paul Owens Award, it's an incredible honor to be able to get that aware when so many great players have come through and won that award, so it just shows the success that I was able to have this year and what I was able to do.  It's an honor just to have the Phillies think so highly of me and to give me that award.

-Kingery talked about how he found out about being honored as the Paul Owens Award winner along with pitcher Tom Eshelman and how he got the news about the Gold Glove...

For the Paul Owens Award we were actually still playing in the playoffs and (Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager) Dusty (Wathan) brought me and Tom into his office and congratulated us and said, "I just wanted to let you guys know you won the award and they're going to honor you at a game."  He said we'll get the details later and it was a testament to what you guys were able to do this season and they're going to honor you, bring our your families and show you a good time.

So it's pretty cool hearing that.  The Gold Glove Award, I was home in Arizona and I think I was just eating breakfast and I got a call from (Phillies director of player developent) Joe Jordan and he called me and said, "Hey, I just want to let you know that you won a Gold Glove." And when he said that, it was incredible for me, because defense is my favorite part about my game and that award kind of left me speechless because I know how exclusive that award is.

-Kingery talked about the experience of being honored on the field during a pre-game ceremony prior to a Phils game last week and being joined for a photo op, by other players that had previously won the Paul Owens Award, including former Phillie Chase Utley...

I think that was the coolest part about the whole thing was when everyone that had won the award came out and we got a photo and then Chase came over.  Just to see the guys that you're along side of that have all won that award and you look down the line and see all the players.  I think it was incredible how many players were on that field that night.  You know, I think there was something like eight or nine players out there.  That shows that all those Phillies players came up through the system and had great years and have continued their success to be able to be all up there on the big club.  It's amazing to see how many guys and the type of players that won that award and then you're part of it.

-Kingery also spoke of the loved ones that joined him in Philadelphia last week...

My parents came out and my older brother, who is in med school in New York right now, he had the chance to come too, and I brought my girlfriend with me, so I had a good amount of people there and when I told my parents, they were super excited and they took off work to be there.  Just to have your friends and family there to be able to experience that with you it's a big moment in your life.  Just to have them there and see how proud they are of you, it's a good feeling.

-I asked Kingery about the attention going toward the topic of adding protective netting at ballparks around baseball, following a young fan getting hit with a line drive foul ball at a Yankees game this week...

You know, that's something that I've realized my whole life, you get a pitch that someone is early or late on and you get a screaming line drive straight into the stands and a lot of times people get lucky, but not everyone is paying attention to the game at all times.  And I've always thought it would be a good idea to extend the netting past the dugout.  Because if you hit a foul ball over the dugout or in front of the dugout those balls are coming in hard and those can really injure someone, so I've always thought it would be in everyone's best interest to extend the netting.  I know fans like to be close and be able to see the game not through a net, but I think that's just keeping everyone's safety in mind and no player wants to see that happen.  
 
And I think it was Todd Frazier who hit the ball and you could just tell from his facial expression, you know, that it's-- no one ever want to be the guy that hits someone and I think it would be best for everyone- the fans, the players- if we extended the nets down and- 'cause by the time it gets down past the net, you'd have time to react, but if there's a ball right over the dugout, there's not much time to react, so I think it's good idea, actually, to extend them.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Kingery honored with Gold Glove and Paul Owens Award

Scott Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
Much attention was paid throughout the recent minor league season to Scott Kingery's offense, but it's the defensive side of his game that he takes the most pride in.

Fresh off a .304 average/26 home run/65 RBI/29 stolen base campaign combined at Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season, Kingery was honored with a Rawlings Gold Glove Award this week.  The nod, given for defensive excellence, is awarded to one player at each position throughout the minors, putting Kingery in select company among thousands of players.

The five-foot-ten 180-pound second baseman asserts that this honor didn't come as a surprise.  In fact, it was something that crossed his mind long ago.

"Defense is something I take pride in and I set that goal for myself at the beginning of the year.  I told myself I wanted to be so solid that I had the chance to be put in the category or have the opportunity to win that award," Kingery said this week.

The peaks and valleys of hitting are common, so Kingery feels that defense is where he can always remain consistent and knows it's part of the game where he can steadily contribute in a positive way.

"If my hitting's not going well I can still go out on defense and lay out, make a play and maybe save a run for my team, so that's something that I put a lot of focus on," Kingery declared.

On that side of the game this year, the Arizona native posted a .989 fielding percentage, making just six errors in 529 chances.  He also enhanced his versatility late in the season by dabbling in some third base and shortstop (four games and two games respectively at each position).

A separate honor that came Kingery's way this month was the Paul Owens Award, an honor bestowed upon the top offensive and top pitching prospect (righty hurler Tom Eshelman was the other 2017 winner) in the Phillies system each season.

The Phils invited the righty batting Kingery to a big league game this week to be honored on the field before the Citizens Bank Park crowd.

The 23-year-old MLB All-Star Futures Game representative cited the Paul Owens Award as an incredible honor and got to bring family members and his girlfriend along for the special occasion.

Part of the pregame ceremony featured all of the individuals that had previously won the award that were present gathering for a photograph.  This included a player from that night's opposition, the Dodgers, another second baseman and a Philadelphia sports legend named Chase Utley dropping by.

Paul Owens Award winners, image- Phillies
While Kingery didn't get any time to chat with Utley, he does have a rapport with another former Phillies All-Star that played his position, current Phils first base coach Mickey Morandini.

"During spring training, I've had the chance to work with him and talk with him a little bit." Kingery said.  "When I went out there (for the photograph) he said, 'I don't know why I'm out here with your guys.  I won this award a LONG time ago.'"

Morandini won in 1989.  Utley took it in 2002.

Instituted in 1986, the Paul Owens Award is named after the man who spent 48 years in the Phillies organization as a scout, farm director, general manager, manager and senior advisor.

After getting a look at the Phillies in person, Kingery confessed that seeing many of his peers that have been promoted this year having success at the top level makes him want to get there even more.

"What Nick Williams and Rhys (Hoskins) and J.P. (Crawford) and all those guys have been able to do and how successful they've been, it kind of gives you more confidence and makes you hungrier and you want to get there rejoin your teammates and see what you can do up there together, because I think it's a special group of guys we've got and, you know, in the upper levels we've got a bunch of guys that can make a big impact," Kingery stated.

Kingery, the Phillies' second round draft pick in 2015, will likely be an option to join the big league roster and make that impact he spoke of at some point next season.  With Rule 5 draft criteria not requiring a third-year player to be protected on the 40-man roster, the Phils are able to remain conservative with Kingery's arrival to the top level of the sport, despite his accomplishments in the regular season and his impressive spring training (.286 avg, double, two HR in 10 games) with the big league team.

Look for Kingery to continue his great success in 2018, as he plans to spend this off-season utilizing the same workout routine that helped him lock down multiple accolades this year.

Additional quotes and interview excerpts can be found here.

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.