Saturday, August 31, 2019

Seven Phils prospects headed to prestigious Arizona Fall League

Mickey Moniak, image- Jay Floyd
Arizona Fall League rosters were announced this week and the Scottsdale roster is slated to feature some of the Phillies' most exciting prospects.

Set to represent the Phils in the prestigious off-season league that is operated by Major League Baseball are outfielder Mickey Moniak, right-handed pitchers Spencer Howard and Connor Seabold, corner infielder Alec Bohm, shortstop Nick Maton along with left-handed hurler JoJo Romero.

A previously unannounced representative from the Phillies organization that is set to see action with the Scorpions is lefty reliever Zach Warren.

Howard, who was ranked by this outlet as the Phils' top prospect headed into this season, has reached Double A Reading and will likely start game one of the Eastern League divisional playoffs this coming Wednesday.  He missed time earlier this season with a shoulder strain.  In 13 combined regular season starts with Class A Advanced Clearwater and Reading, the 23-year-old has tallied a 3-1 record with a 1.78 ERA and an 11.8 K/9 mark.

Howard, the Phils' 2nd round pick in 2017 is ready for the opportunity to shine even brighter and is pleased to get the chance to do so beside six teammates from his own organization.

"It kind of feels like college summer ball," said Howard after the Fightin Phils clinched the Eastern League's Eastern Division second half title on Friday.  "It does feel more like home when you know you've got a group of guys that you're going with.  I'm excited."

Moniak, who was the top overall selection in the 2016 draft, has made an impact for Reading as well.  The 21-year-old lefty batter sports a .252/.302/.440 slash line in 117 games this season.  Moniak is tops in the league in triples with 13 and is also among the league leaders in RBI, runs as well as hits.

The talented center fielder welcomes the chance to play in a league where many of the elite names in the game sharpened their skills on their paths to the top level of the sport.

"It's a huge honor and just getting selected to be a part of the guys that the Phillies send is something that's really special for me," Moniak stated.  "And having guys like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, (Ronald) Acuna, (Pete) Alonso and seeing guys go through that league and make a big impact at the big league level a very short period of time after they go through that whole experience of playing in Arizona is definitely something that's exciting and I'm just looking to go out there and continuing my development into becoming the best baseball player that I can be and just getting ready to help out the Phillies as soon as possible."

Seabold, the Phillies' 3rd round pick from 2017, opened the season on the disabled list, missing time with an apparent oblique issue.  In eight combined appearances with Clearwater and Reading, the 23-year-old sports a 3-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and an 8.8 K/9 mark.

Bohm opened the season with Class A Lakewood, was promoted to Clearwater before the end of April and joined Reading's roster in June. In 122 combined games the Phils' top draft pick from 2018 has posted a .306 average with 20 home runs and 77 RBI.

Maton, the Phils' 7th round draft choice in 2017, has split his time this year with Clearwater and Reading also.  In 112 games, the 22-year-old is batting .267 with seven homers, 50 RBI and 12 stolen bases.  

Romero has had an up and down season, figuratively and literally, opening his 2019 campaign with Triple-A Lehigh Valley and moving down to Reading after some struggles, then earning a promotion back to Lehigh Valley once he corrected some concerns.  The 22-year-old has a 7-9 record with a 5.82 ERA and a 7.4 K/9 mark in 24 total starts.

Warren, who was a 14th rounder in 2017, has spent the entire campaign with Clearwater this year.  The Vineland, NJ native has tallied a 1-3 record with seven saves, a 3.30 ERA and a .199 batting average against. 

Phillies prospects will be joined by players from the Mets, Braves, Blue Jays and Giants to make up the Scorpions roster.  The AFL opens play on September 18th.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Hurricane Dorian forces cancellation of two leagues' playoffs

With the impending bad weather on its way toward Florida, both the remaining schedules and postseasons for the rookie level Gulf Coast League and the Class A Advanced Florida State League have been cancelled.

Per a press release from Minor League Baseball, Tim Brunswick, the organization's senior vice president of baseball and business operations, said the following: "In an effort to ensure that all players, coaches and staff members have a chance to evacuate and prepare for the storm, we have decided to cancel the final two regular season games, as well as the playoffs."

Forecasts have Hurricane Dorian set to make landfall over the weekend and it is classified as a Category 3 storm with the potential to worsen to a Category 4 by Monday.

As a result of the expected impact the storm will have, all of Florida has been placed under a state of emergency.  The hurricane is expected to be a multi-day event.

The Phillies West team was set to compete in the GCL playoffs in the coming days while the Phils' affiliate Clearwater had already been eliminated from postseason contention. 

The bad weather will also impact traveling foreign players on teams from other areas of the United States. Many Dominican and Venezuelan born players expect to have their travel plans disrupted, with connecting flights scheduled to land in Florida on their routes home following many leagues' regular season early next week.

PhoulBallz Interview: First round pick Bryson Stott

Bryson Stott, image- Jay Floyd

Shortstop Bryson Stott, the Phillies' first round draft selection this year, has enjoyed a successful initial pro campaign.  En route to being recognized as an All-Star for the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters the 21-year-old UNLV product has tallied a .295 average with six home runs and 25 RBI in 45 minor league contests.

Last week I spoke with the lefty hitting Stott to discuss his transition to professional baseball, joining the Phillies organization and plenty more.  Read ahead for that interview. 



-Obviously, your performance and the production on the field is going well, but how do you feel you have adapted to the pro life?

It feels good.  You hear about the everyday grind, but you don't really believe it till you feel it. I would say that's the difference between college and the pros, is you're not practicing, you're playing games every day.  I would say that's the biggest difference.  But I'm getting used to it and I'm having a blast. 

-How did the draft go for you? Were you surprised by the Phillies selecting you where they did or were they among the teams you expected could be calling your name?

Yeah.  I mean, before the draft I heard a couple teams' (names), but I had a really good meeting with the Phillies in the fall and the winter and they were always a team that I thought was very interested and I thought was a good fit leaving those meetings and for it to actually happen was a blessing. 

-Coming up as a young guy, what team did you follow and who were you a fan of?

I always followed Derek Jeter.  He was my favorite player growing up and Bryce (Harper), being from Vegas, I'd always follow him and all those Vegas guys.  I never had a favorite team.  I would just follow the players.  Just to be able to follow them and their careers was what I did.

-What was your knowledge of the Phillies before being part of the organization?

I really didn't have a whole lot of knowledge (about them) until Bryce (Harper) went over there and then I really started paying attention to what they have going on and it was awesome.  Of course, the World Series team from a few years back and of course Ryan Howard and Utley and those big names that everyone in the baseball world knows, obviously, you know those names, so I'd say recently it's been a whole lot of information and a whole lot of good information.

-You talked about the World Series team and Jeter and you probably watched them in '09.  How old were you when all that was going on and those big names were so big?

I would have been in elementary school 10 years ago. And I met Jimmy Rollins when I was in Philadelphia.  So, to see some of those guys was unbelievable.

