Thursday, August 22, 2019

Cutters Quotables: Williamsport foursome discusses being honored as All-Stars

Simmons, Stott, O'Hoppe and Williams/ Image- Jay Floyd
This week four Phillies prospects participated in the Class A short-season New York-Penn League All-Star Game and each of them were excited to have begun making their marks in professional baseball.

Catcher Logan O'Hoppe, outfielder Corbin Williams, infielder Kendall Simmons as well as shortstop Bryson Stott represented the Williamsport Crosscutters and were part of the victorious Blue Team in Staten Island, NY, home of the Yankees affiliate, on Wednesday night.

O'Hoppe (pronounced Oh-HOP-ee), is a local guy who hails from nearby West Islip.  The 19-year-old, said the game was attended by approximately 100 friends and family members.

The righty batting O'Hoppe was a 23rd round draft selection last year.  In 44 games this year for Williamsport, he has tallied a .217 average with five home runs and 26 RBI.

Williams, who grew up in Philadelphia, is batting .224 with three doubles, three RBI and a league-leading 28 steals thus far in 49 regular season games for the Cutters. The 21-year-old right-handed hitter was a 24th round draft choice by the Phils last year.

Simmons, the Phillies' 6th round draft pick last year, has notched a .267 batting average with 11 homers and 30 RBI in 39 games this season.  The 19-year-old righty batter has played second base, shortstop and third base for Williamsport.

Stott was the Phillies' first round draft pick this year.  The 21-year-old UNLV product has posted a .294 batting average with five home runs and 20 RBI in 33 games since joining the Crosscutters.  The lefty hitter also played in four rookie level Gulf Coast League games upon debuting as a pro this year. 

I talked with each of the Crosscutters' top performers prior to the exhibition.  Read ahead for their remarks about being honored as All-Stars.


O'Hoppe:

It's been great.  It's been everything I could ask for.   This has been on the schedule for a while and it was definitely a goal of mine to get here because of that reason, because of the family and because of the people.  It's gonna be a good time.


It's so great to have that support system come to life because I mean you're away from home and you're texting people and (make) phone calls and stuff like that, but yeah, it's good to have them here in person and it's pretty overwhelming. But, I'm very blessed and lucky to have all those people in my corner and it's good to finally have them out here and see what I've been talking about.

Williams:

It's crazy.  (laughs)  I know this might sound crazy, but I didn't come into the season thinking that I could be an All-Star.  It's a blessing.

You just go out there and try to play everyday.  (Becoming an All-Star) was not my main focus.   It's not like, "I've got to get a hit today to make it to the All-Star game!"  I'm trying to just develop into the best player that I can be and the fact that I got chosen, it's like I'm doing something right, so keep doing it. 

Simmons:

It's truly a blessing. At the beginning of the year, I never thought I would be an All-Star.  It's crazy how you mature as a baseball player throughout the year.  It seems like I've been in pro ball for a minute now and just last year I was in high school, so I think it's an awesome experience.  It's my first time in New York and this is the way I want to spend my first trip to New York.

I take in every bit of it.  I mean, God blessed me with this opportunity, not only to be a pro, but just to be a part of something like this and to have friends and family that support me in everything I do and that's huge for me.

Stott:

It's really awesome especially being able to experience it with my three other teammates.  And this being my first pro season, and to be an All-Star I think it's very cool.  It's cool for everybody and to be here and experience it-- I played with some of  these guys in college too, so to see some of them again is really cool.

The one I'm closest to is Nic Ready.  He went to Air Force, so I played him a bunch of times throughout college and our schools were really close, so I know him really well.  There's a couple guys from Houston in there that I played against and a few others.  So, it's pretty cool to see their careers are moving forward too.

NYPL All-Star Game goes off with hitches

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Simmons, Williams & Stott/Image- Jay Floyd
In what was a mess of an event, the New York-Penn League All-Star Game was won on Wednesday night by the Blue Team, which included four Phillies prospects, over the Red team, which featured representatives from the home club, the Yankees' Staten Island squad.

The score at the ballpark, shown on the scoreboards and announced to those in attendance upon completion of the contest was 7-3.  This conflicted with the account reported by multiple media outlets and the score that appeared on minor league baseball's online box score, 7-4.

The start of the annual exhibition was delayed by rain, which came as a deluge during a pre-game Home Run Derby, that led to an apparent cancellation of the aforementioned competition, though that wasn't announced to the fans in attendance.

There were multiple innings during the game that ended abruptly, adding to the confusion of those present.  Unclear if there was a reversed call or potentially some sort of mercy rule acted on due to a hurler's pitch count, fans watched the sides seem to change twice when an inning was going at length.

And let's not forget the pregame ceremony set to honor new NYPL Hall of Fame inductees during which the grandfather of late State College Spikes coach Josiah Viera, Dave Bohner, heard his name announced multiple times as though it was pronounced like a slang term for an erection instead of the proper way, which rhymes with honor.  Oh, and the time an incompletely edited rap song was played over the Richmond County Bank Ballpark speakers was quite noteworthy also.

In the game, Williamsport's offensive standout Kendall Simmons started for the Blue team, going 1-for-2 with an RBI.  The 19-year-old played second base and committed a field error.

The Phillies' first round pick from this year's draft Bryson Stott entered the game as a substitution.  The talented shortstop went 0-for-1 with a walk.

Speedy center field Corbin Williams, who leads the NYPL in stolen bases, played center field and went 0-for-3.

Catcher Logan O'Hoppe, a native New Yorker, was 0-for-1 in the exhibition.

The Crosscutters (26-37, 5th place in the Pinckney Division) return to regular season action on Thursday as they open a three-game series at home against Mahoning Valley. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood RHP Albertus Barber

Albertus Barber, image- MiLB.com
Right-handed reliever Albertus Barber was signed by the Phillies as an undrafted free agent this summer.

Since beginning his professional career, the Oklahoma Baptist product has played at three levels in the minors, tallying a remarkable 1.23 ERA with a 3-0 record and a save through 12 appearances.

Last week I talked with the 23-year-old about his path to the Phillies, working with Class A Lakewood pitching coach Matt Hockenberry, the culture within the organization, his history with the Driveline training facility, a popular New Jersey food item and plenty more.  Read ahead for that complete interview.


-Your name is pretty unique.  Do you have a nickname that you go by more commonly, or no?

A lot of people call me Berty.

-Oh, I heard someone say that earlier and it didn't even click for me.

Yeah, a lot of people call me Berty, Bertus, Albert, Albertus, Barber.  It's just whatever works for you honestly.

-Alright.  Cool, man.  When I glance at you on the roster, I see you listed as a non-drafted free agent signing. There's not a lot of those around, for the American guys.  How does that go down?  How do you land with the Phillies?

