Thursday, December 29, 2016

Off-season Check In: 2b Jesmuel Valentin

Jesmuel Valentin, image- Jay Floyd
Second baseman Jesmuel Valentin reached the Triple-A level following a solid campaign with Double-A Reading in 2016. Overall in 125 games, the 22-year-old tallied a .269 average with nine home runs, 52 RBI and four stolen bases combined at the two levels.

Valentin, who is a talented defender, was originally a 1st round draft choice by the Dodgers in 2012 prior to being traded to the Phillies for Roberto Hernandez in 2014.  His father, Jose, played in the Major Leagues with the Mets, Brewers, Dodgers and White Sox.

The five-foot-nine 180-pound switch-hitter is slated to begin his 2017 in big league spring training with the Phils.

Recently, Jesmuel took time to answer some questions about his off-season efforts playing for Mayaguez in the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League in Puerto Rico and spoke on his time with Lehigh Valley this year.  Read ahead for that full interview.


- How has playing in the PR/Roberto Clemente League been for you over the past month or two? 
 
Has been great so far, working a lot on important things to be prepare for my first big league camp, 'cause first impressions are important.  The goal is to make the team but, if not, I want to be the first guy they have in their mind.
 
- Is your dad around the Indios and, if so, what is his role?

Yes, my dad is the manager. He has been a big (help). He always has his fist on me so I can be the best player on the field.

- Is there anyone else there, coach or teammate, that you're learning a lot from or working with closely to improve?
 
Our team has a lot of big league time players like Yadier Rivera, Carlos Corporan, Kennys Vargas, Eddie Rosario, my uncle Javier Valentin is the hitting coach. Every game they give me tips to be better and to be prepared  for every situation or scenario.

- I saw that one of the teams in that league had not been paid in November and they ended up not playing and forfeited a game.  Is that right and have things improved for that team or those players?  
 
Yeah, those rumors where right.  All I know is that the team (is playing) now and everything is running good now.

- What are the crowds like for games there in Puerto Rico and how do the crowds compare to those here in the U.S.?

The crowds here are really low now our team has the best fans on the league. (From) now on the playoffs will be sold out. Compared to (affiliated ball) is that here (the fans) are louder and they live every moment of the game.

- Wrapping up the regular season this year with Lehigh Valley- was that important to you to make it to that level? 

It was.  That one more step was huge.  Why?  Because is a league closer to the big leagues and with a lot of big league players. So, already I had a taste of what is coming.
 
- What was your favorite thing about playing with the IronPigs?

I love the stadium, the fans were awesome, great crowds every day. Nice facilities, great atmosphere, short road trips, and better baseball.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Frosty Phillies Favorites: 2016 Player Christmas Survey

Everybody loves the holidays and, of course, baseball players are no exception. Every year at Christmas time, I survey a group of Phillies prospects about what they get excited for during the holiday season.

Players taking part in this year's seventh annual Christmas questionnaire include 2015 first round draft choice outfielder Cornelius Randolph, IronPigs infielder Jesmuel Valentin, first base prospect Rhys Hoskins, along with pitching prospects Luke Leftwich, Zach Morris and Jeff Singer.

Questions and answers listing each player’s holly jolly holiday favorites are ahead…


- What is your favorite Christmas movie or TV special?

Randolph- Polar Express!  I just like the Christmas kind of vibe that goes to it.  Like, I've been watching it since I was younger.  It was something that me and my mom used to watch.  It's pretty much like a tradition now.

Valentin- I like Bad Santa.

Hoskins- I'm gonna go Christmas Vacation or Elf.  I'd say both of them are absolutely hilarious.  I've probably seen Elf 30 or 40 times.  I just think it's hilarious.

Leftwich- I feel like I gotta go classic with A Christmas Story.  I used to watch that a lot when I was little and I still make a point to watch it every year.  I've probably seen it 50 to 100 times by now. 

Morris- I'm gonna have to go with either the original Grinch or the original Rudolph because every year it was something that I would look forward to.

Singer-  My favorite Christmas movie is Christmas Vacation.


- Do you have a favorite Christmas song?

Randolph- I actually don't have one.

Valentin- Jingle Bells.

Hoskins- I think the whole Mariah Carey Christmas CD is pretty good.  She's got a good voice.  I enjoy Christmas music and it's good every 12 months.

Leftwich- I've been listening to the Michael Buble Christmas album lately and there's this song on there called Cold December Night and I think it's going to be a classic at some point.  It's a great song.

Morris- I don't know.  Not really.  Once Christmas music's on, I'm in a good mood, so I like all of them, honestly.

