Friday, January 17, 2020

2020 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #22 LHP Kyle Dohy

Dohy with Reading in 2018, image- Jay Floyd
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Lefty reliever Kyle Dohy has been on the fast track since joining the Phillies organization and stands out as one of the organization's most promising young prospects.

A 16th round draft selection out of Citrus Community College in 2017, Dohy was quickly signed by the Phils and began his professional career that year in the Class A short-season New York-Penn League.

In 13 appearances with Williamsport that year, as a 20-year-old, Dohy would post a 2-1 record with a 3.60 ERA and a .182 batting average against in 13 relief outings.  Additionally, he would strike out 22 and walk 20 in 20 innings.

In 2018 Dohy really stood out, pitching at three levels, and started to make a name for himself.  In 24 appearances with Class A Lakewood, Dohy looked nearly untouchable, recording a 3-3 record with seven saves, a 0.80 ERA, a .144 batting average against and an outstanding 16.8 K/9 mark while the BB/9 rate looked much better at 4.5.

Dohy would earn a promotion to Class A Advanced Clearwater at the Sally League's All-Star break in June.  His brief stint there was just as successful as the first half of the season had been, as he tallied a 2-1 record with a pair of saves and a 1.64 ERA, striking out 18 and walking three in 11 innings over seven appearances for the Threshers.

The Phillies then promoted the youngster once more and he looked a bit more human out of the bullpen with Double-A Reading for the remainder of the season.  In 18 games Dohy sported a 2-5 record with a save, a 5.56 ERA and a .165 batting average against.  He would strike out 30 and walk 22 in 22 2/3 innings pitched.

Last year, Dohy opened the campaign back in Double-A and appeared to have mastered that level.  In six games, he notched a 1-0 record with two saves, a 0.82 ERA, a .059 batting average against and stuck out 22 while walking five in 11 innings of work.  He'd move to Triple-A Lehigh Valley before April was through.

As a member of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the 22-year-old would collect a 6-5 record with a save, a 6.19 ERA, a .253 batting average against while striking out 83 and walking 54 in 56 2/3 innings over 41 appearances.

The pitch repertoire for Dohy, who is listed at six-feet-two, 182 pounds, features a trio of offerings with plus potential.  He features a mid-90's fastball that touched up to 97 MPH, a premier slider that has a lot of movement and a change up that could use some refinement and additional consistency.

Command has been a area of concern through Dohy's first few seasons in the minors.  It's an area that will be a big focus for coaches and instructors, as they work with the pitcher to get his mechanics and delivery in check.

A sticking point for several pitchers last year was the usage of a different baseball, the type used at the MLB level, at the Triple-A level.  It has been a learning process and the Phillies' developmental coaches feel it's something that a talented individual like Dohy will work through and emerge from with a promising future.

It was recently announced that Dohy, who is now 23 years old, will be in big league spring training as a non-roster invitee this year.  The Phillies will be watching this talented hurler closely, as he has the potential to be a big contributor out of their bullpen sooner than later.

You can keep tabs on this year's top 25 Phillies prospect countdown by clicking this link.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

2020 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #23 OF Jhailyn Ortiz

Jhailyn Ortiz with Lakewood in 2018, 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.  With four years in professional baseball down, Ortiz still has a very long way to go.

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 en route to an All-Star nod.  His .961 OPS would have been good enough to lead the league if he has notched enough plate appearances to qualify.

In 2018 with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, as a 19-year-old, Ortiz notched 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 would post a .258/.320/.399 slash line in the 1st half and a .202/.283/.360 slash line in the 2nd half.

Coaches have expressed that the right-handed batting Ortiz is a special talent with a very bright future. Hitting coach Tyler Henson told me after watching Ortiz play for more than five months in the South Atlantic League in 2018 that, “For me, he's got more ability than anybody in this league.”




Last season in 115 games with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Ortiz posted a .200 batting average with 15 doubles, three triples, 19 home runs and 65 RBI. 

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 while drawing walks about 8% of the time in the minors, he has a lot of work ahead. 

The Phillies expect Ortiz to develop a better understanding of how the opposition is trying to pitch to him and improve his ability to interpret the strike zone.  Should that happen, then watch out!  Ortiz reportedly underwent laser eye surgery over the 2018/2019 off-season, so the thinking was that improved vision would be evident at the plate, but his offensive numbers did not see any sort of jump start last season.


At roughly six-feet-three and 258 pounds, Ortiz is a hulking, strapping, young man that has power for days, but he'll need to take serious strides at this dish and avoid further regression in order to avoid having the "bust" label attached to him.

The energetic Ortiz, who will be 21 years old for the entirety of the 2020 season, is a quality defender with a very strong arm.  Defensively, he played some center and left last year with the Threshers after having only played right field entering the 2019 campaign. 

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.

For me, he has not graduated out of the Florida State League, as far as development and maturity go, but I could see the Phillies pushing him to the Double-A level this season.

You can keep tabs on this year's top 25 Phillies prospect countdown by clicking this link.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2020 Phillies Prospect Countdown: #24 LHP JoJo Romero

JoJo Romero, image- Jay Floyd
Despite a lackluster 2019 season, left-handed pitcher JoJo Romero remains a promising prospect that the Phillies hope can contribute at the big league level very soon.

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 collected 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, that year. In 10 starts for the Threshers, Romero posted a 5-2 record with a 2.24 ERA, a .223 batting average against 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).

In 2018, 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 Fightin 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.

Last year Romero struggled throughout much of the season.  After opening the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, he had tallied a 9.64 ERA through his initial seven starts.  The Phillies demoted him back to Reading where he where he would post a 4.84 ERA and a .261 batting average against over 11 starts.  Two months after the move, Romero was returned to Lehigh Valley and had a 3.86 ERA over his final six appearances of the season there.

Overall in 24 starts at two levels in 2019, Romero sported a 7-9 record, a 5.82 ERA, a .286 batting average against and a 1.55 WHIP while striking out 92 and walking 47 in 111 1/3 innings pitched. 

His initial efforts in the International League did not seem promising, but 2019 IronPigs pitching coach Steve Schrenk asserted to me that he saw considerable improvements for Romero between his initial stretch in Triple-A and his second stint with the 'Pigs.  Velocity on his fastball was reportedly down early on, but returned over the course of the season, getting back into the mid-90's. 

The 23-year-old's pitch repertoire also features a curve ball, a quality slider and a change-up that certainly plays better when velocity on the fastball is up.  Romero has built a reputation of being a guy that can command the corners as well.

Romero, a member of the Phillies' 40-man roster, 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.

A ball of energy off-the field, 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 likely plan to have Romero stick as a starter, with a potential ceiling possibly as a mid-rotation guy.  Look for him to gain some opportunities to impress new big league manager Joe Girardi and his staff during spring training.

