Sunday, August 27, 2017

Reading Eagle survey: Kingery ranked as top Phillies prospect

Scott Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
Recently Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle conducted a survey of media members that cover and broadcast the Phillies minor league teams , designed to rank the top talents in the organization's developmental system.

The participating individuals were asked to rank their personal top 30, which were tabulated on a points system based on each ranking to determine the paper's published list of top prospects.

Participating individuals included Lehigh Valley beat reporter Tom Housenick, Tony Graham of the Lakewood BlueClaws, Mike Ventola of the Reading Fightins, Williamsport beat writer Mitch Rupert, Matt Winkleman of Crashburn Alley and several others including me. 

Second baseman Scott Kingery, who represented the Phillies in the MLB All-Star Futures Game this summer and has been raking all year in a split season between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, tallied the most overall points.  Ranked best overall by the group, the 23-year-old was the Phils' second round draft selection in 2015.

In 124 games thus far this season, Kingery has tallied a .305 batting average with 25 home runs, 64 RBI and 28 stolen bases. 

First baseman/outfielder Rhys Hoskins landed in the 2nd spot on the Reading Eagle's list.  The 24-year-old is off to an historic starts to his major league career since his promotion to the Phillies earlier this month.  In 18 games, Hoskins, who was the Phils' 5th round draft choice in 2014, sports a .297 average and has driven in 24 runs.  His pace in reaching 11 home runs in his big league career is the swiftest ever.

Shortstop J.P. Crawford, widely ranked as the Phillies' top prospect in recent years, since he was their 1st round pick in 2013, fell back to fourth with surging pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez coming in at third on the Reading Eagle's list.

The full top 30 is listed below.

2017 Phillies prospect list
(with position, current club)
1. Scott Kingery, 2B, Lehigh Valley 519
2. Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia 479
3. Sixto Sanchez, P, Clearwater 470
4. J.P. Crawford, SS, Lehigh Valley 441
5. Cornelius Randolph, OF, Clearwater 385
6. Adam Haseley, OF, Williamsport 384
7. Mickey Moniak, OF, Lakewood 379
8. Franklyn Kilome, P, Reading 371
9. Jorge Alfaro, C, Lehigh Valley 357
10. Adonis Medina, P, Lakewood 326
11. Jhailyn Ortiz, OF, Williamsport 301
12. Thomas Eshelman, P, Lehigh Valley 294
13. JoJoRomero, P, Lakewood 267
14. Carlos Tocci, OF, Lehigh Valley 244
15. Ranger Suarez, P, Lakewood 229
16. Roman Quinn, OF, Lehigh Valley 228
17. Drew Anderson, P, Lehigh Valley 218
18. Dylan Cozens, OF, Lehigh Valley 203
19. Jessen Therrien, P, Philadelphia 164
20. Seranthony Dominquez, P, Gulf Coast 146
21. Daniel Brito, 2B, Lakewood 144
22. Ben Lively, P, Philadelphia 137
23. Elniery Garcia, P, Reading 127
24. Cole Irvin, P, Reading 109
25. Ricardo Pinto, P, Philadelphia 108
26. Kevin Gowdy, P, (injured) 88
27. Spencer Howard, P, Williamsport 69
28. Andrew Pullin, OF, Lehigh Valley 61
29. Jonathan Guzman, SS, Gulf Coast 56
30. Yacksel Rios, P, Philadelphia 53
Players not considered based on service time in the big leagues included Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Mark Leiter Jr. and Nick Pivetta. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Threshers RHP Luke Leftwich

Leftwich in 2016 with Lakewood, image- Jay Floyd
Right-handed hurler Luke Leftwich has had a successful campaign in 2017 that has seen the youngster change roles from a starter to a reliever.  Following an April in which he posted a 5.84 ERA in seven appearances with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers, the 23-year-old has tallied a 2.20 ERA in 33 games since then.  Additionally, Leftwich sports an overall 10.8 K/9 mark, has notched eight saves and leads Florida State League relievers in innings pitched with 73 2/3.

Last year as a starter with Class A Lakewood and Clearwater, Leftwich posted a 10-7 combined record with a 3.38 ERA in 23 games.

The six-foot-three 205-pounder was the Phillies' 7th round draft selection in 2015. 

I recently talked with Luke about his success this year, his switch to the bullpen, his approach in the new role, facing Tim Tebow and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-You've enjoyed success this year.  Share some thoughts with me, if you can, about your satisfaction with your season, going from starting to relief down there with the Threshers this year.

It started out a little unsatisfactory for me.  I have pretty high expectations for myself and to start out kind of slow like that it was a little frustrating, but I worked a lot with Aaron Fultz, our pitching coach, and focused on mentality and pitch calling and over the course of the year it started turning around.  And now, looking back through on the season, I'm pretty content with how the season went. 

-You talk about Fultzy there and I imagine advice from a guy that's had to go through a lot to reach the big leagues and then having success there can help you a lot.  Are there any lessons from his career that he's shared that have helped you?

Yeah, it's actually been wonderful working with him because he's a guy that had to spend a long time in the minor leagues to end up having a really long major league career and then everybody's goal is to pitch in the big leagues.  That's why we're here.  That's why we're doing this.  It's been good to hear his point of view on trying to stay level through the ups and downs of minor league baseball because the end result of being in the big leagues is worth the ride.  So, I've tried to just-- I've been trying to take in everything he's given me.

