CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It's funny how things work out in baseball sometimes. While the Atlanta Braves were blazing their way to a World Series championship in the fall, they were also helping the development of a burgeoning Phillies catching prospect.
Logan O'Hoppe played well at three levels of the minors last season, finished at Triple A, then reported to the Arizona Fall League to put a wrap on it all.
Just 21 at the time, O'Hoppe was set to be the second catcher on the Peoria club. Braves prospect Shea Langeliers was designated as Atlanta's "priority" player, a status that guaranteed he'd get the majority of the club's work behind the plate. Shortstop Bryson Stott was the Phillies' priority player and he played regularly at that position.
O'Hoppe was slated to pick up catching reps where he could behind Langeliers. He would get some at-bats as the designated hitter. There was also some talk about him taking a few ground balls at first base.
But once the league got going, Langeliers was not there.
The Braves had placed him on their postseason taxi squad.
"We were thinking he'd be there in 10 days, but the Braves kept winning and he never arrived," said Mike Calitri, a member of the Phillies' big-league coaching staff who also worked on the Peoria staff in the AFL.
"I lucked out," O'Hoppe said.
While Langeliers enjoyed the Braves' postseason ride, O'Hoppe became Peoria's No. 1 catcher.
"It was a great opportunity for him and to his credit, he took the bull by the horns and made the most of it," Calitri said. "He was exceptional."
When organization prospect rankings started popping up in various publications and websites in recent weeks, O'Hoppe had ascended to as high as No. 6 on the Phillies' list in several of them.
He hit .270 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and a .789 OPS in 104 games in the Phillies' system last season then batted .299 with eight doubles, three homers, 17 RBIs and a .960 OPS in 22 games in Arizona. Defensively, he threw out 27 percent of would-be base-stealers during the minor-league season and 27 percent in Arizona.
"The AFL taught me to feel more comfortable playing in the game," O'Hoppe said after a workout at the Phillies' minor-league minicamp one recent day. "Everyone knows that in the AFL, you usually run into dude after dude out there. You face some pretty good competition. So facing those guys and having a little success was huge as part of my development because now I know I can do it at that level and it's something I'm looking to build on going forward."
O'Hoppe has had a long semi-affiliation with the Phillies. He hails from Long Island, as does Sal Agostinelli, the Phillies' international scouting boss. Agostinelli runs yearly trips to the Dominican Republic for high school prospects on Long Island. O'Hoppe, who played at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip, made three of those trips.
Prior to the 2018 draft, some teams backed off O'Hoppe because he had a strong commitment to East Carolina University, his dad's alma mater. Armed with good reports from Agostinelli and other area scouts, the Phillies took a chance and selected O'Hoppe in the 23rd round.
"I was set on school," he said. "Then I heard my name called and a switch flipped in my head.
"East Carolina was my dream school at the time but when my name was called, I realized that playing professionally was an even bigger dream."
The Phillies gave O'Hoppe a $215,000 bonus, by far the highest in that round, and he signed.
"I'm happy with the decision," he said. "I wouldn't trade what I've been through the last three or four years for the world."
At 6-2, 213 pounds, and with a chiseled jaw, O'Hoppe has physical presence at a position where that's a plus.
He also exudes leadership and maturity at a position where having those qualities is a plus.
Former Toronto Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders, who worked on the Phillies player development staff from 2015 through 2021, is high on O'Hoppe and Rafael Marchan, another Phillies catching prospect who has spent some time in the majors.
"Logan is very inquisitive," Borders said. "He has a nice blend of intellect and aggression, a real desire to learn. He's on his way to being a very good commander of the game, which is what you want your catcher to be. He's got good throwing ability and I think there's more to come. I see him as a long-term big-league catcher."
O'Hoppe spent the bulk of last season at High A Jersey Shore. It's too early to tell where he'll be to start the 2020 season, but Double A Reading seems like a good bet. And if it's chilly in Berks County -- no problem.
"This guy is a typical Northeast grinder," said Calitri, who played high school ball in Massachusetts before moving on to Clemson and pro ball stints in the Cincinnati and Boston organizations. "You have to make the most of your opportunities when you come from the Northeast. You have to figure out how to be successful today because it could snow tomorrow."
O'Hoppe made the most of his opportunity in the AFL, where he drew 21 walks and struck out just 15 times in 100 plate appearances. He played in the league's All-Star game and was named winner of the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award.
Not bad for a guy who was supposed to be his team's No. 2 catcher.
"A lot of coaches, players and even umpires couldn't believe he was just 21," Calitri said. "The umpires were very impressed with his maturity."
With his big smile and affable personality, O'Hoppe, who turned 22 earlier this month, is adept at building relationships. That's crucial for a catcher and his role on the team within the team -- the pitcher/catcher brotherhood.
"I think that's one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, about my job," O'Hoppe said. "I try to take pride in that and go about it the right way."
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