Thursday, February 28, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #6 RHP Jonathan Pettibone

Righty hurler Jonathan Pettibone, a third round selection in the 2008 amateur draft, has stood out as an increasingly promising prospect over the past few years for the Phillies. After putting himself on the map, Pettibone now resides among the team's best options to debut on the big league roster in the very near future.

Pettibone signed with the Phils in 2008 after committing to the University of Southern California on a baseball scholarship. The son of former Twins pitcher Jay Pettibone states that his dad was an influence on him, during his youth, but dad backed off and let the younger Pettibone learn from his coaches as well as on his own, once he reached high school playing age.

The 6-foot-6 225-pounder made his pro debut with the Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2008, recording an inning of work. The following season, the Esperanza High School (California) product joined the starting rotation for the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League. In nine games, Pettibone posted a 2-4 record with a 5.35 ERA and a .261 batting average against.  His season was shortened by injury that year.

In 2010 with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, Pettibone improved his velocity and effectiveness by working closely with pitching coach Steve Schrenk to adjust his mechanics and extension. Pettibone's results on the mound became increasingly solid as his remarkable campaign progressed. After posting a 5.04 ERA in 12 games through the end of June, Pettibone tallied a 2.37 ERA over his final 12 appearances of the regular season. Those outstanding efforts down the stretch helped the club win its second straight South Atlantic League championship. Overall, Pettibone recorded an 8-6 record and finished among the league leaders in ERA with a 3.49 mark.

As a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers staff in 2011, Pettibone became an All-Star while sporting the fifth best ERA in the Florida State League at 2.96 and also notched a 10-11 record with a .248 batting average against in a league leading 161 innings pitched.

The 22-year-old had a strong 2012 campaign, following a troubling start to the season that saw him post a 1-3 record and a 4.78 ERA in his first six outings. In the 13 starts which followed that difficult stretch, Pettibone tallied an 8-4 record with a 2.74 ERA. He was then promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in July, where he went 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in seven starts for the IronPigs.

A contact pitcher, Pettibone thrives on getting ground ball outs, but is able to supplement that with some fair strike out totals as well, averaging 6.40 K/9 in 2012 and 6.41 K/9 overall in his minor league career to date. The California native attacks the strike zone with a repertoire that features a two-seam fastball with movement that ranges 91-93 MPH, an improving slider and a solid change up.

Pettibone, who grew up as an Angels fan idolizing innings eater John Lackey, is very durable and is described by coaches as still having gas left in the tank at the end of his outings.

Look for Pettibone to begin the upcoming season in the Lehigh Valley rotation. While the organization feels Pettibone's future is as a starter, any vacancy or opening with the big league Phillies this year may result in a void that the youngster could potentially be suited to fill. 


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Cody Chronicles, Vol. 2: Asche Settling In

Phillies third base prospect Cody Asche is back once again to share his thoughts directly from inside big league spring training in Clearwater, FL.

The 22-year-old was a 4th round draft selection in 2011 out of the University of Nebraska.  Since then, Asche has ascended quickly up the developmental ranks.  Last year, in his first full professional season, the Missouri native posted a .324 batting average with 12 home runs, 72 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 130 combined games at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading.  Asche also followed that up with a .281/.343/.438 line with Peoria in the Arizona Fall League.

This year, Asche has landed in Major League spring training and is doing his best to make a lasting impression on the Phils coaches and brass while he's there.

In the latest edition of The Cody Chronicles, Asche discusses his thoughts on early Grapefruit League action, his impressions of Phillies fans, fitting in with the big leaguers and plenty more.  Read on for that exclusive insider content straight from Florida.


Cody shares his thoughts on the first few days of game action...

"It's been fun.  I sit on the bench for a few innings and watch a lot of big leaguers play and observe what they do, how they approach games in different situations.  You know, when you're not playing, you've got to always be in the game and learn stuff.  And, obviously, any moment they'll want me to go in, so I just stay prepared so I can go out there and play."


On whether he could take a hitless game or making an error harder during his first week with the big league club than he normally might in the regular season in the minors, or in college...

"Definitely.  When you're in my situation and you're playing the last four innings, you want to make the most of your opportunities.  It's not like the normal day, when you might have nine innings to do something or make your mark on the game some way or another, so when you do have- it's a little disheartening when you don't play as well as you know you can.  But, it's all part of the learning process and, you know, you just store those moments and learn from them, so they don't happen again."


On if there is any part of him that's in awe while watching elite ball players like Miguel Cabrera or Roy Halladay on the field...

"I wouldn't say I'm in awe, but it's fun to watch them go about their business.  I think it's good to be in this situation, so when the regular season starts, you won't really have that shock if you (reach the big leagues).  You've got to remember that, when you watch them, these are guys you're competing against.  They're part of your profession too, so you've got to keep yourself in check and not let yourself be in awe and get stuck watching instead of playing."


On what has been the most surprising thing to him in spring training...

"I would say how open a lot of the guys are in the clubhouse, to help you progress as well.  I would assume, going in, a lot of the guys would want to be kind of left alone and do their thing, but we're pretty lucky, us minor league guys that are up at big league camp right now.  There's a lot of guys who are great teammates who want to help us young guys learn and they're really open to questions and open to helping us all out."


On if he's picked veteran third baseman Michael Young's brain for tips...

"Not too much.  As far as pregame goes, when the games started, the starters, they're doing their stuff on a different field, so the reserves will go on a different field to do all their pregame work.  We've taken ground balls together and what not, but during that time it's just small talk and chit chat. 
I watch him a lot when he's at third base during the games and in the five or six innings he plays, there's a lot of stuff.  You can learn a lot.  You don't always have to be asking a lot of questions.  When he's in the game and I'm on the bench and observing, you can pick up as much with that and that's what I've done mostly, is really observe."


On the Philadelphia fans in attendance in the early going this spring...

"It's normal Philly atmosphere, the way I see it.  They pack the park, they're there early, they all know who you are and it's great.  It's like any of the minor league parks.  They travel well.  They're always there and supportive.  They're really intelligent about their team and they know what's going on and it feels like a normal game."


On when he thought the possibility of being a professional ballplayer could be a reality...

"I wouldn't say there was an exact age where I thought I could really be a pro.  It was something I always wanted to do, growing up.  I would say maybe around after my sophomore year in college, after the summer, I started getting interest, receiving letters from different teams and that kind of just starts the whole process and once you get just a little bit of attention like that and you keep progressing, it becomes what you work for.  I mean, when you're in college, you don't want to look too far ahead and just play to become a pro, because you go there to get better, but it's something that I definitely want to do and I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

In the off-season, two weeks go by and I start missing it.  Even though the seasons get long and you want to have that time off, but for me, I took a week off in the off-season and I was itching to get back out there." 


Check back for more from Cody right here in the coming weeks.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #7 Catcher Tommy Joseph

Tommy Joseph, who was acquired from San Francisco in the Hunter Pence trade last July, quickly landed among the Phillies' top positional prospects upon joining the organization.  Joseph now rounds out a collection of young talent that has the Phils extremely deep at the catcher position in the minors.

The 6-foot-1 215-pounder, was the Giants' second round draft selection (55th overall) in 2009.  Upon making his professional debut the following year, Joseph played with Class A Augusta of the South Atlantic League.  That year, with the GreenJackets, Joseph posted a .236 average with 16 homers and 68 RBI in 117 games.

