Friday, April 28, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Joe Jordan talks Phillies Prospects

Occasionally, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan takes time to chat with me about the organization's rising prospects and he was generous once again this week to offer his insight.  With some top names like J.P. Crawford and Dylan Cozens struggling out of the gate and other well-regarded prospects like Nick Pivetta and the talented pitchers at Class A and High-A doing great jobs, Jordan discussed those players as well as first round draft picks outfielder Cornelius Randolph and RHP Shane Watson. Outfielders Jose Pujols and Andrew Pullin, lefty pitcher Austin Davis and others were also among the topics. Read ahead for all the exclusive comments.

Franklyn Kilome, image- Jay Floyd
-Joe, thus far this season the Threshers pitching staff was been excellent, with great ERA's at 2.28 or under from Franklyn Kilome, Jose Taveras, Alberto Tirado, Seranthony Dominguez and company. How pleased are you with the production from this group?

They're off to a great start.  You know, I just couldn't be happier.  I don't know that we could.  I just think as a group the guys are feeding off of each other.  I mean, it's a good group.  There's a lot of talent, obviously, on that club.  Both in the bullpen and in the rotation.  I just think that they got off to a good start and it's feeding itself right now.  You go down the rotation whether it's Dominguez, Kilome gave up a run last night in the first and went seven (innings), that's all he gave up.  I think a lot of the guys are just pounding the strike zone.  We have our nights were we have big strike out numbers, but for the most part the walks have been very, very low, if at all, so the pitching staff is-- I don't know.  Hell, they're doing just about as good as you could be doing three weeks in. 

-I know some of those guys have gotten plenty of attention at times.  Kilome is well regarded, Taveras had some big strike out games last year with Lakewood, Tirado has some great velocity.  Is there a guy there who hasn't gotten that attention yet that is doing a lot to change that?

I think internally we've seen Taveras really good.  We've seen Kilome, obviously.  Cole Irvin making the jump from the draft and Williamsport last summer to there, I think he's been very steady, kind of what we thought.  He knows what he's doing, knows who he is, pitches to his strengths.  I think he's answered the challenge pretty well.  Tirado I really like.  I don't think he's trying throw 100 (MPH) every night.  He's starting to develop his pitchability.  Dominguez has as good of stuff as anyone there and on the nights that he commands his fastball and has his second pitch, (opponents) have a really hard time dealing with him.  You know, (Blake) Quinn last year he pitched out of the bullpen because he had a lot of innings before the draft and he's been steady.  They're different.  They're a different group.  They all have different strengths.  But I think they're feeding off each other.

-Austin Davis has been great out of that Threshers  bullpen after missing a bunch of time last year.  Seems that he's fully healthy and I saw something that his velocity is up.  Is that the case and what are your thoughts on him right now?

Well, he had some back issues to start the season last year and missed almost half the summer.  But, Austin, his stuff is up.  It's a full grade more fastball than we saw last summer.  His breaking ball and his command of his second pitches has been better.  Discussed during spring training the possibility of him making the Reading rotation, but we felt like Clearwater to start (the season).  So, we'll see how it goes.  Yeah, I think everything you said is accurate.  His stuff is up and he looks healthy.  That's good.  That's kind of what we wanted. 

I think Gilbert going from the rotation in Lakewood, his stuff is up as well.  He's been pretty steady.  (Luke) Leftwich has been really good out of the bullpen, as is (Jake) Waguespack and (Jeff) Singer.  You know, I mean, really it's-- you've got 12, 13 guys there that are really pushing each other and no one wants to get outdone and so far, so good.

-Jose Pujols is striking out a lot, approaching half of his at bats ending that way, with the Threshers.  His manager there, Shawn Williams, had him last year in Lakewood and would cite to me during the year that Jose's pitch recognition was improving, but the numbers don't show that right now.

Well, I think he's got a lot of ability.  I think, not having seen him firsthand yet-- I'm heading there next week-- sounds like he's getting himself out a lot, which means he's expanding the strike zone.  I think that's the thing he did second half of the summer last year.  He basically started swinging at better pitches, so, you know.  April, hitters, he's not the only one doing stuff like that, so he's just got to come back and do what he did the second half of the summer last year.  Swing at good pitches, make them throw strikes.  And if he can do that, he'll calm the strike outs down, hopefully.

JP Crawford, image- Jay Floyd
-As you mentioned maybe there are other guys not having great Aprils, a pair of guys with the IronPigs are struggling in that lineup with J.P. Crawford slumping and Dylan Cozens hitting for a low average thus far (.109 and .118 averages respectively heading into action on Friday).  Some fans are in a panic, but I'm sure the organization is confident the numbers will bounce back for those guys.  What are your thoughts on the early lack of success for those two players?

They're both off to bad starts.  Sounds like the work's been good, but they've had three bad weeks, so I think everyone goes through this through the course of the summer.  Hopefully, their's is going to be the first month and they'll put together four good months behind it.  I don't feel different about either guy.  I think they're both going to hit.  They're both going to be good players, but obviously they haven't had good Aprils up until this point.  What they need to do-- again, I've seen them.  I've seen them firsthand and what's happened has happened.  They've got about three, four days at the end of this month to get ready for May.  They can't change the last three weeks, but they can learn from it and they have three or four games to build some momentum for May and we'll forget all about April if they have good, strong Mays.

