Thursday, July 9, 2020

OF Pujols among trio of minor leaguers released by Phillies

Jose Pujols, image- Jay Floyd
It was announced that the Phillies released outfield prospect Jose Pujols along with two minor league pitchers on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old righty hitting Dominican missed all of the 2019 regular season following a reported Achilles tendon injury.

Pujols made a name for himself during his first campaign in full-season Class A in 2016,  when he set Lakewood's single season home run record at the time, at that time, with a mark of 24. Overall in 128 games in the South Atlantic League that year, Pujols tallied a .241 batting average with 82 runs batted in.

In six minor league seasons, the six-foot-three 180-pounder notched a .238/.304/.406 slash line. 

The father of two posted a message about the release on his Instagram account on Wednesday night.  An image of that statement is embedded below.



Two more natives of the Dominican Republic were also cut from the Phils organization, as it's been reported that right-handed pitcher Oscar Marcelino and left-handed hurler Jose Jimenez have been released as well.

Marcelino, 23, split his 2019 season with Class A Lakewood and Class A Advanced Clearwater.  In 32 combined relief appearances last year, Marcelino posted a 3-2 record with two saves, a 5.83 ERA and a .279 batting average against.

The 22-year-old Jimenez pitched with short-season Class A Williamsport last year.  In 17 relief outings he sported a 2-1 record with a 3.71 ERA with an 11.1 K/9 mark. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Catching prospect O'Hoppe tabbed to join Phillies

Logan O'Hoppe, image- Jay Floyd
Please consider supporting my work and via my Patreon page.  For a small monthly fee, your patronage will get you exclusive interviews and other prospect related material as well as early access to all of my other content such as this feature.  Thank you. 

On Friday, the Phillies added a pair of catchers to their 2020 player pool.  Minor leaguers Logan O'Hoppe (pronounced Oh-HOP-ee) and Henri Lartigue arrived in Philadelphia to help catch bullpen sessions for the team's collection of approximately 30 pitchers.

The call to O'Hoppe was extremely welcome as the 20-year-old had been staying as active as he possibly could, working out with other players that have been been waiting out quarantine due to the current pandemic at his home on Long Island.  However, he had been very eager to step back onto an actual baseball field.

"I just hope I can play soon.  Where ever that is or whatever form that is, that'd be awesome," O'Hoppe said in an interview last week, prior to being added to the Phillies' roster.

O'Hoppe's residence in Sayville, NY became sort of a destination for local hurlers looking to get their work in.  Phils prospects like Kyle Young and Nick Fanti, also residents of Long Island, would spend time with their local backstop.  Plenty of the work took place in O'Hoppe's back yard, which features a netted tunnel built by Logan's father Mike roughly a decade ago that's suitable for pitching practice, but is likely more recognizable as a batting cage.  The length of the passage, though, at just 55 feet, isn't ideal for hitting.
 
One out-of-state resident also ended up claiming what I will call The O'Hoppe Compound home as Albertus Barber trained there over the past several weeks.  O'Hoppe extended an invitation to the righty hurler after he saw video that Barber posted online of himself getting his pitching work in by throwing at a tree in the parking lot of a hotel he was staying at in Clearwater.  Barber, an Oklahoma native, had stayed in Florida during the initial stages of the Coronavirus shutdown, hoping the organization's facilities would reopen soon after the COVID-19 forced closure.

A 23rd round pick in 2018 out of Saint John the Baptist High School, O'Hoppe has looked very promising during his time in the minors.  He has tallied a .277/.326/.458 slash line in 79 affiliated pro games to date.  O'Hoppe also competed in the Australian Baseball League over last off-season, where he sported a .258 with five doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI in 28 games for Adelaide.

O'Hoppe had been looking forward to playing full-season ball for the first time this year.  He likely would have been slotted as a backstop for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, where he would have played under new Phillies organization hire Chris Adamson.  The skipper, known to his players as Tank, managed O'Hoppe's Giants club in the ABL.

"He is an unbelievable human being and an unbelievable brain to be around and it's something that I didn't take for grated this year, because he is a special dude," O'Hoppe stated.  "From catching stuff to life stuff to just the approach on how you go about your day, all of that, he's super knowledgeable and super invested in us."

Described by teammates as a guy that has a baseball-only focus, the six-foot-two 185-pound righty batter stays fixated on climbing the developmental ladder and improving his game and that of those around him.

Dealing with the monotony of being at home became challenging for O'Hoppe, who greatly missed being around his teammates and coaches as well as the constantly changing landscape of road trips, bus rides and hotels.

"That's the part I miss most, the part that people say is the hardest part of the minor leagues," O'Hoppe said.

Well, he's now officially back on the professional athlete grind, despite being assigned to just the Philadelphia region without travel.  I presume it would be a safe guess that O'Hoppe welcomes this new stay-at-home assignment over his previous one.


More notes- 

Reliever Anthony Swarzak was also added to the Phillies' eligible player pool.  The right-hander struck out eight, walked one and surrendered three homers in five innings of work earlier this year in spring training.  The 34-year-old sports a 4.32 ERA in 10 big league seasons.

Lartigue, 25, was a 7th round pick of the Phillies in 2016 out of Mississippi.  In four pro seasons, the switch-hitter is a .220 hitter with 23 RBI and 130 RBI.  He played last season with Double-A Reading. 

**This piece was updated to reflect the proper town name and location of "The O'Hoppe Compound".

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Phillies schedule has been unveiled


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 MLB season has been reduced to just 60 games.  At long last, the abbreviated regular season schedule was announced on Monday and features the Phillies hosting the Marlins on Friday, July 24th, in those two clubs' opening day.

Games are expected to be played without fans in attendance, but each of the Phils' scheduled contests will be televised.  Specifics on which channels or networks will carry each game is slated to be announced at a later date.