Yeah, so in November the Phillies came and watched me and it was my first time throwing in front of a pro team since I had fractured my arm.  They came and watched me-- and it was funny because I was throwing up on the mound when they were watching me because I had pneumonia.  But they came and watched me and they wanted to sign me.  And they called me and they were like, "Hey.  What do you want money wise?"  And I told them, "I don't care.  Just let me play."  And they were like, "Alright.  We're gonna see if we can put something together for you."  And I was like, "Okay.  Sweet."  And they called me back two days later and they were like, "Hey.  Because you were taking online classes this fall, you're going to have to appeal to the MLB commissioner to become free agent eligible."  I ended up sending three requests to the MLB commissioner and they never got back to me.  And that was fine because it ended up working better for me.  And (the Phillies) ended up calling me on the third day of the draft, it was like in the 35th round.  The phone rang and I picked it up so fast that I don't even think it rang.  I pick up the phone instantly and he's like, "Hey, um, you still good with a thousand bucks and a Snickers bar?"  And I was like, "You can keep the Snickers bar (but) yeah!"  And they signed me about an hour after the draft and I was sitting there freaking out.  I wasn't supposed to tell anyone.  That was basically it, man.

-You look really happy talking about it, so I imagine you still felt like you had gotten drafted and celebrated accordingly.

Yeah, but I wasn't supposed to tell anybody until the pen was on the paper.  So, I'm freaking out and I have no idea what to do because this has been years in the making for me.  This is all I ever wanted to do, right?  This is my life!  And I just remember calling my mom and dad and they were sad.  They didn't see my name come up in the draft. Freaking out like I was freaking out.  Those three days were miserable.  I watched every single pick.  No lie!  And, so, I call 'em and I told them, "I just want to let you guys know I just got offered a free agent contract from the Phillies."  And I couldn't tell anyone else for about two weeks.  

-How soon did you get to go down to Florida to start showing your stuff in front of the Phillies and becoming a Phillie yourself?

So, I threw in front of them in the pre-draft and I asked them specifically, "Hey, can you guys get me out of here as fast as possible, after we decide to-- because I need to go compete.  I'm losing my mind."  So, the draft ended I think on a Thursday and I flew out on a Saturday.  And that was awesome.  And then about a week and a half later we started throwing live to people and now I'm here. 

-What has it been like for you joining the Phillies organization and making your way as a new guy?

The Phillies is a very well run organization.  Not a lot of people have any idea how in this organization specifically how well it is run.  I'm from Driveline, so I hear horror stories from other organizations all the time.  And then you look at the Phillies, we get sleeper buses, we get three meals a day, we get put in houses, we get hotels, like they take care of us.  And then not only that, but we have a really good coaching staff and then we have (Josh) Bonifay, who's really big on culture.  And I'm a firm believer that culture is a massive part of everything and it's hard to establish, right?  Everyone's doing a really good job.  Everyone's establishing the culture.  We all get along really well.  I've never seen differences.  We all just have the same thing in common.  It's easy for me because everyone's on the same page.  Everyone's always happy.  A lot of our guys always bring their best attitudes, so for me to adapt here, it was the same thing at a new level.  

-So, I've got a question for you that's a little less than serious, but you mentioned signing for a thousand bucks.  There's guys on this team that are high round picks, that got pretty big signing bonuses.  Do you ever go out for pizza or coffee or whatever with the guys and say, "Your signing bonus is way bigger than mine.  You pick this up"?

(Laughs)  No, man.  It's funny 'cause I'm always the one-- you can ask around the club house, I'm always like, "Yeah, guys.  I got some fat stacks!"  And they're like, "What?" And I'm like, "Boys, I've got some fat stacks in my bank account."  'Cause I save all my money.  But even though they have way more than me they'll always be joking around and they'll be like, "It's on Barber. He's the one with the fat stacks!"

-Excellent.  Since joining the club here, what feedback are you getting (Matt) Hockenberry and the coaching staff here?

Hockenberry, I love Hockenberry.

-Everyone does.

Yeah.  He lets me be myself.    (Manager Mike Micucci) lets me be myself.  They embrace culture.  Hockenberry and me-- 'cause I come from the analytical side, Hockenberry's been with the Phillies for a while, so Hockenberry knows everything on the Phillies' side.  Which I'm not familiar with 'cause I didn't play in the organization.  So, while we're merging the two, it's good for me because Hock's also merging the two.  So, I can give him feedback and he gives me feedback.  And obviously, he's been in the game longer than me, so he's got a lot more feedback for me.  But I can also interpret my body to him, and then we can work together.  

I mean we worked on one thing about two and a half weeks ago and my average velocity was around 91.5 and me and Hock went over a lot of video.  A lot of video.  And we re-patterned some of my mechanics for about two weeks and I went from topping out at like 93 to I topped 95 last week.  And I mean I credit that to Hock because really get to work together.  We're synergistic.  It's a really cool thing.

-I've heard of Driveline before.  I don't know much about it.  What can you tell me about it?

Aw, man.  The only thing I can tell you about Driveline is go there.  That's it.  I mean the culture's amazing.  It's one of those cultures that like if you (hit) 97 and then you throw the next one at 96.8, then we're going to boo you.  It's just one those things.  We're all family.  We all love each other.  We all get after it every day.  And for the most part the people there are people that sacrifice everything that they had to go to that place.  And then it's run by Kyle Boddy and a lot of other people.  But, without Kyle Boddy's sacrifices, it would have never been a thing.  So, to see how that's exponentially grown, from 2016 till now, because I've been doing it for that long, is just incredible.  The only thing I can say is go there, check it out.  What do you have to lose?

-Perfect.  What did you know about the Phillies before the Phillies expressed an interest in you?

Honestly, absolutely nothing.  I didn't know anything.  I knew that (Jason) Ochart was working here.  That's always a really good sign because if a team is on board with analytics, that means they're able to set their ego aside to be able to successfully progress through baseball.  According to whatever's new.  

-We're here in the hall way outside the locker room and here there's all these framed pictures of players that have come from this level and reached the big leagues. Is seeing this stuff inspiring to you?

It's certainly cool.  You see it and you just know a lot of great people have passed through here.  It's one those things where it puts it in your head, "It's time to go.  It's time to put up or shut up." 

-You and I met a little while ago and off the record we were talking about food a little bit.  Being new to New Jersey, what were your early impressions of pork roll?

Gross!  I would say, "gross" and "no, thank you!"  

-Have you tried it yet?

No, not yet.

-Ohh.  I think I was presuming that you ended up sampling it. You gotta have a sandwich-- obviously, you know of the pork roll, egg and cheese, which is the combo sandwich, because they have the mascots out here at FirstEnergy Park and you have the mascot race out here.  But, it still strikes you as odd?

Yeah.  I don't know why.  But, I don't hear that in Oklahoma.

-You like bacon, though, right?

Yeah, I love bacon.

-It's similar.  It's doesn't get as crispy.  But, you know, it's similar flavor, you know...salty pork product.

I'll have to try it.  

-You mentioned being from Oklahoma.  What's the delicacy of choice out there?

I would say Oklahoma is probably (known for) steak.  Just meat and taters out there, man. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood infielder Hunter Stovall

Righty batting infielder Hunter Stovall joined the Phillies organization earlier this season in a trade with the Rockies for lefty hurler James Pazos.  Following the deal, Stovall, who was a 21st round draft pick last year, joined the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

In 61 games for the 'Claws, the 22-year-old Mississippi State product has tallied a .216 average with eight doubles, three triples and 19 RBI.

Last week I talked with Hunter about the trade, not being an everyday player at times, his faith and tons more.  Read ahead for that interview.

