Friday, August 29, 2014

Tocci looking to add what's missing in off-season

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Carlos Tocci, image- Tug Haines
At a very young age, outfielder Carlos Tocci garnered a high level of praise for his raw tools on the baseball field. With minimal offensive production since he was signed by the Phillies, the young Venezuelan has left some wondering what's been missing.

Signed at age 16 for a reported $759,000, Tocci was 2011's biggest international free agent target. Since then, the slim framed youngster has struggled to live up to high expectations surrounding him.

In his initial season in the pro ranks, Tocci tallied a .278/.330/.299 slash line in 38 games in the rookie level Gulf Coast League in 2012.

The following season, at age 17, he began the year with full season Class A Lakewood, where he sported a .209/.261/.249 line in 118 games. He repeated the level this year, posting a .244/.296/.328 line through 122 games, including action on Thursday.

It took 862 professional at bats before Tocci launched his first round tripper. The youngster, who was ranked as the Phillies' ninth best prospect heading into this season, felt the big hit he had long waited for was rewarding not only to get over the hump and to prove that he could do it, but it showed the effort he put forth leading up to it was finally having results.

"It makes me happy because when you feel like something's going good, all the things that you did, all the work, is going well and everybody can finally see it," Tocci said via translator and teammate Jose Mayorga.

The statistical improvements are clear, but the team's manager Greg Legg sees more than just the numbers. Phillies coaches and personnel view the tools and abilities that made Tocci so popular among scouts as lacking a key ingredient. Strength.

"He's definitely finishing the season stronger than he finished last season," Legg said. "You can tell that he's a stronger player and that's probably the big thing we're waiting on is for him to just grow into a man (and gain) a little man-strength.

Tocci, who turned 19-year-old last week, is aware of the Phillies desire for him to add muscle and pounds to his six-foot-two 160-pound frame. It's been requested of him every year since he signed.

"All the coaches have mentioned that I need to get bigger, stronger and I know that," Tocci said. "The coaches also say to get better at being an athlete. Not just try to hit bombs and extra bases. They say my arms and my physical condition can get better."

Winter league baseball will not be on the agenda for Tocci, who knows his duties this off-season will include a Phillies mandated workout routine.

"He needs to work on explosive things. Speed drills. Weights. Some kind of program in that regard," Legg asserted.

According to Tocci, it's not yet clear whether that program will happen under the team's supervision in Clearwater, FL, or if they'll let him go home to work out in Venezuela, but he's already looking forward to the results after an improved offensive campaign this year.

"The only thing I can say is those results make me want to work three times as hard, to get more results and better numbers and not just be a Single A player."

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