Per MLB.com here's a break down of the Phillies' schedule:

National League East
Braves (10): seven at home, three on the road
Marlins (10): three at home, seven on the road
Mets (10): six at home, four on the road
Nationals (10): four at home, six on the road
American League East
Blue Jays (6): three at home, three on the road
Orioles (3): all at home
Rays (3): all on the road
Red Sox (4): two at home, two on the road
Yankees (4): two at home, two on the road

MLB action will get underway on Thursday, July 23rd with national broadcasts on ESPN
with a Yankees vs. Nationals match up and a Giants vs. Dodgers night cap.  There are MLB odds available here for those two games and although odds for Phillies' first game are not there yet, they should be updated soon as it gets closer to the 24th.

In the abbreviated 2020 schedule, each team is set to play 60 contests against teams in their own division as well as the corresponding division in the other league.  This means the Phillies are to play each of their rivals in the National League East division along with the teams in the American League East.

Local fans can expect to see the Phillies on national TV four times...Sunday, August 23rd against the Braves on ESPN, Thursday, August 27th against the Nats on FOX, Saturday, August 29th facing the Braves on FOX and Sunday August 30th versus the Braves in ESPN. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

2020 Minor League Season Officially Cancelled


On Tuesday, Minor League Baseball announced that its 2020 season would be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, it's worth mentioning that supporters of my work through Patreon got that news six weeks ago.

Per a press release from the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, team general manager Kurt Landes had this to say:

It’s with great disappointment and sadness to inform you that the IronPigs 2020 season has been officially cancelled. Earlier today, Major League Baseball informed Minor League Baseball that it will not be providing its Minor League affiliates with players for the 2020 season. As such, there will not be a 2020 Minor League season.

On behalf of the entire IronPigs organization, I promise that when the 2021 season arrives it will be our best season ever. More promotions, more fun and more entertainment. We’ll honor our front-line heroes, recognize our essential workers and heal together – all while taking in our national pastime.

From a press release, Class A Lakewood BlueClaws president Joe Ricciutti shared, "This is news that we had hoped we wouldn’t have to share, but unfortunately we will not be playing baseball at the Jersey Shore this summer."

2020 was set to be the 20th season in Lakewood. The team has stated that many of their planned 20th season celebrations will be rescheduled for 2021.

The Double-A Reading Fightin Phils offered this feedback in their statement on the cancellation:

We miss seeing all of our Phillies Double A players – working hard toward their dream of making the big leagues. We know how much those players are missing baseball right now and we are excited to see them play again next season. And most of all, we miss all of you, our fans, for you are the reason that we all love working here – throwing 70 baseball parties for our fans each season is what drives us to be great. But we will work through this together and focus on better days ahead when we can all return to America’s Classic Ballpark for an R-Phils ball game. 

Despite the lack of a regular season for Phils prospects this year, keep it locked here and on my Twitter feed for updates, interviews and exclusives on the future of the Phillies organization all year round.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Phillies announce 60-man player pool

As was announced last week, Major League Baseball is set to return from hiatus in July with each team permitted to designate a player pool of up to 60 individuals that can play in games.

Via Twitter on Sunday night, the Phillies announced their collection of talent that will be able to take the field in red pinstripes this year.


Included on the Phils' list of player that will be in the big leagues or on the club's taxi squad, are the top two prospects in the organization, righty hurler Spencer Howard and corner infielder Alec Bohm.

Spencer Howard, image- Jay Floyd
Howard, who is known for his fastball that reaches triple digits pitched last year in the Arizona Fall League, where he faced many of baseball's top minor league talents. In six appearances for Scottsdale, the 23-year-old notched a 1-1 record with a 2.11 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP. Additionally, he struck out 27 batters in 21 1/3 innings of work.

Bohm, 23, looked great prior to the pandemic pause to spring training. The Phils' 1st round pick from 2018 posted a .409 average in 13 games.

Other key prospects included on the Phillies' on-field probables list are pitchers Connor Seabold, JoJo Romero, Ramon Rosso, Damon Jones, Connor Brogdon, Addison Russ and Mauricio Llovera along with familiar faces such as catcher Deivy Grullon as well as hurlers Cole Irvin, Enyel De Los Santos and Blake Parker.

The Phillies' announced list has just 53 total names.  This leaves the club with the ability to add players at a later date via free agency, via trade or from within the organization. 

Reported here on this site recently, the Phillies are expected to have their players that aren't active on the big league roster using the Allentown's Coca-Cola Park, home of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, as their primary facility.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: IronPigs' Mike Ventola

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Mike Ventola, image- Jay Floyd
Mike Ventola has spent nearly a decade broadcasting in the developmental ranks for the Phillies organization.  He's also worked for the Southern Illinois Miners, the Augusta Greenjackets, New Jersey Institute of Technology calling women's basketball and the Danny Bonaduce Morning Show.

Currently the Manager of Media Relations for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Ventola previously called games for five seasons with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils.

Recently, "Mikey V." took time to answer interview questions for me and offered some insight on his career path, the appeal of broadcasting, his current role with the IronPigs, what he's missing most this year during the baseball hiatus and more.

Read ahead for that full interview.


-Do you recall your earliest memories of sports broadcasting and what about it appealed to you?

I remember when I was a little boy watching Yankees games on TV with my dad and brother. I was enamored with the announcers describing the action (especially listening to games on the radio in the car). I was not good enough to play baseball like my older brother, so I felt this was an avenue for me being involved in sports.

-Growing up with a focus on the Yankees, certainly there are some legendary voices associated with that team. Can you talk about any impressions those individuals may have left on you?

I am New Jersey born but Pennsylvania raised – with that said, being a Yankees fan was mandatory in the Ventola household. I grew up listening to Michael Kay and John Sterling. I really enjoyed their style, especially John Sterling’s home run call: that ball is high, it is far, it is GONE! His home run call has had an affect on me to this day because I have one of my own.

-What were some of your earliest broadcasting gigs and how valuable were those experiences?

