Saturday, June 25, 2016

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading second baseman Jesmuel Valentin

J Valentin 2
Jesmuel Valentin, image- Jay Floyd


Switch-hitting infielder Jesmuel Valentin has been a bit of an underrated contributor with the Double-A Reading Fightins.

Heading into action on Friday, Valentin was batting .339 over his last 14 games. Overall this season, the 22-year-old is batting .282 with four home runs and 35 RBI in 64 games.

Valentin, who plays mostly second base, but dabbles at shortstop a bit also, is the son of former big leaguer Jose Valentin.

The Puerto Rico native was a supplementary round pick (51st overall) of the Dodgers in 2012. He was acquired by the Phils as part of the Roberto Hernandez trade in 2014.

Recently, I spoke with Jesmuel about his team's success, growing up around the game and more. Read ahead for that full interview.

-The Reading team has been great and you've contributed very nicely to the club's success. What are your thoughts on competition in the Eastern League this year?

I just came here with the mindset that this was going to be a harder, tougher level, but so far it's pretty much the same type of baseball, so I just do the stuff I know and play baseball, playing the game the way it's supposed to be played.

-There are several well-touted prospects on this team and everyone contributes. What is it like playing with such a stacked group?

I think just, for me, being part of this kind of team is just amazing. It helps you a lot in every different mindset or how you want to see it, because if you want to play on a team like that, you have to do good. We have talent all over, from the first hitter to the nine hole hitter, so it's fun. It's fun to play like this, having the guys do good all day, so pretty sometimes you think I have to keep up, or I have to do better, but like it makes me play baseball how I'm supposed to because it seems like it makes everything easier to you. Every time I go to the plate, I just look to the scoreboard and what situation we are in. I know I'm going to have a hitter right behind me who can do the job, so if I need to move the runner, I just move the runner or if they need an RBI...I just try to bring him in. It's just more easier to play like this, with a team like this because you don't have too much pressure. You don't have to put the team on your back, because pretty much there's somebody there that's going to be the player of the game. For me, that's how it's supposed to be.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day Quotables: Players & coaches discuss relationships with their dads


This past year I became a first-time father. There is nothing in my life that I have looked forward to more than becoming a dad and being able to guide a child through life, bringing him or her up to be as outstanding and as beautiful of a person as my wife is and as much of a baseball fan as I became.

In recent months I have felt a tremendous bond with my son and I wondered, at times, how great the connection will grow but also how long it might stay intact. I treasure the opportunity to watch him learn and develop, but I feel like there will be a day when he doesn’t need my insight or coaching. I don't have a father, so, without an example of my own to go by, I worry that he'll outgrow our relationship.

Wondering if that's accurate, I began asking players and coaches that I know for their thoughts on how close each one is with his dad, when it comes to his career and sometimes life as well. I mainly targeted men whose dads also had a career-path in professional baseball, but also got some thoughts from a couple players about their non-baseball fathers.

J Valentin
Jesmuel Valentin, image- Jay Floyd
Reading Fightins infielder Jesmuel Valentin’s father Jose Valentin played in the big leagues for the Brewers, the Mets, the White Sox as well as the Dodgers. Jesmuel was lucky enough to grow up around in the game and still welcomes all feedback from Jose, even from afar.

“My dad is back in Puerto Rico, managing semi-pro ball, but he has the minor league app, so where ever he is, he's pretty much watching the game, so after the games I know it's going to be an hour or 45 minute conversation (on the phone) with him. He will go over all my AB's, 'Remember, you have a guy on second base. The score was like this, so what were you thinking? Okay, so you're wrong because the situation was this and they were gonna throw this pitch!' So, I think that's the most important thing that I like, because having a dad that can help me every day or having a close person like that is just something that can help me go faster through the system.”

Lakewood skipper Shawn Williams’ dad Jimy Williams was a big league coach and manager, who also played with the Cardinals. Shawn’s dad is accessible regularly for advice and set a fine example while Shawn and his brother Brady were growing up, as both sons would go on the play and manage in the professional ranks.

"I talk to my dad every day. Of course, he's always trying to help and I understand that and I have open ears. He was very good at what he did and not that I do everything that he says, but it just goes for anything, you take the things that you like, from-- there's so many great minds around here with our coordinators, my dad, but he is by far the greatest teacher I have with just all kind of situations."
"That's the best thing about this game, there's so many situations that come up in a game that you've never seen before. So, you just learn from them and he's definitely very helpful in that. 'Maybe try doing this, or try doing that.' Or whatever it is. Dealing with players and stuff like that is, he's huge for me."

Reading manager Dusty Wathan followed in the footsteps of his father John Wathan, who played and managed in the big leagues. Dusty says that advice and insight from his father are always welcome and they are frequently in touch.

"I talk to him a lot. He's a good sounding board."

"He comes a couple times a year usually. He's partially retired now, so he has less work now. I talk to him on the phone, we talk about a lot of things."

"I'll ask him more than he says that to me, but that was actually his job in Kansas City. Part of his job was to go in talk to managers after games, talk about moves and stuff. That's not second guessing as much as it is-- I'll ask him, 'Hey did you see that last night?' 'Yeah, I saw it.' 'I did this. What do you think?' 'Oh, did you think about this? Did you think about that? Did you think about that?' You know, so yeah, he's great."
Mark Leiter Jr, image- Jay Floyd

Reading pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. also speaks with his dad, former Phillies pitcher Mark Leiter Sr., on a daily basis. With the MiLB TV game streaming package, the elder Leiter is able to catch every single one of Mark's outings. They have a very close bond and Leiter Sr. offers guidance regularly to his son.

"Yeah, me and my dad talk almost every day. I'm real close with my dad, he's my best friend basically and to be able to lean on the advice that he has as well as just casual conversation has been a tremendous advantage I think and it's an opportunity that I'm very fortunate to have it."

"He played a long time, so he doesn't necessarily, like, overstep at all really. I think really people on the outside would kind of perceive certain things that way, but he played a long time and he really understands the way things work and he's been around. He knows what it's like to go through it and he knows what you need to hear and what maybe you need to-- he doesn't necessarily tell me everything I need to hear at the time. He waits for me to ask him certain things sometimes as opposed to just throwing all the information out at you. Especially if you have a tough game or something, he kind of waits for me to kind of swallow it and get over it and call him and be like, 'What did you think of that?' or what it might be."

"To be as close as me and him are, it makes it easy to have trust and just enjoy the conversations that we have. It's not like a class room. You know what I mean? He's my dad and we just have great conversations and I'm fortunate that these conversations are helping me in my career and I have so much great insight on what I'm trying to do."

