Thursday, April 25, 2019

Patreon Exclusive: LHP Bailey Falter answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

This month I sat down with Phillies left-handed pitching prospect Bailey Falter and asked him to share his thoughts on breakfast cereals, his favorite athlete, profanity, hip hop royalty and plenty more.

The 22-year-old was the Phils' 5th round draft selection in 2015.  Falter, a California native, sports a 1-1 record with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP through three starts in the Eastern League this season.

It's three minutes of fun with the Double-A Reading hurler.  Check out this Patreon exclusive by clicking here!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood skipper Mike Micucci

Mike Micucci, image- Jay Floyd
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This season Mike Micucci took over as the 13th manager of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

A draft pick of the Cubs in 1994, Micucci played six season in the professional ranks and has been coaching or working in the developmental ranks virtually since that time.

Recently, I sat down with the BlueClaws' new skipper to get to know him a bit.  He chatted about his local ties, his family and several of his players, including last year's Phillies first round draft pick Alec Bohm.  Read ahead for that interview.

-Firstly, I want to ask you about Alec Bohm.  Some people are surprised he landed at this level, on this roster.  What have you seen from him?

I mean honestly, we had talked a little bit. He basically showed up to our group on the last day of spring training. So, we haven’t even seen much of him. Obviously, we’ve heard a lot about him, read a lot about him. Basically, after a week, he lives up to everything you’ve heard. He’s very athletic. Kind of a student of the game. Very good at bats. There’s big time power in there with the upside. So, he’s obviously everything you would look for in a player.

-Do you think you would you be included in the group of people, including fans, media types and others, that were surprised Bohm was assigned to Lakewood?

Yeah, I would. But I’ve seen other things happens as well, so it doesn’t shock me. I’ve seen other organizations do similar type things with guys. But, for me, one of the things we talk about is you’re playing where you’re playing and you’re starting where you’re starting, but for the most part just go out and do your job and play well and you’ll be where you’re supposed to be. Whether that’s here or whether that’s in Clearwater or whether he ends the season in Double-A, you know, so we’ll see.

-What’s your coaching background before here and how do you land with the Phillies at this level?

So, that’s a pretty long list. I started with the Cubs as a player and then got into coaching fairly young over there after playing for seven years. Was a hitting coach. After there, went to Texas with the Rangers to manage. Managed in their system for four years, then moved to field coordinator with Texas in ’10 and ’11, when we went to the World Series. From there we left to go to the Angels to be a field coordinator-- I managed my first year there, then moved to field coordinator for three. From there to Seattle to be director or coordinator of instructional or whatever it is. You know, I really wanted to get back into managing, get back to being with younger players. I enjoy being with younger players. I enjoy being with the Latin players and the overall foundation of developing.

I knew Matt Klentak from when we were with the Angels together, so I kind of just reached out to him and Josh (Bonifay) called me and this opportunity landed, which, honestly is interesting because I moved away from this area about nine years ago to go to Texas. But we found a nice area in Texas to raise our family, around Dallas, a city called Frisco, Texas and we moved there. But it’s kind of funny because I grew up in North Jersey, went to Montclaire State, my wife and I got married and we lived in Manahawkin. Yeah, so this is like a home run, both from a professional standpoint to be with the Phillies and be with a great ownership group and being here in New Jersey. Back in New Jersey, where I have some roots.


-What’s the family situation? How many children do you have?

I have two kids. Yeah, married. My wife, (we’re) going on 19 years. My daughter Isabella’s 12. My son Andrew will be nine in May.

-How are they with the career movement and the job taking you all around?

It’s tough. Fortunately, my wife’s a teacher. So, they come out in the summer. They’re excited about that. They’re gonna see grandma and grandpa, all their cousins, aunts and uncles and stuff. So, it’ll be a really nice summer from that standpoint there. So, then the off-season’s nice. You’re around all the time there. And then there’s really probably that three-month window from when spring training starts to the time they get out of school that makes it tough, but they get a week off for spring break, so they were able to come out for spring training. The Phillies give us time off and we try to match it up to kind of put it in the middle, so it’s like four weeks or five weeks and then I’ll take my vacation and go home and see them and then (afterward) it’s another four weeks and then they come out for the summer. So, we always try to break it up where we never go more than four or five weeks apart.

They kind of know how to do it. The coordinator job’s a little different, ‘cause you're going to all the affiliates and then you get to go home. But they’re looking forward to it.

-Some members of the roster come back for a repeat with Lakewood.  Will you look for those types of individuals to take some leadership roles?

Yeah, I mean I think I try not to look at what happened last year or where guys played last year. I don’t want to have sort of a preconceived notion of what to expect. I want to come in and, from speaking with the staff as well, have kind of a blank canvas. But, yeah, if you look in the club house I think you have your pockets of leaders. Some of the returners and you have some of the younger guys, when you look at (Luis) Garcia and (Jonathan) Guzman. Those guys play in the middle and you see they have, like, leadership skills and leadership abilities, with the language barrier, amongst their group and their peers. We definitely see them doing it and we encourage them to kind of stand out and do it a little bit more. Obviously, I think Marchan behind the plate (is doing it too). And then the pitchers. I think there’s little pockets of leaders and something I think is also our job, is trying to show them how to play the game and what we consider the Phillie way, but also to learn how to be leaders, both in the clubhouse, on and off the field.

-I meant to ask earlier...how are your skills with Espanol?

Very limited. But the understanding of the culture is very good because I spent a lot of time in the Dominican at the academies and in the country. The understanding of what they’re going through…I think I make up for it in those other areas, what I lack in the actual interpretation. That’s why we always have somebody on staff that can really do that stuff.

-Your backstops, Rafael Marchan and Abrahan Gutierrez, what do you see from those two thus far?

I tell you what, that’s an impressive group. Both from the ages that they are and the level that they’re playing at. But not only their physical skills, but also, they’re both really smart and they have that grasp of the calling the game, the working with the pitcher, the game planning and stuff like that. So, big upside on both of those guys. I think it’s a nice problem to have.

-Do you have any pitchers assigned or targeted for specific roles out in the bullpen?

No. We don’t…it’s something that we don’t really—it’s not a philosophy of ours to have a setup/closer type of guy. It’s more trying to get guys to pitch in different situations. So, sometimes they will pitch in the back end. Sometimes that pitcher will pitch in the middle. But, basically, you’re looking for high leverage situations, get out, then you’re looking for to put everybody through that experience. Then somebody will come to the forefront of who’s the guy that pitched in the highest leverage situation and that could happen in the 7th inning. That could happen in the 9th. That could happen in the 5th. So, we’ll look to it more like that. And we also are going with more of a tandem type pitching staff, so we’ll see a lot more like a four-inning, one-inning type, where two guys will eat up the majority of the game.

-Back to your coaching staff, Christian Marrero I covered as a player. Matt (Hockenberry), same thing. Can you share some thoughts on your staff?