I was in college when I first started to broadcast sports. I first started doing public address but transitioned to play-by-play when the university I attended implemented internet webcasts. I did play-by-play for field hockey, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. I did not start doing baseball play-by-play until my first internship in minor league baseball. What I took away was the ability to make a ton of mistakes, hone my craft and learn how to inject my personality into the broadcast. I learned a lot from my early years behind the microphone.

-When I first met you, you were the most welcoming team staffer (or a close second place to Greg Giombarrese in Lakewood) that I have ever encountered, as a member of the IronPigs crew. Describe your initial role there and how that helped you move forward with future assignments.

Thank you, Jay. Greg G in Lakewood is the Gold Standard, so I would be happy to take second place behind him. Latching on with the IronPigs has brought me on a little bit of a different journey than my prior stops. I am not as present on the radio as I used to be when I was with the Reading Fightin Phils, but I do a lot with the television side of the broadcasts. I am stronger on the Media Relations side now, allowing me to develop stronger relationships with the media and players/coaches. It has opened up doors for me to meet with various people in the area and businesses. I have also been fortunate to do a lot of work for the local cable company that televises all the IronPigs home games.

-Can you share some details about the role of media relations manager/media relations director that fans might not know about?

Outside of being a face and voice of the team you work for; I have to do a lot behind the scenes for the organization. I help come up with creative ideas and implement digital content for our social media pages and website. It’s more than just writing press releases and preparing game notes!

-What would you say is your most memorable game called in the Phils system? Would there be a non-Phils related game that gives that Phils organization game a run for its money?

It is hard to pinpoint one memorable game during my time in the Phillies system. I will say the overall home run chase between Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins in 2016 was truly special. That season started off with the exhibition game at FirstEnergy Stadium between the Phillies prospects and Phillies. It was such a fun season but fell short in the end when they got eliminated by Trenton in the first round of the playoffs. I’ve only called one no-hitter in my career and it was on July 11, 2015 when the Fightins’ played a double-header against Akron at Canal Park. Ryan Merritt for Akron threw a no-hitter in game one against Reading. It was by far the most memorable game I called when seeing an opponent get the best of your team, even if it was seven innings.

-Best parks to call a game in for both the Double-A Eastern League and Triple-A International League? If your answers are the home parks...which road ones stand out for you?

Best park to call a game in the Eastern League – I love Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine. The ballpark is awesome, and they always had good crowds when we went. I don’t travel much in my role with the IronPigs, so I have to say I’ve only been to PNC Field in Moosic, PA (home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders). It is a nice ballpark and always has a good crowd.

-What advice would you share with people that would hope to get into broadcasting? And is there any advice you have been given along the way that really made a difference in your career?

Start now and do not worry about making mistakes. Get as much experience as you possibly can be it through internships or talking into a recorder in your living room. Once you get in the door – build a network. You need people to go to bat for you. A strong network will help you get opportunities down the road. The old saying is true: it is not what you know, but who you know.

-What do you miss most about calling games right now?

As silly as this may sound, but what I miss most about calling games is the roar of the crowd. There is nothing like it when the lights are shining down on the field, the stadium is packed, and crowd is in every moment of the game. It gives me goosebumps. It is what makes baseball so special. A cheer for when the home team does well and a boo when the road team does well. Man, do I miss it.

Big league baseball set for return with rule changes

The following  post originally appeared on my Patreon page, https://www.patreon.com/phoulballz.  In order to get breaking news, exclusive interviews, early access and other content, please consider supporting my work there for just $5 per month.

The long awaited announcement of a return for Major League Baseball came on Tuesday, as the league and the players have come to terms on a 60-game regular season schedule set to begin on either July 23rd or July 24th.

The announcement comes on the heels of months-long negotiations between the two sides, as they struggled to agree on a way to safely come back from the Coronavirus related hiatus.

With some rule tweaks, MLB will proceed despite considerable rises in COVID-19 cases in Arizona, Texas and Florida, where many games will be played.

Rule changes include:

The National League will use the designated hitter.

The trading deadline will be August 31st.

Much like the method used in the minor leagues in recent years, each frame in extra innings will begin with a runner on second base.

Rosters will open at 30 players for the opening two weeks of the season, move down to 28 for the following two weeks, then reduce to 26 players for the remainder of the regular season.

Teams will utilize a taxi squad, which will allow the clubs to have as many as 60 players available to play in big league contests. 

On that taxi squad rule, those reserve players will train together at a separate site.  Intrasquad games will be permitted in order for players to stay game-ready.  Per a source, the Phillies will use Allentown's Coca-Cola Park, home of the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs as the facility for their backup personnel.  Additionally, minor league players have begun to receive calls about reporting to be part of this taxi squad. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Talking Phils draft & no minor league season on Hittin' Season Podcast

I mentioned in my recent draft picks post that I'd be publishing the latest Hittin' Season podcast, in which I chat about the Phillies' draft results and the lack of a minor league season this year, after it became available.  I wasn't having luck with getting the embedded player for just that episode posted on the site here.  So, below, you'll find a description of the episode as well as a link to be able to stream the show, hosted by John Stolnis.  I hope you dig it.

On Episode 390 of Hittin' Season, host John Stolnis breaks down the much-shorter 2020 MLB Draft for the Phillies with Jay Floyd of  PhoulBallz.com. Also, comments by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred about the March 26 agreement raise eyebrows and ESPN's Karl Ravech pushes back about the negotiations, and another edition of This Week in Phillies  History! 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Former Phils prospect Cozens stops looters in AZ

Dylan Cozens, image- Jay Floyd
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Last week, as he rang in his 26th birthday, Dylan Cozens wasn't celebrating.  Instead, he took to the streets in the midst of rioting to protect local businesses in his native Scottsdale, AZ.

After 1:00 AM, Cozens, a former Phillies outfield prospect and current Rays minor leaguer, caught a glimpse of some rowdy happening on Facebook Live.  Posts showed violence and thievery and the former second round draft selection wasn't going to let it continue. 