Singer- My favorite Christmas song is Bruce Springsteen's version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. 


- What is your favorite food or dish at the holidays and who makes it?

Randolph- My mom makes probably the best chocolate cake.  

Valentin- Arroz con gandulez and pasteles. By grandma Tata.

Hoskins- Every Christmas morning my family has a big breakfast and every year my dad makes this egg casserole.  I don't know what is in it, or how he makes it, but we've had it every year that I can remember since I was a little kid.  It's just something that I look forward to on Christmas morning.

Leftwich- Not necessarily anything special to the family of anything, but I'm a big fan of Honeybaked Hams and we always have one on Christmas, so I'd have to go with that.

Morris- Honestly, anything my grandmother makes.  That's where we go on Christmas and just her meals and I don't know what, but they've got something in it.  It might be just be grandmom's love.

Singer- My favorite Christmas meal is my grandparents honey ham.


- Is there any standout Christmas gift that you got from childhood?

Randolph- I think I was about 11 or 12 and my dad got me my first wooden bat.  The story behind that is I saw my brother swinging a wooden bat and I said, "Oh, dad.  I want one!"  And he was like, "What's reason of swinging a wooden bat?" And I could never figure that out.  And he said, "Before I get you that bat, I want you to tell me the reason."  And, so, I asked my brother and my brother would never tell me.  And I finally figured it out and it's to learn the sweet spot.  So, when I finally figured it out, for Christmas he got me my first wooden bat.  So, that was probably the most significant gift I ever  got.

Valentin- It was my first car, a BMW M3 when I was 16 years old.

Hoksins- I always remember getting the game systems.  I remember getting the N64 when I was a little kid.  I must have been six or seven.  And then the PS1 and the PS2 and those were always pretty cool.  Those were always pretty fun.

(I asked Rhys a follow up, inquiring if he had the MVP Baseball EA Sports games and if he would create himself as a player in those games.)

Oh, yeah!  Absolutely.  You'd always make yourself really big, try to make yourself the best player in the game.  Yeah.

Leftwich- I feel like this is really cliche of me to say this, but when I was in elementary school, my parent got me a bike and I'm pretty sure I didn't get off of that bike for the next three weeks straight.  I was riding around, thinking I was the coolest kid in town.  It was great.

Morris- Not that I can think of.  Maybe because I'm a big gamer, XBox.  I remember when I was 13 or somewhere around there, when I got the original XBox for Christmas, that took up 90% of my childhood.  I was glued to my TV in my room and I would never put that thing down.  That still affects me today.  I still get addicted to Call of Duty and other games now. 

Singer-  Best present I got was more of a family gift and it was our Golden Retriever named Holly.


- Do you remember finding out the truth about Santa Claus?

Randolph- Not really.  

Valentin- I did but I forgot when it was.  Probably I was around 11 and I knew 'cause I saw all the presents in my parents' bathroom.

Hoskins- Um, I still believe in Santa.  No, I don't remember finding out the truth.  I think one year I was snooping around and me and my sister didn't really know why the presents were there.  I don't think our parents ever told us explicitly.  I think we just figured it out.

Leftwich- One year me and my siblings got Razor scooters for Christmas from Santa and we were riding them and I had to go to I believe it was soccer practice that day and I went to go put my stuff in the trunk and I was all the boxes of the Razor scooters and I was like, "How did Santa give my parents these boxes?"  So, then, I asked my dad and I guess he knew I was old enough to tell me.  He told me, but he told me not to tell my siblings because they were a little bit younger.  So, I got to be in on the secret for a couple years.

Morris- Yes, I had a friend who had older siblings.  I want to say I was six years old.  I was young.  I don't know.  And he told us one day at school and I wanted to hit him in the face.  I wasn't a very mean kid, but he made me mean that day.  I went home and I just looked at my parents and I said, "Is Santa Claus real?"  I don't remember their reaction, but I remember that kid at school, Tyler.  He told everyone at the lunch table and it pissed everybody off and I was probably the maddest six year old in the state of Maryland.  And then my parents, I don't think they did a very good job of defending themselves.  I think I was very pissed off that Christmas.

Singer- The way I found out Santa wasn't real is that my friend was in church and the priest said that Santa wasn't real and my friend told me the next day, we were 10.  I asked my brother and sister first and they told me it's true.


- Do you and your family have Phillies ornaments on the Christmas tree?

Randolph- Yes, my mom has become a really big Phillies fan, so she put those on the Christmas.  

Hoskins- A Phillies ornament?  I don't know if we do.  That's a great question.  I guess we need to get some Phillies ornaments.  Get the Phanatic!