-You mention stopping through the stadium in Philly and getting an introduction to the team, the media and such...I recall while you were there, hearing some discussion of a connection with you and Bryce Harper from out there in Vegas.  You guys are pretty close, right?

Yeah, we talk all the time.  Having someone like that, especially now in this organization is good for me because if there's ever anything I need, if my swing goes off, he's always a call away and he can help me with all that stuff.  And, like I said, him being here and me being in the same organization as well, it's very rare I'd say that it actually happened this way and I'm very grateful for it.

-What are your thoughts on Pat Borders as your skipper?

He's awesome.  He's not that cookie-cutter manager that makes everyone be the same.  If I need one thing and Kendall (Simmons) needs to do something and (Logan) O'Hoppe needs to do something then it's always different and what we need and our needs instead of "We're going to do it this way, my way, or else it's not going to happen."  Having a manager like that that's so understanding of what your personal needs are and how to make you have fun and the team have fun, 'cause that's what he's really about is enjoying time out there and knowing that it's a game still and we should really enjoy it.


For the rest of this interview, head on over to Patreon.com/PhoulBallz to support my work and get access to loads of exclusive material.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

PhoulBall Interview: Rookie reporter asks the tough questions of the rookie hurler

Rookie reporter and second generation PhoulBallz correspondent Evan Floyd took his first day on the job very seriously as he sat down with Lakewood pitcher Albertus Barber to talk about the hard-hitting topics.  Included in their chat were exchanges about each of the young men's favorite dinosaurs, their favorite super heroes and most importantly their favorite baseball players plus plenty more.

Barber, a 23-year-old Oklahoma native, was an undrafted free agent signed by the Phillies for a bonus of $1,000 this summer.

In 15 appearances in the minors this year, the right-hander sports a 4-0 record with a 0.96 ERA, a .227 batting average against as well as a 0.87 WHIP.

Check out the media player below to see these two dynamic young men hash out the important matters.



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PhoulBallz Interview: Williamsport All-Star Corbin Williams

Corbin Williams, image- Jay Floyd
Corbin Williams was the Phillies' 24th round draft selection in 2018. A year into his professional career, the 21-year-old became an All-Star in the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters.



Through 53 games, the righty batting Williams has tallied a .222 batting average with three doubles, a triple, six RBI and 28 stolen bases.



Last week I talked with Corbin about his All-Star nod, his trip to New York for the game, sneakers, competing for the league lead in steals and more!



This interview is available exclusively for Patreon members. Head on over to Patreon.com/PhoulBallz to support my work and gain access to loads of material unseen and unavailable any place else.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Williamsport's Simmons surging thanks to those around him

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Simmons (center) w/ Bryson Stott (left) & Corbin Williams (right)
The 26th of July stands out as a date that Kendall Simmons thinks he’ll remember for the rest of his playing career. It was on that day that his coaching staff offered some guidance that made a difference and helped the young infielder turn his season around.

On that day, the talented 19-year-old was batting .169 with two home runs and nine RBI through 21 disappointing games with Class A short-season Williamsport. It was a funk that Simmons couldn’t shake until a reality check from a pair of former big leaguers allowed some things to start clicking for the second baseman/shortstop/third baseman.

Crosscutters manager Pat Borders, a World Series MVP in 1992, and former Phillies farmhand, a current coach with the Crosscutters, Greg Brodzinski, shared valuable insight with Simmons about his potential.

“Basically they told me, ‘You have the best tools out here, by far. Without a doubt. And you can be the guy that has all the tools and never figures it out or you could turn a switch on today and compete on every at bat and don’t give up,’” Simmons said in the visiting team’s dugout at Richmond County Bank Ballpark this week, prior to the New York-Penn League All-Star Game.

The duo also cited concerns about the athletic righty hitter’s body language. Borders and “Bull” told Simmons that it was evident that he was down on himself, as a result of the offensive struggles. With a smile and an approachable attitude that is infectious, Simmons knew that wasn’t his nature.

“That really hit home and that’s the spark that I needed,” shared Simmons.

The ceiling that his professional mentors see for Simmons is the same sort of heights that Simmons’s older brothers have been talking about to him for years. Austin, 24, and Blake, 21, would motivate Kendall in his teenage years, whenever he felt tired or needed a swift kick in the pants, encouraging him to get to the baseball field and continue on his path to what they feel is greatness.

Austin played collegiate ball at Kennesaw State while Blake plays at Georgia Southern.  They bring the best out of Kendall.

"They push me to be the best that I can be," Simmons shared.  "Since I was little they always knew what my potential was growing up and no matter what, they always push me."

With the insight of two more experienced players in the same home, the youngest brother says Austin and Blake know, not only, a lot about the game, but also a lot about him.  Kendall can still go to them for advice and says they virtually raised him on a baseball field.

Kendall recalls an assertion Blake made to him years ago, that he would be a big league player some day.  Kendall, barely on any scout's radar at the time, didn't think that could be a reality.  Now, though, the more success he enjoys, the more Kendall has begun to believe in the evaluation that Blake made note of.

Another individual that the Georgia native credits with helping his progress is his roommate, Crosscutters catcher Logan O'Hoppe.

"I just try to be a pair of ears for him," said O'Hoppe.  "Whether he likes it or not, I'll give him my opinion.  But I just try to help him go into every day with a clear head."

Kendall Simmons, image- Jay Floyd
Simmons described advice he got from O'Hoppe as being a specific focus in batting practice.  Trying to drive the ball to the opposite field has allowed him to stay in the zone longer and, according to Simmons, it has changed the game for him.

O'Hoppe, who was also a New York Penn League All-Star, credits Simmons with using all outlets available to him in order to put together an exceptional approach and enhance the cerebral side of his game.

"He just took certain information and made it his own and he's done a great job with it, obviously." O'Hoppe stated.

Since the chat with Borders and Luzinski merged with the lessons he got from his blood brothers and his road brother to strap a rocket onto his skill set, Simmons is batting .343 with nine homers and 21 RBI in 21 games.

The pitfalls of professional baseball have proved to help Simmons triumph and he's grateful for every single moment to date.

"I’m learning from it, taking every day for what it’s worth, not leaving anything behind."

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Greg Brodzinski as former Phillies great Greg Luzinski.   This site apologizes for the error.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Cutters Quotables: Williamsport foursome discusses being honored as All-Stars

Simmons, Stott, O'Hoppe and Williams/ Image- Jay Floyd
This week four Phillies prospects participated in the Class A short-season New York-Penn League All-Star Game and each of them were excited to have begun making their marks in professional baseball.

Catcher Logan O'Hoppe, outfielder Corbin Williams, infielder Kendall Simmons as well as shortstop Bryson Stott represented the Williamsport Crosscutters and were part of the victorious Blue Team in Staten Island, NY, home of the Yankees affiliate, on Wednesday night.