"When I saw what they were doing and the reason behind it, I decided to try and stop it because it wasn't right. It had nothing to do with Black Lives Matter.  It was a hate crime to go and try to destroy businesses and loot and hurt people," Cozens said on Monday. 

Explaining that individuals he encountered out, in the middle or the night, weren't holding signs, and weren't peacefully protesting for a good cause, Cozens stated they were people only present to commit crimes.  

Armed with a flash light and a pair of hand cuffs, the six-foot-six 235-pound Cozens and his friend, Ryan Fisher, who is an equally imposing fitness athlete, swiftly set out for the local businesses they'd seen at risk of being destroyed and crippled.

Physical altercations did not occur, as the appearance of Cozens, who documented some of the action on his Instagram account, and his partner in fighting crime was enough to deter evil doers. 


"Ryan basically looked like a SWAT agent, so I think having him there, for sure, scared people," Cozens shared.  "But we didn't touch anyone.  (We) just basically told them to stop and get out and put the stuff down."

Cozens stands firmly against racism and, as a young American, is in disbelief at the fact that it's still a major issue in America today.  

"I don't know what the key to ending the systemic racism but I will always support black communities because there is an issue and the more people that can realize that the better," said Cozens.  "I think it's been going on for far too long and people that act racist need to be held accountable by everyone. There is no place in this world for that."

The Double-A Eastern League Most Valuable Player in 2016 when he slashed .276/.350/.591 and slammed 40 home runs for the Reading Fightin Phils, Cozens has not enjoyed much success in a couple brief stints in the big leagues.  In 27 major leagues games to date, he notched a .154 average with a home run and two RBI.  

Released by the Phillies in August last season, he was quickly signed by the Tampa Bay Rays.  He was slated as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this year and appeared in 12 games prior to the baseball schedule being halted due to the Coronavirus pandemic.   

Cozens is staying busy during the baseball hiatus with his new business.  Over the off-season, he became a licensed contractor and currently does all the basics such as flooring, painting, frame work and masonry.  

"My dad was a successful builder back in the day, so I figured it would be a great thing, (post-baseball), to do," Cozens explained.  "You don't need a degree and can make a good living and it's always good to have a back up plan. I eventually would love to start building custom homes and apartment complexes."

As for the 2020 season, when asked if he has a preference for how things should proceed in the midst of a pandemic, Cozens kept it simple. 

"I would just love to play," Cozens said.

And we'd love to see the concrete layin', home run sprayin' powerhouse back on the diamond as well.  Be kind and play ball!

Phils wrap up unique draft with some promising selections

The 2020 MLB amateur draft is complete and the Phillies selected a nice collection of talent.

In the face of the global pandemic, Major League Baseball chose to shorten this year's draft, as a cost-cutting measure, from 40 to five rounds.  Despite the abbreviated draft this year, there is plenty to be excited about.

Following the first round on Wednesday, in which the Phils selected high school hurler Mick Abel, the team waited until the third round to make their next selection.  They had to surrender their second round selection after signing qualified free agent Zack Wheeler last off-season.

On Thursday with their third round pick the Phils chose college junior shortstop Casey Martin.  Projected as a borderline first rounder, the righty hitting 21-year-old notched a .311/.393/.545 slash line with 30 homers, 24 steals and 112 RBI in 143 games through his college career at Arkansas.  A super talent, Martin was a collegiate freshman All-American two years ago.  He's projected as a guy that could change positions and land as a second baseman or a center fielder as he moves through the pro ranks.

In the fourth round, the Phillies selected right-handed pitcher Carson Ragsdale out of the University of South Florida.  The 22-year-old stands six-feet-eight and is listed at 225 pounds.  A likely reliever, Ragsdale throws a mid-90's fastball, with an excellent curve ball and a fair change up.  In four starts this year, Ragsdale notched a 1-0 record with a 2.84 ERA while striking out 37 and issuing seven walks in 19 innings of work.  There is plenty to like about this guy's upside.

Outfielder Baron Radcliff was tabbed as the Phils' fifth round draft choice.  The Georgia Tech junior is projected as a big power guy.  In 16 games this year, the 21-year-old lefty batter posted a .259 batting average with three home runs and 17 RBI.  His father Vic was a 4th round draft pick of the Royals back in 1995 and he played five seasons in the minor leagues.  Radcliff could be a stereotypical big power guy that slugs and strikes out a lot.  Other well known Phillies fifth rounders include Ryan Howard, Rhys Hoskins and Mickey Morandini.

I will be joining John Stolnis on his podcast to speak more about the Phillies' draft, the 2020 minor league season, or lack there of, and more.  That episode is due out on Friday and I'll post the show when it's available. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Phillies take high school pitcher Abel with first round pick

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With the 15th overall selection in the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft, the Phillies chose right-handed pitcher Mick Abel out of Jesuit High School in Oregon.  The 18-year-old was widely ranked as the top high school pitcher in this year's draft.

Per MLB.com, based on his build, arm strength and repertoire, he's drawn comparisons to Stephen Strasburg and Mike Soroka.

Abel is the first high school pitcher from Oregon taken in the first round since the 1994 draft when the Kansas City chose Matt Smith.

Due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, Abel did not pitch competitively in school this year.  However, he has been throwing bullpen session to Orioles prospect and last year's top overall draft pick Adley Rutschman, a former Oregon State backstop.  The elder battery member noted to Baseball America that he couldn't believe the offerings he caught from Abel were thrown by a high schooler.

Last year in his junior season, Abel, an Oregon State commit, sported a 1.26 ERA and a 13.8 K/9 mark in 72 1/3 innings of work while helping his school lock down a state championship.

The pitch menu for Abel includes a low-to-mid-90's fastball, an effective slider with good movement, a quality curve ball and a change up that earns raves and features sink.

There will not be a second round pick for the Phillies this year, as the team forfeited their selection after signing qualified free agent pitcher Zack Wheeler.  Their next pick will come at 87th overall in the third round.

