On Friday, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan took time to chat with Phillies Nation’s Jay Floyd about an array of topics out of minor league camp. Jordan, who is entering his fifth season in his role, spoke about recently reassigned prospects, top names and what to expect from them, some injuries and much more. Read ahead for the full interview.
-I noticed that Carlos Tocci is playing with group 2, the team that will become the Double-A Fightins. It’s common for players to play up a level during spring. Is there anyone that might take a notable jump to open the regular season?
Well, I mean it’s too early to read anything too much into the work groups. I mean, normally, you know, this spring training’s no different than any other. You’ve got guys playing up a level. As we start getting guys back from big league camp you have guys start getting pushed. Really it won’t be till that last week till you’ll see guys on the roster where they’re going to be (to open the season). So, it’s good. Tocci’s one example. We wanted him in group 2. We wanted him facing that level of pitching. But, it’s not really till the last seven to 10 days that it really starts to look like (the rosters) are what they’re going to be facing. We’ve got A-ball guys playing in group 2. We’ve got A-ball guys pitching in group 2. So, we’ll see.
-Last year’s big international signing Jhailyn Ortiz has seen some action this spring. What type of year is expected out of him?
Well, I think the most important thing for me is he’s here and he’s going to get to play in games. He doesn’t have a lot of game experience. He has a lot to learn. He’s got some really good physical ability, but he’s got a lot to learn like any sophomore or junior in high school in the United States would, which is where his age is. He hasn’t played in near as many games as kids coming from the United States would have, at the same age. What I’m expecting and what I hope happens for him is that he stays healthy and just gets to play in games from the end of spring training, all the way till August.
-Tocci was an international signing that was playing at full season ball with Lakewood when he was 17 years old. Is there any chance we see Ortiz in Lakewood this year?
I wouldn’t count on it.
-I know Brandon Leibrandt is missing time with an injury. What is his situation and are there any other injuries that are new in camp?
Well, he’s just recovering from a shoulder injury and he’s rehabbing and I think our expectation, if everything goes in a straight line, is we’re hoping he can go probably around the middle of May. But he’s doing good. He’s had no relapses. It’s just a slow process to get him up to the point that we can get him on the mound, but right now he’s right on track.
-Is there anyone else that’s missing time with anything new?
Mark Leiter (Jr.) is in the same situation. Actually, him and Brandon are on the same schedule as far as our expected date of return. But, really no. Knock on wood, we’ve been pretty healthy and the guys that are rehabbing are doing well. So, right now, everything is pretty good.
Looks excellent. He just looks great. I mean, he’s ahead of these guys. He’s already throwing up and down. I think right now with his progression, he’s been going 20-pitch ‘pen, sit for five or 10 minutes, then go again. That’s what we call an “up and down”. So, he’s progressing to get back into game action and he’s closer. He looks terrific. He absolutely looks terrific!
–Jimmy Cordero missed some time and should be back in action by now. Thoughts on where he is?
Well he’s scheduled to throw today in big league camp. But, he had a slow start to camp because he had something going on. But he’s back throwing and he’s healthy. We just have to get him ready to go.
-One of the news stories out of camp this week was Skylar Hunter’s drug suspension. When that kind of thing happens, is it considered internally like the player is letting the team down?
I’m not going to comment.
-That’s fine. So, moving forward, some of the bigger prospect names got to spend some time in big league camp. J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson. When those guys get their two or three weeks competing with and against the big leaguers, what type of lasting impact do you think that has for them as they move forward?
