Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Addition of Qualls is Potentially Bad News

Today the Phillies announced the signing of RHP Chad Qualls to a one-year $1.15 million contract. Qualls, a 33-year-old reliever, who has 8 seasons of big league experience, most recently pitched with the Padres in 2011. With San Diego, Qualls posted a 6-8 record with a 3.51 ERA in 77 appearances.

However, in 2010, over 70 combined games with Arizona and Tampa Bay, Qualls struggled a considerable amount, as he sported a 3-4 record with a 7.32 ERA.

In 537 career outings, all in relief, Qualls, a University of Nevada, Reno product, has posted a 38-34 record with a 3.78 ERA and a .263 batting average against.

Generally, an inexpensive commitment for a veteran arm, even one with an up and down track record, isn’t something to be greatly concerned with, but considering the effect that Qualls’ presence could have on the future on the team as well as his career numbers at the Phillies’ home park this is not an acquisition that Philadelphia fans should be pleased with.

As PhilliesNation’s Corey Seidman points out, the presence of another veteran could stunt the progress of the younger, “homegrown” relievers, like Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus and Michael Schwimer, who the Phillies could/should be relying on in the near future. Along with Mike Stutes, last season’s star rookie out of the ‘pen, that group has what it takes to fill out a relief corp led by experienced hurlers such as Jonathan Papelbon, Jose Contreras, Kyle Kendrick and Dontrelle Willis.

In addition to that down side, there is Qualls’ horrendous statistical history in Philadelphia. In 13 career games at Citizens Bank Park, the former 2nd round draft pick by the Astros has posted a 2-2 record with 1 blown save and an 11.12 ERA. Worst of all is that fact that Qualls has allowed 7 homeruns in 11 1/3 career innings pitched at CBP. Those numbers certainly force one to wonder what the appeal of adding this sometimes serviceable talent could be.

With pitching becoming a strength of the team in recent years, it's alarming that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. would add a massive question mark like Qualls, who could interfere with the maturation of the highly touted arms the Phillies have on the rise.
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Prospect Nation 2012: #18 LHP Jake Diekman

Lefty reliever Jake Diekman raised his value a considerable amount in 2011. The 6-foot-4-inch 190-pounder was fresh off a dismal effort in the Arizona Fall League, over the off-season, when a revised focus and some simple adjustments to his loosening efforts breathed new life into the young hurler's pro career.

After struggling in the Arizona Fall League in 2010, when he allowed 12 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings over 5 outings, Diekman refocused his approach on the mound. Diekman entered the 2011 season with a goal of throwing all his pitches for strikes and getting into a hitter's mentality in order to mix up his approach toward the opposition. That approach helped the Phillies' 30th round draft choice from 2007 compete against hitters at the higher levels of the minors.

The 25-year-old Diekman sports a pitch repertoire that includes a fastball, a slider and a change up. In 2011, the Nebraska native added a couple notches of velocity after receiving advice from former Williamsport pitching coach Lance Carter, in spring training. The tip, lowering his arm angle when playing long toss, landed Diekman's fastball at 95 MPH on a regular basis. The increased speed helped Diekman in match ups against opposing batters, as he saw his K/9 rate shoot up from 9.05 in 2010 to 11.49 in 2011.

Overall, as a member of the Double-A Reading Phillies in 2011, Diekman had a strong season, posting a 0-1 record with 3 saves, a 3.05 ERA and a .199 batting average against in 53 games.

As a member of the 2009 South Atlantic League champion Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, Diekman sported a 2-0 record with a 4.04 ERA and a .266 batting average against in 32 games (2 starts). The following year, Diekman began the season back with Lakewood and was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater after going 2-0 with a 1.90 ERA and a .178 BAA in 21 relief outings. After his move upward in 2010, Diekman went 0-2 with a 3.66 and a .195 BAA ERA in 24 games.

As further evidence of his improvements as a pro recently, across three levels in his first two professional seasons, Diekman posted a 7-13 record and a 4.45 ERA with 142 strike outs in 194 1/3 innings.

Mentally, Diekman has displayed the ability to be tough and fearless on the mound. His focus going forward will be on consistency with his mechanics, especially with his arm angle, as he continues to strive toward the ultimate goal of pitching in the big leagues.

Headed into 2012, Diekman should get a good look with the big club in spring training and will likely begin the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. As inevitable injuries, that could effect many people's sports betting strategies, arise in the Phils' bullpen during the regular season, Diekman stands a very good chance at being a hurler that the team counts on to fill those voids and contribute.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Steve Noworyta Interview

Last week at the Phillies' winter banquet stop in Lakewood, NJ, I had the opportunity to chat with the team's assistant director of minor league operations Steve Noworyta. Among the developmental topics we discussed, he commented on a pair of players who have had disciplinary issues, namely Stephen Malcolm (sent home by the Phils for the full 2011 season) and Zach Collier (50 game suspension related to banned substances, beginning at the start of the 2012 season). I also asked Noworyta about the recent rookie developmental program in Philadelphia, lefty pitcher Jesse Biddle as well as last year's draft class.

To hear the full interview, including some unfortunate background noise, check out the media player below.



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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #19 3B Maikel Franco

Maikel Franco has quickly caught plenty of attention around minor league baseball. The Dominican Republic native, whose name is pronounced similarly to Miquel, was signed by the Phillies in 2010 as an amateur free agent.

The 6-foot-1-inch 180-pounder began his pro career with the Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2010. As that club’s everyday third baseman, Franco posted respectable numbers for a 17-year-old making his professional debut (.222/.292/.330). It was Franco’s defense, however, that immediately began to get him noticed. With excellent reflexes and a top notch arm at the hot corner, Franco impressed many in his U.S. debut.

A year later, Franco began the season in extended spring training and later competed with the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters. The righty hitting Franco looked great against NY-Penn League competition, posting 2 homers, 28 RBI and a .274/.339/.389 line in 42 games before earning a promotion to Class A Lakewood.

As an 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League, the baby-faced Franco struggled mightily. In 17 games for the BlueClaws, the Dominican born prospect went 8-for-67 (.123 avg) and racked up a weak .349 OPS. The Phillies realized Franco was over-matched and that he was growing discouraged, so he was re-assigned back to Williamsport, where he finished the season by batting .333 with 7 extra base hits and 10 RBI over his final 13 games with the Crosscutters.

One definite plus about Franco’s time with Lakewood was that he made no errors in those 17 games. However, striking out 15 times while walking only once for the 'Claws, compared to 30 K's and earning 25 free passes in 54 games for the 'Cutters screamed of Franco not being quite ready for the more experienced pitchers of the SAL.

With no career stolen base attempts in two pro seasons, speed is not a facet of Franco's game.