Round two through five of this year's draft take place on Thursday, beginning at 5pm Eastern.  MLB announced last month that this year's draft would be reduced to just five rounds as a cost-cutting measure in the face of the pandemic and a 2020 season that remains on hold.

The Phils took shortstop Bryson Stott with the 14th overall pick a year ago.  The UNLV product notched a .295 average with six homers and 27 RBI in 48 games mostly with Class A short-season Williamsport as a 21-year-old.  Stott was honored as a New York-Penn League All-Star for his efforts.

Twenty years ago this week, the Phillies selected second baseman Chase Utley out of UCLA in precisely the same spot in the draft.

Videos of Mick Abel can be viewed in the embedded media players below.





Friday, June 5, 2020

LHP Brown speaks on recent release and his future

Aaron Brown, image- Jay Floyd
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Aaron Brown was released last Friday after nearly six years in the Phillies organization.

Brown, the Phils' 3rd round draft selection in 2014 out of Pepperdine, was primarily an outfielder after turning pro.  A two-way player in college, Brown switched to pitching in 2017 after struggling on offense (.224/.313/.360) at the Double-A level.

A dominant hurler in college, Brown posted a 13-1 record along with a 1.95 ERA in 17 starts in 2014. 

A solid performer on the minor league mound as well, the California native notched a 5-4 record with a pair of saves, a 3.82 ERA along with an 11.0 K/9 mark in 45 relief appearances for the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils last season.

With free agency on the horizon for Brown in September and the 2020 minor league season likely not taking place due to the global pandemic, the Phillies included Brown when they decided to cut more than two dozen players prior to next week's MLB amateur draft.

Despite having his career derailed for now, Brown, who always keeps a positive mindset, is focused on continuing to prosper on the diamond.

"Being released is never a thrilling experience for any player," Brown shared.  "However, I know that when one door closes another door opens.

"I now have a lot of options and I will play this year, whether it is here in the States or overseas.  The other thing I know is that wherever I do play I know I’ll be ready to go there and perform."

The main reason Brown is confident he'll be ready at any given point is because he's working hard to keep himself prepared for game action.  In doing so, he's putting together videos and posting them online to help other athletes and baseball players increase their knowledge.  He wants to help other players be better prepared and has established a YouTube channel known as Athlete Life. 

"The YouTube channel I created is for one purpose and one purpose only," Brown explained of his video endeavor.  "It is to bring information to young players around the world who share the same dream as I do…to play in the show!  I want to help them learn about what to expect once they reach that next level.  

"The future of baseball depends on the future talent.  It is my hope to help that future talent be better equipped once their time comes."

Brown had long desired to create his own YouTube channel.  He scratched that creative itch and is now writing, recording, editing and producing his own content, giving other athletes insight on working harder, working smarter and taking practice seriously. 

Published videos on Brown's channel have featured other professional pitchers, including Angel Rodriguez (former Rays) and Jonny Deluca (Dodgers).

His release last Friday struck Brown by surprise, though he understands baseball is a business and gets that those decisions happen.   

Expressing his appreciation and fondness of his experiences and his journey in the Phillies system, Brown wishes everyone the best and holds absolutely zero hard feelings.  

"The Phillies are an amazing organization and they go about their business the right way.  It would be an honor to reunite with the Phillies and play for them down the road if given the chance.  I have become so close with so many of their players, staff, managers and scouts.  It’s like a big family there," Brown stated.

Checking out his channel can certainly benefit players and give fans more insight into the preparation side of the game and I don't think it's farfetched to think it's possible we'll see some of Brown's Phillies family members popping up on there with him in the future.


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Possible plans for expanded fall league

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It has been multiple weeks since I reported on my Patreon page that a cancellation of the 2020 minor league season is likely as a result of the global pandemic.

Despite that, some minor leaguers staying active will be necessary in order to keep players ready in order to supplement each big league roster as needs and injuries arise.  That "taxi squad" could possibly travel with the team and play against the big league opponents' minor leaguers or they could remain stationed at a single location in order to play intrasquad games.

This week, Baseball America has reported that in order to make up for the lost playing time, a plan being considered is to allow each of the 30 organizations to send a roster of their own prospects to play at spring training venues in Arizona and Florida. Discussions of having a second, lower level team for each organization has happened.

Traditionally, the Arizona Fall League, a prestigious exhibition league for some of the top prospects in the game, allows each organization to send seven or eight players to participate in a one-month competitive schedule.

Things are in the talking stages, so there's nothing firm in place regarding an expanded fall league quite yet.  However, once it's announced that the 2020 regular season is lost for minor leaguers, look for an alternate plan for prospects to get more development time to become more clear.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Phillies release minor leaguers ahead of amateur draft

Leibrandt w/ Reading in 2017, image-Jay Floyd
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On Monday I learned that roughly two dozen Phillies minor leaguers were released over the weekend as the organization prepares for this year's amateur draft.

Via sources, I quickly confirmed a few of the individuals, namely righty hitting outfielder Ben Aklinski along with lefty pitcher Brandon Leibrandt.  I also communicated with lefty reliever Aaron Brown, who confirmed to be that he had been released by the organization.

Aklinski, 23, with the Phils' 32nd round draft pick in 2018.  He notched a .560 OPS last year with Class A Advanced Clearwater.  

Leibrandt had been out of action since July of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  The 27-year-old was a 6th round pick in 2014.  In five pro seasons, Leibrandt tallied a 2.88 ERA with a .235 batting average against and a 7.0 K/9 mark.

Brown was a 3rd round pick in 2014 and had reached Double-A as an outfielder before converting to pitching.  He posted a 3.82 ERA and an 11.0 K/9 mark in 45 relief outings with Double-A Reading last season.  Brown was set to be a free agent following the 2020 season.

As the evening rolled in on Monday, a complete list of 26 minor leaguers released by the Phillies became available.