-I just wanted to ask you about the conversion, from starting to relief, because I'll talk to coaches, and they'll say sometimes when that switch is made, maybe a guy wasn't mastering a third and fourth pitch, so they want to see how he might get by with just the two key offerings.  What was the case for you?  How was the switch brought to you?

They let me know at the end of spring training that they were going to be switching me and they made a point to tell me that it wasn't because they thought I wasn't good enough to be a starter.  They just kind of thought the way I pitch played better as a reliever and they wanted to try that out and pretty much told me right at the beginning of the year, they said this might not be a permanent switch, we just want to see how you project as a reliever.  And after they watched me a bit, my velocity took a jump and my pitches and aggressiveness all developed well and they told me this is where they like me.  And I like relieving now and it's definitely been a fun change of pace and I think I've gotten better out of it.  

-What was the velocity jump for you?  Where were you before and where does the fastball reside right now?

Last year I kind of sat low 90's, anywhere 90, 93.  Touched a few 94's every now and then.  And this year, I've been mostly sitting 94, 95, 96.  And hitting 97 every now and then.

-How about the repertoire.  Any changes to the pitch repertoire with the role change?

No, I kind of kept it the same.  (I've changed) more when I'm throwing pitches, rather than what pitches I'm throwing because as a starter, you've got to mix a little bit more because you see people maybe three or four times through the order.  (As a reliever) you may only see them once.  So, you kind of just attack with your best and don't leave anything in the tank.

-What is the go-to pitch and what offerings do you have?

It is fastball, slider, curve ball, change up and I like to stick-- it depends on the day, between I always pitch with my fastball, that's the kind of pitcher I am, and then whatever secondary off-speed pitch is the best that day is kind of what I roll with and that's why I keep all three off-speed pitches because there's a pretty heavy chance that one, if not two, will be on that day.

-Looking at your stat line your strike out rate is outstanding and there's a nice strike out to walk ratio as well.  If I go to the team stat page and I rank guys by strike outs, you're among the team leaders, which is outstanding for a reliever.  And you've got a lot of innings thrown out of the bullpen.  What do you attribute all of that to?

For me, it's all about being aggressive.  It's about attacking hitters and trying to get them out of the box in three, four pitches and if you're not going to put the ball in play, then I'm going to strike you out, so, that's kind of my mentality out there on the mound.  As far as which pitches I throw (to do it), I'm big on reading swings and after the first two pitches of an at bat, I can usually tell which pitch to go to for the strike out after that and attack. 

-What other feedback have you gotten outside of the tips from Fultz or stuff about how they wanted to see you play out in the bullpen?

Nothing in particular.  It's all been positive from the coordinators and coaches.  Everybody keeps saying, "Keep doing what you're doing."   Just trying to keep up the positive streak right now.

-There's been a lot of turnover with the roster there this year and a guy added to the roster during the season is Aaron Brown, a guy that's going from playing the outfield to pitching.  Is he a student at all among the guys in the bullpen?

He pitched a lot in college and he had a really successful college career.  I wouldn't necessarily call him a student with us.  We were joking about it the other day about how he's slowly turning into a pitcher, as far as the goofiness and that kind of stuff that comes with sitting in the bullpen for nine innings.  He's been fun to have around and has been a good addition to our bullpen.  It's kind of fun to see him learning how to pitch again and learning how to be a bullpen arm and we've got a good group of guys here to help him out if he needs it.  So it's been good.

-I know you picked up your first win of the season last week when you guys knocked off St. Lucie.  You got to face a guy in that one that's still drawing a lot of attention.  What can you share about facing Tim Tebow?

Yeah, I came into the game with two outs and Tim Tebow up and it was one of those pretty cool moments because every American that follows football knows who he is and what kind of a person he is.  And now him being a minor league baseball player, it was kind of fun to step on the mound against him.  We had great crowds and it was kind of funny because I got him to hit a routine ground ball to shortstop and the crowd reacted like he just hit a walk-off in the World Series.  So, it's fun to have environments like that.

-Labor Day and the end of the season are coming fast.  Do you have plans in place for the off-season?

I'm gonna graduate from college in December, so that's kind of exciting for me.  

-That's cool.  

Yeah, but as far as baseball goes, I just want to kind of stick to what I've done the last couple years because I feel like I've taken positive jumps in each off-season, which is hit the weight room pretty hard, stick to our conditioning program and really spend a lot of time perfecting the art, which is pitching.

-Now that you mention it, I remember when we talked last off-season, you mentioned that you made the pledge to your mom to make sure you graduated, right? 

Yeah, she's an assistant principle at an elementary school and she's big on education, obviously.  And when my dad went through the same process when he was drafted he never went back and finished school.  So, I told her, and more-or-less she told me that, you're finishing school no matter what.  And, so, this December I will have a degree and I'm pretty excited about that. It's been a long time coming.

-That is exciting!  Congratulations in advance on the degree and congratulations on the season as well.

Thank you very much!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

PhouBallz Interview: Joe Jordan talks Taveras, Hall, Irvin, Moniak, Haseley, Brown, more

Throughout each season, I get opportunities to chat with Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan.  The boss of the Phils' minors is always open and offers solid insight on his players. 

This time around I asked Joe to talk about loads of prospects including bust out pitching performers like Jose Taveras, Nick Fanti and Cole Irvin.  He also shared thoughts out the team's past three first round draft picks Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak and Cornelius Randolph, a trio of outfielders.  Aaron Brown's conversion from outfielder to pitcher was discussed, as was Lakewood offensive stud Darick Hall.  Additionally, he spoke on the organization's acquisitions from the trade deadline, a pair of top performers for the Gulf Coast League team and plenty more. 

