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PN Interview: Top Phils Draft Pick Aaron Nola

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, August 18, 2014 12:00 PM Comments: 2

Aaron Nola, image- Tug Haines

The Phillies’ top pick from this year’s draft, righty hurler Aaron Nola, has looked very good in the early stages of his pro career. In nine games combined in the minors, the 21-year-old LSU product sports a 3-3 record with a 3.35 ERA while striking out 36 batters and walking seven in 40 1/3 innings.

Over the weekend, I spoke with Nola, who was recently promoted to Double-A Reading, about his draft experience, the possibility of being shut down before season’s end, the transition from college to the pro’s, looking up to his brother Austin and more. Read ahead for that full interview.

-What was your draft experience like? How did you celebrate?

We had a party over at LSU in our lounge and it was a bunch of family and some friends over there. We had about 100 people actually, so it was pretty big. It was fun. It was a fun time and it’s definitely something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life. The draft and getting picked early by the Phillies.

-How do you think pitching at LSU prepared you for your transition to the minor leagues?

It prepared me, man. I’m glad I went to LSU. I matured more. I matured on the field. Also my physical and mental ability rose up in college, you know, you see a lot of older guys that I’m playing against right now, 23 to 26 year old guys, and I feel like a lot of the guys I played against in college are in high A. I haven’t seen too many in Double-A, but I saw a lot of guys down in Clearwater that I played against one, two or three years in college. Continue reading PN Interview: Top Phils Draft Pick Aaron Nola

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Fightins Quotables: Manager Wathan talks Reading players

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, August 16, 2014 12:05 PM Comments: 0

I spoke with Double-A Reading Fightins skipper Dusty Wathan prior to Friday’s home contest against the Binghamton Mets.  Topics of discussion included top draft pick Aaron Nola‘s pitching restrictions, outfielder Kelly Dugan‘s progress, Severino Gonzalez‘s season and plenty more.  Read ahead for those exclusive comments from Wathan.

Kelly Dugan, image- Jay Floyd

-Speaking about Kelly Dugan, who entered action on Friday sporting a .330/.423/.481 line in 32 games since the All-Star break…

Kelly’s been very good.  I think he’s done a nice job with his swing, he’s flattened it out a little bit.  He’s driving balls the other way better than I’ve ever seen him.  You know, I think he’s really learning his swing, becoming a better hitter.  I think his power numbers are a little down and some people have voice their concerns about that, not inside the organization, but media.  But, to me that’s no big deal.  To me, he’s a better hitter than I saw last year.  And the power will come.  I’m not worried about that.  he’s driving balls all over the ballpark and having really good at bats every night, so it’s really good for Kelly. He’s had a long stretch where he’s felt good and it’s nice to see for him and the organization.

-I asked Dusty if he thought OF Aaron Altherr‘s brief stints with the Phillies this year could benefit him in the long run…

Yeah, I think so.  I think everybody wants to get to the big leagues and play in the big leagues and sometimes once you get a taste of it, it makes you want to be there even more.  I think he went from the Ritz-Carlton to the Super 8 one time, so if that’s any incentive to get back there and to work on what he needs to work on to get there, that’s the prime example right there.

-Speaking about veteran corner infielder/DH Jake Fox, who is Reading’s top offensive performer at 32-years-old, and his impact on younger teammates…

He’s been outstanding.  To have a veteran to do what he’s done in his career, plaed all over the place, played in tbe big leagues, multiple leagues all over the world and the attitude that he has, the leadership that he has, to be able to use that experience that he has to give to give to other players.  He’s willing to do that.  Hes a good mentor to a lot of these guys.  He likes to talk hitting.  I think sometimes, as coaches, we can talk till we’re blue in the face about things, but when it comes from a peer and a guy that has done it before and is doing it right now, sometimes it really clicks for some guys. Continue reading Fightins Quotables: Manager Wathan talks Reading players

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Biddle slated to make Reading return on Saturday

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, August 16, 2014 07:00 AM Comments: 2

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Jesse Biddle, image- Jay Floyd

After a miserable stretch of starts in June, lefty pitcher Jesse Biddle was placed on Double-A Reading’s temporary inactive list. On Saturday, he’ll make his long awaited return to the FirstEnergy Stadium mound when he starts the first game of the Fightins’ scheduled double header against Binghamton.

The 22-year-old posted a 0-4 record with a 12.64 ERA in four June starts. It was clear that there was something quite wrong with Biddle, who had missed a start in late May after being pelted with hail and suffering a concussion.

A mixture of feelings including confusion and discontent were firmly settling in while Biddle’s efforts on the mound were not.

The Phils saw a need for the Philadelphia native and Germantown Friends School product to take a break. Exams discovered lasting impact on Biddle stemming from the concussion and time off was required.

