Sunday, July 28, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Darick Hall answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

Darick Hall, image- Jay Floyd
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Normally, I post the audio of these types of out-of-the-ordinary interviews.  Many of those appear exclusively over on my Patreon page.  In this instance, the recording is poor and truly doesn't sound good enough to release the recording, so I have transcribed a fun interview with Double-A Reading slugger Darick Hall below.

The 24-year-old lefty hitting first baseman has been a key contributor in the middle of the Reading lineup all season long.  In 97 games, Hall sports a .249 batting average with 18 home runs and a league leading 62 RBI.

Hall was the Phillies' 14th round pick out of Dallas Baptist in 2016.

In the interview below, Hall chats about organizational rivalry with the Yankees throughout the minors, who may be his coolest teammate, music and more.  Read ahead for somewhat of a different interview with Darick.


-So, I asked you if you'd like to have some fun with me and you agreed, not having any idea what I'm talking about.  Would you like to answer Nine Silly-ass Questions?

Depending on what they are, yeah!

-Right.  You have no choice now.

Awesome!

-So, listen.  You're on the record.  This is official business here.  Do you like my shirt?

Yeah.  I think it's pretty swaggy.

-Thanks, man.  That is so kind.  Who on the team is the coolest guy?

It's a hard question.

-Is there a lot of cool guys (to narrow it down to just one)?

There really is.  Cool guy...I'd say, cool, just straight up cool- Mickey (Moniak).  You know, he's pretty trendy.  He likes to keep it fresh.  I'd say he's a pretty cool guy.

-I like it.  (Regarding) the Trenton team, is there a rivalry with the Yankees teams as you guys climb levels and play them in each of these leagues?

Obviously, you know.  I'm not a hundred percent certain, but I'm pretty sure that most of the affiliates aren't big fans of the Yankees.  (laughs)  Just due to the nature, but they kind of got us-- (edging us out for the first half division title), playing two less games than us in the first half, so obviously these guys are a little bit of our rivals.  

If we continue playing well, we have a chance to win the second half, then I think this is the team we'll be playing (in the playoffs).  So, we're pretty competitive with them.

-Seeds or gum?

Gum.

-What kind?  Just bubble gum, or any different flavor?

Yeah, Double Bubble. Just original.  I like that because you don't have to keep getting more.  You choose seeds, you might be done with seeds in two outs and you're not going to have a bag of them on you.

-Gum will last you longer.  That's cool.  Did you collect baseball cards as a kid?

Yeah!  I did.  I always got the Topps sets as a kid.

-So, the whole sets- did you ever unwrap them and put them in binders or pages or anything?

No, they're all boxed up.

-Do you still have them?

Yeah.  I'd have to find them.  They're in the garage.  I kind of got out of that, around I'd say, like, 12 (years old).  So, I've still got them.

-Do you keep any souvenirs from your career?  Do you have any of your own cards?

I like to keep a few, just you know, kind of as a memento of the path and just having done it.

-Excellent.  Is there anything in your music collection that you would deem embarrassing?

I would say I have an array of tastes.  I'm not gonna lie, I have a few Selena Gomez songs.  I'd say that's about as soft as I'll go.

-I wanted to ask you if there is a favorite cartoon character that you have?

Favorite cartoon character.  Let's see.  I'd take Tom.

-From Tom & Jerry?

Yeah.  I used to love watching Tom & Jerry as a kid.  That's one of my favorites.

-Now, I'm trying to remember.  It's been so long...is Tom the cat?

Tom's the cat.

-So, he gets fooled and goofed on and clowned.  But that's your favorite guy?

I just always thought he was funny.

-Okay.  It must be empathy.  A couple more here for you.  Thanks for the time.  I'm no longer counting, so we may go over nine (questions).  Talk to me about (one of the Reading mascots) the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.  What are your thoughts?

(Laughs) I think he's hilarious.  I think we have a couple (different men that play him) and it's funny there's different levels.  We have a guy that's an expert.  We have a few beginners and a guy kind of in the middle.  But, I think it gives us energy when he runs by the dugout, yelling, hurling hot dogs, everybody gets fired up.

-Can the same be said about (friend of the team and honorary Reading cheerleader) Briscoe Disco?