In 2011, Joseph batted .270, smashed 22 home runs and drove in 95 runs in 127 games for Class A Advanced San Jose. Over the off-season that followed, he was ranked as San Francisco's 5th best prospect by MLB.com.

An All-Star in the Double-A Eastern League in 2012, the righty hitting Joseph tallied a .257 average with 11 home runs and 48 RBI in 108 games between Richmond and Reading.  Joseph spent a month this past off-season playing in the Arizona Fall League, where he sported a .204 average with one double, five RBI in 14 games played.

Overall, Joseph, who grew up admiring All-Star catchers Mike Piazza and Jorge Posada, is an aggressive batter that can really drive the ball.  In his past two seasons, Joseph sports solid marks in OPS (.758) and ISO (.173).  Having displayed power at multiple levels, many feel that the 21-year-old projects to be a 20+ home run guy.   

Defensively, Joseph, who possesses a top notch work ethic, is strong behind the plate and is capable of leading a pitching staff and keeping the opposition's running game under control with his arm.  And while Joseph might reach the big leagues because of his bat, it will be his skills as a backstop that keep him there.

On the bases, Joseph runs like a catcher and will never be a true stolen base threat.

Currently, the Arizona native is in Major League camp with the Phillies and should get some solid reps in spring training games.  With Sebastian Valle expecting a light work load, due to a fractured finger, Joseph could get a nice chance to impress the entire organization with some extra playing time.  Having caught all of the Giants' aces last spring, Joseph may now get to see game action with the Phils collection of elite hurlers.

Look for Joseph to begin the 2013 back in Double-A, with Valle occupying the starting catcher spot at Triple-A, with both men possibly ready for the next level at any point.  The Phils' depth at the position could result either man being a trade chip this year as well.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Phils Deal From Depth, Acquire First Baseman Charles

Art Charles- photo by Joe Wombough
With a surplus of righty relievers and one in particular that has been on the outs in recent months, the Phillies made a trade on Saturday, to acquire a power hitting minor league first baseman Art Charles from the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the deal, the Phils sent 27-year-old pitcher Michael Schwimer to Toronto.  Schwimer, a 14th round draft choice by the Phillies in 2008 out of the University of Virginia, has a 3-2 record with a 4.62 ERA in 47 big league contests while striking out 52 and walking 23 in 48 2/3 innings pitched.

Charles, a 6-foot-6 225-pounder, was a 20th round draft choice by Toronto out of Bakersfield College in 2010.  Last season, splitting time between the Class A Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League and the Rookie level Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League, the California native batted .236 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI in 64 games.

The 22-year-old is likely to begin the 2013 season with Class A Lakewood and could be a serious offensive threat there, in the South Atlantic League. 

Schwimer has had a rocky relationship with the Phillies, dating back to last August, when the team demoted him to the minors, while Schwimer insisted he was injured and should have been placed on the disabled list at that time.  The variance in pay, which totals tens of thousands of dollars, which Schwimer missed out during that time, is likely something that the Phillies have not heard the last of even after sending the 6-foot-8 240-pounder away to nearby Dunedin, where the Blue Jays hold their spring training.

With a large collection of young right-handed relievers such as Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus, Mike Stutes, B.J. Rosenberg, Tyler Cloyd, Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin in camp, Schwimer became expendable for the Phillies.

The Blue Jays and Phils are scheduled to face off six times over the next five weeks, or so, in spring exhibition contests.

Prospect Nation 2013: #8 SS Roman Quinn

Roman Quinn- photo by Joe Wombough
Selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft out of Port St. Joe High School, speedster Roman Quinn was immediately a prospect that many thought would be on a fast track upward in the Phillies system.

The extremely athletic 5-foot-10 170-pounder is praised for his adaptability and has shown considerable improvement during his time in the professional ranks.  

Quinn signed fairly late after being drafted and did not play in an official game in 2011.  He did, however, spend time with the Gulf Coast League team late in their season and played with the Florida Instructional League team following the regular season.  He made his official pro debut in 2012 with the short-season A level Williamsport Crosscutters.  There, Quinn tallied a .281 average with nine doubles, a league-leading 11 triples, one home run and 23 RBI while swiping 30 bases in 36 chances.

Phillies executives were very pleased with his progress last year.  According to Joe Jordan, the Phils' director of player development, "the sky is the limit" for Quinn.  Even his teammates are excited by his skills, as players will often remark about his noteworthy quickness.

On the bases, the 19-year-old is among the fastest players in the minor leagues.  Look for Quinn, who is a native of Port St. Joe, FL, to burn up the base paths in the Class A South Atlantic League with Lakewood in 2013, as a constant top-of-the-order threat, possessing the type of speed that could earn him a hit even on the most routine ground balls.

At the plate, Quinn, a natural righty, displays gap power from both sides and is still developing his ability to switch-hit.  Quinn has also worked steadily on improving his bunting ability, which could be a big tool for him going forward.

Defensively, Quinn has a strong arm and showed considerable improvement with Williamsport, manning shortstop on an everyday basis for the first time.  As he gets more time at the position, Quinn, who has strong range, will improve his technique, reflexes and his hands.  Scouts say Quinn's future may be in centerfield, where he spent time in high school.

In all, Quinn has the raw tools to potentially be an impact player in the big leagues one day and should be a huge draw for Lakewood in the coming season.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Clearwater Manager Chris Truby Speaks on Phils Future Stars

Truby with Lakewood in 2011- Photo by Jay Floyd
Former big league third baseman Chris Truby is entering his fifth season as a manager in the Phillies' developmental ranks.  The 39-year-old began his coaching career in 2008 in the Pittsburgh organization after retiring from playing a year earlier. He joined the Phillies in 2009, spending two seasons as the manager for Class A short-season Williamsport prior to managing Class A Lakewood in 2011, then earning another promotion to be the skipper with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers last year.

During his playing days, Truby saw time with Houston, Montreal, Detroit and Tampa Bay.  The Indiana native batted .231 with 23 homers and 107 RBI in 263 career big league games.

This week I spoke with Chris about several subjects, among them the Phils' well regarded third base prospects, how he balances his goals to excel as a coach while helping his players improve and other players on the rise.  Read ahead for that full interview.


- You're a former big league third baseman and you got to manage third baseman Cody Asche for part of his impact season last year. What are your impressions of Cody and what his future could hold?

Cody worked his tail off on both the offensive and defensive side last year. He got better in all facets of the game. He has the desire and the will to be the best player he can be and I believe he will be a very good Major League third baseman.


- Another third baseman that played with Clearwater last year is Harold Martinez. Thoughts on H-Mart and his progress thus far as a pro?

Harold struggled a little once he got to Clearwater but he worked hard as well and finished the season strong. He too improved over the course of the year both offensively and defensively.


- Maikel Franco is a guy I know you've seen and coached. He seemed to make loads of progress last year with Lakewood. What do you think of Franco's potential and the maturing he's done?

Franco is a very young player that has improved with each year. He had a great second half of the season last year and I look for him to pick up where he left off. He has the ability to be a very good third baseman. For a young player, he is not intimidated by anything and has a great feel for playing third.


