Phillies farm director Joe Jordan: Jhailyn Ortiz has highest ceiling in system


Phillies farm director Joe Jordan: Jhailyn Ortiz has highest ceiling in system

Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan, who admitted to feeling like a "proud papa" watching so many prospects graduate to the majors and succeed this season, joined Jim Salisbury's At The Yard podcast this week for the second time.

Back in April, Jordan offered thoughts on a host of Phillies prospects, many of whom made it up to the big leagues in 2017. 

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams exceeded expectations.

Jorge Alfaro has held his own offensively, hitting .304 in over 100 plate appearances.

J.P. Crawford has looked brilliant on defense and maintained a .350-ish on-base percentage.

Ben Lively has nine quality starts in 14 tries.

But there's one young Phillies prospect who Jordan thinks has a chance to be better than all of them: outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz.

"If you put every player in our system on a board and say every one of them gets to their potential, this guy would arguably be the best player," Jordan said. "He has that kind of ability."

Ortiz, 18, just wrapped up his second season in the Phillies' farm system. In 187 plate appearances with Short Season Class A Williamsport, Ortiz hit .302/.401/.560 with 15 doubles, eight homers and 30 RBIs.

It was an extremely impressive year from the rightfielder the Phillies signed out of the Dominican Republic for $4.2 million in 2015.

"This was a really big year from him," Jordan said. "His pitch recognition got better, he grew as a hitter. He's a hitter with power."

Notice Jordan used the phrase "hitter with power" rather than "power hitter." The same could be said of Hoskins, who has clearly shown he's got a ton of pop but doesn't approach each at-bat by looking to hit a home run. Hoskins recognizes pitches, works counts and makes adjustments. Ortiz is building that skill set as well.

"We have to keep him humble, keep him hungry," Jordan said. "He's a wonderful young man, smiling all the time, happy. The English language is coming pretty easy to him, he's working hard at that. We have a long way to go, but he's just been terrific."

Checking in on Moniak
Last year's first overall pick, Mickey Moniak, did not finish strong in his first full season in the minors. He hit just .236/.284/.341 in 509 plate appearances with 22 doubles, six triples, five homers and 44 RBIs.

Keep in mind, however, that Moniak played nearly 100 more games this season than ever before. That's a major reason the Phillies are preaching patience with his development.

"I think it's a big, big mistake to put too much emphasis on the final numbers that he posted," Jordan said. "I think if you look at his numbers through July 1, July 15, they were very respectable for a 19-year-old hitter out of last year's draft. The Sally League was a very challenging league for pitching this year, a lot of good pitching in the league."

Through July 1, Moniak was hitting .271 through exactly 300 plate appearances with 24 of the 33 extra-base hits he finished with. His final two months weren't pretty. But in describing the fatigue a first-year player can feel, Jordan brought up Scott Kingery, who was the Phillies' very-best minor-leaguer this season.

"I think that [Moniak] went through more adversity than he'd ever had and he wore down. His numbers at the end of the year are what they are, but Mickey's going to be a good player. ... He had his hands full this year.

"Go ask Scott Kingery how he felt last year at the end of the year (in 2016) and he'd say he felt pretty much how [Moniak] feels now. It's just something they have to go through."

For more from Jordan on many, many Phillies prospects, listen to the podcast above.

The Manny Machado-Bryce Harper saga drones on at Phillies camp

The Manny Machado-Bryce Harper saga drones on at Phillies camp

CLEARWATER, Fla. —  The saga involving Manny Machado and Bryce Harper is now 3½ months old.

At Phillies camp, it is becoming a little annoying, a little amusing, a little exhausting.

The players are tired of being asked about it.

Team officials simply shrug.

No one knows when it will end.

General manager Matt Klentak says he is comfortable that the team has put its best foot forward in the pitches it has made to both players.

“It takes two to tango,” he has said.

“We’re just half the equation,” club president Andy MacPhail has said.

The Phillies entertained Machado at Citizens Bank Park several days before Christmas. Team officials visited with Harper in Las Vegas in January.