-You start out the year elsewhere.  What can you tell me about your season and the trade to come over to the Phillies?

The trade was a surprise, of course. I mean I hadn’t even been in pro ball a year and I’m already getting traded, so it was kind of a shock. But, it is what it is, but the season this year, I haven’t got to get in there as much as I’d like, but I guess it’s just the way the Phillies work. It is what it is, but it’s been an okay season.

-You almost seem like you’re holding back. Is that hard for you to come here and get less playing time and you got more at bats elsewhere?

Yeah, I mean it is hard. It’s a grind every day. Like you said, with the Rockies I played every single day. Somewhere every single day. So, to come here and sit as much as I do, it’s hard to deal with, but it is what it is. (When) you get the opportunity, you try to make the best of it.

-Another guy that goes through that with you is Cole Stobbe. And he’s an early round pick, a name that fans would know because of where he was drafted or because of signing bonus money or whatever. Does that make it easier to swallow when you’ve got guys to go through it with? Or is there a bit of a club of guys as you’re all going through it together?

I mean, I think it’s just some sort of organizational thing. They do some sort of metrics system and- I don’t know how to explain it. I’m just here to win and I’m here to try to produce and I mean that’s just- what they do, I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just a lot different than what I’m used to.

-Let’s get away from that. I tweeted out a picture of you signing autographs for kids and I get hundreds of likes. That’s not normal.  If I get 10 likes, that’s usually good for a photo of a player. There’s countless people affiliated with you, your school, your teams engaging the post. It’s crazy. That support, is it really cool for you?

Yeah, it’s awesome. Coming from Mississippi State and coming from Pelham, the place I grew up, I’ve always had that support.  I've always had fans that-- because I'm a nice guy.  I'm always approached.  I've got kids messing with me on Instagram and stuff and I always take the time to reply to them and do stuff like that.  Just 'cause that's what it all about.  I'm here to be an ambassador of God, of course, but to be a role model to these kids and I don't want to be that guy that's just kind of too cool for school.  You know what I'm saying?  So, yeah, I love the support.  I love the interaction with the kids and the fans.  I love it.

-You mentioned being an ambassador of God.  Does your faith play a big role in your life and does it translate on the field?

Yeah, of course, it translates on the field.  There's a story that I've had to tell everybody, but when I was born, I was actually born dead.  I was dead for two or three minutes or something like that.  And I mean, if it wasn't for Him I wouldn't be here.  I wouldn't be able to do this.  I wouldn't be able to interact with the people that I do, so I mean, it's a huge role.  God blesses us every day.  He blesses me (with) being here, being able to put a uniform on and the ability that He gave me is unbelievable.  So, I mean, everything that happens and everything I do is for Him.  And hopefully, His light is shining through me to other people.  Ultimately, that's what we're placed on Earth to do.  We're placed on the Earth to be disciples of Him and to go along and persuade people or help people understand that He is the true God.

-I wonder sometimes, because I'm not very into religion, that for someone like you that is, for lack of a better way to say it, is a super believer, would you look at someone like myself that isn't very into it in a particular way?

No, not at all.  If you every wanted to sit down and talk about it, I'd be happy to.  But, yeah, of course you can't-- thou shall not judge.  It's in the Bible.  You can't judge people by what they believe and what they don't believe.  So, it's part of who I am.  It'll always be part of who I am and it is what it is.

-Very cool.  You talk about producing when you can and making the most of opportunities.  What sorts of feedback do you get from the coaches and what to work on or improve?

 I don't know.  You just gotta be ready when you're names called.  And then you come in here every day and you don't know if your name's going to be in the lineup and it rattles me 'cause I'm so passionate about this game and I want be out there and I want to win.  That's what I'm here for.  And it's hard to come in here some days and swallow that's I'm not in the lineup.  I've got to sit again.  I've got to go in there and catch 'pens and all this stuff.  But, I mean, at the end of the day, you've got to get in the game.  You've got to do your best to try to produce and try to help the team win. 

-When the trade came, you mentioned it caught you by surprise.  Do you call family right away?  Do you have to convert them from Rockies to Phillies fans?

Yeah, of course.  Dad's my biggest fan.  He's always been my biggest fan my whole life.  I mean, when I got drafted he went and bought all this Rockies stuff, so of course he was the first one I called when it all happened.  It was kind like emotional at the time, because I didn't know what to expect.  But, yeah, my dad's got all his Phillies stuff now and he's on board.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood manager Mike Micucci talks Morales, Matos, more

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Lakewood's roster sports two buzz worthy prospects right now with outfield Malvin Matos on an extremely hot streak and pitcher Francisco Morales continuing to draw plenty of interest from prospect heads.

Malvin Matos, image- Jay Floyd
Matos, a 22-year-old righty batter, wrapped up, on Sunday, a 17-game stretch in which he went 27-for-62 (.436 average) with five doubles, three home runs, 12 RBI, nine walks and seven stolen bases.  He notched an 0-for-4 effort on Monday, but rebounded Tuesday with a pair of hits, including a solo homer, and a walk. 

Morales, a 19-year-old right-hander, is one of the Phillies' most well-touted prospects. In 23 outings this year, the talented Venezuelan has posted a 4.05 ERA with a .227 batting average against and an 11.9 K/9 mark.

This week I sat down to chat with Lakewood manager Mike Micucci about the hot streak of Matos, Morales's development, plus so much more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-(Catcher) Juan Aparicio is a new addition to the team in the past couple weeks.  I wanted to ask what you have seen from him since he's joined the team.

We were, first of all, very happy for Marchan to go up.  And Juan's a talented, young Latin player that plays behind the plate. Definitely has a plus bat and you can see that.  You know, a lot of bat speed there.  Has pretty good bat-to-ball skills and hand-eye coordination.  We're happy to have him.  Does a good job behind the plate, you know, maybe not as polished as (Marchan and Abrahan Gutierrez).  We were a little spoiled obviously with Marchan and Guty, but definitely has the tools to play the position, so we're happy to have him.

-Talk about Rafael Marchan a little bit more too, because he was a standout for the club for a majority of the season. 

Yeah, I mean, (he has) everything you need to play that position.  Started with the leadership and the mind and his ability to call the game, to work with the pitching staff, the physical tools, the quickness, the strong arm, the quick release, the quick feet and, you know, then at the plate he swings from both sides of the plate and has the ability to impact the ball.  So, he's a special player.

-This question is a bit late, as I just haven't talked with you in the past month, since this was going on, but at one point about a month ago, Gilmael Troya was listed with a suspension status.  Is there anything you can share about what was going on there?

Nah, it's kind of an internal thing.  He broke one of the team rules.  Not this team, like the Phillies, like an organizational rule. 

-Did that come down from the top or was that something you needed to enforce?

It was kind of a mutual thing.  I know when I talked to my boss it was, like, "Hey, this is what happened.  This is--"  When those things happen, I always give like, "Whatever you want us to do, but here would be my suggestion." You know, so we were, kind of-- everybody was on the same page.

-Alright.  There's nobody hotter in baseball right now than Malvin Matos. 

Unbelievable!

-Can you remark about him a bit?