O'Hoppe (pronounced Oh-HOP-ee), is a local guy who hails from nearby West Islip.  The 19-year-old, said the game was attended by approximately 100 friends and family members.

The righty batting O'Hoppe was a 23rd round draft selection last year.  In 44 games this year for Williamsport, he has tallied a .217 average with five home runs and 26 RBI.

Williams, who grew up in Philadelphia, is batting .224 with three doubles, three RBI and a league-leading 28 steals thus far in 49 regular season games for the Cutters. The 21-year-old right-handed hitter was a 24th round draft choice by the Phils last year.

Simmons, the Phillies' 6th round draft pick last year, has notched a .267 batting average with 11 homers and 30 RBI in 39 games this season.  The 19-year-old righty batter has played second base, shortstop and third base for Williamsport.

Stott was the Phillies' first round draft pick this year.  The 21-year-old UNLV product has posted a .294 batting average with five home runs and 20 RBI in 33 games since joining the Crosscutters.  The lefty hitter also played in four rookie level Gulf Coast League games upon debuting as a pro this year. 

I talked with each of the Crosscutters' top performers prior to the exhibition.  Read ahead for their remarks about being honored as All-Stars.


O'Hoppe:

It's been great.  It's been everything I could ask for.   This has been on the schedule for a while and it was definitely a goal of mine to get here because of that reason, because of the family and because of the people.  It's gonna be a good time.


It's so great to have that support system come to life because I mean you're away from home and you're texting people and (make) phone calls and stuff like that, but yeah, it's good to have them here in person and it's pretty overwhelming. But, I'm very blessed and lucky to have all those people in my corner and it's good to finally have them out here and see what I've been talking about.

Williams:

It's crazy.  (laughs)  I know this might sound crazy, but I didn't come into the season thinking that I could be an All-Star.  It's a blessing.

You just go out there and try to play everyday.  (Becoming an All-Star) was not my main focus.   It's not like, "I've got to get a hit today to make it to the All-Star game!"  I'm trying to just develop into the best player that I can be and the fact that I got chosen, it's like I'm doing something right, so keep doing it. 

Simmons:

It's truly a blessing. At the beginning of the year, I never thought I would be an All-Star.  It's crazy how you mature as a baseball player throughout the year.  It seems like I've been in pro ball for a minute now and just last year I was in high school, so I think it's an awesome experience.  It's my first time in New York and this is the way I want to spend my first trip to New York.

I take in every bit of it.  I mean, God blessed me with this opportunity, not only to be a pro, but just to be a part of something like this and to have friends and family that support me in everything I do and that's huge for me.

Stott:

It's really awesome especially being able to experience it with my three other teammates.  And this being my first pro season, and to be an All-Star I think it's very cool.  It's cool for everybody and to be here and experience it-- I played with some of  these guys in college too, so to see some of them again is really cool.

The one I'm closest to is Nic Ready.  He went to Air Force, so I played him a bunch of times throughout college and our schools were really close, so I know him really well.  There's a couple guys from Houston in there that I played against and a few others.  So, it's pretty cool to see their careers are moving forward too.

NYPL All-Star Game goes off with hitches

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Simmons, Williams & Stott/Image- Jay Floyd
In what was a mess of an event, the New York-Penn League All-Star Game was won on Wednesday night by the Blue Team, which included four Phillies prospects, over the Red team, which featured representatives from the home club, the Yankees' Staten Island squad.

The score at the ballpark, shown on the scoreboards and announced to those in attendance upon completion of the contest was 7-3.  This conflicted with the account reported by multiple media outlets and the score that appeared on minor league baseball's online box score, 7-4.

The start of the annual exhibition was delayed by rain, which came as a deluge during a pre-game Home Run Derby, that led to an apparent cancellation of the aforementioned competition, though that wasn't announced to the fans in attendance.

There were multiple innings during the game that ended abruptly, adding to the confusion of those present.  Unclear if there was a reversed call or potentially some sort of mercy rule acted on due to a hurler's pitch count, fans watched the sides seem to change twice when an inning was going at length.

And let's not forget the pregame ceremony set to honor new NYPL Hall of Fame inductees during which the grandfather of late State College Spikes coach Josiah Viera, Dave Bohner, heard his name announced multiple times as though it was pronounced like a slang term for an erection instead of the proper way, which rhymes with honor.  Oh, and the time an incompletely edited rap song was played over the Richmond County Bank Ballpark speakers was quite noteworthy also.

In the game, Williamsport's offensive standout Kendall Simmons started for the Blue team, going 1-for-2 with an RBI.  The 19-year-old played second base and committed a field error.

The Phillies' first round pick from this year's draft Bryson Stott entered the game as a substitution.  The talented shortstop went 0-for-1 with a walk.

Speedy center field Corbin Williams, who leads the NYPL in stolen bases, played center field and went 0-for-3.

Catcher Logan O'Hoppe, a native New Yorker, was 0-for-1 in the exhibition.

The Crosscutters (26-37, 5th place in the Pinckney Division) return to regular season action on Thursday as they open a three-game series at home against Mahoning Valley. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood RHP Albertus Barber

Albertus Barber, image- MiLB.com
Right-handed reliever Albertus Barber was signed by the Phillies as an undrafted free agent this summer.

Since beginning his professional career, the Oklahoma Baptist product has played at three levels in the minors, tallying a remarkable 1.23 ERA with a 3-0 record and a save through 12 appearances.

Last week I talked with the 23-year-old about his path to the Phillies, working with Class A Lakewood pitching coach Matt Hockenberry, the culture within the organization, his history with the Driveline training facility, a popular New Jersey food item and plenty more.  Read ahead for that complete interview.


-Your name is pretty unique.  Do you have a nickname that you go by more commonly, or no?

A lot of people call me Berty.

-Oh, I heard someone say that earlier and it didn't even click for me.

Yeah, a lot of people call me Berty, Bertus, Albert, Albertus, Barber.  It's just whatever works for you honestly.

-Alright.  Cool, man.  When I glance at you on the roster, I see you listed as a non-drafted free agent signing. There's not a lot of those around, for the American guys.  How does that go down?  How do you land with the Phillies?

Yeah, so in November the Phillies came and watched me and it was my first time throwing in front of a pro team since I had fractured my arm.  They came and watched me-- and it was funny because I was throwing up on the mound when they were watching me because I had pneumonia.  But they came and watched me and they wanted to sign me.  And they called me and they were like, "Hey.  What do you want money wise?"  And I told them, "I don't care.  Just let me play."  And they were like, "Alright.  We're gonna see if we can put something together for you."  And I was like, "Okay.  Sweet."  And they called me back two days later and they were like, "Hey.  Because you were taking online classes this fall, you're going to have to appeal to the MLB commissioner to become free agent eligible."  I ended up sending three requests to the MLB commissioner and they never got back to me.  And that was fine because it ended up working better for me.  And (the Phillies) ended up calling me on the third day of the draft, it was like in the 35th round.  The phone rang and I picked it up so fast that I don't even think it rang.  I pick up the phone instantly and he's like, "Hey, um, you still good with a thousand bucks and a Snickers bar?"  And I was like, "You can keep the Snickers bar (but) yeah!"  And they signed me about an hour after the draft and I was sitting there freaking out.  I wasn't supposed to tell anyone.  That was basically it, man.