The club went into the offseason favoring Machado because he would make a difference not only in the batting order, but also at third base, where he is an elite defender. That’s not to say the Phillies don’t like what Harper’s left-handed bat and box-office appeal would bring. After all these months of waiting, and with spring training underway, it’s now a jump ball between Machado and Harper: Whoever wants the Phillies’ money — come get it.

But when will it happen?

When will the Phillies' love be requited?

All sorts of rumors and could-be’s and should-be’s and might-be’s have floated around all weekend. Internet sleuths monitored private jets headed from Harper’s hometown of Las Vegas to the Clearwater-St. Petersburg airport.

Meanwhile, amid the ridiculousness, Phillies camp goes on. The first full-squad workout is Monday. 

There are lockers available.

Machado’s No. 13 is available.

Harper’s No. 34 is available.

Rhys Hoskins still thinks one of them is coming. But even he — one of the most good-natured guys around — is sick of being asked about it.

How 'bout you, Gabe Kapler?

“I know that the conversations (between the Phillies and both free agents) are happening, but I don’t ride the waves up and down,” the manager said. “I’d be thrilled if we had either of those guys in our camp. The roster right now is a much improved one and our guys are focused on that right now.”

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Jerad Eickhoff takes a healthy step in front of a supportive crowd

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Jerad Eickhoff takes a healthy step in front of a supportive crowd

CLEARWATER, Fla. – It says something about the way he is regarded that when Jerad Eickhoff threw off a bullpen mound for the first time this spring on Sunday morning, many of his mates from the Phillies pitching staff were there to watch and support him.

Eickhoff, a hard-working and earnest Midwesterner, was the Phillies’ best starting pitcher in 2016. He spent the last two seasons, however, trying to get to the bottom of an issue that caused discomfort in the fingers on his pitching hand.

He had surgery to address carpal tunnel syndrome and nerve compression in the fall and, after a brief setback in January, is back on track.

Sunday’s 20-pitch bullpen session meant a lot to the 28-year-old right-hander.

“I kind of had to collect myself, you know, take a deep breath, before I threw,” he said. “I tried to relax. To have (Zach) Eflin and (Nick) Pivetta and a couple of other guys there with me watching. They’ve been super-supportive. Everyone.”

Eickhoff mentioned pitching coach Chris Young and manager Gabe Kapler. They were both there for every pitch.

“Everyone has been so great to me and supportive through this whole process,” Eickhoff said. “That means the most to me. It was just 20 pitches, but for me it means a lot more than that.”

Eickhoff got through the session smoothly, with no issues. He even snapped off a couple overhand curveballs, one of his best pitches. He used that pitch to strike out eight batters in 3 1/3 innings on Sept. 28 in his only big-league start last season. 

“I’m really trying to focus on each day and each task and today was great,” he said.

On paper, the Phillies’ starting rotation is probably set with Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Pivetta, Eflin and Vince Velasquez.

However, things can change significantly in the six weeks that remain before opening day. Pitching is fragile and injuries can occur. (Look no further than Eickhoff last spring.) Trades can be made. The front office has monitored the market for free agent Dallas Keuchel all winter and might be poised to strike if a short-term deal presents itself.

Kapler said it was too early to consider whether Eickhoff would be in the hunt for a spot in the season-opening rotation.

“Even to address it is getting ahead of ourselves,” he said. “Out of respect for Jerad, just the fact that he got through the bullpen session feeling good with a big smile on his face is enough for now.”

Eickhoff agreed with that sentiment.

“For me, first and foremost, is being healthy and getting to the point where I’m throwing live BPs and I’m able to get in games and I’m completely symptom-free and it’s behind me and the trust is there and all of that,” he said. “Once that gets behind me and gets into play, I think it’ll shift to ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I know what I need to do,’ and I think the chips will fall where they will.”

Eickhoff does have a minor-league option if the Phillies want him to build up some healthy innings early in the season. But if he pitches like he did in 2016 – he led the staff with 197 1/3 innings and a 3.65 ERA – he will be in a factor in Philadelphia before long.

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