You can keep tabs on this year's top 25 Phillies prospect countdown by clicking this link.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

2020 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #25 LHP David Parkinson

David Parkinson, image- Jay Floyd
David Parkinson used a bust-out season at Class A in 2018 to propel himself into discussions about the most promising Phillies prospects. The left-hander then followed that up in 2019 with a full season at Double-A Reading.

A 12th round draft selection in 2017, Parkinson tallied an 11-6 record with a 3.10 ERA and a 7.8 K/9 mark in two college seasons at Ole Miss after transferring from junior college.  The Phillies signed him over slot money at a reported $250,000.

Parkinson would open the 2018 season with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws where he led the starting staff, sporting an 8-1 record with a 1.51 ERA, a .210 batting average against, a 1.05 WHIP and a 10.9 K/9 mark.

Promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater in August, Parkinson continued to display mastery on the mound.  In five appearances (four starts) with the Threshers, the Virginia native posted a 3-0 record, a 1.24 ERA as well as a .175 batting average against and a 0.90 WHIP.

His overall 1.45 ERA for the 2018 season was the best in all of minor league baseball.

With that remarkable season under his belt, Parkinson was honored as the top hurler in the Phillies' developmental ranks, getting the organization's Paul Owens Award last year.
He made his professional debut with short-season Class A Williamsport in 2017, posting a 1-3 record with a 2.48 ERA along with a .242 batting average against in 11 appearances (three starts).

Last year, Parkinson spent a complete season at Double-A as a starter for the Reading Fightin Phils.   The 24-year-old notched a 10-9 record with 4.08 ERA, a .247 batting average against, a 1.23 WHIP and an 8.9 K/9 mark in 22 games.

Parkinson, listed at six-foot-two, 210 pounds, is equipped with a pitch repertoire that features a fastball that resides in the low 90's, a very good change up, a curve ball and a slider.  With some offerings that are rated about average, his efforts play up with a deceptive delivery.  He also touts great command.

There is no fear in Parkinson.  He's an intelligent pitcher that goes right after the opposition and is confident while doing so. Parkinson always has a plan heading into any outing, maybe more so than any other hurler in the system.  He has an amazing feel for pitch sequences, tends to think a pitch or two ahead and can outsmart batters with ease, getting plenty of swings-and-misses.

It is likely that Parkinson will get to try his luck at the Triple-A level to open the 2020 season. 

Projections for the Virginia native place him as a back end big league starter, a spot that very much needs his brand of consistency at the big league level with the Phillies.  

You can keep tabs on this year's top 25 Phillies prospect countdown by clicking this link.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Patreon Exclusive: Some news and notes from the farm

As another baseball season draws near, it's time for the frequency of content to pick back up.  My latest post for Patreon supporters features details on next week's prospect symposium in Philadelphia, early arrivals for spring training in Clearwater, some updates on MLB's Rookie Orientation happening this week and more!  These are details I won't publish elsewhere.

Please consider supporting my work by becoming a patron via my Patreon page in order to enjoy exclusive news and updates as well as interviews, plus get early access to virtually all of my other content. 


Thursday, January 9, 2020

2020 Phillies Prospect Countdown Prelude

I encourage you to head on over the Patreon.com/PhoulBallz in order to support my work and get access to material like this before anyone else and get access to interviews as well as other exclusive content you can't get anywhere else.  

Each winter I compile prospect rankings and count down the Phillies organization’s top 25 minor league players. In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting reviews for each of the top developmental talents that appear to have the brightest futures for the Phils organization.

Taken into consideration when compiling the list is age, minor league performance relative to levels played to date, value to the organization as well as each player's future potential along with proximity to the big leagues.

These rankings will not include players over the age of 25 or individuals that have already spent lengthy stretches in the big leagues.

For example, hurlers such as Edgar Garcia and Cole Irvin as well as outfielder Adam Haseley will not be considered for this year's rankings.  Additionally, Austin Listi, an outfielder/corner infielder that won the Phillies' Paul Owens Award in 2018, has fallen out of my top 25, as he turned 26 years old in November.  Lefty reliever Tyler Gilbert, ranked 23rd here last year, has also aged out of my rankings.

Players that garnered consideration for this list but missed ranking among the top 25 names include some promising upstarts with high ceilings as well as some names fans may have already begun hearing about.

Kendall Simmons, image- Jay Floyd
Kendall Simmons, an All-Star outfielder for the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters last season, is as promising as they come.  The righty batting shortstop was a 6th round draft selection by the Phils in 2018.  In 2019, Simmons notched a .234 average with 12 home runs, 34 RBI and five stolen bases in 51 games and was honored as an All-Star.  His .854 OPS ranked 5th highest in the New York-Penn League.  Fans can look for the talented 19-year-old to see time with Class A Lakewood this year.

Johan Rojas has drawn some solid attention in recent months.  The 19-year-old outfielder made stops at two short-season levels last year, in the Gulf Coast League and with Williamsport.  Overall in 60 combined games, the right-handed hitting Dominican posted a .265 batting average with 11 doubles, 11 triples, two homers, 15 RBI and 14 stolen bases.  Superior defense and great speed along with highly encouraging offensive results against plenty of elder pitching have prospect heads very excited about this youngster. 

Catcher Rodolfo Duran, ranked 21st here last year, fell out of the top 25 for 2020.  The righty batting Dominican, who turns 22 years old in February, followed up his exceptional effort at Lakewood in 2018 with a dip in offensive numbers for Clearwater in 2019.  Duran tallied a .240/.273/.369 slash line in 66 contests before his season was cut short due to injury in July.  A solid contributor behind the dish, Duran remains a player worth keeping an eye on. 

Left-handed hurler Garrett Cleavinger was added to the Phillies' 40-man roster this off-season in an effort to keep him protected from the Rule 5 Draft.  The 25-year-old was the Orioles' 3rd round draft selection in in 2015 and was later traded to the Phils in the 2017 Jeremy Hellickson deal.  With Double-A Reading in 2019, the Oregon product notched a 3-2 record with a 3.66 ERA, a .172 batting average against, a 1.28 WHIP and a remarkable 14.5 K/9 mark.  

Addison Russ, another talented Reading reliever last season, was also close to making the list.  The right-handed 25-year-old proved to be reliable in the closer role in 2019, sporting a 5-6 record with 22 saves, a .223 batting average against, a 1.18 WHIP as well as a 12.9 K/9 mark.  I would expect Russ, a Phillies 19th round draft choice in 2017, to see some action in big league spring training this year.

Righty pitcher Andrew Schultz made a considerable impression on me during his time with Class A Lakewood last year.  The organization's 6th round draft pick in 2019 signed quickly right after his college season with Tennessee was complete.  Schultz made one appearance in the Gulf Coast League then joined the BlueClaws' bullpen.  In 12 total appearances, the 22-year-old tallied a 0-2 record with a 6.55 ERA while striking out 15 and walking nine over 11 innings of work.  Equipped with a high 90's fastball that can reach triple digits, Schultz, whose command needs refinement, could be a reliever on the fast track up the developmental ladder.