Leftwich- Yeah, my grandma definitely has one and my parents got one last year too.  So, I think in family houses, we're two for two on Phillies ornaments.


Also, check out previous editions of the holiday survey with the likes of Aaron Nola, Cody Asche, Cameron Rupp, Darin Ruf and others sharing all their Christmastime favorites by clicking the following links- 2015 survey, 2014 survey, 2013 edition, 2012 edition, 2011 edition and 2010 edition. Happy holidays to all of you.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Off-season Check In: 1B Rhys Hoskins


Rhys Hoskins, image- Jay Floyd
First baseman Rhys Hoskins proved to be one of the Phillies most promising prospects last season, when he dominated the Double-A Eastern League as a member of the Reading Fightins.  In 135 regular season games, the 23-year-old righty slugger posted a .281 average with 38 homers and 116 RBI. 

After helping to lead Reading into the postseason, Hoskins, who was the Phils' 5th round draft selection in 2014, spent time in the Dominican Republic playing with the Gigantes.  During his brief stint, the six-foot-four, 225-pounder tallied a .224 average with four home runs and 16 RBI in 21 games.

This week I spoke with Rhys about his experience in the DR, what he is up to this off-season and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

- So you spent some time playing in the Dominican Republic this off-season.  What can you share about the experience?

It was good.  It was short.  But, I think the time that I was there was definitely worthwhile. I learned a lot about the way the game is played down there and it's a lot different.  It's a lot slower and everything is more methodical and thought out, especially the pitching.  It was good to kind of see a different-- I was attacked, approached differently down there than how they pitch in the States, so it was good to see that side of it.

- What were the crowds like at those games?  Were they much different than the minors here?

Yeah, they were fun.  They were loud, a lot of energy.  We played in one of the smaller stadiums, so when there was a lot of people there, it was pretty loud.  Some of the bigger teams down there, the teams in the capital, like Licey and Escogido and then the Aguilas team, they have bigger stadiums, so they can hold a lot more people.  So, it was good to play in that kind of environment and kind of feel the pressure of 15,000 people while you play.

- Was there anyone, coach or teammates wise, that you took a lot from to help you develop?

Yeah, our manager, Bobby Dickerson, he is, I believe, the third base coach for the Orioles now.  He's a big infield guy, lives, breathes infield work, so I actually worked quite a bit with him, doing extra work, stuff during BP, just little things in the infield that kind of make me-- just routine stuff that I can use to make infield work more comfortable, which is always something that I'm striving to do.

I'm definitely going to take these things back into my everyday work and hopefully it pays dividends like it did while I was there.

- Did any of your Gigantes teammates help with transitioning to the change...like Alberto Tirado, or someone else?

Yeah, he was there.  Joely (Rodriguez) was there for a little bit right before I left.  It was cool to see him.  It is cool to be in those guys' hometown and see where they come from and understand the culture and all that.  But, there was a couple guys that I played against in the Eastern League that kind of took some of the American guys under their wing and some guys that I hadn't played with that whether it be because they speak a little better English or I don't know what it was but...Garabez Rosa was one of those guys.  I played against him.  He was an infielder with Bowie.  And then Felix Paulino was a really fantastic guy.  He took all of us American guys under his wing and told us little things that kind helped us get through our everyday lives, not necessarily on the baseball field, just being in a foreign country.  It was pretty helpful.

- That's great to hear.  Hopefully, you'll get the chance to take care of someone in a similar way  or return the favor in the future.

Yeah, it was cool.  Like, I said, seeing some familiar faces made it easier.  Going down there only knowing a couple guys that just made the experience better.


- To start that season, the first game or two you faced off with Dylan Cozens' team.  What was it like facing off against a guy that was your teammate all year and who you were co-winners of the Paul Owens Award with this year?

Yeah, a little different.  But it was fun and we were able to talk before the game and if he got on first, or if (Andrew Knapp) got on first we could talk about how the experience was going or just little stuff.  That kind of keeps it light on the field, which is always good when you're playing baseball.

- So after getting back to the U.S. prior to Thanksgiving Day, what are the biggest differences this off-season versus last year?

I'm a little bit more focused on being in the gym to kind of build a foundation that will last me through August and, hopefully, through September just with my body and I'm working on some flexibility stuff.  I'm always doing some agility, a bunch of stretching to kind of get my body so it feels healthy and strong, so I can hit the ground running in spring training.

- I've talked to guys that spend some time in the off-season going to NFL or NBA games.  Is that something you do during down time, or have you played so much as a pro athlete this year that you don't have interest or time for it?