Yeah, they’re young, passionate, intelligent. They’re a great group to be around. I really enjoy the difference and I believe, also, that my experience can kind of help them as well. So, they’re good. They pepper me with questions. I know Josh (Bonifay) has really talked a lot about helping that group out. It’s a great place to be because not only are we trying to develop players, but develop young coaches as well.

-I talked to Matt last season, mainly about players, but I was also interested in his progress as a coach and he just seemed really hungry and passionate about it and I know he takes great pride in (being fluent with Spanish).

He’s impressed me a lot. Like, all of a sudden it just kind of rattles out of there and it’s pretty cool to see. It’s awesome.

-Thanks for all the time.  Before I let you go, I want to ask about Cole Stobbe. He was here last year and didn’t get to enjoy the success that this team had last year (going to the postseason). Are you hoping for big things from him? Do you see it coming?

Well, right now what we’re doing, is, as you can see, our team needs to be pretty versatile. You’ve got the two young guys in the middle (Jonathan Guzman and Luis Garcia), which need to move around, so you’ll see them flipping back and forth. Alec (Bohm) will play third base, but he’s also gonna play first base. Stobbe will play third base. He’s also gonna play first base.  He's also gonna play the outfield, he'll be in either of the corner positions.  We really believe deeply in the versatility.  That's kind of what we're focusing on right now is getting him to where he's comfortable on the field.  Any time you're putting somebody in a new spot, there's all those things that are going on in their head, but yeah, we're excited for him.  I've been focused mostly on the defensive stuff and getting him up to speed with some of the things he's gonna do.  I we just feel like at times, you just throw somebody over at first base.  First base can be a pretty tough position to play, from all the footwork standpoint, to just being around the bag, making sure you're protected.  Number one sometimes those throws go up the line, you see guys reaching across.  Obviously, he's in a position where he feels comfortable to make some plays there.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Phils prospect Gowdy enjoying success following elbow surgery

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Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- After battling setbacks, both physical and mental, for the past two seasons pitching prospect Kevin Gowdy is back on the mound, competing in full-season baseball for the first time.

The Phillies selected the right-handed California native in the second round of the 2016 draft.  Difficulties with his health held him to just nine professional regular season innings until this month.

After appearing in four games with the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2016, Gowdy was assigned to extended spring training to open the 2017 season.  While there, the six-foot-four 170-pounder encountered some tightness in his right elbow.  Initially, the discomfort didn't strike Gowdy as serious pain, so he pitched through it.  The tightness soon became unbearable agony that he could no longer ignore.  Magnetic imaging was prescribed and it was determined that the hurler was facing a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow of his pitching arm.  Tommy John surgery was required.

Recovery would go normally.  He dealt with shoulder soreness, which is said to be typical for those recovering from the procedure.  Later, when he began to throw sliders, the faced a strain of his flexor tendon.  The familiar discomfort instilled fear in the youngster.

"When my elbow would come back like this," Gowdy said while gesturing a throwing motion, "I would feel that same pain and I don’t think I slept two nights in a row because I was so close to being fully cleared."

The reservations were there all along as it wasn't just the physical hindrances that Gowdy had to battle through.  There were also impediments between his ears that presented challenges.

"About eight or nine months into the rehab I had kind of a mental break(down)," Gowdy explained.  "They started saying you can start throwing the ball hard again and something in my mind just wouldn’t let me do that."

Gowdy would work closely with Hannah Huesman, the Phillies' mental skills coach.  Various mental exercises, including one that required Gowdy to sing while pitching, would help the talented youngster get past his hang ups.

He also bonded with former Phillies great and two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay.  The veteran maintained an affiliation with the organization, working with young players on the mental side of the game, until the day he passed away.  The two were close.

"We worked together a lot on staying positive, ‘cause when my elbow started getting tired or hurting, my outings weren’t going that great, so I was really frustrated with that and he just always believed in me, always supported me and you wouldn’t know you were talking to Roy Halladay.  He, every day, would come in with a smile and just wanted to help every day, no matter what it was," Gowdy shared.

Feelings of depression were also a factor for Gowdy during the difficult recovery process.  With bumps along the way, while being forced to watch peers take strides, get healthy or earn promotions, he describes times when he thought of quitting baseball.  Gowdy chose to take on hobbies in order to give himself other things to focus on. One of those was learning to play guitar. Taking inspiration from an Eagles concert he attended, Gowdy sought out a teacher to educate him on the ways of the musical axe the very next day.  According to the 21-year-old, he's gotten quite good with the instrument.

Class A Lakewood BlueClaws manager Mike Micucci, in his first season with the Phillies organization after previously playing and coaching in the Cubs system, then later managing and working as a field coordinator in the Rangers system and Angels as well as working in the developmental ranks with the Mariners, is quite happy for his talented hurler.

"It's good to see him get out of the (spring training and rehab) complex," said Micucci.  "He seems to be in a good place mentally, which generally when guys have spent a year or two with the injury bug, that's the biggest hurdle to get over."

Thus far in three starts this season for the 'Claws, Gowdy, who signed for a reported $3.1 million, sports a 2.79 ERA with no decisions and held the opposition to a .147 batting average against.

In his second outing, an effort at home against Delmarva (Orioles affiliate) on Monday, Gowdy walked the first three batters he faced, but would bounce back to retire the next 12 batters in order, striking out seven of those opponents.  He notched four innings of work without allowing a run or a hit. 

The success, Gowdy feels, is a welcome bonus.  However, he's got a different overall focus this year.  His main objective is to avoid any sort of backslide toward the injured list.  

"My goal is to stay healthy and have fun and just keep getting better each time out," said Gowdy.  "(But aside from) the results, I’d say I feel lucky to be back on the mound and being able to pitch again."

Improving on the physical side, of course, was critical for Gowdy to return to the mound and develop further.  But the strides he took with his mental toughness and positive outlook are the areas where he feels he may have improved the most.  The late Halladay would be proud.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Dylan Cozens answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

Dylan Cozens, image- Jay Floyd
Exclusively for Patrons, I've got a brand new interview with Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs masher Dylan Cozens....

Slugging Phillies OF prospect, Cozens, sat down with me this week to answer nine silly-ass questions.

Check out the audio of my interview with the 24-year-old lefty batter to hear his thoughts on junk food, animals, super powers and plenty more.

Please help to support the coverage this web site offers by becoming a patron over on Patreon.com/PhoulBallz!  Last year I lost money to keep the site running and providing exclusive news, player features as well as updates that Phillies fans can't get any place else.  As a perk for becoming a patron, you will have access to content that won't be offered otherwise. 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Moniak ready for next challenge at Double-A

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The struggles that faced talented outfield prospect Mickey Moniak seem to be a thing of the past.

Taken with the first overall draft pick by the Phillies in 2016, the expectations have always been high for the talented prospect, but the organization and the player himself are more confident than ever that Moniak's future is bright.

Moniak has known since the start of spring training that he would open the 2019 campaign in the Double-A Eastern League with Reading when their season starts on Thursday night.  A meeting with Phils general manager Matt Klentak, team manager Gabe Kapler, director of player development Josh Bonifay and outfield coordinator Andy Abad was the setting where the 20-year-old learned that the Phillies feel he has nothing left to prove in Class A Advanced.