Another Lakewood hurler from 2019 with a high ceiling is Kevin Gowdy.  The Phillies' 2nd round draft pick from 2016 had missed more than two years following UCL reconstruction.  While battling to knock the rust off and regain the consistency that earned him a high draft position, the righty would post a 0-6 record with a 4.68 ERA while striking out 53 and walking 51 in 77 innings over 24 outings.  The upcoming season will be key for the 22-year-old to take some strides and prove to still be a valued big league prospect.

Check back on PhoulBallz.com often, as a new season approaches, for the unveiling of this year’s top 25 ranked prospects within the Phillies organization.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season Check In with LHP Keylan Killgore

Keylan Killgore, image- @BaseballBetsy
Lefty pitcher Keylan Killgore had an outstanding season in 2019.  In his first full professional season, the 23-year-old notched a 1-3 record with 11 saves, a 3.57 ERA, a .234 batting average against as well as a 10.4 K/9 mark in 36 relief outings with Class A Advanced Clearwater.

As one of the Threshers' primary relievers, the six-foot-three 185-pounder contributed in recording a combined no-hitter in June, along with teammates Kyle Glogoski and Tyler Carr.

Killgore, a Wichita State product, was selected by the Phillies in the 17th round of the 2018 draft.

Last month, Keylan took time to answer some questions from me about his off-season, workout routine, being a newlywed and more.  Read ahead for that interview.

-What have you been up to since the season wrapped up? Did you participate in any of the Phillies' activities or seminars in Clearwater?

I've really tried to spend as much time with family as possible. I got married in December of last year and then left for six months, so I've been trying to make up that time with my wife. I didn't go to any of the off-season camps or workouts this year, but I did go last year and that gave me a great idea for how to shape this off-season.

-How long do you rest and avoid picking up a baseball? And during that downtime what does your workout or fitness routine consist of?

I only took about a month and a half off of throwing this year. When I started throwing again, though, it was extremely light and trying to lean more towards keeping mobility more than anything. Most of my workouts have been geared towards strength and flexibility. I have always been tall and skinny, putting on weight was never a strong suit for me. To add to that, I'm not crazy flexible either, so I have put extreme focus into those two aspects of my game.

-Any goals for this off-season? Like, was there anything you've tried to accomplish such as adding muscle, learn more Spanish, anything else?

I have just tried to push myself as hard as possible in the weight room. I want to go into Spring Training in the best shape that I can.

-Are you working or employed anywhere over the fall/winter months?

I decided not to work this off-season. Main reason being that I worked last off-season and felt like I could have done more baseball activity than I did. So, this off-season I decided not to work and put everything I have into workouts and my throwing program.

-What facility are you getting most of your work in at and who do you work with the most- any trainers, coaches or other players?


Luckily for me, I grew up and still live in the same city that I played college ball in. I do all of my workouts at Wichita State University. They have top of the line facilities and everyone there is like family now after my time there.

-Any big things planned or already completed this off-season? Travels or vacations...that sort of thing?

My wife and I are going to see some family in Idaho, which will be a blast. We'll spend about a week there with them and I know they have some big things planned already. Other than that, it has been nice just being home for a while.

-What do you think your biggest takeaway from the 2019 season was?

Honestly, the biggest thing that I've learned so far in pro ball altogether is that you can learn from every single person on the field. Everyone has a different way of doing something or has seen something in their time that can give you an advantage. I've really just learned to always be listening, because things are always flying around a clubhouse or a field that can help you.


***Please head on over the Patreon.com/PhoulBallz to support my work and get early to content and exclusive access to interviews like this along with content you can't get anywhere else.   

Monday, December 30, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: OF Matt Vierling Off-season Check In

Vierling w/ Lakewood in 2018, image- Jay Floyd
Outfield prospect Matt Vierling took some time recently to offer some thoughts on his off-season.

The 23-year-old was a 5th round draft selection by the Phillies in 2018.  This year, in his first full season in professional baseball, the Notre Dame product posted a .232 average with five home runs, 41 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 118 games with Class A Advanced Clearwater.

Last week I asked Matt, a Missouri native, to offer some details on his workout routine in the fall and winter months, his thoughts on Major League Baseball's proposed elimination of certain affiliated minor league teams and plenty more.  Read ahead for that interview.

- How much down time do you allow yourself before you get back to picking up a bat and/or taking swings?
I try to give myself at least one to two months off from swinging. This year I was on the longer end because I was coming off of my first full year and felt like I needed the break. That’s what’s nice about having a long off-season.

- Did you attend any of the camps or seminars in Clearwater this off-season? 
I did not attend any of the camps or seminars that they held. Because I wasn’t doing them, I went and finished up a semester of school back at Notre Dame.

- Do you have any key goals for this winter like adding muscle, adding speed, improving your Spanish, those types of things?
I want to add about five to 10 pounds of muscle and obviously improve my speed on a day-to-day basis. I try to set goals at the beginning of the off-season so that I have something to work towards. Some of those goals include strength and speed gains along with eating healthy and keeping my body in shape.

- What facility do you work out at in the fall and winter and who do you work with as far as coaches or other players?
I was up at Notre Dame working out from September until December. They have great facilities and I have access to almost everything up there so that was super beneficial. Back in St. Louis I work out at P3. It’s mainly a pitching performance facility but I’ve been working with Josh Kessel and Steffen Simmons, the strength coaches there, since I was in high school. Having people around that know me in regards to lifting and running is super valuable. There are a lot of pro ball players that work out in there, so it’s a great atmosphere to be apart of on a daily basis. I’m going to be hitting with Bobby Wernes who's a Phillies hitting coach back in St. Louis, which will also helpful.

- What was your best takeaway from the 2019 season? Was there something you took the biggest strides with or was their a big lesson you learned?

There were a lot of takeaways for me with regards to the 2019 season. But the main takeaway would be my body. Going through a full season for the first time, while also being in the Florida State League, made me learn how to handle my body on a daily basis. There were times when I could’ve treated my body better with the food I ate or how I stretched, so learning from that will help me in the future.

The remainder of this interview is available exclusively for Patreon members. You can support my work and get access to content at Patreon.com/PhoulBallz.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Frosty Phillies Favorites: 2019 Christmas Survey

Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd
Season's greetings to all!  Around here, we surely adore the holidays and, of course, baseball players are no exception. Every year at Christmas time, I survey a group of Phillies prospects about what they get excited for during the holiday season.

Players taking part in this year's TENTH annual Christmas favorites survey are pitchers Albertus Barber, Tyler Carr, Keylan Killgore, Kevin Gowdy, Connor Hinchliffe and Jonathan Hennigan.  Additionally, outfielder Matt Vierling took time to share his thoughts as well.