I'm a sports fan.  Whether it's baseball or-- actually, we got the chance to go to the Indians-Blue Jays game, game 2 in Cleveland, which was an awesome experience.  It was electric.  I got to see a ballpark I had never been to.  I'm just a sports fan.  I think when the TV's on, I'm usually watching some sort of sports.  I'm a big Raider guy, so the NFL season's been pretty fun for me and yeah, any chance I can get, I will take it.  

- Did you just get tickets, or did you have some sort of fancy access?

I just took my girlfriend.  We had some decent seats, but we didn't have any sort of VIP access or anything like that.  We got there early and saw the ballpark.  

It was cool just to see the pregame stuff and the park fill up and the game was a good game.

- As far as I know, you're a west coast guy.  What got you to a playoff game in Cleveland?

My girlfriend works and lives in Cleveland right now, so that's where I am.  I came across the tickets and we decided to go to the game.  I'm spending the off-season in Cleveland.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Off-season Check In: RHP Luke Leftwich

Luke Leftwich, image- Jay Floyd
Right-handed hurler Luke Leftwich had a remarkable season in 2016, earning a nod as a Class A South Atlantic League All-Star with a 7-3 record with a 2.00 ERA through his first 12 starts of the season before being promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater in June. Overall, in his first full year as a pro, Leftwich tallied a 10.1 K/9 mark along with a .255 batting average against and a 1.26 WHIP.

The 22-year-old was a 7th round draft selection by the Phillies in 2015.

Recently, I talked with Luke about his off-season which includes working to finish his college degree.  Read ahead for that interview.


- How are you spending your time since the season wrapped up in September?

I'm studying accounting right now.  I went to Wofford College, which is considered a pretty good school, for three years (before being drafted) and my mom's a principal and she was not about to let me go there for three years and not finish.  So, I'm taking this semester and then going back (to baseball) for the season and then I'll finish (with college) up next fall.  

-With all the studying is there any time for work or coaching this off-season?

Pretty much just school.  I've been helping out with the college baseball team whenever they need me or to help run a practice or something.  Or when I get home (from school), I know I'll help the local little league, so I guess I'll be doing that coming up here.

- How much to you look forward to working with those youth players?

It's really a special experience because I know when I was a kid, we had some of the Arizona State players come through and help us with practice and they were, like, idols to me back then and to see them go on and a lot of them played professional baseball, so I got to watch them move on and play farther when just prior to that they were helping me when I was just a little kid.  So, hopefully, I can be that to someone.

- The Phillies will mandate certain things they want their players to work on during the off-season.  Do you have access to good facilities to get your work in?  And once the throwing program starts, do you have a good place for that?

Yeah.  I'm lucky to be at school because the Carolina Panthers do their training camp at Wofford, so they paid for our entire weight room and we have a state-of-the-art NFL quality weight room, so I have access to pretty much anything I need.  I'm lucky there.  And then once I start throwing, I'll have baseball guys at school that I can have a catch with and then once I am home, I'll be able to have a catch with my dad and he's more than okay at playing catch.

- Is there much variance, besides school, with your off-season this year versus last year?

The main thing is just school.  Last year I went to instructs and then went home for the whole off-season.  This year I've been at school, so I've had a little bit different of a routine.  Basically, just trying to work around class and getting my school work done while still trying to get all the workouts that I need in.  And I think I've been crushing it so far this year.

- Do you have any expectations for spring training arrival time?  Will you head down early?

Last year I went about a week early and I thought that was kind of perfect.  It gave me time to get back into the swing of things, get over the time difference of going from Arizona to Florida and I just felt like that was perfect, so I am going to do that again.

- I talked to Zach Morris and he mentioned that you guys had kind of an off-season bro-date, going out to a football game.  How was that for you?

Yeah, I was telling-- my grandmom lives up in the D.C. area and I knew he lived up there too, so I texted him one of the days before and I told him we should catch up and hang out (while I was visiting), and he said he had an extra ticket to the Redskins game, so I was like, "Absolutely!" It was my first Redskins game and we had a really fun time tailgating.  We got to watch the game from a box suite because (Zach's) dad got those tickets.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Off-season Check In: LHP Zach Morris

Zach Morris, image- Jay Floyd
Last season, lefty reliever Zach Morris had an outstanding campaign with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.  In 43 appearances in his first full season as a pro, the 23-year-old posted an 8-3 record with five saves and a 2.57 ERA while sporting a 7.4 K/9 mark.

Morris was drafted in the 24th round out of Maryland by the Phillies last year.

I spoke with six-foot-five 245-pounder last week about his off-season routine, how he stays busy during the fall and winter months, plus more.  Read ahead for that full interview.
 

