Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bonds are key to Lakewood OF Stephen's success, future

Josh Stephen, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- Off to a hot start in the early going for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, outfielder Josh Stephen has used relationships, new and old, to build a level of comfort in the Phillies’ organization that he hopes will help him achieve his dream of playing in the big leagues.

Hailing from southern California, a hotbed for young baseball talent, Stephen was selected by the Phillies in the 11th round of the 2016 draft and joined an organization that included some familiar faces. Even before signing his first professional contract with the Phillies, the six feet tall 185-pound lefty batter had guys that he already considered teammates in the system.

Third base prospect Luke Williams, pitchers Kevin Gowdy and Bailey Falter along with first overall draft pick, outfielder Mickey Moniak are all individuals that Stephen competed with and against in his days playing youth baseball.

“It makes the transition of being drafted as an 18-year-old nice that there's people in the dugout, on the field, in the locker room that I've grown up with, I've known. It's kind of special,” Stephen shared.

After Stephen was drafted, he heard from pals Williams (3rd round, 2015) and Falter (5th round, 2015), who made sure their pal, who was committed to playing collegiate ball at USC, didn’t miss out on the opportunity to take the same path they had chosen out of high school. The pair boasted about the organization being a great place for young players with no college experience to learn and develop. They also told Stephen to play his ass off once he came aboard.

Stephen and Falter, a 6-4 lefty, hailed from the same city, so from the time they were 10 years old they were playing with one another and against one another. Gowdy (2nd round, 2016) would face Stephen in tournaments and showcases.

In a seemingly sly manner, when asked how he fared against those two hurlers in his teens, Stephen talked instead about how much fun it was to compete against them. Perhaps that is telling of those results.

Childhood teammates and opposition aren’t the only connections that Stephen has found beneficial to date in his pro career. Working closely with a pair of veterans that have competed at the highest level of the game has been key, according to the 20-year-old.

Prior to his death last year, two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay worked with the Phillies as a mental skills coach and would often form bonds with minor leaguers who were on the same path that he took after being drafted by the Blue Jays in 1995.

“I was in extended (spring training) last year and I got to work with him quite a bit,” Stephen said. “That was very cool to work with someone that has gone through it. He was drafted as a high schooler. He went through an organization just like me or just like any other kid. So, I mean it was a really cool experience to be able to talk to someone who has been in our shoes and knows what we're going through and be able to help us through our journey.”

He also formed a great bond with Class A short-season Williamsport manager Pat Borders, who was the World Series Most Valuable Player in 1992 and helped the Blue Jays down the Phillies in the 1993 Fall Classic.

Stephen says he got close to Borders and picked up a lot from the man who played 17 seasons in the majors.

“I had a phenomenal time, a great learning experience playing for him,” Stephen stated. “I definitely learned a lot about myself, learned a lot about the game, how to go about stuff as far as like a mental standpoint, how to be a professional and I am very grateful that I got to play for him.“

Another key aspect of familiarity for Stephen is related to the opposition. Having faced many of the same pitchers and organizations at lower short-season levels over the past two summers, the adjustment to the full-season South Atlantic League has been somewhat easy.

“I know how they're going to pitch me. I know how they're going to pitch as a whole, as a team.” Stephen offered.

That comfort level and mindset is prevalent for Stephen, who has posted solid numbers to date. Through 10 games with the BlueClaws, Stephen sports a .321 batting average and has matched his previous career high in homers with two.

Being around big leaguers like new Phillies pitcher Jake Arrieta, another Cy Young Award winner, during spring training this year also made a lasting impression with Stephen.

"Two years ago he's pitching in the World Series and you're like, ‘That just seems so far away, so unrealistic!'", Stephen expressed. “I watched this guy on TV in the World Series and two years later, I'm in the box facing him. And he's in the dugout with us, talking to us like we're (equals)."

With his sights set on a dream of reaching the top level of the sport, Stephen aims to use his inspirations and lessons from the bonds he’s formed in his time playing baseball to take steps toward making that happen along with his teammates.

“We go about our business every day and we're just one day closer and one day closer. That's what keeps me motivated.  Doing it together.”

Sunday, April 15, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood pitching coach Brad Bergesen

Brad Bergesen, image- Jay Floyd
Joining Class A Lakewood as this team's pitching coach this year is former Orioles and Diamondback pitcher Brad Bergesen.  After wrapping up a 13-year playing career last year, the 32-year-old joined the coaching ranks this past off-season.

Last week I spoke with Bergesen about his young BlueClaws pitching staff including last year's second round draft selection Spencer Howard, starter Will Stewart, who is off to a hot start with a pair of wins and no earned runs allowed in his first two outings, and reliever Kyle Dohy, who has two saves and nine strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings through three games.

Read ahead for that full interview.

-What are you early impressions of this BlueClaws pitching staff thus far?

I'm super excited about this group.  It's a great group, a lot of energy, a lot of guys that like to work and are eager to learn, so I'm very, very excited about this group.

-Will Stewart with a nice pair of outings to open his season. Two big wins.  Are you excited to see that early on?