Yeah!  I'd say so.  He gets it going.  He gets people going.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Jay Floyd appears on The Good Phight's Hittin' Season Podcast

This week I made my long awaited (by me only, I'd bet) to the Hittin' Season Podcast hosted by John Stolnis. The show's home is over on TheGoodPhight.com, of course, and I've contributed to the show plenty of times, appearing as a guest and contributing exclusive interviews to the program.

The latest episode features John recapping the Phillies' series against the Tigers and a preview of the series to come against the division rival Braves. He also talks about what to expect as the MLB trading deadline approaches. Then I join John to discuss several promising Phils prospects such as Alec Bohm, Mickey Moniak, Bryson Stott, Spencer Howard, Adonis Medina, Francisco Morales and others.

Check out the embedded media player below to stream or download the episode and, if you like what you hear, subscribe to the show!


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Phillies minor league hot list, 7/21/19

The season's been moving by quite swiftly and as we reach the midst of the summer, I'm bringing another rundown of minor league players that are performing rather well of late.

Statistics are updated through Saturday's games.


-Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs (47-50 record, 5th place in the International League North division)...

Phil Gosselin, image- Jay Floyd
Infielder Phil Gosselin, who played in 32 games with the big league Phillies this year, has been hot during his tenure with the IronPigs.  In 38 games, the 30-year-old veteran has notched a .354/.445/.542 offensive slash line.  Gosselin is batting .400 in 10 games since the All-Star break.

Since his promotion from Double-A Reading, outfielder/corner infielder Austin Listi has been huge on offense.  In 28 games for Lehigh Valley, the 25-year-old righty batter sports a .333 average with nine doubles, eight homers and 28 RBI.  Listi was the Phillies' 17th round draft choice in 2017.

Lefty reliever Tyler Gilbert has shined for the Pigs lately.  In his last 10 outings, the 25-year-old has a 1-0 record with one save and a 1.26 ERA.  Gilbert, the Phillies' 6th round draft choice in 2015, has a 2.30 ERA in 20 overall games this season.


-Double-A Reading Fightin Phils (20-10 second half record, 1st place in the Eastern League's East division)...

Over his last nine starts, righty pitcher Adonis Medina has tallied a 2.34 ERA with a 6-1 record. Many outlets ranked Medina, 22, very highly coming into the season.  The Dominican Republic native sports a 6-3 record with a 3.53 ERA and a .230 batting average against through 15 starts this season.

Third baseman Alec Bohm has continued his charge through the Phillies' system since he was promoted to Reading in June.  Through 23 games in Double-A the 22-year-old has posted a .286 batting average with five doubles, a triples, seven homers and 19 RBI.  Overall, at three levels this year, Bohm, who was the Phillies first round draft choice last year, is batting .304 with an .860 OPS. Bohm had a big two-homer game with Reading on Saturday.

Outfielder Mickey Moniak is still hot still a dismal month of April.  Since May 1st, the 21-year-old is batting .289.  Moniak, the top overall selection in the 2016 draft has posted a .265 average with 21 doubles, a league-leading 10 triples, four homers, 42 RBI and 12 steals in 83 overall games with Reading this season.

The bullpen tandem of Addison Russ and Jonathan Hennigan have been impressive for Reading as well.  Russ, the Phillies' 19th round draft pick two years ago, has been the team's key closer.  The 24-year-old sports a 1-5 record with 15 saves, a 1.63 ERA and a 13.7 K/9 mark in 38 appearances.  Hennigan began the season with Class A Advanced Clearwater before earning a promotion to Double-A.  In 17 appearances with Reading, Hennigan, 24, has a 2-1 record with a 1.67 ERA and a .214 batting average against.

-Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers (15-16 second half record, 2nd places in Florida State League's North division)...

Outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz has shown plenty of power in the second half for the Threshers.  After slamming seven home runs in 50 first-half games, the 20-year-old righty-hitting slugger has recorded nine round-tripppers in 28 games since the Florida State League All-Star break.  In 79 total games this season, Ortiz has a .219/.289/.429 slash line.

Center fielder Simon Muzziotti has an eight-game hitting streak, heading into action on Sunday.  Over that stretch, the 20-year-old lefty batter has hit .333.  In 74 games this year, the Venezuela native has tallied a .280 batting average with a pair of homers, 24 RBI and 15 stolen bases.