I’ll tell you this, and I heard this from the two guys that got sent out this morning, Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, I thought that– we ask them, “What did you learn? What did you get out of it?” We ask them all the same questions and, um, I think what I heard this morning was spot on. They got to see guys that have been up there a little while. How they handle themselves, how they deal with failure, how failure doesn’t bother them near as much as it does minor league guys…I think they get to measure themselves against guys who are in the big leagues and honestly for me, that’s the best and biggest benefit because they– usually, when they leave, they have a good idea of how they stack up and what they need to work on. And (they feel), “You know what? I’m going to be able to pull this off!” So, I think as a group, what I’ve seen, and we know these players better than our major league staff because they’ve been in our minor league system, they come back a little more mature (and) a little more focused, because in their minds they have a better idea of what they need to do and they’re ready to go to work. They’re ready to play in the big leagues. They have fun over there. They get paid good. (laughs) You know, so that’s what they get out of it. Especially their first go at it.
–Elvis Araujo was a guy that started last year in the minors and climbed his way up, surprising a lot of people, having a really good season for the big league team. Is there anyone you see as possibly being this year’s Elvis and impacting the big league bullpen?
Well, you know I think that as far as guys that are over here right now, I really, I mean it’s not really an identical situation, but I think Colton Murray has had a really good showing over there. I think his command has been better. He looks like he belongs. I really like what I’m seeing from Tom Windle. He had a rough year last year, but he’s a totally different guy in our camp right now. He’s very confident and he looks good. I think Edubray Ramos got a lot out of being over the (in big league camp), although I think he’s a guy that probably pressed a little bit too much, ’cause he’s never been a guy in the minor leagues that walked people, so he had to fight that a little bit, but he looks terrific. But, we have some guys that need to just come down here and go to work and hopefully be throwing good when they have a need.
-You mentioned Windle there and I talked to him probably around August last year, after he transitioned to the bullpen and was really enjoying some success for a good stretch. He seemed to be holding onto hopes of returning to a starting role. Is he permanently in the bullpen and permanently a two-pitch guy now?
Right now our plan is for him to stay in the bullpen.
-A name you didn’t mention there that could make a step toward the big leagues for the Phils is Nick Pivetta. What can you share about him?
Well, Nick looks terrific. He’s probably two weeks into our camp and he’s been as impressive as anyone. He looks a little more under control. He’s been commanding the baseball much more than what we saw in August. So, I really like what I’m seeing from Nick. I’m looking forward to getting him built up to five innings. But he really has been impressive so far in camp.
–Andrew Pullin was a guy who underwent a positional switch last year, moving from infield to outfield. Some areas at certain levels are crowded. Is there anyone else taking on a positional switch this spring?
Not really. I think, off the top of my head, no one jumps out.
-I wanted to ask about Alberto Tirado. I saw a report that he was moving out of the ‘pen and into a starting role, possibly with Clearwater. Is that the case and can you talk about him a bit?
Alberto, you know he looks good. His last outing was really good. Right now, we’re not building him up to start. Right now, he’ll be a multiple inning guy out of the ‘pen. We may have scheduled days where he’s going to pitch where he might go two and three innings, because he does need multiple innings, but he looks fine. He’s having a good camp.
-I mentioned crowding in certain areas a moment ago. One of those areas might be starting pitching from Class A up to Double-A with Elniery Garcia, Austin Davis, Matt Imhof, Victor Arano, Ricardo Pinto and so many more names. What are your thoughts on the depth at those levels?
We have a lot to figure out, Jay. I mean we’ve got some numbers, which is good. We’ve got some quality in the guys, but it’s a wide open competition right now for the Lakewood, the Clearwater and Reading rotations. We’ve got a lot of good guys with some real ability competing for those spots!
-There are the big top prospect exhibitions coming up north this year with one out in Reading, as Baseballtown celebrates it’s 50th year with the Phillies. Is the organization as excited as the fans are for a showcase of rising talent like this?
Absolutely! We haven’t identified exactly what roster’s going, but we do know for a fact that we’re sending some of our really, really talented minor league guys to participate in these two exhibition games. We’re very excited about it. I think it was a neat idea, a good concept. And again, hopefully the people in that area will take advantage of the fact that these players are going to be on the same field with our big league club and, you know, it should be two really fun nights.
-Joe, thanks for all your time and I hope to see you when everyone comes north at the exhibition games to close out spring.
I’ll be up there!