- Along with Franco, Kelly Dugan, Gabriel Lino, Ethan Stewart, Gabriel Arias and more of last year's Lakewood standouts would be expected to climb the ladder and play under you this year. Generally, when there are exciting players at lower levels, are there particular guys that you haven't coached that you look forward to reaching your level so you can help them develop or see them first hand?

That Lakewood team was young and had some good talent. I am looking forward to working with all of them as they make their way up the system. I haven't had a chance to work with a number of those players and I am looking forward to getting to Spring Training and seeing these guys.


- Along with Asche, pitcher Kenny Giles was the other guy that really made a name for himself in the Phils system last year, earning a promotion from Lakewood to Clearwater and steadily displaying big time velocity. What are your thoughts on Giles and the impact he made last season? Future for him?

Giles was fun to watch. You just don't see that type of arm very often. Pure power stuff. As a manager, or anybody watching for that matter, you just sit back and watch and enjoy it. He did a nice job for me last year. He really opened some eyes last year. He has a chance to be a special player.


- Cameron Rupp is a guy you've managed at multiple levels. He's certainly held his own in the minors, but has a couple of more highly touted backstops that are younger than him at higher levels in the system. Thoughts on Cam? And is it possible the depth could be a hindrance to any of these well regarded catching prospects?

Cameron improved as much, if not more, than anybody that I have been around in the last couple of years. He really took charge of the pitching staff last year. He has great leadership capabilities. He learned a lot being around (Threshers coach and former big league catcher) John Mizerock last year. From an offensive standpoint he came into his own as well last year. We have some good young catchers in the organization but Cameron fits right into that mix.


- Lefty pitcher Jesse Biddle has looked great and is widely regarded as the Phils' top prospect. Thoughts on Biddle and what he did with Clearwater last season?

Biddle has gotten better every year. The biggest area being the developement of his change up. He has become confident in it and is willing to use it at any time. His command of three pitches has gotten better as well. He is ultra competitive and that will help carry him to where he ultimately wants to be.


- First baseman/DH Chris Duffy showed a lot of power last year and looked good in his second trip to Clearwater, after having a weak showing during an early-season stint there. Late last season Franco credited Duffy with being an inspiration on offense. Thoughts on Duffy?

Duffy had a great year in Lakewood and showed some improvement in Clearwater. He can help take a lot of the pressure off the young guys by his presence. The guy can hit.


- When organization execs view you as a big league coaching prospect is that something that makes you feel good and does that impact your outlook? Secondly, of course, managers/coaches in the minors are there to help players grow and improve...how much of a focus by managers for themselves to also be climbing the ladder is okay? Are those focuses easily balanced?

If the organization is happy that means I am doing my job. We all have goals and would like to move up the ladder, but the focus is always on the player. It is a great feeling to see guys that we have worked with have success and move to the next level. That's what it is all about.


- Did you spent time last fall at with the Florida Instructional League team and, if so, were you able to check out any of last season's draft picks closely?

I did not attend FIL so I don't know much about the new young players. I look forward to seeing them in the spring.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

2013 Phillies Spring Broadcast Schedule

Baseball overload is right around the corner.  Beginning with Saturday's Grapefruit League opener against the Astros, the Phillies will play 35 games in 36 days and all but three of those exhibition contests will be available to watch or listen to in the Philadelphia region and beyond.

The Comcast Network, Comcast Sportsnet, WPHT 1210 AM and MLB Network will team up to serve heavy doses of the Phillies spring baseball to fans over the airwaves and via your cable feed.  In the absence of televised games and terrestrial radio transmissions, the Phillies broadcast team is set to bring live play by play to internet users everywhere on MLB.com (and, of course, Phillies.com).

The availability of so many spring contests, including the team's two "On Deck Series" games, played at Citizens Bank Park on March 29th and 30th, speaks volumes to the devoted following that the Phils have developed in recent years.  The success of the organization has grown the interest of the Phillies Nation for sure and, as such, many games will be available. 

Below is a full list of the team's upcoming spring match ups and how baseball hungry fans can catch their team on a daily basis.  You may wish to bookmark this for future reference.

Feb. 23,  1:05 p.m. vs. Houston- TCN/MLBN on delay/1210AM
Feb. 24, 1:05 p.m. at Detroit in Lakeland- 1210 AM
Feb. 25, 1:05 p.m. vs. Detroit- TCN/MLBN
Feb. 26, 1:05 p.m. vs. NY Yankees- TCN/MLBN
Feb. 27, 1:05 p.m. at Minnesota in Ft. Myers- MLB.com Radio
Feb. 28, 1:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta- TCN/MLBN
March 1, 1:05 p.m. at NY Yankees in Tampa- YES/MLBN on delay/MLB.com Radio
March 2, 1:05 p.m. at Toronto in Dunedin- MLBN on delay/1210 AM
March 3, 1:05 p.m. vs. Toronto (ss)- CSN/MLBN/1210 AM
March 3, 1:05 p.m. at  Baltimore (ss) in Sarasota- NO BROADCAST
March 4, 1:05 p.m. at  Pittsburgh in Bradenton- MLB.com radio
March 5, 1:05 p.m. vs. Dominican Republic WBC team- NO BROADCAST
March 6, 1:05 p.m. vs. Washington- TCN/MLBN on delay
March 7, 1:05 p.m. vs. Minnesota- TCN
March 8, 1:05 p.m. at Tampa Bay in Pt. Charlotte- NO BROADCAST
March 9, 1:05 p.m. vs. Tampa Bay- 1210 AM
March 10, 1:05 p.m. Houston in Kissimmee- MLBN on delay/1210 AM
March 11 OFF DAY
March 12, 1:05 p.m. vs. Detroit- TCN/MLBN delay
March 13, 7:05 p.m. at. NY Yankees in Tampa- YES/MLBN on delay/1210 AM
March 14, 1:05 p.m. vs.  Pittsburgh- TCN/MLBN on delay
March 15, 1:05 p.m. at Tampa Bay in Pt. Charlotte- MLB.com radio
March 16, 1:05 p.m. at  NY Yankees in Tampa- YES/MLBN on delay/1210 AM
March 17, 1:05 p.m. vs. Baltimore- CSN/1210 AM
March 18, 1:05 p.m. at Atlanta in Disney World- ESPN 
March 19, 1:05 p.m. vs. NY Yankees- ESPN/TCN
March 20 OFF DAY
March 21, 7:05 p.m. at Boston in Ft. Myers- 1210 AM
March 22, 1:05 p.m. vs. Atlanta- TCN/MLBN on delay
March 23, 1:05 p.m. at Baltimore in Sarasota- MLBN on delay/1210 AM
March 24, 1:05 p.m. vs. Boston- 1210 AM
March 25, 1:05 p.m. at Toronto in Dunedin- MLB.com radio
March 26, 1:05 p.m. vs.Tampa Bay- TCN/MLBN on delay
March 27, 1:05 p.m. at Detroit in Lakeland- ESPN
March 28, 1:05 p.m. vs.Toronto- TCN/MLBN on delay
March 29, 7:05 p.m. vs. Toronto at Citizens Bank Park- TCN/MLBN/1210 AM
March 30, 1:05 p.m. vs. Toronto at Citizens Bank Park- 1210 AM

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #9 OF Tyson Gillies



Outfielder Tyson Gillies has struggled to stay on the field since he was acquired by the Phillies in the December, 2009 trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle. With a series of ailments and setbacks, the lefty batter has not been able to prove himself worthy of the high praise that led to his inclusion in that deal and earned him a spot among the well regarded players in the 2009 MLB All-Star Futures Game.