Well touted pitching prospect Spencer Howard has peformed at a high level since returning from the disabled list with a shoulder strain.  The 22-year-old righty has tossed 15 scoreless innings over his past three starts while striking out 18 and walking only one.  The 22-year-old with the Phils' second round pick in the 2017 draft.  He was ranked as the Phillies' top prospect by this site prior to this season.

-Class A Lakewood BlueClaws (10-18 second half record, last place in South Atlantic League North division)...

Carlos De La Cruz, image- Jay Floyd
Outfielder Carlos De La Cruz has shown a big boost to his power recently.  The 19-year-old is batting .242 with four home runs and nine RBI in his last nine games.  De La Cruz had just one homer in his first 75 games this year.  In 84 total games, the righty youngster has notched a .228 average.

This year's 10th round draft pick McCarthy Tatum has looked solid since joining the BlueClaws this month.  In nine games, the 23-year-old Fresno State product is batting .303 with two home runs and six RBI.  Tatum, a third baseman, played in 14 games with Williamsport before his promotion.

Righty pitcher Rafi Gonell has stood out on the 'Claws' staff lately.  The 22-year-old Dominican has recorded a 3.24 ERA with a 9.0 K/9 mark over his last nine appearances.  Overall, opponents are hitting .179 in 14 games against Gonell.

-Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters (10-24 record, last place in New York-Penn League's Pinckney division)...

Speedy center fielder Corbin Williams leads the team in runs scored with 13 and is tops in the New York-Penn League in stolen bases with 18.  Overall in 27 games, the 21-year-old, who was the Phillies' 24th round pick last year, is batting .261.

Right-handed pitcher Tom Sutera possesses an incredible 27-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six games (three starts).  The 22-year-old has a 1-3 record with 2.29 ERA and a .269 batting average against.  Sutera was an undrafted free agent signed in summer 2018 by the Phils.

Catcher Juan Aparicio's .944 OPS leads the NYPL.  The 19-year-old Venezuela native is batting .337 with eight doubles, three triples and a homer along with 11 RBI in 27 games. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Ben Pelletier answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

Ben Pelletier, image- Jay Floyd
Recently, I talked with Class A Lakewood outfielder Ben Pelletier. The 20-year-old was the Phillies 34th round draft selection in 2015.

As a member of the BlueClaws this year, Pelletier has struggled a bit at the plate, sporting a .185 average with 11 doubles, eight home runs and 22 RBI in 74 games to date.

Overall in 216 professional games, the righty batting Quebec native has tallied a .252/.305/.401 slash line.

During out chat, which is available EXCLUSIVELY to Patreon members, Ben discussed coming up as a baseball player in Canada, how often people mispronounce his name, staples in his diet along with plenty more. Please check out this link to visit my Patreon page, support my work and enjoy the interview.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood RHP Andrew Schultz

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Andrew Schultz, image- Jay Floyd
Taken with the Phillies sixth round pick in this year's draft, righty reliever Andrew Schultz is off to a good start in his professional career.

The Tennessee product quickly signed with the Phillies last month and promptly made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League.  After putting his considerable velocity, which steadily clocks in the upper 90's, the organization promoted the six-foot-four 190-pounder to Class A Lakewood.

In 26 outings this year as a junior with the Vols, the 21-year-old tossed 25 innings, recording a 3-1 record, two saves, a 3.24 ERA and a 14.0 K/9 mark.

Outside of a troublesome debut with Lakewood, Schultz has looked impressive in the initial weeks of his professional career.

Recently, I spoke with Schultz about his rough debut with the BlueClaws, his notable fastball velocity, his draft experience and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-What was the draft experience like for you?  How did you get the news?  Were you watching it intently?

Yeah, yeah!  I was with some of my (college) teammates.  We were all watching together.  I had a decent idea of when (I would get picked).  So, I got together with a bunch of my teammates and watched it, so it was fun.

-What was the reaction from the guys around you when your selection comes up?  I imagine your heart rate goes up, maybe some adrenaline gets going for you, but what's their reaction?

I was definitely-- my heart rate was up, but I think they were more excited than I was, so it was cool.

-Did any of those other guys get drafted too?

Yeah, actually, we had a lot this year.  We had a really good team this year.  Garrett Stallings and Zach Lingenfelter, my two roommates actually.  They both got picked up, so it was pretty fun.