-You look really happy talking about it, so I imagine you still felt like you had gotten drafted and celebrated accordingly.

Yeah, but I wasn't supposed to tell anybody until the pen was on the paper.  So, I'm freaking out and I have no idea what to do because this has been years in the making for me.  This is all I ever wanted to do, right?  This is my life!  And I just remember calling my mom and dad and they were sad.  They didn't see my name come up in the draft. Freaking out like I was freaking out.  Those three days were miserable.  I watched every single pick.  No lie!  And, so, I call 'em and I told them, "I just want to let you guys know I just got offered a free agent contract from the Phillies."  And I couldn't tell anyone else for about two weeks.  

-How soon did you get to go down to Florida to start showing your stuff in front of the Phillies and becoming a Phillie yourself?

So, I threw in front of them in the pre-draft and I asked them specifically, "Hey, can you guys get me out of here as fast as possible, after we decide to-- because I need to go compete.  I'm losing my mind."  So, the draft ended I think on a Thursday and I flew out on a Saturday.  And that was awesome.  And then about a week and a half later we started throwing live to people and now I'm here. 

-What has it been like for you joining the Phillies organization and making your way as a new guy?

The Phillies is a very well run organization.  Not a lot of people have any idea how in this organization specifically how well it is run.  I'm from Driveline, so I hear horror stories from other organizations all the time.  And then you look at the Phillies, we get sleeper buses, we get three meals a day, we get put in houses, we get hotels, like they take care of us.  And then not only that, but we have a really good coaching staff and then we have (Josh) Bonifay, who's really big on culture.  And I'm a firm believer that culture is a massive part of everything and it's hard to establish, right?  Everyone's doing a really good job.  Everyone's establishing the culture.  We all get along really well.  I've never seen differences.  We all just have the same thing in common.  It's easy for me because everyone's on the same page.  Everyone's always happy.  A lot of our guys always bring their best attitudes, so for me to adapt here, it was the same thing at a new level.  

-So, I've got a question for you that's a little less than serious, but you mentioned signing for a thousand bucks.  There's guys on this team that are high round picks, that got pretty big signing bonuses.  Do you ever go out for pizza or coffee or whatever with the guys and say, "Your signing bonus is way bigger than mine.  You pick this up"?

(Laughs)  No, man.  It's funny 'cause I'm always the one-- you can ask around the club house, I'm always like, "Yeah, guys.  I got some fat stacks!"  And they're like, "What?" And I'm like, "Boys, I've got some fat stacks in my bank account."  'Cause I save all my money.  But even though they have way more than me they'll always be joking around and they'll be like, "It's on Barber. He's the one with the fat stacks!"

-Excellent.  Since joining the club here, what feedback are you getting (Matt) Hockenberry and the coaching staff here?

Hockenberry, I love Hockenberry.

-Everyone does.

Yeah.  He lets me be myself.    (Manager Mike Micucci) lets me be myself.  They embrace culture.  Hockenberry and me-- 'cause I come from the analytical side, Hockenberry's been with the Phillies for a while, so Hockenberry knows everything on the Phillies' side.  Which I'm not familiar with 'cause I didn't play in the organization.  So, while we're merging the two, it's good for me because Hock's also merging the two.  So, I can give him feedback and he gives me feedback.  And obviously, he's been in the game longer than me, so he's got a lot more feedback for me.  But I can also interpret my body to him, and then we can work together.  

I mean we worked on one thing about two and a half weeks ago and my average velocity was around 91.5 and me and Hock went over a lot of video.  A lot of video.  And we re-patterned some of my mechanics for about two weeks and I went from topping out at like 93 to I topped 95 last week.  And I mean I credit that to Hock because really get to work together.  We're synergistic.  It's a really cool thing.

-I've heard of Driveline before.  I don't know much about it.  What can you tell me about it?

Aw, man.  The only thing I can tell you about Driveline is go there.  That's it.  I mean the culture's amazing.  It's one of those cultures that like if you (hit) 97 and then you throw the next one at 96.8, then we're going to boo you.  It's just one those things.  We're all family.  We all love each other.  We all get after it every day.  And for the most part the people there are people that sacrifice everything that they had to go to that place.  And then it's run by Kyle Boddy and a lot of other people.  But, without Kyle Boddy's sacrifices, it would have never been a thing.  So, to see how that's exponentially grown, from 2016 till now, because I've been doing it for that long, is just incredible.  The only thing I can say is go there, check it out.  What do you have to lose?

-Perfect.  What did you know about the Phillies before the Phillies expressed an interest in you?

Honestly, absolutely nothing.  I didn't know anything.  I knew that (Jason) Ochart was working here.  That's always a really good sign because if a team is on board with analytics, that means they're able to set their ego aside to be able to successfully progress through baseball.  According to whatever's new.  

-We're here in the hall way outside the locker room and here there's all these framed pictures of players that have come from this level and reached the big leagues. Is seeing this stuff inspiring to you?

It's certainly cool.  You see it and you just know a lot of great people have passed through here.  It's one those things where it puts it in your head, "It's time to go.  It's time to put up or shut up." 

-You and I met a little while ago and off the record we were talking about food a little bit.  Being new to New Jersey, what were your early impressions of pork roll?

Gross!  I would say, "gross" and "no, thank you!"  

-Have you tried it yet?

No, not yet.

-Ohh.  I think I was presuming that you ended up sampling it. You gotta have a sandwich-- obviously, you know of the pork roll, egg and cheese, which is the combo sandwich, because they have the mascots out here at FirstEnergy Park and you have the mascot race out here.  But, it still strikes you as odd?

Yeah.  I don't know why.  But, I don't hear that in Oklahoma.

-You like bacon, though, right?

Yeah, I love bacon.

-It's similar.  It's doesn't get as crispy.  But, you know, it's similar flavor, you know...salty pork product.

I'll have to try it.  

-You mentioned being from Oklahoma.  What's the delicacy of choice out there?

I would say Oklahoma is probably (known for) steak.  Just meat and taters out there, man. 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood infielder Hunter Stovall

Righty batting infielder Hunter Stovall joined the Phillies organization earlier this season in a trade with the Rockies for lefty hurler James Pazos.  Following the deal, Stovall, who was a 21st round draft pick last year, joined the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

In 61 games for the 'Claws, the 22-year-old Mississippi State product has tallied a .216 average with eight doubles, three triples and 19 RBI.

Last week I talked with Hunter about the trade, not being an everyday player at times, his faith and tons more.  Read ahead for that interview.