Mickey Morandini, who managed Franco with Williamsport in 2011 and will surely be reunited with him in Lakewood in 2012, as Morandini was promoted up a level this off-season, describes Franco as being relied on as a middle-of-the-lineup RBI guy. Morandini feels Franco projects as a power bat, as he fills out physically and climbs the developmental ladder.

Still very young, at 19 years of age until the end of August, Franco is in a great spot to land among the top tier of prospects if he can prove himself offensively at the full season Class A level this year.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Manuel Has Plans For Thome

This off-season the Phillies improved their offense quite a bit by adding multiple free agent reserve types. One of those acquisitions, Jim Thome, is a familiar face that made the man who is in charge of the team each game day extremely pleased.

Phils' manager Charlie Manuel knows what Jim Thome can do and looks forward to the type of contributions Thome will make on and off the field. Manuel coached and managed Thome during the 1990's and early-2000's in Cleveland, and then managed Thome again in Philadelphia in 2005.

Thome, who ranks 8th among MLB sluggers all-time in homeruns with 604, solidifies a Phillies bench that lacked power last year, especially from the left side.

Manuel, the most winning manager in team history, knew from Thome's days as an emerging power hitter, that the now 41-year-old would become an elite slugger in the sport.

"I've been around Jimmy about the first fifteen years of his career. I'll tell you something, when I look at him sometimes, for him to hit 600 homeruns, I never thought he would hit 600 homeruns. But, when he was young, and I used to sit and talk to John Hart and these guys, you know, the general manager and the assistant GM Danny O'Dowd, about what he was going to do, I used to say that he's gonna hit close to 500 homeruns. I used to definitely think that, if Thome was here, he'd tell you that," Manuel stated.

Locking up a guy that loves to play and that exudes a positive attitude at nearly all times is something that Manuel was very happy about this off-season. The Phils' skipper feel that Thome's presence, even on days off, will help the team on the field.

"Thome's a guy that can walk through our clubhouse and have (a positive) impact. And if he's not playing a game that day and he goes out and watches the game, other guys are gonna follow him. Things like that are what I look for. He's so upbeat and he gets along with everybody."

The Phillies have a plan in place to get Thome, who has played a total of 28 innings in the field since he left Philadelphia following the 2005 season, some time on defense at first base in minor league games, when the spring training schedule begins. After some time, Thome will be eased into some Grapefruit League games against big league competition.

Manuel feels that Thome can contribute a considerable amount in limited playing time this coming season, citing the veteran's experience as being beneficial toward adapting to new his reserve role.

"He's still got a good enough bat," Manuel stated. "In the last couple years, he's hit 40 homeruns...in about 500 at bats or something.

"If we can get him in a game a week, or two or something like that, I figure he'll get- I don't want to put a solid number on his at bats, but, I would say if he can get to 200, that'll give him plenty of time to stay sharp, and stuff, because I think he's experienced enough to know how to pinch hit now."

Accurate numbers for 6-foot-3-inch 250-pound Thome over the past couple of seasons are 40 homeruns in 553 at bats, but nevertheless, Manuel seems correct, as the potential Hall of Famer, Thome, has kept his productivity up while his playing time has dwindled. Add in his .269 batting average, 32 doubles and 109 RBI over that stretch, and it is clear that big Jim can still get it done at the plate.

After an August trade last year, the veteran of 21 major league seasons made a return to Cleveland, where his professional career began when the Indians drafted him in the 13th round of the 1989 amateur draft. The manner in which Thome returned to Philadelphia, which became his second pro organization when he signed there as a free agent in 2002, wasn't attributable to the opening left when All-Star first baseman Ryan Howard required achilles tendon surgery after the 2011 post season. According to Manuel it was more about both sides wanting to reunite for some time.

"I think the opening really didn't matter. Last year, we were trying to get him, like down toward the end (of the season), 'cause we wanted him to hit for us. But, he had to clear waivers and Cleveland is where he started his career and they picked him up. In some ways that was good for him, but when the season was over and he became a free agent, he had us in mind all along and Ryan getting hurt is something that had nothing to do with it."

It's a sure thing that the potential to win that elusive World Series ring helped rank steadily post-season bound Philadelphia high on Thome's list of desired destinations. If everyone involved has their way, jewelry will surely be in the big man's future.


Another key addition to the Phillies' roster this off-season was Jonathan Papelbon, who served as Boston's closer for six seasons. Manuel expressed additional excitement about the four-time All-Star solidifying the back end of his bullpen.

"He's a legit big time closer...a proven commodity. When I met him and I talked to him, he was, he gets real excited. He's really intense, he's ready to go. And it's good. I liked him before I ever met him, but at the same time, (now) I like him even more. I think he's gonna be great for our club, I think he's gonna go good in our bullpen, I think he's gonna be everything that we expect of him."

And in regards to the manner in which the Phillies may ease some ailing players into action this season, Manuel was candid and referenced a focus on light .

"We've got some regular players, especially the ones that's nursing injuries and things like that, we'll take it easy on those guys. We'll definitely monitor them and won't expect them to go out there right away and throw a big heavy workload on them."
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. Interview

This week, the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws hosted their annual Phillies banquet at the Woodlake Country Club in Lakewood, NJ. Prior to the event that raised money for BlueClaws charities, I had the opportunity to sit down with Philadelphia general manager to discuss various organizational subjects. Ruben spoke about the Wilson Valdez for Jeremy Horst trade, highly regarded pitching prospect Jesse Biddle, Domonic Brown's future, last year's draft class and plenty more.

Check out the media player below to listen to the full one-on-one interview with Ruben Amaro Jr.



To check out my previous interviews with Ruben, click HERE and HERE.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #20 RHP J.C. Ramirez

For more than two years, righty hurler J.C. Ramirez has been primed to become an impact prospect in the Phillies system, but inconsistency seems to be preventing the Nicaragua native from truly proving himself as a dependable talent.

Last season, Ramirez spent the entire season in the Double-A Reading Phillies’ starting rotation, where he got off to a scorching hot start in April, going 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA and a .187 batting average against in 4 starts, but his output fizzled quite a bit after that. Ramirez posted an overall record of 11-13, an ERA of 4.50 and .258 batting average against in 26 starts for the R-Phils. After the All-Star break, Ramirez struggled considerably, tallying a 5.92 ERA and a .305 BAA in 10 outings.

It’s possible the 23-year-old experienced fatigue, after he was initially thought to be fully recovered from off-season hip surgery. The wear and tear was rumored to have resulted in nagging discomfort that Ramirez decided to play through.