-Are you guys all keeping tabs on one another pretty closely from the different organizations now?

Yeah, we are still shooting texts back and forth, messing with each other, so...

-Any trash talking involved there?

No, no.  None of that.  Just good stuff.

-How has the experience been thus far?  Obviously, you go to Clearwater for a bit and you spend some time in the Gulf Coast League and then pretty quickly come here.  So, what has the few weeks been like for you?

It's been awesome.  Obviously, it's a little different than college.  There's a little learning curve but I'm getting out there, getting the hang of it and starting to feel better, so I'm enjoying it.

-I think you draw some attention for your velocity.  Does that excite you to see those radar gun readings the same as it excites the fans and maybe your teammates?

No.  The strikes excite me.  That's what I like.

-That's perfect.  You've had some good outings recently, but when you come out and have a rough debut (1/3 IP, 1H, 3BB, 4ER) and the control's not there, is that a lot of nerves for you, or something different?

No, we've been working on trying to keep a good rhythm, and I've felt better these past few outings.  The first one, obviously, was not very good, a lot of walks there.  But I've started to get in a little groove and I think it's going to be a lot better moving forward.

-What was the change there specifically?  What was it that took some getting used to, before you're good?

So, really like I just try to be quicker, because I've got a short arm action.  It's really quick and my arm moves fast, so I just try to be quick with the rest of my body.  Sometimes I'll get kind of slow with everything else, my arm kind of gets stuck, so I just try to keep that quick pace.

-What sort of impression do you have of your pitching coach Matt Hockenberry thus far?

That was actually his idea, talking about being quicker to the plate.  And I did it and immediately felt like I had better control that day.  I love talking to him, picking his brain.  And, obviously, he played and he's been through it, so he knows a lot of stuff.

-What is the vibe like with the team since you've been here?  Who are you rooming with?  Is there anybody here that you're close with?

I live with Tyler McKay and Michael Gomez.  Me and Gomez are real close.  We're right on top of each other in the room and we spend a lot of time together.  And, yeah, I'm good buddies with both of them.

-What's the night like after a day game and how do you spend your time away from the baseball field?

I think I may take a nap.  But with a little time off, maybe relax and just watch some TV.  Nothing too crazy.

-What are the normal hobbies for you?  Do you do video games or anything like that?

Yeah, I do play video games.  It's a good way to keep up with my roommates from school.  I play with them.

-What do you guys play?

Fortnite.

-Who rules?

Definitely me.

-Would they agree with that?

Yeah, for sure.

-Okay.  Let me go back to the draft day real quick.  You said you had, roughly, an idea of where you would be picked.  Were the Phillies a team that had been in touch, or did they come by surprise?

To read the remainder of this interview, support my work and contribute on Patreon.com/PhoulBallz.



Sunday, July 14, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood hitting coach Christian Marrero

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Marchan and Marrero, image- Jay Floyd
The Class A Lakewood BlueClaws are among the weakest offenses in the South Atlantic League. Overall, at the time of this writing, the team ranks last in the league in runs scored at 301 (29 runs fewer than the next closest team). The club also sits last in hits, batting average and OPS.

This week I talked with Lakewood's hitting coach and former Phillies minor leaguer Christian Marrero. He offered his thoughts on several of Lakewood's standout names including catcher Rafael Marchan, middle infielders Jonathan Guzman and Luis Garcia as well as outfielder Malvin Matos, plus his thoughts on the lineup's overall struggles.

Read ahead for that full, brief interview.


-Rafael Marchan has been solid of late. He notched three separate three-hits games recently and has been as consistent as anyone of late, batting over .400 this month. Can you share some thoughts on him?

Marchan, he’s progressed offensively and defensively. Right now, on both sides of the plate, his approach has gotten a lot better. Swinging the bat a lot better.

-What strides have you seen him take? What’s different for him between spring and now?

Just his approach at the plate. He’s getting smarter. He knows how pitchers are attacking him. He’s making adjustments in the box and he’s using the middle of the field.

-I don’t mean to imply that it should bother you...but does it bother you, as the hitting coach, when so many guys are struggling to get (above) or stay above .200 with their averages?

