O'Hoppe keeps improving during time in AFL

November 8th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- continued his demolition derby against Arizona Fall League pitching Monday, this time socking his second homer of the campaign off a 97-mph fastball in the first inning.

Situated in the heart of Peoria’s order while adeptly backstopping five pitchers, O’Hoppe -- the Phillies’ No. 11 prospect -- helped navigate the way to a 7-4 win over Glendale at Peoria Stadium.

Miller, a fireballing right-hander ranked as the Dodgers No. 4 prospect, lit up the radar gun as high as 98 mph prior to the Javelinas’ No. 3 hitter stepping into the box. O'Hoppe promptly launched a solo shot to left-center field.

“You try to relax as much as you can and treat it like any other righty and trust the scouting reports. And luckily, it worked out,” he said.

While O'Hoppe has made considerable gains across the board during his stint in Arizona, potentially the most encouraging one moving forward have been his improved on-base skills. The 21-year-old has walked 17 times while striking out just 10 times in 16 games. His on-base percentage sits at .455, and he leads all catchers during Fall League play with 14 RBIs.

“To be honest with you, I just got sick and tired of striking out,” O’Hoppe said with a laugh after his 1-for-5 performance. “It came from that. I really tried to do something about it and [Phillies quality assurance coach and Javelinas coach] Mike Calitri, he’s helped me a lot with that, just working off the slider machine. You run through different drills and try to make it as game-like as you can because it’s hard to create reps outside of the game. The game is the best way to develop and adjust.”

Life as a backstop is a perpetual performance hazard. No matter how well a catcher swings the bat, an equal counterbalance comes into play once he straps a chest protector and mask on. O’Hoppe was reminded of that reality when he took a stray foul tip in the sixth that caused a brief injury delay.

O'Hoppe, who has long been heralded for his defensive abilities, showed no ill effects when making a sliding grab that sent him careening into the padded wall behind home plate two frames later

The 23rd-round pick from the 2018 Draft has been frequently behind the dish during the Fall League, dropping down signs for a bevvy of arms on the Javelinas’ roster.

“This year, I’ve walked into a couple of different locker rooms with some new faces, and this is no different,” O’Hoppe said. “You walk in and try to get to know [each pitcher’s] personality and what they like to do. Some are harder than others, but you try to make the most of conversations off the field because I feel like those help the most. … These guys have been great and awesome to work with, and I’m really enjoying it.”

The roster structure of the AFL, which involves prospect talent from all levels of Minor League Baseball, is particularly well-suited to O’Hoppe, who made three stops in the Philadelphia system this year. The majority of his time was spent at High-A Jersey Shore, but he also spent time with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In 438 overall plate appearances, O'Hoppe faced a pitcher younger than him just twice.

“I try to replicate what I see at the big league level, as far as how guys go about their day and their work because I feel like there’s a pattern as to how the good ones go about it,” he said. “I feel like there’s no age on that.

“I haven’t thought about age much, to be honest with you. I’ve just learned from those older guys, and luckily, I’ve been in a couple positions where I’m around those guys and I’ve taken a lot from them. I’m super grateful for those experiences.”

Joining O’Hoppe in the roundtripper club Monday was Javelinas designated hitter Drew Lugbauer, who went to the opposite field against Miller in the third. The Braves prospect has hit .441 since arriving in the Fall League, displaying significant pop with five home runs.

Philadelphia’s imprint was firmly made on the mound in Peoria’s win. Right-hander James McArthur earned his first AFL victory after allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits in three innings, while southpaw Erik Miller (PHI 9) spun two scoreless frames behind him.