Regularly praised for his “stuff” by coaches, Ramirez rolls easily when things are going good, but he virtually crumbles when things don't go his way. Often open about his own lack of confidence in his pitches after rough outings, the 6-foot-3-inch 225-pounder's mental toughness is likely the quality most in need of development. The key is often for Ramirez to keep his pitches down in the zone. He runs into trouble when he fails to locate properly and then it snowballs from there.

With a two-seam fastball that steadily reaches the mid-90's, a slider with excellent control, and a change up that he uses to keep opposing batters honest, Ramirez has tools that continue to impress at times. After focusing on using his change up more in 2010, Ramirez worked on maintaining a steady release point with his slider in 2011.

After joining the Phillies, along with Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies as part of the Cliff Lee to Seattle trade, Ramirez posted a 7-7 record and a 4.82 ERA combined over 24 starts with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers and the R-Phils in 2010.

Ramirez, the product of a Cuban father and a Nicaraguan mother, says that he loves being able to learn from so many of the Phillies' highly regarded major league players. During spring training last year, Ramirez spent time with the big club and was able to talk pitching with Cliff Lee, the man he was once traded for, as well as Jose Contreras, who coached the youngster a bit. He was also able to bond closely with Chase Utley, who once had similar surgery to repair torn hip cartilage.

A year ago, it looked like Ramirez was on the fast track toward the big leagues. These days, it is clear that Ramirez needs a considerable amount of seasoning before he'll reach the big time. 2012 presents a great challenge for Ramirez to see if he can display a reliable steadiness that will help him climb the developmental ladder.

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This countdown is being published in conjunction with PhilliesNation.com. Click here for the index page for this countdown.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Brummett Commanding Attention in Venezuela

Righty hurler Tyson Brummett, who pitched with the Double-A Reading Phillies and Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs in 2011, has been a star on the mound for the Tiburones de La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League down the stretch. Recently, the UCLA product locked down a win that clinched a trip to the league championship series. In the outing, Brummett struck out nine batter while allowing just 1 run on 5 hits in 6 innings. The Tiburones will face off with the Tigres de Aragua in the best-of-seven title series.

Among Brummett’s K victims was former Philadelphia outfielder Endy Chavez, who struck out twice against the Phils’ 7th round draft pick from 2007.

In three regular season starts for the Tiburones, the 27-year-old Brummett posted a 1-0 record with a 1.59 ERA and a .195 batting average against.

The 6-foot 185-pounder was the starting pitcher for Reading's finale in the Eastern League playoffs when they fell in the deciding game to the eventual champion New Hampshire Fisher Cats. In five professional seasons, Brummett has posted a 21-41 record with a 4.74 ERA and 5 saves in 150 games (75 starts).

Brummett’s teammates in Venezuela include Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who has not allowed a run this winter in Venezuelan League play. Lefty pitcher Les Walrond, who posted a combined 1.80 ERA in 33 total games with Reading and Lehigh Valley in 2011 is also on the Tiburones roster.

The Venezuelan League finals begin Monday night in Maracay, Aragua.
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Prospect Nation 2012: #21 1B Cody Overbeck

Cody Overbeck has proven himself to be an impact slugger after slamming 48 total homeruns and driving in 154 runs across three levels of the Philadelphia developmental ranks from 2010-2011. Throughout his time in the Philadelphia system, Overbeck, who is regarded for his quick hands and his ability to drive the ball, has been valuable to every lineup he has swung a bat for.

Formerly a third baseman through his first three seasons in the minor leagues, Overbeck, a 6-foot-1-inch 200-pounder, dabbled in the outfield and was primarily a first baseman in 2011 with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The experience for Overbeck increased his versatility.

This past season, the right-handed hitting Overbeck wrecked Eastern League pitching to the tune of a .275 batting average, 18 HR and 46 RBI through 62 games with the Double-A Reading Phillies before he was promoted to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Under manager Ryne Sandberg, Overbeck had a slow start, but came back strong to help the the Pigs reach the post season. In 68 regular season games with Lehigh Valley, Overbeck batted .279, with 6 HR and 26 RBI. His power drop, after jumping levels in 2011, was evident, as his .532 slugging percentage with Reading looked far greater than his .416 slugging percentage with Lehigh.

The Tennessee native spent time this off-season playing in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a .321 batting average with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 1 homerun, 7 RBI and a .457 slugging percentage in 24 games. With the Scottsdale Scorpions, Overbeck spent time at first base and designated hitter.

Overbeck was named a Florida State League All-Star in 2010, as a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, when he sported a .302 average with 11 HR and 41 RBI in 58 games. He missed the actual All-Star game as he was promoted to Reading before he could take part in the annual exhibition. With Reading, he went on to bash 13 more homers and drive in 41 runs in 78 games.

In his first two seasons as a pro, with short-season A level Williamsport and High A Clearwater, Overbeck tallied 24 homeruns and a .249 batting average in 171 games.

Defensively, Overbeck was never highly regarded for his range at the hot corner, but he adapted rather quickly to changes in the field last year and seemed to be strong at first base and left field. For many guys with a bat that commands playing time, not being a liability in the field is key, but Overbeck was above average at first and could certainly improve further with more time there.

Originally a 9th round draft choice in 2008, the 25-year-old Overbeck heads into a season on the verge of crossing into the Matt Rizzotti zone, as an older prospect with a great list of minor league accomplishments who the organization simply doesn't have full confidence in to provide a shot at the big leagues. Less than favorable for the University of Mississippi product are the additions of players like Laynce Nix and Ty Wigginton, who have plenty of big league experience at the positions where Overbeck has played.

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2012 Countdown thus far...
#22- David Buchanan
#23- Garett Claypool
#24- Cameron Rupp
#25- Austin Wright & Aaron Altherr (tie)

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #22 RHP David Buchanan

Righty hurler David Buchanan has proven himself as a guy on the fast track upward in the developmental ranks. The 22-year-old ripped through Class A South Atlantic League competition, leading his manager, former big leaguer Chris Truby to describe him as "the most consistent pitcher in the league".

The Lakewood BlueClaws' horse became the starting pitcher for the SAL Northern Division All-Star team in 2011. In 20 starts, Buchanan went 11-5 with a 3.38 ERA and a .246 batting average against with Lakewood before being promoted for the final month of the season. As a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Buchanan posted considerable numbers through his first five outings, sporting a 3-1 record with a 3.07 ERA. A weak final start to his 2011 campaign (4 ER, 8 hits, 3 innings) largely effected his Clearwater stats.

The 6-foot-3-inch 190-pounder used his sweeping delivery and an arsenal of a fastball that registers in the low-90's, a developing slider and a solid sinker to tally strong stats in his first full professional season. The sinking two-seamer helps him live up to the billing of being a ground ball pitcher, something that could prove valuable as he moves up the developmental ranks.