Oh, absolutely.  You know, it's a great start for him and I'm really pleased with what I've seen thus far.  He's got a great two-seamer, his change up has been a really effective pitch for him.  So, my goal is to help fine tune those and make him as consistent as possible.

-This roster last year had some buzz worthy names, pitching staff wise.  Sixto Sanchez, JoJo Romero, others. Are there guys on this staff that you could see becoming that next wave of pitchers that garner a lot of attention?

You know, I mean I'm not going to predict those things.  All I know is, like I was saying earlier, this is a great staff and I'm really eager to work with these guys and try to get them on to the next level.

-Kyle Dohy is a guy I wanted to ask about.  What are his strengths out there?

Dohy's been outstanding so far for us.  He looks explosive with everything he's been doing.  He's answering the bell in some big situations and shut the door, so I just continue to hope that he progresses in that role and continues to progress with the things that he's been doing, because he's been outstanding so far.

Spencer Howard, image- Jay Floyd
-Thoughts on Spencer Howard?

He's a great kid.  Great work ethic.  I'm really excited with what I've seen in spring training and what I've seen up to this point.  And I'm really excited to get out there with him in a couple hours and see what he's featuring tonight.

-With a few different guys getting save opportunities, are there any defined assignments or roles in the bullpen right now?

You know, it's still early.  Guys are going to work themselves into their own positions and their own roles.  How they're pitching dictates that, as it always does in baseball.  And, so, at this level, with them being young, we're going to let them do their thing and see where that takes us.

-Is there anybody that's a long reliever that might be able to slide into a starting spot if that need came up?

Yeah, there's about three guys.  I'll keep that in my back pocket, just in case it ever gets to that and that needs to be a last minute decision.  But, we're got a few guys that could fill that role. 

-Was there anybody on the staff that really stood out during spring training?

Honestly, being new to the organization, I've got no history with these guys, so I got to see everybody about two or three outings.  And at times I was truly impressed with things that I saw from different points of each of their outings.  So, my goal is to bring that out of them, the best that I've seen out of them, and get them to make it where that's their consistent release, their consistent delivery and be able to have consistent outings with the flashes of greatness that I've seen them have. 

-Normally, it would seem at the Class A levels the focus is mainly on the mechanics, those consistencies you speak of and things.  Safe to say that's your goal...

Oh, absolutely.  This is a developmental stage for a lot of guys.  We have a young club here as far as experience goes.  A lot of college guys, but you know for a lot of them this is their first full season.  And that in itself is a big challenge and a big learning process just to be able to handle and withstand playing 140 games.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Fightins RHP Luke Leftwich talks Spring Training, Analytics & Reading's park

Luke Leftwich, image- Jay Floyd
Right-handed reliever Luke Leftwich had a big season out of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers bullpen last year and has opened the 2018 season with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils, hoping to have another remarkable campaign.

In his first full season out of the bullpen last year, the Wofford College product posted a 1-6 record, an outstanding 2.70 ERA, a .232 batting average against and an impressive 11.02 K/9 mark in 42 appearances.

To date this year, Leftwich was appeared in three games, notching one save, striking out six and walking one in four hitless innings.

The 23-year-old, who was the Phillies' 7th round draft pick in 2015, is striving to become Major League Baseball's second third-generation pitcher.

Recently, I talked with the California native, about his experience in spring training, moving up to the Double-A level, exposure to the Phillies' new focus on analytics and more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-How did spring training go for you?

I actually had a really good spring.  It was good to be with pretty much the same group of guys all throughout the whole spring and it was good to gel together as a team.  And I threw pretty well and it was good throwing for (pitching coach Steve) Schrenk. So, it went well.

-Were there any moments in spring training that stand out to you as a noteworthy moment or are there any standout experiences you had in the spring?

Not too much.  I know with the whole new regime coming in with the Phillies, trying to stress analytics and all that, they talked to a bunch of us about what works well for us and how we can use our talents and our skills on the field to, basically, keep making us better, so we worked a lot on making what we're already good at even better.

-Did you have any opponents or at bats during the spring that helped you build confidence or that were memorable for you?

The last hitter I faced in spring training was Bo Bichette and I got to strike him out, so that's a good way to end camp because he's the talk of the town these days.

-All smiles there!  I like that.  There's a guy, Sam Fuld, with the Phils that is in place to help translate unique statistical information that you spoke of into more player-friendly speak.  Is this going to trickle down to the minor league levels a lot?

Yeah, we actually did meet with him in spring training and it was pretty cool, because there's all these stats that a lot of us have never seen before and don't know what they mean and he kind of put them in more baseball terms for us, rather than statistical terms.  And it was pretty cool to kind of see that stuff, what it means and how it can help us.

-Any examples you can think of?

No, not specifically.  It's just a lot of the new statistical terms that all the smart people are saying that we haven't necessarily seen yet.  

-Your impressions of that...do you think the focus on analytics will benefit you guys a lot?

Absolutely!  I think it's one of those things that can't hurt and I think it's only going to help us.  And it's one of those things that it is what you make of it, and if you go in and try and learn from it and use it to your advantage, then it's going to help you.

-Is there anybody in the bullpen that you've bonded with considerably or are very close with?