Read ahead of the interview.

Taveras w/ Lakewood in 2016, image- Jay Floyd
-Jose Taveras has had an excellent season and has been a lot of fun to watch.  Can you share some thoughts on him?

I think he's had a great summer.  The beauty of Jose is it doesn't matter what ballpark he's in, what league, what venue.  It doesn't matter.  He's gonna go do what he does.  Every now and again, you come across guys that they just have to prove it a little bit more than some other guys and I think he's been tremendous.  He's gonna pitch in the big leagues and I just-- a lot of guys get talked about way in front of Jose, but I think that he's been a huge plus for us this year and he's had a huge summer.

-Another guy that may not get as much attention, but also has drawn some at times because of the no-hitters in Nick Fanti.  What have you seen from him this year?

Yeah, I mean, I think Nick has-- he's obviously forced his way into the conversation as far as recognition and notice as far as what he has done.  But, I think in our industry left-handers have different rules than other guys.  He's not a guy that throws 95 miles an hour.  He's not a guy that a lineup worries about as far as getting beat with big stuff.  But what he can do is use a combination of three or four pitches.  And he's a guy that has a chance to pitch in a major league rotation one of these days.  This year, for the first time he got out of the complex (in Clearwater), got out of short-season ball and had a chance to go pitch and I think his body of work speaks for itself.

-Cole Irvin has had a fun-to-watch and rapid rise in the organization, reaching the Double-A level just a year out of the draft.  I got to talk with him last month.  He seems like a really positive guy.  Can you comment on him?

Well, from the left side-- I don't want to compare him to Taveras, but what I can say is that his approach to pitching is like Jose's.  He knows what he can do.  He studies the lineup he's facing and he's got a game plan every time his number comes up, every five days.  He can go up to 94 miles an hour on both sides of the plate and he has a great feel for his change up.  He's got a curve ball and a slider.  And he's left-handed and he knows what he's doing.  So, this guy, barring injury, is gonna pitch in the big leagues for a long time.  He's smart.  He knows who he is and he's got a lot ability.  I think he was a terrific pick by our scouting staff last year.  (Laughs)  It's hard to believe it was just last year!  But, he's a joy for me to talk to.  I get to sit next to our guys (while they're) charting and scouting in the stands a lot and he pays attention.  His time is coming, but he's a major league pitcher and that's what we're trying to build.  

Rios, image- Jay Floyd
-Another pitcher- just to go back to guys that may not get a lot of attention- Yacksel Rios has made a lot of progress in the last year or so.  Can you share some thoughts on Yacksel?

I think Yacksel is-- you know, if you look at it, you can kind of group him with Jesen Therrien.  Both guys have been in our system for a while, have shown major league stuff for many years.  I think consistency has been the key in 2017 for Yacksel.  He spent his time in winter ball trying to refine and gain consistency with his slider.  He's-- for the last two or three years, he's had the same type of fastball and confidence in his fastball.  It's the second pitch that has been the big key for him.  Obviously, Jesen's in the big leagues and Yacksel is doing everything he can to force his name into the conversation of the next group to come.  I give credit to our staff.  It's taken a while, but the kid's hung in there and he's really, really looking the part of a major league pitcher.

-How about the transition of a guy that's gone and converted from outfielder to pitching in Aaron Brown?  What went into making that decision to move on from hitting and give pitching a full go?

Well, I think that if you look back on his draft year, our scouts were basically split down the middle on how we should send him out.  I thought it made sense to send the guy out as a position player.  I agreed with those in the room that thought that.  And, you know, when I approached Aaron earlier this year about converting, he was really 100-percent on board and anxious to get started.  You know, if you read last night's game report from Clearwater, he had two major league pitches and his ability to use them is improving and I don''t know-- I'm really excited.  We're expecting him to pitch this winter in winter ball, just to gain more experience.  He needs some time on the dirt, mound time.  But, you know, honestly, it's very exciting what can happen here.

-I wanted to ask you about the pair of outfielders now with Lakewood, following the promotion of Adam Haseley.  He's this year's first round pick, joining last year's first round pick Mickey Moniak.

Moniak, image- Jay Floyd
I've had this conversation multiple time and I will speak first on Mickey.  Moniak was a high school player in last year's draft.  He's our first pick, the first overall pick taken and I, personally, have seen everything I've needed to see this summer from a young player that has a chance to be really, really good in the big leagues when it's his time.  He's physically got work to do.  He knows that.  It's a long season and he showed up early in spring training and he's been at this about six and a half months and you can't tell them what they're about to get into.  They've got to go and experience it.  And it's been a long summer, but I think he's shown our staff everything he needs to show us, it's just a matter of staying strong and being able to do it over the course of a six, seven month season.  So, for me it's all good there.

On Adam, he was taken a couple months ago and I was in the room listening to our guys describing the player and what he has a chance to do and what his strengths were and I've seen all that.  I've seen it.  I've seen everything that they described.  And this will be the first winter that he's got a chance to go be a position player in 2018 and so I'm anxious to see what he does and what he looks like in spring training.  