Growing up in Canada, Gillies played both hockey and baseball. However, in his teenage years, Gillies felt that it was best to choose one sport to focus on and, as determined by his size at the time, he selected baseball. As Gillies progressed as a player, his love and passion for that great game developed along with his talents and he has never looked back.

Gillies began his professional playing career in 2007, as a member of the Arizona League Mariners and later with Everett of the Class A Northwest League. Combined at the two levels that season, Gillies posted a .255 batting average with 11 steals and a .688 OPS in 39 games.

In 2008, Gillies continued to show improvement, spending time with Everett before earning a promotion to Class A Advanced High Desert. In 72 combined games, Gillies batted .302 with 25 stolen bases and an .831 OPS in 72 games.

During a return campaign with High Desert, in 2009, Gillies became a highly regarded prospect, as his offensive output excelled. Gillies posted a .341 batting average, good enough for third highest in the minors, with a Seattle organization leading 44 steals and a .916 OPS in 124 games.

Since the trade that brought him to Philadelphia along with J.C. Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont, Gillies has seemed fragile. Recurring left hamstring issues, a nagging foot injury and a concussion have forced Gillies to miss considerable time in his time with the Phillies, having played just 31 regular season games in his first two seasons with the organization and 106 contests overall.  He also dealt with a drug arrest while rehabbing in Florida, although those charges were dropped.

Last year, after getting into a non-physical altercation with the Double-A Reading Phillies' bus driver, Gillies was suspended and missed a couple weeks of action.  Despite that issue and missing over six weeks after suffering a concussion during a collision on defense, Gillies played in a season-high 75 games since joining the Phils organization.  At three levels, including seven rehab outings with Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater, the youngster posted a .299/.369/.440 line with nine steals in 2012.

Gillies made up for some missed time over the past two off-seasons, sporting fairly weak stats (.178/.302/.233) in 27 games in the Arizona Fall League in 2011, then tallying solid numbers (.294/.357/.373) in the Venezuelan Winter League following Reading's playoff run last year.  

A strong line drive hitter that displays some gap power, Gillies is pretty well known for his hearing impairment. Diagnosed at an early age with significant hearing problems, the 6-foot-2-inch 205-pounder grew up using hearing aids and has become accustomed to playing baseball with a slight disadvantage. Gillies is also selective at the plate and is very capable of forcing pitchers to make more pitches and can draw walks.

Defensively, the 24-year-old has outstanding range.  Primarily, Gillies has been a center fielder, however he has played all three outfield positions in his professional career. He has also displayed a strong throwing arm and an ability to gun down frisky runners.

The British Columbia native's speed on the bases is evident by his output in the Mariners' system.  However, with troublesome "wheels", he has regularly been hobbled and has failed to put that skill on display, having swiped just 11 bases in three years with the Phils organization.

Originally a 25th round draft choice by the M's in 2006, Gillies has great tools and needs to play in order to fully polish all of those abilities.

The coming season will be huge for the talented Gillies.  If he can stay healthy, an assignment manning the outfield for Triple-A Lehigh Valley should be on tap.  However, if he can't keep himself on the playing field, the Phillies' patience with him may grow thin at a rapid pace. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Cody Chronicles: Prospect Asche Talks About Big League Camp

Fans, join us in welcoming Phillies 3rd base prospect Cody Asche aboard, as the 22-year-old will be taking time throughout the preseason to share his thoughts directly from big league spring training.

Selected in the 4th round of the 2010 amateur draft, Asche debuted that year, playing with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters.  After an unimpressive debut campaign in which he batted .192 with two homers and 19 RBI in 68 games, the lefty batting Asche spent time in the Florida Instructional League, picking up some key hitting tips from then minor league hitting instructor Steve Henderson, who is coaching with the big league Phillies this year.  Considerable strides were taken, and the youngster made quite an impact in the Phils system last year, posting a .324 average with 12 home runs and 72 RBI in 130 combined games at Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading.

As the new season approaches and the 6-foot-1 180-pound Asche strives to stand out among a host of veteran infielders in front of Phils brass and coaches, he'll be checking in regularly to offer his personal insight and feedback directly from Clearwater, FL exclusively for you, Phillies Nation.  Read ahead for the initial volume of The Cody Chronicles.


Describing the first few days in camp with the big leaguers...

"It's a blast, really. Just being around the guys, everybody's real nice. It's cool to be around the big leaguers. Just to be around them, it's a blast. I love it.

"I wouldn't say it's like a dream come true, or anything like that. It's what you work for, so it's good to be included in that group (of players). Right now, my hitting group, as far as big leaguers go, I have Ryan Howard, Laynce Nix and Yuniesky Betancourt.  Zach Collier and Ender Inciarte are also in my batting practice group.  For defensive work, it's pretty split up between the guys that are in the big leagues and the guys that are kind of fighting for jobs.  Sometimes I am with people at third base, sometimes I am by myself.  It depends."


On being drafted out of the University of Nebraska just about 20 months ago and if he ever thought, at that time, that he could progress at such a rapid pace to be where he is, in Major League spring training, today...

"I would never have (thought that). You know, after I was drafted, one of my coaches was Darin Erstad there, and he was a 1st round, 1st pick overall, and I would always talk to him about how he progressed and I would say, 'Man, you're lucky. You went up so fast.' And now, looking back on (the pace I've progressed), this past year has kind of been a whirlwind."


On if the big league players are open to helping out the younger players...

"That's one thing I've been surprised about...everybody's really approachable.  If you need advice, or you have a question for the big leaguers, I haven't had a question turned down yet that I've asked, or had anybody stand me up if I've tried to approach him.  Everybody's been real great so far."


Speaking about the veteran 3rd basemen, Michael Young and Kevin Frandsen, that the Phils have in camp...

"I've been around Frandsen a little bit.  I haven't done any work with him or Michael Young yet though.  You know, I've just chit-chatted in stretch lines and things like that.  Just small talk really.  I haven't worked with them much at all.  But, from what I see and from talking to them, they're both great guys."


On what the normal day of work consists of and what type of leisure activities might follow...

"The days are pretty long.  The typical day, I wake up around 5:45 (AM), get to the park around 6:15-6:30. My group, some of the younger guys, we have some of the earlier times in the weight room, so we're there 7-7:40.  And then we have early work and then we go through the day and I'm usually leaving the field around between 1 and 2 (PM).  As far as down time and winding down, I play a little golf, but I'm not a huge golfer.  My roommates, Adam Morgan and Ethan Martin, and I have Netflix at our place, we have video games.  So, we usually like to lay low at the house.  We don't like to move around too much after a day (of working out).  And I'm not a big beach guy either, so you won't find me soaking in the sun down here."


On the type of impact the coaches have had on him in spring training thus far...