Last year with Clearwater, Moniak struggled out of the gate, batting .213 in 22 April games, but he bounced back the rest of the way, batting .285 through the remainder of the campaign.  Over the long haul of the season, the lefty hitter sported a .270 average with 28 doubles, three triples, five home runs and 55 RBI in 114 games.

The year prior, in 2017 at Class A Lakewood, Moniak performed well on offense early in the season and cooled off considerably as the season went on, tallying a .721 first half OPS to go with a .525 second half OPS.  The strife wasn't something that Moniak would allow to impact his approach

"There was really no panic going, just knowing how fast a season can go down or go up," Moniak said.  "So, I kind of just trusted myself.  And there was a point where I stopped listening to outside sources, articles stuff like that and the negative stuff and just looked forward to playing baseball everyday and just took my time and had some fun again."

Moniak's manager with Reading, Shawn Williams, also managed him last season with the Threshers, so he got to see the adjustments and the improved results from Moniak up close.

"His at bats got way better, which in turn showed in his results," Williams shared.  "He was huge for us down the stretch.  He drove in a bunch of big runs.  He's really matured and grown up and he's just going to get better the more he plays."

The development that Moniak showed after turning a corner in 2018 had him seeing more pitches, improving his strike out to walk ratio by a considerable amount and notching a .333 batting average over his final 32 games with Clearwater.

Additionally, Moniak has added muscle to his six-foot-two frame, weighing in at over 200 pounds these days, which is approximately 30 pounds heavier than when he signed as a pro.

Moniak will be part of a Fightin Phils starting outfield that includes two other Phillies first round draft picks.  The trio, which includes Adam Haseley (2017) and Cornelius Randolph (2015), have bonded during their time in the organization.  With something so rare as three top draft picks making up the full outfield on the same team (Williams doesn't think it has happened before) drawing some attention, each of the three are focused on the entire team, getting wins and competing in the EL.

Reading opens its season on the road in Portland then heads to New Hampshire for a three-game set before the team begins the home schedule against Richmond on Friday, April 12th.  Moniak is already excited to see how his offensive efforts fare at Baseballtown's FirstEnergy Stadium.

"Going through the Phillies system, you always hear about Reading and how hitter friendly it is.  Going in there you can't really change your game though.  You've got to just play your game," Moniak asserted.  "I've talked to people whose advice is, 'If you try to hit home runs, you're not going to hit home runs.'  So, I'm just looking to go in there and play my game and carry over what I did last season."

He's already translated his success last year into a solid spring, Williams said.  During the Grapefruit League season, Moniak went 4-for-20 (.200 avg) in 11 exhibition games before joining his teammates in minor league camp.

According to Moniak, he was welcomed into the Phillies' locker room and had a high comfort level from the start.  Part of that was thanks to another first overall draft pick that signed with the Phils during spring.  Star right fielder Bryce Harper took Moniak under his wing once he joined the team.

"I talked to Bryce a lot and he pulled me aside and went out of his way to talk to me, which shows what kind of person he is," Moniak stated.  "He really cares about the team and the whole organization as a whole.  He's really focused on winning and trying to back guys up and have guys' backs.

"The main thing he stressed to me was he wants me to be comfortable.  He wants all the young guys to be comfortable in the club house and that the whole team's got our backs and, you know, just for us to go out and play the best that we can day in and day out."

Moniak feels the time spent around the big leaguers this spring will benefit his future, as he was able to see first-hand what it takes to compete at the top level of the sport.

The organization is more certain than ever that his impact will be felt in the majors.

"His ceiling," Williams said, "There's no ceiling, 'cause he gets so much better every year."

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Reading drops Lehigh Valley in final preseason tune up

Mickey Moniak, image- Jay Floyd
ALLENTOWN, PA-- Double-A Reading batted around in the opening frame, plating five runs against Triple-A Lehigh Valley starter Drew Anderson and never looked back, dropping the host team by a score of 7-3 in the annual Rt. 222 Showcase exhibition.

Right fielder Adam Haseley led off the first with a double and came around to score on a single by center fielder Mickey Moniak.  Shortstop Arquimedes Gamboa also drove in two with a key hit in the first.

Anderson would calm down following the shaky start, looking in control and retiring 10 in a row and recording four K's as he completed four innings of work.

Reading starting pitcher Mauricio "MoYo" Llovera surrendered a pair of runs in the second inning on an error and a run scoring single by Shane Robinson.

Left fielder Cornelius Randolph notched three hits on the night, including an RBI double.

The Fightins lead the all-time exhibition series six games to four.

The IronPigs will open their season at home on Thursday when they host Rochester with Jerad Eickhoff taking the hill.

The remainder of Lehigh Valley's six-man pitching rotation will feature, in order, Cole Irvin, Enyel De Los Santos, Ranger Suarez, Drew Anderson and lastly JoJo Romero.

Reading opens the regular season on the road, as they visit Portland to open a four-game series starting Thursday.  Ramon Rosso will get the start on the mound in the opener.

Per Fightins manager Shawn Williams, the opening day starter was slated to be Connor Seabold, but he is sidelined with an injury for, at least, the first turn through the rotation. Reading's pitching rotation will be rounded out by, in order, Adonis Medina, David Parkinson, Llovera and Bailey Falter. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview Excerpts: Reading LHP Aaron Brown

Aaron Brown, image- Jay Floyd
Aaron Brown was a two-way player at Pepperdine, standing out both as an outfielder as well as a pitcher.  The Phillies' 3rd round draft selection in 2014 was slated to play exclusively on the offensive side after signing that year.  But, after reaching the Double-A level as an offensive player and seeing his batting average come in under .225, he was switched back to the pitching role in 2017.

Combined at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading last year, Brown posted a 3-6 record with a 4.90 ERA, a .271 batting average against along with an 8.8 K/9 mark in 46 total appearances.

Entering his second full season as a professional pitcher, the 26-year-old will open the 2019 campaign back with Reading, where he ended last season. 

Brown appeared in four games this spring with the major league Phillies, surrendering one earned run on two hits while striking out three and walking none in 2 2/3 innings of work.

This week I chatted with Brown about his time around the big league Phillies, working with J.T. Realmuto, his favorite thing about playing in Reading as well as recent rule changes that will impact pitchers among other things. Some excerpts from our talk are shared below, but you can check out the complete interview at Patreon.com/PhoulBallz.


-The assignment for you to open the season is back with Reading in Double-A.  Is that as you expected?

No, I think it was as expected.  I came up here the end of last season, for the second half, threw the ball pretty well.  You know, it was a good experience for me and I know there's probably a little bit more work to get done here and go from there.  But it was pretty well expected to start here again.  Our Triple-A squad is stacked right now, so (there's) not a lot of room for guys to move up there quite yet.  But, yeah, I'm excited to be back here.  It's going to be a fun season and I'm just ready to get after it.

-Cool.  So, spring training must have been exciting for you, as you spent plenty of time around the big league team.  What was that time like for you this spring, pitching for the big league team?