The modest Georgia native attributes his promising success to date to his coaches, other Phillies instructors as well as the defense that plays behind him during each outing.

Selected by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 2010 amateur draft, the man jokingly referred as "Buck Nasty" by his teammates made his pro debut that same year as a member of the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters. He posted a 3-1 record with a 4.21 ERA in 13 starts. His questionable control at that level (30 strike outs/23 walks in 62 innings) led to some necessary adjustments to his delivery. As Buchanan showed tendencies to get ahead of himself, rush through his motions and to over-analyze situations, Lakewood pitching coach Steve Schrenk would often stress the need for the youngster to slow things down on the mound and to pitch with a clean mental slate. That focus resulted in a much improved strike out to walk ratio (110 strike outs/43 walks in 157 1/3 innings) at two levels last year.

Growing up as a Braves fan, Buchanan was a major fan of pitchers like John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. These days, he's most impressed by a hurler in the Phillies organization that he hopes to share a locker room with some day...Roy Halladay.

Buchanan was originally selected by the Mets in the 6th round of the 2009 draft, but chose not to sign. Instead, he transferred from Chipola Junior College in Florida to Georgia State University, where he became that school's highest drafted baseball player ever.

Looking forward to 2012, Buchanan could benefit from a full season with Clearwater in the Florida State League, where he'll be reunited with promoted skipper Truby and strive to impress organizational brass once again. Buchanan projects as a finesse starter at higher levels. Progress will determine how far up the ladder he goes.

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2012 Countdown thus far...
#23- Garett Claypool
#24- Cameron Rupp
#25- Austin Wright & Aaron Altherr (tie)

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Nearly Recovered, d'Arnaud Looks Forward

The following piece originally appeared on one of my other internet homes, 1BlueJaysWay.

Back in October, we reported on a thumb injury that top Blue Jays prospect Travis d'Arnaud suffered while competing with Team USA. The reigning Eastern League Most Valuable Player felt a pop after "catching a ball wrong". The 22-year-old was soon diagnosed with a ligament tear in his thumb.

d'Arnaud, who was acquired from the Phillies in 2009 as part of the Roy Halladay trade, required surgery and has been rehabbing the repaired hand ever since, to get ready for the upcoming season.

According to the All-Star catcher he'll be ready for spring training and doesn't expect to miss a beat in 2012.

"My hand feels great," d'Arnaud said. "Rehab went well. I went to (the Sports Medicine Institute) in Anaheim, California and went for about two months of rehab. My thumb feels normal. Now, I just need to get accustomed to catching bullpens and such."

d'Arnaud was Philadelphia's supplemental first round draft choice (37th overall) in 2007.

En route to helping the Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats lock down the EL championship, in 2011, d'Arnaud posted a .311 batting average with 33 doubles, 21 homeruns, 78 RBI and a league leading .542 slugging percentage.

The southern California native is already focused beyond recovery, as he's looking forward to having another big offensive year with hopes of more championship hardware.

"I'm feeling amazing and ready for the season to begin."
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #23 RHP Garett Claypool

Right-handed pitcher Garett Claypool is a UCLA product that was selected in the 11th round of the 2010 draft by the Phillies. The 6-foot-2-inch 175-pounder broke out, in 2011, with an All-Star campaign for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

Armed with a fastball that ranges from 90-92 MPH, a strong slider which he uses to put hitters away, as well as a curve ball and a change up that are definitely improving, Claypool ranked in the top 10 among South Atlantic League pitchers in several key statistical categories. His ERA (3.47) ranked 8th, and he was tops in strike outs (151). That dominance is even more impressive considering he was 21 K's ahead of the next highest total while only having the 11th highest innings pitched total (137 1/3) in the league.

According to Claypool himself, the key to his success has been getting ahead of opposing batters by targeting both sides of the plate with his fastball. He also utilizes a bit of deception with his front side, as he winds up, which enables him to hide the ball longer.

Some baseball heads describe this hurler, who grew up idolizing pitchers Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, as having a limited ceiling based on scouting reports on his secondary pitches, but Claypool's dominance should not be ignored, even considering that he was 22-years-old last season, facing plenty of younger SAL competition.

In a May start against the Nationals affiliate Hagerstown Suns, Claypool was strong, affirming that he is a formidable young pitcher by shutting down one of baseball's top prospects, Bryce Harper, on strikes, two consecutive times. However, Harper figured out Claypool's approach in those at bats and proved why he is so highly regarded by slugging a solo homerun on the first pitch of his third at bat against the Lakewood ace.

In 2010, his first pro season, Claypool was assigned to the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters and posted a 3-3 record with a 3.18 ERA and 45 strike outs in 34 innings over 12 games (4 starts). From there, Claypool began the 2011 season in the Lakewood bullpen before moving to the rotation after 4 relief outings.

The Woodland Hills, CA resident feels more comfortable as a starter, as the routine of going once every five days appeals to him. However, Claypool is clear when he states that as long as he is getting opportunities to pitch, he is pleased to be on the mound.

The 23-year-old Claypool was originally drafted in the 34th round in 2009 by Oakland, but chose to return to school, with hopes of getting drafted higher the next year. That worked out well.

Very likely to begin his 2012 season with Class A Advanced Clearwater, Claypool could be on the fast track to reach Double A Reading by mid-season. This youngster strikes me as a Mike Stutes type...a guy with a wide repertoire as a starter, who could later reduce his arsenal with a move to the bullpen and contribute in a big way with his most refined offerings. In fact, Stutes skipped Clearwater completely in 2009. Could Claypool do the same this year?
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Phillies Prospects Take in Sixers Game

Each January, big league organizations bring several of their brightest prospects to their home city in order to provide the youngsters with a crash course on life at the Major League level. It is known as the MLB Rookie Career Development Program.

As a way for the players to witness a live Philadelphia crowd first-hand, the Phillies provided tickets for Wednesday night's Sixers overtime loss to Denver for several of their young talents. Outfielder Jiwan James shot the video featured below of infielder Cesar Hernandez, righty pitcher Julio Rodriguez and catcher Sebastian Valle (in order, left to right) cheering for the hometown team and banging their thunder sticks.



Other players in attendance for the program include right-handed hurlers Trevor May, Jonathan Pettibone and Phillippe Aumont.

Each of the players named in this post will be included in the currently-in-progress 2012 Top 25 Phillies Prospects countdown. Check back here in the coming weeks to see where each player lands in these annual rankings.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Phillies, Hamels Agree to 1 Year Deal

Avoiding arbitration, the Phillies and left-handed hurler Cole Hamels have agreed on a one-year contract worth $15 million, as reported by multiple sources on Tuesday. The deal sets a record as the highest salary paid to an arbitration-eligible pitcher prior to him reaching free agency. The previous record was the $12.4 million that the Chicago Cubs paid Carlos Zambrano in 2007.