It's really unbelievable.  It just showed up one day and then all of a sudden you can see-- and it starts with the pitch selection.  The controlling the strike zone, the swinging at good pitches, the plan in the batters box, but he certainly isn't missing his pitch when he swings at it and he is not chasing at all.  And he's offering at pitches, he's seeing a lot of good counts and, like I said, when he gets his pitch and swings, he is not missing it.  We looked up and it's like 50 points in the last...

-In like 16 days or 16 games, or something.

And that's a hard thing to do!  When you have that many at bats under your belt that is not easy to do and it just kind of goes to show you how hot he is.

-Has anything changed mechanics wise?

I think it's all approach for me, like I said.  I know they've been working really hard in the cage.  All the guys have.  It just kind like, one day I saw him- a couple swings, usually he'd foul them off and he didn't foul them off that day and he (instead) had a couple hits.  And then all of a sudden you see him not offering at other pitches and he's in better counts.  So, it all came down to not missing his pitch...when he was swinging, when he was getting it.  And then, you know, not offering at other pitches.

-They're out there in the locker room looking at some recent highlights.  Has he been contributing on defense for you too?

Oh!  The catch he made (Saturday) night was awesome.  Ranging, laying out on the track.  It's really good.

-Matos was DH'ing today.  I think I saw him rubbing elbows with (hitting coach Christina Marrero) from the other side of the field, the last few innings.  Was that Matos putting the time off from defense to use?

It could have been.  Yeah, I don't know.

-I try to look out for little stuff like that.  I remember when Andrew Knapp was here and he was coming back from Tommy John surgery and he was DH'ing.  They wouldn't let him play the field yet, and he'd just spend all those defensive half innings posted up between the manager and the coaches. 

And he was a catcher, right?

-Yeah.

That's one way in that position to keep your mind sharp.  Standing next to the pitching coach.

-Righty reliever Victor Santos is getting some attention as of late.  He's been doing pretty well.  What are your thoughts on him?

He's throwing really, really well.  He had a tough second inning today, but he's been very consistent for us.  You kind of know what you're going to get.  He goes out there and he has the ability to throw four pitches for strikes in any count, so, and he's young, so he's going to continue to develop.

-McCarthy Tatum was a new addition to the team and he's been here a month or so.  He was drafted this year out of Fresno State.  What have you seen from him since he's become a lineup regular for the team?

Yeah, that's a nice stabilizer in the offense.  The guy you can put in there that gives you a quality at bat.  You can tell he played at an elite college where he has that presence in the lineup and kind of has that idea or what he's doing and a good approach at the plate.  On defense, he's done a nice job at third (base).  You know how we are.  We move everybody around in the field and he's still getting accustomed to first base a little bit, but he's done a nice job at third.  He made a couple diving stops today.  He didn't kind of finish them off, but he's continuing to work over there and work on his foot work.

-Francisco Morales is another consistent pitcher on the team this year.  What have you seen from him lately?

I mean he's basically doing what he's done all year.  His fastball's still got some good life to it.  He's not tiring at all.  He still has the elite slider.  Today, he really flashed signs of a good change up.  And I know that's one of the things that he's working on is to develop that third pitch.  You know, it's so important for guys to develop that pitch, so you can start.

-A look at the standings compared to last year, the team record isn't gleaming or anything and maybe there are people that can look and frown on the wins and losses or the spot in the standings.  That's not really the most important thing in the minors though.  Development is. 

Always.  Without a doubt.

-Can you offer some thoughts on winning versus development in the minors?

Big picture.  So, it's the thing I talk to our staff about.  It's the thing we always try to keep in mind: The Big Picture.  Over the long haul, what's the best for the player and his career and what's the best for the organization?  And you always have that big picture in mind.  It's funny a couple examples, we talk about Morales, right?  Morales can go out and throw two pitches and dominate, but if he doesn't develop a change up, then in the grand scheme of things we're not helping him and we're not helping the organization.   And there's time when you get beat because you throw a pitch (and) you know you can get him out on the different pitch, or whatever, but you have to throw these pitches to develop them. 

To continue, them moving around the field and the versatility, some nights it's really good and guys are making plays and then some nights you've got some guys over there where you don't make a play here, you don't make a play there, you extend an inning over here because they're learning how to play a position.  So, just having that big picture thought process in mind-- I've seen too many guys over the years, especially on defense, play one position their whole minor league career and then all of a sudden, they're sitting in Triple-A and they go to the big leagues and now they're asked after like two or three days in the outfield to go play the outfield in a big league game.  It's not fair to the--

-I think they did that with Rhys Hoskins.

Yeah.  So, I think we're trying to avoid some of those mistakes that normally happen.  So, getting these guys to be more versatile, where they can play all over the field.  Some times it hurts you.  Sometimes it hurts your development.

The overall record; we're younger than everybody else.  You know?  But, we also feel like we have more talent out there. It's just raw.

Monday, August 12, 2019

IronPigs Quotables: JD Hammer interview excerpts

JD Hammer, image- Cheryl Pursell
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Recently I published a feature on reliever J.D. Hammer, who spent some time with the big league Phillies before returning to the minors with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

In the piece, Hammer and the IronPigs' coaching staff speak about the righty pitcher's current path and what he's focused on to return to the majors.

During my time chatting with the talented prospect he spoke on some topics that didn't make the cut in the feature.  Topics included the variance in the baseball at the upper levels, the IronPigs' catchers and more.  Read ahead for those interview excerpts.


I asked Hammer about the difference in the baseball from the lower levels of the minors to Triple-A and the majors.  The variance in the balls is said to take some getting used to...

Yeah, the seams are different from Double-A to Triple-A, but they did a good job of getting us ready for it during spring training.  The guys that they expected to have a shot at Triple-A and the big leagues this year, they made sure they were throwing the big league balls during spring training, so yeah there's differences in the Double-A ball and the Triple-A ball, but we've prepared for that this whole year, so I mean I think a lot of guys are feeling confident throwing it, because that's what we've been used to.

I asked if he felt equipped to work with the different ball ahead of debuting in Triple-A...

Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, at the end of the day, it's baseball.  You've got to make pitches and you've got to make adjustments, so if the ball's an adjustment, you've just got to adjust with it.  It's just like anything else.  So, I mean I haven't noticed anything crazy between here and the big leagues.  The seams on the balls in Double-A are a little bit bigger, but other than that a lot of us have been used to throwing the big league balls since spring training.

Hammer shared some thoughts on battery mate Deivy Grullon...

He's been awesome for us.  He's definitely a different breed of catcher.  He knocks the ball around pretty well.  So, it's been fun to watch since I've been here and he's got a bright future ahead of him.

And also spoke on the IronPigs' other catcher Rob Brantly...

Brantly, he's awesome.  He's a veteran guy.  I can talk to him and see what he's thinking about in certain situations, hitting wise, and get a feel for what the hitter's thinking about and he's been awesome to throw to.

In addition to the insight he shared on bonding with Pat Neshek specifically in the original piece, Hammer spoke on the Phils' relief corp overall being helpful during his tenure with the big league team...