But, both guys have a lot of strengths.  They have a lot of things they can do and they're on the same club now.  We're gonna alternate them in center field.  We're going to expose them to the corner, use the DH spot.  They're going to finish the season there on the same club and, so you know, I think it's good that they're together.  I think it's good that Adam is with that club now.  And, for me, they're both going to be right in the middle of what we're doing when this organization is putting a major league team on the field that has a chance to compete for a world championship. 

-With the Gulf Coast League team, many people don't get to see that club, so exposure to those guys can be limited to just what you see in box scores.  Is there anybody on that team you feel is rave worthy that you've seen this year?

I can speak to the drafted guys-- well, it's hard for me to do.  I'm not looking at the roster, so I don't want to leave guys out.  Who do you want to talk about?

-Well, just when you look at stats, I see the good average and a lot of multi-hit games coming from Ben Pelletier.

Yeah, I mean, high school kid out of Canada.  I think historically, those guys are a year, year-and-a-half behind the high school seniors in the states.  Ben's had a great summer.  He's gotten stronger. He's seen good stuff day in and day out.  I think we can stack his numbers up against anyone there.  It's a good start to his career.  He's had a good summer.

-I know stat wise another guy that might stand out is Manuel Silva, who is undefeated at 5-0 for that pitching staff.  Thoughts on him?

You wish you could add three or four of these guys to your system every year.  Our Latin staff has proven that they can identify young player that have ability that just need to get in the system and progress.  It's left-handed, 94 with a breaking ball and a change up.  He just needs experience.  It would not surprise me two, three years from now if you start talking about our system that this guy's in the top six, seven guys that we're talking about.  He's got that kind of ability.

-I also wanted to just touch on the new additions from recent trades.  Mills, Hammer and others come in.  Have you gotten to see all of those guys? Is there any body you haven't seen that you're still trying to catch up to?

I think if you just start with (Alejandro) Requena and (McKenzie) Mills, both guys have had terrific summers.  I've seen them both.  They're both-- starting with Requena, for me, this is a kid that can pitch.  He's got now stuff.  He's the complementary pitches to go along with his fastball.  He's had a lot of innings this year and he's not going to pitch any more this summer.  But, I'm really, really excited to see this guy in spring training.  

I saw Mills this summer against our Lakewood club and we were really happy to trade for him because we had no answer for him.  But, it's left-handed, it's big, it's physical.  He's got a feel for kind of a four-pitch mix.  I think both guys are tremendous additions.  Great job by our scouts and, you know, I think Jose Gomez is a kid that can swing the bat.  All of these guys, for me-- we're going to bring them to instructional league.  We still have a lot of the process of getting to know them to do.  And what they need from us.  But again, I think our scouts did a great job in these trades, getting guys with ability that really have above average change to be major league contributors.  

Randolph w/ Lakewood in 2016, image- Jay Floyd
-In the Threshers outfield Jose Pujols is a guy that showed a lot of power last year in Lakewood and it hasn't translated up a level, average has been a concern as well.  And then Cornelius Randolph is there.  He's taken some strides this year to improve.  Any thoughts on those guys?

Cornelius, for me, has gotten better month to month all summer.  We knew going in that the Florida State League was going to be a challenge for him.  And I think that the progression, from month to month, he's done what he needs to do.  I really like the summer he's had.  Jose he's had a bad year.  I don't think I can sit here and dress it up any way other than that.  He's had a tough year, from an approach stand point and a consistency stand point, it's been a tough year.  So, we're looking to get through the year and we've got plans for him this winter.  We've got a place for him to play.  He hasn't forgotten how to hit.  He hasn't forgotten how to drive the ball.  He's just had a bad year, so we're going to use the winter to re-set him and get him back on track in 2018.

-I mentioned Jose having a good season power wise with Lakewood last year.  A guy there now that's doing it and is about to break Jose's single season home run record for that team is Darick Hall, a 14th round pick last year.  He's hitting for a lot of power there.  Is he as exciting to the team as he is for the fans?

Absolutely.  I mean, it gets back to our scouts.  You look at where he was taken in the draft, and he's got a chance to hit his way to the big leagues.  I think the thing that I'm excited about when you look at him is that he's an RBI guy and you take three weeks away in the first half where he was not with that club (due to injury), you know that club finished three one-hundredth of percentage points out of a playoff spot and it was basically due to he wasn't there.  He's been a stabilizer.  He's been consistent.  It's a very, very young roster and it has been all year.  And this guy has-- he's gonna be in a lot of conversations at this point in time next summer.  I think he's done a hell of a job and he's got a chance to win the MVP in the Sally League and we'll see where it goes from there.

-I know there have been lots of guys promoted throughout the year and that's just going to continue.  Players generally will get that news of a promotion from their manager.  Is there any part of you that misses out on getting to give guys the rewarding news of a promotion?

No, not at all and I'll tell you why.  I did not understand the importance and impact that the manager has on all of our clubs until I began this job.  I didn't get it.  I just didn't know.  And I think that the-- other than the players-- the most important figure at every level is the manager.  They set the tone.  They deal with the good.  They deal with the bad.  They have to release guys, the least I can do is let them take care of when we get to tell a player good news.  So, I really-- I've got a good relationship with our players.  I work really hard to get to know the players along with our staff.  And I always try to follow up with the players once they're promoted, but that's the managers' job and they've earned the right to do it. 

