Tag Archives: Futures Game

Reading Fightin Phils feature four top Phillies draft picks

Randolph, Moniak, Bohm, Haseley at Reading end of June 2019
(photo credit: George Young Jr)
Many fans of the Philadelphia Phillies make the trip to FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, Pennsylvania at some point. Roughly 75-80 miles northwest of Philly, those fans make the trip to watch the Reading Fightin’ Phils, the club’s Double-A minor league affiliate.
Minor league baseball has its own attractions, with frequent giveaways and other promotional activities. There is often access to the players that you rarely get in a big-league ballpark, and the seating is fantastic in a more intimate setting.
Recently there was something even more exciting for fans who were able to get to Reading. For the first time in the history of the franchise, four Phillies first round draft picks were all being featured in the Fightins lineup at the same time.
The Phillies top prospect, 22-year-old third baseman Alec Bohm, was the club’s first round choice at third overall in the June 2018 MLB Draft out of Wichita State. Bohm was promoted last Thursday from High-A Clearwater after tearing through four levels of the system since being drafted last year.
Bohm made his home debut in Reading with a fantastic performance on Thursday night. “It was an outstanding game, all-around (for Bohm),” said Reading manager Shawn Williams per The Reading Eagle. “He did it all here tonight.
Bohm has slashed .331/.406/.535 with nine home runs, 32 extra-base hits, 42 RBIs, and 43 runs scored over 298 plate appearances across three levels this season. It was just announced that Bohm has been selected to play for the United States team in the prestigious MLB Futures Game as part of the MLB All-Star festivities next month.

After making his big-league debut last month, outfielder Adam Haseley was also at Reading on a rehab stint. Haseley is back in the minors after suffering a left groin injury in early June. The club’s first round pick at 8th overall in 2017 out of the University of Virginia, the 23-year-old Haseley could find himself back in a Phillies uniform at any time now.
Haseley has slashed .274/.355/.479 this season over the two highest levels of the minors with eight homers, 21 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs, and 31 runs scored over 217 plate appearances. In two games with the Phillies, Haseley had a double and a walk, scoring two runs and driving in another.
The first overall pick of the entire 2016 MLB Draft, outfielder Mickey Moniak, struggled in his first couple of minor league seasons. But the 21-year-old Moniak, who was drafted out of a California high school, began to catch-up last summer and was recently selected for the Double-A All-Star Game.
Finally beginning to really break out, Moniak is slashing .262/.315/.434 with 31 extra-base hits, 38 RBIs, 41 runs scored, and nine steals in 72 games this year as he continues to advance incrementally one level at a time. He is slashing .284/.373/.474 in the month of June with a dozen extra-base hits.
Also drafted out of high school, Cornelius Randolph is a Georgia native selected at 10th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft. Randolph turned 22 years of age at the start of June, and is the one in this talented group who is still trying to figure things out.
Randolph is slashing just .237/.305/.367 with 16 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs, 22 runs scored, and five stolen bases over 236 plate appearances as he repeats the Double-A level. Last season with Reading, Randolph slashed .241/.324/.322, showing limited power and speed. After being drafted as a bat-first prospect, he simply has not progressed much to this point.
All four of these talented youngsters were playing together briefly at Reading, as Haseley has just been activated by the Phillies today and optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The other three may not be together for very long either. If Bohm continues to progress as he has to this point, he would put himself in line for another promotion, also to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, before the minor league season ends.
Now is the time to make a trip from Philly. If you plan it on the right night, you can even see these stud position prospects performing behind the club’s top pitching prospect, Adonis Medina. The 22-year-old right-hander is 5-3 with a 4.02 ERA and 1.292 WHIP over his first 13 Double-A starts this season.