- How long do you take off from picking up a baseball once the season ends?

I haven't thrown since I've been home.  They usually give us a good two months for guys that aren't playing winter ball and stuff.  But I think it picks up toward the end of next week I think.  I gotta look at (my schedule).  

- You clearly have a time frame in mind, so is that the workout routine that is mandated by the Phillies?  Is that what you're going by?

Yeah.  100-percent, yeah! 

- I know there's something online that you can log into and access the plans and schedules and things the team wants you to work on.  What can you share about that?

It's awesome.  It's an app right on your phone.  Every day you're supposed to work out, you click on it and sign in and it's got what they want us doing every day, so when I go to the gym I just log in an run through that.  It's got us doing arm care and everything and getting whatever the day has- lower body, squatting, or upper body with TRX stuff.  It's a really convenient app.  It's real easy to use.

- And what would be included in the arm conditioning that you mentioned? 

It's all the same stuff we do during the season.  Whether it''s tubing or six pack stuff or activities that we do during the season to keep our arms in shape and conditioned for preventing injuries and stuff, so it's all the same.

- When you mention tubing and six pack stuff, what are those exactly?

Tubing is a routine they stress.  It's 12 different exercises with a tube.  And the six packs are when you're laying flat on your stomach on a table and you do-- there's different ways you position your arms and you hold it for, like, depending on what the set is, usually for about 10 seconds, you can do it with or without weights and it's a really good workout for your arms and shoulders.  I love it.  I've done it for about six years now.

- When throwing begins, you would need more space than a regular gym may offer.  What facilities will you use to do that work?  Will you be able to go back to your college, Maryland, at all?

Honestly, I've been doing it all over because there's a bunch of guys in the area that I've been throwing with.  I mean, I've got a good relationship with a lot of coaches around here.  I mean, everybody's calling and they want me to help work their camps, so I have access to just about anywhere that has enough room to throw around here.  So, definitely, there's some good relationships that I've built when I was young and it's a good relationship that I have now.  Whether it's a high school, I can obviously go to Maryland whenever I wanted.  My high school, all the indoor facilities around here.  It's good that I'm not just held down to one area.

- I want to touch on your season last year.  When we last spoke at length, you were in the midst of a great stretch of scoreless appearances and all that.  You didn't finish the season with that same output.  Was there anything that changed or were there just some less solid outings which happened because it's baseball?

No, I felt great.  There's nothing-- in my view it was the same as I was all year.  Maybe other than one or two outings, but I mean, at the end of the day it's baseball.  It happens.  You can't be perfect every time.  

If you don't fail you're never going to succeed because you don't know how to.  You just go out there-- there was maybe one outing where I was like, 'Damn.  That's not me.  I'm better than that.'  I mean, you just think about it that night, wake up the next day, flush it and go from there. 

- Is there anybody from the Phillies organization that you've stayed closely in touch with since the season ended?

We have a group chat, all the American guys from Lakewood.  The thing will go off every other day and it's cool keeping in touch with the guys.  And I Snapchat back and forth and actually Luke Leftwich, he's got family in northern Virginia.  He came to town (a few) weeks ago for the Sunday night Redskins game. 

So, he came up and I took him out in D.C. and he came to the football game and we had a good time there.  So, it was cool to see him.

- Do you hold down any job during the off-season, whether it's coaching, working clinics or otherwise?

Yeah, I've actually been doing electrical work with my girlfriend's father.  That's what I'm doing now.  It's definitely a cool skill to learn and just something to keep busy.  I like doing it.  Then, obviously, with baseball camps and clinics and stuff, I've been working a whole bunch of them around here.  And then, yeah, it's a good way to keep busy.

- For spring training, there are plenty of guys from northern states that may go down to Florida early to escape the cold weather.  Will you go down early at all?

Well, my college Maryland, they play at Brighthouse Field in a round robin tournament the second week of the season.  So, I'm probably going to drive down and keep my car down there for spring training and what not, because my parents will be going, because my brother is a junior at Maryland, so it'll be cool to go see them play at Brighthouse Field. 

- Your brother is on the team?  What's his name?

Yeah, Justin Morris.  He's a catcher!

- Sweet.  That's cool to have a battery combo in the family with him catching and you pitching.  Did you guys play together much?

Yeah, my senior year in high school was actually his freshman year and he was a starting catcher on varsity and he had a very good freshman year.  And then, I got to pitch to him a couple times at Maryland last year, which was my last year.  So, that was pretty damn cool to be there pitching in a game in college to your little brother.  It was definitely a cool moment.