You know, you always want everybody doing well. But, for me, I don’t really look at that too much. I just see the quality- if they’re having quality at bats, if they’re progressing throughout the year. I think, right now, from day one almost the whole team has gotten better. And that’s the main thing, is developing these guys and making sure they’re doing the right things on the field.

-Malvin Matos got a little taste with the big club in spring training, gets up there for a game or two and hits a home run. He’s one of those guys having a tough time with the average. What have you seen from him this year?

He’s been up and down, you know, inconsistent, but as of late, you know, his (at bats) are getting better, his approach is getting better. And like I said that we still have a month and a half left and I feel like all these guys are going to finish strong.

-I wanted to also ask about the progress of your middle infielders, so can you share some thoughts about Guzman?

Guzman, from day one, he’s gotten so much better. Defensively, for me, he’s one of the top shortstops that I’ve seen in a while. And his approach in the box, he’s aggressive in the box, and he’s using the middle of the field. He’s learning, he’s learning how pitchers are attacking him and – the same thing- he’s making adjustments in the box. He’s gonna finish strong.

-What have you seen on the other side of the bag, as those guys share time at both shortstop and second base, from Garcia?

Both of them, those guys are unbelievable where ever you put them. Same with him, they’re both young kids. Their (at bats) have gotten so much better. They’re progressing and that’s the main thing with them.

-I've seen you as a player at Double-A and probably Triple-A, so seeing you in the coaching spot still seems new to me. What’s the job like for you this year?

You know, the main thing is just being there for (the players) at all times and we’ve just got to keep them positive. It’s a long year and I’ve got to keep reminding them that’s it’s an everyday grind and it’s not how you start, but it’s how you finish.

-How much do you enjoy the role?

Oh, I love it! It’s a lot of young kids. They keep me energized. They give me energy and I’m having fun.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Reading slugger Hall wins Eastern League HR Derby & Fightins All-Star Quotables


For the second straight year a Reading Fightin Phils slugger has won the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Home Run Derby.  Slugging first baseman Darick Hall locked down the walk-off victory in Richmond, VA on Tuesday night.

Hall, a lefty batting prospect, tallied 175 points (25 points per homer with distance bonuses) in a 90 second round to cement the title.  He sent a deep fly out to right-center field to clinch the victory.

The 23-year-old will be among four players slated to represent Reading in Wednesday's EL All-Star Game.

Hall, the Phillies' 14th round draft selection from 2016, leads the league in RBI with 55 and sports a .240 average with 14 home runs in 83 games thus far this season.



Last year, catcher Deivy Grullon was victorious in the EL Home Run Derby in Trenton, NJ.

Along with Hall, relief pitcher Addison Russ, outfielder Mickey Moniak and starting pitcher Adonis Medina were honored as EL All-Stars as well. Moniak is currently sidelined with a hamstring strain. To replace him on the Eastern Division roster by outfielder Grenny Cumana.

In 35 appearances, the right-handed Russ sports a 1-5 record with 13 saves, a 1.77 ERA and a 14.1 K/9 mark.  The 24-year-old was the Phillies' 19th round pick in 2017. 

Moniak, who was the top overall pick in the 2016 draft, is batting .266 with four homers, 38 RBI and nine stolen bases through 75 games.  There is no clear time table for when the injured 21-year-old will return to action.

Medina, a righty, has a 5-3 record with a 3.90 ERA and a 6.2 K/9 mark in 14 starts.  The 22-year-old has a 2.77 ERA over his last eight starts.

Cumana, a right-handed batter, has a .323 average with two home runs and 22 RBI in 48 games with Reading.  The 23-year-old has also played at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season.

Recently, I talked with Hall, Russ and Moniak about the All-Star honors and those quotes lie ahead...


DARICK HALL...

-When the news comes your way that you've made the All-Star team, how do you find out?

I think they come out with the All-Star rosters and the news kind of just trickles down. When it’s official, the manager will usually just pull us together and let us know and tell us who. It was awesome to hear and get the news. Any time you’re honored with that, it’s a blessing and a good opportunity.

-What does it mean to be going with a few teammates?

Oh, it’s gonna be so much fun. We’re excited and we’re just looking forward to continuing playing baseball and just having a good time. I think with this team, we have a lot of fun and we enjoy being around each other and I think that’s a real positive that we have in our clubhouse and we’re just going to keep it rolling.