Me and (Tyler) Gilbert have been together since day one in Williamsport.  We've been throwing partners since literally our first day of mini camp in Clearwater, a week after the draft.  We've kind of gone through this whole journey together.

-So, you guys are rooming together, video game rivals, all of that...?

Well, pretty much all of the above.  We're not rooming together this season.  We definitely do a lot of stuff.  We hang out.  We make music together sometimes.   Do all that kind of stuff, so it's been cool.

-Is there anybody on the roster that's experiencing this terrible wintery spring weather in PA for the first time?

I think there's a few guys that have never quite experienced this before.  I know my roommate, Seth McGarry, he's from Florida, grew up in Bradenton, and he's come up here and playing in snow would be the first time for him.

-You talked about Schrenk.  What are your impressions of him in the early going?

I love him.  He's been great.  He's really good with mentality wise, just how to pitch to people and how we should be on the mound, rather than maybe early on in your careers when maybe you need to work on mechanics and fixing things.  He kind of knows that now that we've made it to this level, we know what we're doing and we need to better our mentality on the mound.

-Coming up to Reading and playing here for the first time, what are your thoughts on that?

I'm excited.  I mean, I've been trying to get here for years and now that I'm here, I'm excited for the challenge and I'm ready to get going.

-Is there anything you've heard about the fans, the town, the facility?

I've heard nothing but great things.  I heard it's a great atmosphere here, the fans love the team, it's a fun nice field to play on.  I'm just really excited to get going.

-You mentioned the field here and it can plan as an offensive park.  What have you heard from guys that have played here before?

It's definitely one of those things that the people that pitched here last year passed down to the guys coming in this year.  Like, "Don't be afraid to attack!  There's going to be some balls that shouldn't get out that end up getting out.  And don't let that discourage you because it's going to happen.  It's part of the game.  Just keep trucking forward."

Monday, April 9, 2018

Fightins Quotables: OF Zach Coppola talks spring training

Zach Coppola, image- Jay Floyd
In an occasional role with the big league Phillies this spring outfield prospect Zach Coppola impressed many.  In 10 games, the 23-year-old lefty batted posted a .273 average with two RBI and three stolen bases.

A 13th round draft selection by the Phils in 2015, Coppola has been a steady moved in the team's developmental ranks over the last couple of season.

Coppola, a .290 career hitter in the minors, could be a valuable contributor in years to come for the Phillies.

Last week, prior to opening the season with Double-A Reading, I talked with Zach about his time around the big club this pre-season.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-How would you describe your time around the major league team in spring training?

It was really fun just getting to know those guys, being around them, just seeing how they go about their business. It was cool especially with the new culture going on up there. It was an exciting time.

-With that mentioned of a new culture, you're referring to a more analytics based focus.  Is that stuff that you think will really help you guys?

Yeah, I think so. I mean with all the video stuff coming in and all the statcast and all that it’s pretty cool to look at. It’s definitely different. I think it’s definitely going to help us look further into more detailed stuff and get to know other people more, get to know ourselves more. So, I think it’s going to be pretty good.

-Down there in the Phillies complex, it's probably easy for a representative from the big league team to come by and present some information.  Do you have any idea yet how meetings might go to review new statistical details during the season?

I’m not entirely sure about that. I know we’ll have our video guy on the road with us this year, so I think that’s pretty cool. That’ll be good to look at the starting pitchers and get tendencies and stuff like that. I’m not entirely sure, in relation to the other stats and stuff like that, I’m not entirely sure how we’ll see those.


-Was there anyone that you picked up a lot from in spring training?

Just being with all the outfielders. You know, like Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams those guys just going about their business in the right way. Seeing how they do their outfield work and Sam Fuld working with the outfield guys, seeing them just talking situations and stuff like that I thought it was really cool just being in the dugout listening to them and (seeing) how they go about their business and stuff.

-Were there any memorable at bats for you during the big league games?

I had one myself, a game-tying two-RBI single which was pretty cool. The crowd was pretty loud, so that was fun. It was against the Pirates. It was just a cool situation, I came in the game in a big situation.

.-The season's starting out for you guys at home.  What are your thoughts on getting out here and playing in front of local Phillies fans?

These fans are some of the best in the league.  Home games are great. Playing on the road is great. You do see a lot of Phillie fans at all sorts of stadiums.  So, it's gonna be fun.

Friday, April 6, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading slugger Damek Tomscha talks winter ball in PR

Damek Tomscha, image- Jay Floyd

Over the winter, Phillies minor leaguer Damek Tomscha dodged the winter weather of the midwest to tackle new challenges and work on his craft. 

In 17 contests with Santurce in Puerto Rico, the 26-year-old righty batter posted a .321 average with a pair of home runs and five RBI.

Tomscha, a 17th round selection by the Phillies in 2014, plays first base, third base and left field.  He has tallied a .282/,372/.417 slash line in four pro seasons to date.

This week prior to opening the season with Double-A Reading, I talked with Tomscha about his experience playing in the Roberto Clemente League.  Read ahead for that full interview.

 

-Do you feel like playing in Puerto Rico was a valuable experience for you?