In addition to Brown, Aklinski and Leibrandt, the Phils also parted ways with LHP Junior Tejada, 3B Ali Castillo, 3B T.J. Rivera, RHP Carlos Bustamante, RHP Sandro Rosario,  RHP Tyler Hallead, C Willie Estrada, RHP Waylon Richardson, RHP Michael Gomez, SS Raul Rivas, 2B Hunter Stovall,  RHP  Brian Auerbach, C Juan Mendez, OF Jordan McArdle, RHP Joan Hernandez, SS  Raibently Mercalina, RHP Cristofer Adames, LHP Daivin Perez, LHP  Alberto Torres, LHP Nathanael Bido, LHP Camilo Hinestroza, RHP Jason Lott and RHP Raul Mendoza.

Gomez, an undrafted right-handed pitcher, notched a 1.15 ERA, a .174 batting average against and a 9.8 K/9 mark in 18 professional games across three levels last year.  The 23-year-old wrapped up his season with Class A Advanced Clearwater last year.

Stovall, a 23-year-old infielder, was acquired by the Phils in April 2019 as part of a trade with the Rockies.  Stovall posted a .663 OPS in 89 Class A games last year.

Lott, an Australia native, was signed by the Phillies in March this year as an international free agent.  The 25-year-old did not pitch in a single regular season game for the Phils.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Kendall Simmons Answers Nine Silly-ass Questions


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Recently, I posted an interview with Phillies infield prospect Kendall Simmons in which he talked about the current baseball hiatus.  In addition to sharing insight on how he's been staying in shape as well as what motivates him, the 20-year-old, who was an All-Star with Class A short-season Williamsport last year, took time to answer some less serious questions for me.

In this separate interview, Simmons spoke about ice cream, super powers, teammates and other silly topics.  Read ahead to check that out...


- Who is your favorite female athlete?

U.S. soccer player Alex Morgan.  

- Can you share three words to describe Dominic Pipkin?

Goofy, lanky, stubborn.

- If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?

To be able to fly, so I could go anywhere I want, on my own time.

- What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

 I don't like ice cream.

- What's the most embarrassing thing in your music library?

Hard core rock.

- Seeds or gum and which flavor?

BBQ seeds.

- I've been watching the UFC fights lately.  Which Phillies teammate do you think would make the best ultimate fighter?

Myself and Logan O'Hoppe.

- What's your best sport besides baseball?

Football.

- You can go 4-for-4 and your team loses or you get kicked in the groin and your team wins...which do you choose?

Kicked in the groin and a win!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Patreon Exclusive: Phillies prospect Kendall Simmons talks baseball hiatus

Kendall Simmons, image- Jay Floyd
An All-Star in 2019 with the Class-A short season Williamsport Crosscutters, Kendall Simmons is one of the Phillies' most promising prospects.  The 20-year-old righty hitter notched a .234 batting average with 12 home runs, 34 RBI and five stolen bases in 51 games last year.

Simmons, an outstanding and multi-positional infielder, was the Phillies' 6th round draft pick in 2018.

Recently, I talked with Simmons about the current baseball hiatus cause by the Coronavirus pandemic, how he's staying in shape, how he stays motivated and more.  Read ahead for that interview.

- Can you share some thoughts about finding out the season was suspended and your reaction?

In my opinion everyone is going a little crazy and itching to be back on the field but God has his plan and path for everyone.

- If you could format a plan for baseball in 2020, what would you suggest? Games without fans? Games in one place? Skip the season? Any ideas?

Games without fans sounds like a great idea.  At this point I just want to play some ball. I don’t care where, I just want to play.


To read the remainder of this interview, please visit Patreon.com/PhoulBallz and become a member to support my work.  Your patronage will get access to exclusive content and early releases of other material.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: IF/OF Hunter Stovall talks baseball hiatus

Hunter Stovall, image- Jay Floyd
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Infielder Hunter Stovall was acquired by the Phillies in a trade with Colorado in the opening month of the 2019 and from there he enjoyed some success with the Class A full season Lakewood BlueClaws.

Overall in 138 games last year, the righty hitting Mississippi State product notched a .264/.326/.438 slash line. Primarily a second baseman, Stovall has also played third base and outfield during his professional career. He was a 21st round draft pick of the Rockies in 2018.

Over the weekend, I talked with Stovall about how he is spending his time during quarantine, what he's doing to stay in baseball shape and more. Read ahead for that complete interview.



-Did you watch the UFC event and are you experiencing any withdrawal from not being able to watch live sports during this hiatus?

I did not watch the UFC fight and I don’t watch a lot of TV, so it hasn’t really changed my way of living.


-Can you offer some thoughts on your initial reaction when you learned about the baseball schedule being put on hold due to the pandemic?

When I first heard about the suspension of the season I was upset, just like all the other baseball players. But it bothered me more because the little time in spring training I had I was doing really well and was feeling good.


-What's your current workout routine? How are you staying in baseball shape?

I am lifting three to four times a week and I am hitting, throwing and take grounders as much as I can, considering the challenge of finding a place to do it all.


-What would you consider to be some of your highlights from last season after the trade?

Some of the defensive plays I made and some of the clutch at bats I had during last season.


-What did you work on most since last season to improve your game?

I worked really hard last off season and during the season last year on pitch selection and making sure I was doing damage on pitches that I was supposed to do damage on. Worked on being a great aspect at every position.


-Do you have any book, TV or video game recommendations for people doing the whole quarantine thing right now?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the best game out there.


-Outside of baseball, what do you miss the most during the pandemic?

Getting to go out to eat, meeting up with friends and hanging out, just the interaction with people everyday is what I miss the most, 'cause I’m a people person.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood broadcaster Greg Giombarrese

Greg Giombarrese, image via Greg's Twitter profile
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Greg Giombarrese has been one of my favorite people in baseball for roughly a decade.  Currently the Director of Communications for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, he's the long-time radio voice of the club as well.  Sharp and rousing, Greg is always a standout among professional baseball play by play talents.

Recently, Giombarrese was kind enough to answer several questions about his career, how he got his start in broadcasting, horse racing and more.  Read ahead for this wonderful interview.