Monday, December 12, 2016

PhoulBallz Interview: Joe Jordan talks off-season leagues and more


On Friday, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan took time to chat about several promising youngsters that have taken part in off-season leagues. Read ahead for the full interview.


M Imhof, image- Jay Floyd
- During the season, Threshers pitcher Matt Imhof drew a lot of attention after he suffered a significant injury that resulted in the loss of one of his eyes.  Do you have any updates to share on Matt's progress toward recovery?

I really don't have a whole other than I've spoken with him, he's taking classes and it seems like he's adapting.  He seems to be doing well.  That's what he told me.  Right now, I think that's what matters.  You know, just taking some classes and trying to, you know, I would guess just trying to make the adaptations that he needs to make.  But I really don't have a lot more than that to offer. He seems to be doing well. 

- Is the goal for him to return to the game?

That will be something that if he gets to that point and that's something that he wants to do, then obviously we're going to be happy to give him that opportunity.  I mean, that's the thing, but he hasn't gotten to that point that we've had that conversation.  

- Have you ever seen a player suffer something so significant and fully come back?

As far as returning to play a professional sport?

- Yes, fully return to competing...

No.  No, I haven't.  

- Okay.  So, as far as players that have been active this off-season, there are some bigger prospect names that competed and didn't perform as well as they did during the regular season.  Guys like Dylan Cozens, Jorge Alfaro, others.  Can you comment on that?

I think you want all your players to go out and have success and put up numbers and this and that, but when you're talking to guys going to winter leagues in Latin America like Dylan for the first time or Rhys Hoskins or Andrew Knapp or on and on, for me the experience is really what we want them to get.  It's a different game.  It's slow, you know, they're four hour games.  They're playing against a lot of veteran guys and they get exposed to a lot of different approaches from a hitter's stand point and on how guys pitch.  So, again, I wish they would have all gone down and put up (good) numbers and that's part of what we want them to do it for, but the experience will be valuable.  It doesn't change anything on our side of it as far as how we view these guys.  Not at all.  I spoke with Rhys Hoskins this morning and he flat out told me, 'It was a great experience, just from a stand point of how different the game is down there.'  And I just think anything new, anything different- they're still young players, so it's a good experience.

- I know you're able to get to Arizona each year for the Arizona Fall League, but I imagine you can't get to every country where the Phillies have players in action.  Is the team able to monitor the international leagues closely?

Of course!  Of course!  Alfaro's playing for Jorgey Velandia.  Jorgey's the GM for the La Gauria club.  Ramon Hernandez a former major league catcher for many years is on that staff and I think it sounds like he's had some impact on a couple thing defensively with Alfaro.  But, I mean we keep track of it with personnel and scouts in all of these countries.  They see the players play.  I was in the Dominican Republic for a week, had a chance to see Hoskins and had a chance to see Alec Asher.  It's mainly the local staff and scouts and they're the ones that keep track and offer support.  So, yep, we just don't send them out.  We try to keep tabs on them and see how they're doing.

C Tocci, image- Jay Floyd
- Carlos Tocci has had a very solid campaign in the Venezuelan League and took strides with Clearwater this year.  Can you share some thoughts on what he's done this year?

Yeah, I mean I think it's great what Tocci is doing and he's a good baseball player.  You know, he's got a feel to hit and he's as good as anyone we have in center (field).  I think it's good.  It's really his second year to be able to play on that team down there, so the fact that he's having that much success and the fact that he's our guy and he has a chance to continue his development, it's exciting!  He's a good player.

- So, you mentioned that he's the Phillies' guy and that makes me think of the Rule 5 draft having just passed.  I know the team lost a couple of players, but is there relief for the club after not losing others or more than those who were taken?

Absolutely.  We had many of our guys' names out there and different people were asked about different guys that were eligible and I think it's, um-- we felt like the hit could have been a little deeper as far as the number of players taken.  But as far as that, we lost one player in the major league phase and one player in the minor league phase and for me, you know, that's good.  We like our players and we're glad to have them.

- Ricardo Pinto didn't see much action this off-season with La Guaira in Venezuela, only throwing 14 innings.  Was that by design or was there an issue?

He pitched out of the bullpen.  We had a limit on the innings.  It kind of gets back to the point I was making about the guys earlier...this is a big deal to be in that environment.  It's so different than the United States.  It's loud, it's energy, there's a huge emphasis on winning every night, so we had a certain number of innings we wanted him to get in a certain number of appearances and the fact that he got to do that for us was good experience and leading into 2017.  

- Brock Stassi's had a great off-season with that same team and he's a guy that's gotten some attention after revamping his swing two years ago, with an Eastern League MVP award under his belt.  What are your thoughts on him?