Blue Jays prospect Dwight Smith Jr.'s father, Dwight Smith Sr., played in the big leagues with the Cubs, Angels, Braves and Orioles. The younger Smith says his dad takes a more fatherly approach than a professional one with his feedback. They also chat with great frequency.
"He just helps me out any way he can. Just to really be a dad more than a coach. He pretty much lets me do my own thing, but he still helps me along the way."

"I talk to him every day. I talk to him every day before I go out. I talk to him and my mom and my sisters before every game."

"He tries to watch every single game that he can when he's not working. But, he's always looking at my at bats and if he sees something, he lets me know. He's just there all the time."

"He'll never step on anybody's toes like that, but he knows me better than any coach could because he's known me from when I was little, so he knows my swing and everything like that. I really listen to him a lot."

Top Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford's dad, Larry Crawford, was once an athlete on the football field, but currently works at a school. That lack of baseball connection won't stop Larry from offering feedback to his highly touted son.

"My dad calls me every day after the game."

"My dad tries to give me tips almost every day. If I have a bad game, he'll try to state the obvious, but it's cool. It's awesome that they care."

Reading starting pitcher Tyler Viza's father, Dan Viza, have quite a bond as well.

"My dad is my role model and mentor in my career and life outside. My dad's and my saying is 'one at a time'. Meaning one batter at a time, one pitch at a time, one inning at a time. In this game there is so much to think about at any given moment. So, if I can focus solely on the moment that I am in, I have the best chance to be successful and not worry about the past. It also refers to having 100% conviction on every pitch that I throw from the first pitch of the game to my last pitch."

"Usually, (we talk) right before and after each start. Then we talk again after my bullpens. He doesn't 'bust my balls', but we just talk about things that worked and things that didn't work and why they didn't work so I can get an idea how to fix it for next time to make sure I don't make the same mistakes again."

Okay. Thanks to these fine fellows that took time to chat about their relationships with their dads, I have great hope for the bond that I develop with my own son will last well into his adulthood and that makes me feel much easier on my first Father's Day as a father.

Happy Father's Day, everyone!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Interview with Phils director of player development Joe Jordan

Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan took time today prior to opening night in Williamsport to chat on the phone about the team's developmental system, providing injury updates on several players including right-hander Jimmy Cordero, Triple-A Starter Mark Appel and last year's first round draft selection Cornelius Randolph. Jordan also spoke about short-season Class A Williamsport getting their season underway, Matt Imhof's change of roles with Clearwater, today's roster moves and plenty more. Read ahead for that full interview.

J Cordero
Jimmy Cordero, image- Jay Floyd
-The first guy I wanted to ask about was injured reliever Jimmy Cordero (biceps issue). Any updates on him?

Yeah, he's making progress. We've taken a real slow process to get him ready, so he's throwing again, but he's somewhat early still in his throwing progression. You know, we're hoping that by the middle of July he's ready. He feels good, but we've taken a slow go at trying to get him strong and get him back to throwing. But he is throwing now and we just need to get him ready.

-How about Cornelius Randolph (shoulder strain)? Seemed like last I heard from Lakewood manager Shawn Williams he was approaching maybe a return late this month. Any hopes for that still?

Well, I think it's gonna be maybe a little beyond that, but somewhere in that area. He's just had a real nagging muscle strain in the middle of his back, behind-- I think it's his right shoulder blade, somewhere back there-- and we've tried to amp him up a couple of times and we've met some resistance. It flared up again. But I think we're ahead of it now. He started swinging a bat. He started to do a lot more activity than we've had him into in the past. Hopefully, he won't have a setback and we'll have him on the field in the next couple of weeks.

-Mark Appel was off to a hot start and then had an issue with his throwing shoulder. Is he making progress?

I mean his target-- we're looking about the middle of July. Mark's fine. I mean he's playing catch. He's getting lengthened out. Um, but we just gotta take a step back and let his arm calm down a little bit. He's actually good. He's feeling no pain whatsoever and out target I think at the latest is July 15th. You know, if things go a little better than that, it'll be a little sooner.

-Righty Matt Imhof went from Clearwater's starting rotation to their bullpen. Any comments on the change of roles for him?

Yeah, I mean overall Matt was struggling mightily. He was having a hard time throwing strikes, which is, you know, it's just amazing what happens sometimes with these guys, but they just get to fighting themselves and I think that's what he was doing. His last outing was probably the best he's thrown in over a year. Um, I think he went two, two-plus innings and the reports were "this is the guy we saw a couple years ago", so we just had to get him out of his own way more than anything. But, hopefully we can build off the other night and the second half will be good and you'd like to get him back in the rotation at some point, but, um, you know, that's down the road.

JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd

-J.P. Crawford had a bit of a difficult stretch at the plate in Triple-A, but it seems like the J.P. everyone knows is back, getting things together on offense. What do you think about him?

J.P.'s fine. I mean I'm very, very proud of the fact that, as a young player, he didn't take one at bat to shortstop with him. He's been as good at shortstop as I've ever seen him play and his bat's starting to come. Guys get in slumps and they, you know-- we haven't seen that type of stretch from him and they all gotta go through it. So, he'll come out of it. He hasn't forgotten how to hit. I'm just really proud of the fact that he didn't take it to shortstop one time. He's just been dynamite on the dirt, so that's a good sign.

-The short-season A level Crosscutters open their season tonight. Is there anybody that excites you on that roster?

Yeah, I mean there are some kids that are exciting. I'm excited to see (Adonis) Medina. Medina's our opening night starter. He's a kid we're very excited about. You know, I think for a lot of these kids it's their first time out of the complex (in Clearwater) and it's an exciting night for them. We're gonna have fans in the seats and the lights are gonna be on and it's a beautiful day up here, so, yeah, we've got some kids we're excited about. I'll forget about some of them if I start mentioning a few, but you know it's-- Medina's our starter. I'm excited. I really like the kid's ability and we've got some good starting pitching here. And, you know, we don't have our club here. Once we get everyone (from the draft) signed and make sure they're healthy and ready to go, we'll complete this roster, but there are some good kids here right now and, like I said, it's a lot of them's first time out of the complex, so I'm anxious to see how they do.

-There were a few roster moves today and some shuffling with the pitching, some guys moving to a new level. A few guys going from Double-A to Triple-A. Joe DeNato moves up.  A guy with local ties Matt Hockenberry among those moves, promoted from Clearwater to Reading. He had a quick visit with Double-A Reading earlier this season and now hopefully he'll be back there for a good stretch.

Yeah, we'll see. The Florida State League club is on their All-Star break and we needed to fortify a couple of rosters and Matt and Joey are very capable of doing that and we've got a split day (and night) double header. Two nine-inning games in Lehigh Valley tomorrow night that, you know, we've got to try to prepare for and there are some things going on whether they're short-term or long-term, we'll see.

-Another pitcher that has missed some time is Jesen Therrien. Are there any updates on him?

