Prior to the end of the minor league season on Monday, I spent some time with Double-A Reading hitting coach Rob Ducey about several of his players’ progress this season.
Ducey, who played in the big leagues with the Phillies, Blue Jays, Rangers, Mariners, Expos and Angels, joined the Phillies organization as a coach this year.
The former outfielder spoke about the Phillies’ collection of rising young outfielders including Aaron Altherr, Zach Collier, Kelly Dugan, Cam Perkins and Peter Lavin. He also offered insight on talented infielder Carlos Alonso. Read ahead for that full interview.
–Aaron Altherr has an exciting year with time spent at the big league level. What are your thoughts on Altherr’s season?
Well, he’s obviously in the development part of his career and is trying to iron some things out mechanically, mentally, things that young players go through while they’re trying to establish themselves as professional players. I see worlds of opportunity for him going forward. He’s got tremendous athleticism, he’s got a very good aptitude to work with and he’s really good to be around.
–Zach Collier didn’t have a great season, but got considerably hot in early August. He’s a guy that people had high expectations for, based on being an early round draft pick. What can you share with me about Zach’s progress?
Obviously, this being my first year here, I didn’t have an opportunity to see him prior to this year, but he’s come a long way with the understanding of what he needs to do to prepare to play the game and get ready and compete at this level and, hopefully, at a level higher.
-I’ve spoken with guys on the team and often times they’ll cite Carlos Alonso as a guy that’s an exemplary player who really works hard. It may be hard for you, as a coach, to judge or speak on a guy’s ceiling, but what do you think about Alonso’s future?
Carlos is a grinder. He goes out and plays the game the right way. He’s a true professional on and off the field. He goes at it the right way and it wouldn’t surprise me that he ends up playing in the big leagues for a long, long time because of the way he goes about it. You know, when you talk about tools, you don’t really need to talk about tools with him. He’s a baseball player and he knows how to play, he knows how to win, (has) tremendous influence as far as in the clubhouse and with his teammates. It’s been really fun to be with him this year, because of all of that.
-I spoke with (Reading manager) Dusty Wathan a couple weeks ago about Kelly Dugan‘s progress this year, and despite his injuries this year and the power numbers being down for him, Dusty asserted that Kelly was a better and smarter hitter than he was last year. Clearly, you weren’t around last year, but what progress have you seen from him from spring training to the time his season ended (with a late season foot injury)?
I think that he developed a bit more understanding of his swing and the angle and path of his bat coming through the hitting zone. He hit a lot of top spin balls and even balls, line drives he would hit, had over-spin and trying to correct that was- for me, the focus of working with him this year was trying to get his ball to have a truer flight and we accomplished that. He hit the ball the other way. He pulled the ball, with truer spin, so in his regard I think we had a very successful season.
-Cam Perkins performed great for you guys this year prior to moving up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where his numbers took a dip. Obviously, he deserved to make that jump, but do you think the lack of production there can be discouraging for him?
Well, I think it’s discouraging for anyone, any athlete to go to another level and to feel like you have somewhat control of what’s going on then all of a sudden it spirals downward. You know, Triple-A is a different beast. It’s a different animal. Then you go, you know, obviously the major league level and it’s that much harder. You know, guys know how to pitch. They add and subtract. They find a weakness and they exploit it. And he’s got tremendous hand-eye coordination. He’s got a really good frame. He’s gonna hit for some power and, but he was able to put the bat on the ball while he was here and he reminded me of a young Dale Murphy and I just think that he was very, very good hitting ability.
-Lastly, are there any other players that came through this club this season that made a big impression as having a bright future?
Peter Lavin has had a really, really good year for us and he started in Clearwater. He’s a guy, again, that wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up on a big league roster as a fourth outfielder. He can run, hit, throw. He’s a left-handed hitter. He’s got a little bit of power. He goes about it the right way and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he ended up with some big league time.