-You start out the year elsewhere.  What can you tell me about your season and the trade to come over to the Phillies?

The trade was a surprise, of course. I mean I hadn’t even been in pro ball a year and I’m already getting traded, so it was kind of a shock. But, it is what it is, but the season this year, I haven’t got to get in there as much as I’d like, but I guess it’s just the way the Phillies work. It is what it is, but it’s been an okay season.

-You almost seem like you’re holding back. Is that hard for you to come here and get less playing time and you got more at bats elsewhere?

Yeah, I mean it is hard. It’s a grind every day. Like you said, with the Rockies I played every single day. Somewhere every single day. So, to come here and sit as much as I do, it’s hard to deal with, but it is what it is. (When) you get the opportunity, you try to make the best of it.

-Another guy that goes through that with you is Cole Stobbe. And he’s an early round pick, a name that fans would know because of where he was drafted or because of signing bonus money or whatever. Does that make it easier to swallow when you’ve got guys to go through it with? Or is there a bit of a club of guys as you’re all going through it together?

I mean, I think it’s just some sort of organizational thing. They do some sort of metrics system and- I don’t know how to explain it. I’m just here to win and I’m here to try to produce and I mean that’s just- what they do, I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just a lot different than what I’m used to.

-Let’s get away from that. I tweeted out a picture of you signing autographs for kids and I get hundreds of likes. That’s not normal.  If I get 10 likes, that’s usually good for a photo of a player. There’s countless people affiliated with you, your school, your teams engaging the post. It’s crazy. That support, is it really cool for you?

Yeah, it’s awesome. Coming from Mississippi State and coming from Pelham, the place I grew up, I’ve always had that support.  I've always had fans that-- because I'm a nice guy.  I'm always approached.  I've got kids messing with me on Instagram and stuff and I always take the time to reply to them and do stuff like that.  Just 'cause that's what it all about.  I'm here to be an ambassador of God, of course, but to be a role model to these kids and I don't want to be that guy that's just kind of too cool for school.  You know what I'm saying?  So, yeah, I love the support.  I love the interaction with the kids and the fans.  I love it.

-You mentioned being an ambassador of God.  Does your faith play a big role in your life and does it translate on the field?

Yeah, of course, it translates on the field.  There's a story that I've had to tell everybody, but when I was born, I was actually born dead.  I was dead for two or three minutes or something like that.  And I mean, if it wasn't for Him I wouldn't be here.  I wouldn't be able to do this.  I wouldn't be able to interact with the people that I do, so I mean, it's a huge role.  God blesses us every day.  He blesses me (with) being here, being able to put a uniform on and the ability that He gave me is unbelievable.  So, I mean, everything that happens and everything I do is for Him.  And hopefully, His light is shining through me to other people.  Ultimately, that's what we're placed on Earth to do.  We're placed on the Earth to be disciples of Him and to go along and persuade people or help people understand that He is the true God.

-I wonder sometimes, because I'm not very into religion, that for someone like you that is, for lack of a better way to say it, is a super believer, would you look at someone like myself that isn't very into it in a particular way?

No, not at all.  If you every wanted to sit down and talk about it, I'd be happy to.  But, yeah, of course you can't-- thou shall not judge.  It's in the Bible.  You can't judge people by what they believe and what they don't believe.  So, it's part of who I am.  It'll always be part of who I am and it is what it is.

-Very cool.  You talk about producing when you can and making the most of opportunities.  What sorts of feedback do you get from the coaches and what to work on or improve?

 I don't know.  You just gotta be ready when you're names called.  And then you come in here every day and you don't know if your name's going to be in the lineup and it rattles me 'cause I'm so passionate about this game and I want be out there and I want to win.  That's what I'm here for.  And it's hard to come in here some days and swallow that's I'm not in the lineup.  I've got to sit again.  I've got to go in there and catch 'pens and all this stuff.  But, I mean, at the end of the day, you've got to get in the game.  You've got to do your best to try to produce and try to help the team win. 

-When the trade came, you mentioned it caught you by surprise.  Do you call family right away?  Do you have to convert them from Rockies to Phillies fans?

Yeah, of course.  Dad's my biggest fan.  He's always been my biggest fan my whole life.  I mean, when I got drafted he went and bought all this Rockies stuff, so of course he was the first one I called when it all happened.  It was kind like emotional at the time, because I didn't know what to expect.  But, yeah, my dad's got all his Phillies stuff now and he's on board.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood manager Mike Micucci talks Morales, Matos, more

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Lakewood's roster sports two buzz worthy prospects right now with outfield Malvin Matos on an extremely hot streak and pitcher Francisco Morales continuing to draw plenty of interest from prospect heads.

Malvin Matos, image- Jay Floyd
Matos, a 22-year-old righty batter, wrapped up, on Sunday, a 17-game stretch in which he went 27-for-62 (.436 average) with five doubles, three home runs, 12 RBI, nine walks and seven stolen bases.  He notched an 0-for-4 effort on Monday, but rebounded Tuesday with a pair of hits, including a solo homer, and a walk. 

Morales, a 19-year-old right-hander, is one of the Phillies' most well-touted prospects. In 23 outings this year, the talented Venezuelan has posted a 4.05 ERA with a .227 batting average against and an 11.9 K/9 mark.

This week I sat down to chat with Lakewood manager Mike Micucci about the hot streak of Matos, Morales's development, plus so much more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-(Catcher) Juan Aparicio is a new addition to the team in the past couple weeks.  I wanted to ask what you have seen from him since he's joined the team.

We were, first of all, very happy for Marchan to go up.  And Juan's a talented, young Latin player that plays behind the plate. Definitely has a plus bat and you can see that.  You know, a lot of bat speed there.  Has pretty good bat-to-ball skills and hand-eye coordination.  We're happy to have him.  Does a good job behind the plate, you know, maybe not as polished as (Marchan and Abrahan Gutierrez).  We were a little spoiled obviously with Marchan and Guty, but definitely has the tools to play the position, so we're happy to have him.

-Talk about Rafael Marchan a little bit more too, because he was a standout for the club for a majority of the season. 

Yeah, I mean, (he has) everything you need to play that position.  Started with the leadership and the mind and his ability to call the game, to work with the pitching staff, the physical tools, the quickness, the strong arm, the quick release, the quick feet and, you know, then at the plate he swings from both sides of the plate and has the ability to impact the ball.  So, he's a special player.

-This question is a bit late, as I just haven't talked with you in the past month, since this was going on, but at one point about a month ago, Gilmael Troya was listed with a suspension status.  Is there anything you can share about what was going on there?

Nah, it's kind of an internal thing.  He broke one of the team rules.  Not this team, like the Phillies, like an organizational rule. 

-Did that come down from the top or was that something you needed to enforce?

It was kind of a mutual thing.  I know when I talked to my boss it was, like, "Hey, this is what happened.  This is--"  When those things happen, I always give like, "Whatever you want us to do, but here would be my suggestion." You know, so we were, kind of-- everybody was on the same page.