Joe also shared updates on several injured Phillies prospects, namely Roman Quinn, Alberto Tirado, Mitch Walding, Grant Dyer and Kevin Gowdy.  Click this link for all of those details. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Quinn nearing return to full baseball activities and other injury updates

Roman Quinn, image- Jay Floyd
Phillies fans that have gotten recent doses of well-regarded prospects Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro may be wondering which other stars of the future could be making their way toward the big leagues when rosters expand in September.  A player that stands a chance at getting the call for the second year in a row is outfielder Roman Quinn.

The 24-year-old has been on the shelf since late May dealing with a strain of his UCL in his non-throwing elbow.  However after a lengthy rehab period, Quinn is nearing readiness for full baseball activities in the coming days according to Phils director of player development Joe Jordan.

The minor league schedule wraps up on Labor Day, so he won't be back with Lehigh Valley this year.

"Quinny is feeling good," Jordan said.  "He's getting close to getting really amped up with his baseball activities.  I'm gonna guess that if we were pushing him to action, we could probably get him ready in two weeks."

Though, not likely, Jordan stated that there is a chance of Quinn spending time in the big leagues during final month of the season. 

The more likely option is that Quinn will return to the Dominican Winter League to see action.

"He's been in the league before and he wants to go play," Jordan said.  "He understands, obviously, the fact that he needs to play and get ready for next year, so Quinny's doing fine.  He really is."

With Licey in 2015, Quinn tallied a .212 average with a pair of home runs, seven RBI and eight stolen bases in 25 games played in the DR.

In 15 games with the Phillies last September, the switch-hitting Quinn sported a .263 batting average with five doubles, six RBI and five stolen bases.

This year with the Triple-A IronPigs, Quinn, who was the Phillies' 2nd round draft selection in 2011, posted a .274 average with two homers, 13 RBI and 10 steals.

Quinn has developed a reputation as an injury prone prospect, missing time with various injuries including a broken wrist, a ruptured Achilles tendon, an oblique strain and a muscle tear in his hip region.  It's been virtually something new for Quinn to rehab each season.

"It's unfortunate we're in the situation we've been in-- he's been in multiple times," Jordan stated.

Jordan also spoke on other injured players including 19-year-old righty pitcher Kevin Gowdy.  The Phillies' 2nd round pick in 2016 posted a 0-1 record with a 4.00 ERA while striking out nine and walking two in nine innings of work over four appearances last year with the Gulf Coast League (rookie level) Phillies.  He has missed this entire season and recently underwent Tommy John surgery.

"His outlook is he's going to miss most of, if not all of, 2018.  I think, Jay, it's been reported that he's undergoing elbow reconstruction.  So, that's where we're at.  We've been through it many times with a lot of the guys and, so..." Jordan stated.

Alberto Tirado, image- Jay Floyd
Double-A reliever Alberto Tirado, sidelined since August 4th was also a topic of discussion.

"Alberto had a little bit of kind of inflammation, shoulder discomfort.  It's nothing serious.  But he's at the complex now in Clearwater.  He may, he may not pitch the rest of the year," Jordan said. 

Double-A All-Star third baseman Mitch Walding, injured on a collision with teammate Chace Numata while each tracked a pop up in the infield on July 25th, was also spoken of.

"I think, optimistically, I mean he had obviously he's past any concussion type symptoms, but he had some fractures in his face, so we're hopeful at the end of the month he's going to be able to play, but we'll see.  It's still a little of a wait and see." Jordan said.

Lastly, Jordan offered some good news on the return of 22-year-old righty pitcher Grant Dyer, who helped the Class A BlueClaws reach the postseason last year after the Phillies made him an 8th round draft choice.  Dyer missed this entire season following Tommy John surgery.

"Grant obviously underwent UCL reconstruction.  He's had a great rehab.  He's probably going to throw some for us in instructional league and we'll see how it goes from there.  We're going to get a chance to see him throw in instructional league," Jordan shared.


For more exclusive quotes from Joe Jordan talking Phils prospects, click this link.

Monday, August 14, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood OF David Martinelli

David Martinelli, image- Jay Floyd
As a member of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws this season, David Martinelli has had a steady presence in the club's lineup.  He's helped the team compete all season long as the 'Claws remain hopeful of having an outstanding final month and locking down a postseason berth.

Martinelli, the Phillies' 6th round draft selection last season out of Dallas Baptist, has posted a .207 average with six home runs and 26 RBI in 87 games played.

I recently spoke with the lefty batting Texas native about his season, teammates Mickey Moniak and Daniel Brito, his draft experience last year and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-I'm hoping to get your thoughts on your 2017 with the BlueClaws.

Yeah, we're a different team now than we were at the start of the season.  There's a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces.  We have a shot here, we have 30-some games left.  We have a shot to win some games, make the playoffs and this is going to be a tough month.  Everybody-- you have to, mentally, just grind through it.  But, I started off, myself, I started off slow and then I picked it up there in the middle and have kind of been struggling here lately, but definitely gonna try to finish the season strong.  It's a mental thing, you just have to grind through everything.

-It's great that you're talking about the team, but how about your individual efforts?  Is there satisfaction with your production?

I mean, it definitely could be better.  I think everyone thinks they could be doing better.  So, for myself, I just want to drive the ball more consistently and just do everything I can to help the team win.

-You talk about the "drive-the-ball" focus, is that feedback you've gotten on where to improve from the coaches?

I mean, yeah, sort of.  Just in general I'm trying to hit the ball harder.  If you hit the ball hard I think good things are going to happen.  Just trying to stick with that right now and keep it simple.