Yeah, it was unbelievable.  I had a great time, just getting more AB's, facing those older pitchers.  They were pitching more backwards to me, not as much (velocity), but they had good stuff and they threw any pitch in any count, so that helped me out a lot.  Any time you're getting more AB's it's gonna help you out and, for me, I thought it helped me out tremendously to just understand where my swing needed to be for the season and I had those struggles early and I made adjustments quick and that should help me out quite a bit this year.

-Was there anyone down there that rubbed off on you a lot...whether it's a coach or a teammate?

I played with Robert Andino, who played with the Baltimore Orioles.  He helped me out by talking about his (batting practice) routine, just what he's trying to accomplish.  Also, just watching Ivan DeJesus Jr., from the Red Sox, he was fun.  But those were the two main guys.  They're a little bit older than me, so I would try to pick their brains and learn what they were trying to accomplish.  Obviously, they've got some big league time and I'm just trying to learn. 

-You play the same teams often there, so were there any sorts of fun rivalries with Jesmuel Valentin or any other Phillies guys down there?

Nah, nothing too crazy.  Being an American and being an import, you don't know who the big rival is.  And I think Santurce/Mayaguez is the big rivalry, but because the way the league was, you play a lot of day games, so you don't get a lot of the same fans.  But, it was fun to play against them...him, Yacksel Rios, (Jiandido Tromp) and having Jan (Hernandez) on my team too, there were a lot of Phillies out there, which is fun because that's the highest level of baseball down there.  I definitely enjoyed it.

-How does it work with you getting signed or assigned to go down there and play?  Is your agent involved, are the Phillies involved?

My agent helped me out a lot with that.  He called me up in November and said, "We have a spot here.  Do you want to go?  Are you interested?" And I said, "Let's do it!"  It was either me go play for a month in Puerto Rico in January or be in Iowa and be in the snow.  I thought it would help me out and I'm a huge fan now.  I love the culture and I'll try go play there every year if I can. 

-How does it work with the team here?  Do you have to get it cleared with the Phillies before you go?

Not really.  I signed my contract and then I called Andy Tracy to just let him know I was going to go play.  A lot of the Latino players play down in those leagues and they would actually push for you guys to go play in these winter leagues because it is a big help.  Any time you get more AB's, it's going to help you out.

-What did you see recovery wise down there?  I talked to Valentin in the off-season and his family and his area were good, but I'll still see occasional news reports that say some areas are struggling with storm recovery.

Well, I was in the Condado area of San Juan and it was still pretty tough.  I'd walk outside my apartment and go to the grocery store and their intersections, they didn't have-- their lights weren't up.  So, people were just kind of creeping through the intersection and it's a really nice area of San Juan and the power lines are hanging low and you could touch and grab the power lines on the ground.  

Things have gotten better, obviously.  By the time I left in January, the stop lights were up again and running, but it was crazy to see because all the trees were bare and there's buildings that have windows out and there's a lot more work to do for them.  You see a lot of houses with tarps on the roof because the roof was blown off.  It was pretty incredible.  But those guys are really resilient people and they love their island.  They're gonna be fine and they're gonna figure it out.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

2018 Phillies home opener schedule & game notes

Image- Jay Floyd
The Phillies kick off their 2018 home schedule on Thursday April 5th at Citizens Bank Park.  Here is a listed schedule of events for the day along with some key statistical notes for the contest.

12:00 PM- Block Party begins.  Presented by Budweiser on Citizens Bank Way, the party features a live band, a Ferris Wheel, Gametrain a Budweiser Macro Bar and samplings from Turkey Hill Dairy, Diet Coke and others. 

12:35 PM- All gates open.  Fans will receive a commemorative knit hat.

12:40 PM- Phillies batting practice.

1:10 PM- Marlin batting practice.

2:26 PM- Phillies lead off walk onto the field, entering the park from the outfield.

2:35 PM- "America the Beautiful" performed by the Philadelphia Boys Choire and Men;s Chorale. 

2:39 PM- Marlins team introduction.

2:44 PM- Phillies team introduction.

2:49 PM- Tribute video & moment of silence for Roy Halladay.

2:51 PM- National Anthem performed by Kane Kalas at his father's statue behind section 141.

2:53 PM- U.S. Navy parachute team, the Leap Frogs, delivering first balls.

3:00 PM- Ceremonial first pitch by Eagles head coach Doug Pederson. 

3:05 PM- PLAY BALL!


Right-hander Nick Pivetta will get the start for the Phillies.  In 12 career home starts, the 25-year-old sports a 4-3 record with a 5.34 ERA and a .263 batting average against.  Pivetta has posted an 8.66 ERA in four career starts against the Marlins.

Left Caleb Smith is slated to start for the Marlins.  He struck out eight batters in 5 1/3 innings in his season debut against the Cubs last week. 


Cesar Hernandez, the Phils' 27-year-old second baseman, batted .320 at home last year and is a .280 career hitter at Citizens Bank Park.

Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, 25, is a .246 hitter in 46 career games against Miami.  Franco batted .214 in 77 home games last season.

In career 10 games against the Marlins, Phillies left fielder Rhys Hoskins has a .441 average with eight homers and 19 RBI.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Reading manager Greg Legg addresses the media

Greg Legg, image- Jay Floyd
Tuesday was media day in Reading, with players and the club's manager, Greg Legg, meeting with local reporters for the first time in 2018.

