On deck? Phillies' Scott Kingery, Tom Eshelman receive honors in future home

On deck? Phillies' Scott Kingery, Tom Eshelman receive honors in future home

Sixteen players made their major-league debut with the Phillies this season. More players will come as the 2018 season unfolds.

Scott Kingery and Tom Eshelman will likely be among them.

Kingery and Eshelman were at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday to be honored as this year's winners of the Paul Owens Award for top position player and pitcher in the Phils' minor-league system.

Kingery, a 23-year-old second baseman from the Phoenix area, batted .304 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 26 homers and 29 stolen bases between Double A and Triple A.

Eshelman, a 23-year-old right-hander from the San Diego area, went 13-3 with a 2.40 ERA and an 0.97 WHIP in 23 starts between Double A and Triple A. In 150 innings, he struck out 102 and walked just 18.

Prior to being honored on the field before Tuesday night's game, both players stopped by the Phillies clubhouse. They were surrounded by many familiar faces, former teammates who'd made the jump from the minors to the majors this season. It affirmed for Kingery and Eshelman just how close they are to reaching their major-league dreams.

"Obviously it’s just one step away," Kingery said. "And every time you see one of your good friends you’ve played with for the whole season make that step up and start doing well, it gives you a little bit of confidence, knowing that, 'Hey, I was playing with these guys yesterday and now they’re making their big-league debuts,' so it does."

Eshelman had a front-row seat for Rhys Hoskins' heroics in Lehigh Valley. Hoskins was the International League MVP and Rookie of the Year this season, and has come to the majors and stroked 18 homers in a little more than a month.

"Rhys is kind of a hometown hero in my town," Eshelman said. "I’ve been getting a lot of text messages and direct messages on Instagram, like, ‘Hey, did you play with this guy?’ It was fun to watch him in Triple A and Double A last year, but to watch him up here doing what he’s doing, it’s incredible. All of these guys. They’re all kind of chipping in. It’s cool to see the success that they’ve had."

Kingery and Eshelman were both selected in the second round of the 2015 draft. Kingery, a University of Arizona product, went 48th overall to the Phillies. Eshelman, a strike-throwing machine out of Cal State Fullerton, was selected by the Houston Astros two picks ahead of Kingery.

The Phillies acquired Eshelman in general manager Matt Klentak's first big trade, the one that sent Ken Giles to the Houston Astros in December 2015. Eshelman came over to the Phils in a package that included headline pitchers Vince Velasquez and Mark Appel. Velasquez has struggled with injury and inconsistency in his two seasons in Philadelphia and Appel has had similar problems in the minors.

Eshelman does not possess eye-popping, radar-gun-wowing stuff, but he throws quality strikes and limits walks. Basically, he pitches.

"He's the best executor of pitches that we have in the system," director of player development Joe Jordan said. "He might not have the type of weapons that get you talked about a lot, but his stuff is plenty good to pitch in the major leagues. He's got four or five pitches and he can use them all. He's great at reading swings. He's smart enough to know when a hitter is sitting soft and elevate a fastball and it will look 94 when it might be 90-91."

Eshelman likely will be invited to big-league camp in February and could make the jump to the majors next season.

"This is an organization on the rise and I’m happy to be a part of it," he said.

Kingery played well enough this season that he could have earned a look in the majors this month, but the Phillies' front office is trying to retain as many young players as possible. Kingery does not need to be protected on the 40-man roster this winter and that will allow the Phillies to add a different prospect to the roster and protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Kingery will be in big-league camp next spring — he was a standout in big-league camp this spring — and could very well be ready for the majors on opening day. That, however, does not mean he will be there. The Phils could look to push his potential free agency back to after the 2024 season by keeping him in the minors for a few weeks at the start of next season. That might not make fans happy, but it makes baseball sense.

The Phils are expected to shop second baseman Cesar Hernandez this winter to clear a spot for Kingery. Ditto shortstop Freddy Galvis as it relates to J.P. Crawford.

"Personally I think I’ll try to block most of that out," Kingery said. "I know it’s probably going to be tough. I’ll probably see some of it. I’m just going to do what I can this offseason to give myself the best shot to come into spring training and have a good year."

Phillies growing analytically, but that's not all

AP Images

Phillies growing analytically, but that's not all

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies have become major participants in baseball’s analytics movement in recent years. Where once there were none, now there are 14 full-timers in the team’s research and development department, and three more full-timers who break down information and deliver it to players and on-field staff.

“But that is not, by any stretch, the only thing we’ve done,” club president Andy MacPhail said on Friday.

