Across all levels of organized baseball, it would likely be impossible to find a hotter player than Reading first baseman Art Charles right now.
The lefty hitting slugger wrapped up a six-game stretch on Sunday during which he went 14-for-23 (.609 avg) with five doubles, five home runs and nine RBI.
Currently, the 24-yeear-old Charles leads the Double-A Eastern League in average (.400) and slugging percentage (.800), while also ranking second (tie) in on-base percentage (.442).
Charles has gained more at bats lately with his recent success, as he had been splitting time in the lineup with teammate Brock Stassi, who has a league-leading 23 RBI. Time on the bench wasn’t discouraging, though, as it made the California native value the chances he was getting more.
“It’s been a little tough, but I get my playing time,” Charles said last week at Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium. “I enjoy the time I get. I’ve been doing well. I’ve been putting the ball in play and I’ve been productive. It’s all about taking advantage of your opportunities when you get them, so I mean I’ve been going out there every day with a positive mindset and ready get my chance and when I play, I’m taking advantage of it.”
The six-foot-six 220-pounder was acquired by the Phillies in 2013 from Toronto for pitcher Michael Schwimer. Last season with Class A Advanced Clearwater, Charles posted a .227 average with 19 homers and 54 RBI in 127 games.
Looking for more experience, Charles spent time over this past off-season playing in Barranquilla, Colombia where he got some hitting lessons from an unlikely source. Having bonded closely with teammate Ozney Guillen, Charles took the opportunity to approach Ozney’s father, a three-time big league All-Star and former MLB manager.
“I spent time with Ozzie Guillen, I had the privilege to talk to him. He was a big time manager and with his son being out there and me being close with his son also allowed me to talk to him a bit more, so that was great,” Charles explained.
“He gave me some insight about hitting, to kind of tell me about hitting in general, to help me out with a few things.”
The advice from a man that spent more than two decades at the top level of the sport has certainly helped Charles, but so did the experience he gained while he was playing in South America.
“The competition was pretty good and I feel like they threw a lot of off-speed pitches as well, which was what I needed to see to make this jump up here, to get those pitches and kind of sit on those pitches and learn a little more. Just playing overall and getting more at bats was great,” stated Charles.
This season, Fightins coaches love the strides Charles has taken at the plate, while facing lefty opposition, against which he batted .169 with a .250 slugging percentage last year.
“The key for Art, I think, is to be able to have good at bats against left-handed pitching and he did that in Erie, he hit home run and had a couple doubles off some left-handers,” asserted Reading’s interim hitting coach Mickey Morandini.
Originally a 20th round draft selection by the Blue Jays in 2010, Charles has been looking to bust out among a well-stocked team in Reading and he’s definitely done that of late.
“When someone goes 9-for-13 in a series, it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the lineup,” said Morandini, citing the effort put forth by Charles over the weekend on the road against Erie.