"The coaches have all been great.  I may not be one of the top priorities or what-not, I don't know, but they sure make you feel like you're there for a reason and spend time with you.  (Ryne) Sandberg's always out there, watching me do ground balls, working with me.  (Steve Henderson) is always around when I'm hitting.  Wally Joyner's been great too.  When I went down there early, I got to hit with him a lot, because he would do flips in the cage.  And then, Andy Tracy's been around a lot.  I didn't get to work with him too much before, because he had a position with Williamsport.  That's what's great about the organization, all the coaches.  They really take time and make sure, if you're there to work, they're gonna be there for you.  That's why we have such a great developmental system with the Phillies."


Reacting to Charlie Manuel's thoughts about Asche from a recent interview...

"It's pretty cool to hear about that kind of stuff.  It just goes forward, building a relationship with the guy, more or less, you have something, your familiarity with each other before that first meeting.   Charlie's a great guy.  I got to meet with him in Philly, when we were there for the prospect seminar and we got to talk to him for almost, maybe, a couple of hours one day.  And right in spring training, he remembers who you are and says hello.  He's a great guy and I feel comfortable being around him and I've never even played for him, so that just shows how great of a guy he is." 


Check back in the coming weeks for more from Cody and remember to follow him on Twitter.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #10 OF Carlos Tocci

Carlos Tocci- AP Photo
Outfielder Carlos Tocci was signed by the Phillies for a reported signing bonus of $759,000 in the summer of 2011 on his 16th birthday. The native of Maracay, Venezuela participated in the Florida Instructional League that year, but made his official pro debut in 2012 as a member of the Gulf Coast League Phillies.

Last season, Tocci posted a .278 average with two doubles and nine RBI in 38 contests in the GCL, with all but one of his games played before his 17th birthday.

Having displayed little power in his debut season, Tocci, who hits from the right side, developed a bit of a reputation for being too skinny. The player known as "Toch" added a good amount of muscle this off-season, thanks to a training routine provided by the Phillies. He now has his 6-foot-2-inch frame up to a more desirable 170 pounds.

On defense, Tocci has very good range and appears to glide to the ball, easily covering a lot of ground to track down fly balls.

Tocci is described by Phils director of player development Joe Jordan as the most instinctive young player has has seen in a while. He has quick hands, shows a solid ability to get the barrel of his bat to the ball and can hit to all fields.

The youngster sports excellent speed and was successful in nine of 11 stolen base attempts last season. Scouts think Tocci projects to be quite the speedster on the bases.

While Tocci might begin the upcoming season in extended spring training, he could see time with full season Class A Lakewood during the 2013 season, according to Jordan.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #11 Catcher Sebastian Valle

Sebastian Valle, a righty hitting catcher, has proven himself worthy of high praise during his time in the Phillies’ minor league system. Displaying considerable power and crucial skills behind the plate, Valle could be an option to help the big league club in the near future.

After signing as an international free agent at the age of 16 in 2006, Valle began his pro career playing in the Dominican Summer League, where he batted .284 and sported an .802 OPS in 54 games. The following year, Valle played with the Gulf Coast League Phillies and posted a .281 average with two home runs and 18 RBI in 48 games, helping the team lock down a championship.

In 2009, Valle split time between Class A Lakewood and short-season A level Williamsport. In 50 games for the Williamsport Crosscutters, Valle shined, posting a .307 average with six home runs and 40 RBI in 50 contests. In addition, Valle sported an .866 OPS with the ‘Cutters. With Lakewood, where he backed up eventual Roy Halladay trade chip Travis d’Arnaud, Valle batted .223 with a homer and 15 RBI in 45 games.

The 2010 season presented a chance to play more with Lakewood and Valle produced very solid numbers, as one of the leaders of the team’s offense. Valle began the year a bit slow, notching just a single home run in his first 40 games. Once he heated up, though, Valle slammed eight home runs over the next 18 games and kept it going through the remainder of the year. In 117 regular season games, Valle posted a .255 batting average, while mashing a team leading 16 homers and driving in 74 runs to help his club lock down its second consecutive South Atlantic League title.

With Class A Advanced Clearwater, in 2011, the 6-foot-1 205-pounder posted a .284 batting average with five home runs and 40 RBI on the way to becoming a Florida State League All-Star, despite dealing with a sprained thumb, among other ailments, that prevented him from driving the ball as he normally would.

Last season, Valle started out with the Double-A Reading Phillies, where he tallied a .261 average with 13 home runs and 45 RBI in 83 games before earning a promotion to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs. With the Pigs, Valle struggled with his average, hitting .218, but launched another four homers in 22 games, which gave him a single season career-high in the category.

Valle, who is a strong, aggressive hitter, displays excellent bat speed and has shown an ability to really drive the ball during his time in the minors. The area where Valle needs the greatest amount of improvement is being more selective at the plate. His walk rate of 3.2% in 2012 and 3.6% in 2011 leaves a large amount to be desired.

On defense, the Mexican born Valle is athletic and has a quick release when throwing the ball to the bases. The Phils’ developmental coaches often rave about the youngster’s footwork and ability to move behind the plate. Valle’s quickness hopping on dribblers and bunts out in front of the plate has improved during his time in the minors as well. He has also taken strides in helping his pitchers with his “frame work” behind the plate.

His speed is fairly typical for a catcher. “Below average” is a suitable description of Valle’s movement on the base paths.

The Phils have loads of depth at the catcher position in their developmental ranks. Along with the likes of Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp, Gabriel Lino and others, Valle could find himself as a hot commodity on the trade market in the coming months, due to the amount of talented backstops in the organization including an All-Star at the Major League level in Carlos Ruiz. Where ever Valle might be playing this year, if he can show the same progress at Triple-A as he did at previous levels, he could be ready for a promotion to the big leagues this year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #12 2B Cesar Hernandez

Venezuelan born infielder Cesar Hernandez was signed as an amateur free agent by the Phillies at the age of 16. Since then, the slick defender that primarily plays second base, has displayed solid progress and improvements in many areas of his game.

Hernandez, a switch-hitter, made his professional debut with the Venezuelan Summer League in 2007 at the age of 17. In two seasons there, he tallied a .296 batting average with three home runs and 45 RBI in 114 games.  He followed that effort with a campaign in which he batted .267 with five doubles and a triple in 41 games for the Gulf Coast League Phillies in 2009. 

The following year, as a member of the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters, Hernandez was voted as the Most Valuable Player of the club by his teammates and was an All-Star. He proved clutch with the ‘Cutters, posting a .400 average (16-for-40) with runners in scoring position and two outs. Overall that season, Hernandez sported an impressive .325/.390/.392 line with 13 doubles and two triples in 65 games and placed second in the New York-Penn League in stolen bases, with 32.

His remarkable season in Williamsport led to a complete skip of full season Class A Lakewood. Hernandez played the entire 2011 season with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, where his offensive production took a dip (.268/.303./.333). With just 15 extra-base hits and 98 singles that year, a power boost was something that the Phils' brass and coaches were looking for when they assigned Hernandez a strengthening program for the following off-season.

In 2012, the 5-foot-10-inch 175-pounder was named as an All-Star in the Double-A Eastern League, as he sported a .304 average with 26 doubles, a league leading 11 triples and two homers with 51 RBI as well as 16 steals in 104 games with the Reading Phillies.  After July, Hernandez was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he batted .248 with four doubles, a triple, six RBI and five steals in 30 games. 