-Alright.  There's nobody hotter in baseball right now than Malvin Matos. 

Unbelievable!

-Can you remark about him a bit?

It's really unbelievable.  It just showed up one day and then all of a sudden you can see-- and it starts with the pitch selection.  The controlling the strike zone, the swinging at good pitches, the plan in the batters box, but he certainly isn't missing his pitch when he swings at it and he is not chasing at all.  And he's offering at pitches, he's seeing a lot of good counts and, like I said, when he gets his pitch and swings, he is not missing it.  We looked up and it's like 50 points in the last...

-In like 16 days or 16 games, or something.

And that's a hard thing to do!  When you have that many at bats under your belt that is not easy to do and it just kind of goes to show you how hot he is.

-Has anything changed mechanics wise?

I think it's all approach for me, like I said.  I know they've been working really hard in the cage.  All the guys have.  It just kind like, one day I saw him- a couple swings, usually he'd foul them off and he didn't foul them off that day and he (instead) had a couple hits.  And then all of a sudden you see him not offering at other pitches and he's in better counts.  So, it all came down to not missing his pitch...when he was swinging, when he was getting it.  And then, you know, not offering at other pitches.

-They're out there in the locker room looking at some recent highlights.  Has he been contributing on defense for you too?

Oh!  The catch he made (Saturday) night was awesome.  Ranging, laying out on the track.  It's really good.

-Matos was DH'ing today.  I think I saw him rubbing elbows with (hitting coach Christina Marrero) from the other side of the field, the last few innings.  Was that Matos putting the time off from defense to use?

It could have been.  Yeah, I don't know.

-I try to look out for little stuff like that.  I remember when Andrew Knapp was here and he was coming back from Tommy John surgery and he was DH'ing.  They wouldn't let him play the field yet, and he'd just spend all those defensive half innings posted up between the manager and the coaches. 

And he was a catcher, right?

-Yeah.

That's one way in that position to keep your mind sharp.  Standing next to the pitching coach.

-Righty reliever Victor Santos is getting some attention as of late.  He's been doing pretty well.  What are your thoughts on him?

He's throwing really, really well.  He had a tough second inning today, but he's been very consistent for us.  You kind of know what you're going to get.  He goes out there and he has the ability to throw four pitches for strikes in any count, so, and he's young, so he's going to continue to develop.

-McCarthy Tatum was a new addition to the team and he's been here a month or so.  He was drafted this year out of Fresno State.  What have you seen from him since he's become a lineup regular for the team?

Yeah, that's a nice stabilizer in the offense.  The guy you can put in there that gives you a quality at bat.  You can tell he played at an elite college where he has that presence in the lineup and kind of has that idea or what he's doing and a good approach at the plate.  On defense, he's done a nice job at third (base).  You know how we are.  We move everybody around in the field and he's still getting accustomed to first base a little bit, but he's done a nice job at third.  He made a couple diving stops today.  He didn't kind of finish them off, but he's continuing to work over there and work on his foot work.

-Francisco Morales is another consistent pitcher on the team this year.  What have you seen from him lately?

I mean he's basically doing what he's done all year.  His fastball's still got some good life to it.  He's not tiring at all.  He still has the elite slider.  Today, he really flashed signs of a good change up.  And I know that's one of the things that he's working on is to develop that third pitch.  You know, it's so important for guys to develop that pitch, so you can start.

-A look at the standings compared to last year, the team record isn't gleaming or anything and maybe there are people that can look and frown on the wins and losses or the spot in the standings.  That's not really the most important thing in the minors though.  Development is. 

Always.  Without a doubt.

-Can you offer some thoughts on winning versus development in the minors?

Big picture.  So, it's the thing I talk to our staff about.  It's the thing we always try to keep in mind: The Big Picture.  Over the long haul, what's the best for the player and his career and what's the best for the organization?  And you always have that big picture in mind.  It's funny a couple examples, we talk about Morales, right?  Morales can go out and throw two pitches and dominate, but if he doesn't develop a change up, then in the grand scheme of things we're not helping him and we're not helping the organization.   And there's time when you get beat because you throw a pitch (and) you know you can get him out on the different pitch, or whatever, but you have to throw these pitches to develop them. 

To continue, them moving around the field and the versatility, some nights it's really good and guys are making plays and then some nights you've got some guys over there where you don't make a play here, you don't make a play there, you extend an inning over here because they're learning how to play a position.  So, just having that big picture thought process in mind-- I've seen too many guys over the years, especially on defense, play one position their whole minor league career and then all of a sudden, they're sitting in Triple-A and they go to the big leagues and now they're asked after like two or three days in the outfield to go play the outfield in a big league game.  It's not fair to the--

-I think they did that with Rhys Hoskins.

Yeah.  So, I think we're trying to avoid some of those mistakes that normally happen.  So, getting these guys to be more versatile, where they can play all over the field.  Some times it hurts you.  Sometimes it hurts your development.

The overall record; we're younger than everybody else.  You know?  But, we also feel like we have more talent out there. It's just raw.

Monday, August 12, 2019

IronPigs Quotables: JD Hammer interview excerpts

JD Hammer, image- Cheryl Pursell
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Recently I published a feature on reliever J.D. Hammer, who spent some time with the big league Phillies before returning to the minors with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

In the piece, Hammer and the IronPigs' coaching staff speak about the righty pitcher's current path and what he's focused on to return to the majors.

During my time chatting with the talented prospect he spoke on some topics that didn't make the cut in the feature.  Topics included the variance in the baseball at the upper levels, the IronPigs' catchers and more.  Read ahead for those interview excerpts.


I asked Hammer about the difference in the baseball from the lower levels of the minors to Triple-A and the majors.  The variance in the balls is said to take some getting used to...

Yeah, the seams are different from Double-A to Triple-A, but they did a good job of getting us ready for it during spring training.  The guys that they expected to have a shot at Triple-A and the big leagues this year, they made sure they were throwing the big league balls during spring training, so yeah there's differences in the Double-A ball and the Triple-A ball, but we've prepared for that this whole year, so I mean I think a lot of guys are feeling confident throwing it, because that's what we've been used to.

I asked if he felt equipped to work with the different ball ahead of debuting in Triple-A...

Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, at the end of the day, it's baseball.  You've got to make pitches and you've got to make adjustments, so if the ball's an adjustment, you've just got to adjust with it.  It's just like anything else.  So, I mean I haven't noticed anything crazy between here and the big leagues.  The seams on the balls in Double-A are a little bit bigger, but other than that a lot of us have been used to throwing the big league balls since spring training.

Hammer shared some thoughts on battery mate Deivy Grullon...

He's been awesome for us.  He's definitely a different breed of catcher.  He knocks the ball around pretty well.  So, it's been fun to watch since I've been here and he's got a bright future ahead of him.

And also spoke on the IronPigs' other catcher Rob Brantly...