Inquiries and responses regarding each player's holly jolly favorites lie ahead...

-What is your favorite Christmas song?

Barber- It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas. Big fan of the song.
Hinchliffe- ​All I Want for Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey.
Gowdy- My favorite Christmas song is Mele Kalikimaka by Jimmy Buffett. My parents have always been huge Jimmy Buffett fans, so it was always on during the holidays when I was growing up. Also I love it because it’s a tropical Hawaiian Christmas song, and being from Santa Barbara we’ve never had a white Christmas or anything like that. It’s always been sunny and nice out during Christmas time.
Killgore- My favorite Christmas song is kind of unusual, because to be honest I'm not a huge fa of Christmas music. My favorite Christmas song is "The Christmas Shoes" by Newsong.
Vierling- My favorite Christmas song is All I Want For Christmas is You by Mariah Carey.
Hennigan- The Christmas Shoes. What’s better than a song about helping the needy and talking about Jesus?
Carr- I might be the wrong guy to ask this question. I don't really listen to Christmas music.

-What is your favorite holiday movie or TV special?

Barber- Favorite movie to me seems like a given. Elf to me is an absolute masterpiece. Will Ferrell has a special place in my heart.
Hinchliffe- National Lampoons Christmas Vacation because it’s hard to beat Clark Griswold and crazy Uncle Eddie.
Gowdy- My favorite Christmas movies are Home Alone and Elf. Will Ferrell is the man!
Killgore- Definitely "Home Alone: Lost in New York". I can watch the Home Alone movies all year around, they never get old.
Vierling- My favorite Christmas movie is Elf with Will Ferrell. He's hilarious, especially in that.
Hennigan- Favorite Christmas movie or TV special would be Home Alone 1 and 2.
Carr- I think Elf takes the cake for sure. Will Ferrell, I think he fits that role perfectly.

-What's your favorite thing to eat at Christmas time and who makes it?

Barber- Favorite food item would have to be the special Christmas sugar cookies we leave out for “Santa” that are really just an excuse for your dad to get some extra calories in that day. Mother and me used to make them.
Hinchliffe- I don’t think I can point out a single Christmas food but I love everything my mother makes during the holidays… and no I wasn’t forced to say that!
Gowdy- My favorite thing to eat during the holidays is the cinnamon rolls that my mom makes every year. She makes a good amount of them for Christmas morning, but they never seem to last through the day.
Killgore- It is kind of a tradition in my house that we have Breakfast Casserole on Christmas morning and usually my parents make it. It's just a bunch of cheese and sausage and eggs. It's incredible and I need to learn how to make it.
Vierling- My family always gets a Christmas ham, so that's up there as my favorite I would say since we do that every year.
Hennigan- Papa Dale's ham. That baby would melt in your mouth.
Carr- There's some good stuff. My mom makes a lot of sweets. I'm gonna have to go with her cookies. Sugar cookies, chocolate chip, all of the above. And my dad making the meal...ham and turkey. Whatever we have, it's all really good. That's what I look forward to,

-What is your most memorable gift from childhood?

Barber- Most memorable childhood gift I got was definitely my Nintendo 64. I’ll never forget how amazed I was when I laid eyes on that thing, man. I’m a big nerd about video games, and that was where it all started.
Hinchliff- A memorable Christmas gift from my childhood that sticks out was my brother and I getting custom baseball gloves when we were in little league.
Gowdy- One of my favorite Christmas gifts I’ve gotten has to be when my parents surprised my sister and I with bikes in the garage. I was a lot younger and must’ve been eight or nine, but I absolutely loved it and rode it all the time.
Killgore- I will always remember when my brother, sister and I got a trampoline for Christmas. I can't remember how old I was, but I remember finding a note on the fireplace saying that a gift was left outside. We spent the rest of that Christmas begging to put it together, rather than worry about what else we got.
Vierling- We don't have a specific family tradition that we always do, but my family gets together with both sides of our family. It's great to see both sides and catch up with them at the family parties.
Hennigan- I would say bicycles because we thought we were some type of dare devil stunt men as kids.
Carr- This might sound a little country, but my brother and I got matching rifles back in the day when we were younger. We were trying to find out what our parents got us and we looked all around the house in their closet and other places. Come to find out they hit them in our own closet. In our closet they hid both of them in there! This had to have been when I was probably 15 or 16. We do a lot of hunting and fishing down here. So that's probably the best gift.

-Does your family have a Phillies ornament on the Christmas tree?

Hinchliffe- ​Not sure if we did last year but this year (we'll have one) for sure.

-What's your favorite ornament on your Christmas tree?

Barber- My favorite ornament isn’t really specific, but my grandmother, the sweetest lady ever, will always go find an ornament that reminds us of her, or her of us, and give it to us every year to hang on the tree. She’s done this for over 20 years. Amazing.
Gowdy- My favorite ornament on the Christmas tree has got to be this little toy solider with my name on it. For some reason I just loved it when I was younger, so I’ve always made sure to hang it up on the front of the tree haha.
Killgore- My Grandma used to hide a pickle ornament in the tree and whoever finds it opens the first gift. We haven't done that in a couple years but my brother and I bring it up almost every year.
Hennigan- Probably me and my wife’s first Christmas ornament together.
Carr- To be honest I don't think so. I used to help decorate when I was a kid, but now that's all my mom. I don't think I have anything.

-Do you recall finding out the real deal about Santa Claus and is there a story that goes along with that?

Barber- I found out Santa wasn’t real when I was awake one night at about 9 or 10. Might’ve been younger. Anyways, I was sneaking around trying to see if I could find Santa and catch him. That year my parents had the brilliant idea of not wrapping the presents up until around 1 AM, like they didn’t have weeks before that time, and while doing my recon I heard wrapping paper and my mom yell “HONEY CAN YOU BRING ME THE SCISSORS?” At that point I knew. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t mad, I just realized that all holiday characters were fake and went on my happy way accepting gifts from them anyways. If your boy needed to act like Santa was real to get presents from him, then you could call me Leonardo DiCaprio.
Gowdy- Honestly, I can’t really remember how I found out about Santa, even though it sounded a little fishy to me as I started getting older. I wish I had a great story for you though!
Killgore- I can't remember to be honest. If I had to guess, one of my older siblings probably broke the news to me and I would imagine it wasn't a soft let down.
Vierling- I found out when my brother and I got a ping pong table for Christmas. My mom had actually forgotten to give it to us and it was sitting in our garage until the middle of January. One day my brother and I went out there to get something in the garage and found the ping pong table we had asked for. That's when we found out the truth.
Hennigan- My cousin told me the bad news! I hit him as soon as he told me, then I thought about it for a second and realized the truth.

-Does your family have any traditions that are a big deal around Christmas?