The 22-year-old played in the Venezuelan Winter League this off-season, manning mostly second base but playing some shortstop as well.  As a member of the Margarita Bravos for the third straight year, Hernandez posted a .266/.345/.357 line in 44 games.

While his stolen base totals have steadily looked nice, a drop in success rate from 84% in 2010 to 70% in 2011 then to 58% in 2012 shows a need for Hernandez and/or his coaches to be more selective with his steal attempts.  Regardless of the dip in this area, speed is still an asset for Hernandez.

Defensively, Hernandez’s range is very good and while his throwing release is quick, his arm is best suited for second base as opposed to shortstop, where he initially played upon breaking into the minors.

As he has ascended in the pro ranks, Hernandez has developed a better ability to make contact and has a greater trust in his hands at the plate.  And while he will never be a big home run guy, doubles and triples will surely be areas that Hernandez can do some damage in. Additionally, he needs to become more selective and draw a larger number of walks to become a better rounded offensive threat.

Phillies developmental coaches and organizational instructors praise his many talents and are confident that Hernandez has what it will take to compete at the highest levels of professional baseball while potentially becoming a successor to Chase Utley at second for the big league club. 

Maturing and learning outside of the game has helped the outgoing Hernandez when it comes to baseball as well.  A focus on improving his English and fully adapting to the cultural changes that come with playing in the United States, has increased the 22-year-old's confidence and his ability to pick up more about the game from his coaches and peers.

A member of the Phils' 40-man roster, Hernandez is likely to begin the 2013 season back with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where he should produce on a more consistent basis than he did upon his initial trial there last season.  Hernandez could be a reliable back up to the big league team in case of injuries or could be seen as a call up in September this year, if his production follows the same progress he's shown after previous promotions.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #13 RHP Kenny Giles

Kenny Giles- photo by Dave Schofield
Right-handed pitcher Kenny Giles rose up these rankings more than any other Phillies prospect last year.  Armed with tremendous velocity, the 6-foot-2-inch 190-pounder has a bright future and could prove extremely valuable to the organization in the near future.

Drafted in the 7th round in 2011 out of Yavapai (Junior) College, although he was committed to transferring to Arizona, Giles began his professional career with the Gulf Coast League Phillies that year.  After facing a difficult decision to turn pro and leave college behind, Giles struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings over three outings with the GCL team.  Prior to making his debut in the minors, Giles, a big-time strike out artist, notched 67 punch outs in 38 innings during the 2011 college season.

The Albuquerque, NM native began the 2012 season with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws where he went 3-3 with five saves, a 3.61 ERA and a .215 batting average against in 29 outings (6 starts).  Giles was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater in July and proceeded to pitch exclusively as a reliever for the Threshers, going 1-0 with three saves, a 3.07 ERA and a .183 batting average against in 10 appearances.  Combined at the two levels, Giles sported a 12.18 K/9 mark last year.

Having grown up admiring Randy Johnson, Giles tries to emulate the mentality of the five-time Cy Young Award winning left-hander, with a focus on being aggressive, going after opposing batters and always keeping them guessing.

The youngster's pitch repertoire features a fastball that regularly ranges from 96-98 MPH, but clocked in the triple-digits quite a bit during the 2012 season.  He also throws a slider with late break that his coaches were extremely pleased with the progress of last year as well as a change up that he hopes will become a strong offering to play off of his major heat.

The area that the 22-year-old made the most progress with, aside from his slider, last year was his ability to control his delivery.  As some might expect a hurler with the capacity to throw pitches above 100 MPH to do, Giles showed a tendency to try to crank the speed way up and spoil his own mechanics.  This lack of focus hurt his control.  Making sure to calm down his own delivery, Giles was far more consistent and steady.

Look for Giles to potentially begin the upcoming season with Double-A Reading, or join that team early in the season, holding down a late-inning bullpen spot for the club.

8th Grader Finds and Returns Marlon Anderson's iPad

In the news recently, and covered by Atlanta's FOX affiliate, was a story of former Phillies second baseman Marlon Anderson's lost iPad being returned by an honest youngster.

Just over a week ago, 8th grader Mauricio Ayala was out shoppping with his mother and found Anderson's tablet left behind in a shopping cart at his local Sam's Club. Ayala, not the type to take advantage of someone else's misfortune, set out to return the item and sought the assistance of his school computer technician, Michael Ladd, who was able to identify the owner as Anderson, despite the device being locked.

During an impromptu ceremony at Ayala's school last week, Anderson rewarded the youngster with an autographed bat in exchange for his kind efforts.

Anderson, who also played with the Mets, Dodgers, Nationals and Cardinals, spent the 2011 season as a hitting coach in the Nationals organization, on the Class A Hagerstown Suns staff, where he coached Bryce Harper. To hear my full interview with Anderson from his time with Hagerstown, click here.

Another noteworthy plus from this story comes with the reuniting of Anderson with his Phillies teammate from 1999 and 2000, Ron Gant, who is a news anchor with FOX 5 in Atlanta.

See more details on Ayala's good deed as well as Anderson's meeting with Gant in the news clip in the embedded player below.


Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #14 RHP Julio Rodriguez

In recent years, righty hurler Julio Rodriguez has quietly become one of the Phillies’ most promising prospects. Without the hype and buzz that has surrounded other well-regarded youngsters within the Phils’ organization, the Puerto Rican born hurler has proven himself worthy of being ranked among the team's prospects with the greatest potential.

Selected in the 8th round of the 2008 amateur draft as a 17-year-old, Rodriguez made his professional debut that same year, throwing in seven games with the Gulf Coast League Phillies. However, the 6-foot-4-inch 200-pounder struggled, as he posted a 12.19 ERA and a .383 batting average against.

He followed that up with a return to the GCL the following year.  Rodriguez added some strength and made some serious improvements, posting a 1-2 record with a 3.08 ERA and a .197 batting average against in 11 games (eight starts).

In 2010, as a 19-year-old, Rodriguez began the season in extended spring training, but joined the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws in May. He spent time with the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters as well that year, and finished with an overall record of 7-3 with a 1.89 ERA and a .175 batting average against in 20 outings (12 starts). As the season progressed, Rodriguez was a key contributor, helping Lakewood lock down their second consecutive South Atlantic League championship that year.

As a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers in 2011, Rodriguez was named a Florida State League All-Star, as he had a stellar campaign. In 27 starts, Rodriguez finished with a league leading 16 wins, a 2.76 ERA that was second best in the FSL and a .186 batting average against.

This past year in the Double-A Eastern League, Rodriguez had a strong start to his season, going 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA through 10 starts, en route to becoming an EL All-Star.  He also represented the Phillies in last year’s MLB All-Star Futures Game.  But following an eight game stretch that began at the start of July, during which Rodriguez tallied a 6.81 ERA, he was moved to the bullpen for the remainder of the season.  The 6-foot-4-inch 230-pounder wrapped up his 2012 regular season campaign with a 7-7 record, a 4.23 ERA and a .243 batting average against.

This off-season, Rodriguez pitched with Carolina in the Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico) League.  In 10 outings (three starts), he sported a 3-1 record with a 3.67 ERA.  If not for one very bad outing in which he allowed five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings, Rodriguez's ERA would have been a much improved 2.19 for Carolina.