-You guys were in a playoff race in June and lost out to Trenton for the first half title.  The split half division winners is a new rule this season.  What was that like?

I think the halves are fun because it’s a little more instant gratification with the early playoff hunt, like you said. And I think, honestly, it was a playoff atmosphere. That game was a must-win game. We all felt it. There was a lot of good energy in the clubhouse around it and it was fun.

-It's a pretty good team here with a lot of names on this team.  Does anyone stand out as a leader on the team?

I don’t think we have necessarily a leader on the team. I think Shawn (Williams) is the guy, ‘cause, our manager, he just does such a good job. He’s a players’ guy. You know, he keeps the vibes good. Obviously, we have a mix of young and old, but everybody works hard and I think that because of that culture, it keeps everybody else in check. We have I would say as a group, we are very hard workers and are very similar in that culture and I think that because of that, there’s not necessarily a leader with the players. It kind of follows suit with Shawn and I think that’s who really leads this team.

-With a good amount of success this year, what type of feedback are you getting from the coaches?

You know, I think that the vibes I get are just, “Keep doing what you’re doing, and keep growing.” There were some things that I needed to learn here, at the dish, approach wise that I’m going to keep working on and understand and try to craft into my game.

-Is there anything you're working on specifically?  Average? Strike outs?  Is there anything that's a big focus for you to improve on?

You know, obviously, I’m trying to hit balls hard. I’m trying to eliminate soft outs early in the count. I’m trying to get deeper into counts, trying to draw a few more walks, you know, and things like that. ‘Cause usually soft outs early in the count indicate that you’re not swinging at the right pitch, because—if you eliminate that, then that will lead to more walks. As a power hitter that’s kind of what you want to do because they’re going to pitch you differently and you’ve got to craft your approach to where you’re going to hit the ball hard, walk and that sometimes comes with a strike out, because that’s kind of how it is. But that’s what I’m trying to do is kind of find that approach and to be able to make it transfer to the next level.

-Is there a spot in the batting order that you've seen more success with or found more comfortable?

This year I’ve hit 3, 4 and 5 and each time it’s worked because of who else we have in the lineup at the time. Who was hot, who wasn’t, like and that’s kind of how the lineups work out and I think—last week I was hitting third a lot. That was fun. I like hitting in the first inning. But it doesn’t matter to me. I feel like I’ve been a middle-of-the-lineup guy and any time I get a chance in any hole to drive in runs is obviously okay.

ADDISON RUSS-

-What is it like getting the news that you're an All-Star?

It’s fun. I feel like anytime you get nominated to be in an All-Star Game it shows that you’re doing something right. The best thing I can hope for is to continue to do that and keep riding out the season.

-That coaching staff has had good things to say about you and clearly there's a vote of confidence that comes with being the team's closer, but what does it mean to you when the manager and coaches rely on you and speak highly of you?

It’s always a good thing especially when our coaching staff depends on you like that and trust to hand the game over to you and they know you’re going to do everything you can to make sure they win. I mean, we’ve got a great group of guys behind me that, defensively if the (opposition)’s going to hit the ball they’re gonna go get it for me. And I’ve got a great coaching staff that’s going to make sure I’m ready to pitch every game if I need to be and every other day when they need. I feel like I’m in a really good place right now.

-Will the experience at the All-Star Game be better with some teammates going with you?

It's always fun to have teammates with you, especially going there. Adonis has pitched great. Mickey and Darick, offensively and defensively, have been awesome. So, being able to share it with some guys that you've spent the year with is very fun.

MICKEY MONIAK-

-What is it like for you to be honored as an All-Star here in the Eastern League?

It’s exciting. I think coming into this year it was definitely one of my goals and with the development I’ve made the past three years and to know that the little stuff, the adjustments I’ve made things are kind of just paying off and this is kind of a reward I guess you could say. But there’s still a lot of work to do. And it’s something super cool, man.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Threshers OF/1B/3B Luke Miller

Luke Miller, image- Jay Floyd
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After opening the 2019 campaign in Extended Spring Training, Luke Miller joined Class A Lakewood and quickly proved to be a steady contributor.  After roughly a month of success with the BlueClaws, Miller was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater, where he has played like an All-Star.

