Saturday, December 30, 2017

PhoulBallz Interview: Off-season Check in with RHP Jacob Waguespack

Waguespack with Lakewood in 2016, image- Jay Floyd
Jacob Waguespack had a noteworthy 2017 season, proving to be a hurler on the rise in the Phillies' developmental ranks.  Opening the year as a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers' bullpen, he was converted to a starter and earned two promotions before his campaign was through.

With Clearwater, the righty, who spent the entirety of last season as a 23-year-old, tallied a 6-5 record with a save, a 3.29 ERA and a 9.6 K/9 mark in 24 appearances (10 starts). After joining the Double-A Reading roster, Waguespack sported a 3-2 record with a 3.65 ERA and an 8.5 K/9 mark. The Mississippi product would join the Triple-A Lehigh Valley roster for their playoff run, looking strong in a start in which he came in on the losing end of a 1-0 defeat that ousted the IronPigs from the postseason.

Recently, I talked with the man whose teammates call him "Wagz" about his change of roles this year, the impact of his instructors, working this off-season with a major league relative and more.  Read ahead for that full interview...


-How would you describe your 2017 season? Did you enjoy the kind of success that you expected for yourself?

People have been asking me, you know, you come home and people ask you how your season was and what I've been telling them is I had fun this year. The first couple years you get your feet wet and learn the ropes and everything, but this past year was really fun and, you know, we had a really good group in Clearwater and a good tight-knit group of guys and that made it fun to go out to play every day. And then once they converted me to a starter, it was nice to get in that routine and you start watching a lot more film and things like that and kind of learning your craft. And then I wasn't really expecting to be moved up to Double-A, so to get that call was awesome and that's another thing about the Double-A guys, it's a great group of guys and it made playing the game really enjoyable. And then, of course, at the end of the season, they were saying that a few guys might run out of innings in Triple-A and they might send a few of us up and I really wasn't expecting to be sent up there, but that was another great experience and to be around those guys and learning from those older guys was really fun.

-You mentioned the conversion from reliever to starter, so when that's brought to you, how is it suggested? What's the presentation of something like that?

So, we were in Kissimmee, Florida and Chavy (pitching coordinator Rafael Chavez) was in town that weekend and he and Fultzy (Aaron Fultz) the pitching coach brought me in the office and sat me down and I thought we were just going to shoot the breeze and talk about pitching a little bit and they said, "Hey, we're going to convert you into a starter." And my first reaction was, "Are you serious? Are you joking?" But, I didn't really expect that. But, Chavy was saying that they think with my physical stature, I'm a big guy, (six feet, six inches tall), that I'm a durable guy and they think I can withstand more innings, so that was a big reason that they did that. And he also said that he wanted me to work on my secondary pitches and, obviously, as a starter you get way more innings and you can develop those secondary pitches, so that was the reason they converted me, so I could work on my change up and my curveball. And then out of that I kind of developed a slider as well. But, a few things went into it, but I would say those are the two main things and they kind of wanted to see how I would fit in that role. So, yeah, that's what happened in that discussion.

-Were you strictly a reliever in college too, like you had been prior to this switch in the pros?

Well, my freshman and sophomore year I was a starter and my freshman year I got hurt and had some bone spurs in my elbow, so I actually had surgery that summer and then when I came back my sophomore year, I was a midweek starter, but it just wasn't the same after that, I had kind of a down year that sophomore year and went to summer ball and started there as well, but-- and I actually did really well in the Northwoods League-- but whenever I came back for the fall, we had lost some guys in the draft and they wanted me out of the 'pen just to provide a long relief guy or even to come in and save a few games, so they wanted me out of the bullpen my junior year.

Waguespack, image- Jay Floyd
-Within the Phillies organization, is there any coach or instructor that really stands out to you as someone that's helped you improve your game or take the most strides toward improving?

You know, that's a great question and I don't really want to single anybody out because I think that every coach that I've been involved with has actually helped me out to some degree. You know, I've adapted to Chavy's pitching philosophy, I think that's helped me out a good deal, just from the mechanics standpoint. And I spent a year with Brian Sweeney and he's an awesome guy and he helped me out a great deal with my mechanics and watching film and then I went to Clearwater with Fultzy and after every start I would go and talk to him for the next inning and we would just talk about the game and talk from the mental side and when I went to Double-A and Schrenky (Steve Schrenk) was there and him and (Carlos) Arroyo was there they tweeked a little bit with my mechanics and developed a two-seam in Double-A so, you know, I think each coach has helped me out a great deal and I'm pretty fortunate that we've got great coaches in our organization.

-Yeah, it sounds like they're all doing their part and it's excellent that you'd give credit all around. How's this off-season going? Are you working a job? Have you been to any of the seminars or clinics in Clearwater?

No, actually, last year, since I played winter ball, I didn't-- this year I was completely resting. I put that ball down and took a good couple months off. I actually, just started throwing today, so today was my first day of throwing, so I'll get on the Phillies' throwing routine and I'll get going with that, but I was mainly focusing on training. I actually work out down here in Baton Rouge with Aaron Nola. We've got a good relationship and we've got a great trainer down here and we're getting after it. Not working any jobs. Just focusing on the baseball side this go-around and just seeing how it goes.

-That's outstanding. How about working with Nola? What does he bring to the table that helps you or rubs off on you?

Well, not many people know, but me and him are related. We're third cousins, so I've actually known him for a while and I would just say his humility and his humble character-- he could just walk into a gym or somewhere and you would never know he's in there. He just blends in and that's his best attribute. And throughout last off-season, I was struggling with a couple things on how to call some pitches and set up guys and I would shoot him a text and he would hit me back pretty quick and offer some great advice. So, that guy, he's been through the system and obviously had some success at the top. He's a humble guy and he'll help you out any way he can.

-Yeah, no doubt. I remember last year I was swapping messages with him during spring training, trying to set up a time to talk and on Easter Sunday he made time to do an interview for me on the phone.

Yeah, man. That's how he is. You call him and he's willing to help you out, just like anybody else.
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