I'll tell you what, man, it was amazing.  It was such a good opportunity, just a blessing to be able to do it here and there and help them win some ballgames.  I just loved every second of it.  I love a challenge and it was definitely that, when it came to facing big league hitters and just kind of see where I was at, how my stuff played in the zone and I can't complain about anything.  It was all really good.  A lot of positive feedback (from coaches).  And just a huge opportunity that I think I really took advantage of.

-I talked to one of the lower level players, Ben Brown, last week and he was sharing some thoughts that even in the lower levels they can feel the change of atmosphere within the organization with all the changes of player personnel and the vibe that is turning around.  Having been around it, but still in the minors, what are your perceptions of that?

Yeah.  I mean, definitely.  There's definitely a change in atmosphere.  You look at our team up there and you just see a roster of guys that go out there to win and not just to play.  And when our fan base knows that and they know the kind of players we have on the team and the kind of energy we're going to bring every single day-- the big leaguers are going to bring every single day, like that makes them excited.  So, all of spring training, the atmosphere was just full of energy and excitement.  Even though they were just spring games, when someone hits a home run, the place just erupted.  And the fans love it and they love how much we want to win every single day.  So, I can definitely say that the atmosphere was definitely different this year.

-It's easy to forget or not realize that this would be your fourth time with Reading, as you had two turns as an outfielder and not your second time there as a pitcher.  With all that time playing there, what are some of your favorite things about Baseballtown?

Oh, man, just the crowds we bring in.  We get awesome crowds here and the fan base is amazing and we love putting on a show for them each and every night.  So, that's one of the biggest things about playing in Reading is it IS Baseballtown and the people out here love their baseball, love their Phillies and that makes it exciting for the players to show up every season and be ready to go because we know we're going to have great people there every night that are ready to watch some good baseball.

-The Reading vs. Lehigh Valley exhibition is coming up on Tuesday.  Any thoughts?

Yeah, we'll be out there.  We play Lehigh and we head to Portland to start the regular season right after the game.  It's gonna be a fun game and that team is pretty stacked, honestly, so we'll see what happens, but it should be a lot of fun and we're excited to head up to Portland right after and start the season.

-Are there any bragging rights on the line in a game like that or is it still just focus on getting ready and getting reps in?

Not that I know of, man.  I was only part of (it once), but from what I remember it was pretty fun and guys were just getting their work in, taking advantage of that last minute to fine tune some things and getting ready for game one of the season. 


For the complete interview with Ben, head on over to Patreon.com/PhoulBallz and support the content here by becoming a patron.   

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Rule Updates for 2019 in Minor League Baseball

Per a press release from Minor League Baseball on Friday, new pace of play initiatives will be in place for the upcoming 2019 season. 

Double-A and Triple-A levels will now require starting pitchers or any substitute pitcher to face a minimum of three consecutive batters.

Mound visit limitations will also see some refinement as will the second base runner to start extra inning frames.

See complete details below.

PITCHERS TO FACE MINIMUM OF THREE BATTERS 
 
- At the Triple-A and Double-A levels, the starting pitcher or any substitute pitcher is required to pitch to a minimum of three consecutive
batters, including the batter then at bat (or any substitute batter), until such batters are put out or reach first base, or until the offensive team
is put out, unless the starting pitcher or substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him
from further play as a pitcher. 
 
EXTRA INNINGS RUNNER ON SECOND BASE REVISION 
 
- At all levels of Minor League Baseball, extra innings will begin with a runner on second base. If the last batter of the previous inning was the
pitcher, the player to occupy second base to start the following inning will be the player in the batting order before the pitcher’s spot in the
lineup. By way of example, if the pitcher bats in the eighth position and the number nine hitter in the batting order is due to lead off the 10
th
inning, the number seven player in the batting order (or a pinch-runner for such player) shall begin the inning on second base. Any runner or
batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game, as is the case in all circumstances under the Official
Baseball Rules. 
 
PITCHER’S MOUND VISITS 
 
- Visits by coaches and position players will be limited based on the classification level. Triple-A teams will be allowed five (5) visits per team
(down from six), Double-A teams will be allowed seven (7) visits per team (down from eight), Single-A teams will be allowed nine (9) visits per
team (down from 10) and there will not be a limit on mound visits for Short Season and Rookie-level clubs.
- For any extra-innings played, each club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.
- Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the
second visit by a manager/coach in an inning).

Friday, March 29, 2019

Unveiling of Phils' full-season minor league rosters begins

Drew Anderson w/ Reading in 2017, image- Jay Floyd
For those waiting to see where their favorite Phillies prospects will land and which teams they'll be headed to see in the early going this season, roster announcements have begun to come out.

As always, the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers are the last of the bunch to release their players, but we'll get to some speculating in a bit.

To start, here is who you'll see in Class A Lakewood next week, highlighted by last year's first round draft selection Alec Bohm, a big masher that plenty of people speculated could skip this level completely.

From BlueClaws.com...

Pitchers - Tyler Carr, Colton Eastman, Ethan Evanko, Kevin Gowdy, Ethan Lindow, Oscar Marcelino, Robinson Martinez, James McArthur, Tyler McKay, Jhordany Mezquita, Francisco Morales, Jack Perkins, Dominic Pipkin, Victor Santos, Gilmael Troya
Catchers - Abrahan Gutierrez, Rafael Marchan
Infielders - Alec Bohm, Luis Garcia, Jonathan Guzman, Jake Holmes, Matt Kroon, Cole Stobbe
Outfielders - Carlos De La Cruz, Malvin Matos, James Smith, Yerwin Trejo

For the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils, the outfield will be made up of three previous first round draft picks, namely Cornelius Randolph, Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley.  Both of last year's Paul Owens Award winners, Austin Listi and David Parkinson, will also suit up for Reading as will highly touted hurler Adonis Medina

Via the Reading web site...

Pitchers- Trevor Bettencourt, Aaron Brown, Kyle Dohy, Bailey Falter, J.D. Hammer, Jakob Hernandez, Luke Leftwich, Mauricio Llovera, Adonis Medina, David Parkinson, Ramon Rosso, Addison Russ, Connor Seabold
Catchers- Austin Bossart, Henri Lartigue
Infielders- Jose Antequera, Ali Castillo, Grenny Cumana, Darick Hall, Austin Listi, Luke Williams
Outfielders- Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak, C. Randolph, Josh Stephen

And at the top level of the developmental ladder, the Triple-A IronPigs will feature several talented hurlers, namely Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin, Drew Anderson, Ranger Suarez and JoJo Romero among others.  The IronPigs may go with a six-man starting rotation that includes those five men along with Jerad Eickhoff.  Powerful slugger Dylan Cozens is also back in Allentown.

Per a release from the 'Pigs...