Incentive bonuses in Hamels’ new deal include $100,000 for being named National League Most Valuable Player, $250,000 for the NL Cy Young Award, $100,000 for World Series MVP and $50,000 for each of the following- League Championship Series MVP, Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award, and an All-Star selection.

Hamels is a two-time All-Star and was named MVP of the 2008 World Series when he led the Phillies to their second ever championship.

In his career, the 28-year-old Hamels has posted a 74-54 record with a 3.39 ERA and a .237 batting average against in 181 games.

In 2011, the California native sported career bests in ERA (2.79), WHIP (0.99), batting average against (.214) and complete games (3) as he helped the Phillies lock down their fifth consecutive NL East division title.

On deck for the Phils and Hamels would be a long term contract, but fans should not expect that announcement to come soon. The one-year pact is a positive sign, however, as preliminary talks on such an agreement did not pan out when the parties involved reportedly discussed the matter last season, and an arbitration case that would have forced the two sides to do battle would surely have further worn down the relationship.

In addition to the Hamels signing, the Phillies have also come to terms with infielder Wilson Valdez on a one-year contract worth $930,000, according the MLB.com.

Hunter Pence remains as Philadelphia’s only player eligible for arbitration.

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Image- SI

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Prospect Nation 2012: #24- Catcher Cameron Rupp

A blazing hot second half of his 2011 season solidified a spot on this list for catching prospect Cameron Rupp. Following a feeble opening half last season in which he sported a .219 batting average with 2 homeruns and 13 RBI in 48 games, Rupp exploded after the All-Star break, batting .318 with 2 homeruns and 31 RBI in 51 games.

Selected in the 3rd round of the 2010 amateur draft out of the University of Texas, Rupp made his professional debut with the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters that season. In 55 games in 2010, Rupp posted a .218 batting average with 5 homeruns and 28 RBI against NY-Penn League competition.

Praised for his work ethic on defense, his strong throwing arm, his solid footwork and especially for his ability to lead, Rupp is quickly becoming the complete package on that side of the game.

Last season, the 6-foot-2-inch 230-pound Rupp helped a developing collection of young pitchers like David Buchanan, Garett Claypool and Lisalberto Bonilla make their marks in a tough South Atlantic League. Each of those hurlers were named as All-Stars, but each attributed credit to their battery mate for guiding them to such heights.

The 23-year-old Plano, TX native was perhaps a victim of a heavy workload at times during 2011, due to injuries suffered by his back ups, Jeff Lanning and Torre Langley. In leagues where pitchers and other position players get days off and/or certain amounts of down time, catchers are counted on to work with pitchers for their side sessions daily, before batting practice and other team activities. Rupp finally adapted to the daily grind in the latter portion of his first full season in the minors.

Confidence was the biggest key for Rupp, although, according to Lakewood hitting coach Greg Legg, he did tweak his offensive approach a shade, after his early season struggles. Throughout last summer, Rupp and Legg worked closely together, shortening his swing and improving his load. On top of those minor adjustments, Rupp's focus at the plate became more sharp. All of that translated into a string of success that snowballed and helped Rupp raise his season OPS 87 points in the second half of the season.

Look for Rupp, whose father Kevin pitched in the Montreal organization during his playing days in the 1970's, to begin the season with Class A Advanced Clearwater in 2012. Clearly positioned behind highly-regarded catching prospect Sebastian Valle, on the organization's developmental rankings, Rupp will get every opportunity to shine, as he tries to play catch up to the talented Mexican that is twenty-two months his junior.

If his hitting can follow the other facets of his game and improve to impressive levels, Rupp will be a prospect that other teams come calling for this summer.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: #25- LHP Austin Wright & OF Aaron Altherr

It just so happens that this year's list of top 25 Phillies prospects includes 26 deserving talents. As a result, we have a pair of individuals that simply can't be left off of these annual rankings brought to you by PhoulBallz.com and PhilliesNation.com. Two men tied for the number 25 spot on our list.

Austin Wright, an 8th round draft selection last year, prevailed as a tremendous talent in his few short months of professional baseball. The 6-foot-4-inch 235-pound left-hander was a JuCo standout and later transferred to Ole Miss, where he lived up to his parents' dreams of him pitching in the Southeastern Conference.

Previously selected in the 23rd round by the Boston Red Sox in 2010, Wright chose not to sign at that time.

Wright, an Illinois native that grew up as a Cubs fan, idolizing impressive pitchers such as Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, capitalized on a strong confidence in his own abilities and improving control to sport a 4-3 overall record, a 3.03 ERA and a .234 batting average against in 15 games (14 starts) between short-season Williamsport and Class A Lakewood.

Hefty strike out totals helped Wright stand out in 2011, as he K'd 85 opponents in 68 1/3 innings pitched.

The 22-year-old's arsenal includes a low-90's fastball (clocked 91-92 late in the season, but college reports had him a shade higher), a big time curve ball that has impressed many within the system, a slider and a change up. Phillies developmental coaches will likely tinker with Wright's secondary pitches in an effort to find what works best for him against pro competition.

Wright describes his fastball command as his own key strength, stating that his ability to get ahead of batters gives him the advantage on the field.

If Wright continues to progress, he should be ranked much higher on this list next year.


Aaron Altherr is a 21-year-old who was picked in the 9th round of the 2009 amateur draft.

A righty hitting outfielder that stands 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs around 195 pounds, Altherr was a fast rising youngster in the Phils' developmental ranks a year ago, as he was ranked as a top 10 prospect in the Philadelphia organization by Baseball America. However, a lackluster 2011 campaign certainly dropped his stock in many people's eyes.

Altherr was the starting center fielder for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws in the South Atlantic League to begin the season, but after 41 games and some unimpressive numbers (.211 avg, 1 HR, 15 RBI), he was demoted to short-season Williamsport when that club came north to begin its season in June. Altherr was not discouraged, however, as he used the reassignment to up his focus and get back on track.

With the Crosscutters last season, Altherr earned himself a spot as a NY-Penn League All-Star, posting a .260 average with 5 HR and 31 RBI in 71 games.

Overall in 3 seasons in the Phillies' developmental ranks, Altherr has posted a .255/.304/.354 line.

The best part of Altherr's game has clearly been his speed. He has been tremendous on the base paths, as proven by his 90% success rate in stolen base attempts (37 for 41) during the 2011 season.