Phillies to send rookie Enyel De Los Santos to mound on Tuesday night

Rookie Enyel De Los Santos take mound Tuesday night
Thanks to a congested schedule leading up to the MLB All-Star break, the Phillies had some tough organizational decisions to make and questions to answer regarding their starting pitching rotation.
The club chose to answer those questions by giving yesterday’s start to Drew Anderson and tomorrow’s start to Enyel De Los Santos, both promoted from the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
The two youngsters were sandwiched in between Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin, each of whom will go this evening at the start of a four-game series with the host New York Mets. Those two will get the nod for an increasingly rare throwback, a good old-fashioned twi-night doubleheader.
Anderson was immediately sent back to AAA after the 24-year old’s first big league start resulted in a 4-1 loss to the host Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. He allowed four earned runs on eight hitters over five innings during which the right-hander threw 94 pitches, 64 of those for strikes. Anderson struck out four and walked one, getting no help from a Phillies offense that generated just four hits.
Drew came up and did a great job for us,” manager Gabe Kapler said per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports. “He gave us five strong innings. He gave us a chance to win it. We didn’t score a lot of runs, so that matters. Obviously, the spotlight will be on the start, but it’s not the only thing that happened today.
Now on Tuesday night at Citi Field against the struggling Mets, it will be a chance for De Los Santos to show what he’s got in what will be the 22-year old pitcher’s big league debut. So exactly who is De Los Santos, you might ask?
Born and raised in the baseball hotbed of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, De Los Santos was originally signed by the Seattle Mariners as a 19-year old international free agent. He made his pro debut in 2015 with the Mariners organization. Following that season he was traded to the San Diego Padres as part of a deal for Joaquin Benoit.
Over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the right-hander rose through three levels of the San Diego minor league system. Last off-season, the Phillies acquired him in a straight-up trade for shortstop Freddy Galvis.
Assigned by the Phillies to the AAA IronPigs, De Los Santos has been nothing short of fantastic. He went 9-3 over 16 starts, allowing just 72 hits over 95.1 innings with a 1.98 ERA and 1.080 WHIP.
Phillies farm director Joe Jordan described him as follows in a piece last week by Jim Salisbury for Baseball America:

“He’s big, physical and mean on the mound. It’s a pretty good package . . . He really seems to know who he is on the mound and he gets after it.”

For this strong first half performance, De Los Santos was selected to a pair of all-star teams. This coming Wednesday he was due to start in the Triple A All-Star Game. He was also named as a pitcher with Team World for the upcoming MLB All-Star Futures Game.

Last week, Tom Housenick at The Morning Call expounded on the youngster’s excellent season:

“The 22-year-old has worked at least six innings in 11 of his last 12 starts and allowed more than two earned runs in only two of his 16 outings.”

While he will now miss out on that first all-star honor, the young pitcher will obviously be happier with the “consolation” prize of this big league opportunity.
The Phillies had to make a roster move in order to get De Los Santos on to their 40-man. The decision has reportedly been made to move utility man Pedro Florimon, out since late May with a broken foot, to the 60-day DL in order to make room.
The Phillies might face an interesting decision after Tuesday’s game, especially if De Los Santos fares well. Do they return him to the IronPigs as they did with Anderson? That would be the easiest and most obvious move. However, they could also give him another shot, with Nick Pivetta struggling mightily over the last month and a half.


Bryce Harper’s Coming Out Party

In writing up my final MLB Power Ranking last week, I finished up the Washington Nationals comments with this line: “I believe that this postseason could very well be Bryce Harper’s true launching pad to on-field stardom.

The Nats finished 2nd in the Power Ranking and were the team that I believed were best positioned to win the World Series. The San Francisco Giants killed that possibility by dumping Washington in four games in one of the National League Division Series.

But the postseason performance of Harper, limited to those four games as it was, may indeed have been that launching pad. Harper launched a few himself, blasting 3 homeruns. He also scored 4 runs and knocked in 4. He hit .294, registering a .368 on-base percentage, an .882 slugging percentage, and had an OPS of 1.251 as well.