Pitchers- Drew Anderson, Victor Arano, Austin Davis, Enyel De Los Santos, Jerad Eickhoff, Edgar Garcia, Tyler Gilbert, Cole Irvin, Josh Martin, James Pazos, Yacksel Rios, JoJo Romero, Ranger Suarez
Catchers- Rob Brantly, Deivi Grullon, Matt McBride
Infielders- Malquin Canelo, Gift Ngoepe, Sean Rodriguez, Andrew Romine, Damek Tomscha, Mitch Walding
Outfielders- Lane Adams, Dylan Cozens, Jan Hernandez, Shane Robinson

While we wait for the Threshers' official roster to come out, there are plenty of names that would seem to be locks for that level based on what we've seen on the other rosters.  Top pitching prospect Spencer Howard should open the season in that rotation, while other starting pitchers that can be expected in Clearwater include Nick Fanti, Kyle Young, Damon Jones and perhaps Andrew Brown.  The bullpen could feature the likes of Connor Brogdon, Zach Warren, Jonathan Hennigan, Keylan Killgore, Garrett Cleavinger and Ismael Cabrera with plenty of other options.  On the offensive side, expect to see OF's Simon Muzziotti, Jhailyn Ortiz, Kevin Markham and Matt Vierling.  Infielders should include Madison Stokes, Nick Maton, Dalton Guthrie, Daniel Brito and Jake Scheiner.  The backstops may be Rodolfo Duran and Colby Fitch.

The Phillies released right-handed pitchers Randy Alcantara and Tyler Fallwell on Thursday.  

PhoulBallz Interview Excerpts: Talking Spring Training with RHP Ben Brown

Ben Brown, image- MiLB.com
Right-handed pitcher Ben Brown, the Phillies' 33rd round draft selection in 2017, made a splash last year in the Rookie level Gulf Coast League, putting together a 4-2 record, a 3.12 ERA and an 11.4 K/9 mark in 10 appearances (eight starts).  Additionally, he earned a promotion to short-season Class A Williamsport and made two starts there before the end of the regular season.

This week I spoke with the six-foot-six 210 pounder about his spring efforts, where he could possibly pitch this year, his relationships with other Phils prospects including last year first round pick Alec Bohm and plenty more.  Read ahead for a sampling of my chat with Ben and head on over to Patreon.com/PhoulBallz for the complete interview.

-We're talking here while the Phillies' opening day game is going on and a lot of what I am hearing from people I know that are there and people online is saying that the atmosphere is exciting and different.  Once the roster additions that got so much attention this off-season are made, can you feel the vibe or the atmosphere in the organization change at the lower levels too?

Yeah, I mean it trickles down, for sure.  Obviously, it's more development in the minor leagues, but you know it's about guys getting better, but it's good to have them.  When Bryce Harper signed it was a really big deal around the clubhouse.  I happened to be-- I was outside at a game when Harper signed and everyone's yelling, "We got Harper!  We got Harper!"  So, it's cool.  And obviously with the other guys too that we signed this year and with Nola throwing so well, there's a winning attitude around the complex. 

Some of those guys, they were down working out with us (early) too.  (Andrew) McCutchen was down here the whole off-season for the most part and these guys really want to win.  I haven't talked to them, but from watching them work and seeing how much they want to win and watching some of their spring training games, it's really impressive stuff. 

-Battery mate wise is there anyone there that you've been clicking with a lot with in pre-season?

Obviously, I'm very close with Logan (O'Hoppe) because he lives near me and he's like my little brother.  I got to see him over the off-season and he lives pretty close to me down here, hotel wise, so I'm usually hanging out with him and I love when he catches me.  But all the catchers are really good.  Just going down the line, everyone I've thrown to shocks me in a way, 'cause most of are 17, 18, 19, 20 years old and they're catching like they're big leaguers.  They work really hard.  Every catcher's really good.

-You mentioned Logan and being sort of neighbors, were you part of that Long Island (Newsday) feature spread about the group of prospects putting the "LI" in Phillies?

Yeah, me Kyle (Young), Logan and (Nick) Fanti.

-How was that?  Obviously, there's a photo shoot, but did you guys know what to expect?

Yeah, we found out a week ahead of time.  It was pretty cool that we all got to get together, because usually it's an article about one of us or something about of us and we finally got to come together for a picture and I think that kind of describes us a little bit better with how well we get along and representing Long Island as a whole.  So, it's great because I'm close with all those guy.  Kyle was my roommate during Co-Op.  Logan was my roommate last summer.  And me and Nick Fanti are really close.  He's a brother to me, so it's pretty cool we had a little photo op together.

For the complete interview with Ben, head on over to Patreon.com/PhoulBallz and support the content here by becoming a patron. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Phillies 2019 Opening Day Schedule of Events

Guess who's back.  Back again.  The Phillies are back.  Tell a friend.

Here's your opening day schedule of events aand other information for game one of the 2019 season.

The Phillies advise that fans in attendance check in using the free MLB Ballpark mobile application to receive special offers on retail offerings and concessions.  

The newly renamed New Era Team Store is open beginning at 8AM for fans to grab tons of new merchandise options.

Gates open around Citizens Bank Park at 12:35 PM.  All fans receive a rally towel sponsored by Nemours.

Pregame- Fans can enjoy the Budweiser Block Party at the 3rd base gate side of the park on Citizens Bank Way.  The party is slated to feature samplings from Coca-Cola, Turkey Hill Dairy, Hatfield Quality Meats and others. 

12:10 PM- Phillies batting practice.

1:10 PM- Braves batting practice.

2 PM- Questlove of The Roots DJ's at the 3rd base plaza party.

2:26 PM- The Phillies "leadoff walk"...the team enters the stadium.

2:35 PM- US Military unfurls a massive U.S. Flag on the field and the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Men’s Chorale perform America the Beautiful

2:40 PM- Braves intros.

2:45 PM- Phillies intros.

2:52 PM- National Anthem, performed by Kane Kalas.

2:55 PM- US Navy Leap Frogs parachute onto the field, delivering the first balls.

3:02 PM- Ceremonial first pitches, featuring Questlove and Daniel Scharff, an 11-year-old boy that was born with cerebral palsy.

3:07 PM- FIRST PITCH!

5th inning- The Phanatic's first dance of the season.

7th inning stretch- Sergeant Jonathon Packard of the Delaware State Police performs God Bless America.

Postgame- Questlove to DJ for 90 minutes at Pass and Stow, the new bar that replaced McFaddens.


For those not in attendance, the game will be broadcast live on NBC 10 in Philadelphia and on 94.1 WIP FM.  Opening day ceremonies are also slated to be streamed live on the Phillies' social networking platforms. 

Opening Day Preview: Braves at Phillies, 3/28/19

Happy Opening Day to all.  A brand new season is upon us and division rivals face off to get things started in the City of Brotherly Love as the reigning National League East champion Atlanta Braves visit the hopeful and revamped Phillies.

The game will be televised locally on NBC 10 on Thursday at 3:00 PM.