“For me it was an important time not only to take a mental break and to go down to Florida and fall back in love with the game of baseball, but it was also important for me to see a doctor, go to physical therapy and get my mind right because I definitely was experiencing some symptoms and whether or not they were affecting me on the field, they just affected my day to day life and I can realize that not that I feel 100-percent better,” Biddle explained in the Reading clubhouse on Friday night. Continue reading Biddle slated to make Reading return on Saturday

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BlueClaws Quotables: Walding and Cozens talks about second half success

Posted by Jay Floyd, Thu, August 14, 2014 12:50 PM Comments: 0

This week I spoke with a pair of solid Class A hitters that have increased their offensive numbers considerably in the second half of the season.

Lakewood third baseman Mitch Walding and outfielder Dylan Cozens have improved quite a bit since the South Atlantic League All-Star break with Walding sporting an OPS that’s 255 points higher in his last 49 games than it was in his first 46 games this year, while Cozens has posted an OPS mark 85 points higher than he did before the break.

I asked both players about the uptick in production and more.  Read ahead for those exclusive quotes.

Mitch Walding, image- Jay Floyd

-Walding, the Phillies’ 5th round pick in 2011, spoke about what he attributes to his recent success…

You know, at first I was doing some things and I was exactly feeling too comfortable at the plate.  I was kind of struggling really hard with getting pitches and doing some things and I talked with our hitting coordinator (Andy) Tracy and my hitting coach Lino Connell.  We changed some things with my hands, um, changed my approach at the plate and going to get pitches that I wanted to get instead of, kind of- what I was doing was I was being indecisive, waiting to see the pitch and making my decision when the ball was half way and by the time I was making my decision, I was too late, so I was striking out a lot and wasn’t hitting the ball the way I should be.  And now I’m attacking pitches and doing things that I want to do at the plate.  Things have turned around a lot. 

-Walding, who has tallied a .239 average with six home runs and 51 RBI through 95 games with Lakewood this year, specified what mechanical changes he made in the batters box…

Moving (my hands) down a little bit.  Kind of getting them in a good slot, right above my shoulder.  Just having loose hands, kind of being able to feel my hands work a lot more, ’cause I might drop them if they’re too high.  Just kind of moved them down a little bit and staying relaxed with my hands.  Continue reading BlueClaws Quotables: Walding and Cozens talks about second half success

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PN Interview: 11th round draft pick Drew Stankiewicz

Posted by Jay Floyd, Tue, August 12, 2014 07:30 AM Comments: 29

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Drew Stankiewicz, image- Jay Floyd

Infielder Drew Stankiewicz was an 11th round draft choice this year by the Phillies.  The son of former big leaguer Andy Stankiewicz, Drew is already in the midst of his second stint with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

After posting a .305 average in his junior year this season at Arizona State University, Stankiewicz was anxious to begin his pro career and quickly signed with the Phillies.

The 21-year-old batted .390 in July with short-season Class A Williamsport and rejoined the BlueClaws on July 30th.  He spent a week with Lakewood in June.  Through 13 games with the ‘Claws, the five-foot-nine 160-pounder has posted a .156 average with an RBI and two steals.

I spoke with Stankiewicz this past weekend about his draft experience, adjusting to the pro’s, his father’s pride in him and plenty more.  Read ahead for the full interview.

-What was your draft experience like?  How did you find out you were drafted by the Phillies and how did you celebrate?

I was sitting at home and I got a call from my scout, Brad Holland, saying that we’re probably going to take you in the next round.  So, I turned I turned on my computer and watched the pick and me and my family were just celebrating down in Phoenix, Arizona, where I live.

My whole family was there.  We just sat there and just were all happy, got some food.  It was like any normal day, and I was thankful I got drafted.

-What’s been the biggest thing about adjusting to the pro’s, coming from college?

Honestly, it’s more mental than I thought.  Physically, playing in the PAC the past years, which is the top baseball you can play in college baseball, but coming here, it’s more of a mental game, when you’re not succeeding you just get down on yourself, but you can’t do that, because you play every day here in the minors, so it’s just probably more mental. Continue reading PN Interview: 11th round draft pick Drew Stankiewicz

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PN Interview: Joe Jordan talks Phils prospects

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, August 11, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 27

On Sunday, I sat down with Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan.  As usual, I bounced as many names as I could his way until I felt as though I may be keeping the former pro catcher and longtime scout from doing the work that he was at the ballpark to do.  Topics of discussion included Adam Morgan‘s recovery from shoulder surgery, Cameron Perkins‘ slow start at the Triple-A level, Maikel Franco‘s turnaround, Dylan Cozens‘ emergence and several more prospects.

Read ahead for all of Jordan’s remarks about some well regarded prospects.

-Are there any updates you can share on lefty pitcher Adam Morgan (3rd round pick, 2011), who underwent shoulder surgery last off-season?

He’s throwing, progressing well.  You know, I mean, we’re hopeful that during instructional league we may have actually him on the mound, participating.  But really, right now, he’s doing well.

-And righty Shane Watson (supplemental pick, 2012) is completely shut down till next spring, correct?

He’s not going to throw any (more) this year.  We’re just going to try to rehab him and get him ready for spring training.

-Tyler Viza (32nd round pick, 2013) is one of the youngest pitchers in the Class A South Atlantic League.  He’s got the Lakewood record for losses.  He’s 19 and it’s his first full season as a pro.  Any concern about what sort of discouragement that claim to fame could bring for him?

