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.

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