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PN Interview: 3rd round draft pick Aaron Brown

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, September 29, 2014 07:30 AM Comments: 2

AaronBrownMiLB

Aaron Brown, image- MiLB.com

Prior to being selected as the Phillies’ 3rd round draft pick this year, Aaron Brown was a dominant college pitcher. In 17 starts for Pepperdine in 2014, he posted a 13-1 record along with a 1.95 ERA. Brown’s efforts at the plate were just as impressive, as he sported a .314 average with 13 homers, 49 RBI and a .908 OPS.

Citing his power and bat speed, the Phils see Brown’s highest ceiling as an offensive player. After playing roughly two months with short-season Class A Williamsport, Brown was promoted to full season A level Lakewood to close out the season with a couple weeks remaining on the schedule. Lakewood manager Greg Legg, a baseball lifer, praised Brown’s intensity and asserted that three of the hardest hits balls he saw all season were off the bat of Brown during the short time he was with the club.

In 61 games in the minors, after making his pro debut, Brown tallied a .268 average while slugging four home runs and driving in 21 runs.

Earlier this month, prior to the end of the minor league season, I spoke with Brown, who sees his own future as an outfielder, about his draft experience, how college prepared him for the pro ranks and plenty more. Read ahead for the full interview.

-What was your draft experience like this year?

It was a great experience. Just getting picked by the Phillies in the third round was pretty awesome. And then, you know, I just wanted to come out here and started learning, kind of developing as a person and as a player and so far, that’s been the experience. So, it’s been a lot of fun learning from the guys, playing with these guys as well and it’s just been a great time so far.

-Were the Phillies among teams you expected could pick you or were they a surprise?

Yeah, they were definitely on the radar. And through my advisers, I had heard a couple things from the Phillies early on and they were always one of the teams that I knew were pretty interested in me and it turned out they called my name and it worked out pretty well.

-How did you celebrate when you got the news you were selected?

Well, for me, it was practicing at TCU before super regionals. And it was a lot of fun. I heard the news, was feeling really excited for the opportunity and just went out there and spent the rest of the day with my teammates and coaches and enjoyed that last part of the college career. Continue reading PN Interview: 3rd round draft pick Aaron Brown

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LHP Loewen is a candidate for Phils rotation next season

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, September 20, 2014 12:00 PM Comments: 18

Adam Loewen, image- Jay Floyd

With a considerable level of anticipation that the Phillies will experience some turnover with their pitching staff leading to next season, it feels as though fans and media alike have begun to say goodbye to certain hurlers. Who replaces those arms promises to be the focus of the team’s offseason.

A candidate to fill a void in the Phillies’ rotation next is former big leaguer Adam Loewen, who the Phillies acquired earlier this season as a free agent.

Loewen, a left-hander, has been to the majors twice.  His initial ascension to the big leagues was as a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles after he was selected as the fourth overall draft pick in 2002, two places before Zack Greinke and three spots prior to Prince Fielder.

He last pitched in the majors in 2008 as a 24-year-old.  After suffering a stress fracture in his throwing elbow, having a four-and-a-half inch long titanium screw surgically inserted into the joint and dealing with lasting complications from the ailment, it became apparent, at the time, that Loewen’s pitching career was finished.

The British Columbia native would spend that following off-season working on his offense and showed enough to the Toronto Blue Jays that they offered him a contract to begin a new path to the big leagues, as a position player.

As an outfielder, Loewen again reached the top level of the sport, playing in 14 games with the Blue Jays in 2011, batting .188 with a home run and four RBI.  After a couple more years in the minors trying to climb the developmental ladder with in the Mets’ and Blue Jays’ systems, he was told his time was up as a hitter.  Last winter, however, Loewen got the itch to pitch and his career was reborn once again.

“I wanted to continue at the time, but the decision was made for me,” Loewen stated.  “But, I’m not bitter about it anymore.  I love pitching and maybe it’ll work out for the better.” Continue reading LHP Loewen is a candidate for Phils rotation next season

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Ailing Watson suspended 50 games for drug violation

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, September 20, 2014 07:30 AM Comments: 0

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Shane Watson, image- Jay Floyd

On Friday, it was announced that injured Phillies pitching prospect Shane Watson would miss the opening 50 games of the 2015 season, after being served with a suspension as a result of testing positive for a banned substance.

Reports stated that the illegal substance was not a performance enhancer, but instead was a drug of abuse.