The pitching match up...RHP  Julio Teheran (9-9 record, 3.94 ERA last season) vs. RHP Aaron Nola (17-6, 2.37 ERA last season).  Teheran, a native of Colombia, went 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA in four starts against the Phillies last year.  In his career at Citizens Bank Park, the 28-year-old has tallied a 6-2 record with a 3.11 ERA and a .227 batting average against in nine starts.  While facing Teheran in his career, Phils OF Bryce Harper is a .450 hitter with three doubles, eight home runs, 19 RBI and 11 walks with 40 at bats.  Nola went 10-2 with a 2.34 ERA and a .211 batting average against in 17 home starts last year.  The Phillies' first round draft pick from 2014, Nola, sported a 2.84 ERA in 15 day games last season.  Nola has a 7-3 record and a 2.09 ERA along with .185 BAA in 12 career starts against the Braves.

To read the rest of this post, packed with stats and notes, and to help support my baseball coverage become a patron by visiting https://www.patreon.com/phoulballz.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #1 RHP Spencer Howard

Spencer Howard, image- Jay Floyd
Righty pitcher Spencer Howard is this outlet’s choice as the Phillies’ top overall prospect. Howard was the team’s 2nd round draft selection in 2017 (45th overall) out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and has proven to be an exceptional hurler in his time as a pro.

A dominant power pitcher, Howard is the Phillies prospect to watch heading into the 2019 campaign.

In college, in his draft year/sophomore season, Howard sported an 8-1 record with a 1.95 ERA and a 10 K/9 mark over 17 appearances (12 starts) for the Mustangs. As a red shirt freshman the previous year, he posted a 2.95 ERA in 21 appearances (two starts).

After signing his first professional contract, Howard debuted with Class A short-season Williamsport, where he notched a 1-1 record with a 4.45 ERA and a .214 batting average against while striking out 40 and walking 18 in 28 1/3 innings in nine starts. Following the regular season, he participated in the Florida Instructional League.

Howard felt great levels of comfort with his Lakewood teammates last year, describing his situation as being among “good-ass dudes playing some baseball”. While there, he experienced some highs and some lows, as he notched a 1.89 ERA in four April starts, then came back down to Earth to sport an 8.79 ERA in four May starts for the BlueClaws.

He turned a corner, however, in late June. Starting with a six-inning, no-run, 10 strike out performance against Hagerstown on June 29th, Howard would post a 1.52 ERA over his final 11 starts of the regular season. The success didn’t end there, as the 22-year-old had the best day of his life in the post-season, clinching his team’s trip to the South Atlantic League finals by tossing a nine-inning no-hitter against division rival Kannapolis.

Overall, in 23 regular season starts with Lakewood, Howard tallied a 9-8 record with a 3.78 ERA with an 11.8 K/9 mark and a .240 batting average against.

Consistency with his delivery is critical for Howard and he knows that's where he ran into trouble last season. As he moves forward, this will be a key focus.

Work ethic is a standout quality for the six-foot-three 205-pounder according to Phillies developmental personnel.

Coaches also feel Howard developed a solid feel for all four of his pitches last season. His repertoire includes a blazing fastball that creeped into triple-digits at times toward the end of last season. More commonly it resides around 97-98 MPH. He’s also equipped with an exceptional cutter that resembles a slider, a curveball that features good break and a superior change up that fools opposing batters frequently.

Look for Howard to open the season with Class A Advanced Clearwater. Once he proves to have mastered the Florida State League, the challenge of the upper levels will be right around the corner for the California native. The sky is the limit for this talented competitor.





Track this year's complete Phillies top 25 prospects countdown by clicking this link

Monday, March 18, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #2 RHP Adonis Medina

Adonis Medina, image- Jay Floyd
Widely ranked among the Phillies' top prospects by many outlets, righty hurler Adonis Medina has made a name for himself, as scouts rave about his skills, coaches boast about his potential and Phils' brass adores his ability.

Medina, who is equipped with a mid-90's fastball along with a curveball and a change up that are considered to have plus potential, has used that arsenal to impress at the lower levels of the minor leagues to date.

Signed in 2014 at age 17, Medina made his pro debut that year as part of the Phillies' Dominican Summer League team. In 11 games (two starts) he would post a 2-3 record with a save, a 1.27 ERA and a 7.5 K/9 mark along with a .220 batting average against.

In 2015, the six-foot-one 187-pounder competed with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phils, sporting a 3-2 record with a 2.98 ERA, a .253 BAA and a 6.9 K/9 mark in 10 games (eight starts).

The following season, at the age of 19, he would pitch with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters and was the team's opening day starter. In 13 games, all starts, Medina tallied a 5-3 record with a 2.92 ERA along with a 4.7 K/9 mark.

In 2017 Medina would join the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. In 22 starts he would put together a 4-9 record with a 3.01 ERA, a .227 BAA along with a 10.0 K/9 mark (3rd best in the league).

Last season, taking the step up to Class A Advanced Clearwater, Medina sported a 10-4 record with a 4.12 ERA, a .245 batting average against along with a 10.0 K/9 mark in 22 outings (21 starts). He was highly successful at home for the Threshers, notching a 2.86 ERA and .226 BAA in 12 appearances at Spectrum Field, while he tallied a 5.96 ERA and .271 BAA in 10 away games. 

Medina is praised for having a great feel for pitching and a power arm. His fastball, which consistently gets to 95 MPH and touches higher, arrives at the plate featuring sink, helping to result in ground balls from the opposition. Additionally, both secondary pitches are strong. The Dominican Republic native already has the control of an elder pitcher, tossing loads of strikes with consistency in the strike zone, and coaches cite that he embraces the learning process.

The Phillies added Medina to their 40-man roster over the off-season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.   He appeared in three big league spring training games this year, allowing two earned runs while striking out five and walking one in 4 2/3 innings.

The 22-year-old's ceiling seems quite high, but Medina has plenty of development ahead to fulfill those expectations. 

Expect Medina to open the season as part of the starting rotation for Double-A Reading.

Track this year's complete Phillies top 25 prospects countdown by clicking this link.  

Saturday, March 16, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #3 3B Alec Bohm

Bohm, photo- MiLB.com
Selected with the 3rd overall selection in last year’s draft, third baseman Alec Bohm is one of the Phillies’ most promising young talents.

A collegiate second team All-American, Bohm batted .339 with 14 doubles, a triple, 16 home runs and 55 RBI while swiping nine bags in 57 games last year in his junior season for Wichita State. He notched 24 multi-hit games during his 2018 campaign.

Overall in three seasons with the Shockers, Bohm batted .317 with 33 homers, 125 RBI and a .941 OPS in 166 total games. He was one of the top ranked college hitters heading into last year’s draft.

After debuting as a pro, the righty hitting Bohm would tally a .343 batting average with a double, a triple and five RBI in 11 games in the Rookie level Gulf Coast League. Additionally, up a level with Class A short-season Williamsport, the six-foot-five 240-pounder would notch a .224 average with five doubles, a triple and 12 RBI in 29 games.

Bohm, who grew up as a Yankees fan, is said to have a top notch work ethic. He missed roughly a month of action last season after being hit in the left leg by a pitch, but following the regular season, Bohm participated in the Florida Instructional League and was among the first players to arrive for spring training in Clearwater.