Brantly, he's awesome.  He's a veteran guy.  I can talk to him and see what he's thinking about in certain situations, hitting wise, and get a feel for what the hitter's thinking about and he's been awesome to throw to.

In addition to the insight he shared on bonding with Pat Neshek specifically in the original piece, Hammer spoke on the Phils' relief corp overall being helpful during his tenure with the big league team...

Yeah, (I learned from) pretty much all the guys in the bullpen.  I talked to Morgan a lot.  I talked to Neris a lot.  Neshek, Robertson, just picked their brains.  Just see what they're doing to be successful.  They're a tool for us younger guys 'cause they have that experience, so yeah I picked a lot of their brains while I was up there.

Hammer also spoke with me about the extra attention he gets from fans due to his signature look (big, thick framed glasses) and his last name...

I don't pay  much attention to it.  I'm just here to play baseball, so I've got my  mind focused on that.  I try to stay away from social media as much as  possible.  I don't really know what  exactly is said, or the buzz or anything.  It's nice to have fans and  to have people support you when you're doing good and be there for you  when you're doing bad.  Everybody always says the Phillies fans are  passionate and they are!  I mean it's nice to have  support from people who really care about the game.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Williamsport's Iser has American aspirations

Herbert Iser, image- MiLB.com
Herbert Iser would have already taken strides toward becoming a citizen of the United States if it wasn't for the Phillies drafting him a couple of months ago.

The talented backstop was hopeful to make progress in that regard, but signed his first professional contract after he was selected in the 23rd round in this year's amateur draft got in the way.

"I was in the process, but being drafted and all that stuff, I couldn't make it to the appointment I had, so hopefully in the off-season, maybe, I'll be a dual citizen with Jamaica and America," Iser said in a recent phone interview.

A Citizen of Jamaica, currently, Iser's family has a remarkable background. 

Not wanting to live under a dictatorship, Iser's parents, Alfredo Iser and Maria Olivero, fled Cuba for more favorable conditions in Jamaica in 1996.  A year and a half later, Herbert was born, named after his father's employer, Jamaican Minister of Health Dr. Herbert Eldemire.

"He's deceased now, but when my family went from Cuba to Jamaica, he helped my family out.  He housed us," Iser explained.

A product of Dallas Baptist University, the same school that produced other recent Phillies draftees such as Autin Listi, Darick Hall, David Martinelli and Eric White, Iser batted .280 with seven home runs and 34 RBI in 52 games played for the Patriots this year as a junior.

The lefty batter had also been drafted last year, following two years at San Jacinto (junior) College, in the 24th round by Baltimore.  He chose not to sign, instead transferring to DBU.

His parents, who instilled a religious focus in the six-foot-three 210-pounder, now live apart and are currently both United States residents, but are his biggest fans.  While dad knows the sport very well, Iser's mom, described as the brain of the family, isn't as astute when it comes to baseball.

"She'll call me every day and talk to me about how I did, but she doesn't really get it," Iser explained.  "If I got a couple hits or something she'll say, 'You got a couple home runs!'"

Iser debuted in the minor leagues in June, playing in five games with the Gulf Coast League Phillies West team.  After going 8-for-16 with two doubles, two triples and three RBI, he was promoted to the Class A short-season Williamsport Crosscutters.

In 19 games there, in the New York-Penn League, Iser isn't enjoying the same success to date.  He's tallied a .156 average with two doubles, a triples, two homers and five RBI.

Despite the less than ideal results the 21-year-old Iser doesn't feel overwhelmed by the latest level.  In fact, he feels college ball prepared him very well for the grind of pro baseball. 

"Just, right now, I think things aren't going my way, 'cause I'm seeing the ball fine," Iser said.  "I'm hitting the ball solid.  Just right now we're at the point where I need to make adjustments.  There's nothing that's too overwhelming."

While he works to get his offensive results to a more appealing level, Iser, who has garnered attention for his defense and arm strength, is able to give his game the full attention it deserves.  The Phillies have an employee, Ray Robles, who, in the role of Assistance Director of International Relations, has been able to help Iser with all the processes and paperwork involved with all the legalities and paperwork.

On top of making Iser's dreams of playing professional baseball comes, the organization is also working with him on another big aspiration of acquiring that dual citizenship.

"It's very important," Iser said.  "It means the world to me.  I look at it as they see me as a person and really care." 


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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

IronPigs Quotables: Gary Jones interview excerpts

Gary Jones, image- Jay Floyd
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Last week I sat down with Lehigh Valley IronPigs manager Gary Jones to talk about some of his team's players. Below are some excerpts from my chat with him in which he discusses backstop Deivy Grullon, lefty starting pitcher Damon Jones, infielder/outfielder Austin Listi and more.



-Deivy Grullon has been a key contributor for the 'Pigs this year. An All-Star for you guys. What have you seen from Deivy this year?

I mean Deivy’s doing a good job. He’s working his tail off every day. He’s improving behind the plate. The relationship with the pitchers is good. He goes out on a daily basis and those guys work and talk about the game plan, so he’s getting better and he’s doing what all these guys are doing. They’re here developing a skill (set) and coming to work every day and trying to get better as an individual. Trying to reach the ultimate goal of playing at the major league level. But Deivy, he's right on track and he’s doing a great job.

-Damon Jones is a new addition to the pitching staff. He's started to grab some attention this year. Thoughts on Damon?

He’s learning. He’s kind of made the jump to Triple-A fairly quickly. And I think, you know, at this level you come across mature hitters. Hitters that have been playing in the game quite a while and so you know you have to know how to attack those guys. You can’t fall into patterns and you mainly have to locate pitches. Today it was a positive day for him. He gave up a three-run homer on a breaking ball, but other than that I thought he battled and I thought he did a nice job.

-Austin Listi has really turned it on here after having a tough time getting things going in Double-A. How does he stand out compared to other guys for you?

Again, all these guys are in the same situation. All these guys are young guys, coming up, first time in Triple-A. Again, you know, playing against guys that have had Major League experience and have had a lot of Major League experience and, you know, it’s just a matter of guys understanding and toning their skill. You know, staying in your circle and not trying to do too much. Understanding who you are as a player, who you are as a hitter and that kind of thing. And understand what the pitcher’s trying to do, what the situation calls for and that stuff goes into the equation. And guys only get better at it by getting (at bats). You know, there’s a—I think there’s a stat or something that says, “Before a hitter can graduate and be a good hitter at the Major League level, you average minor leaguer has about 1,500 at bats in the minor leagues, so it’s always a work in progress. And you have to remember, the greatest hitters of all time fail 70-percent of the time. So, you know, this game, as hitters, a lot of times, is built around failure and you’ve got to be able to handle that. So, these guys are, like I said, they’re up here learning. They’re playing against older guys. And these are young players that are trying to make the jump and it’s all a development situation for them and a learning situation for them.