Yeah, (I learned from) pretty much all the guys in the bullpen.  I talked to Morgan a lot.  I talked to Neris a lot.  Neshek, Robertson, just picked their brains.  Just see what they're doing to be successful.  They're a tool for us younger guys 'cause they have that experience, so yeah I picked a lot of their brains while I was up there.

Hammer also spoke with me about the extra attention he gets from fans due to his signature look (big, thick framed glasses) and his last name...

I don't pay  much attention to it.  I'm just here to play baseball, so I've got my  mind focused on that.  I try to stay away from social media as much as  possible.  I don't really know what  exactly is said, or the buzz or anything.  It's nice to have fans and  to have people support you when you're doing good and be there for you  when you're doing bad.  Everybody always says the Phillies fans are  passionate and they are!  I mean it's nice to have  support from people who really care about the game.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Williamsport's Iser has American aspirations

Herbert Iser, image- MiLB.com
Herbert Iser would have already taken strides toward becoming a citizen of the United States if it wasn't for the Phillies drafting him a couple of months ago.

The talented backstop was hopeful to make progress in that regard, but signed his first professional contract after he was selected in the 23rd round in this year's amateur draft got in the way.

"I was in the process, but being drafted and all that stuff, I couldn't make it to the appointment I had, so hopefully in the off-season, maybe, I'll be a dual citizen with Jamaica and America," Iser said in a recent phone interview.

A Citizen of Jamaica, currently, Iser's family has a remarkable background. 

Not wanting to live under a dictatorship, Iser's parents, Alfredo Iser and Maria Olivero, fled Cuba for more favorable conditions in Jamaica in 1996.  A year and a half later, Herbert was born, named after his father's employer, Jamaican Minister of Health Dr. Herbert Eldemire.

"He's deceased now, but when my family went from Cuba to Jamaica, he helped my family out.  He housed us," Iser explained.

A product of Dallas Baptist University, the same school that produced other recent Phillies draftees such as Autin Listi, Darick Hall, David Martinelli and Eric White, Iser batted .280 with seven home runs and 34 RBI in 52 games played for the Patriots this year as a junior.

The lefty batter had also been drafted last year, following two years at San Jacinto (junior) College, in the 24th round by Baltimore.  He chose not to sign, instead transferring to DBU.

His parents, who instilled a religious focus in the six-foot-three 210-pounder, now live apart and are currently both United States residents, but are his biggest fans.  While dad knows the sport very well, Iser's mom, described as the brain of the family, isn't as astute when it comes to baseball.

"She'll call me every day and talk to me about how I did, but she doesn't really get it," Iser explained.  "If I got a couple hits or something she'll say, 'You got a couple home runs!'"

Iser debuted in the minor leagues in June, playing in five games with the Gulf Coast League Phillies West team.  After going 8-for-16 with two doubles, two triples and three RBI, he was promoted to the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters.

In 19 games there, in the New York-Penn League, Iser isn't enjoying the same success to date.  He's tallied a .156 average with two doubles, a triples, two homers and five RBI.

Despite the less than ideal results the 21-year-old Iser doesn't feel overwhelmed by the latest level.  In fact, he feels college ball prepared him very well for the grind of pro baseball. 

"Just, right now, I think things aren't going my way, 'cause I'm seeing the ball fine," Iser said.  "I'm hitting the ball solid.  Just right now we're at the point where I need to make adjustments.  There's nothing that's too overwhelming."

While he works to get his offensive results to a more appealing level, Iser, who has garnered attention for his defense and arm strength, is able to give his game the full attention it deserves.  The Phillies have an employee, Ray Robles, who, in the role of Assistance Director of International Relations, has been able to help Iser with all the processes and paperwork involved with all the legalities and paperwork.

On top of making Iser's dreams of playing professional baseball comes, the organization is also working with him on another big aspiration of acquiring that dual citizenship.

"It's very important," Iser said.  "It means the world to me.  I look at it as they see me as a person and really care." 


For more quotes from Iser, available exclusively for patrons, head on over to Patreon.com/PhoulBallz to support my work and get more content!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

IronPigs Quotables: Gary Jones interview excerpts

Gary Jones, image- Jay Floyd
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Last week I sat down with Lehigh Valley IronPigs manager Gary Jones to talk about some of his team's players. Below are some excerpts from my chat with him in which he discusses backstop Deivy Grullon, lefty starting pitcher Damon Jones, infielder/outfielder Austin Listi and more.



-Deivy Grullon has been a key contributor for the 'Pigs this year. An All-Star for you guys. What have you seen from Deivy this year?

I mean Deivy’s doing a good job. He’s working his tail off every day. He’s improving behind the plate. The relationship with the pitchers is good. He goes out on a daily basis and those guys work and talk about the game plan, so he’s getting better and he’s doing what all these guys are doing. They’re here developing a skill (set) and coming to work every day and trying to get better as an individual. Trying to reach the ultimate goal of playing at the major league level. But Deivy, he's right on track and he’s doing a great job.

-Damon Jones is a new addition to the pitching staff. He's started to grab some attention this year. Thoughts on Damon?

He’s learning. He’s kind of made the jump to Triple-A fairly quickly. And I think, you know, at this level you come across mature hitters. Hitters that have been playing in the game quite a while and so you know you have to know how to attack those guys. You can’t fall into patterns and you mainly have to locate pitches. Today it was a positive day for him. He gave up a three-run homer on a breaking ball, but other than that I thought he battled and I thought he did a nice job.

-Austin Listi has really turned it on here after having a tough time getting things going in Double-A. How does he stand out compared to other guys for you?

Again, all these guys are in the same situation. All these guys are young guys, coming up, first time in Triple-A. Again, you know, playing against guys that have had Major League experience and have had a lot of Major League experience and, you know, it’s just a matter of guys understanding and toning their skill. You know, staying in your circle and not trying to do too much. Understanding who you are as a player, who you are as a hitter and that kind of thing. And understand what the pitcher’s trying to do, what the situation calls for and that stuff goes into the equation. And guys only get better at it by getting (at bats). You know, there’s a—I think there’s a stat or something that says, “Before a hitter can graduate and be a good hitter at the Major League level, you average minor leaguer has about 1,500 at bats in the minor leagues, so it’s always a work in progress. And you have to remember, the greatest hitters of all time fail 70-percent of the time. So, you know, this game, as hitters, a lot of times, is built around failure and you’ve got to be able to handle that. So, these guys are, like I said, they’re up here learning. They’re playing against older guys. And these are young players that are trying to make the jump and it’s all a development situation for them and a learning situation for them.

-I talked with J.D. Hammer just about 10 minutes after the game ended and he told me he'd already watched video of his outing, did his arm care. That struck me as pretty fast. Is that a normal for a guy to have so much done, so quickly?

Everybody has their own routine, so it’s different for everybody. I can’t tell you what’s normal for each individual. Everybody has their own routine on the way they handle stuff; success, failure. So, everybody’s got their own routine.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lehigh Valley pitching coach Steve Schrenk

Recently I chatted with Lehigh Valley pitching coach about his staff.  Topics included in the discussion were Ramon Rosso, Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin, JoJo Romero, Josh Tols, as well as catcher Deivy Grullon and more.

Read ahead for that interview...


Deivy Grullon, image- Jay Floyd
-Catcher Deivi Grullon is having a very good season, continuing his development.  How has Deivi been for you this year?