I think in talking to Jorgey, he had a terrific first half down there in Venezuela.  He's a good player.  I mean, it's good solid defense every night.  The last couple of years he's been a much more productive offensive player, so again I think he's a good player, he's a productive player and, you know, I'm looking forward to seeing him in spring training and seeing what he can do.

T Joseph, image- Jay Floyd
- There were reports that Tommy Joseph had his run in the Dominican Winter League cut short with a hand injury?  Do you know how significant that was?

I mean I just think there's nothing to it.  He's fine.  He's gonna be 100-percent by spring training.  I think he just had a little something in his wrist that-- it was gonna be a couple weeks (or) a few weeks till he could play and this was more a situation where he didn't necessarily elect to leave, but in that environment, when you're not able to play, the commitments don't run real deep, you know, he had to come home.  But he's going to be 100-percent healthy in spring training.

- Are there any other guys dealing with injuries or having clean ups or procedures done that are news worthy?

Not really.  We've had a pretty healthy off-season.  And the rehab programs for the guys that have been at the complex, with (Aaron) Nola, you know, some of our major league guys, everything's been positive, so there's really no news to report.  Yeah, if we can get to the middle of February with where we are right now, we're going to be fine.  

- Jesmuel Valentin is playing in Puerto Rico, played at Double-A and Triple-A this year and could be on the verge of becoming a name all Phillies fans should know.  Thoughts on him?

Well, I mean Jes is a good player.  I don't know really what to say other than he had a good year last year and I think that we were able to get him to Triple-A for an amount of time and we were able to get him that experience and that sets him up good for 2017.  He's versatile and he's very good at second base.  I think his bat continues to get better.  He takes his walks and so a lot of guys in our system can get a lot more notice, but he's a good player and he continues to get better.

- And let's not forget about the Arizona Fall League.  There were plenty of guys that saw action out there.  Was there anyone that made a really good impression while playing there?

I think our pitchers all did a very good job.  You know, (Victor) Arano is a good player that went out and did what he does.  I think maybe with the exception of one outing, maybe his first outing where he had some walks, I think he was very solid.  I heard good things.  I think that Miguel Nunez, I think I saw Miguel twice the week that I was out there and I was happy to see what he did.  

(Jeff) Singer was solid.  His year was kind of a whirlwind this year as far as waiting in extended (spring training) for a while.  Once we got him out, he had a super year and the fact that he went out there and did what he did in the Fall League, I think speaks to his ability more than anything.  He really enjoyed that. 

And then, for me, (Scott) Kingery-- that was the end of Kingery's first full season.  I think that was a heck of a demand that we put on him.  He ran out of gas in  August, pretty much, in Reading and I think the same thing happened again toward the end of the Fall League.  And I told him to his face, the reason that you're out here is I want you to push your way all the way to November.  It will help you this year and the year after.  I like everything about what Scott did this past year.


(Aaron) Brown missed some time with an injury (during the regular season), so he got to go play.  And then Mitch Walding had a hell of a year.  His best year as a pro and went out there and did some things in the Fall League and I think that should, from a confidence stand point, set him up to, you know, return to Reading and build off what he did in 2016.  Mitch is a good player and he took a big step forward last year.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Off-season Check In: OF Prospect Cornelius Randolph

C. Randolph, image- Jay Floyd
Despite missing time with a shoulder blade/back issue during the regular season, outfielder Cornelius Randolph had a solid campaign in his first full year in the professional ranks.  In 68 games, he posted a .264 average with two home runs and 27 RBI, mostly with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

Randolph, known as "C" to friends, family and teammates, was selected in the 1st round of the 2015 draft by the Phillies.  The organization hopes that it won't be very long before the promising 19-year-old has reached the big leagues and is impacting MLB Betting odds

The lefty batting Georgia native took time this week to chat about his off-season routine and much more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

- I know that all the Phillies players have a mandated off-season regimen for staying in shape.  Is there anything aside from that you're doing to get better or keep the rust off?

Pretty much just working out.  Working out and maintaining my body.  Just trying to make sure I'm ready when the season comes.

- You guys had a great run in the second half of the season with Lakewood--

We did!

- Can you just offer some thoughts on that tremendous run that the BlueClaws had into the South Atlantic League postseason?

It was wonderful and it was inspiring.  It was a fun team to be a part of and pretty much we just started playing together.  Pitching and hitting, we'd put up a lot of runs pretty much every game, so I mean it's pretty hard to lose while you're doing that, but when we got to the championship series (against Rome, the Atlanta affiliate) we ran into some really good arms like Kolby Allard, Touki Toussaint, (Mike) Soroka...I mean we ran into some nice arms.  So I mean we didn't play badly, pitching still threw well, it was hard to get runs across, so...