-The Lakewood outfield has gotten a little bit of attention as a group.  It started when Cord Sandberg was here with some post game celebrations on the field after wins, doing a bit of football choreography.  You guys have still stuck with some celebrations since he's left, but maybe it has been toned down since Cord was promoted?

Well, Cord was kind of the ring leader, I'm gonna be honest.  We see all these big leaguers doing things after they win and Cord was a good football player in high school, so we thought we might run some plays, like you know after we win and stuff.  And since he's left, it's been kind of a bummer, because we had some tricks up our sleeves we didn't get to put out.  You know, we can't do any football without him.  It's definitely gotten more tame just, I mean, we were trying to hold off till we were back, doing a bit better as a team.  We don't want to put too much attention on individuals.  We want to keep it more as a team.

-I just saw Daniel Brito go by.  He's credited by players and coaches alike as having a positive impact on the club.  He's a big smiles guy.  A big positivity guy on the team.  Do you see that coming from him?

Yeah, absolutely.  He's a fun guy, man.  He's full of energy.  He's a great young talent.  It's kind of fun to be hit teammate and just see what he does.

-Speaking of teammates, a guy that's out there with you in the outfield is (last year's top overall draft pick) Mickey Moniak.  He gets a lot of attention.  Is it fun to be part of the outfield with him?

Yeah, absolutely.  He's a great guy, man.  There's a lot of hype behind that kid and there's a lot of attention given to him and I feel like sometimes it's not always positive.  Just, you know, there's always people that are going to try to bring you down. He's a tremendous baseball player and he's super young.  And there's so much talent.  It's fun to watch him.  Just to be in the outfield with him and get to know him.  I think he's going to shock the world one day.

-You're a southern guy, right?

Yes, sir.

-So I don't imagine that you spent much time in New Jersey before coming here to play, right?

No.  I've never been here before.

-What were your impressions of New Jersey before coming here to play?

 Well, I just thought everybody would be really tan and have a bunch of accents.  From watching the TV shows and all that stuff.  It's good.  It's difficult driving around here with no left turns, I'm going to be honest with you.  That's kind of tough.  There's a bunch of nice people.  I never thought that anybody would be rude or mean, by any means.  But, my host family, they're amazing.  Billy Quinn and Kristy Quinn, they're awesome people.  She's from around here and we kind of joke with her about that stuff every now and again.  But, yeah, the people up here are great.

-How about the coaches?  Have they been really helpful for you and your progress?

Yeah.  Any coaching staff-- you need a good coaching staff.  No matter where you go, it's weird calling them coaches.  You get to know them more on a personal level and they're great guys and they want us to succeed and they want the team to succeed.  The Phillies do well in putting our entire staff with our trainers and guys and everybody together.  The Phillies did a good job.

-Your pal Austin Listi is (nearby playfully looking in on our chat) and he's from this year's draft class.  What do you remember from your draft experience last year?

Yeah, well I was-- it was kind of funny.  I was going to the bathroom upstairs at my house when my name was called.  I hear everybody downstairs going crazy and I thought, "Wow!  I just missed it.  I just missed my name being called."  So, that was funny.  And I came back downstairs and everyone was cheering.  

Not a whole lot of people get to experience (being drafted).  It's definitely something that you've dreamed about so when it happens you're kind of in shock a little bit.  And then you're on that flight and leaving your family to guy play with guys you've never met from all over the country, it gets real, real fast.  

-Had the Phillies been in touch with you, or were they a surprise to take you in the draft?

No, not at all.  I mean, we had a lot of people contacting myself and my agent.  I had a pretty good relationship with Paul Scott, the guy who was my area scout at the time and I had a good feeling about it too.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Austin Listi Interview Excerpts

Austin Listi, image- Jay Floyd
First baseman Austin Listi is enjoying success after he was selected by the Phillies in the 17th round of this year's draft.

Through 32 professional games at two levels, the righty batter has posted a .274 average with five home runs and 21 RBI.

At this rate, it may not be too long before Listi has sports fans everywhere using NetBet, hoping to make his talents work in their favor.

The 23-year-old Dallas Baptist product was the subject of a recent feature I wrote following a chat at Lakewood's FirstEngery Park.  The interview excerpts ahead include Listi's thoughts on earning a promotion, playing in the minors with a pair of college teammates and plenty more.


-With the promotion from Williamsport to Lakewood, what was the jump to the Sally League like for you? 

Obviously, I'm humbled and honored to be here.  I met the team on the road, we were in North Carolina, so what made it an easier transition for me is I have a couple former college teammates here with me.  Darick Hall, David Martinelli.  So with those guy here, just giving me advice on how things work at this level or with this organization, or with this team, this organization as well.  'Cause when I got drafted they were there to lay it out for me with what's going to be going down.  And all the other guys on the team have been great and have welcomed me with nothing but hospitality and a smile.  It's been great.  It's been fun and I'm just happy to be here.
-Can you share more about your relationship with those two guys that were your college teammates?

I played with David Martinelli for three years at Dallas Baptist.  I was a sophomore when he was a freshman there.  And then Darick Hall came there when I return to DBU, I left for a year to go do some stuff.  When I was drafted by the Phillies, 'cause they call me and texted me right away.  They found out and they welcomed me to the extended family now.  They were like, "Welcome to the family again!"
-Coming out of college ball this year, has the transition to the minor leagues been as you expected?