Barber- One of our standout traditions would always be that we used to all wear the same sweaters that our grandma would get us for a Christmas picture. So here’s 15 to 20 of us all lined up in these absolutely brutal turtleneck sweaters from Dollar General. Hilarious to go back and look at those pictures.
Hinchliffe- One thing that we have done since my brother and I were little is finding a hidden pickle in the Christmas tree to decide who gets to open the first present. I’ve only ever heard of a few people who know of this tradition. The novelty has sort of worn out since we’re older but we still do it for the laughs.
Gowdy- One of my favorite traditions growing up was Christmas Eve going to look at Christmas lights with my dad and sister. I later found out that was how my mom would get some last minute work done for “Santa” getting the stockings ready. Pretty funny.
Killgore- Really the only tradition we have, is we always spend Christmas Eve at my Grandparents' house with our whole family. We usually have a ton of food and everyone stands around in the kitchen talking or the kids go outside and play football.
Vierling- We don't have a specific family tradition that we always do, but my family gets together with both sides of our family. It's great to see both sides and catch up with them at the family parties.
Hennigan- We just go look at Christmas lights.
Carr- A lot of my family members are in law enforcement or the medical field, so sometimes we have to celebrate a day early or a day late. This year we're going to have to do it on Christmas Eve because my brother and his wife are working on Christmas day and it's just small things. We can't ever really have anything set in stone.


Previous editions of this survey include answers from Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, Adam Haseley, Scott Kingery and loads of others.  

Those editions of this delightful Christmas questionnaire can be viewed at the following links- 2018 holiday survey, 2017 survey, 2016 survey, 2015 survey, 2014 survey, 2013 edition, 2012 edition, 2011 edition and the 2010 edition

Thursday, December 19, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Tyler Carr off-season check in

Tyler Carr, image- Jay Floyd

Please head on over the Patreon.com/PhoulBallz to support my work and get access to interviews like this one early as well as other exclusive content you can't get anywhere else.  

Righty pitcher Tyler Carr had an outstanding season in the minor leagues this year. The 23-year-old opened the season with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, where he notched a 0.51 ERA in 11 relief appearances before earning a promotion to Class A Advanced Clearwater. As a member of the Threshers' bullpen, Carr sported a 1.54 ERA in 27 outings, including being part of a combined no-hitter in June. Carr was then promoted Double-A Reading, in time for that club's playoff run.

Overall in 39 regular season contests last season, Carr tallied a 5-4 record with six saves, a .180 batting average against along with a 9.8 K/9 mark.

The talented hurler was selected by the Phillies in round 31 of the 2018 draft out of South Alabama.

This week I talked with Tyler about his off-season routine, declining to pitch in off-season ball, his takeaways from 2019 and more. Read ahead for that complete interview.


-Did you attend instructs or was there any winter ball leagues on the table for you to participate in?

I didn't go to instructs. I got asked if I wanted to go play in Australia, in one of the winter ball leagues. I turned it down just because I thought I threw enough innings and just felt good still. I wanted to get back home because you have to get a real job and make money to be able to support yourself and live in the off-season. 'Cause, as you know, you don't get paid a ton and you need to hold up the roof, so...

-I know we spoke and you mentioned you're doing pitching lessons with young players. What age group are your working with, what facility are you using and are you doing anything else work wise?

So, I do give pitching lessons. I live in a real small town, so I don't have access to a big facility. I have some connections at the local public baseball fields, so I have a nice turf mound set up and we work at different distances. I work with mostly nine to 10 (year olds), most of the kids. I do give a couple high schoolers some lessons. But, when I'm not giving lessons, I'm working for a citrus company. One of my best friend's dad, he owns a citrus company and that's just all orange trees and stuff. And I do a lot of care taking in the orange groves and I work 49 hours a week. So, after I get off work- I work from seven to five- and once I get off of work at five, from 5:30 to 6:30, I do a lesson. I do one lesson every day of the week.

-That's pretty awesome. Does working with people that you know and friends of the family, does that make the main gig more enjoyable?

Absolutely, it makes it easier being surrounded by great people at the workplace. The environment's great, so I enjoy it there. And, of course, I like seeing the kids get better as the lessons go by. You see what their flaws are and you work on it and you see them go up hill. That's awesome.

-I wouldn't expect you to have any regrets about choosing to stay stateside and earn some income with the two jobs that you've got, but over these past couple months, are you seeing any posts online from guys like Logan O'Hoppe, Ben Aklinski and the other Phillies guys that are over there living the good life in the summer, down under, and do you have any jealousy for not being there?

(Laughs) No, no. We play enough games for me. But, it's good seeing them. They're over there, having a good time. I've talked to some of the guys and they're actually on the same team as my old-- my junior year, my roommate was from Australia and they're on the same team right now. But I'm good friends with him and he called me and we Facetimed a couple times and he was with some of the guys and Logan and Aklinski and some of those guys.

-What is the Aussie teammate's name?

Jason Lott.

-Great.  Are there any goals or anything you're working on specifically, like adding muscle or weight, this off-season?

You know, last year I tried to gain weight. I put on, like, 10 pounds in the off-season and wanted to see if I weighed more if I'd throw harder and that didn't necessarily work for me. About the 175 range is where I felt the best and I weighed 185 when I came in, but I felt the best at about 175 and I threw my hardest this year at about that weight. The only thing I really need-- and I'm still working out and stuff-- is not so much packing on the pounds, it's more reps and that kind of thing. 

My main goal is to get my slider as consistent as my change up. That's really it. I like where I'm at velocity wise. Change up is my best pitch, but I want to get my slider on the change up level and I'll be excited about that.

-I know this year you had a couple big moments. You pitched in a combined no-hitter with Clearwater and you earned a promotion to Double-A Reading. Was there a big takeaway or lesson from your 2019 season for you?

Not only did I meet so many great people and build so many great relationships around the organization this year, but it was super cool to be part of a no-hitter-- that was awesome for sure. I learned a lot baseball wise. You can't name every single thing, but playing 140 games, even if you're not playing, in the bullpen you learn a lot. I think I learned the game of baseball better. I learned how to approach different batters and I wrapped my head around that as best I could and I think I took a big step in the knowledge area. I think I got a lot smarter baseball wise.

-Communication is a big deal with pitchers and catchers. Some guys will work on that during the off-season. Where's your Espanol currently and is it where you want it to be?

No. I could improve on that. I haven't had a Spanish class yet. I have a lot of friends from the Dominican and places like that and we make it work. You understand each other. You find a way, even if you can't speak each other's languages, you figure it out.

-Is it the case for the battery mates, the words you'll use for pitches are universal, so that helps things?

I mean it's a little bit of everything. It's both. They learn some English and you learn some Spanish and you don't forget. You can use your hands and you can do all kinds of stuff to make it work. And especially being around people that speak another language, being around them for six months, you pick up a lot and learn some stuff.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season Check In with RHP Kevin Gowdy

Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd
Righty hurler Kevin Gowdy has a successful season as a member of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws this year. After missing two full seasons following UCL surgery, the 2016 second round draft pick finally made it through a year totally healthy.