Altherr, who was born in Germany to a military family, played shortstop and was a premiere pitcher as a high schooler, but was repositioned to the outfield once he began his career in the Phillies organization.

The very athletic Altherr displays excellent range in the outfield. With a solid arm and great instincts, he has the ability to develop the defensive side of his game to an elite level.

Expect Altherr to get another shot at beginning the season with Lakewood in 2012. As a fourth-year pro, it will be crucial for Altherr to show some serious offensive improvements and establish himself as being worthy of the high praise that has been tossed his way by national outlets.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Prospect Nation 2012: The Prelude

It's time once again for everybody to come aboard the PROSPECT TRAIN!

With just over five weeks until pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, FL to officially kick off spring training, we'll be spending this time reviewing our exclusive rankings of the top 25 prospects in the Phillies' organization. Taken into consideration when reviewing these young talents will be age, minor league performance relative to levels played, value to the organization and future potential.

Gradually, over the comings weeks, as we approach a new season with hopes higher than Snoop Dogg on his marijuana stocked tour bus, we will be unveiling player reviews for all of the best developmental talent that Phils fans should be familiar with.

These rankings will not include players over 25-years-old or individuals that have spent multiple stints with the Phillies at the big league level. Thus, players like Domonic Brown, Joe Savery and Matt Rizzotti will not be featured.

Some terrifically talented young players did not make the cut simply because other individuals ranked higher. Included in the group that fell short of making this year's top 25 list are a former supplemental round draft pick, outfielder Zach Collier, 2011 second round draft choice infielder Roman Quinn and righty hurler Eric Pettis.

Additionally, some players from last year's rankings won't appear on this list for a few reasons. Some have left the organization, one graduated to the big league club and a couple have advanced beyond the newly imposed 25-year age limit. Others fell off the list simply because they haven't proven themselves worthy of holding down their spots. Those players are former second round pick Kelly Dugan and outfielder Leandro Castro.

Collier, who missed the entire 2010 season with multiple injuries, had a solid return campaign in 2011 in his second stint with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. The Phillies' supplemental round pick from the 2008 draft, batted .255 with 1 HR, 36 RBI, 50 runs scored and 35 stolen bases in 112 games this past season, but in early September news broke that the 21-year-old Collier had tested positive for amphetamines. He will have to serve a 50-game suspension at the start of the 2012 season.

Quinn, a speedy infield prospect, spent time around the Phils' Gulf Coast League club in the latter portion of the 2011 minor league season, after he signed his first professional contract, but has yet to see action in an official minor league game. The shortstop is well-hyped and I simply want to review some game stats or to see him in action before he cracks this list. Quinn agreed to sign out of high school with the Phillies for $775,000.

Pettis was a 35th round draft choice out of UC Irvine in 2010 and has proven to be quite the late round steal. In two seasons with the Philadelphia organization, Pettis has posted a 10-3 record with 12 saves and a 2.17 ERA in 67 games (62 in relief) while striking out 122 batters and walking just 24 in 128 2/3 innings. Pettis, 23, should surely see action during the 2012 season with the Double-A Reading Phillies and is poised to force his way onto this list at any time. A weak second half in which Pettis sported a 5.54 ERA over his final 21 outings effected his consideration for this list.

Dugan, who was selected by the Phillies in the second round of the 2009 draft, was an All-Star in the short-season NY Penn League in 2011, but a failure to reach the Class A full-season level, in his third year as a pro, downgraded him a bit in regards to this list. Son of Hollywood director Dennis Dugan, Kelly posted a .284/.343/.386 line in 47 games for Williamsport last season. The 21-year-old spent a considerable amount of time at first base during 2011 spring training, as the Phillies tried to enhance the outfielder's versatility, but he only notched 5 games there last season. Consider Dugan a lock to play with Class A Lakewood in 2012.

The Dominican-born Castro may still be a dancing machine, but an injury limited him to just 56 games in 2011. The outfielder sported a .277 batting average and a .785 OPS with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, but is likely to return to the Florida State League to begin the 2012 season due to missing time last year. Castro, 22, has the tools to make a solid impact and simply needs to stay healthy in order to rise back upward in the organizational prospect ranks.

In the coming weeks, check back here regularly as I unveil how bright the Phils' future is with the newest list of the top 25 ranked prospects within the Philadelphia organization, one by one.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Romero Settlement "Validates" Phils' Title

Back in 2008, Phillies lefty reliever J.C. Romero tested positive for banned substances and was subsequently suspended for the first 50 games of the 2009 season. Some felt the findings in Romero's test tainted the World Series victory by Philadelphia that year. Romero contested that he had only used supplements purchased at local vitamin chains and the companies responsible for those items should be held accountable for mislabeling their products.

Romero took his issues to court, filing lawsuits in New Jersey Superior Court in early 2009 that named GNC and Vitamin Shoppe as defendants in addition to the manufacturing companies, Ergopharm and Proviant Technologies. According to the NY Daily News, testing done on the vitamins revealed that they were tainted with the banned substance, androstenedione, that Romero tested positive for. This month, nearly three years later, Romero has reached a settlement, which Romero hopes will clear his name and provide closure for Philadelphia fans. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The 35-year-old recently signed with the reigning World Series champs, the St. Louis Cardinals, but the man who got the "W" in two of the Phillies' four 2008 World Series victories clearly still has a soft spot for the city in which he experienced his best days, as he still has great concern for the validity of the club's second ever championship.

"The amount of money (in the settlement) isn't relevant," Romero told the Daily News this week. "What is relevant is that people know my side. Some fans questioned my integrity. Now there is some closure and I can say the 2008 World Series was legit."

In parts of 5 seasons with the Phillies, Romero went 6-6 with a 2.73 ERA and 4 saves in 273 regular season games. In 13 career post season games with Philadelphia, Romero posted a 2-1 record with a 0.87 ERA. The Puerto Rican born hurler was originally a 27th round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1997.

In 2009, as Romero pitched in the minors to get ready for his late start to the regular season, forced by the suspension, he offered these exclusive thoughts to PhoulBallz.com, when I asked him about the status of efforts to clear his name...

"We're still in a battle, man. We got a couple law suits going out there. The whole thing has been a mess from the day that it happened. And the sad thing is that, knowing that everybody knows my case is totally different to what is happening with a good friend of mine, Manny (Ramirez), what happened with A-Rod, and all that. But, ya' know, life is not fair. Sometimes things happen in life, and you can't even explain it, you can't expect it, I mean things happen, so this is just a bump in the road. You have to keep your head up and keep on battling.

