Phillies

Jimmy Rollins quickly outgrew Phillies' internal draft report

Jimmy Rollins quickly outgrew Phillies' internal draft report

The Phillies' internal draft report on Jimmy Rollins surfaced last week and it provides a fun look back at the very best player in the 1996 draft.

Once upon a time, Bob Poole, the area scout monitoring him, had to fudge Rollins' height to ensure the Phillies remained interested.

"I'd heard stories about cross-checkers from other teams. I won't mention the organization," Poole told Jim Salisbury in 2007

"One of them who came to see Jimmy walked out and said, 'Hell, he's just a little kid.' I wanted to make sure we'd get a cross-checker to come out to see him, so I fudged a little on his height. As soon as they saw him play, his size didn't matter."

The Phillies fell for Rollins and made him the 46th overall pick in 1996. He ended up having, by far, the best career of any player in any round of that draft class. 

It's somewhat surprising then, that the highest future grade given to Rollins in a Phillies draft report in the spring of '96 was a 55 on the scouting scale from 20 to 80. Poole marked Rollins down as a future 55 for fielding ability, range, body control and aggressiveness. The lowest grades were 40 for raw power and power production and 45 for running speed.

Rollins outgrew almost all of these projections. He turned into an elite defensive shortstop and won four Gold Gloves. He was a premium baserunner from Day 1. Rollins led the NL with 46 stolen bases in his first full year and led the league in triples four times. Even when his speed slipped a bit, his instincts were still top-notch.

"Tool wise, it's all here, except consistent power," part of the draft report read.

The power did come. The season every Phillies fan will remember is 2007 when he hit .296 with 30 homers, 20 triples, 38 doubles and 41 steals to win NL MVP. But Rollins also had three other seasons with at least 20 home runs, four seasons with at least 40 doubles and five seasons with double-digit triples.

From a makeup standpoint, Rollins was already receiving high grades by the age of 17. He received a mark of "Excellent" in self-confidence, mental toughness, instincts and aggressiveness. Those four qualities remained staples of Rollins' career.

"Will be early pick by the club that will go for tools over size," Poole wrote in March of 1996. Going for tools doesn't always work, but in this case, it led the Phillies to the best shortstop in franchise history.

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What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

What must Scott Kingery do to make the next leap Phillies need?

Scott Kingery hit his first major-league home run two years ago today, a solo shot to left-center at Citizens Bank Park against Reds left-hander Cody Reed.

Kingery's first two weeks in the majors went well but his rookie season was a slog after that. He expanded the strike zone a ton, struck out more than you'd like and barely got on base when the hits weren't falling.

Kingery took a big step forward last season at age 25. He missed a month between April 19 and May 19 with a hamstring injury but hit .347 from opening day through June 1. 

In the month of June, he was an extra-base hit machine with nine doubles, a triple and seven home runs in 114 plate appearances.

August was another productive month for Kingery. He hit .287 with 13 extra-base hits and an .825 OPS. 

All told, it was a solid second season from Kingery. His .788 OPS was exactly the league average, and his extra-base hit total increased from 33 to 57 in just 16 additional plate appearances. When you factor in the strong defense he has played at six different positions, the value is easy to see.

Kingery has started games at second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield spots. No major-leaguer since 1958 has amassed as many plate appearances in his first two seasons (984) while playing all those positions. That's not just a random fact — it illustrates the rarity of a player being not just a super-utility player but a super-utility starter, and how doubly rare it is for a player to begin his career in that role. 

In 2020, whenever the season begins, Kingery will likely be at second base for the majority of the season. Things can change quickly, though. If Jean Segura suffers an injury, Kingery could shift to third base. If Didi Gregorius gets hurt, Kingery or Segura would slide over to short. If there are injuries in center field, Kingery would likely be the next man up after Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley.

Kingery's versatility is a good thing, not a bad thing, though it probably cost him some offensive effectiveness over his first two seasons. Kingery remarked this offseason that by preparing for so many different positions, there have been many nights in his first two big-league seasons that he felt spent by game time.

His biggest issue at the plate is his constant expansion of the strike zone. Kingery knows it. It's a goal of his to be better at laying off of pitches he has no chance of making good contact with.

Through two seasons, Kingery's strikeout-to-walk ratio is ugly. He's whiffed 273 times and taken 58 walks. No Phillie has struck out that many times in his first two seasons since Pat Burrell in 2001 — but Burrell also walked 75 more times than Kingery has.

Last season, 24% of the pitches Kingery saw were low and away off the plate. He swung at those low-and-away pitches nearly 30% of the time and hit just .127. Obviously, that is a zone a hitter would rather leave alone. 

Kingery's selectivity must improve for him to reach a higher offensive level. There are 118 players with as many plate appearances as him the last two seasons and Kingery ranks 108th in walks.

The Phillies are not relying on Kingery to be their offensive centerpiece or even their sixth-best hitter. However, they'd be so much stronger as a lineup if Kingery could maneuver his way closer to the top of the order and produce. If Kingery could provide consistency in the 2-hole, it would allow someone like J.T. Realmuto or Didi Gregorius to move into more of a run-producing role. And even if Kingery does stay in the 7-spot in the lineup for most of the season, he has a chance to lengthen the Phillies' lineup and turn it into one of the NL's best if he can build on his sophomore season.

Kingery had a .315 on-base percentage last season. The league average was .323. Had he reached base just 10 more times in his 500 plate appearances, he'd have been at .334, which is the same as Realmuto's OBP the last three seasons.

It's a realistic target for Kingery, who does not need to become the next Chase Utley to be valuable or to live up to the $24 million contract he signed before ever playing a major-league game.