Jesen's doing well. He got his oblique and it's a slow go till the pain goes away, but he's pretty active. I talked to him probably 10 days ago down there and, you know, he feels good, but he was still feeling it a little bit, but he's not feeling anything right now. So, we're trying to get him ready. We need to get him back on the Clearwater club as soon as possible. I don't think it'll be too long.

-While I have you, Carlos Tocci's having a good season as a young guy in the FSL. Any thoughts on him?

Yeah, Tocci's doing fine. I wouldn't say he's setting the world on fire offensively, but he's had some good at bats and I think he's hit into some bad luck so far, but he's playing his game. I'm happy. I'm looking forward to, after the break, I'd really like to see him get on a streak offensively and maybe have a few more balls fall in for him. But, he's actually swung the bat a lot better than his numbers, but, you know, that's baseball.

Nick Williams, image- Jay Floyd
-Before I let you go, I wanted to see if you could talk a bit about the trio of hot bats that have gotten a lot of attention at the upper levels. Outfielder Nick Williams at Triple-A, then outfielder Dylan Cozens and first baseman Rhys Hoskins at Double-A...what can you share about those guys?

Well, I think, starting with Nick, you know, for a (22)-year-old in Triple-A I think he's done very well. He's, you know, I think what we're trying to build with him, like most of these guys, is just consistency. He will absolutely show you what you want to see on any given night and it's just a matter of it showing up more often and being consistent. I like what he's doing in the outfield. He's really working hard to become a better base runner. He's working on his total game and I think-- listen I would have signed up for the two months he's had coming out of spring training, so far. I think he's done well.

And "Cuz" is making progress in his whole game. I think the comments that he made in an article that I read a few days ago where he talked about being able to focus on being a complete player, that's been a big talking point between the two of us and our whole staff for the past couple years, so it was good to see him verbalize that, because I do think he's capable of being that type of player. He's going to be a much better hitter than I think people realize. He's got a good feel of hitting. He's striking out too much, I understand that comes with power sometimes, but I think when it's all said and done with him, it won't be what people think. I think he's going to be a better hitter than some people realize.

And I like what Rhys is doing. He got off to a slow start and really got away from a couple things preparation wise that worked for him last year. I think he recognized that and his bat's fast. He's got plenty of bat speed and he's doing a good job. They've got a competition going on there to see who can be the hero of the night in Reading now. So, we've got some good things going on.

-They are a fun team to watch. Any given night it's somebody different coming through. I remember maybe four weeks ago talking with Jesmuel Valentin and he was telling me that's how they are. There's no weight on anyone's shoulders because they know someone will come through.

Yeah, and Jesmuel's jumping right into the middle of it. He's had a terrific month, so yeah, it's contagious. Guys...they want to join in and right now they've got a good thing going and they're getting contributions from, you know, it's a long lineup, so it's pretty deep.

Lakewood pitcher Leftwich has the mother of all grandfather stories


Luke Leftwich, image- Jay Floyd

The list of third-generation major league pitchers is a short one. The list: Casey Coleman

Phillies pitching prospect Luke Leftwich hopes to double the length of that list someday.

Leftwich, a right-hander, was a seventh-round draft selection last year out of Wofford College. Following his pro debut, the 6'3", 205-pounder posted a 2-2 record with a 2.76 ERA in 11 games for short-season Class A Williamsport. Through 11 starts this season for Class A Lakewood, he has tallied a 6-3 record with a 2.15 ERA and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings en route to being named a South Atlantic League All-Star.

Through college and in the early stages of his professional career it has been reported in Leftwich’s biographical notes that his father and grandfather played in the big leagues. But if not for the sleuthing of his father, Phil Leftwich, the 22-year-old would not have known that he could become the majors' second third-generation pitcher.

Search for truth

The elder Leftwich, who was a second-round draft pick of the California Angels in 1990, learned in adulthood that he had been adopted as an infant by the only parents he knew for the first 25 years of his life.

His feelings about the dad who raised him to become a loving family man, the dad who coached every team he ever played on, may have inhibited Phil Leftwich's interest in finding out his roots. But after a while, with Phil and his wife Ann starting their own family, heritage and history became more important and curiosity prevailed. He started the search for his biological parents.

"When I found out, I kind of sat on it for a couple years," said Phil. "It was nice to know, but I had parents, so it wasn't like I had this instant urge to go find out where I came from."

First Phil acquired the original adoption paperwork, on which many details were blacked out for privacy reasons. Information that wasn’t edited from the material included ages and some physical traits, along with occupations. For the father, it listed "professional baseball player."

"It was as close as I have ever come to passing out from just hearing something," confessed Phil. "Literally, the blood just kind of left and I had to sit down. And I read it about 10 times. And at the time I'm reading this, I had just made it to the big leagues and I was so blown away by it that I stared at that piece of paper for months."

Phil would eventually move forward with trying to locate his parents, but tracking down his father would present some hurdles. Phil found the team in the area where he was born and contacted the club to find out if there was someone on the roster around the time he would have been conceived who would have fit the age and physical descriptions listed on the adoption paperwork. He was put in touch with someone who worked for the team then, and who, luckily - in those pre-internet days - was also a big baseball card collector.

Using that individual's card collection proved successful only in determining that the local team’s roster at the time didn't include anyone fitting the search criteria. That moved the hunt to visiting clubs. Narrowing the search to the time on the schedule when Phil could have been conceived, research targeted the Tigers’ affiliate, Toledo.

"There was only one person who it could've been and that was Tom Timmermann," said Luke Leftwich. "So then my dad talked to the Tigers people to get a phone number for Tom, and they gave it to him. And he said it took him a while to get the courage to call him, but he eventually did."

Hello, Grandpop

Image courtesy of Phil Leftwich
Timmermann, who went 35-35 with a 3.78 ERA over seven seasons with Detroit and Cleveland, knew he had a child, but didn’t know anything about him. He and Phil’s mother weren’t a couple, so it was decided that adoption would be best for baby Phil, once he was born.

"I had known that there was someone out there, so it was, ‘Okay, he found me!,'" said Timmermann. "And that was fine, because I was always thinking about him also."

Timmermann had familiarized his wife, Ruby, who has since died, with the fact that he had a child out in the world. When Phil’s initial call came she grew curious.

"She came in and asked me what the phone call was about. I said, 'You know that young baby years ago? I think he found his dad.' And she said, 'Oh, good!'" said Timmermann. "And as a matter of fact, it was a week or two later he flew up (for a meeting), and he has been accepted into my family with open arms and we're very proud of him. And not because he's a ballplayer, because he's a good man. He really is. And so is my grandson."

Locating his birth-mother would prove far more difficult for Phil; that search lasted 22 additional years. He encountered numerous obstacles, including her name changes as the result of multiple marriages. He would invest a bit of time every so often to see if he could dig up the right lead, but without success after decades of research he had virtually given up hope.