In 24 games with the Claws, the California native posted a 0-6 record with a 4.68 ERA and a .281 batting average against.

Recently, I talked with the 22-year-old about his off-season, his progress during the regular season and more. Read ahead for that complete interview.

-What have you been up to since the season wrapped up as far as baseball work?

So after the season wrapped up September 2nd, I went to instructs for two weeks to work on pitch design, I was out in Florida for another two weeks for strength camp and have also had some much-enjoyed time with friends and family.

-How long do you rest and avoid picking up a baseball? And during that time are you doing any conditioning or other sorts of work outs?

Once I’m done with baseball completely for the year, I take about a week off of everything and just hang out by the beach or with friends to really just unwind and get my mind right before getting back to work. After that week, I start getting back into strength training and arm care. I also take about a month of throwing completely, and after that I start playing light catch a couple times a week just to get my arm moving.

-What facility do you have access to use for training purposes?

This off-season I’ve trained at a place called BSTI which is in Aliso Viejo, California and ran through my agent. I’ve also been up at Driveline Baseball in Seattle which has been incredible so far.

-What would you say was your biggest takeaway from 2019? Any major lessons or improvements?

2019 was honestly an awesome year for me. Towards the beginning of the season and even into the summer I had a ton of ups and downs, especially with my command, velocity and my off-speed stuff, but I think a lot of that was to be expected coming back from Tommy John Surgery.

I was frustrated at times but going through such a grueling rehab process really taught me patience and mental toughness when I’m struggling. In a way I’m almost thankful I went through that surgery because it taught me so much about myself as a competitor and as a person. But once I started getting close to that two years post operation date, it all started to come together. My velocity started climbing back up into the mid 90’s, I started throwing my off-speed stuff where I wanted to and I cut down my walk rate by a lot.

This year was all about staying healthy, and I was able to do that. I don’t pay much attention to Twitter, but it was always funny to me when I’d see posts about how I haven’t returned from surgery or how I’ll never be the same pitcher, when, like I said, this year was all about staying healthy and by the end of the year, I was an even better version of myself pre-surgery.

I learned so much this year and am so fired up to get out there and compete next year.

-Do you have any big plans remaining for the off-season? Any vacations or anything else?

I don’t have too many big plans for this off-season, but I’ve had a few little trips here and there. One of them was to my buddy Jonathon Hennigan's wedding in Center, Texas back in October and I had an absolute blast with a bunch of the guys from the organization.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Phillies 2019 Rule 5 Draft Primer

One part of this week's MLB Winter Meetings that typically grabs interest related to the minor leagues is the annual Rule 5 Draft.

Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft when they are not on their major league organization's 40 man roster and 1) were signed to a contract at age 19 or older and have been in that organization for four years, OR 2) were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in that organization for five years.

Once a player is chosen in the Rule 5 Draft, that player is automatically assigned to his new organization's 40-man roster.

A Rule 5 player must remain on the selecting team's 25-man big league roster for the entire next season, or be offered back to his original team.


Draft order lists the Phillies 15th in this year's Rule 5 Draft. Four of the teams set to pick ahead of the Phils do not currently have room on their 40-man roster, thus they would not get to pick. The Phils head into it this week's Winter Meetings with 38 individuals on their 40-man roster. 
 
For loads of additional details about Phillies players that are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, historical successes from this process and more information, please consider visiting and supporting my Patreon page located online at Patreon.com/PhoulBallz.  Patrons get exclusive content, early access to select posts and interviews with team personnel all throughout the year.  Your backing will help me continue to cover the Phillies developmental ranks like no one else does.  Thank you.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Winners and losers of this off-season's MiLB rebrand frenzy

It's that special time of year when, in the midst of holidays and MLB hot stove, minor league teams have been launching new initiatives to spark interest and sell merchandise.

We've seen new colors, new nicknames, new uniforms and impending relocations getting the complete press release attention throughout the month of "Logovember" and beyond.

Let's take a look at some of the winners and losers of this off-season's newest brands and goods.

Some teams with local ties supplemented their current logos with updated colorways.  Reading went black while Lehigh Valley has gone gold.

Per a press release from the Triple-A Phillies affiliate, the IronPigs: "These uniforms represent what we as an organization think of our fans -- the 'Gold Standard' in Minor League Baseball," said Kurt Landes, President and General Manager of the IronPigs.



And via a release from the organization's Double-A affiliate, the Fightin' Phils shared: The Reading Fightin Phils announced the return of the R-Phils Black R-Train uniforms to be worn as part of Throwback Thursdays for the 2020 season...The black jerseys and hats were worn as an alternate home uniform during the early 2000's. Notable players to have worn these jerseys include Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz.



I surveyed the ultimate media/fan hybrid known as "Kram" from renowned Lehigh Valley focused sports blog Noise Nation for his thoughts on the two Phils affiliates' barrage of merchandise and he offered the following remarks: "I love when the teams try new things and keep things fresh. It was a good idea to come out with this gear prior to the holidays, for gift-giving reasons. It's good that the organizations do this without sacrificing their 'brand identity'. I'll reserve judgement on the merits of the individual releases until I see them on the field--I was completely wrong about the 2019 R-Train R-Phils throwback until I saw it on the field."

Reading, of course, re-launched their former Reading Phillies "R-Phils" uniforms last season after a complete rebrand to the name Fightin' Phils back in 2012.

My thoughts are simply that these offerings look appealing.  The IronPigs are always superior with their logos, branding and merchandise at every turn, with the exception of their full blackout uniform from 2014 that, thankfully, has gone away and did not last very long.  Reading, when they stay away from food items like pretzels, wieners and Whoopie Pies, typically take the field with wonderful looks.

Thus far my favorite logo release of this off-season belongs to Reading, which also updated its Copa de la Diversion concept, which celebrates Hispanic heritage.  The design, which features a Mexican pro wrestling or luchador mask, jumps out to me, a long-time choreographed combat sport fanatic.



Outside of the Phillies organization, another favorite of mine this off-season would be the Tigers Class A short-season team the Norwich Sea Unicorns.  The logos feature a narwhal outfitted as a sea captain with an anchor and a bat-harpoon.  The navy blue and gold colors look remarkable and I immediately gave these logos and hats my approval. 


The Twins' Class A Advanced team in Ft. Myers, FL updated their Miracle name to the Mighty Mussels.  While the colors and logos strike me as having allure, the Mussels' physical mascot may very well leaving children running and hiding due to his scary appearance.