- Do you recall your earliest memories of broadcasting and what appealed to you most?

I never really did much before I got to college, except for the occasional calling of plays in my head off the television. It was when I got to Fordham in the fall of 2002 that I really began broadcasting. I went to the radio station on campus, WFUV, and started there. The first game I ever “called” was a demo broadcast, into a tape recorder only, of a Fordham football game that fall. I was always a big sports fan and I had a pretty good idea pretty early on that an on-field career wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to stay in sports one way or another and broadcasting appealed to me. The opportunity to work at WFUV was what drew me to Fordham in the first place.

- When did you first consider broadcasting as a career path?

In high school for sure, but I had been listening to broadcasters before that. I knew if I wanted to stay in sports it was going to be off the field.

- Is there a standout play by play voice from your lifetime that your either picked up methods or skills from or that made an impression on your approach to the profession?

Mike Breen – he called Knicks games on the radio and then on television, and he is now the lead voice of the NBA on ABC/ESPN. What has always stood out to me listening to him is that you can easily determine the importance of any sequence within the game simply from listening to the tone of his voice. I was fortunate enough to meet him several times when he would come speak to the sports department at WFUV.

- Can you tell me about your earliest broadcasting assignments?

My first ones were at Fordham doing Fordham football, basketball, and baseball games, but my first one out of school was working for USOpen.org Radio at the US Open tennis tournament. I mainly worked as a producer but got to broadcast a little bit each day. Tennis on the radio is hard at first until you realize you can’t call every shot.

- You've been at it with the BlueClaws for more than a decade. What would you say is your most memorable game that you've called with Lakewood?

The championship-clinching games in 2009 and 2010 were great of course, but I think the most memorable game was Spencer Howard’s no-hitter in the 2018 SAL Northern Division Championship Series. You could tell right away he had his best stuff, and Kannapolis didn’t make a lot of solid contact in the early innings. But his pitch count was getting up there, and it wasn’t until he threw eight pitches in the seventh inning did you really think he’d get through all nine. Then he threw four pitches in the eighth and had no trouble in the ninth.

The craziest inning happened three days (one game) later in Game One of the SAL Championship Series. The BlueClaws were down 5-0 in the ninth inning and went single-single-home run-home run-home run to tie the game, and then won in the 11th. I’ve never seen a game flip on a dime quite like that. Those were a crazy few days for sure.

- I think I've tweeted this to you before, but you're literally the only person I know that cares about horse racing all year round. You'll regularly call some mascot races at FirstEnergy Park and that love of racing is clear. What is it about horse racing that appeals to you so much and what are people that only follow the Triple Crown events missing out on?

I like the mental challenge aspect to the sport. You look through the form and there are all these horses and it’s up to you to figure out who’s going to win, what long shots are in there that have a chance, the vulnerability of the favorite, and ultimately how to play the race. There are so many different elements – the trainer, the jockey, the way the track is playing, how fast is the horse, what kind of trip they got in their recent races, what kind of trip might they get in today’s race, and many others – and then you put it all together. Your opinions get tested in a minute and 10 seconds and then you do it all over again. There’s nothing quite like it.

- Best road park and city in the Sally League? They can be different answers.

The best road park is Greenville. Everything about it is top-notch. It’s a mini-Fenway Park complete with Monster Seats – they are a Red Sox affiliate. I always liked how their suite level hangs over much of the seating bowl below. It creates an echo chamber and really helps get the crowd noise pumping through the park. It’s a modern ballpark but they maintained that old-time feel to the stadium. You even have a railroad track behind right field and get a freight train rolling through every so often.

Greenville is also a great city, but the best city in the Sally League is Charleston, South Carolina. We stay outside of town but the stadium is in the downtown part of the city itself, so I love heading down there early in the day, walking around by the harbor, or the beautiful Pineapple Fountain in one of the parks, the open-air market they have, and then heading over to the stadium in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure the Sally League schedule-maker knows they are allowed to send the BlueClaws to either city! We haven’t been to Greenville in a few years and 2020 is the second straight year without going to Charleston.

- Least desirable road park or city in the SAL?

Hagerstown is the oldest stadium for sure, and it has this tiny press box on top of the seats accessible only by a spiral staircase at the rear of the grandstand but it does provide a really unique view. You’re so high up over the field and so close to home plate that it’s a cool perspective you don’t get anywhere else. Plus, once a year I’ll drive out there and spend one morning at the Antietam Civil War battle site which is about 10 miles outside of town.

- I know in the FEP broadcast booth you've got a pretty huge memento from BlueClaws history...the Valle ball. Can you share the story of that souvenir and maybe offer details on any other BlueClaws souvenirs you may have?

The “Valle Ball” you mentioned was the ball hit for a three-run home run by Sebastian Valle in Game 4 of the 2010 SAL Championship Series that broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning and gave the BlueClaws a 4-1 lead, and win, in the series clincher. We had it in the Champions Club, which is down the hall from the press box, but someone moved it out of there for some reason. It
ended up in the booth and I guess it’s never left.

My first full-time season was 2009 and the BlueClaws won the league title that year. I have copies of the dugout lineup cards – not the marked up ones, just re-prints of the original, pre-game dugout card – from the post-season that year, but nothing else too crazy.

- You have had plenty of guests in the booth over the years. Of the famed names that have joined you, are there any big moments or perhaps any blooper type moments that stick in your memory?

I grew up in north Jersey listening to Mike and the Mad Dog all the time so having Chris Russo in the booth with me was really cool – except the first time he was on, I somehow miscounted how many outs there were and was set to throw it to commercial after the second out. But he’s been on a few times over the years and it’s always great to have him on.

We talked about horse racing earlier – both Larry Collmus and Frank Mirahmadi were guests while they were announcers at Monmouth Park so that was a big thrill for me.

Anyone who grew up in the 1990's watching Saved By the Bell has to love meeting and having Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) on the air, which I was fortunate enough to do both in Lakewood and Asheville.