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Phillies' Phil Gosselin on surreal reality of baseball shutdown

Phillies' Phil Gosselin on surreal reality of baseball shutdown

Until the last few days, Phil Gosselin wasn't having much trouble staying ready for the return of baseball, whenever that happens. He's been living in Nashville, Tennessee, where he's hooked up with a couple of other ballplayers, Adam Duvall of the Atlanta Braves and Jacob Stallings of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They'd been able to sneak into batting cages at some of the area schools until they started getting kicked out the other day. They found a new one tucked off down the right-field line at an out-of-the-way field on Tuesday and were able to take some hacks.

"We'll see how long it lasts," Gosselin said with a laugh.

A month ago, Gosselin was playing third base for the Phillies during a Grapefruit League game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Florida. Major League Baseball was about to suspend spring training as concern over the coronavirus began to grow. Gosselin got advance notice of the news as he tossed balls across the diamond in the middle of the fifth inning.

"The third base umpire told me, 'This is it, we're done after this,'" Gosselin said. "We still had a few innings to go so I knew I had to lock in and concentrate. But it was tough to do knowing it was the last game of spring training."

Gosselin recalled the surreal feel of the day, finishing the game, quickly showering then boarding the bus with teammates for the two-hour trip back to Clearwater.

"It was so weird," he said. "Some of the guys had already left and gone back on their own. The rest of us got on and talked for a while. Then it was silent the rest of the ride. It was like, 'Is this really happening? Is it as bad as they say?'

"At that point we knew it was a thing, but we didn't know it would turn into this."

• • •

Gosselin, 31, has kept up with the crisis through news reports and conversations with his mom and dad and sister and brother back in the West Chester area. Everyone is safe, thankfully.

He's also gained quite a bit of perspective through his girlfriend, Rachel Jennings, an emergency room doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

Gosselin is a Malvern Prep grad. Jennings is from Macungie, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Emmaus High School. They attended the University of Virginia together. Jennings graduated from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University last May and is a first-year resident at Vanderbilt Hospital.

"She's on the front line," Gosselin said. "It hasn't been too bad here, thank goodness, but it's still stressful. They take all the precautions, but it's still scary because you never know. You can take all the precautions available and still get it.

"She enjoys the work and loves helping people but it's definitely a little scarier in times like these."

Last week, the Tennessee state government began urging people to stay home. Gosselin said he's noticed more and more people wearing masks out in public. He is also taking precautions, doing his running outside far away from others. He and his baseball workout partners do their drills at a safe distance.

The baseball shutdown has left all players in a state of limbo, but some are in even more limbo than others. Bryce Harper, J.T Realmuto and Aaron Nola know where they'll be when baseball opens its doors again. They are established members of the Phillies' 25-man roster. Gosselin has spent his career battling for reserve roles on big-league teams. He played in 44 games with the Phillies, his sixth big-league club, last season and was in camp as a non-roster player on a minor-league deal when that umpire told him, "This is it," a month ago.

When baseball gets going again, Gosselin could ultimately end up with the Phillies' big club or the Triple A team in Lehigh Valley. His fate will be determined during the resumption of spring training. Players are definitely going to need a second spring training to ramp up and Gosselin is intent on being ready for that.

"I've had this discussion with some guys around league," Gosselin said. "You don't want to wear yourself out and do too much because you could be playing until November or December. But guys like me, we have to be ready the first day we go back, we have to be sharp and healthy and on the field or we have no shot to make it. We're really in the middle."

Veteran non-roster players are also caught in the middle financially as they don't benefit from the $170 million pot that MLB is divvying up among rostered players through May. For instance, Neil Walker, who is also with the Phillies as a non-roster player, does not benefit from that fund even though he's played 10 seasons in the majors. The Players Association last week recognized this issue and stepped in with stipends for players in these situations. A player with Walker's level of service time received $50,000. Gosselin, with three years of big-league time, received $25,000. In addition, all big-league teams are paying their minor leaguers $400 a week through May. Gosselin, Walker and other non-roster players qualify for that.

"The union is definitely taking care of us," Gosselin said. "It's really nice what they're doing. They wanted to help the whole time but legally there's only so much they can do because technically we're not part of the union right now because we're not on the 40-man roster. It's tough for a guy like Neil or Logan Forsythe (also with the Phillies.) They paid dues for a long time. It shows how strong the union is and how much they care about guys that they're willing to help us out. We're lucky because a lot of people don't have jobs. It definitely could be worse."

• • •

While Major League Baseball and empty stadiums have become the visible reality of a sport on hold, the shutdown runs much deeper. The health crisis has claimed high school and college seasons. It wasn't long ago that Gosselin was starring at Malvern Prep and Virginia. He empathizes with the kids who have lost something so precious — in whatever sport they play.

"I've played a few years in the big leagues but still some of my most vivid memories of baseball are the games I played in high school and college with my buddies," he said. "I can't imagine what it would be like missing my senior year at Malvern or my last year at Virginia. For some of these guys, it's the highest level they'll play at and the most fun they'll ever have in the game. It's really tough. I'm still close with Freddy Hilliard, the coach at Malvern, and he feels devastated for his kids."

Gosselin is two courses shy of an economics degree at Virginia. He wants to finish his degree and has given some thought to getting that going if the pause in baseball continues much longer. He one day would like to work in a baseball front office. But for now, he wants to keep playing. That's why he's running sprints on a hill near his apartment in Nashville, doing conditioning drills fetched off of YouTube and sneaking into batting cages to keep his eye.

It's all stirred a new appreciation for the game he loves and how good big leaguers have it, from the facilities to the coaching to everything else.

"My dad (Dave) must have thrown me 10,000 pitches in the batting cage at West Chester East so this brings back a lot of memories," Gosselin said. "Good memories."

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