-I talked with J.D. Hammer just about 10 minutes after the game ended and he told me he'd already watched video of his outing, did his arm care. That struck me as pretty fast. Is that a normal for a guy to have so much done, so quickly?

Everybody has their own routine, so it’s different for everybody. I can’t tell you what’s normal for each individual. Everybody has their own routine on the way they handle stuff; success, failure. So, everybody’s got their own routine.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lehigh Valley pitching coach Steve Schrenk

Recently I chatted with Lehigh Valley pitching coach about his staff.  Topics included in the discussion were Ramon Rosso, Enyel De Los Santos, Cole Irvin, JoJo Romero, Josh Tols, as well as catcher Deivy Grullon and more.

Read ahead for that interview...


Deivy Grullon, image- Jay Floyd
-Catcher Deivi Grullon is having a very good season, continuing his development.  How has Deivi been for you this year?

Great. Had him for the last four years. I’ve had him for the past four years. Every year he gets better. He’s gotten better calling games. He’s gotten better working with the staff. He’s getting to know these guys. He knows a lot of them. And he’s been hitting, ripping the cover off the ball. He made the All-Star team, so—tremendous job blocking. Does a good job, I mean, some of the stuff, the new analytical stuff, he’s learning, as far as the heat maps and different things, but he’s doing a good job with them.

-JoJo Romero has a rough go of it here and was moved back to Double-A Reading.  Since he's returned here to Triple-A have you seen improvements made for him?

Definitely. I definitely saw a jump in velocity. Delivery’s smoother, cleaner. Using his slider more and trusting his fastball. I think that was the biggest thing. And he’s throwing it over the plate. That and the velo, so from the time I saw him (before the demotion) and the time I saw him when he came back, big improvements. So, hopefully, he can take off and keep doing what he’s doing.

-Ramon Rosso enjoyed a lot of success at lower levels and started to have a buzz about him building.  What are your thoughts on Ramon?  Is he buzz worthy?

Yeah, definitely. Size, right-handed, working on his off-speed pitches, taking his delivery and cleaning that up a little bit. There’s some things he needs to clean up here and there to make it a little more consistent, so he throws more strikes and has the ability to throw more strikes. But, he’s what you look for in a big right-handed pitcher. Size. He has three weapons. And he’s not afraid. I like the way he goes out and attacks hitters.

-What kind of feedback do you share with the guys that come to this level and struggle? The Leftwich’s, the Dohy’s, the Brogdon’s that breeze through Double-A, then come here and kind of run into the different ball, the different seams, their ERA shoots up. What kind of feedback are you giving them?

This is what they’re gonna face in the big leagues. The guys are gonna get better and the baseballs are the baseballs. There’s nothing we can do about them. They are what they are. But, they’re gonna learn. They have to learn. I think the only way they’re going to get better and learn is to go through the process. And that’s what all of them are doing. And they’re gonna have bumps in the roads, but I want to find out now how they’re going to react to bumps in the roads at Triple-A, not while they’re in the big leagues. I think that’s the key to the statement. But they did good. They earned their way here. They pitched well. They gotta continue it. Like you said, all the intangible things that we can’t control—they (only) need to control what they CAN control and they’ve done a good job with that. And they’re gonna have bumps, but I think every one of them have improved at some degree. Gone backwards a little bit, and gone forwards, gone backwards and gone forwards, but I think by the end of the year they’ll all be going forward in the right direction.


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Friday, August 2, 2019

Hammer focused after taste of the big leagues

J.D. Hammer, image- Jay Floyd
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An expressionless stare from the seated reliever began to wear a hole in the floor following J.D. Hammer’s most recent outing for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Teammates did not speak to him. It was processing time. It was how he will improve.

Hammer, one of the Phillies’ prospects that has taken the most strides this season, is back in the Triple-A International League after a recent trade to acquire pitcher Mike Morin left Hammer without a spot on the big league roster.

In nearly two months with the Phils, Hammer appeared in 20 games. He posted a 1-0 record with a 3.79 ERA, a .217 batting average against while striking out 13 and walking 12 in 19 innings. The strike out rate and walk rate aren’t gleaming and will need to improve if Hammer is to succeed at the top level of the sport.

A swift mover this year, the 25-year-old opened his 2019 campaign with Double-A Reading, where he really delivered in relief for the Fightins Phils. In 13 contests, Hammer touted a 1-0 record with two saves, a 1.77 ERA and an 11.5 K/9 mark.

Hammer was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in May. There, he made one appearance, tossing two scoreless frames, before the Phillies called him up.

“The guy’s had a hell of a year so far,” said IronPigs manager Gary Jones in a proud, fatherly tone. “He started in Double-A, got to the big leagues and now he’s back with us working on some things, trying to get some things right, iron things out.”

The right-handed Hammer pitched an inning in his latest appearance against Pawtucket on Tuesday, surrendering two earned runs on three hits, including a homer to Red Sox prospect Josh Ockimey, a Philadelphia native. Within just a handful of minutes after the end of the game, Hammer had already reviewed video of his outing to look at pitch selection and locations. He then sat at his locker reflecting on what he had seen and the results. It was a zone he needed to enter in order to let the lessons sink in and to allow himself to grow.

Since his return to Allentown, Hammer added four more appearances to his season and has tallied a 9.00 ERA with the ‘Pigs.

“It's definitely been an up and down season,” Hammer stated. “Right now I'm working through some stuff. I feel like I'm making good pitches and throwing lots of strikes. It's baseball, so it's tough. I'm a competitor. I never go out there and try to lose, so it's frustrating giving up runs. It's as simple as I've got to go back out and compete tomorrow.”

Originally drafted in the 24th round by Colorado in 2016, Hammer was acquired by the Phillies in a deal that sent reliever Pat Neshek to the Rockies in 2017. Neshek is now among the veterans that Hammer cites as having been a valuable source of information during his tenure in the majors and around the big club during spring training.

“He's awesome,” Hammer said of the former All-Star. “He's had a ton of years in the big leagues and he knows how to pitch and he's a great guy to be around and not only that, he's personable and he's a normal guy and I enjoy being around all those guys and, hopefully, I'll be up there again soon.”

Mainly a fastball-slider guy, Hammer also features a change up in his arsenal that he cites is something he doesn’t throw as often as he might like. The slider, though, is his go-to pitch. Pitching coach Steve Schrenk says the offering has shown improvements and is Hammer’s primary weapon, though an area of focus for the six-foot-three 215 pounder will be his precision.

“He’s doing well,” Schrenk said with confidence. “He’s been using his fastball. Fastball command was something he needed to work on before he went up to Philly and he’s been doing a good job with that.”

While he waits for the next opportunity to pitch in the majors, Hammer is using feedback from Phillies developmental personnel to guide his work. The main goal is getting ahead of hitters and staying in attack mode, according to the Marshall product.

Those coaches in charge of his development are confident that the future remains bright for Hammer. Jones, his skipper, is most assured of all.

"He’ll get back to the big leagues. He’ll probably have a long career at the major league level."