Legg's track record with the Phillies dates back to 1982 when the team drafted him as an infielder in the 22nd round.

With the season opening for Reading on Thursday at home against Erie, Legg spoke about his plans for the roster, impressions of some players and plenty more.

Read ahead for that full interview.


-Sharing thoughts on the strengths of his five starters, Jake Waguespack, Ranger Suarez, JoJo Romero, Franklyn Kilome and Harold Arauz...

Probably, if you were going to sum up all five of them, probably their competitiveness.  They're all good athletes.  Waguespack, watching him grow, has been a lot of fun for me.  The last game he threw was four innings and he pretty much threw all fastballs in an intra-squad game and he just dominated our hitters, with the extension he's getting.  Suarez was fun.  That was the first taste I ever got to see him and he just attacked everybody and he pitched efficient, he just got after it.  And Romero's ball's moving all over the place.  And Kilome is, we saw him last year, he's got that hook, it's nasty and plus the good fastball.  So, we've got a good group.  Arauz I haven't seen much.  The little bit I saw was like he has a way of getting people out.  All he's done is win so far.  So, this is going to be a great test for 'em all.

-Additional thoughts on Jake Waguespack and his progress in 2017...

He just kept getting better as the year went.  It was unbelievable how far he went from when I saw him the year before.  He was pitching in the bullpen and all of a sudden he was a starter and he just kept going, the fastball's getting better and the extension that he gets and the angle, he's so big and strong, it's nice.

-Providing insight on how many innings he expects starting pitchers to go...

I'm gonna let them- they'll tell us.  If you watch the games, the pitchers tell you or the hitters that they're facing let you know where they're at.  We know it's a long season and it's about the future, so we'll be- I don't want to say the word careful, but they'll tell us when it's time to sit and then wait the next four or five days for their next start.

-Speaking on if the key for this team is the development of the five starting pitchers...

That's a huge key.  We just gotta catch the ball behind them and hope they keep getting better with each outing.  We're talking about they just keep improving.  From the start of this season, where they just left spring training, until the end of the season.  If they keep improving the way they should be, then their development it'll be right on pace.

-Talking about how he expects to use relief pitcher Seranthony Dominguez...

Multiple innings at the beginning.  We'll get him out there one, two-- multiple innings in the beginning, then as time goes on, he's gonna tell us, we'll probably give him a chance at closing some games.  But, at the beginning, we're gonna give him the ball and then I'm gonna sit down and relax and see what happens. I'll take a seat and say, "Go get 'em, kid."

-Feedback on what he saw from Dominguez in spring training...

It's pretty good.  It was exciting to see this spring.  There was one outing where they touched him a little bit.  We didn't make a play, then a guy blooped one, and then a guy hit one hard.  All the other outings, they were in complete command.

-On the topic of how Ranger Suarez was declared the team's opening day starter...

It's kind of the way it fell.  We were playing games and games went on and a guy had maybe a small setback and he didn't make that start, a blister on his finger or whatever and it just fell that way.  There was no rhyme or reason to who got number one, it just went that way.

-Talking about Suarez's spring outings...

Outstanding.  I saw two starts.  Both starts were very pitch efficient, very good athlete.  He got after it and the innings were quick.

-Asked if he's prepared his hurlers for Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium, which has a reputation of playing as a hitter's park...

We haven't talked about it yet, as far as the short dimensions and things like that, but there's a lot of those parks in the big leagues now.  Yankee Stadium, our park (Citizens Bank Park) plays very hitter-friendly, so does Cincinnati.  So, you gotta learn to pitch in those ballparks.  So, we haven't talked about it.  I'm sure they talk about it with teammates that are at Triple-A or now in the big leagues.  You know, Reading can be an unforgiving place when you're pitching, but if you strike people out and get ground balls, you don't have to worry about it. 

-Sharing thoughts on what he is looking for from catcher Deivi Grullon...


To keep getting better, communicate, lead.  All the things he's been working on in spring training.  His English continues to grow and get better and as that's gotten better, his leadership qualities have gotten better. 

-On how he plans to use his players offensively...

Each guy's a little bit different.  Coppola; get on base.  Tomscha; hit doubles, drive in runs.  Heiker (Meneses); hit and run a little bit, move the ball.  Martin; add on to your year and hit .250, keep hitting some homers, but cut down on your strike outs.  Each guy's a little different, so you can't treat them as one.

-Speaking on if returning players Kyle Martin, Damek Tomscha and Zach Coppola will be relied on as leaders for younger guy...

Yeah, I think a lot of the burden of the offense should fall on them until Randolph and Hernandez get their feet wet a little bit.  That's kind of the way it should be.  The veterans take over. You've been here, show 'em how it's done and then let those guys feel their way through a little bit and then, hopefully, those guys will move on and the Randolph's and the Hernandez's will take the leadership role in the second half.


C. Randolph, image- Jay Floyd
-Regarding expectations for Cornelius Randolph, a first round draft pick of the Phillies...