But while on a plane earlier this year, he was viewing a program dedicated to searching for missing persons. The show featured something that Phil had not thought of before, and he immediately opened a web browser to utilize the method. Within 30 minutes he was looking at marriage licenses and divorce records along with his birth-mother's address. The two would finally meet a short time later.

The couple that raised Phil died when Luke and his siblings - a set of triplets named Troy, Brooke and Brenna - were very young, and their maternal grandfather wasn’t close to the family, so Timmermann is the only grandfather they’ve truly known. Bonds would develop effortlessly between Phil’s children and their newly found relative.

"The connection, I tell you, for my kids - they saw him as a grandfather right away even though I never told them who he was till years later when they were old enough to understand it," said Phil. "But the connection was so strong and it was instant."

To Luke Leftwich, it’s a natural bond despite the long road to establish it.

"He feels like family to me even though my dad didn't grow up with him as a father," said Luke. "But I definitely still view him as a grandfather because my whole life, he's always been there for me."

Bonding through baseball

Luke and Phil worked together throughout last off-season to ensure the younger Leftwich stayed in ideal shape for his first full season of professional baseball. Phil provides regular insight to help Luke on his journey through the developmental ranks. And Timmermann, who made his big league debut in 1969 at the age of 29, after 10 years in the minors, provides necessary guidance.

"He played in a much different era than now, but he was in the minor leagues for a long time, so he knows what it was like to have this grind," said Luke, "and he's just helping me to embrace it and enjoy it."

Toward the end of his playing days the right-handed Timmermann landed in the Phillies organization, pitching with its Triple-A affiliate, which at the time was Toledo.

Phil Leftwich reached the majors with the Angels and posted a 9-17 record with a 4.99 ERA over parts of three seasons. The righty took his career abroad in the late 1990s, pitching two years with Osaka Kintetsu in Japan.

Not surprisingly, Luke, who treasures a photograph of himself as a baby wearing an Angels onesie while being held by his father, is already looking forward to bringing up a future fourth generation in the sport.

"I've had that hung up in my room forever, just like, I want that to be me and my family someday," said Luke, smiling. "Like, my family gets to grow up around the game like I did."

Timmermann, who has two other grandchildren from his daughter from his first marriage, shared that his 10-year-old grandson, Sam, is also a pitcher and wants to someday compete at the professional level.

"He pitched last night. I was there, he did a great job. He wants to be a ball player too," said Timmermann, chuckling. "I don't know what it is ... it's in the blood."

Of Phil’s achievements he’s amazed, simply because he did it all on his own. Additionally, Timmermann has a hefty level of respect for Luke’s dream-chasing because of the lineage that precedes him.

"He's got a carrot in front of him that he's got a dad and a grandfather who played in the big leagues, and he's determined that he's going to do it too," said Timmermann. "And I'm proud of him on the fact of how he's doing it. And he's working hard and diligently. As a grandfather, I couldn't be more proud of it."

Ultimately it's the connections they've developed that keeps Timmermann looking forward to what the younger Leftwich can achieve, not the record book impact that might come for the family with an eventual big-league promotion.

"I never think about the historical aspect," said Timmermann. "All I know is, based on my conversations with Luke, he's got the right attitude, he's got the right stuff and there's no doubt in my mind that he's gonna make it."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

RHP Asher suspended 80 games for PED's


asher 


Major League Baseball announced on Thursday that Phillies minor league pitcher Alec Asher has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance enhancing drug.

Asher was on the disabled list with a lower calf contusion after being hit in the leg with a batted ball for Triple-A Lehigh Valley last month. The 24-year-old posted a 4-2 record with a 2.30 ERA and a .193 batting average against in eight minor league starts this season after opening the 2016 campaign with Double-A Reading.

After he was acquired from Texas as part of the Cole Hamels trade last season, Asher tallied a 0-6 record with a 9.31 ERA in seven big league starts.

Asher is the second Phillies player busted for this substance in 2016. Rule 5 acquisition and lefty pitcher Daniel Stumpf was suspended earlier this season after appearing in three games for the Phils.

Also of note from the farm...

CF prospect Roman Quinn hit the disabled list for AA Reading on Thursday with an oblique strain.  The 23-year-old switch-hitter had been batting .288 with three home runs, 16 RBI and 25 steals in 50 games this season.  He had just returned after missing eight days with a hamstring strain and has missed time in previous seasons with significant injuries such as a ruptured Achiles tendon as well as a hip tear.

Quinn was the Phillies' second round draft pick in 2011.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Day two Phillies draft recap

The Phillies opened the second day of this year's amateur draft by selecting SS Cole Stobbe out of Millard West High School in Nebraska with the initial pick of the 3rd round (78th overall).

The six-foot-two 195-pounder features incredible bat speed, which scouts were very high on. The righty batter hit .437 with 14 home runs as a senior this spring.

Stobbe, who had a commitment to play college ball at Arkansas, told the media that he intends to fly to Philadelphia to sign a pro contract.

Defensively, it has been said that the Phils would likely change Stobbe's position to third base or possibly second base.

In the 4th round, the Phillies chose lefty pitcher JoJo Romero out of Yavapai College, the same school they drafted Ken Giles out of in 2011.

The five-foot-11, 190-pounder sports a fastball that gets as high as the mid-90's. He also features a slider, curve ball and a change up that is said to have nice potential.

I would expect Romero to be best suited for a bullpen role once he turns pro.

In the 5th round, the Phillies drafted another Cole...this one was lefty pitcher Cole Irvin. The 22-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, but pitched well this season with Oregon.

He's a strike thrower that pitches to contact. Irvin's fastball was clocked in the 93 MPH range this season, when, as a junior, he finished with a 6-4 record and a 3.17 ERA. In 105 innings pitched he notched 93 strikeouts and issued just 16 walks.

Irvin is described as polished and is said to be a high probability big leaguer.

David Martinelli, an outfielder, was taken by the Phils with their 6th round pick. The lefty batter has been praised for flashing five-tool talent.

In 51 games as a junior this year for Dallas Baptist, the 21-year-old batted .301 with six homers, 37 RBI and nine stolen bases.

Defensively, Martinelli can play all three outfield positions, but was primarily a right fielder this season.

With their 7th round pick, the Phils selected catcher Henri Lartique who tallied a .353 batting average with four home runs and 31 RBI in 57 games for Ole Miss this year in his junior season.

The 21-year-old switch-hitter was a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, an honor given to the nation's top college catcher.

Grant Dyer, a righty hurler, was the Phils' 8th round selection out of UCLA. This year, in his junior season, the six-foot-one 195-pounder features nice command. Dyer posted a 4-4 record with a 4.50 ERA while holding opponents to a .243 batting average over 13 starts.

