While the Phillies in Grapefruit League action may be playing small ball giving away outs to move runners into scoring position by bunting to try to score runs, I watched one of the most impressive displays of long ball in batting practice this morning at Carlton Field in the Phillies minor league camp. It was Dylan Cozens hitting batting practice pitches from a coach far and deep. One of the longest he hit appeared to ricochet up off the center field light pole to the right of the batter’s eye. Cozens also peppered the walking trail behind the right field fence with long balls. Yes, it was only coaches BP but it was my kind of baseball. Watching those long balls fly out far and deep made my day!
With 16 home runs at Lakewood and eight more in the Australian Baseball League the 20-year old Cozens hit the most home runs of any left-handed hitter last season in the Phillies system and was third overall trailing only the departed Marlon Byrd who hit 25 at the major league level and Maikel Franco who hit 28 homers combined at AAA, the Dominican Winter League’s regular season and playoffs and in the Caribbean Series.
I can’t wait until the day Cozens and Franco are in the Phillies everyday lineup together. To me these guys will form the core of the Phillies rebirth. The current Phillies roster has been somewhat boring and nonproductive offensively so far in spring training. The team has only hit two home runs in the first seven Grapefruit League games and none hit by anyone on the 40-man roster. Franco is supposed to start the season at AAA, Lehigh Valley, and Cozens probably will open with the Clearwater Threshers in the Florida State League. Franco will be in the majors at some point this year and Cozens looks to be the Phillies right fielder sometime in the 2017 season.
The pitchers in the minor league camp are all throwing bullpens to get ready for pitching live batting practice. They are building up arm strength for the upcoming opening of the minor league spring training games a week from tomorrow. Another young 20- year old, left-handed pitcher Elniery Garcia, told me his pitching coach Steve Schrenk was pleased with his bullpen work on Monday. Garcia was a standout in Fall instructs and Baseball Prospective had him listed as the tenth best Phillies prospect back in November. Garcia said he was throwing just his fastball and sinker but locating them for strikes in his bullpen session.
It is the young 20-year old guys like Dylan Cozens, putting on an over the top show of power hitting albeit in batting practice, and Elniery Garcia, locating his fastballs in his bullpen for his coach, that make going to the minor league camp each day so satisfying. Next up in the minor league camp will be live batting practice, then intra-squad games followed by AAA, AA high and low A games against the nearby Blue Jays, Yankees and Pirates before the minor league season opens the second week of April. But at Monday’s Phillies minor league camp two, 20-year old Phillies prospects allowed us to dream of what might be someday when they play in Citizens Bank Park.