In 21 games for Lakewood, the 22-year-old tallied a .260 average with two doubles, three home runs and 12 RBI.  Since joining the Threshers, Miller sports a .325 average with two doubles, two homers and five RBI in 11 games.

The righty batting Miller was the Phillies' 22nd round draft choice last year out of Indiana.

Around the time of his promotion to Clearwater I chatted with Miller about his season thus far, lessons from his coaches, early memories of baseball including the 2008 and 2009 World Series that features the Phillies, another pro player in his family and more.  Read ahead for that complete interview.


-It's been a big year for you despite starting the season in extended spring training.  You joined Lakewood, spent about a month there, then earn a promotion to Clearwater.  What are your thoughts on the year so far?

I started in extended, and it felt like I hit pretty well through extended.  I tried to bring that (to Lakewood) when I got promoted.  I was just trying to stay with my approach and do what I was doing down there, which was just basically "hit the ball hard and see what happens" and it worked out for me.  

-Starting out in extended spring, what's that like. Obviously, everyone would want to open April with a full-season club.  So what was the spell in extended like for you, then the satisfaction of getting to come to Lakewood after some time?

In extended, it's a grind.  Waking up early in the morning and then working out, then have a full practice and then play a game after that.  So, it's a grind going through that.  But, getting (to Lakewood) was really good for me.  I felt like I needed it and I came up and played well.

-What was it like on the Lakewood team?  What was the vibe like around the clubhouse and with that team?

It's good.  You know, it's like a big family, just growing together and learning how to play the game together.  As you could see, we were starting to win games late and be able to stay in game and come back and win, so just continuing the growth and building with the team is important. 

-When you get news that you're going up, whether it's to Lakewood or to Clearwater, what is that like to get the promotion news?

The manager usually calls you in (his office) to tell you and after that, everyone else usually finds out and everybody comes up and congratulates you.  They just tell you, "Good luck" and everything.

-What was your exposure to or knowledge of the Phillies before becoming a player in the organization?  Did you have much exposure to the team in the past?

I mean I watched the 2008 Phillies.  I watched baseball growing up, so I saw that and saw how great they were back then and the dynasty they had.  But other than that, I wasn't really a huge Phillies fan or anything like that. But coming into the organization, it's a great organization to play for, so...

-What was your favorite team growing up and what are some of your early baseball memories?

I was a big Yankees fan.  Obviously, there's no Major League team in Indiana, so I grew up watching Derek Jeter.  So, I loved watching Jeter play, just how he handled himself.  Them winning the World Series, I think it was 2009--

-Against the Phillies!

Against the Phillies, yeah.  That was one of my biggest memories of watching baseball as a kid.

-How old were you then?

2009?  I was...that's 10 years ago, so I was 12.  But those were some of my earliest baseball memories, those post-seasons.

-Were there any other players that, into high school or college, that you would take hints from or watch and want to emulate or try to focus on to learn stuff from?

I mean, my cousin was a first rounder out of high school.  He was five years older than me, so he taught me a lot, just about the process and everything.  That and what to expect, so that was really helpful.

-What is his name and what team did he go to?

His name's Justin O'Conner.  He was a first rounder with the Rays and he's with the White Sox now.

-So he's still playing?

Yeah, he was a catcher, but they're switching him to a pitcher now.


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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Dominic Pipkin answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

Dominic Pipkin, image- Jay Floyd
In the first half of the season Class A pitcher Dominic Pipkin showed why he has gotten attention as one of the Phillies' most promising young prospects.  Since the Sally League's recent All-Star break, it's been a bit different for the talented hurler, who features high 90's velocity.

In 12 outings (six starts) prior to the break, the 19-year-old right-hander posted a 3-1 record with a 3.29 ERA, a .255 batting average against along with a 5.9 K/9 mark.  In three appearances (two starts) following the mid-season mark, Pipkin has struggled with a 0-1 record, a 27.00 ERA, a .478 batting average against while walking five batters in 3 2/3 frames.

Pipkin, who was the Phillies' 9th round draft pick in 2018, has kept his head high, despite his difficulties on the mound.  Following one of his recent poor efforts, a start in which he last just 1 1/3 innings, I found Dom in good spirits.  He spent time talking to me, answering Nine Silly-ass Questions, sharing some thoughts on music, profanity and so much more.  To listen to that complete interview head on over to Patreon.com/PhoulBallz by clicking here.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Moniak showing progress with Double-A Reading

Mickey Moniak, image- Jay Floyd

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Mickey Moniak continues to be aware that the expectations of him are high, even three years after the Phillies made him the first overall selection in the MLB amateur draft.  Now, in the Double-A Eastern League, he's starting to show some considerable progress and may be proving some haters wrong.

