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Phils have another power-hitting 1B in the AFL

October 25, 2018

Back in 2004, the Phillies sent Ryan Howard to the Arizona Fall League. He had been a fifth-round pick in 2001. Darin Ruf had been a 20th-round selection in 2009 and he spent quality time in the AFL in 2011. Rhys Hoskins didn't make it to Arizona, but he fits

Back in 2004, the Phillies sent Ryan Howard to the Arizona Fall League. He had been a fifth-round pick in 2001. Darin Ruf had been a 20th-round selection in 2009 and he spent quality time in the AFL in 2011. Rhys Hoskins didn't make it to Arizona, but he fits the mold of a later-round pick (fifth in 2014) who showed power potential largely at first base in the Minors.
All three went on to play in the big leagues, with varying degrees of success, for the Phillies, though some moved to the outfield (such as a Howard in left field experiment in the AFL didn't last long). Could Darick Hall, a 14th-round pick in 2016 out of Dallas Baptist follow in Howard's and Ruf's footsteps by playing in the Fall League, be the next in line?
Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams
"As an organization, the Phillies really take pride in development and really pour into everybody," said Hall, who is playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions this fall. "I think that's what's so special about them. They'll take somebody, it doesn't matter what round, and they'll mold you into the player they see you being. As long as you buy in and give it your best, it always seems like they do a really good job."
Hall has certainly done a fine job of putting himself more firmly on the prospect radar. The 6-foot-4 left-handed hitter tied for the organization home run title in 2017 (with Hoskins) with 29 homers and led all hitters with 101 RBIs. His second full season was more of the same, with 26 homers as the first baseman reached Double-A for the first time.
While he did hit 15 home runs in 80 games with Reading, the other parts of his offensive game did take a hit. He hit just .224 after the promotion and saw his strikeout rate go up and his walk rate go down at the same time as he saw pitches take advantage of his weaknesses more consistently.
"One thing I noticed right away is your mistakes were kind of amplified," Hall said. "If you swung at a ball you shouldn't have swung at, you paid a higher price in the at-bat because it maybe gave up your plan or what you were trying to do. I learned very quickly you have to stick to an approach and not give in. You can't flip-flop. That's something I had to learn pretty quickly and it's something I'm going to take into the Fall League as well."
He's also adjusting some things mechanically that he feels will help him in 2019 and beyond. And while his strikeout rate for a power hitter has never been bad, he knows he can improve on his overall approach at the plate.
"Going into next year, I'm really working on the left leg in my swing, just driving off my backside a little bit," the first baseman said. "Sometimes I have the tendency to ride off instead of just staying on it. I think that's one of my keys for the Fall League.
"One thing I've always prided myself on is being able to drive the ball, but not having too bad of a swing and miss. I'm not afraid to give in with two strikes and hit a ball when I need to. Sometimes I don't always hit as deep into counts as I'd like. I think that's where the walks don't come. When I get it done, I get it done early. I think that's something, that as I progress and grow, will change."
Phillies hitters in the Fall League
Arquimedes Gamboa, SS: After a bit of a breakout offensively in 2017, Gamboa had a solid start to his 2018 campaign in the Florida State League, but really struggled in the second half. Still an above-average defender, Gamboa's at-bats in the AFL might help him make the jump to Double-A and he's getting reps at third as well.

Austin Listi, OF: After hitting 24 homers as a senior at Dallas Baptist in 2017, Listi was taken in the 17th round of that June's Draft. He's kept on hitting, with 18 homers and a .915 OPS while reaching Double-A in his first full season.
Luke Williams, 3B/OF: The speedy Williams had played shortstop his senior of high school, then focused mostly on third upon entering pro ball in 2015. He started getting reps in the outfield as his FSL season wore on and he's continued that work as a taxi squad (playing twice a week) member this fall.
Phillies pitchers in the Fall League
Jonathan Hennigan, LHP: The 6-foot-4 southpaw pitched his way from Lakewood to Clearwater and put up excellent numbers out of the bullpen. The Texas State product has been very effective against left-handed hitters, perhaps pointing to a future role as he prepares for the upper levels of the system.
Luke Leftwich, RHP: Leftwich moved from the rotation to the bullpen in 2017 with good results and spent the 2018 season as a reliever in Reading. Phil Leftwich's son has struck out double-digits per nine since the shift and is using the AFL to try to nail down a spot on the 40-man roster.
Seth McGarry, RHP: McGarry began his pro career as a starter with the Pirates, but moved to a relief role with them in 2017 before being traded to the Phillies. He spent the year in Double-A in 2018 and while he missed a decent amount of bats and generated weak contact on the ground, he'll have to improve his command (5.45 BB/9 in 2018) to keep advancing.
Tyler Viza, RHP: A starter for most of his career, Viza began the 2018 season in Reading's bullpen, but then threw well when returned to the rotation. His AFL stint could be used to determine a 40-man roster spot or be an audition for the Rule 5 Draft for 29 other teams.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.