Harper began his assault on Giants pitching in the bottom of the 7th inning of Game 1 with the Nats trailing 3-0. Against reliever Hunter Strickland, Harper led off and absolutely crushed a titanic shot into the right field upper deck at Nationals Park to get the Nats on the board.

Harper, who appears to thrive under pressure in dramatic situations, sensed the importance of getting the Nats crowd back into the game: “Get some runs on the board, get this crowd back into it. Getting them going was very exciting.” It wouldn’t ultimately be enough, as San Fran held on to win 3-2, going up 1-0 in the series.

Game 2 would prove to be historic, the longest postseason game by time in MLB history, tied for the longest by innings.
The affair wasn’t ended until Brandon Belt’s 18th inning homerun gave the Giants a 2-1 victory. Harper was conspicuous by his absence in the game, going 0-7, striking out twice and leaving a pair in scoring position.

With their backs to the wall as Game 3 headed out west to AT&T Park in San Francisco, the Nationals staved off elimination with a 4-1 victory. Harper was the centerpiece player. He scored all the way from 1st base on a throwing error by Madison Bumgarner in the top of the 7th, part of a 3-run rally that broke a scoreless tie.

Then, in the top of the 9th, Harper blasted a pitch from reliever Jean Machi over the right-centerfield fence to extend the lead out to 4-0 in what would end up as a 4-1 win, keeping the Nationals alive and moving them within a game of evening up the best-of-five NLDS.

Harper’s HR into McCovey Cove tied Game 4 of the NLDS

In yesterday’s game 4, again needing to win to stay alive, the Nats fell behind again, the Giants taking a 2-1 lead into the top of the 7th inning. With one out and Strickland, his Game 1 victim, again on in relief, Harper crushed a pitch well over the right field wall and out into McCovey Cove to tie the game.

Ultimately the Giants would again prevail in a 1-run game, winning the series 3 games to 1, all of their victories coming by that single-run margin. Except for his collar in Game 2, when most of the Nats failed to produce, Bryce Harper was producing the entire series. Great defensive plays, hustling on the bases, blasting homeruns.

Even since appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated in June of 2009 as a 16-year old, Harper has been a marked man to some. Back then, SI’s highly respected baseball writer Tom Verducci called him the most exciting sports prodigy “since Lebron (James)” and commented that he “has faster bat speed than Mark McGwire in his prime.

Harper’s 2009 SI cover at age 16

Harper became the 2010 winner of the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to the best amateur baseball player in the United States. He was then taken that year by the Nationals with the 1st overall pick in the MLB Draft. Thereafter he was consistently rated as one of the top 3 prospects in the game.

In the fall of 2010, Harper was selected to participate in the Arizona Fall League, a showcase league for many of the game’s top prospects. There he hit .343 and helped his Scottsdale Scorpions win the league championship. In 2011 at midseason, he was selected to play for the United States in the All-Star Futures Game, another top prospect showcase.

After rising through two levels in the minors over the last couple seasons, Harper was finally called up to the Majors on the same exact date as another phenom, Mike Trout, on April 27th, 2012, and made his much-anticipated MLB debut the following day. Ever since, Harper has routinely and unfairly been compared to Trout, a far different type player and personality.

Harper & Trout both called up to Majors on same day

Both Harper and Trout became MLB All-Star Game participants in their first year, and at season’s end it was Bryce Harper winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award, with Trout taking the honors in the American League.

Ever since that strong debut season, while Trout has become a regular AL MVP contender and a smiling future face of the game, Harper has battled injuries and perceptions by fans in road cities that he is spoiled at best, petulant and ornery at worst. Though snake-bitten by the injury bug, he has proven not spoiled and petulant, but simply one of the game’s great, all-out, hard-driving competitors.

On the injury front, early in the 2013 season he crashed into the outfield wall at Nationals Park on both April 29th and May 13th, injuring his ribcage in the first collision and his left knee in the second. He would aggravate the knee in a headfirst slide at the end of May. Likely compensating for the injured knee, Harper began to feel discomfort in his left hip, and the combination of all these injuries directly led to decreased production.