In the 9th round, the Phillies chose righty pitcher Blake Quinn out of Cal State Fulerton. The 21-year-old went 4-3 with a 2.16 ERA, notching more than a strike out per inning.

The Phils' 10th round pick was right-handed pitcher Julian Garcia. The 21-year-old posted a 5-7 record with a 2.90 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 mark in 12 games for Metro State College.

The 2016 draft will wrap up on Saturday with rounds 11 through 40.

Phillies take high school RHP Gowdy with 2nd round pick

The Phillies took high school pitcher Kevin Gowdy with their 2nd pick (42nd overall) in the 2016 MLB amateur draft on Thursday night.

The pick marked the second time on the first day of this year's draft that the Phils selected a high school player committed to Chase Utley's alma mater, UCLA.  They took outfielder Mickey Moniak with the top overall pick in the draft just hours earlier.

Gowdy, a 6-foot-4 175-pound right-hander, has a lean frame that could fill out nicely.  He features a 90-94 MPH fastball along with a strong slider, a good change up and mechanics that are described as smooth.  With a 1.59 ERA along with 93 strike outs and just five walks in 56 2/3 innings in his senior season at Santa Barbara High School, Gowdy was impressive all year.

He was a member of the USA 18U team that won a gold medal last autumn in Japan.

It's said that the Phillies love Gowdy's ceiling and see him having the potential to become a front line pitcher.



Thursday, June 9, 2016

Phillies select Mickey Moniak with first overall draft pick

The mystery and intrigue is finally over, as the Phillies selected outfielder Mickey Moniak La Costa Canyon High School in California with the first pick in the 2016 MLB amateur draft.

The lefty swinging Moniak has big time offensive upside.  He is said to sport considerable bat speed and gets his stick through the zone with noteworthy torque, both in his hips as well as his arms.  He drives the ball well to all fields.  Additionally, Moniak, who stands six-foot-two and weights 190 pounds, is strong defensively as a center fielder.

Praised for being mature and composed, the athletic Moniak, described as a natural on the baseball field, has the make up to be a strong performer along with a modest star that leads by example.

This year marked just the second time in their history that the Phillies had the top pick in the draft.  The previous time was 1998 when they took Pat Burrell out of Miami.

Last year's top pick by the Phillies, Cornelius Randolph (taken 10th overall), is currently on the disabled list for Class A Lakewood with a shoulder strain.  In 12 games this year, the 19-year-old sports a .240 average with five doubles, a home run and five RBI for the BlueClaws.

The last outfielder selected first overall was Bryce Harper in 2010.

The Phillies' second pick in the draft comes at 42nd overall. 

This year's draft continues for 40 total rounds through Saturday.



Velasquez shut down, Eflin on deck?

Eflin with Reading in 2015, image- Jay Floyd
Following Vincent Velasquez leaving his start after just two pitches for the Phillies on Wednesday, righty prospect Zach Eflin was pulled from his start for Triple-A Lehigh Valley at Gwinnett.

The 22-year-old sports a 5-1 record with a 3.14 ERA and a .210 batting average against in 10 starts for the IronPigs this season. He could take the place of Velasquez if he is required to miss any additional time.

Initial word on Velasquez after he threw two fastballs that clocked in the 86-87 MPH range (considerably slower than the 94 MPH he averages) and was swiftly pulled from his outing, is that he has a biceps strain. He'll be further evaluated in the coming days.

Prior to the regular season, Eflin got a taste of competing against big leaguers when he was charged with 12 runs (nine earned) on 11 hits while striking out two and walking one with a wild pitch in three innings of work in an intrasquad exhibition that pitted the Phils' top prospects against the major league club.

Eflin was acquired from the Dodgers in the 2014 trade for Jimmy Rollins.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lakewood's Tobias and Pujols honored as SAL All-Stars

Jose Pujols, image- Jay Floyd
On Tuesday, rosters for the Class A South Atlantic League All-Star teams, including two Phillies propsects, were announced. Lakewood second baseman Josh Tobias and outfielder Jose Pujols were honored and will represent the Northern Division roster when the game takes place at Whitaker Ballpark in Lexington, KY on June 21st.

Tobias, who was a 10th round draft selection by the Phillies last year out of the University of Florida, has a .2868 average with five home runs and 33 RBI through 52 games for the BlueClaws. The switch-hitter has 14 multi-hit games this season.

The 20-year-old Pujols sports a .243 average with a league-best 10 home runs and 34 RBI through 53 games this season. The righty slugger was recently profiled by Phillies Nation (click here for that feature). In that interview, the Dominican born Pujols was asked about the possibility of being nominated as an All-Star.

"It would be great," Pujols stated. "It would be my first All-Star game, so I just will continue to work and we'll see what happens."

This year’s SAL All-Star Game will mark the 57th annual exhibition.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

PhoulBallz Interview: BlueClaws manager Shawn Williams talks Kilome, Anderson, injuries, more

Shawn Williams, image- Jay Floyd
I recently sat down with Class A Lakewood manager Shawn Williams to discuss his BlueClaws team. Topics ranged from injured players, a returning pitcher, a pitching prospect's improvements, his team's backstops and plenty more. Read ahead for the full interview.

-Firstly, I wanted to start out by asking about a pair of guys that have been on the disabled list for a while. Last year's Phillies first round pick Cornelius Randolph (shoulder) and outfielder Zach Coppola (hamstring) have been sidelined for a while. Any update on those guys nearing a return?

The only thing I have is that Randolph has started doing some hitting stuff, some tee stuff and I don't know what the time table is for him. I just know he's hitting again, so I probably couldn't even tell you.

I know Zach is a lot closer than Cornelius. I think he's almost into games here in the next couple days, probably just getting his legs going, I mean, possibly two weeks away, which would be obviously great for him and great for us.

-I saw outfielder/third baseman Damek Tomscha on the field for batting practice. Is he back from the disabled list now?

Today was the first day he's done any kind of real baseball activities. He's got a concussion, yeah, he got hit in the head with a pitch right in the beginning of our home stand last time. He's getting going, he's finally feeling a lot better.

I've never had a concussion. I don't even know what it is. I just know it's been strange for him. Day to day it gets a little better every day.

-Right-hander Drew Anderson is back now, after Tommy John surgery, and he's been great in his initial outings (1.72 ERA, 20 K, 6BB in 15 2/3 IP over three starts). What are your thoughts on him?

It's great to get him back. I know he's excited. It was almost two years since the last time he had pitched. And for me, I haven't seen him throw in about three years. That was my first year and for me, he hasn't skipped a beat. He's definitely better than the last time I saw him. It's been a privilege, you know, it's great seeing him pitch and being healthy and he's been pitching very well. His command is there. He's got the baseball mind. He's got the mind to be really successful. And he just does a lot of little things to help him too. Running game, he's just been a lot of fun to watch.