Great. Had him for the last four years. I’ve had him for the past four years. Every year he gets better. He’s gotten better calling games. He’s gotten better working with the staff. He’s getting to know these guys. He knows a lot of them. And he’s been hitting, ripping the cover off the ball. He made the All-Star team, so—tremendous job blocking. Does a good job, I mean, some of the stuff, the new analytical stuff, he’s learning, as far as the heat maps and different things, but he’s doing a good job with them.

-JoJo Romero has a rough go of it here and was moved back to Double-A Reading.  Since he's returned here to Triple-A have you seen improvements made for him?

Definitely. I definitely saw a jump in velocity. Delivery’s smoother, cleaner. Using his slider more and trusting his fastball. I think that was the biggest thing. And he’s throwing it over the plate. That and the velo, so from the time I saw him (before the demotion) and the time I saw him when he came back, big improvements. So, hopefully, he can take off and keep doing what he’s doing.

-Ramon Rosso enjoyed a lot of success at lower levels and started to have a buzz about him building.  What are your thoughts on Ramon?  Is he buzz worthy?

Yeah, definitely. Size, right-handed, working on his off-speed pitches, taking his delivery and cleaning that up a little bit. There’s some things he needs to clean up here and there to make it a little more consistent, so he throws more strikes and has the ability to throw more strikes. But, he’s what you look for in a big right-handed pitcher. Size. He has three weapons. And he’s not afraid. I like the way he goes out and attacks hitters.

-What kind of feedback do you share with the guys that come to this level and struggle? The Leftwich’s, the Dohy’s, the Brogdon’s that breeze through Double-A, then come here and kind of run into the different ball, the different seams, their ERA shoots up. What kind of feedback are you giving them?

This is what they’re gonna face in the big leagues. The guys are gonna get better and the baseballs are the baseballs. There’s nothing we can do about them. They are what they are. But, they’re gonna learn. They have to learn. I think the only way they’re going to get better and learn is to go through the process. And that’s what all of them are doing. And they’re gonna have bumps in the roads, but I want to find out now how they’re going to react to bumps in the roads at Triple-A, not while they’re in the big leagues. I think that’s the key to the statement. But they did good. They earned their way here. They pitched well. They gotta continue it. Like you said, all the intangible things that we can’t control—they (only) need to control what they CAN control and they’ve done a good job with that. And they’re gonna have bumps, but I think every one of them have improved at some degree. Gone backwards a little bit, and gone forwards, gone backwards and gone forwards, but I think by the end of the year they’ll all be going forward in the right direction.


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Friday, August 2, 2019

Hammer focused after taste of the big leagues

J.D. Hammer, image- Jay Floyd
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An expressionless stare from the seated reliever began to wear a hole in the floor following J.D. Hammer’s most recent outing for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Teammates did not speak to him. It was processing time. It was how he will improve.

Hammer, one of the Phillies’ prospects that has taken the most strides this season, is back in the Triple-A International League after a recent trade to acquire pitcher Mike Morin left Hammer without a spot on the big league roster.

In nearly two months with the Phils, Hammer appeared in 20 games. He posted a 1-0 record with a 3.79 ERA, a .217 batting average against while striking out 13 and walking 12 in 19 innings. The strike out rate and walk rate aren’t gleaming and will need to improve if Hammer is to succeed at the top level of the sport.

A swift mover this year, the 25-year-old opened his 2019 campaign with Double-A Reading, where he really delivered in relief for the Fightins Phils. In 13 contests, Hammer touted a 1-0 record with two saves, a 1.77 ERA and an 11.5 K/9 mark.

Hammer was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in May. There, he made one appearance, tossing two scoreless frames, before the Phillies called him up.

“The guy’s had a hell of a year so far,” said IronPigs manager Gary Jones in a proud, fatherly tone. “He started in Double-A, got to the big leagues and now he’s back with us working on some things, trying to get some things right, iron things out.”

The right-handed Hammer pitched an inning in his latest appearance against Pawtucket on Tuesday, surrendering two earned runs on three hits, including a homer to Red Sox prospect Josh Ockimey, a Philadelphia native. Within just a handful of minutes after the end of the game, Hammer had already reviewed video of his outing to look at pitch selection and locations. He then sat at his locker reflecting on what he had seen and the results. It was a zone he needed to enter in order to let the lessons sink in and to allow himself to grow.

Since his return to Allentown, Hammer added four more appearances to his season and has tallied a 9.00 ERA with the ‘Pigs.

“It's definitely been an up and down season,” Hammer stated. “Right now I'm working through some stuff. I feel like I'm making good pitches and throwing lots of strikes. It's baseball, so it's tough. I'm a competitor. I never go out there and try to lose, so it's frustrating giving up runs. It's as simple as I've got to go back out and compete tomorrow.”

Originally drafted in the 24th round by Colorado in 2016, Hammer was acquired by the Phillies in a deal that sent reliever Pat Neshek to the Rockies in 2017. Neshek is now among the veterans that Hammer cites as having been a valuable source of information during his tenure in the majors and around the big club during spring training.

“He's awesome,” Hammer said of the former All-Star. “He's had a ton of years in the big leagues and he knows how to pitch and he's a great guy to be around and not only that, he's personable and he's a normal guy and I enjoy being around all those guys and, hopefully, I'll be up there again soon.”

Mainly a fastball-slider guy, Hammer also features a change up in his arsenal that he cites is something he doesn’t throw as often as he might like. The slider, though, is his go-to pitch. Pitching coach Steve Schrenk says the offering has shown improvements and is Hammer’s primary weapon, though an area of focus for the six-foot-three 215 pounder will be his precision.

“He’s doing well,” Schrenk said with confidence. “He’s been using his fastball. Fastball command was something he needed to work on before he went up to Philly and he’s been doing a good job with that.”

While he waits for the next opportunity to pitch in the majors, Hammer is using feedback from Phillies developmental personnel to guide his work. The main goal is getting ahead of hitters and staying in attack mode, according to the Marshall product.

Those coaches in charge of his development are confident that the future remains bright for Hammer. Jones, his skipper, is most assured of all.

"He’ll get back to the big leagues. He’ll probably have a long career at the major league level."

Sunday, July 28, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Darick Hall answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

Darick Hall, image- Jay Floyd
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Normally, I post the audio of these types of out-of-the-ordinary interviews.  Many of those appear exclusively over on my Patreon page.  In this instance, the recording is poor and truly doesn't sound good enough to release the recording, so I have transcribed a fun interview with Double-A Reading slugger Darick Hall below.

The 24-year-old lefty hitting first baseman has been a key contributor in the middle of the Reading lineup all season long.  In 97 games, Hall sports a .249 batting average with 18 home runs and a league leading 62 RBI.

Hall was the Phillies' 14th round pick out of Dallas Baptist in 2016.

In the interview below, Hall chats about organizational rivalry with the Yankees throughout the minors, who may be his coolest teammate, music and more.  Read ahead for somewhat of a different interview with Darick.


-So, I asked you if you'd like to have some fun with me and you agreed, not having any idea what I'm talking about.  Would you like to answer Nine Silly-ass Questions?

Depending on what they are, yeah!