The primary loser is the Boston Red Sox's relocating Triple-A squad announcing a change to the nickname "Woo Sox".  While a name that abbreviates similarly to BoSox isn't the problematic issue, their logos are considerably weak and disappointing in a landscape where business and sales are the primary focus of minor league clubs.  The explanation I read about this logo choice was that the team's future home, Worcester, is the place where the smiley face was invented.  Okay.  If that's what your town is known for and that is your region's primary claim to fame, you've got it pretty tough and additional insights from me here would likely just be putting salt in the wound. 



Another update that strikes me as inadequate is the Marlins' Triple-A affiliate, the Wichita Wind Surge.  So many questions arise and, seemingly, fans hate the name.  Per the team's assistant general manager, some guy, "Wichita is the air capital of the world, and we're paying homage to the wind.  It's a might force."  Stop it right now, some guy!  Air capital?  Just stop making complete fools of everyone with ties to that team.



Other notable brand announcements from the current off-season are the Missouola PaddleHeads as well as the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers.  Both of those are pretty decent.

While many of the updates and designs are handled by the same company, Brandiose, there are certainly hits and misses with the launch of fresh gear and modernized identities.  One remark from my friend Tug Haines really summed it up either way.  As he stated on Twitter this week, "Off-season minor league team Twitter is the try-hardiest."  It surely is.  Nobody tries harder and that's certainly an endearing quality of minor league baseball.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

40-man roster additions made by Phillies

Ahead of the deadline to update the big league 40-man roster in advance of the upcoming Rule 5 draft, the Phillies made some additions on Wednesday.

Jojo Romero, image- Jay Floyd
In moves that did not catch very many people by surprise, right-handed hurler Mauricio Llovera and left-hander JoJo Romero were added to the 40-man roster.  Righty Garrett Cleavinger was also protected.

Llovera, 23, a Venezuela native, notched a 3-4 record with a 4.55 ERA and a 9.9 K/9 mark in 14 games with Double-A Reading this year.  

Romero, a 4th round draft pick from 2016, posted a 7-9 record with a 5.82 ERA with a 7.4 K/9 mark in 24 games split between Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Double-A Reading this year.  In eight appearances in the Arizona Fall League this off-season the 23-year-old recorded a 0.84 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP.

Cleavinger, who was acquired by the Phils in the trade that sent Jeremy Helickson to Baltimore in 2017, posted a 3-2 record with a 3.66 ERA and a .172 batting average against in 34 relief appearances last season.

While the Cleavinger move was unexpected, each of these pitchers stand a fair shot at making a splash in the Phillies' bullpen next season.

The Phillies also dealt minor league infielder Curtis Mead to Tampa Bay for lefty reliever Cristopher Sanchez, who was also added to the 40-man roster.

Sanchez, 22, is a Dominican Republic native, who tallied a 4-1 record with two saves, a 2.26 ERA and a .212 batting average against in 24 games at three levels this year.

The transactions leave the Phillies' 40-man roster standing at 39 individuals.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Off-season League Phillies Notes

So you've been wondering about off-season baseball leagues and how Phillies players are doing. Well, except for the Arizona Fall League, which started and ended its schedule earlier than normal this year, there has been very limited action thus far.

Deivy Grullon, image- Jay Floyd
The Dominican Winter League features Deivy Grullon competing for the Aguilas. In just four games, the catcher has posted a .143 average with two RBI.

Roughly 10 days into its schedule, the Venezuelan Winter League hasn't seen any Phillies impact. Catcher Gregori Rivero, who played in the Phils system last year, is 0-for-1 with a walk for Zulia.
The other leagues in Australia and Puerto Rico are set to open their schedules soon.

On Friday night, the Roberto Clemente League in Puerto Rico will get underway. Lefty pitcher Gabriel Cotto is expected to be featured on the Carolina roster while catcher Willie Estrada is included on the Mayaguez roster.

Cotto pitched in the Gulf Coast League this year. Estrada was signed late in the summer as an undrafted free agent. I would expect other players signed with the Phillies to compete in this league as well. Outfielder Jan Hernandez, a PR native, is possible, as he usually sees action here.

The Aussie league will open its schedule next week on the 20th. After at least two years of no U.S. based Phillies making their way to play down under, the ABL will feature several names. Infielder Cole Stobbe, backstop Logan O'Hoppe and outfielder Ben Aklinski are set to join Australia natives Rixon Taylor-Wingrove, Mitchell Edwards and Curtis Mead on the Adelaide Giants (formerly the Bite) roster.

Also set to see action in the ABL is righty hurler Kyle Glogoski, who will compete for Auckland.
Other former Phillies farmhands such Gift Ngoepe and Tim Kennelly are also set to play in the ABL.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@PhoulBallz) or bookmark my Twitter page for daily off-season league updates on the Phillies.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: RHP Connor Hinchliffe

Connor Hinchliffe, photo- GoExplorers.com
Right-handed pitcher Connor Hinchliffe performed well after signing with the Phillies as an undrafted free agent this summer.

The La Salle University product debuted with the Phillies' Gulf Coast League West team in late June and notched a 1-1 record, a save, a 1.82 ERA, a .163 batting average against as well as a 1.26 WHIP in 16 appearances (one start).

The six-foot-two 195-pounder began college as a position player, but later switched strictly to working on the mound. Recently, I talked with the 23-year-old Hinchliffe about that change, not getting drafted, his background playing in Phils affiliate facilities, his time in the GCL and plenty more. Read ahead for that interview.


-What can you share about the process of signing with the Phillies? Had they been in touch
ahead of the draft?

Yes, the Phillies had been in touch before the draft. I was seen by the scout from my area, Connor Betbeze, and he invited me to a pre-draft workout a week or so before the draft in Philadelphia. After I threw at the workout, I got to talk to some of the scouting directors and other personnel that attended but still didn’t really know where they stood. I knew they were somewhat interested but wasn’t sure exactly how much.

-Was there any disappointment with not being drafted or was there enough promise of getting a free agent deal that it wasn’t too big of a deal to you?

Every player who has aspirations of professional baseball dreams of getting that call on draft day and seeing your name pop up on the draft tracker, so when that didn’t happen of course there was some disappointment. When the draft came and went I knew there was some promise of a free agent deal with some teams but wasn’t exactly sure how promising that would be. Luckily enough I didn’t have to wait too long when the Phillies called me a day or so after the draft offering me a contract.

-I saw an item in your bio that said you started college as an outfielder. How did the transition to pitching go (was it necessity, was it suggested by a coach) and what was your background on the mound (did you pitch in high school or anything) before the switch?

I actually started out in college as a catcher, then moved to the outfield at the tail end of my freshman year. Sophomore year played primarily outfield with a handful of starts at first base. Junior year primarily outfield again, but actually ended up pitching a little bit that year too but outfield was still my first priority. Then senior year was my first year as a pitcher only, or “PO,” so I was bouncing around all over the field in my career.

The transition to the mound was pretty easy as first actually, because it wasn’t my primary position so not to say that I didn’t care what happened, but I had more of a “here goes nothing” type of attitude.