Jacob Waguespack, image- Jay Floyd
-Righty Jacob Waguespack has been great out of the bullpen for you guys. Is it possible he's ready for a more prominent role in the bullpen?

I think he has kind of earned that already. He's done a little bit of everything and that's why he's so valuable. He can be long for us and go three innings, or he can go the 9th inning and pick up the save. He's picked a couple big saves here recently. One was a two and two-thirds, where he got out of a first-and-second with one out jam in the 7th and finished the game up and the other one was in Delmarva where he got a three-pitch 8th inning and came out and finished the 9th. But he's done a heck of a job to say the least and he's just very valuable in what he's doing, being able to anything pretty much.

-Seems that both Deivi Grullon and Austin Bossart are capable and well-respected backstops, based on what I hear from the pitchers on this team. What are your thoughts on those guys right now?

They both have done an outstanding job. Deivi, he's really matured even since last year, where he's a leader. The guys look up to him. The thing is that both catchers, him and Austin, they work together and help each other and Austin's done a heck of a job coming in. He was catching a lot early (while Deivi was injured) and even now catching a couple games a week and swinging the bat well. More importantly, both have done a good job with the pitching staff and it's definitely shown in the past month, but even more than that of how well our pitching's been doing. And it's a tribute to them and our pitchers. But, for me, it's more important that the relationship that they're having and being on the same page.

-Highly touted pitching prospect Franklyn Kilome got off to a poor start (0-3, 15.83 ERA, seven K's, 10 BB in 9 2/3 IP over three starts) and then was skipped for a start and has been great since then (1-2, 2.51 ERA, 28 K, 12 BB in 32 1/3 IP over six starts). What do you think are the biggest differences for him since he turned things around?

He's been, obviously, the new grip on his curve ball has really helped him a lot. He's really commanded it to be able to throw a first pitch curve ball for a strike to get them off his fastball. I guess that, not that that's mechanically, but that minor adjustment grip wise. And for me, more importantly his whole demeanor, he's become very aggressive on the mound and it's-- he's got the right mindset right now, the right attitude. Obviously, he's had a couple good outings. It's help to have a little success before you get confidence and he's definitely confident now and he's aggressive. And obviously, his velocity's got up I believe because of it. He's done an outstanding job and had a great month.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Lakewood's Pujols may be the Phils' next breakout prospect

Jose Pujols, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD-- Jose Pujols is making a name for himself as one of the Class A BlueClaws' most talented prospects in recent memory.

Tied for the South Atlantic League lead in home runs, the 20-year-old outfielder has shown considerable power, improved plate discipline and gleaming defense.

It was just four years ago that another young slugger garnered a lot of attention at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park.

At a similar point in his career, third baseman Maikel Franco, as a blossoming slugger, began impressing many with his bat.

Pujols calls Franco a friend and says the current Phillies star took him under his wing a bit during spring training this year. The one-on-one guidance, which Pujols says was in relation to on-field matters and life away from the diamond, meant a great deal to the younger ball player.

"It means a lot because that means that you have it in you to be in the Major Leagues and they see that, so when people like that come to you it's nice because, I mean, they don't do that with a lot of people," Pujols said.

Coaches, fans and media types may spot similarities between Franco and Pujols in the power department. The path might be similar also.

Both players are natives of the Dominican Republic. Each of them were signed by former Phillies scout and current Indians director of Latin American scouting Koby Perez. And both men played in Lakewood as a 20-year-old.

For Franco, in the season that he turned 20, he was batting .217 with five home runs and 16 total extra-base hits through his first 50 games for Lakewood. Through 50 games this season, Pujols sported a .251 average with nine homers and 19 extra-base hits.

The remainder of that 2012 season, Franco would bat .318 with 33 extra-base hits. The following year was Franco's breakout season when he split time at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading, posting a combined .320 average with 31 home runs and 103 RBI in 134 games.

It's not far-fetched to think Pujols could be on a similar route with all his potential, says Lakewood manager Shawn Williams, who has coached at multiple levels of the Phillies' developmental ranks in recent seasons.

"He is by far the most improved player I've seen since I've been here in four years and I've seen him since he was 16," Williams said, later adding, "He's a kid that there's a huge ceiling for him and there's no telling how good he's gonna be."

A difference worth mentioning between Franco's and Pujols' full-season Class A campaigns is a large variance in strike outs. Franco was fanned 80 times that entire season, while Pujols K'd 74 times through those first 50 games of this season.

According to Williams, though, the strike outs are not of great concern to those in charge of the youngster's progress.

"For me it's not so much the strike outs as it is about the at bats," Williams stated. "His at bats are improving and even though he's striking out, he's having great at bats. Laying off a lot of tough breaking balls that maybe he was chasing early. For me, his pitch recognition has really improved. But for a young hitter, (he's) picking up the pitches and pitch recognition, which has shown in the last month or so with increased power numbers and driving in runs."

Last year, following a couple seasons in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, Pujols showed flashes of pop with short-season A level Williamsport where he batted .238 with 15 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 30 RBI in 66 games.

This year, the six-foot-three 180-pounder had a .251 average with those nine homers and 32 RBI heading into action on Friday night.

Of late, Pujols has been focused on his hitting approach during batting practice to improve his overall efforts at the plate.

"My coaches want me to work on hitting to the middle of the field in batting practice, in the cage and all that and it's helping me out," Pujols said.

That is a mandate that comes from Williams, whose father is Jimy Williams, who managed the Boston Red Sox from 1997 through 2001. While hanging around Fenway Park as a teenager, the younger Williams picked up something from a two-time batting champion that he would take into his own professional career as a player and now preaches to the players that he coaches.

"I talk about it quite a bit because I used to love watching Nomar Garciaparra take (batting practice). He would take like his first three rounds and he would try to hit every ball off the (screen in front of the pitcher), which I think is one of the best things you could do as a hitter to try and get everything going toward the middle," Williams explained.

It's worth noting that Pujols' game is not all bat. A right fielder that can make strong throws from that position, his coaches feel that he gets jumps on batted balls and displays range like that of a center fielder.

So, whether he's compared to a current Phillies standout, practices like a six-time All-Star that his skipper looked up to as a kid, or displays the skill set suitable for a position he doesn't even play, the success he's having isn't something that has struck the talented Pujols with any level of surprise.

"No, I'm not at all (surprised), because I am working hard and I know good things are going to happen when you work hard."

Indeed they will. Keep it up.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Seven Threshers honored as FSL All-Stars

Elniery Garcia, image- Jay Floyd
Class A Advanced Florida State League All-Star rosters were announced on Friday and among those honored were seven from the Phillies affiliate Clearwater Threshers.