"Like I say many times, and I stick with it- in the end, you gotta really protect your career. And that's the message that I'm trying to tell these kids (the minor leaguers)...there's no union, there's no MLB representative, commissioner...nobody's going to protect your career. You gotta do it yourself. 'Cause when everything's said and done, you get suspended and you're just by yourself. I learned that the hard way, and now I'm just moving forward."

With all the legal matters behind him, and with the ability to truly move on, at long last, Romero also stated where his full focus will now be.

"Now I can focus on dominating for another five years, hopefully," Romero told the Daily News.

Now that Romero's a member of the team that stunningly eliminated the Phils from the 2011 postseason, I don't think there are many Phillies fans that would care to see that happen....no matter how much love for their city he oozes.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Larkin Named to Hall of Fame

On Monday, the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced that former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin has been voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The 12-time All-Star was chosen on 495 of 573 ballots (86%), well above the necessary 75 percent.

This year marked Larkin's third time on the ballot. He fell 75 votes short of making it into the Hall last year.

Larkin, who was named National League MVP in 1995, will be inducted July 22nd in Cooperstown, NY along with the late Ron Santo, who was elected by the Veterans Committee.

Over his 19-year career with the Reds, Larkin posted a .295 average along with with 198 HR, 960 RBI, 2,340 hits, 1,329 runs scored and 379 stolen bases.

I don't wish to debate Larkin's place in history or his worthiness for votes, however, it is likely that the nine-time Silver Slugger Award winner and three-time Gold Glove Award winner, received a boost from voters thanks to the limited options available for induction this year. Truth be told, with all due respect to Santo, it is better for business in Cooperstown if there is an actual player, who was voted in, to be inducted into the Hall. The sense of urgency is evidenced by Larkin's 134 vote jump over his 2011 total.

Celebrating more players makes the induction weekend feel more complete in many aspects. Rest assured that this concept is considered by the voting writers, who must cover the stories surrounding each year's Hall of Fame class, including voting results as well as the ceremonies. There are not many of them that would wish to write about how they all dropped the ball by leaving deserving guys on the shelf and they certainly wouldn't want to have to create stories without a living inductee to quote, when July comes around.

It seems as though in recent years there have been other instances when a player made the cut as the best available guy "on the bubble" (see Burt Blylevin, 2011 and Jim Rice, 2009).

Pitcher Jack Morris fell short with just 67% of votes this year. Morris, who pitched with Detroit, Toronto, Minnesota and Cleveland, recorded the most wins of any hurler in the 1980's. In addition, slugger Jeff Bagwell was named on 56% of submitted ballots, while reliever Lee Smith was the only other player on more than half (50.6%) of the ballots this year.

Next year's vote will prove much more interesting with the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling all eligible for the first time.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Off-Season Check In: Austin Hyatt

Throughout the autumn and winter months, I have been checking in with various Phillies minor league players to inquire about how they try to maintain their baseball acumen during the long, drawn-out off-season. This edition features 2009's 15th round draft selection, righty pitcher Austin Hyatt.

As a member of the Double-A Reading Phillies in 2011, the 25-year-old Hyatt was named an Eastern League All-Star as he sported a 12-6 record with a 3.85 ERA while striking out 171 batters in 154 1/3 innings. As solid as Hyatt's stats seem over his 28 starts, he really turned things on after the All-Star break, going 5-1 with a 2.78 ERA and a .221 batting average against.

The 6-foot-3-inch 205-pounder took some time to answer some questions, from his home in Georgia this week, about his off-season routine, his goals for the upcoming season and more. Read ahead to check out what Austin had to say.


-How much time off do you take from throwing during the off-season and what's your routine like...anything new added to your work outs?

After the season I took off from throwing till about the week before Christmas. I started light, going about twice a week, and I've started to pick it up to about three to four times a week now and I've started to work some long toss in.

I've kind of stuck with the same formula (as past off-seasons) with at-home exercises then working up to throwing.


-Obviously, for throwing, you'd need help to get it shape. Who do you partner up with, for your long tosses and throwing sessions?

I have a couple friends that live in the area that I went to high school with and played high school ball with. And mostly I throw with my brother, Jared, who played baseball at Georgia Tech and played in the minors for a couple years with the Texas Rangers. He's definitely a good throwing partner. It's good to have someone who can keep up with you.


-I've spoken with other guys who hold down a job over the off-season to make ends meet. Are you currently employed?

No, I don't have a job right now. But, it's funny, last off-season my brother and I bought a house and we renovated it. Kind of like "Flip This House" and it turned out to be pretty expensive and it took a lot more work than we anticipated. We worked from 8 in the morning till after 6 at night and it was kind of a busy, hectic schedule.

This off-season, not having a job is kind of nice. It allows me more time to focus on work outs and having time to throw more often and focus on getting in better shape.


-Last season with the great second half and the Eastern League All-Star nod, you really had a remarkable year. What are your biggest goals heading into 2012?

I just want to keep it up. I would like to be, hopefully, in (Triple-A) Lehigh Valley. I just want to build off last year and keep winning games. What I focused on last year was developing a slider and continuing to throw my change up like I have the past couple years. I feel like I did that and I just want to keep building off of that. The strides I made last year in Reading will hopefully carry over with Lehigh.


-Last season with Reading you were managed by former big leaguer Mark Parent, who took a job as a big league bench coach with the White Sox this off-season. Potentially, when you take that next step, to Lehigh Valley, the skipper there is Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. Do you look forward to being mentored by another former big leaguer and a legend in his own respect?

Yeah, absolutely. I've heard nothing but good things about him and it would be an honor to be able to play for him. Those guys have so much experience and have been around the game so long that they have so much knowledge to teach the players coming up through the minors.

I learned a lot from Parent in regards to how you play the game and how to conduct yourself in the club house and everything- on and off the field. It was really good getting to know him and I'm really happy for him to be going to a big league job, like everyone expected that he would be.


-Lastly, I just wanted to check and see if you have a departure date set to head down to spring training in Clearwater, FL.

Well, I don't know exactly when yet. I was invited to big league camp and that begins, I believe, the second week of February. And if I'm not mistaken (the Phillies) said they're going to send me information on that in the next couple of weeks probably.

But, even before that, we have a mini camp on January 22nd. So, I'll be going down for a 5-day camp on the 22nd. I'll go down there for that, come back here (to Atlanta) for a couple weeks, then go back down (to Clearwater).

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

South Jersey's Bailey to Host CHOP Benefit

Boston Red Sox pitcher Andrew Bailey, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, the Phillie Phanatic, former Phillies Ricky Bottalico and Mitch Williams, as well as former Eagle Vince Papale and legendary World Wrestling Entertainment ring announcer Howard Finkel all in the same place? Yes, that's happening.