I don't expect him to come out in the first month and hit .350 and hit 10 homers and drive in 35 runs.  I expect him to get a taste of what this is and continue to get better as a player and he's got lightening hands.  His hands are quick enough to hit in this league, but it's just...if you can play at Double-A, you can play in the big leagues.  It may take him a few games to get his feet wet and he might get out of the gate good.  I sure hope he does, but I look for him to continue to improve as the year progresses.  

He's got quick hands.  Sometimes he waits a long time till the ball's there and then he's able to barrel the ball.  He's got some good hands.

-Some thoughts on Tomscha...

He's gonna play some first, some third, some left (field).  I expect him to drive in runs and to do what he does, which is to hit.  He's- I want to say he hit over .300 last year and hit a lot of doubles and just be an RBI guy for us and kind of do what he does for us, which is hit.  He's always hit.  


-Feedback on where Randolph could bat in the lineup...

Fifth, sixth, somewhere in there.  Don't want to put him in the three hole or four hole yet.  We'll let him tell us where he's going to hit.  Give him some time to watch the other guys, the guys with a little more experience and then go from there.  

He's 20 years old.  You got to let him become a man.  He's still a young man and as time goes on he'll continue to get better.

-Chatting about himself...

I'm trying to have as much fun as I can.  The older I get, I just want to enjoy the moment a little bit more and kind of realize where you're at with this.  It's supposed to be fun, make it fun for the players in that room and continue to develop and kind of do a little of what we did last year- send guys up and have more guys get to Philly than last year.

-Regarding seeing players he's helped progress through the minors reach the big leagues...

That's the best feeling you get.  Usually, you're sitting in your chair in September, after you've done wife's chores, what she had you do, and you look up and there's a guy that you worked with and now he's in the big leagues.  And usually you're by yourself.  The kids are out doing something, your wife's already in bed and you kind of toast them.  "Cheers to you guys!"  

It's a great feeling.  It's the best we get in our job.

-Sharing thoughts on the new rule in the minors where each extra inning begins with a runner on second base...

The best thing to come out of it is I won't have to call Doug Mansolino at two in the morning and say, "Hey, Manzo.  We need two pitchers!"  And if we need two or three, then the team we took them from needs two or three.  That'll probably be the best thing that comes out of it; less player transactions when you don't want to move a guy and you're just doing it out of necessity.  

We practiced it a little in spring training in our intra-squad games.  You know, put us in those positions and our group wasn't good at moving the runner in those three innings that we did it.  But, as a purist, a guy that's been around as long as I have, I kind of don't like it, but for those reasons that we talked about earlier, where you don't have to keep moving players, in the minor leagues, it might be a good thing.  

-On if he would prefer an inning cap and a tie rule instead of the runner-on-second...

If I get into that, of what I think-- I think there should be no double headers in the minor leagues.  It's a seven-inning game, not a nine-inning game.  And if you play a 2-1 game, you might have a guy that only gets two at bats, versus the four at bats he would have had in a nine-inning game.  That way everybody does everything to get the game in that day.  There'd be no rush to bang it.  So, that's my opinion, and then you just go by winning percentage.  

-Commenting on if he has aspirations of coaching in the big leagues...

I think all of us do.  That's why young showed up at the ballpark back in 1982, my first time in a pro uniform.  I was trying to get to the big leagues.  I won't lose that dream until I hang 'em up.  But right now my biggest dream is to get some of those guys in that room to the big leagues.  


The Double-A Fightin Phils were slated to meet their Triple-A organization mates in the spring's final exhibition game in the evening hours, but the contest was rained out.

Check back in the coming days for more Fightins interviews.

Monday, March 26, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #1 Second Baseman Scott Kingery

Scott Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
A second round draft choice in 2015, second baseman Scott Kingery is a talented player that is primed to make an impact very soon with the Phillies.

Kingery, who was a walk-on as a freshman at Arizona, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2015, in his junior season. That year, he posted a .392/.423/.561 slash line while driving in 36 runs and stealing 11 bases in 54 games as a member of the Wildcats.

In three college seasons, the right-handed batting Kingery sported a .351 batting average while driving in 80 runs and stealing 38 bases in 149 games.

Making his pro debut following the draft, the five-foot-10 180-pounder joined the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. In 66 games he tallied a .250/.314/.337 slash line while swiping 11 bags in 12 opportunities.

In 2016 Kingery opened the season with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers. In 94 games in the Florida State League, the 22-year-old posted a .293 average with 29 doubles, three triples, three homers, 28 RBI, 60 runs scored and 26 stolen bases. He would be honored as a Florida State League All-Star.

Following a promotion to Double-A Reading, Kingery batted .250 with two homers and 18 RBI.  He played in the Arizona Fall League that off-season as well, representing the Phillies in that league's All-Star Game.

Kingery began the 2017 campaign with Reading. In 69 games there, he would sport a .313 batting average with 18 home runs, 44 RBI and 19 stolen bases. Following a promotion in June, the 23-year-old moved up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. With the IronPigs, Kingery batted .294 with eight home runs, 21 RBI and 10 steals.

He also represented the Phillies in the annual MLB All-Star Futures Game last year and was honored as the offensive Paul Owens Award winner, an award given to the top performers in the Phils minor league system each year.