But the best guest of all is obviously you.

- Do you have a pregame ritual of any sort with your prep work or anything like that?

Not really. I try to get my scorebook filled out as early as possible, see if I can find a few interesting nuggets, but nothing special.

- What advice would you offer to individuals that are interested in getting into broadcasting?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, share your tapes and demo broadcasts, and ask questions that you might have. You never know who is going to be able to help you later on, so building a network either informally or by interning or working places is really invaluable. The other thing is of course to just broadcast. Everything doesn’t have to be this big formal production. Sit in front of the TV, put it on mute, and call the game into your computer or phone. The more comfortable you get describing live action, the better!

- How weird has this spring been without baseball for you?

The weirdest day was probably April 7th. The season was supposed to start on April 9th in Greensboro and the BlueClaws were going to fly up from Tampa on the 8th. So I was going to leave here, driving down in a cargo van on the 7th to get there a day early and meet them at the airport. Normally, of course, I take the bus with the team but we’ve done it this way a bunch of times when the team opens the season on the road. But that day it really hit me for sure. Then, the other notable day was April 16th, which was going to be our home opener, and the 20th Opening Night in BlueClaws history. Those were the two days that really stood out. I think we all miss being together and working and watching baseball but we obviously understand why we’re apart right now and wish the best to everyone that has been impacted by this terrible situation.

- What do you miss most about calling games?

Baseball is different than every other sport in that it's always there. The BlueClaws play 140 games in 152 days, so I miss having those three hours every day to sit there and call the game, or watch batting practice or talk with the players and coaches. The other part, of course, is that you never know what you're going to see and there's a decent chance you see something you never would have expected.

The other part is you miss the people, from the fans to the media to the press box attendees, to the production crew. And for me not just here, but all over the Sally League. One of my favorite parts about baseball is you see everyone a few times a year and are able to just pick up the conversation right where you left off days, weeks, or months prior, as if nothing happened in between.

But right now we just wait, do our best to stay healthy and safe and we'll be back at some point, hopefully better than ever.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Patreon Exclusive: Kevin Gowdy answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd

Recently, I interviewed Phillies pitching prospect Kevin Gowdy.  In that interview the Phillies' 2nd round draft selection from 2016 talked with me about the current baseball hiatus, rehabbing teammates and much more.  Exclusively for Patreon members I've got a separate, less serious interview with the promising 22-year-old right-hander in which I asked him Nine Silly-ass Questions.

To see what Kevin Gowdy had to say on the subjects of curse words, music, super powers and plenty more, head on over to Patreon.com/PhoulBallz and support my work.  You'll get exclusive interviews, early access to other material as well as my gratitude.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: Phillies infield prospect Madison Stokes

Stokes w/ Lakewood in 2018, image- Jay Floyd
Please consider supporting my work and subscribe to my Patreon page.  Your patronage will get you exclusive interviews and early access to all of my other content.  Thank you.

A 10th round draft pick of the Phillies in 2018, Madison Stokes quickly made a positive impression upon debuting in the professional ranks. In 55 games the righty batter notched a combined .299/.372/.433 slash line at three levels.

Last year in his first full minor league season, the University of South Carolina product posted a .242 average with 10 home runs and 42 RBI primarily as a third baseman and first baseman in 110 games for Class A Advanced Clearwater.

This week I talked with Madison about the current baseball hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, how he's staying in baseball shape, his pro experiences thus far and plenty more. Read ahead for that complete interview.


- Can you describe finding out that baseball was being shut down? How were the players informed and what were your feelings?

We were playing against the Yankees when someone got a notification about a NBA player getting the virus. Come to find out, we would have a meeting the next morning about the pandemic. Obviously, I wasn’t happy because we were just getting game ready but I had mixed feelings about going home. I was pumped to see everyone but also didn’t want to put my spring training and season on pause.


- How are you keeping in shape? Working alone or with anyone?

I have my daily training of workouts and baseball exercises. My dad will hit me ground balls and if I’m with my girlfriend, she will throw me some golf sized plastic balls to hit.


-Talk about your lady's golf ball pitches...can she bring the heat?!?! Does she and your Dad have any significant playing background?

Dad played a little bit but mostly football in high school. Girlfriend plays beach volleyball at the University of South Carolina. She has gotten much better from where she started (laughs). She enjoys trying to get me to miss, so we have a great time!


- The Threshers had some big moments last year. What were some highlights for you from 2019?

Lot of fun moments from last season. Bus rides are always a lot of fun, making it to the post season is always a blast; however, that got cut short as well. I don’t have a favorite but I mostly enjoy being around a fun group of guys competing.


- Where has your game improved the most since you turned pro and is there a coach or other Phillies personnel that helped you the most?

I would say my level of maturity within the game has improved the most. Having a better understanding of how pitchers are attacking me and an overall better feel for what it takes to get to the top. I am more focused on the small details that have a big impact in my baseball future. No, not one coach. All of them have helped me in some shape or form.


- How would you feel if baseball returned without fans in attendance and have you ever played in front of zero fans before?

I love fans because they bring the atmosphere and it is always nice having someone in the stands that you know is supporting you but I can play without. I have done it before, I just want to get out there and compete again.


- How are you battling boredom during this pandemic?

Not really a battle for me, I’ve got my routine that usually keeps me occupied for most of the day. If I do catch myself bored then I’ll usually go outside and find something to do, read a book, or learn a language.


- Do you have any TV, game or book suggestions for others that are stuck at home?

I’m currently watching Love Island, pretty entertaining show. I’m currently reading “Tools of Titans”by Tim Ferris, highly recommend. Would also recommend "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. I will also play Call of Duty with my buddies.


- Has there been any panic shopping where you are and were you able to acquire the key items like Lysol wipes, toilet paper and all that?

No panic here with finding anything. We are fortunate enough to have access to our necessities.


- What are you missing most about playing?

I mostly miss being around my buddies and competing with them on the field. I love competing.