His one highlight was being elected to the MLB All-Star Game, and being selected to participate in the Homerun Derby. Despite battling his injuries, Harper advanced all the way to the Finals, where he was edged out by Yoenis Cespedes by 9-8. Harper is the youngest player to ever advance to the Derby Finals. In the off-season, he had surgery to remove a bursa sac from the left knee.

Hoping to put it all behind him and get a full, healthy 2014 season under his belt, Harper again suffered a debilitating injury, tearing a ligament in his left thumb while sliding headfirst into 3rd base in late April. He would miss 57 games, more than 1/3 of the season, and wouldn’t regain his full power stroke until the late stages.

While I am calling the 2014 MLB postseason the Bryce Harper coming-out party, he actually started bashing before the playoffs even began. As the 2nd half of 2014 moved along and the Nats pulled away to an easy NL East crown, Harper hit .305 with 9 homers after August 12th.

Based on his performances in MLB when healthy, it is clear that Bryce Harper is a special talent. He is still just 21 years old, turning 22 in the middle of next week. He has never, in college, the minor leagues, or the Majors, faced a pitcher who was younger than him.

Off the field, Harper became engaged this past spring to his hometown Las Vegas girlfriend, Kayla Varner. She is a soccer player at Ohio State University now, after transferring from Brigham Young. Both Harper and Varner are Mormons, with strong faith and family principles guiding their lives.

Harper and fiancee’ Kayla Varner

There is no doubt that Bryce Harper has been immature at times. Remember fans, he is 21 years old. Tell me about how mature you were at that age. There is also no doubt that Harper is one of the hardest working players on the field, in the batting cage, and in the workout room.

Bryce Harper still has some growth and maturity to add to his game. As he ages and settles down in his personal life, that is likely to come naturally. He also needs to find a way to stay healthy, which may require nothing more than simple fortune smiling on him for a change.

I believe that given health, the baseball world is about to be treated to the real Bryce Harper. He will become one of the game’s great all-around players, a regular contender for home run crowns, Gold Glove awards, and Most Valuable Player awards.

When we read back and look over what I believe will be his great career, for many of us it will be the titanic blasts struck in the 2014 NLDS that we will remember as the young man’s true coming out party to the larger baseball world. Bryce Harper is excitement. Bryce Harper is hustle. Bryce Harper is baseball.

Phils Fans Warmly Welcome the Millville Meteor

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Phillies fans gave local product Mike Trout a warm welcome home

Last night in the top of the 1st inning with the Los Angeles Angels batting against the hometown Philadelphia Phillies, the notoriously tough on the opposition Philly crowd did something highly unusual.

As the opponent batter was announced and stepped towards home plate, the crowd rose together as one and gave the handsome young kid in the visiting uniform a rousing standing ovation. There is no doubt that the kid got goosebumps.

The reason that this Phillies crowd was giving the young Angels centerfielder such an unusually warm reception goes beyond the uniform that he is currently wearing. The reception was because of who he is in particular. The player in question was Mike Trout, and the reason for the ovation was that he is a rarity in pro sports circles – he is one of us.

Michael Nelson Trout was born in Vineland and raised in Millville, New Jersey. He has been a Philly sports fan his entire life, still attending Eagles games in recent years. He tailgated at the 2008 World Series, cheering as he watched his hero, Chase Utley, help lead the Fightins to just their second-ever world championship.

But Mike Trout didn’t just cheer, he also played the game, and he played it very well. During high school, like many of the best athletes in the game at that stage, Trout was not an outfielder. He pitched and played shortstop, and even tossed a no-hitter during his junior year in a game against Egg Harbor Township.

In his senior year he was shifted to the outfield, and set a New Jersey state record with 18 homeruns. For the player built like an NFL linebacker, power wasn’t the only impressive part of his particular game, as Trout could also run like the wind. He was so fast that he was given the nickname “The Millville Meteor”, and his rare combination of power and speed caught the attention of Major League Baseball scouts.