Rodriguez doesn't sport one of the best fastballs is the Phils’ system.  In fact, his fastball velocity resides in the high-80's and perhaps clocks at 90 MPH on a good day, but the 22-year-old has steadily recorded impressive strikeout totals in the minors.  Averaging 10.16 strikeouts per 9 innings over the past three seasons, it is his excellent secondary pitches and his ability to keep the ball hidden from opposing batters with his wind up that helps Rodriguez mow down the competition. His repertoire includes a fastball with some natural cut, a strong curveball that dives away from righty batters and a solid change up that has shown development as he has progressed upward in the minors.

Rodriguez, a fierce competitor that expects to win when he’s on the mound, was ranked higher on this list last year.  A difficult second half last year and some uncertainty about his role going forward forced that dip, but expect Julio to be among the next wave of pitchers to become options to fill voids at the big league level from the Phils’ developmental ranks.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #15 LHP Austin Wright

Selected in the 8th round of the 2011 amateur draft, lefty hurler Austin Wright quickly proved to be a fast rising prospect in the Phillies' organization.  Out of the University of Mississippi, where he posted a 4.73 ERA and an 8.57 K/9 mark through 14 starts that year, Wright never tired, continuing on for another 15 appearances primarily as a starter in the Phils' system.

After making his pro debut with the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters and posting a 3-1 record along with a 3.38 ERA in eight games (seven starts), Wright was promoted to full season Class A Lakewood, where he continued to look strong, tallying a 1-2 record and a 2.67 ERA in seven starts.  Combined at the two levels, Wright, who grew up idolizing big league stars like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, notched an impressive 11.2 K/9 mark.

In 2012, as a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, the 6-foot-4-inch 235-pounder became an All-Star and was honored as the Florida State League pitcher of the year, as he posted an 11-5 record, a 3.47 ERA and an 8.11 K/9 mark.

Wright has a repertoire that features a low-90's fastball (regularly clocked at 91-92 MPH, but can reach higher), a tough curve ball that can leave batters looking foolish, a solid slider and a change up.  As Wright climbs higher in the developmental ranks, that menu could be refined, but, for now, he's sticking with the four-pitch selection.

One of Wright's key strengths is his command, which enables him to get ahead of opposing batters and take charge of at bats.  He also has a tight mental game, always staying focused on improving his approach and his knowledge of how to pitch in certain situations.

Previously drafted in the 23rd round by the Boston Red Sox in 2010, Wright chose not to sign and instead returned to Ole Miss for his senior season.

Wright used yoga, swimming, weights and basketball to stay in shape this off-season.  With the help of his off-season battery mate and all-year-round father Anthony, Austin is able to keep the rust off in the colder months by actively throwing as spring training nears.  Wright also spent time coaching youth pitchers this winter, which proved fulfilling for the 23-year-old.

Look for Wright to begin the 2013 season with the Double-A Reading Fightin' Phillies.  A promotion to Triple-A by season's end might not be out of the question, if Wright can continue to progress at such a steady pace.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #16 OF Zach Collier

Last year, outfielder Zach Collier finally made the kind of impression the Phillies had long hoped for since they made him their supplemental 1st round draft choice (34th overall) in 2008. As a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, Collier put forth exceptional output and followed up the regular season with a tremendous campaign in the highly competitive Arizona Fall League, to display the type of skills that earned him high praise and a hefty professional signing bonus as a high school talent.

Following his 2011 season, it was announced that the 6-foot-2 185-pound Collier had tested positive for amphetamines and would have to serve a 50-game suspension to kick off the following season. That down time didn’t hold the Carson, CA native down, however. In the Florida State League last year, Collier, who once got a signing bonus of over $1 million from the Phillies, posted career highs in OBP (.333) and slugging percentage (.399). Despite missing time due to the suspension, Collier sported a .269 average with six home runs, 32 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 78 games for Clearwater.

In order to make up for some of that time missed, the Phillies sent Collier to play with Peoria in the Arizona Fall League, where he slapped four doubles, laced three triples and stroked four homers while placing in the league’s top five in batting average (.371) and OPS (.993).  Collier feels the time spent in the AFL was advantageous to him and he is grateful for the experience.

Prior to last year, Collier, who possesses a smooth stroke from the left side, tallied just two home runs and a .242 batting average in three pro seasons. He missed the entire 2010 season following a series of injuries, including two (a broken right hamate bone and a torn tendon in his right wrist) that required surgery.

On defense, Collier has range and great instincts. He played all three outfield positions in the AFL last year and has played mostly right and center during regular season action. His arm doesn't stand out greatly, but is capable of keeping runners honest.

Speed is certainly a weapon at the 22-year-old's disposal. He stole 20 bases in 2009 and swiped 35 in 2011 after returning from surgery. With a regular season success rate of 76%, Collier hasn't shown his best efforts in that department yet.

Another strength for this youngster is his determination.  Collier, who is extremely goal oriented, always has hits sights set on the next level and improving every aspect of his own game. 

Now, as a member of the Phillies’ 40-man roster, Collier is primed to really display his talents and should begin the 2012 season with Double-A Reading. If Collier continues to progress at the same pace he showed last year, the big leagues will be in his future.



Tuesday, February 5, 2013

PhoulBallz Interview: Zach Cooper Talks Transitioning to Pro's

From the "Lost Tapes" files, I bring you a never-before-released interview with 2012 Phillies draft pick Zach Cooper.  The righty hurler was in the midst of an excellent campaign during his first season in the pro ranks, after the Phils selected him in the 15th round out of Central Michigan University, when I spoke with him in August.

Cooper, who turned 23-years-old this off-season, is aggressive on the mound, as he attacks the strike zone and goes after opposing batters.

As a senior last year with the Chippewas, the 5-foot-10-inch 185-pound Cooper went 7-5 with a 2.82 ERA and was honored with an all-conference nod.

After debuting as a pro, combined at two levels, with the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters and the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, Cooper posted a 2-3 record with six saves and a 1.30 ERA while holding batters to a .183 batting average in 23 appearances. 

Read ahead to check out my full interview with Zach, as he talks about transitioning from college ball to the minors, being selected by the Phillies and plenty more.


- Zach you're off to a hot start to your pro career.  I just wanted to get some thoughts from you on your early success here.

You know, it's been something that I kind of just turned in from college.  Just tried to get into a groove and I've been able to.  And I've had some outstanding plays behind me and stuff like that and great games called by the catcher, so it's kind of been me, but a team thing too. 


- I know you pitched at Central Michigan and I wanted to see how you think your collegiate career helped you transition into the minor leagues.

I was drafted last year by the Marlins and I decided to come back (to school) and I just think that this last year in college was huge for me and to be able to come in and do what I'm doing now is just, you know- I've learned a lot in the past year with my pitching coach, Jeff Opalewski, and I think that was a big thing with the success that I'm having right now.


- You mentioned being drafted by the Marlins the previous season...how difficult was that, because I know a lot of guys feel they have more leverage to negotiate as a junior...how difficult was it to make the decision to return to school?

The decision, being drafted that late, the offer wasn't really what I was looking for.  I thought I was worth a little bit more than (what they offered).  All in all, I wasn't that sure, too, if- I got to play in the Cape last summer and I got to experience some good competition out there.  And I wasn't sure if I was exactly ready to go, so I kind of sat down with my coaches and my parents and I decided, "Hey, you know...I might as well be as ready as I can be for pro ball", so I decided to go back to Central and finish my degree and get all that stuff going and it turned out to be the best decision. 


