Phillies' surprising success uncovering undrafted free agents

Phillies' surprising success uncovering undrafted free agents

Ricky Bo!

No MLB franchise since the draft began in 1965 has signed more undrafted free agents who became All-Stars than the Phillies, according to this interesting piece at Baseball America.

The Phillies had five (tied with the Pirates and Mets), though only two of them reached the All-Star Game as Phillies.

One was Phils legend Larry Bowa, who made the NL All-Star teams in 1974, '75, '76, '78 and '79. Bowa played 12 of his 16 seasons with the Phillies and has been in uniform as a player, manager, coach or front office member for 35 years. A true Phillies lifer who is always around the team and, even at 74, still has the zest and ability to throw some BP.

Your one and only Phillies Pre/Postgame Live analyst Ricky Paul Bottalico is another. He was signed by the Phils as an amateur free agent in the summer of '91 and five years later, he pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game in his home ballpark, the Vet. 

Ricky Bo actually thought he was toward the end of his baseball career when he was signed out of a beer league.

"In a strange way, I was on my last legs playing baseball," Bottalico said. "I was a catcher, all-state catcher in high school, catcher in college. I didn't think about pitching until really, accidentally. One of our pitchers got hurt, we had a mid-week game, there weren't enough pitchers, I decided to pitch and struck out like 12 in a row. I didn't know how hard I threw. I had no idea. 

"I didn't care about scouts, I thought it was too late for me to even be scouted. I mean, I got signed out of a beer league. That's no joke. The Hartford Twilight League. I got signed out of a beer league. They asked, 'Do you want to sign a contract?' I was like ... yes, yes I do. Let's see what happens. I was 19 years old when I started pitching. I wasn't thinking about going pro at that point."

Do you see yet why I call this man the real-life Kenny Powers?

The other three players signed by the Phillies as undrafted free agents who went on to become All-Stars with other teams were right-hander Andy Ashby, infielder Toby Harrah and 1B/DH Andre Thornton.

Third baseman and Philly native Rick Schu did not make an All-Star team but he did compile nearly 1,000 plate appearances as a Phillie, hitting .250 over five seasons.

Ashby made the NL All-Star teams in 1998 and 1999, his final two full seasons with the Padres. That was more than a decade after the Phillies signed him as an amateur free agent. After those two All-Star seasons, Ashby was reacquired by the Phillies in November 1999 for Adam Eaton, Carlton Loewer and Steve Montgomery. 

Ashby lasted 16 starts with the Phillies, had a 5.68 ERA with an ugly strikeout-to-walk ratio and was traded to Atlanta for Bruce Chen and Jimmy Osting.

Thorton, as a Cleveland Indian, made the AL All-Star teams in 1982 and 1984. He had been signed by the Phillies in the summer of 1967 and was traded to Atlanta five years later with Joe Hoerner for pitchers Jim Nash and Gary Neibauer. Nash and Neibauer made a combined 18 appearances with the Phillies. Good trade.

Harrah made the AL All-Star teams in 1972, '75, '75 and 1982. The Phillies signed him in 1966 but lost him to the Washington Senators a year later in the minor-league draft.

This year, the draft (June 10) will be only five rounds. Many, many undrafted free agents this summer will go on to have long big-league careers.

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Phillies’ 2021 schedule includes a bucket list trip for baseball fans

Phillies’ 2021 schedule includes a bucket list trip for baseball fans

Three days after MLB’s 2020 schedule came out, the league released the 2021 schedule.

There’s so much uncertainty around baseball right now, with COVID-19 cases around the league, issues with testing, players opting out and many others wary of the virus. There will be no fans in the stands in 2020, but this look at the 2021 schedule provides some early excitement for if/when the coronavirus pandemic slows enough to allow fans back into stadiums.

The Phillies will open the 2021 season at home against the Braves on April 1. The first four series alternate between Braves and Mets, the first two at home and next two on the road.

The Phils’ earliest 2021 non-division road trip is to Colorado and St. Louis from April 23-29.

The month of May includes two long road trips — a nine-gamer through Atlanta, Washington and Toronto, and another nine-game trip to Miami, Tampa and Cincy the week of Memorial Day. The Phillies also have a home weekend series against the Red Sox.

The Phillies face a daunting slate in June, with 11 consecutive games against the Nationals, Braves, Yankees and Dodgers. That Dodgers series is the Phils’ first West Coast swing, with a series in San Francisco to follow.

The Phillies are home for July 4 (a Sunday) against the Padres and then close out the first half of 2021 on the road at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park in back-to-back series. That is a bucket list trip for many baseball fans.

From July 22 through Aug. 15, the Phils play 17 of 24 games at home, before their final West Coast trip to Arizona and San Diego.

September/October 2021 is not as heavy a dose of division matchups as usual for the final month. Only 13 of the Phillies’ 30 regular-season games after Sept. 1 are against NL East teams. Their final week is a trip to Atlanta and Miami.

The Phillies’ interleague schedule is entirely against the AL East, so these two divisions will become quite familiar over the next 15 months. The Phillies play the Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees and Red Sox on the road. They host the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Orioles.

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Who is that masked man at first base? It might be Rhys Hoskins

Who is that masked man at first base? It might be Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins is taking Major League Baseball’s health protocols very seriously.

Heck, he wore a mask during a zoom video session with reporters after Wednesday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park.

Hoskins did not wear a mask during the game.

But he may opt to wear one when the regular season starts on July 24.

Or even sooner.

Hoskins is a first baseman and that position isn’t exactly the best place to employ social distancing. You have to hold runners on base, take pickoff throws from the pitcher and make sweep tags on runners diving back to the base. Occasionally, a first baseman and base runner get physically tangled. You know, the throw from the pitcher is off-line. The first baseman lunges to stop it from going down the right-field line. Next thing you know, the first baseman is sprawled on top of the base runner.

That doesn’t exactly qualify as good social-distance practice.

So Hoskins may don a mask in the field one of these days.

“I thought that any time I was on the field, I would not be wearing a mask, but maybe it’s something I keep in my back pocket in a Ziploc baggie or something,” Hoskins said. “When somebody gets on first, I throw it on."

“It might make some more sense if I am wearing a mask in the field.”

Sitting outside the Phillies’ clubhouse, Hoskins tugged on the mask he was wearing during his zoom interview. 

“I’m not super bothered by it,” he said. “These are pretty comfortable. Hot for sure but the expense of being hot is worth not catching this thing and potentially ruining a season. It’s definitely something I’ll have to give thought to and ask the trainers and see what they say and go from there. I’m not opposed to it.”

Hoskins knows full well what a beast coronavirus can be. He and teammate Scott Kingery are longtime best buds. Kingery spoke of his battle with coronavirus earlier this week.

First base is baseball’s water cooler and the men who play the position are generally gregarious by nature. Hoskins is no exception. He likes to chat with base runners and share a laugh during breaks in the action.

That practice might be going away. Just like spitting.

Will Hoskins chat with base runners?

“I don't know if I will,” he said. “At least if I am, it's definitely not looking at him. I'll probably just continue to look at the pitcher.  

“But yeah, that's something that happens, I think, on every baseball field. Runner on first, there's usually some sort of exchange and off we go, we're talking about whatever we're talking about. Again, just a little adjustment that we'll have to make."

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