The 21-year-old right-hander, who recently announced his engagement to be married via his Twitter account, missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing shoulder surgery to repair an enlarged capsule last winter.  Watson rehabbed this summer, but experienced a setback which was going to keep him out of action till next spring.

Watson’s injured status will not impact his suspension.  In fact, the required time off could force the young hurler to proceed at a much slower pace and could be good for his physical health in the long run.

Watson was chosen with the 40th overall pick by the Phillies in 2012.  He sports a 4-7 record with a 4.44 ERA and a .227 batting average against in 21 professional games.

Prior to the 2014 season, Watson was ranked as the Phils’ number 14 prospects by PhilliesNation.com.

Update: Watson responded to a request for comment via text message late Saturday morning.  He did not wish to comment on the circumstances surrounding his suspension, but offered the following thoughts on his rehab process, which he is conducting under the Phillies’ supervision in Florida:

“Nothing but good news (regarding my throwing shoulder) right now.  I just have to remember there’s no rush back and to take my time, but also push myself to the limit while giving myself enough rest.”

The California native has been throwing from flat ground and is up to a distance of 75 feet, doing so every other day without discomfort.

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PN Interview: Reading hitting coach Rob Ducey talks prospects

Posted by Jay Floyd, Wed, September 03, 2014 09:00 AM Comments: 0

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Rob Ducey, image- Tug Haines

Prior to the end of the minor league season on Monday, I spent some time with Double-A Reading hitting coach Rob Ducey about several of his players’ progress this season.

Ducey, who played in the big leagues with the Phillies, Blue Jays, Rangers, Mariners, Expos and Angels, joined the Phillies organization as a coach this year.

The former outfielder spoke about the Phillies’ collection of rising young outfielders including Aaron Altherr, Zach Collier, Kelly Dugan, Cam Perkins and Peter Lavin.  He also offered insight on talented infielder Carlos Alonso.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-Aaron Altherr has an exciting year with time spent at the big league level.  What are your thoughts on Altherr’s season?

Well, he’s obviously in the development part of his career and is trying to iron some things out mechanically, mentally, things that young players go through while they’re trying to establish themselves as professional players.  I see worlds of opportunity for him going forward.  He’s got tremendous athleticism, he’s got a very good aptitude to work with and he’s really good to be around.

-Zach Collier didn’t have a great season, but got considerably hot in early August.  He’s a guy that people had high expectations for, based on being an early round draft pick.  What can you share with me about Zach’s progress?

Obviously, this being my first year here, I didn’t have an opportunity to see him prior to this year, but he’s come a long way with the understanding of what he needs to do to prepare to play the game and get ready and compete at this level and, hopefully, at a level higher. Continue reading PN Interview: Reading hitting coach Rob Ducey talks prospects

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PN Interview: RHP Colton Murray

Posted by Jay Floyd, Tue, September 02, 2014 12:00 PM Comments: 41

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Colton Murray, image- Tug Haines

This season right-hander Colton Murray made some solid impressions, earning his way to Double-A and solidifying himself as a key piece at the back end of the club’s bullpen.

A 13th round pick from 2011, Murray had spent time with the big league club in spring training each of the previous two seasons prior to this year. Following a 2013 campaign in which he tallied a 5-7 record with 11 saves and a 5.07 ERA in 47 games with the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers. Those efforts were not enough to earn an invitation back to big league spring training this year. However, with the numbers he posted this season, the 24-year-old Murray is likely a lock to be among pitchers showing up early to big league camp next year.

Following 11 appearances while posting a 2.04 ERA with Clearwater this year, Murray, whose fastball is regularly clocked around 95 MPH, was promoted to Double-A Reading where he sported a 1-5 record with six saves, a 2.29 ERA and a 9.15 K/9 mark.

This weekend, I spoke with Colton about his season, his relationship with former teammate Kenny Giles and more. Read ahead for that interview.

-You’ve had a really nice season. What’s your level of satisfaction with your 2014 campaign?

I’m really satisfied with it. I mean, I feel like I had a really good year. I feel like I had a complete turnaround of last year and I feel like I’ve shown the organization who I am and what I have to offer.

-You’ve spent some time with the big league club in spring training in previous seasons. How do you feel like that time spent there around some of the big league veterans might help you in the long run?