Additionally, he was one of nine recipients of a minor league Gold Glove Award last year. That should speak volumes about the gleaming defense he displays on the field. He has also seen action at third base and shortstop during this year’s spring training season after playing some third with Lehigh Valley.

The five-foot-10 180-pounder swings a bat that flashes consistent contact and quite a bit of pop. Coaches praise Kingery’s work ethic and they like that he is a student of the game.

Kingery is definitely a stolen base threat. With above average speed, Kingery could really enhance his offensive efforts by contributing on the bases.


He has been excellent in spring training this year, make considerable contributions with the big club.  Through 21 games, Kingery has a .418 average with five home runs and eight RBI.  The output has impressed the Phillies so much that they signed Kingery to a six-year contract, with options for three additional seasons, before he has even played a regular season big league game.

The re-build in Philadelphia is approaching completion and Kingery is now locked in as a major part of that.


You can keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.

Friday, March 23, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #2 RHP Sixto Sanchez

Sixto Sanchez, image- Jay Floyd
Hefty impressions were made in 2017 by right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez.  The Dominican native proved why many people that had seen him pitch at the lowest of the minor leagues' levels were high on his potential.  He's now widely ranked as the Phillies' top pitching prospect.

Sanchez signed with the Phils for a reported $35,000 at the age of 16.  He would begin his professional career in 2015 as a member of the Phillies' Dominican Summer League team.  In 11 appearances (two starts), the talented hurler posted a 1-2 record with a 4.56 ERA and a .291 batting average against. 

As a member of the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2016, the six-foot 185-pounder made 11 starts, posting impressive numbers.  In 54 innings, Sanchez allowed just three earned runs, to post a remarkable 0.50 ERA.  Additionally, to go along with his undefeated 5-0 record, he would tally a .181 BAA with a 44-to-8 strike out-to-walk ratio.

The success he enjoyed in the GCL came while facing batters that were mostly multiple years older than he was, as Sanchez was only 17-years-old until July 29th that summer.


Last season, Sanchez opened the campaign with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.  He would miss a month or so due to a reported neck strain from May to June, but still dominated the league.  In 13 starts there, Sanchez sported a 5-2 record with a 2.41 ERA and a .191 BAA.

He was promoted to join Class A Advanced Clearwater's starting rotation in August.  With the Threshers, Sanchez would notch a 0-4 record with a 4.55 ERA and a .252 BAA in five outings.

Overall for the year, in his combined efforts for Lakewood and Clearwater, Sanchez put together an 8.0 K/9 mark.

A shortstop as a youth player, Sanchez has made quite the conversion to the pitchers mound.  The skilled youngster is equipped with a rave-worthy repertoire, including an upper-90's fastball that gets into triple digits and features sink.  He also sports very good secondary offerings with exceptional upside...a reliable curve ball that has some nice movement as well as a standout change up.

Coaches really find his feel for pitching as a major asset for his future.  Those same individuals in charge of Sanchez's development cite his work ethic and approach at the ball park as praise worthy aspects.  He's someone that embraces his tasks and loves to get better.

Sanchez worked last year to add and subtract from his offerings, instead of letting them rip each time.  This will help him become a more complete pitcher and keep the opposition guessing.

With his workload limited to this point in his career, soon it will be time to really stretch out the 19-year-old's arm and boost his innings to a true full-season level.


It's likely that Sanchez will be assigned to Clearwater to open the 2018 season.  As one of the organization's most promising young talents, it's not too far fetched to think that he could get some time at the Double-A level before the season is out.

The ceiling for Sanchez is to one day lead the Phillies' big league rotation.  An estimated time of arrival for a big league audition for that duty could come by next year.


You can keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #3 OF Adam Haseley

Adam Haseley, image- Jay Floyd
Last year's first round draft pick, outfielder Adam Haseley, is a promising young talent that the Phillies have very high hopes for. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coaches like Haseley's ability to hit to all fields.  He features excellent bat speed and touts an inside-out swing.

Haseley, who turns 22 years old on April 12th, has drawn comparisons to Jacoby Elsbury throughout his playing career.  Haseley also was a fan of Elsbury's game while watching baseball throughout his youth.

On the bases, Haseley hasn't shown exemplary speed so far in his pro career, stealing six bases in 11 attempts.  Though, he is said to have above average speed.

Defensively, Haseley has played mostly center field, but he spent some time in left field as well once he joined the Lakewood team.  He shows very good range and has a strong arm to keep runners from taking too many liberties. 

Loaded with potential, Haseley should find himself opening the 2018 season with Class A Advanced Clearwater.

Haseley may be a few years away from making a true splash at the Major League level, but until he gets there, he is definitely a prospect worth keeping an eye on.


You can keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.

Friday, March 16, 2018

2018 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #4 OF Mickey Moniak

Mickey Moniak, image- Jay Floyd
Taken with the first overall selection in the 2016 MLB amateur draft, outfielder Mickey Moniak has garnered loads of attention with many eyes watching closely, in hopes he can live up to the high expectations that come with being such a high pick.

After signing out of La Costa Canyon High School for a reported $6.1 million, the lefty batting Moniak had a very good professional debut.