“In scouting, particularly in the world of international scouting, we’ve added 17 international scouts. Some of that was making part-time guys in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic full-time, but we also now have full-time scouts in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and Australia. So it’s not just getting on the cutting edge of analytics, it’s also about doing the traditional things well.”

The Phillies this winter hired Howie Norsetter, formerly the Minnesota Twins' international scouting coordinator, to cover Australia. Recently, Norsetter signed pitcher Kyle Glogoski, a 19-year-old right-hander from New Zealand. He is the first New Zealander signed by the Phillies. He will report to extended spring training in March.

The Phils have also signed an Australian lefty Josh Towls to a minor-league deal.

In a game where analytics continues to grow, “the eye test is obviously critically important or we wouldn’t have added the 17 international scouts,” MacPhail said.

Camp Kapler is a-rockin' with new vibes, new concepts

Camp Kapler is a-rockin' with new vibes, new concepts

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It's still baseball here at Camp Kap. Hit the ball, catch the ball, get the (bleeping) job done, as Lee Elia once said. But under Gabe Kapler, things are just a little bit different.
The sound of music fills the air.
And the men in blue have already arrived.
Just before Phillies pitchers and catchers began their third workout of the spring Friday morning, three umpires, in full gear, emerged from the locker room at Spectrum Field and made the walk over to the Carpenter Complex.
Grapefruit League games don't start for another week, but umpires were on hand to call balls and strikes during pitcher bullpen workouts.
It was a first.
But then again, there will be a lot of firsts under Kapler, the high-energy, uber-positive, 42-year-old new-schooler hired as Phillies skipper in October.
"We're trying to find value at the margins," Kapler said. "How can we find the last little detail that gets us a tiny bit better and gives us one step forward?"
Friday's detail was umpires and batter's boxes painted in the bullpen.
"We're trying to create more game-like conditions," Kapler said.
The manager praised Craig Driver, the team's new bullpen catcher/receiving coach, for suggesting how "powerful" it would be to have umpires provide feedback to catchers on their ability to frame and keep pitches in the strike zone. And, of course, it doesn't hurt the pitchers to get some early feedback.
"I didn't know if I would like it at first, but I did," Jerad Eickhoff said after the workout.
He paused.
"Even though the guy squeezed me a couple of times," he deadpanned.
Kapler has a democratic approach. Pitchers could have said no to having an umpire. None did.
"It was a first for me," Aaron Nola said. "You've got the umpire and the white lines. They told us about it this morning. Everybody liked it."
The umpires were local professionals hired by the club. They will be back again.
While pitchers went through their workouts, music played on the speakers at Carpenter Complex. It is not unusual to have music playing during a workout. It happens nightly during batting practice in every Major League stadium. The Phillies have played music during spring training workouts in other years. Kapler has brought it to a new level. Players have complete input in what they want to hear. Classic rock. Some country. Latin. Pop.

"I want them to be inspired," Kapler said. 

The music is always on in the clubhouse and even in the hallways around the clubhouse.
"It makes every space not boring," said Wes Helms, the former Phillie who is back with the club as a coach at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
Helms played with the Phillies in 2007. He spent four seasons in Atlanta, where Braves manager Bobby Cox famously would not allow music in the clubhouse. Too many different guys with too many different tastes equaled too many problems, Cox believed. He required music-loving players to wear headphones. Cox won 14 division titles, a World Series and is in the Hall of Fame so it's difficult to argue with his methods. 
"The game has changed, the personality of players has changed," Helms said. "As a staff, we have to relate to them on their level so we can get more out of them on the field. I like it. It livens up the atmosphere."
That's Kapler's plan. Create a vibe that makes everyone want to move. Create a work environment that is fun.
"Oh, gosh," Kapler said. "This is a really passionate topic for me. I believe strongly that mood is enhanced by music. One of the ways we decide on the music is we ask all our players: 'What do you like to listen to? What makes you feel strong during your workouts?' We ask them after the workouts. 'Hey, how was the music today? More volume? Less volume? Did you hear something that you liked?'

"When we're surrounded by music, we feel good. We smile more. When we smile more, we're more relaxed at the plate. There is science behind this. It's not a theory. It's been studied. Workplaces are happier and they're more inspired when music is playing."
Kapler's passion for music is a family thing. His dad, Michael, is a piano teacher and classical musician.
"I grew up with music in my house all the time," he said. "And, if you ever come into my office, there will be music playing. In my home, I have music playing all the time. Mostly, because it makes me feel strong.
"If you come into my office, you might hear some John Lee Hooker or, early in the morning, some Norah Jones as I drink coffee. It's eclectic."
Umpires in the bullpen. The sound of music all over the facility. If it helps the Phillies have one more efficient workout here at Camp Kap, then it's all worth it.