It was a lot of fun and it’s a great experience for guys like me just to be around those guys and be able to speak to them. Being in the bullpen, you’re just able to talk a lot to the guys and get inside their heads a little bit. It’s great seeing (Jake) Diekman and stuff and talking to him. Continue reading PN Interview: RHP Colton Murray

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Six others to join Franco as Phils roster expands

Posted by Jay Floyd, Tue, September 02, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 0

Maikel Franco, image- Jay Floyd

As was widely reported on Monday, the Phillies are slated to promote third baseman/first baseman Maikel Franco to the big leagues with the expansion of rosters in September.

The right-handed hitting Franco, who turned 22-years-old last week, pledged in an interview for Phillies Nation’s television program in late June that he was about to turn on the offense and he came through on that promise.  After sporting a .209 average with 22 extra base hits in 78 games through the end of June, the Dominican Republic native tallied a .324 average with 31 extra base hits in the 55 games that followed for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Also joining Franco among players moving from the IronPigs to the majors are relievers Mike Adams, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and Luis Garcia, utility man Cesar Hernandez, catcher Cameron Rupp and outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr.

The righty Adams had been rehabbing an injured throwing shoulder after being sidelined in early June.  The 36-year-old allowed an earned run in three innings of work over three appearances with the Pigs dating back to last Tuesday.

Gonzalez, a Cuba native, made news last year when he was signed to a three-year contract worth $12 million last year.  The 27-year-old, who has been steadily clocked in the mid-90′s with his fastball this year, pitched at three levels of the developmental ranks this season.  In 31 games, Gonzalez posted a combined 0-4 record with seven saves and a 3.11 ERA while striking out 54 batters and walking 26 over 46 1/3 innings.

Garcia was a beast for the IronPigs this season, posting a 2-1 record with 22 saves, a 0.96 ERA and a 10.03 K/9 mark.  The 27-year-old right-hander appeared in four games with the Phillies earlier this season, but allowed eight earned run in 5 2/3 innings (12.71 ERA). Continue reading Six others to join Franco as Phils roster expands

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BlueClaws Quotables: DeNato on first pro save, Viza on loss record

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sun, August 31, 2014 08:00 AM Comments: 2

Sliding into a key role at the back end of the Class A Lakewood bullpen late in the season, Phillies 19th round draft pick Joe DeNato has notched his first two pro saves in recent days.

Through 22 pro games combined at short-season A level Williamsport and with Lakewood, the Indiana product has tallied a 3-1 record with a 1.78 ERA and a 9.68 K/9 mark.

I spoke with Joe this weekend about his first minor league save, being drafted by the Phillies and more.

-DeNato commented on his initial professional save against Hickory in a 3-0 win in Lakewood on Thursday…

We had the shutout going, so I just really wanted that pitchers’ BP, but I mean, I just went out there, knowing that I needed to throw strikes.  I kind of struggled with that with the first batter.  Luckily, I didn’t walk him.  He ended up getting on base though, but overall I just wanted to get the job done.

-I asked DeNato if the Phillies were on his radar among teams interested in drafting him after posted a 13-1 record with a 1.82 ERA as a starter in college this year…

The Phillies weren’t a surprise.  There were about four teams that were contacting me leading up to the draft and the Phillies were one of them.  I mean, I was happy to be drafted by them.  I’m from San Diego, so honestly I never followed the Phillies that much, but obviously they’re my number one team now.  Yeah, it’s been a good experience.

-DeNato commented on if the transition to the pro ranks was what he expected…

I mean, I didn’t really know what to expect.  I just tried to go with the flow, you know, just try to do what I can do and do what I’m told.  You know, it has worked out so far.  I’m just going to keep trying to succeed.  Continue reading BlueClaws Quotables: DeNato on first pro save, Viza on loss record

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Fightins Quotables: Nola, Lundquist, Altherr, Moore

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, August 30, 2014 11:05 AM Comments: 0

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Aaron Nola, image- Tug Haines

Top Phillies draft pick Aaron Nola tossed a gem of an outing in Trenton on Friday night, in what will be the final appearance of his first pro season. Over five innings, the 21-year-old allowed just four hits and surrendered no runs while striking out two and walking none. He notched the win, as the Reading Fightins downed the Thunder by a score of 3-0.

In 12 professional outings, since he was selected 7th overall in this year’s MLB amateur draft, Nola tallied a 4-3 record with a 2.93 ERA while striking out 45 and walking 10 in 55 1/3 innings combined between Double-A Reading and Class A Advanced Clearwater.