In 46 games with the Phillies' Gulf Coast League team, Moniak sported a .284 batting average with 11 doubles, four triples, a home run and 28 RBI.  He also showed some speed, swiping 10 bases in 14 opportunities.

Following the regular season, Moniak participated in the Florida Instructional League and spent time at the Phillies' training facility in Clearwater, where he worked to add strength and muscle to his six-foot-two 185-pound frame.

In 2017, as a member of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, Moniak tallied a .236 batting average with five home runs, 44 RBI and 11 stolen bases.  Coaches were pleased with the 19-year-old's output for the Claws, despite some fans already feeling like he is a bust based on last year's production.  Progress throughout the season was there in the eyes of the Phillies even though Moniak's stats (.721 first half OPS vs. .525 second half OPS) didn't prove the point.

His hitting coach last year, Nelson Prada, suggested that perhaps Moniak was chasing pitches out of the zone at times, due to statistical struggles impacting his approach.

At the plate, Moniak, who was committed to playing at UCLA prior to the 2016 draft, makes hard contact.  The California native is touted as a line drive hitter that can stroke the ball to all fields.

Described as a natural on the baseball field Moniak has the make up to be a strong performer that leads by example and showed enough last year, competing against much older pitchers with college experience, that coaches are confident he's still going to hit very well as a professional.

Moniak is a great contributor on defense as well, displaying solid range and a strong arm in center field.

He won't be the quickest player on most teams, but he will be speedy enough to help out with some steals.

It's possible Moniak will open the coming season back with Lakewood, but could move up to Class A Advanced Clearwater this year.


You can keep track of this year's Phillies prospect countdown at this link.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Major rule change in the minors

Image- Jay Floyd
The national pastime is changing.  At least at the developmental level for affiliated professional teams.

In a rule change announced by Minor League Baseball on Wednesday, all extra innings will start with a runner on second base.

The goal with the rule adjustment is to expedite games and reduce any over-usage of pitchers.

Specifics on the announcement from MiLB are listed below.

The runner at second base will be the player in the batting order position previous to the lead-off batter of the inning (or a substitute for that player). By way of example, if the number five hitter in the batting order is due to lead off the 10th inning, the number four player in the batting order (or a pinch-runner for such player) shall begin the inning on second base. Any runner or batter removed from the game for a substitute shall be ineligible to return to the game, as is the case in all circumstances under the Official Baseball Rules.

The extra inning rule change was tested in rookie level leagues (Gulf Coast League and the Arizona League) in 2017.  Also, the World Baseball Classic used the guideline in its tournament last year as well.

Reactions from fans regarding the modification throughout the minors haven't been good.  Baseball purists have expressed concern with alterations to the tradition of the game.  Others worry that the update will reach the big leagues at some point.  A certain spouse of mine, upon hearing the news of virtual ghost runners being inserted into a contest, asked if adding the 10-run rule, common in children's games, was next on the agenda.

In years past I have talked with Phillies minor leagues coaches that have advocated for an innings limit, with overall health and development concerns in mind.  Following a stretch in 2015 when Double-A Reading played into extra innings for three straight days, playing 45 innings and having to use three position players on the mound, coach Mickey Morandini expressed an interest in seeing games ruled a tie.

"I don't see a reason why there can't be a tie in the minor leagues," Morandini a former big league All-Star that went on to also coach in the majors, said at the time.  "They're really not going to affect anything really.  So, I hope it's being talked about a little bit.  I hope it doesn't come down to position players start getting hurt before they start making decisions and changing their minds and coming up with something to alleviate having to throw position players in a game."

Current players contacted for feedback were reserved with their replies, expressing minimal opinions on the matter.  However, former players with no worries about how their opinions will land on the ears of higher-ups in their organization were far more open.

Former reliever Stephen Shackleford, who set the Reading Fightins Phils' saves record in 2015, was outspoken on the matter.

"Honesty, I think it's stupid.  They keep trying to change the game to make it quicker.  This is completely changing the game.  It's no longer just a (pitch clock) to follow.  It is now a whole new rule that is changing baseball.  My opinion is if the game is too long for you, it's not for you and you're never going to get those viewers," Shackleford asserted.

Another former Phillies minor league reliever, lefty Zach Morris, also doesn't necessarily care for the new rule.

"I understand why they would propose this but at the same time it's taking away from the excitement of extra innings," Morris said.  "Some of the most exciting games I have been a part of have come on super late inning walk-offs and I feel that, as a fan, it would be less exciting starting with someone on base."

Additional changes to the minor league rule book for the coming season include a 15-second pitch timers for hurlers when there are no runners on base.  If the pitcher fails to begin his wind up in the time permitted, the batter will be awarded a ball.  Previously in the minors, the pitch clock was in place only when runners were on base.

Also there is a limitation on mound visits by coaches and position players, with Triple-A clubs allowed six total visits per team, Double-A clubs allowed eight visits per team and full-season Class A teams will be allowed 10 visits per team.

With the minors and its players serving as the testing ground for these rules, it'll be easier to adopt such changes at the top level at some point.  The pitch clock, in some fashion, will likely be the first rule change to graduate and reach the big leagues.  Until then, head on out to a minor league game and see the alterations to the game you love for yourself.