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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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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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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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Reading Eagle survey: Crawford ranked top Phils prospect

Posted by Jay Floyd, Mon, August 25, 2014 10:05 AM Comments: 49

Recently, Mike Drago of The Reading Eagle conducted a survey of experts, made up of local writers and other media members, designed to rank the top prospects in the Phillies developmental system.

The participating individuals, who are all close to the Phillies minor league system, were asked to rank their personal top 20, which were tabulated to determine the paper’s published list of top 15 Phillies prospects.  Individuals surveyed included Baseball America’s Josh Norris, Chris Rotolo of the Asbury Park Press, Mitch Rupert of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette as well as yours truly, Jay Floyd of PhilliesNation.com.

The collection of experts determined that last year’s first round draft pick, J.P. Crawford, who represented the Phillies in the MLB All-Star Futures Game this year, is the top prospect in the organization.  Crawford, 19, is widely expected to be the eventual successor to former National League MVP Jimmy Rollins at shortstop.

Last year’s Reading Eagle rankings featured Maikel Franco at the top.  The Dominican native fell to number three this year.  A few new names are also featured on the list.

Here’s an excerpt of The Reading Eagle’s 2014 prospect rankings…

1 J.P. Crawford: Just 14 months after being drafted the California shortstop found himself playing in the All-Star Futures Game. At 19 he was the youngest player on the Team USA roster and the second-youngest in the game. He was moved up to high Class A Clearwater in mid June, his third level in little more than a year. He’s hit at all of them and carries a .295 batting average and .388 on-base percentage through his first 720 professional games.  (ed. note- Crawford has played just 170 pro games)

2 Aaron Nola: The Phillies desperately needed a fast-moving, strike-throwing starting pitcher when they tabbed the LSU right-hander in the June draft and that’s exactly what they got. He became the first Phillies draft pick to reach Double-A in his first professional season since 1986. He’ll likely start next season in Reading and end it in Philadelphia.

3 Maikel Franco: The Phillies were hoping the 21-year-old would be their third baseman by now but he had a poor spring training and an even worse spring at Lehigh Valley. After a lousy first half he finally started to hit, batting .343 in July. He’s still extremely young – almost six years younger than the average International League player – so there’s no reason to panic. Continue reading Reading Eagle survey: Crawford ranked top Phils prospect

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PhoulBallz Podcast Episode 69: Justin De Fratus In Studio

Posted by Jay Floyd, Fri, August 22, 2014 04:25 PM Comments: 0

It’s the landmark 69th edition of the PhoulBallz Minor League Podcast hosted by Phillies Nation’s minor league expert Jay Floyd.  On the latest edition of the show, Jay and his co-host Tug Haines are joined by Phillies pitcher Justin De Fratus.

Justin was in studio for an extensive interview talking about his time in the minors, his past “controversial” Twitter comments as well as playing for Charlie Manuel and Ryne Sandberg.  He also shares stories about initiating former teammate Brian Gump to Class A ball and how former big league All-Star Brad Lidge impacted his approach after Lidge’s retirement plus loads more.

Use the media player below to stream the full episode, or simply download it by clicking HERE.

The PhoulBallz Podcast is a show that features call-in guests and focuses on the Phillies minor league system.  Check out archived episodes by clicking here.

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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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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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