After the game, I spoke with Reading pitching coach Dave Lundquist and Nola himself about the outing and more. I also spent time chatting with Nola’s backstop Logan Moore about his season as well as his pitching staff. Additionally, I chatted with outfielder Aaron Altherr about his time with the big league club this year. Read ahead for loads of exclusive quotes…

-Dave Lundquist on Nola’s effort on Friday night…

It was outstanding. You know, five innings, with no runs, 62 total pitches. You know, the thing that was really impressive was, in the fifth, he had (runners on) 2nd and 3rd with nobody out and got a pop up in the infield, a strike out and a ground ball and really showed a good feel for pitching and working himself out of a jam. He did a nice job.

-Asked Lundquist if there’s any temptation to let Nola go beyond his innings limit when his pitch count is low…

No, not right now. Not this year. Not with where he’s at. Total wise, through college and here, no. We just want him to get to that one point and that’s it. His pitch count was really low and he definitely could have continued going and it’s good to know he could have continued going, but at this point in the year, no that’s it.

-Also asked Lundquist for his thoughts about righty reliever Colton Murray, who notched his fifth save of the season for Reading in their win over Trenton on Friday…

Power guy that goes right after people. One thing he’s done is he’s really improved his curve ball as a pitch he can throw in and out of the zone. It’s become a quality swing and miss pitch for him. Very aggressive and he goes right after people. It’s what you look for in a reliever. Continue reading Fightins Quotables: Nola, Lundquist, Altherr, Moore

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Tocci looking to add what’s missing in off-season

Posted by Jay Floyd, Sat, August 30, 2014 07:00 AM Comments: 3

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Carlos Tocci, image- Tug Haines

At a very young age, outfielder Carlos Tocci garnered a high level of praise for his raw tools on the baseball field.  With minimal offensive production since he was signed by the Phillies, the young Venezuelan has left some wondering what’s been missing.

Signed at age 16 for a reported $759,000, Tocci was 2011′s biggest international free agent target.  Since then, the slim framed youngster has struggled to live up to high expectations surrounding him.

In his initial season in the pro ranks, Tocci tallied a .278/.330/.299 slash line in 38 games in the rookie level Gulf Coast League in 2012.

The following season, at age 17, he began the year with full season Class A Lakewood, where he sported a .209/.261/.249 line in 118 games.  He repeated the level this year, posting a .244/.296/.328 line through 122 games, including action on Thursday.

It took 862 professional at bats before Tocci launched his first round tripper.  The youngster, who was ranked as the Phillies’ ninth best prospect heading into this season, felt the big hit he had long waited for was rewarding not only to get over the hump and to prove that he could do it, but it showed the effort he put forth leading up to it was finally having results.

“It makes me happy because when you feel like something’s going good, all the things that you did, all the work, is going well and everybody can finally see it,” Tocci said via translator and teammate Jose Mayorga.

The statistical improvements are clear, but the team’s manager Greg Legg sees more than just the numbers.  Phillies coaches and personnel view the tools and abilities that made Tocci so popular among scouts as lacking a key ingredient.  Strength. Continue reading Tocci looking to add what’s missing in off-season

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BlueClaws Quotables: Team Speaks on Astudillo’s Batting Crown Chase

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, August 29, 2014 04:02 PM Comments: 4

As Class A Lakewood standout Willians Astudillo continues his quest toward a South Atlantic League batting title, entering the final weekend of the season, his team is backing him.

The 22-year-old missed all of last season with a left knee injury, but has clearly bounced back nicely.  Astudillo is 40-for-85 (.471 avg) in his last 23 games, helping to boost his league leading season average to .340.

I spoke with BlueClaws personnel about Astudillo’s exciting batting crown chase.  Read ahead for those quotes…

Manager Greg Legg-

“He’s played the same all year, with the same energy and intensity.  I never saw him have a lull.  He loves baseball.  I think that’s the reason he gets up in the morning is to hit.  But it has added some excitement to (our final week of the season).  It’s definitely interesting and if we can do anything to help him, we will.”

“It’s neat, we got Cozens, who set a franchise record for 15 homers and (stealing) 20 bags.  No one else has ever done that.  I think he’s the only guy in the league to do that this year. So, we’ve got a couple pluses on the offensive side.”

Fellow Venezuelan Carlos Tocci-

“I’m excited because I know Astudillo’s going to win that title because he’s been hitting his whole life and he’s a great hitter.  I want to help push him to win that title.”

Reliever Joe DeNato-

“I’ve never seen a better hitter than him.  He’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen.  He doesn’t strike out.  And he’s consistent too.” Continue reading BlueClaws Quotables: Team Speaks on Astudillo’s Batting Crown Chase

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