- Absolutely.  And now you're here.  Now, glancing at your college stats, it's clear you were mostly a starter there.  Now, in a relief role here, is there a preference for you at all, either pitching in the rotation or out of the bullpen?

It's a little different, because as a starter, you have a routine.  You know when you're going to throw.  But, I kind of like the spontaneity and the craziness of being a reliever, not knowing when you're going to throw.  It kind of creates the adrenaline and I like that a lot, so it's been a lot of fun.


- We eluded to you being drafted this year.  A lot of guys talk about tracking the draft, but at the same time, there are players who are in the midst of regional and postseason tournaments when the draft is going on.  Were you able to track the draft, how did you learn you were picked by the Phillies and how did you celebrate?

I kind of understood the process better (this year) after being drafted last year.  I was just kind of hanging out at home with my family.  We got knocked out of the conference tournament early, so I was able to be home for a little bit and just kind of relax and just enjoy it.  I was actually watching the draft a little bit on the computer and then the 15th round was the last round of the second day and I wasn't sure what was gonna go on, and having to watch all the way through and then the Phillies picked me.  From there, it was awesome.  A dream come true.


- Were the Phillies among the teams on your radar or was it a surprise when they selected you?

I definitely knew they were interested, but I wasn't sure how interested they were.  There were some other teams that I thought were a little more interested than the Phillies, but it was awesome.  It was cool being drafted by them and, so far, it's been a great thing.  All the coaches, all the facilities...it's been a great organization to be a part of, so far.


- Sounds good.  I took a look at some bio information on you and I noticed that your college major was sports studies.  What does that entail and what can you tell me about that?

Coming into college, I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to go into, but I knew I wanted to be involved in sports somehow.  I have a major in sports management and a double minor in business administration, and I just kind of thought that would broaden the horizons on me being able to do any kind of thing in sports, whether it was working with kids, putting on tournaments, or working in the front office, but I knew I wanted to be involved in sports, so I knew that having all those degrees would make it so I could do basically anything, if baseball doesn't work out. 
 

- That sounds great.  Speaking of being armed with multiple tools, what's your pitch repertoire like and what do you consider your out pitch? 

Pitch repertoire...fastball, slider, change up.  And I would consider my out pitch to be my slider. 


- And what's your velocity like on the fastball and what is the drop off to the off-speed stuff?

The fastball ranges from 90 to 95, the slider is anywhere from 82 to 86 and the change up is about 80, 83.


- And just a couple more things...Coming up as a youngster, who were some of the players you looked up to as a fan, before turning pro?

Growing up, it was kind of interesting, because I wasn't sure if I was going to be a pitcher, or what, so I just grew up, looking at Derek Jeter, you know, Ken Griffey, all those kind of guys.  Those were some of the guys that I emulated during my younger days, hitting.  So, those were some of the guys that I liked. 


- You've pitched in Williamsport and some cities on the road too, but what are your impressions of Lakewood thus far...the facilities, the fans, the community here?

The facility, the stadium, I haven't played anywhere better.  Being on the road here, I wasn't sure what to expect, coming into pro ball, but here you get 7,000 or 8,000 people and that's the most people I've ever played in front of.  The community support is awesome.  It's a great place.  And the fans, there's no better fans than Lakewood fans, so it's been awesome to be here. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #17 RHP Shane Watson

Last year's top Phillies draft choice righty pitcher Shane Watson did not see much action during his initial pro stint.  Many in the organization and around baseball are extremely high on the 6-foot-4-inch 195-pounder, as he possesses skills that earned him considerable regard and made him the 40th overall pick.
 
Pitching for Lakewood High School, located in the suburbs of Los Angeles, CA, last year, Watson posted a 4-3 record with a 1.19 ERA in 11 games. In 53 innings of work, he allowed just 36 hits while striking out 79 batters.

Watson wasn't the first player who attended Lakewood High School taken by the Phillies in the opening round of the MLB amateur draft.  Travis d'Arnaud, who played with Shane's older brother, Scott, was the Phillies' 1st round selection (37th overall) in 2007 out of Lakewood as well.

Although he was committed to pitch for USC, Watson signed his first pro contract, reportedly worth $1.3 Million, and later debuted with the Gulf Coast League Phillies in August.  Pitching no more than two innings per appearance, Watson tallied a 0-1 record with a 1.29 ERA over seven outings.  Additionally, he recorded eight strike outs while walking only one in seven innings of work.

Watson always pitches from the far third base side end of the pitching rubber, which presents a unique look for the opposing batter.

It was the compensation pick that the Phillies obtained for losing Ryan Madson to free agency that enabled the team to pick Watson.

The young, determined hurler is regarded for his strong 12-to-6 curve, which features great movement.  Watson's repertoire also includes a fastball that typically peaks at 94 MPH, but has been clocked higher.  He will also work to develop a solid third offering, likely a change up.

Clearly, the hopes for last year's top draft pick are high and a debut for him in the big leagues is surely not certain.  However, with an athletic frame, great velocity that has the potential to climb higher and a plus secondary pitch already, the sky is the limit for Watson, who should begin the 2013 season in extended spring training and see time with short-season Class A Williamsport this year.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Prospect Nation 2013: #18 OF Larry Greene Jr.

Larry Greene Jr., quietly began his ascension upward in the developmental ranks last season, after being selected in the supplemental 1st round, 39th overall, by the Phillies in 2011.

In his senior year of high school, the lefty batting Greene became an All-American, posting a .536 average in 30 games with 11 doubles, 19 home runs, 52 RBI and 37 walks.

Greene worked out with the Gulf Coast League Phillies late in the 2011 season, after signing his first professional contract, which came with a reported $1 million signing bonus.  He also spent some time at the Florida Instructional League as well that year.

Despite sitting out a good deal of time at Instructs with a groin injury, the slugger was able to take in plenty of batting practice and put himself on display for the brass in attendance, who were there to see many of their newly drafted prospects.  The ailment resulted in some downtime through the winter months and Greene wasn't in the best shape when he reported to spring training in 2012.

That year, his first season in pro ball, Greene spent time in extended spring training getting into a more acceptable playing shape.  Once the short-season New York-Penn League kicked off in June, Greene looked capable at the plate against the league's competition.  As a member of the Williamsport Crossercutters, though, his reputation for having big time power seemed exaggerated, as the 19-year-old launched just two homers.  Greene's .270 average with 22 doubles and 26 RBI in 70 contests were promising, however, and because Williamsport's home park, Bowman Field, is notoriously difficult on hitters, no one is fretting over his low power production.

While Greene's strike out rate was much like that of a very young power hitter that's new to the minors, at over 25%, he has been praised for his plate discipline, as he tallied a very good overall walk rate of 13.7% in his first year as a pro.

On defense, Greene is solid, covering enough ground to hold his own in the outfield.  Additionally, the 6-foot 235-pounder's speed is average and not on the slow side at all, as some may expect of an individual with his larger frame.

Expect Greene, who turns 20-years-old next week, to begin the coming season with Class A Lakewood.  The Phillies have high hopes for the youngster who should begin spring training in better physical condition this year, after spending the off-season fully healthy.


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Image- Joe Wombough