-Right.  You have no choice now.

Awesome!

-So, listen.  You're on the record.  This is official business here.  Do you like my shirt?

Yeah.  I think it's pretty swaggy.

-Thanks, man.  That is so kind.  Who on the team is the coolest guy?

It's a hard question.

-Is there a lot of cool guys (to narrow it down to just one)?

There really is.  Cool guy...I'd say, cool, just straight up cool- Mickey (Moniak).  You know, he's pretty trendy.  He likes to keep it fresh.  I'd say he's a pretty cool guy.

-I like it.  (Regarding) the Trenton team, is there a rivalry with the Yankees teams as you guys climb levels and play them in each of these leagues?

Obviously, you know.  I'm not a hundred percent certain, but I'm pretty sure that most of the affiliates aren't big fans of the Yankees.  (laughs)  Just due to the nature, but they kind of got us-- (edging us out for the first half division title), playing two less games than us in the first half, so obviously these guys are a little bit of our rivals.  

If we continue playing well, we have a chance to win the second half, then I think this is the team we'll be playing (in the playoffs).  So, we're pretty competitive with them.

-Seeds or gum?

Gum.

-What kind?  Just bubble gum, or any different flavor?

Yeah, Double Bubble. Just original.  I like that because you don't have to keep getting more.  You choose seeds, you might be done with seeds in two outs and you're not going to have a bag of them on you.

-Gum will last you longer.  That's cool.  Did you collect baseball cards as a kid?

Yeah!  I did.  I always got the Topps sets as a kid.

-So, the whole sets- did you ever unwrap them and put them in binders or pages or anything?

No, they're all boxed up.

-Do you still have them?

Yeah.  I'd have to find them.  They're in the garage.  I kind of got out of that, around I'd say, like, 12 (years old).  So, I've still got them.

-Do you keep any souvenirs from your career?  Do you have any of your own cards?

I like to keep a few, just you know, kind of as a memento of the path and just having done it.

-Excellent.  Is there anything in your music collection that you would deem embarrassing?

I would say I have an array of tastes.  I'm not gonna lie, I have a few Selena Gomez songs.  I'd say that's about as soft as I'll go.

-I wanted to ask you if there is a favorite cartoon character that you have?

Favorite cartoon character.  Let's see.  I'd take Tom.

-From Tom & Jerry?

Yeah.  I used to love watching Tom & Jerry as a kid.  That's one of my favorites.

-Now, I'm trying to remember.  It's been so long...is Tom the cat?

Tom's the cat.

-So, he gets fooled and goofed on and clowned.  But that's your favorite guy?

I just always thought he was funny.

-Okay.  It must be empathy.  A couple more here for you.  Thanks for the time.  I'm no longer counting, so we may go over nine (questions).  Talk to me about (one of the Reading mascots) the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.  What are your thoughts?

(Laughs) I think he's hilarious.  I think we have a couple (different men that play him) and it's funny there's different levels.  We have a guy that's an expert.  We have a few beginners and a guy kind of in the middle.  But, I think it gives us energy when he runs by the dugout, yelling, hurling hot dogs, everybody gets fired up.

-Can the same be said about (friend of the team and honorary Reading cheerleader) Briscoe Disco?

Yeah!  I'd say so.  He gets it going.  He gets people going.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Jay Floyd appears on The Good Phight's Hittin' Season Podcast

This week I made my long awaited (by me only, I'd bet) to the Hittin' Season Podcast hosted by John Stolnis. The show's home is over on TheGoodPhight.com, of course, and I've contributed to the show plenty of times, appearing as a guest and contributing exclusive interviews to the program.

The latest episode features John recapping the Phillies' series against the Tigers and a preview of the series to come against the division rival Braves. He also talks about what to expect as the MLB trading deadline approaches. Then I join John to discuss several promising Phils prospects such as Alec Bohm, Mickey Moniak, Bryson Stott, Spencer Howard, Adonis Medina, Francisco Morales and others.

Check out the embedded media player below to stream or download the episode and, if you like what you hear, subscribe to the show!


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Phillies minor league hot list, 7/21/19

The season's been moving by quite swiftly and as we reach the midst of the summer, I'm bringing another rundown of minor league players that are performing rather well of late.

Statistics are updated through Saturday's games.


-Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs (47-50 record, 5th place in the International League North division)...

Phil Gosselin, image- Jay Floyd
Infielder Phil Gosselin, who played in 32 games with the big league Phillies this year, has been hot during his tenure with the IronPigs.  In 38 games, the 30-year-old veteran has notched a .354/.445/.542 offensive slash line.  Gosselin is batting .400 in 10 games since the All-Star break.

Since his promotion from Double-A Reading, outfielder/corner infielder Austin Listi has been huge on offense.  In 28 games for Lehigh Valley, the 25-year-old righty batter sports a .333 average with nine doubles, eight homers and 28 RBI.  Listi was the Phillies' 17th round draft choice in 2017.

Lefty reliever Tyler Gilbert has shined for the Pigs lately.  In his last 10 outings, the 25-year-old has a 1-0 record with one save and a 1.26 ERA.  Gilbert, the Phillies' 6th round draft choice in 2015, has a 2.30 ERA in 20 overall games this season.


-Double-A Reading Fightin Phils (20-10 second half record, 1st place in the Eastern League's East division)...

Over his last nine starts, righty pitcher Adonis Medina has tallied a 2.34 ERA with a 6-1 record. Many outlets ranked Medina, 22, very highly coming into the season.  The Dominican Republic native sports a 6-3 record with a 3.53 ERA and a .230 batting average against through 15 starts this season.

Third baseman Alec Bohm has continued his charge through the Phillies' system since he was promoted to Reading in June.  Through 23 games in Double-A the 22-year-old has posted a .286 batting average with five doubles, a triples, seven homers and 19 RBI.  Overall, at three levels this year, Bohm, who was the Phillies first round draft choice last year, is batting .304 with an .860 OPS. Bohm had a big two-homer game with Reading on Saturday.

Outfielder Mickey Moniak is still hot still a dismal month of April.  Since May 1st, the 21-year-old is batting .289.  Moniak, the top overall selection in the 2016 draft has posted a .265 average with 21 doubles, a league-leading 10 triples, four homers, 42 RBI and 12 steals in 83 overall games with Reading this season.

The bullpen tandem of Addison Russ and Jonathan Hennigan have been impressive for Reading as well.  Russ, the Phillies' 19th round draft pick two years ago, has been the team's key closer.  The 24-year-old sports a 1-5 record with 15 saves, a 1.63 ERA and a 13.7 K/9 mark in 38 appearances.  Hennigan began the season with Class A Advanced Clearwater before earning a promotion to Double-A.  In 17 appearances with Reading, Hennigan, 24, has a 2-1 record with a 1.67 ERA and a .214 batting average against.

-Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers (15-16 second half record, 2nd places in Florida State League's North division)...

Outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz has shown plenty of power in the second half for the Threshers.  After slamming seven home runs in 50 first-half games, the 20-year-old righty-hitting slugger has recorded nine round-tripppers in 28 games since the Florida State League All-Star break.  In 79 total games this season, Ortiz has a .219/.289/.429 slash line.