Well, coming from DBU, we have a lot of guys that get drafted, so we'd have guys that come back in the off-season and tell us how it was for them, or tell us what they needed to work on or tell us about what they saw or what their biggest adjustment was, so I took all their advice and kind of put it into myself.  I had to use that to help me to see what I thought and to see if I was kind of like them.
At this level especially, the pitching has been really good, I think.  They're spotting up with different pitches in different locations in different counts.  And they move up, down and it's pretty tough to hit.  You know, I would say it's a pretty big transition from college, where a team might have one guy that can do that.  Or two, a starter and a closer or something.  But here, it's been starter, bullpen, closer, it doesn't matter.  It's been good baseball.

-Now that you're in the pro's, are you keeping souvenirs with all the firsts and landmark moments?

I was pretty lucky.  I didn't get my first hit ball, but I got my first home run ball in Williamsport.  Somebody went and got it and brought it to me.  And then I got my two home runs, I got both balls over in North Carolina, their fans went and got them and gave them to me.  That was really nice, especially for the away team.  Baseball fans, they love the game no matter who it is.  Just, I was really thankful, because- my family, they want it more than I do.  I'm not really sentimental type.  I just give it to my family.

-Coming from Texas, what were your impressions on New Jersey before playing here with the BlueClaws?

Honestly, Jersey Shore.  The shore, the beach, the piers and then the show.  Me and Martinelli are Italian, so we'd joke about it, being Guidos and stuff but...I've never even been to this side of the country other than North and South Carolina till now.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Familiar faces make pro transition easy for Lakewood's Listi

Austin Listi, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD, NJ-- Before June, Austin Listi had never been to the northeast portion of the United States.  Two months later, the Phillies minor leaguer has made the Philadelphia region his home away from home.

A 17th round pick in this year's MLB amateur draft, Listi was lucky enough to join an organization that employed some familiar faces.

A pair of Listi's college teammates made the thought of his first trip to unfamiliar territory a bit more pleasant.  Listi, a first baseman, played at Dallas Baptist with outfielder David Martinelli for three seasons and first baseman/designated hitter Darick Hall for a season as well.

"When I was drafted by the Phillies, they called me and texted me right away," Listi said of the excitement that Martinelli and Hall had when the Phillies drafted him.  "They found out and they welcomed me to the extended family now.  They were like, 'Welcome to the family again!'"

If having friends in the organization wasn't enough to make Listi feel like he was in the right place, perhaps a former big leaguer that he once looked up to could assist with solidifying those feelings.

After signing his first professional contract, Listi reported to Clearwater, taking part in a mini camp, prior to being assigned to a team's rostern.  There, he recognized a face from some of  his earliest of childhood baseball memories.  That of current Phillies minor league infield coordinator Chris Truby.

Long before he signed with the Phils, around the age of six or seven, Listi was in attendance at a Houston Astros game with a lifelong friend and the friend's father.  The eldest of the trio, hoping to acquire a memorable souvenir for the pair of youngsters, hollered toward Truby, who was a player for the Astros at the time, expressing that Listi and his friend were two of Truby's biggest fans.

Truby, a .241 hitter during his Astros days, rewarded his devoted followers with a couple of autographed balls and some conversation.

"I didn't even know that he was part of the Phillies organization as a coordinator, so when I met him down there I told him the story and he loved it," Listi said.

Soon, Listi, who is listed at six-feet-tall and 218 pounds, was assigned to the short-season A level Crosscutters team in Williamsport, PA.  In 22 games there, he posted a .293 batting average with three home runs, 17 RBI and three steals. 

Hall, Listi and Martinelli, image- Jay Floyd
Last week, the Phils promoted the Huffman, TX native to full-season Class A Lakewood.  In his second game for the BlueClaws, the 23-year-old notched four hits, blasting a pair of solo homers in an 11-2 romp of Greensboro on the road.

Through his first nine games with Lakewood, Listi sports a .237 average.  Collecting a handful of "0-fers" during his first week on the Jersey shore area club isn't discouraging, thought, for the righty batter, as he chats about his efforts with positivity and a smile even after an unsuccessful outing.

Listi looks forward to the tough road ahead and will always welcome the ups and downs that come with the pro game.  The Phillies' mid season futures weren't so hot this year. A 90/1 shot at the World Series could be discouraging.

"I'm all about a challenge," Listi explained.  "It's just how my life has been.  I like to challenge myself.  I like difficult things to see what I'm made of and push myself."

With a mindset like that, it may not be long before Listi is making an impact at the top level of the sport.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood hitting coach Nelson Prada

Nelson Prada, image- Jay Floyd
Last week, I sat down to chat with the hitting coach for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws Nelson Prada about much of his team's lineup.  Key topics included second baseman and lead-off hitter Daniel Brito, the South Atlantic League's RBI leader first baseman and designated hitter Darick Hall and last year's first overall draft pick outfielder Mickey Moniak, among others. 

The BlueClaws were in the midst of a four-game win streak to start the month and had just beaten division rival Greensboro in walk-off fashion at the time of this discussion.  Read ahead for the full interview.

-Huge win. Brito with a big hit there to win it.  He's had some ups and downs this year.  Can you talk about Brito a bit?

Yeah, I mean, we've been working with Brito honestly to hit the ball the opposite field and he's been pulling some balls through the year.  Even Hagerstown, they shift him sometimes, which is something that's not good for him.  You know, he's a hitter and he's supposed to use the whole field and hitting the way like he did today.  He went to the opposite field today.  He's been good.  In the second half, he's been trying to do that a lot and we've been working with him to use the whole field and he's had good results. 