This Saturday, January 7th, All-Star hurler Bailey, along with his wife Amanda, will host the Bailey Bowl, a charity bowling event for the Strike 3 Foundation set to raise money for the Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and pediatric cancer research. The bowl-a-rama is set to take place at 7 p.m. at the Pinsetter Bar and Bowl on Maple Avenue in Pennsauken, NJ. Admission to the event is $175 at the door.

Bailey, a right-handed closer, was born in nearby Voorhees and attended Paul VI High School in Haddonfield. The three-year big league veteran was traded from Oakland to Boston last week in a 5-player deal.

Sponsors of the Bailey Bowl include Joe Canal's Liquor, Wilson, Playstation, Porsche of the Main Line, Topps and Hess Winery.

Finkel, a WWE Hall of Famer, is slated to serve as master of ceremonies for the event. Papale, Bottalico, Williams, Valentine and other sports figures will be on hand to bowl and mingle with those in attendance.

For more information on The Strike 3 Foundation's Bailey Bowl, call 856-665-3377. If you are unable to attend and would like to donate anyway, visit this link.

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Sandberg, Wathan & Morandini Set For Winter Tour

Two Phillies developmental managers are set to make stops at their new homes and a Hall of Famer will be in the house, when the organization's winter tour stops come through the region later this month.

On Tuesday, the Reading Phillies (Class Double-A) and the Lakewood BlueClaws (Class A) announced a trio of additions to their lineups for the 2012 Phillies Winter Banquet tour stops. Baseball great Ryne Sandberg and first year Reading manager Dusty Wathan (pictured) have been added to the banquet in Reading on Tuesday, January 24th at The Crowne Plaza Reading Hotel.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed that new BlueClaws skipper Mickey Morandini will join the lineup of featured guests at the banquet event in Lakewood on Wednesday, January 25th.

Sandberg, Wathan and Morandini were all Phillies on the field during their playing days but have now proven to be top managerial prospects in the Phils' system.

Wathan and Morandini were each promoted up one level this off-season.

The 38-year-old Wathan led Class A Advanced Clearwater to a 75-63 record and a third place finish in the Florida State League North Division in 2011. Wathan led Lakewood to a league championship in 2009.

After managing the Phillies' extended spring training squad, Morandini, 45, led the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters to a 43-33 record and a second place finish in the NY-Penn League's Pinckney Division. Last year marked Morandini's first season as a professional manager.

According to a press release, tickets for the Reading banquet are $65 each or $600 for a 10-person table, and can currently be purchased in person at the R-Phils ticket office or by phone at 610-370-BALL. The banquet starts with a cocktail hour at 5:30 pm, followed by dinner at 6:30 pm. Proceeds from the event benefit Reading Phillies Baseballtown Charities, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children who don’t have the resources to play baseball. Phils television broadcaster Tom McCarthy will also be in attendance at the Reading event, while general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is scheduled to be on hand for both events. Additionally, the R-Phils announced on Thursday that former Phillies player and manager Larry Bowa will be in attendance for the banquet as well. Bowa played for Reading during his minor league days.


Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is also slated to appear in Lakewood. All proceeds from the 7 pm event at Woodlake Country Club, which includes a sit-down dinner, dessert, and coffee, will benefit BlueClaws Charities. Tickets are just $40 and space is limited. To reserve a spot, please call 732-901-7000 ext 172 or email ademichele@blueclaws.com.


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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Year in Review: Top Posts From 2011

As a review of the year that has just passed, I thought of taking a look at the most viewed material that this site produced during 2011. Generally, the most popular draws for PhoulBallz.com are interviews, and while those appear on the list multiple times, it was prospect reviews, some exclusive insider tips and a one dose of misinformation that filled out the remainder of the top ten.

Have a look at the list of 2011's most popular entries from the site...


10- Phillies pitchers press conference. Prior to the season, everyone around the baseball world was excited about the Phils' staff of ace hurlers. Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton all sat down with the media and PhoulBallz posted the highlights.

9- Phils prospect Malcolm sent home. Infielder Stephen Malcolm was suspended for misconduct during spring training and PhoulBallz had details on the story when no one else did.

8- Wing Bowl 19 images. Simply put...I took some pictures at Wing Bowl and posted a few that were Phillies themed. Folks searching for more adult themed images of the event pushed the numbers on this post upward.

7- Gillies focused on bounce back year. Just a few weeks ago, I checked in with Phils prospect Tyson Gillies, who has dealt with many injury concerns since joining the organization. The Canadian outfielder discussed his rehab work and more.

6- Interview with IronPigs manager Ryne Sandberg. For the second consecutive season, PhoulBallz delivered an exclusive Q&A with a Hall of Famer (Andre Dawson was the other in 2010).

5- Domonic Brown's progress and post-injury batting stance update. Friend of PhoulBallz, photographer Joe Wombough, provided an exclusive look at Brown's stance as he rehabbed his broken hamate bone.

4- Ruben Amaro Jr. interview excerpts. For the second straight year, PhoulBallz.com brought you an exclusive Q&A with the Phils' general manager.

3- Mike Stutes' Twitter explosion results in consequences for Scott Mathieson. Another site published false info about Mathieson and I was silly enough to cite their info in a late night post before I tried to confirm the information with the player himself. People like a good story, I suppose.

2- Travis d'Arnaud has high hopes. This was a feature on the former Phillies prospect's Eastern League MVP season with the league champion New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

1- Checking in on the return for Cliff Lee. This piece reviewed the prospects that the Phillies got in return for Lee when they traded him to Seattle.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Red Pinstripe Resolutions

Over on one of my other internet homes, PhilliesNation.com, top guy Pat Gallen surveyed the contributors of that site for New Year's resolutions pertaining to the Phillies. Included were several interesting points of view including concerns related to Charlie Manuel, Placido Polanco and Cole Hamels. Read ahead for my thoughts on this roundtable subject...


My resolution is for the fans. To the Philadelphia faithful that sell out the Phillies' home park on a daily basis, stop acting a fool. Many members of the fan base despise the manner in which they are depicted by the national media and while pointing out how other city's ticket holders don't get generalized in the same fashion, however the Philadelphia region's fans have continued to fail themselves in recent years.

We're all familiar with the events when individuals who lacked good judgement, while in attendance at Citizens Bank Park, caused mischief, violated others or took violence to the ultimate level. There was even the incident when a senior citizen was the victim of a hit and run as he exited a game.

I certainly accept the outlook of "don't let one bad apple spoil the bunch", but when The City of Brotherly Love feeds that media hate that they disagree with so much, even on an infrequent basis, breaking down that bad reputation only lies in their own hands.


To read the New Year's resolution ideas from the other Phillies Nation writers, click this link.

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