Then senior year, when I was a PO, was when I got more serious about it since it was my position now and that was what the team needed me to do. It was my coach, Dave Miller, who told me I was going to be a PO and at the time I wasn’t particularly happy about it. He brought me in at the end of my junior year and kept telling me I had a good cutter and could play professionally if I got my velocity up a bit. I remember sitting there thinking “yeah right, coach.” Then I came out in the fall and fully embraced pitching and had a good year so turns out he wasn’t lying. I’m still very close with Coach Miller and can’t thank him enough for seeing that in me and making the switch. My experience pitching before college was little league and I remember I had one varsity start in high school as a freshman and that was it, so not much at all.

-How did competing in college ball prepare you for the minors and pro ball?

College in general prepared me a lot for professional baseball. On the field, balancing a biology major and playing baseball was a hefty commitment so it taught me how to properly manage my time. On the field, learning how to become a catcher at a highly competitive level helped me tremendously on the mound. This probably isn’t the first thing you’d think of and certainly it would be hard to find another pitcher with that answer. I think something I am very good at is putting myself in the mind of the hitter when I’m pitching and knowing what pitches he’s looking for in certain counts. Being a former hitter and catcher, I have years and years of experience being in their shoes facing pitchers so I usually have a good idea of what they’re looking for because I ask myself, “What would I be looking for?” This obviously changes sometimes with different hitters but that’s where I can make an adjustment. Also, I was lucky enough to call my own pitches as a catcher in high school and college, so that was invaluable experience learning hitters, how to sequence them, and reading swings for instant feedback. A lot of pitchers haven’t swung a bat in years so they don’t know what it’s like to be on the other side of the ball and that’s where I think college helped me. I also think college taught me to embrace adversity and be flexible. I think that’s a mindset I can carry with me not only in my baseball career but life as well.

-Did you have friends or any former teammates already signed with the Phillies and did you get any lessons on the organization or its culture ahead of arriving in Clearwater or when you got there?

No, I didn’t have any friends or former teammates that were already with the Phillies. A good friend from back home Travis Blankenhorn was drafted out of high school by the Twins and has been playing in the minors for about 4 years now. He’s given me a good idea of how life in the minors goes. As for the Phillies specifically, I was reporting to Clearwater with no real idea of what to expect in terms of the organization or culture.

-Which coaches or teammates stood out to you as guys you picked up a lot from after joining the Phillies?

As for coaches, I worked every day with my pitching coach Bruce Billings who helped me, and our team, a lot by showing us how to break down film to analyze games. This was the first time in my career ever having video of games so it was awesome to have that resource to learn from. Eric Jagers is coordinator that I used as a valuable resource for weighted ball, slo mo video, and other information. Mike Tampellini is in player development and analytics and I would pick his brain almost every day regarding video and Rhapsodo information.

-Did you get exposure to or time on the field with any rehabbers while in the GCL? What was that like, if you did?

A couple guys that were rehabbing while I was down in Clearwater were David Robertson, Spencer Howard, and Connor Seabold. I’m a type of person that seeks information and experience every single way I can, so picking the brains of other players who are at the level I’m striving for or where I want to be at can only be advantageous.

David Robertson had just got done throwing live BP for the first time since being hurt and I went over to ask him about his cutter, because I throw a cutter. He was nice enough to share some pointers with me. Spencer and Connor are a few of the brightest pitching prospects in the Phillies organization right now so getting to talk to them about pitching, the minors, or anything in general was cool.

-What sort of experiences could you share from the GCL that fans might not expect?

Something fans would not expect from the GCL is the environment. I would assume they probably think even in the GCL we’re playing in stadiums with fans and whatnot. Coming from a small D1 school in Philadelphia, the stands were certainly not packed shoulder to shoulder at our games, especially early in the season when its sub 40 degrees. Looking back I realized that can be used as an advantage for me playing in the GCL because it’s on you to flip that switch into compete mode, the environment isn’t going to do it for you. It is way easier to find that switch when you have packed stands, stadium music, and whatever else but we didn’t have any of that in the GCL. It was on you to focus and, despite no crowd, to find that switch and get into compete mode, which I have been doing for years now coming from a smaller school. If I came from an SEC where every weekend is packed and it’s easier to get juiced up to play, it definitely would be weird playing with no one really there.

-You talked about the cutter. What else is in your pitch repertoire and was there anything added to that menu or anything updated grip or mechanics wise once you joined the Phils?

My pitch repertoire entering the Phillies was a 4s/2s fastball, cutter, curve ball, and change up. Nothing was necessarily added once I got there, but I certainly worked on a few of them, particularly the curve ball and change up. With the curve ball, towards the end of the season I was experimenting with a spiked grip where I had not used that before. This was to get it as more of a 12-6 curve ball than a slider-ish curve ball. I didn’t change the grip of my change up but it was more of becoming more comfortable with it during catch play and throwing it more in bullpens to refine it.

Mechanics wise I had a lot to work on, particularly using my entire body to produce the pitch rather than just using my arm. I am aiming to produce the most biomechanically efficient way to throw the ball, in a repeatable and consistent delivery. That is something I am still working on throughout the off-season.

-You grew up in the Philadelphia region. What early memories do you have of the Phillies and other Philly sports teams or athletes? Did you attend games as a kid?

I grew up about two hours away in Pottsville, PA, which is about 25 minutes from Reading, 35 minutes from Lehigh Valley, and an hour from Williamsport so I’m very familiar with the Phillies affiliates. I’ve been to a bunch of Reading Phillies games, one that sticks out was going to see Stephen Strasburg pitch when he was in AA. I won the district championship my senior year of high school in the IronPigs stadium, which still is one of my best baseball memories. My sophomore year of college I actually started a game in left field at Citizens Bank Park in a championship of a Philadelphia college tournament called the Liberty Bell Classic, which was an awesome experience. Obviously, the Charlie Manuel, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard era sticks out in my mind which was a special group to watch. I was lucky enough to sit next to Mr. Manuel at a GCL game this summer and talk baseball when he was watching our team play.

-Did it mean a lot to you and your family for you to sign with the Phillies?

Honestly, it meant a lot for me and my family to sign professionally with any team, and was very special that it was with the Phillies. I’ve spent the last four years of my life in Philadelphia at La Salle and my cousins go to Villanova, so Philadelphia is a big part of me and my family. Everyone from La Salle and back home are die hard Phillies fans so to play for a team that everyone I know supports is amazing.

-What plans do you have for the off-season? Are you working? Training? Traveling?

My plans for the off season are living in Philadelphia and training at Maplezone Sports Institute until January, then I’m heading out to Driveline in Seattle to do more pitching specific training right before spring training. As for work, I’m doing just about anything I can to make some money before I have to head back. I’m coaching an 11u baseball team, giving personal baseball lessons, landscaping, and a couple other odd jobs to support myself.