Center fielder Simon Muzziotti has an eight-game hitting streak, heading into action on Sunday.  Over that stretch, the 20-year-old lefty batter has hit .333.  In 74 games this year, the Venezuela native has tallied a .280 batting average with a pair of homers, 24 RBI and 15 stolen bases.

Well touted pitching prospect Spencer Howard has peformed at a high level since returning from the disabled list with a shoulder strain.  The 22-year-old righty has tossed 15 scoreless innings over his past three starts while striking out 18 and walking only one.  The 22-year-old with the Phils' second round pick in the 2017 draft.  He was ranked as the Phillies' top prospect by this site prior to this season.

-Class A Lakewood BlueClaws (10-18 second half record, last place in South Atlantic League North division)...

Carlos De La Cruz, image- Jay Floyd
Outfielder Carlos De La Cruz has shown a big boost to his power recently.  The 19-year-old is batting .242 with four home runs and nine RBI in his last nine games.  De La Cruz had just one homer in his first 75 games this year.  In 84 total games, the righty youngster has notched a .228 average.

This year's 10th round draft pick McCarthy Tatum has looked solid since joining the BlueClaws this month.  In nine games, the 23-year-old Fresno State product is batting .303 with two home runs and six RBI.  Tatum, a third baseman, played in 14 games with Williamsport before his promotion.

Righty pitcher Rafi Gonell has stood out on the 'Claws' staff lately.  The 22-year-old Dominican has recorded a 3.24 ERA with a 9.0 K/9 mark over his last nine appearances.  Overall, opponents are hitting .179 in 14 games against Gonell.

-Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters (10-24 record, last place in New York-Penn League's Pinckney division)...

Speedy center fielder Corbin Williams leads the team in runs scored with 13 and is tops in the New York-Penn League in stolen bases with 18.  Overall in 27 games, the 21-year-old, who was the Phillies' 24th round pick last year, is batting .261.

Right-handed pitcher Tom Sutera possesses an incredible 27-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six games (three starts).  The 22-year-old has a 1-3 record with 2.29 ERA and a .269 batting average against.  Sutera was an undrafted free agent signed in summer 2018 by the Phils.

Catcher Juan Aparicio's .944 OPS leads the NYPL.  The 19-year-old Venezuela native is batting .337 with eight doubles, three triples and a homer along with 11 RBI in 27 games. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Ben Pelletier answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

Ben Pelletier, image- Jay Floyd
Recently, I talked with Class A Lakewood outfielder Ben Pelletier. The 20-year-old was the Phillies 34th round draft selection in 2015.

As a member of the BlueClaws this year, Pelletier has struggled a bit at the plate, sporting a .185 average with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 22 RBI in 74 games to date.

Overall in 216 professional games, the righty batting Quebec native has tallied a .252/.305/.401 slash line.

During out chat, which is available EXCLUSIVELY to Patreon members, Ben discussed coming up as a baseball player in Canada, how often people mispronounce his name, staples in his diet along with plenty more. Please check out this link to visit my Patreon page, support my work and enjoy the interview.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood RHP Andrew Schultz

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Andrew Schultz, image- Jay Floyd
Taken with the Phillies sixth round pick in this year's draft, righty reliever Andrew Schultz is off to a good start in his professional career.

The Tennessee product quickly signed with the Phillies last month and promptly made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League.  After putting his considerable velocity, which steadily clocks in the upper 90's, the organization promoted the six-foot-four 190-pounder to Class A Lakewood.

In 26 outings this year as a junior with the Vols, the 21-year-old tossed 25 innings, recording a 3-1 record, two saves, a 3.24 ERA and a 14.0 K/9 mark.

Outside of a troublesome debut with Lakewood, Schultz has looked impressive in the initial weeks of his professional career.

Recently, I spoke with Schultz about his rough debut with the BlueClaws, his notable fastball velocity, his draft experience and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-What was the draft experience like for you?  How did you get the news?  Were you watching it intently?

Yeah, yeah!  I was with some of my (college) teammates.  We were all watching together.  I had a decent idea of when (I would get picked).  So, I got together with a bunch of my teammates and watched it, so it was fun.

-What was the reaction from the guys around you when your selection comes up?  I imagine your heart rate goes up, maybe some adrenaline gets going for you, but what's their reaction?

I was definitely-- my heart rate was up, but I think they were more excited than I was, so it was cool.

-Did any of those other guys get drafted too?

Yeah, actually, we had a lot this year.  We had a really good team this year.  Garrett Stallings and Zach Lingenfelter, my two roommates actually.  They both got picked up, so it was pretty fun.

-Are you guys all keeping tabs on one another pretty closely from the different organizations now?

Yeah, we are still shooting texts back and forth, messing with each other, so...

-Any trash talking involved there?

No, no.  None of that.  Just good stuff.

-How has the experience been thus far?  Obviously, you go to Clearwater for a bit and you spend some time in the Gulf Coast League and then pretty quickly come here.  So, what has the few weeks been like for you?

It's been awesome.  Obviously, it's a little different than college.  There's a little learning curve but I'm getting out there, getting the hang of it and starting to feel better, so I'm enjoying it.

-I think you draw some attention for your velocity.  Does that excite you to see those radar gun readings the same as it excites the fans and maybe your teammates?

No.  The strikes excite me.  That's what I like.

-That's perfect.  You've had some good outings recently, but when you come out and have a rough debut (1/3 IP, 1H, 3BB, 4ER) and the control's not there, is that a lot of nerves for you, or something different?

No, we've been working on trying to keep a good rhythm, and I've felt better these past few outings.  The first one, obviously, was not very good, a lot of walks there.  But I've started to get in a little groove and I think it's going to be a lot better moving forward.

-What was the change there specifically?  What was it that took some getting used to, before you're good?

So, really like I just try to be quicker, because I've got a short arm action.  It's really quick and my arm moves fast, so I just try to be quick with the rest of my body.  Sometimes I'll get kind of slow with everything else, my arm kind of gets stuck, so I just try to keep that quick pace.

-What sort of impression do you have of your pitching coach Matt Hockenberry thus far?

That was actually his idea, talking about being quicker to the plate.  And I did it and immediately felt like I had better control that day.  I love talking to him, picking his brain.  And, obviously, he played and he's been through it, so he knows a lot of stuff.

-What is the vibe like with the team since you've been here?  Who are you rooming with?  Is there anybody here that you're close with?

I live with Tyler McKay and Michael Gomez.  Me and Gomez are real close.  We're right on top of each other in the room and we spend a lot of time together.  And, yeah, I'm good buddies with both of them.

-What's the night like after a day game and how do you spend your time away from the baseball field?

I think I may take a nap.  But with a little time off, maybe relax and just watch some TV.  Nothing too crazy.

-What are the normal hobbies for you?  Do you do video games or anything like that?

Yeah, I do play video games.  It's a good way to keep up with my roommates from school.  I play with them.

-What do you guys play?

Fortnite.

-Who rules?

Definitely me.

-Would they agree with that?

Yeah, for sure.

-Okay.  Let me go back to the draft day real quick.  You said you had, roughly, an idea of where you would be picked.  Were the Phillies a team that had been in touch, or did they come by surprise?

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