I remember very well watching the 2009 MLB Draft on television. That was a unique experience in itself, because it was the first time that the event was televised on what was then the brand new MLB Network cable service. While the NFL had already been broadcasting their event, growing it into the spectacle we all experienced last week, MLB was behind in that regard.

For a baseball nut like myself, it was fascinating to be able to watch the process of that first round of drafting take place, and to get to listen to analysts describe the prospects, show video of their amateur playing days, and make commentary on their skills. I had followed this type of coverage online and in print for years, but it was a happy day indeed to see my favorite sport moving into the 21st century.

There was one problem with that first live broadcast and network coverage of the event. Unlike the NFL Draft spectacle, where all the top draftees are present on the day of the Draft, taking the stage happily when their names are called, there were no actual players present for this event. It seemed very weird that these young players and their families, whose lives were about to change forever, would not be present to participate in this event.

It was weird, unless or until you realize that the MLB Draft process is very different from the NFL process. In the vast majority of cases, the players selected in the NFL Draft have no other choice: they will play in the league, or they will not play at all. Oh, they could choose to go play in Canada, or choose another sport if they are good enough. But for the overwhelming majority, it’s the NFL or bust.

With baseball, the prospects selected in the Draft almost always have another option. If they are college kids, they are usually in their junior year, sophomore possibly, and can choose to return to school. If they are drafted right out of high school, as Trout was, they can choose to go to college rather than play for an MLB organization.

The other big difference is that whereas in football, the players selected in the Draft are about to compete for actual jobs with the pro sports club and begin play immediately in the NFL, the baseball draftees are almost always only beginning a process of development through the minor leagues that will take a year or two, sometimes more, before they ever play inside an MLB ballpark.

So in retrospect it probably should have not been too surprising to find that no players were actually present at that first live televised MLB Draft. It was simply that their agents had advised them to stay away, because the Draft is only the beginning of a negotiating process with the team that selects the prospect, and the prospect and his family may instead choose to decline the offer and return to school. Thus, why show up and pull on a cap and jersey, when it may all be for nothing?

So at that first televised 2009 MLB Draft, no players showed up. Well, that is, almost no players showed up. One did attend the process. One player who was anticipated to go in the first round sat lonely in a makeshift dugout in the MLB Network studios. That player was Mike Trout.

He and his family didn’t care that they had a scholarship to East Carolina University accepted. This was too big an opportunity, too big a deal, and it was being held in Secaucus, New Jersey, a relatively short drive. They had vision, and they attended this first live draft.

The cameras frequently panned inside that makeshift dugout for a look at Trout as the Draft unfolded, especially as one team after another passed on selecting the phenom. It was anticipated that Trout would be selected high in the process, but pick after pick was announced without his name being called.

The supposed prize of that 2009 MLB Draft class, pitcher Stephen Strasburg, was selected with the top overall pick, as was anticipated. Then the process wound through a couple dozen choices, including pitchers like Zack Wheeler (6), Mike Minor (7), Mike Leake (8), Jacob Turner (9), Aaron Crow (12), and Shelby Miller (19), all of whom have tasted some level of success now at the Major League level.

Those early selections also included 8 position players: Dustin Ackley (2), Donavan Tate (3), Tony Sanchez (4), Grant Green (13), Bobby Borchering (16), A.J. Pollock (17), Jiovanni Mier (21), and Jared Mitchell (23) – none of whom has been able to establish themselves as a star in MLB to this point. Half of them have never reached the Major League level, at least to this point in their careers.

Then the Angels turn came, and they had two selections. Due to the Mets signing of free agent closer Francisco Rodriguez, and the Yankees signing of free agent 1st baseman Mark Teixeira, the Angels now possessed each of those organizations first round picks at #24 & 25 overall. With the 24th pick, the Angels selected outfielder Randall Grichuk. Unlikely to take two outfielders, it appeared Trout was about to be passed over yet again. How far would he slide?