-A guy that has had a strong April is Andrew Pullin at Double-A (.358 avg, 5 HR, 14 RBI in 16 games).  It seems like all he does is hit since he got there last year.  He's been remarkable and a big part of the Reading lineup.  Can you talk about him a bit and maybe what his secret is?

Well, he can hit.  Bottom line.  He's got a fast, short swing and he can hit a good fastball.  He can hit a big fastball.  He's just developing as a hitter.  If he uses the left-center gap to the right field line, he's going to be a complete hitter.  He really, really is.  And if he can just stay in the center of the field enough to keep through the baseball-- you know, but I don't know what else he can do.  He's off to another good start, building off of another good year last year.  So, he's healthy.  His arm's strong, he's getting stronger.  Coming back from an elbow injury.  So, it's all good news so far and I like what I'm seeing.  I'm here with the club right now.

-Continuing with the Reading questions then since you're with that club, is there anything going on with Temple product Matt Hockenberry?  He hasn't gotten in a lot of games out of the Fightins' bullpen this year.

Well, he's gotten off to a rough start and right now we're going with some other guys.  And he's trying to get some things worked out so we can get him back in there.  But he's just one of the guys that got off to a rough start and right now we've got some other guys in front of him.

-Shane Watson was excited to open the season at Double-A.  Maybe the result thus far hasn't been as he has wanted it or as the team has wanted it, but could you share some thoughts on his production?

Well, I can't reference all of his outings, but he's done some good things.  I mean, I think that with what he's gone through, he may have been a little surprised that we put that on him to start, but he's capable and I wouldn't say that (his) April has been a disappointment in any way, to me.  Get some warm weather up here and he's going to build a little more arm strength, get loosened out.  I think Shane's going to have a good summer.  So, I've been happy with what he's been doing.  I got to talk to him the last few days and I think he feels good about where he's at and what's in front of him the next four months and the rest of the summer.

Nick Piveetta, image- Jay Floyd
-Nick Pivetta's been exceptional for the Triple-A IronPigs so far and is getting some attention for it.  Has an ERA under 1.00 through three starts.  What have you seen from Nick thus far this season?

He's just growing as a pitcher in every phase.  He's calm.  Very, very confident.  I think he really has realized that he can execute his delivery.  That his stuff and his weapons are very good.  He's got total trust right now in himself and what he's doing.  All that being said, he's off to a great start, so it's really no more complicated than that.  He's executing about three above average major league pitches and Triple-A hitters have had a hard time. 

-I know that (righty hurler) Victor Arano is dealing with some arm setbacks and stuff.  Are there any guys rehabbing down in Florida that you can share progress details on?

Well, I think Arano is getting closer.  I think our expectation is sometime in June to have him up and running.  And John Richy is close. He's throwing, I think he's up to three innings now, so he's very close to getting back and getting going.  You know, I mean (Arquimedes) Gamboa should be down there no longer than 10 days.  We're being very conservative and cautious with his hamstring, but he's feeling good and we're starting to ramp up his activities.  We need to get him back to Lakewood, where he was off to a very good start.  We have some guys coming back.  It's not a deep list down there, but we have some guys down there that are pretty talented just trying to come back and get ready to play. 

-At 19, Cornelius Randolph is rather young at the High-A level with Clearwater (.230 average in 17 games, had 3 HR and a double in first five games this year, no extra-base hits since then).  I know you mentioned that you haven't seen the Threshers yet, but what have you heard on him thus far in 2017?

I've heard good things.  I think that Cornelius is, for me, it's April, it's High-A at a young age.  He's done fine.  He's been engaged.  He hit some home runs early.  I think he's probably struck out a little more than I would like, but I think the plate discipline, the strike zone awareness is still there.  He's done fine.  I think, you know, he's going to have a good summer and the first month is almost over.  I've have no issues at all with what has happened with him down there.

-We talked about how gleaming the Threshers' pitching staff has been.  I think the BlueClaws have had similar success out of some of their starters with names like Ranger Suarez, Adonis Medina and JoJo Romero, Nick Fanti and Sixto Sanchez all doing some good things. How about that group so far?

It's a very exciting group!  I mean, it's talented, they're different.  There's power right-handers, there's left-handers with good arms with breaking balls-- you know, it's a good group.  And it's young.  It's exciting for me that we've got the group there that we have and we've got some guys in Clearwater in extended (spring training)that  will be looking for a similar opportunity sometime here soon.  I think it's been really good.  I'm very, very happy.

-You mentioned guys in extended and I definitely wanted to touch on that before I let you go.  Could a pair of guys like Kevin Gowdy or Cole Stobbe out of last year's draft see time with Lakewood this year, or are there other names you would drop as possibilities to get time with the BlueClaws?

Well, yeah, I mean both guys are going to be good options at some point in time.  I think, you know, if you talk to the guys down there, Cole has been very good.  Has swung the bat well, continues to develop at third base.  Gowdy, pretty much the same.  Both guys were good enough to make the Lakewood club out of spring training. We're managing innings on Gowdy.  We've got a number we're going to get him to this summer and it's easier to do it with him starting down there.  But, if nothing happens, he go to Williamsport and so will Cole.  If we decide that it's better for them to jump to Lakewood before that, then that's what we'll do.  We'll see what happens.
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