Two weeks ago, the team announced they have invited third baseman Maikel Franco, left-handed pitchers Jesse Biddle and Mario Hollands, right-handed pitcher Ken Giles, and catcher Sebastian Valle to big league spring training. It is an opportunity for the five young players to show what the can do against good talent.
But their presence at big league camp isn't just to show off what they can do in hopes of landing a spot on the team. While that'd be nice if they performed at a high level, their job is also to learn from the professionals and instructors.
It's happening elsewhere and teams are looking to reap the benefits. MLB.com's 13th overall prospect Gregory Polanco, an outfielder in the Pirates organization, played winter ball in the Domincan this off-season with former MLB players Fernando Tatis and Julio Lugo.
Polanco raved about the experience of playing with former MLB players and stated it was valuable to be able to spend time with them. Polanco told Baseball America, "I've learned way more in the Dominican this winter than I learned throughout all the years in the minors. The level of knowledge that all the veteran players have passed to me has been very valuable."
Franco and the rest of the crew are going to get a similar opportunity with the Phillies this spring and new to capitalize on the time spent with these players. The Phillies are constantly joked about "being old" and how they only sign players over 30 years old. Well, all of the guys have been around the block once or twice and have seen lots of things in the game.
It is the responsibility of the young guys to ask questions and take everything they have to offer.
"Having the chance to play with so many veterans, so many big leaguers, so many people with way more years in professional baseball than me, I've been able to absorb a lot of knowledge, especially when it comes to hitting," Polanco explained.
Each of the Phillies youngsters has more than one hole in their game. If they didn't, they'd already be on the team. Maikel Franco can learn a lot from someone like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. He can look to avoid the mistakes they made while doing the things they did that made them All-Stars.
Jesse Biddle and Mario Hollands should picking the brains of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and new spring training instructor Roy Halladay. Sebastian Valle needs to talk to Wil Nieves and Carlos Ruiz to find out what has made them so successful behind the plate and what he can do to his game to make him a productive Major Leaguer.
And finally Ken Giles should be joined at the hip with former Phillies closer and current spring training instructor Brad Lidge. Giles has a powerful fastball that regularly touches triple digits topping out at 103 last year. The righthander is working on a slider that is coming along nicely and sits at about 90 mph and looking to adopt a changeup.
Lidge is the perfect man to help Giles as Lidge was a two pitch closer with a fastball and one of the dirtiest sliders in all of baseball. If anyone can polish Giles' game, it should be Lidge.
Having an aging core full of veterans who might have their best days in the rear-view mirror has it's downsides - many of them. But with it comes the chance to teach the next core of Phillies hope to approach the game, be successful, and continue to work hard even when success comes along.
Hopefully these minor leaguers will seize the opportunity.
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