At this point, the casual baseball fan might be asking the question “Why didn’t any team pick him sooner?” Frankly, that is a question that a couple of dozen MLB organizations have been asking themselves for a few years now. Part of the problem is a built-in industry prejudice against players from the northeast, who due to the weather here play less baseball than players from places like Florida, California, and Texas, who can often play nearly year-round.

So Trout was still around as the Angels contemplated the 2nd of their first round selections. Having just taken an outfielder in Grichuk, they surprised some when the name “Michael Trout” was announced as their next pick. The cameras panned to his smiling face in the dugout as he was hugged by family. Trout stepped up to the podium and donned an Angels cap. MLB had their first draft star, their only face of that first-ever televised draft process, and man did he turn out to be the right one.

That first season in pro ball, Trout was sent to the Arizona League to play for the Angels rookie-level team. In just 39 games, he hit .360 with 25 rbi and 13 steals, and earned a brief promotion to the ‘A’ level of the minor leagues to finish the year. He began 2010 at that ‘A’ level, hitting .362 with 6 homers, 39 rbi, and 45 steals over 82 games. He was also selected for the showcase MLB Futures Game in July, and showcased his blazing speed during that game as well.

Following the Futures Game, he was promoted to ‘High-A’ ball, and that month, Trout was named by Baseball America as the 2nd-best prospect in the entire sport. After the 2010 season, he would be honored with the Topps Minor League Player of the Year award. The youngest player to ever win the award, he was still just 19 years of age.

Prior to the start of the 2011 season, Mike Trout was named the consensus top prospect in baseball. He would make his Major League debut later that summer, and by 2012 had established that he was in the Big Leagues to stay. Keeping this short, since most know what happened next, he became a serious MVP candidate in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons, finishing 2nd in voting both years to incredible seasons turned in by veteran Miguel Cabrera.

So when Mike Trout showed up at Citizens Bank Park last night with the visiting team, the hometown fans knew, appreciated, and had been following the exploits of this local kid turned baseball hero for a few years. They knew that he grew up rooting for their Phillies, that he was still an Eagles fan, that at heart he is still one of us. That is why the fans rose and gave him a rousing ovation.

At least hundreds, perhaps a couple thousand, were on-hand from his hometown of Millville and the surrounding area, representing his family, friends, teammates, and others who had known him or played with or against him locally. It was a true homecoming for the kid who at still just 22 years of age has universally become acknowledged as the best all-around player in the game today.

There was some hope that Trout would one day become a Phillie, running the outfield in the red and white pinstripes. For some, that hope appeared dashed when he signed a 6-year, $144 million contract with the Angels this spring. No one begrudged the deal, as quite obviously a young man offered that kind of money has to think about taking care of himself and his family for the rest of their lives, even if it means putting off a chance to play for the team he grew up loving.

But then you realize, Trout will be just 28 years old when that contract expires. He will be in the prime of his baseball career. The Phillies will be working under terms of a new cable TV deal signed with Comcast by then, pumping tons of money into their coffers. The Howard-Utley-Rollins-Hamels crew will be gone by then, having ridden off to the sunset as World Series-winning heroes. The fan base will be clamoring for the next generation of winners.

If he stays healthy for the majority of these next half dozen seasons, and produces at the levels anticipated by his talents and by his performances thus far, there is no telling how much money Mike Trout will command for that next contract. It is likely to be in the 10-year, $300 million range. If he is still healthy and producing then, which is likely, he will be worth every penny to the Phillies organization.

So Phillies fans can still dream on a day that the kid is patrolling leftfield at Citizens Bank Park, leading his hometown Fightin’ Phils back to the World Series in the next decade. For the rest of this one, those appreciative fans will still root for their local hero. And Mike Trout will still root for them, just not on these rare nights when he is playing against them. Thankfully, with the Angels in the AL West division, those nights when he is an opponent come around only once every 4-5 years or so.