Phils eager to work with Randolph, top prospects
Instructional league begins as first-rounder joins recent acquisitions in Clearwater
Please forgive Phillies farm director Joe Jordan if he sounds a bit euphoric. After a long season of overseeing the organization's future, he simply loves instructional league play.
"It's one of the healthier environments in baseball," Jordan said. "They're young, they're energetic, they're very impressionable players. We have a great staff, and we have a lot of positive energy. It's my favorite four weeks of the year."
It's a four-week span that started Monday spent at the Phillies' Spring Training facility in Clearwater, Fla., where many new members of the system come to learn more about what it means to be part of the organization and get some extra game action. Having someone like first-round pick Cornelius Randolph makes it an even better month for Jordan and his staff.
Randolph, the No. 10 overall pick in the 2015 Draft and No. 5 on the Phillies' Top 30 Prospects list (No. 86 on the overall Top 100), had a strong pro debut by just about any measure. He finished eighth in the rookie-level Gulf Coast Legue with his .302 batting average, but he was second in on-base percentage (.425) and actually topped the league with his .866 OPS.
"Cornelius is going to be a hitter, a good hitter," Jordan said. "I just really like what we got with our first pick. The ability to hit, he has an advanced understanding of himself for a young player. You talk hitting with him, and it's very impressive as far as some of the things he says and things he understands at that age. You look at the walks and strikeouts -- they were even. That's tremendous, and he's going to hit for power."
That doesn't mean there aren't things to work on, of course. Randolph is just 18, and while the Phillies don't tinker with new draftees over the summer, now is exactly the time to drill down and help them get better.
"We don't do a lot with newly drafted guys over the summer as far as changing things," Jordan said. "We let them do what they do for a certain amount of time, knowing we'll have them for these four weeks."
One thing the Phillies will work on with Randolph is improving the use of his lower half. He's not your typical young hitter, in that his strength is middle and opposite field, and he shows an ability to drive the ball to left-center as a left-handed hitter. The Phillies feel he'll develop the ability to drive the ball to the pull side, and he's already showing that he can make adjustments in this regard.
Randolph will also continue to learn a new position. A middle infielder in high school, he moved to the outfield immediately during his pro debut, playing 41 games in left. Instructs give him the chance to get more game-like situations under his belt.
"He has a lot to learn about angles and routes," Jordan said "There are all sorts of intricacies he can learn out there.
"I think moving to the outfield is going to be an easy transition. He's invested in it. I think we have a good one. I'm looking forward to watching him develop."
Getting better acquainted with trade acquisitions
When the Phillies traded Cole Hamels to the Rangers at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, they got three Top 100 prospects in return. But they were sent to affiliates, with one exception, before the player development staff really got to know them. Both right-hander Jake Thompson (No. 2 on the Phillies' Top 30) and outfielder Nick Williams (No. 3) went right to Double-A Reading. Catcher Jorge Alfaro (No. 4) was recovering from left ankle surgery, or he would have surely joined his former Rangers teammates.
It's not typical for players at the upper levels to go to instructs, but the Phillies wanted to get to know them a bit better and let the prospects learn a little more about what's expected of them in a new organization.
For Williams, it's all about using his speed to a greater advantage. He stole 13 bases in total in 2015, but Jordan thinks there's more there to tap into.
"He has a speed tool we're going to try to get him to use on the bases," Jordan said. "For me, he has the chance to steal 25-30 bags in the big leagues."
Thompson will only be in instructs for a few days after throwing more than 132 2/3 innings this season. His visit will mostly be to talk about his offseason program and, as with Williams, to make sure he's ready when Spring Training rolls around.
The plan for Alfaro is a bit different. With the exception of four at-bats in the Gulf Coast League in late August, he hasn't played since June. He's been at the complex in Clearwater since the trade, and the Phillies are just trying to prep him for winter ball in Venezuela.
"We're getting [Alfaro] physically prepared, game ready," Jordan said. "He'll see some live pitching. He's been here the whole time, so he's been exposed a little bit more to our philosophy. For him, we're just getting him ready to play. He needs to go make up some time."