Following a difficult April that saw the lefty batting outfielder post a .195 average with two home runs and 11 RBI in 19 games, Moniak has come on strong, tallying a .295 batting average with two homers and 27 RBI through his next 55 games.

Part of the recent success may be attributed to the spot where Moniak starts his hands in the batters box.

"You go back to Lakewood and the GCL year and in high school, I kept my hands low.  You know, it worked in GCL and worked to an extent in the beginning at Lakewood," Moniak explained following a recent road series at Trenton. "I think just, gradually, since then (they've) kind of just creeped up and up.

"For me, it's never so much, 'Your hands need to be here, so they can do this,' or something like that. It's whatever feels comfortable when I'm in the box and just little things to tweak when you're in (batting practice) is what I'm looking to do."

After debuting in 2016 in the rookie level Gulf Coast League, Moniak would tout a .284 batting average along with a homer and 28 RBI in 46 games.

With Class A Lakewood in 2017 he notched a .236 average with five homers and 44 RBI in 123 contests overall.  That year, he saw his production tail off after the All-Star break, going from a .270/.328/.392 triple slash line in the first half to a .201/.237/.288 slash line in the second half.

Last year, with Class A Advanced Clearwater, Moniak batted .270 with five home runs and 55 RBI in 114 games.  He took some time to get going in 2018, collecting a .592 OPS in the first half and a .774 mark in the second half.
  
With consistency a key focus for the talented prospect, he's shown improvements according to his coaches, who see tons of progress and a hitter with a ceiling worthy of the "1:1" spot in the draft.

For his offensive improvements, Moniak would prefer to credit those around him in the Phillies developmental ranks with the strides he has taken of late.

"The coaching staff, the front office, the coordinators, you name it...they've always been supportive, they've always been there to kind of help me, whether I was struggling or to point out what I was doing bad or what I was doing good.  They've definitely been a huge part of my progress the past few years." Moniak said.

A primary critique of the talented California native is that he doesn't draw enough walks.  The Reading coaching staff feels as though the 21-year-old regularly has quality at bats, despite any lack of free passes.

Of late, though, Moniak has turned things around in that regard.  He enters action on Sunday having increased his walk rate, recording seven walks in his past nine games after having walked just 16 times in his first 65 contests this season.  The recent success in this part of the game has seen Moniak's season on-base percentage jump 22 points.

In his third full season in the minors, the six-foot-two 185-pounder knows what fans all around the sport ultimately expect of him.  He's working to achieve the greatness that those people would hope to see, even if there are people along that path that would prefer to address that process with hostility from the stands or through social networking mediums.

Moniak, who regularly shines with the glove and puts his outstanding defense on display at all three outfield positions, admits that in his first year as a professional player he would invest time in considering and reading the negative buzz online surrounding his efforts or his future.  While there's unfavorable feedback that can come in an endless fashion, Moniak has seen the benefits in seeking out more preferable and positive insight.  He stays in house for feedback that assists with and reinforces his development.

"One thing I've always said about that is the people that really matter, the people that are going to make or break my career are with the Phillies and in the front office and the coaches.  The fact that they see what I'm seeing and the fact that they share high praise is very exciting," Moniak stated.

Exciting is the right word for not only how Moniak feels about the support of the Phillies' personnel, but also precisely applies toward the type of player that Moniak is becoming as he moves toward the pinnacle of the sport.


Bonus quotes...Moniak also spoke on the rivalry within the Eastern League's Eastern division with the Yankees affiliate, Trenton-

"Going into it, they edged us out in the first half...obviously, they're a great team and they proved that in this series, beating us two out of three. It's going to be fun to play them further down the road. I wish we got more of a chance to play them in the second half to kind of settle (the division standings). But, I'm excited for the series to come and they're obviously a great team and it's going to be a dog fight. The funny thing is we play the Yankees from the GCL all the way throughout the minors leagues. So we've gotten to know a lot of their players and we play each other numerous times and it's always fun."