Pitchers Elniery Garcia, Alexis Rivero and Tom Eshelman will be part of the Northern division roster along with second baseman Scott Kingery, outfielder Carlos Tocci, catcher Chace Numata and 1B/3B Zach Green.

Garcia, a lefty, has been excellent this year. The 21-year-old Dominican has a 4-2 record with a 2.08 ERA in eight games (seven starts) while striking out 40 and walking 14 in 47 2/3 innings.

Rivero, the team's closer, has a 3-1 record with four saves, a 1.09 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 mark. The right-hander is 21-years-old.

Eshelman, a righty, was acquired from Houston in the Kenny Giles trade, sports a 3-2 record with a 3.61 ERA and a 9.1 K/9 mark in nine starts. The 21-year-old was a 2nd round draft selection by the Astros last year.

Kingery, the Phils' 2nd round draft pick last June, is batting .267 with three homers, 11 RBI and 11 steals in 48 games. The 22-year-old righty batter was ranked as the number 15 prospect by Phillies Nation this year.

Tocci, the 19th ranked prospect via Phillies Nation, sports a .239 average with a homer, 20 RBI and eight steals in 51 games. At 20 years old, the righty hitter is one of the youngest players in the FSL.

Numata, who was previously an All-Star with Lakewood in 2013, has a .234 average with five doubles and four RBI. The 23-year-old switch-hitter was a 14th round pick in 2010.

Green, a 3rd round pick in 2012, is hitting .277 with six homers and 25 RBI through 44 games. The righty batter is 22 years old.

The FSL All-Star Game is slated to take place in Ft. Myers, home of the Twins' affiliate, on Saturday, June 18th at 7:05 PM.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Reading's Quinn heating up, could be ready for next challenge

Roman Quinn, image- Jay Floyd
Double-A Reading center fielder Roman Quinn continued his recent hot streak with a 3-for-4 effort that included two doubles, a home run and four RBI in the team's 12-2 victory on the road against Portland on Wednesday.

In his last five contests, the 23-year-old switch-hitter has four multi-hit games and five extra-base hits.

Overall this season, Quinn sports a .284 average with seven doubles, four triples, three homers, 16 RBI and 24 stolen bases helping the Fightin Phils to a 35-18 record, which is tops in the Eastern League's Eastern division.

Speaking on his role as a catalyst for his team during a recent interview, Quinn shared his calm and simple outlook on helping his team.

"I'm just trying to do my job. I try to get on base and use my speed as much as possible and give the guys behind me a chance to drive me in," Quinn said.

With a pair of recent promotions coming from the Reading roster, as shortstop J.P. Crawford and righty pitcher Ben Lively moved up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Quinn could very well be in discussions to follow soon enough.

Moving up isn't necessarily among the top things in mind for the Florida native. Quinn's goal is more related to his health, as he's missed time in previous seasons with significant injuries such as a broken wrist, a ruptured Achiles tendon and a muscle tear in his hip region.

"I just want-- my main goal is to stay healthy and to play a full season, get a full season of at bats and whatever happens (in regards to a possible promotion) happens. The more at bats I get, the better I feel (with switch-hitting). Hopefully, I get a full season of at bats in and that would definitely help me out," Quinn stated.

This season his numbers from each side of the plate are nicely balanced.  Quinn sports a .300/.345/.380 slash line from the right side against lefties and from the left side against right-handers he has posted a .279/.365/.436 line.

The five-foot-10 170-pounder got a taste of higher levels during spring training this year and was happy to receive guidance from some more experienced players.

"This year, my first year in big league spring training a lot of guys actually took me under their wings and took time out to talk to me about the game and not showing up the umpires and everything like that.  It was a good experience, getting to see what the big leaguers live like," Quinn said.

In 11 spring training contests with the Phillies this spring, Quinn, who also displays excellent range on defense, performed like he belonged there, as he notched a .300 batting average with three triples, a home run, three RBI and two stolen bases.

Reaching the big leagues officially may be a couple steps away, but no matter which level he's playing at, look for Quinn to continue to be a standout contributor.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading RHP John Richy

John Richy, image- Jay Floyd
Acquired last August from the Dodgers along with Darnell Sweeney in the trade for Chase Utley, righty hurler John Richy has had some ups and downs since joining the Phillies.

The 23-year-old was a 3rd round draft selection out of UNLV in 2013.

At the time of the swap last summer, Richy sported a 10-5 record with a 4.20 ERA in 24 contests for Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamunga.

After joining the Phils, the six-foot-four 215-pounder posted a 2.84 ERA with no decisions in two starts for Class A Advanced Clearwater. This year, Richy made a single start for Clearwater (one earned run allowed in five innings of work) before he was promoted to Double-A Reading. Thus far with Reading, Richy has a 1-1 record with a 5.84 ERA while striking out 19 and walking 12 in 24 2/3 innings.

Recently, I talked with Richy about how he's performed in the Eastern League thus far, his pitch repertoire, joining a new organization and plenty more. Read ahead for the full interview.

-You joined the Reading roster after opening the season with Clearwater. What was it like to get that promotion?

I mean, it's been a lot of fun getting the opportunity to come out and play with some of these guys. I'm really enjoying myself so far.

-What are your thoughts on the competition in the Eastern League thus far?

I struggled a little bit later in the game, but I've got some stuff that I'm working on and I have ideas on how to get myself in better positions to win the game, but I'm trying not to let it get in my head about better competition or anything. I'm just trying to stay within myself and let everything else take care of itself.

-What have you been working on? Something mechanical, a change or grip or something like that?

No, it's more just trying not to do to much. It's pretty easy to go out there and try to just let things get out of control at any level. But I think if you stay within yourself and do what got you here, you're going to be successful.

-You came over to the Phillies as part of the Utley trade last year. What was that whole deal like for you?

I mean, that was one of the more cooler experiences that I've ever had. Just seconds after I was told I was being traded, I looked at the TV in the locker room and my name was on TV on MLB Network and I'm like, "Wow! This is crazy!" And the next day, I went from LA to Florida and everything happened so fast and I'm really enjoying where I am now.

-Being attached to a trade with such a huge name, does that come with pressure to live up to some expectations or anything like that?

I think it's really cool that that is part of the path that I'm on, but I mean as far as letting it effect how I go about anything, I'm just going try to do that same no matter where I'm at or what the situation is.

-Do you notice a lot of differences between the Dodgers and the Phillies organizations?

No, not really. Before I would have said the food, but now they're really taking care of us, getting us some good food and it's-- to be honest with you I think it's pretty similar anywhere you go. You get to meet new people and making friends and being part of a team is just always a big thing no matter where you're at.

-You've had a chance to work with Jorge Alfaro and Logan Moore a lot with Reading. Do you have a good rapport with the catchers for the Fightins?