- Okay, so you talk about those opposing arms from the Braves' team and those guys getting the best of you in the championship series.  Does that give you some extra drive, hoping that you see those guys again and get another chance against them as you climb through the minors?

Oh, 100-percent!  You always want to face good arms.  You always want to face those guys that you didn't do too well against the first time, so it would be fun to face those guys again.

- So, you live in Georgia and I imagine the weather isn't too great of an obstacle throughout the off-season, being down south.  Do you have access to fields or facilities during the winter months to do your work?

Yeah, I have access to different facilities near me.  The facility I work at mostly is Rapid Sports with Mike Berenger, so I mean that's where I'm working out pretty much every day.  And when it comes time to hit, we hit at Mike Cameron's Baseball Academy. 

- I heard you mentioned Mike Cameron, he's a former big leaguer, so we all know him.  Who is the other Mike that you mentioned?

Mike Berenger is basically my strength guy down here...

- How closely are you able to work with Mike Cameron?

He gets pretty hands-on sometimes.  That's a good guy to have to work with. 

- Obviously, in the Phils system you get to work with a lot of coaches that have loads of time in pro baseball, but what stands out to you with feedback from Cameron?

When I work with him we do a lot of first-step quickness in the outfield.  So, I'm trying to pretty much learn the outfield position.  I'm still new to it (having played infield in high school), so I have a lot of work to do there, so he helps a lot with my fielding.  Hitting wise, he pretty much stays off until he sees something that he needs to critique, or needs to kind of fix and he steps in and kind of fixes it.  I mean, he watches and just sees how me and his son (Astros prospect Dax Cameron) are progressing as baseball players.  We've been together and worked with him since we were younger, so he just watches how we progress.

- What other players are there at that academy with you this off-season?

We got Reggie Pruitt with the Blue Jays, Dax Cameron with the Astros, Charlie Blackmon works out there.  We have a couple big league guys with all the minor league guys.  So, I mean, it's good motivation.

- This off-season versus last off-season, is there a big difference for you between the two years?

More so just me knowing what to expect, knowing when to start hitting.  Last off-season I feel like I started to hit way too early.  It's just you don't want to wear yourself down before the season even starts, so that's the main thing- work hard, but work smart. 

- Is there anybody with the Phillies that you've remained closely in touch with in recent months?

Not really.  I mean, with the Phillies not so much.  I talk to the coordinators.  They check in on me to make sure I am healthy and everything is going good.  I mean I talk to them a lot, but player wise I talk to Mickey (Moniak) some, I talk to J.P. (Crawford) some.  They're still my teammates, they're still my friends, so I talk to them, check in on them, make sure everything is going great.

- When spring training gets rolling will you go down to Florida early or will you go down close to the report date?

They haven't really told me when my report date is yet, but last year I went down about a week early, so that would probably be my plan this year- go down about a week early. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

LHP Milner selected by Indians in Rule 5 draft

Hoby Milner, image- Jay Floyd
As the annual Rule 5 draft approached to wrap up this year's MLB Winter Meetings, the usual anticipation of what possible gem the Phillies could select wasn't there.  Instead, the concern about which prospect the team that has been stock piling young talent in recent years could lose to another club was the prevalent feeling. 

As things turned out, the Phils lost just a single player in the big league portion of the Rule 5 draft and one additional player in the minor league portion.

Cleveland selected lefty reliever Hoby Milner in the big league phase of the draft while Tampa Bay chose minor league hurler Jairo Munoz in the minor league portion.

Milner, 25, was a 7th round draft pick by the Phillies in the 2012 and has displayed exceptional numbers in recent season after switching from a starting role to the bullpen.  Combined with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season, the Texas native sported a 5-4 record with a 2.49 ERA along with six saves while striking out 76 and walking just 15 in 65 innings of work over 49 appearances.

The Indians will need to keep Milner on their 25-man big league roster for the entirety of the 2017 season, or he must be offered back to the Phillies. 

Munoz, a 25-year-old righty, pitched in just seven games in 2016, missing time with an arm injury.  He sports a 3.26 ERA in 62 career games.  The Dominican Republic native was signed as a minor league free agent by the Phillies prior to the 2015 season.

The Phils selected Jorge Flores in the Triple-A portion of the draft.  The 25-year-old infielder was originally draft by Toronto in the 19th round of the 2012 draft.  In 114 combined games with Class A Advanced Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire last season, Flores tallied a .211/.280./286 slash line.