At the plate, Bohm controls the strike zone, drawing walks and keeping strike outs to a minimum. The Nebraska native sports plus raw power and has outstanding bat speed.

Defensively, Bohm wasn’t impressive after debuting as a professional. He committed nine errors in 69 opportunities for an .870 fielding percentage. He’ll continue to see time at third base, but if the efforts don’t improve, a positional move could be in store for him.

Speed won't be a key factor of this big masher's game.

Look for the 22-year-old to open the 2019 campaign with one of the Phils’ full-season Class A clubs. Estimated time of arrival in the big leagues may be a couple years off.

Keep track of this year's complete Phillies top 25 prospects countdown by clicking this link.    

Friday, March 15, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #4 OF Adam Haseley

Adam Haseley, image- Jay Floyd
Outfielder Adam Haseley, the Phillies' first round draft selection from 2017, is a promising young talent that the Phillies have very high hopes for.

Selected with the 8th overall pick, Haseley signed for a reported $5.1 million. A two-way player in college, Haseley was a very reliable pitcher and was an offensive standout at Virginia.

Upon making his pro debut, the lefty batting Haseley went 7-for-12 in three games with the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies.

He was swiftly promoted to short-season Class A Williamsport. With the Crosscutters, Haseley posted a .270 batting average with nine doubles, two home runs and 18 RBI in 37 games.

Another promotion was in order and Haseley wrapped up the regular season with the full season Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. In 18 games, he would tally a .258 average with three doubles, a triple, a home run and six RBI.

Following the regular season, the six-foot-one 195-pounder participated in the Florida Instructional League, learning from Phillies coaches and organization mates that he had not gotten exposure with until that point. He also attended mini-camps that the Phils put on for strength and speed development in Clearwater over that off-season.

While there, Haseley met former Phils hurler Roy Halladay the week of his death. Halladay gave the talented youngster multiple books and offered lessons from his own playing days to to help with Haseley's mental approach toward being an athlete.

Last year, Haseley batted .300 with five homers and 38 RBI in 79 games for Class A Advanced Clearwater. In July, he was promoted to Double-A Reading. As a member of the Fightin Phils, the Florida native batted .316 with six home runs and 17 RBI in 36 games. He was exceptional against righty hurlers in the Eastern League, posting a .351/.427/.574 slash line when facing them. He'll want to improve his offensive production against lefties, where he sported a mediocre .238/.347/.262 slash line.

Haseley asserted to me last season that working closely with Phillies roving hitting coordinator Andy Tracy and Threshers hitting coach John Mizerock, in order to iron out some mechanical or approach issues, was beneficial to the offensive strides he took during his 2018 campaign

Coaches like Haseley's ability to hit to all fields. He features excellent bat speed and doesn't strike out a lot. Additionally, he can work the count and draw walks, as he has notched a .360 OBP in the minors.

Haseley, who turns 23 in April, has drawn comparisons to Jacoby Elsbury at times. Haseley also was a fan of Elsbury game while watching baseball throughout his youth.

On the bases, Haseley may be an above average runner, though he likely won't steal many bags, as he has swiped just 13 bases in 22 attempts as a pro to date.

Defensively, Haseley has played mostly center field, but he played all three outfield positions last year. He shows very good range and has a strong arm to keep runners from taking too many liberties. Haseley projects as an everyday centerfielder in the majors.

Loaded with potential, Haseley may find himself opening the 2019 back with Double-A Reading this year.

Be sure to track this year's complete Phillies top 25 prospects countdown by clicking this link.   

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #5 RHP Enyel De Los Santos

De Los Santos, image- Jay Floyd
Acquired as part of the trade that sent Freddy Galvis to San Diego, Enyel De Los Santos is a talented hurler that instantly landed among the Phillies' top pitching prospects.

A native of the Dominican Republic, De Los Santos signed with Seattle at the age of 18. He would make his professional debut in 2015 in the Rookie level Arizona League. There, he posted a 3-0 record with a 2.55 ERA in five starts. The right-hander earned a promotion to Class A short-season Everett where he would notch a 3-0 record with a 4.06 ERA through eight starts.

During the following off-season, he was traded to the Padres in a deal for Joaquin Benoit.

In 2016, making his debut in the Padres organization, De Los Santos would open the season with Class A Ft. Wayne. In 11 appearances (seven starts) with the Tin Caps, he tallied a 3-2 record with a 2.91 ERA and a .199 batting average against.

De Los Santos was promoted to Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore in June. As a member of the Storm rotation he would sport a 5-3 record with a 4.35 ERA and a 6.8 K/9 mark through 15 starts.

In 2017, he moved up to Double-A San Antonio. There, he posted a 10-6 record with a 3.78 ERA, an 8.3 K/9 mark as well as a .237 BAA. De Los Santos improved greatly as the season went on, seeing his 4.92 ERA in the first half improve after tallying a 2.75 ERA following the All-Star break.  He finished among the Texas League leagers in strike outs, ERA, WHIP and innings pitched. 

Last year, making his Phillies organization debut, De Los Santos had an impressive campaign with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, getting named to the International League All-Star team. In 22 starts for the IronPigs, he collected a 10-5 record with a 2.63 ERA, a complete game shutout, a .226 BAA and a 7.8 K/9 mark. He also was named as the Phillies’ All-Star Futures Game representative.  His ERA was second in the International League behind only teammate Cole Irvin.

Additionally, De Los Santos made seven appearances (two starts) in the big leagues last year. With the Phillies, he had a 1-0 record with a 4.74 ERA while striking out 15 and walking eight in 19 innings.

Listed at six-foot-three 170 pounds, the 23-year-old features a fastball that regularly clocks around 94-95 MPH and features sink to help draw ground ball outs. Additionally, he offers a curve ball, a great change up along with a nice slider. He’s got very good command and can hurl each offering at any time. The slider was a new addition to his repertoire, but he improved with it last season.

De Los Santos typically keeps his pitch count low, which can help with staying fresh throughout a contest. Also, he is a focused, intelligent pitcher that possesses and maintains a game plan for each outing.

Described as durable and fun to work with, De Los Santos seems to have the right tools to stick in a starting role at the big league level. Look for him to rejoin the Phillies rotation this year, possibly as a key contributor for the foreseeable future.

Be sure to track this year's complete Phillies top 25 prospects countdown by clicking this link.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #6 OF Jhailyn Ortiz

Jhailyn Ortiz, image- Jay Floyd
The Phillies signed outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz, who was the top ranked international free agent, at the age of 16 in 2015 for a reported $4 million. Teams don't make that sort of investment or shell out the largest signing bonus for an international player in organization history without a boat load of high hopes. It seems the talented youngster is well on his way to living up to those expectations.

The powerful Dominican Republic native made his regular season pro debut as a member of the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2016. In 47 games there, Ortiz batted .231 with eight home runs, 27 RBI and eight stolen bases.

In 2017 Ortiz was with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters. He sported a .302 batting average with 15 doubles, a triple, eight homers and 30 RBI in 47 contests.  His .961 OPS would have been good enough to lead the league if he has notched enough plate appearances to qualify.