-Is that the same thing that Hall needs to be doing, working on hitting the other way?  I've seen teams shift him.  That seemed to be where he needed to improve earlier in the season.

Well, I think, you know, with Hall it's a little different.  I really believe that all the hitters, they have to use the whole field, but Hall is, you know, he's a power hitter.  He needs to use the whole field, but not for base hits.  He needs to drive the ball out of the park. You know, to all fields.  He did it already.  Out of 20 home runs, he's got maybe four to the opposite field.  Maybe three or four to center field and then another 12 pulling.  So, I think he's been using the whole field.  Not very consistent, but he's on his plan. 

-Talking about a plan, I am sure Mickey Moniak has had a plan from the start.  With a lot of high expectations for a guy like him, what have you seen from him this season?

I think Mickey is having good success, for a 19-year-old kid.  He's facing a lot of 23, 24-year-old kids from college.  It's not an excuse, but I think the results for me they're really good.  I think he has really good plate discipline, even when he's swinging a little (at) some pitches out of the strike zone now, we had a little conversation the other day.  He's thinking about, maybe, the results.  Being a guy that has been hitting all of his life, you know, he doesn't see the .300 (average) on the board and it's a little in his head.  And he's going out of the strike zone trying to do too much.  And we've had that conversation already.  Maybe like a week ago.  From there he's been good again, taking walks, and he's got a couple hits yesterday and I think two hits the day before.  You know, he-- if we can get him to finish .270, maybe 50 RBI, maybe 8, 10 homers, we'll be good.

-Jesus Alastre has had some success since coming here and maybe can be a guy to add some energy to this club.  Can you comment on him?

Yeah, Alastre, he's a player.  Um, he's a guy that has played already in the Winter League in Venezuela for a little bit.  He got maybe 50 at bats with the big league team over there, so he's got some experience for a young guy.  I think he brings a balance in the (bottom on the lineup).  Marty (Malloy) keeps him down there and he gets hits at the right moment at the bottom of the lineup.  It's not like we bunch the better hitters on top and then you don't have anybody down.  He have him down there hitting .300 and, you know, I think he's a good hitter and he gives us a little experience in the lineup. 

-In recent weeks, maybe the club hasn't scored as many runs as it has in earlier parts of the season.  Is there a big focus on changing that?

Well, we won 40 games in the first half and I think we got hits at the right time.  This team has been pitching well all year.  We got, like I said, we execute well, you know, to score runs.  And in the second half we have-- as the year goes we've been better.  In the first month, we hit .220 as a team.  the second we hit .250, the third we hit 260 as a team.  And then in July we went down again to .230.  But already in August we've (been winning).  So, I think the guys we've been focusing on executing.  That's the Phillie way.  Move the runner, score the run, get the bunt down.  And when you can do all that, you can create runs and that's what we're trying to do right now.


-Another guy I wanted to ask about before I let you go is Austin Listi.  He's joined the club and has seemed to fit in, with a couple teammates from college Darick Hall and David Martinelli on the team as well. 

He's a guy that he fits right in.  He's got a couple guys that he's played with, like you say, D. Hall and Martinelli.  You know, he came and he hit really good the first couple games and then he struggled a little bit the last two games.  He's chasing too many breaking pitches in the dirt.  We gotta work a little bit on being more patient, get your pitches, don't go out there and swing at everything you see.  It's just about plate discipline and having a plan.  He just got here.  He's had a couple good games, he's had a couple bad games and we're going to talk about discipline tomorrow and a plan at the plate.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Nick Fanti Interview on the Felske Files Podcast

This week I spent some time chatting with Class A Lakewood hurler Nick Fanti, who has tossed two no-hitters this season, for John Stolnis' Felske Files Podcast.

In the interview, the left-hander shares thoughts on his Nicky No-No nickname, how his pitching coach Brian Sweeney has helped his efforts this season and plenty more less serious subject matter.

Also on the show, John talks with Phillies beat writer Steve Gross on the Phils' depth at shortstop and ESPN's Jerry Crasnick about the MLB trade deadline.  The Phillies cancelling Pete Rose's Wall of Fame induction is also discussed.

Check out the player embedded below for the latest episode.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Top pitching prospect Sanchez promoted to Clearwater

Sixto Sanchez, image- Jay Floyd
It was announced on Friday that the Phillies have promoted top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez to Class A Advanced Clearwater.  Though, savvy Twitter followers of this writer were tipped off to the news on Thursday night.

The 19-year-old right-hander had garnered much attention this year with excellent command and remarkable velocity, clocking 100 MPH and higher on a regular basis for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws. In 13 starts there, the Dominican native sports a 5-3 record with a 2.41 ERA.  He notched 64 strike outs and walked only nine batters in 67 1/3 innings.  He held opponents to a .191 average.  Additionally noteworthy is that Sanchez allowed just a lone home run this season.

Sanchez was part of a strong BlueClaws pitching rotation that helped the team come within percentage points of winning a first-half division title. 

In a recent interview, Sanchez told me that his BlueClaws teammates helped him improve and achieve success this year.  Joining a new club won't set him back at all, as he'll join JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez as key Lakewood contributors that made the jump up a level during this season.

Competition in the Florida State League will prove to be a nice challenge for Sanchez, a six-foot tall 180-pounder.  He had begun to look unmatched for Lakewood, where his ERA over his last eight starts since returning from a stint on the disabled list with a neck strain was 1.47.