I really like those guys. It's nice being able to work with them and they've been helping me out a little bit, I don't know, kind of trusting them, having some more experienced guys is just helpful and it's cool, Logan is from Colorado, where I'm originally from and it's nice to see a fellow Colorado guy out there.

-What is your pitch repertoire and is there something you would consider your out pitch?

I generally try to throw everything for strikes in any count, but I've got a four-seam fastball, curve ball, cutter, change up and a two-seam fastball. But working on commanding everything is my biggest thing that I like to work on. I'm always looking for ways to get better.

-You mentioned being a Colorado guy. Was there a standout Rockies player from your youth that you watched and wanted to emulate?

Growing up, Jerry Dipoto was my hero and I grew up going to school with his daughters and he kind of mentored me, took me under his wing and he's definitely a cool guy to know at a young age.

-Is there any lesson from him that you recall that still has an impact on you now?

No, but one of the biggest things he ever taught me was just believing in yourself and if you believe enough in yourself and you set you mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

-Had you spent much time on the east coast prior to coming to the Phillies?

I have not spent much time on the east coast. It feels like a different world out here.

-What would you say are the biggest differences between home and out here?

I miss the mountains, to be honest with you. That's the biggest thing. There's not too much of that out here and it seem to rain all the time. Other than that, everybody's been nice and I'm always up for new adventures. It's always nice to explore new things.

-Do you have any game day superstitions or good luck charms?

No, not really. I try to stay relaxed and, especially when I'm in the dugout I try not to-- I'm not one of those guys who like sits in the corner and is like, "Don't talk to me." I try to stay relaxed and save all the focus for out there on the mound.

-Did you collect baseball cards as a kid?

I have a few cards but I was never a huge card collector. Just, I don't know, I was a fan of the game in general, but nobody in particular.

-Now that you're a pro and are on cards of your own, do you collect those?

I've been given a few. I have them. I have a mustache from my picture in college on one of them. I never thought that would be following me around everywhere I go (laughs).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Lively promoted, Appel to DL, Hollands & Asche to continue rehab

Ben Lively, image- Jay Floyd
The Reading Fightins announced a transaction this afternoon, as righty starting pitcher Ben Lively has earned a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Lively, a 4th round pick of Cincinnati in 2013, was acquired by the Phillies in a trade for Marlon Byrd two 0ff-seasons ago.

In nine starts for Double-A Reading this season, the 24-year-old posted a 7-0 record with a 1.87 ERA while striking out 49 and walking 15 in 53 innings pitched. Last season with Reading, Lively sported an 8-7 record with a 4.13 ERA in 25 games.

Recently, I spoke with Lively, who noted that the key to his success this year was throwing more quality pitches early in at bats.

He'll make his Triple-A debut, starting on Friday night for the IronPigs.

Mark Appel has been placed on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain. The 24-year-old left his most recent start for the IronPigs on Sunday after being charged with four earned runs in just 2/3 of an inning.

Appel has a 3-3 record with a 4.46 ERA and a .267 batting average against in eight starts this season. He was a key acquisition in last off-season's Ken Giles trade and was the top overall draft pick by Houston in 2013.

Additionally, left-handed pitcher Mario Hollands (Tommy John surgery) and left fielder Cody Asche (oblique) will continue to rehab from injuries with Lehigh Valley as well.

Hollands, 27, has a 1.04 ERA while striking out 12 and walking one in 8 2/3 innings on his rehab stint to date.

In nine minor league contests, the 25-year-old Asche is batting .147 with two home runs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Reading's Serna eyeing big leagues despite less than ideal role

KC Serna, image- Jay Floyd
Organizational depth is a common phrase used around baseball to describe older minor league players that help fill out Double-A and Triple-A rosters. They could be players with a bit of big league service time or guys that may have been branded as having a ceiling that's upper-levels-of-the-minors high, but not any higher. Reading utility man KC Serna might be a player categorized in such a way, but that doesn't impact his goal of continuing to climb upward in the professional ranks.

Another similar term journeyman is something that Serna explains can be a good thing, but not where he plays.

"I mean, that'd be, typically, a good position if you're in the big leagues, but we're not. So, you know, obviously it's not the best role you want to be thrown into," Serna said.

Selected in the 42nd round of the 2011 draft by Cleveland, Serna had a successful debut season in pro ball with short-season A level Mahoning Valley after a great collegiate career at Oregon, where his 163 hits rank second in school history.

In 2012, Serna found himself released by Cleveland and would return to baseball playing in the independent American Association in 2013, posting solid numbers, which lead the Phillies to come calling for the 2014 season.

The past three seasons have seen Serna spending time at three levels of the Phils system, including time last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. This year, the 26-year-old's .351 batting average heading into action on Monday was tops for the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils. He'd also notched seven doubles with a home run and 11 RBI in 27 games.

The recent promotion of top Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford from Reading to Lehigh Valley could result in more playing time at shortstop for Serna. In order to land in the lineup more frequently, the six-foot 185-pounder has become more versatile, going from a middle infielder in college to playing third base, left field and center field as a pro. He even tossed a scoreless inning as a pitcher this season for Reading.

"A lot of things are out of our hands. I can't really control whether I'm gonna be in there or not," Serna expressed. "I try to show up to the field everyday, regardless of what the lineup says, just trying to get my work done.

"To be honest, I don't really look at the lineup too often. I try to just focus on getting better and making sure that my game's tight so that when I'm called in there, I'm ready to go."

Serna maintains a fresh mental approach by treating his non-daily activity like a college schedule, where teams only play a few days a week.

As a youngster, Serna admired Yankees legend Derek Jeter's ability to garner attention for his talent, hustle and leadership rather than off-the-field nonsense. In his current role, Serna takes pride in being a bit of a veteran that can assist younger teammates with advice that could apply on or off the field.

Despite being a leader in his own right, the southern California native admires the skills of many of the younger players around him, citing what stands out most about the Reading team he's a part of.

"Just the abundance of talent. A lot of these guys have more than a couple tools. You know, and it's fun to watch them kind of mold their games into a big league baseball player. And I've seen a couple of them over the past two or three years, it's fun to watch them grow as a person and a more solid all around baseball player," Serna stated.

With all those rising stars of the Phillies' future racing through the minors right now, it's possible that Serna isn't in the organization's plans for the big league roster. But that doesn't spoil the righty batter's frame of mind, though, as he's got a smart outlook on the business.

"Generally, I'm not playing for just the Phillies. I'm playing for 29 other teams," Serna explained. "Whether they pick me up after the year, whether I get my shot here or somebody else picks me up mid-year, I really don't know. But, I know where I stand. I know who I am. So, I'm confident in that."

On that note, Serna's goal remains firm.

"Climbing levels, whether it be here or with any other club."