No.  He’s a strong minded kid.  He gets it.  He’s getting his innings, he’s (pitching) every six days.   He’s gonna gain from this year.  Obviously, some of it’s been his doing, some of it’s not scoring runs, but he’s alright.  Continue reading PN Interview: Joe Jordan talks Phils prospects

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Collier beyond hot in August for Fightins

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, August 09, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 4

Zach Collier, image- Jay Floyd

They’re calling him “Mr. August”.

You’d have a difficult time finding a hotter batter in professional baseball right now than Double-A Reading outfielder Zach Collier and the increase in production couldn’t have come at a better time.

In his last six contests, the six-foot-two 200-pounder has been scorching the ball to the tune of a .417 average with seven home runs and 11 RBI, helping his club notch five straight wins.

With veteran slugger Jake Fox (.330 avg, 17 HR, 56 RBI in 54 games) leading the Reading Fightins offense for two months since signing with the Phillies, it was only a matter of time before his outstanding production rubbed off on those around him.  For Collier, it was some verbal guidance from the 32-year-old as well as Fox’s generous nature with his personal equipment that helped.

“He’s helped me out a lot, you know, just talking, going over hitting and everything like that.  I’m actually swinging (Jake’s) bats, his model.  And I’ve broken a couple and now we’re down to one, so I’m trying not to break this (last) one,” Collier said on this week’s edition of the PhoulBallz Podcast. Continue reading Collier beyond hot in August for Fightins

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Nola, Biddle strong with new teams

Posted by Jay Floyd, Thu, August 07, 2014 09:27 AM Comments: 4

AaronNola-TugHaines

Aaron Nola, image- Tug Haines

Two big name pitching prospects took the mound and shined for their respective new teams on Wednesday night as this year’s top draft pick Aaron Nola and 2010 first round selection Jesse Biddle looked strong and notched wins.

Nola, who was selected by the Phillies with the 7th overall pick in June’s MLB amateur draft, made his Double-A debut with the Reading Fightins, going five innings, allowing one earned run on six hits while striking out four and walking one to down New Britain.

First baseman Jake Fox carried the Reading offense with his team leading 16th home run and four RBI.

In eight pro games, Nola sports a 3-3 record with a 2.97 ERA while striking out 34 and walking six in 36 1/3 innings.

Biddle, who entered this season widely regarded as the Phils’ top pitching prospect, tossed five no-hit innings for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers to earn a win. He struck out five and allowed just one base runner, a walk. Continue reading Nola, Biddle strong with new teams

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Minors Notes: Joseph set for surgery, MAG debuts for Pigs, Neris to bigs

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sun, August 03, 2014 03:21 PM Comments: 11

Tommy Joseph, Image- Jay Floyd

-Catching prospect Tommy Joseph is slated to have season ending surgery to repair an ailment in his left wrist.

The injury initially took place back in May, when the 23-year-old was part of a collision at home plate while playing with Double-A Reading.

As a member of the Fightins this season, the righty batting Joseph tallied a .282 batting average while slugging five home runs and driving in 19 runs in 21 games.  Joseph last played in mid-July when, after some rest, he rehabbed with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies, going 5-for-20 with a double in six games prior to experiencing a setback with the injured wrist.

Reports state that the surgery will be performed by Dr. Don Sheridan, an orthopedic hand and wrist surgeon in Arizona.

Joseph was acquired from San Francisco along with two other players in 2012 for Hunter Pence.

-Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez made his Triple-A debut with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Saturday.  The 27-year-old Cuban notched a save while surrendering a hit and striking out one in a scoreless frame.  His fastball was clocked at 93-94 MPH during the outing. Continue reading Minors Notes: Joseph set for surgery, MAG debuts for Pigs, Neris to bigs

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Lakewood’s Greene motivated by high expectations

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, August 02, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 6

Larry Greene, Image- Jay Floyd

The pressure that comes with being a top draft pick is something that many players will not confess to feeling, but for one prospect it’s something he openly admits to experiencing and says it’s what will drive him to live up to high expectations.

With a lack of considerable progress in the three years that have passed since Larry Greene Jr. was drafted with the 39th overall pick out of Berrien Country High School in Georgia many have grown impatient with the young outfielder’s progress.

The 21-year-old, who has struggled with his offensive production since turning pro, openly admits to feeling the weight and pressure of being the Phillies’ top pick in 2011.

“I feel like I need to produce and be more of a team leader,” Greene asserted.  “Everybody has a specific job and the scoreboard tells us what we can do and us players go day by day.  But, I do feel expectations for me, like I need to turn it on and get it moving.  I just feel like the rest of this year is going to be big for me and I’m just going to do what I can.”

Another well touted high school pick taken early by the Phillies was Anthony Hewitt, a player that fans have begun drawing comparisons to, when it comes to Greene.  Hewitt denied on multiple occasions feeling any urgency to prove the Phillies right for drafting him 24th overall in 2008.  Continue reading Lakewood’s Greene motivated by high expectations

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