Last season with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, Ortiz, as a 19-year-old, sported a .225 batting average with 18 doubles, two triples, 13 homers and 47 RBI in 110 games.

In Ortiz’s first taste of a full-season league, a sluggish second half sandbagged his overall stats, as he notched a .258/.320/.399 slash line in the 1st half and a .202/.283/.360 slash line in the 2nd half.

Coaches think the righty batting Ortiz is a special talent with a very bright future. Lakewood’s hitting coach Tyler Henson told me after watching Ortiz play for more than five months in the South Atlantic League last year that, “For me, he's got more ability than anybody in this league.”

Working on plate discipline will be key for Ortiz, as he’ll need to reduce his strike outs. At roughly a 30% strike out rate in the minors, he has a lot of work ahead to improve in that aspect.  The Phillies expect Ortiz to develop a better understanding of how the opposition is trying to pitch to him and an improved ability to interpret the strike zone. Once he does, watch out!  Plus power is his claim to fame.  

The energetic Ortiz, who will be 20 years old for the entirety of the 2019 season, is a quality defender with a very strong arm. He has played strictly right field in the minors to date.

As a base runner, Ortiz will not be a regular stolen base threat, but he is quick-footed enough that he won't be a detriment to his club.

Listed at six-feet-three and 258 pounds, Ortiz is a hulking, strapping, young man that should continue to display plenty of power throughout the minors. Look for him to get some time with Class A Advanced Clearwater this coming season.

Be sure to track this year's complete Phillies top 25 prospects countdown by clicking this link.   

Sunday, March 10, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #7 LHP JoJo Romero

JoJo Romero, image- Jay Floyd
With a growing crop of very talented pitching prospects in the Phillies organization, left-hander JoJo Romero is certainly among the standouts.

The five-foot-11 200-pounder was the Phils’ 4th round draft selection in 2016. That year he helped Yavapai College, the same school that the Phillies drafted Kenny Giles from in 2011, clinch the JuCo World Series, leading the way with an 11-5 record, a 3.64 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 mark. He also tossed a complete game gem to earn the win in their title game.

After signing with the Phillies, Romero made his professional debut as a member of the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters. There, he notched a 2-2 record with a 2.56 ERA while striking out 31 and walking 11 in 45 2/3 innings.

In 2017, he got off to a terrific start with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. In 13 starts, Romero tallied a 5-1 record with a 2.11 ERA and a 9.3 K/9 mark and was honored as a South Atlantic League mid-season All-Star.

Romero, who hails from the same hometown as former Phils hurler Justin De Fratus, Oxnard, CA, was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater in late June. In 10 starts for the Threshers, Romero posted a 5-2 record with a 2.24 ERA and an 8.4 K/9 mark.

Overall for his 2017 campaign, Romero led all Phillies full-season minor leaguers in ERA with a 2.16 mark (minimum 100 innings).

Last year, Romero posted a 7-6 record with a 3.80 ERA, a .241 BAA and an 8.4 K/9 mark through 18 Double-A starts for Reading. He really bounced back following a troublesome start for the Fightins Phils. After an April that saw him Romero go 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA and a .305 BAA, the talented youngster posted a 7-3 record with a 3.01 ERA and a .225 BAA the rest of the way until an oblique injury ended his season in July.

With an electric arm, the 22-year-old features a good mix of offerings including a fastball that sits in the 94-95 MPH range and features sink, a curve ball, a slider and a very good change-up.

Romero tends to draw a lot of ground ball outs. Also, he seems to steadily have a good plan and is confident on the mound, throwing each of his pitches in any count. Opponents have mustered just a .235 batting average against while facing Romero thus far in his pro career.

A ball of energy in the locker room, Romero is a guy that teammates enjoy being around and can help the club by being a motivator of those around him, even when he’s not in the game.

The Phillies plan to have Romero stick as a starter, with a potential ceiling possibly as a mid-rotation guy. Look for him to open the 2019 campaign in Triple-A with Lehigh Valley.

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

Friday, March 8, 2019

2019 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #8 LHP Ranger Suarez

Ranger Suarez, image- Jay Floyd
Lefty hurler Ranger Suarez has stood out in recent seasons as a dependable prospect that could have a solid future with the Phillies.

Suarez, who is listed by the Phillies six-foot-one and 210 pounds, was signed at the age of 16 in 2012.

The exciting youngster would make his professional debut as a closer with the Venezuelan Summer League team in 2012. He tossed five scoreless innings and earned two saves in three outings there.

In the following two seasons in the VSL, Suarez posted very solid numbers (5-4 record, 1.66 ERA) in 22 appearances. In 2014 he would transition into a starting role.

Suarez pitched stateside in 2015, competing in extended spring training that year and then sporting a 3-0 record with a tremendous 0.65 ERA in six appearances for the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies. He was named the Phils' minor league pitcher of the month in July that year, when he posted a 2-0 record and a 0.79 ERA. 

In 2016 with short-season Class A Williamsport, Suarez tallied a 6-4 record with a 2.81 ERA, a 6.5 K/9 mark and a .223 batting average against en route to being named as a New York-Penn League All-Star.  He tossed a seven-inning (game one of a double header) no-hitter in which he issued a walk to the game's first batter, induced a double play then retired the final 19 opponents on July 26th that year.

The following season, he opened the season as part of the Class A Lakewood rotation. In 14 starts with the BlueClaws, Suarez would notch a 6-2 record with a 1.59 ERA and a 9.5 K/9 mark and was honored as a mid-season Sally League All-Star.  He notched double-digit strike out efforts three times with the 'Claws. 

He made the move to Class A Advanced Clearwater, earning a promotion on July 4th. With the Threshers, Suarez sported a 2-4 record with a 3.82 ERA and averaged more than a strike out per inning pitched over eight starts.

Last season, Suarez opened the season with Double-A Reading. With the Fightin Phils in 12 starts he collected a 4-3 record with a 2.76 ERA and a .235 batting average against.

By late June Suarez was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Overall in nine regular season starts with the IronPigs, he tallied a 2-0 record with a 2.74 ERA and a 5.7 K/9 mark.

With needs to fill spots on the pitching staff, at times, at the big league level, Suarez made four separate appearances (three starts) for the Phillies in 2018. In 15 innings of work there, he posted a 1-1 record with a 5.40 ERA, 11 strike outs and six walks issued while surrendering three homers.

The pitch repertoire for Suarez features a fastball (coaches describe him as having "sneaky velocity") that peaks at about 94 MPH and has sinking movement. He also throws a diving curve ball, a slider as well as one of the premiere change-ups in the Phillies system. He touts excellent command with the ability to pitch to both sides of the plate at will and is known as a strike thrower.

Suarez is a guy that doesn't just rely on tools to carry him, as he knows how to pitch intelligently. He is a cool and relaxed competitor that will control the pace on the diamond.

He'll likely return to Lehigh Valley to lead their starting rotation to open the 2019 season. Look for Suarez to be among the Phils' top options to fill any voids on their pitching staff as needs arise this year.

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