July 21, 2016
Only the most hardcore of baseball fans are keeping up with the daily box scores coming out of the Gulf Coast League, the rookie league where the youngest of international teenagers and the greenest of recent draft picks get their introductions to professional baseball each summer.
But with more than a few top picks from this year’s draft in the regular lineup for the Gulf Coast League Phillies, Mickey Moniak, Cole Stobbe, Josh Stephen and Kevin Gowdy were all in action on Thursday, there are more eyes following the Clearwater-based team than ever.
Despite all of that 2016 draft talent, the name that jumps out of box scores most regularly is the Dominican slugger the Phillies signed for $4 million a year ago at the start of the international signing period: Jhailyn Ortiz.
The 17-year-old Ortiz went 2-for-3 with a home run and two walks in the GCL Phillies 8-3 win over the GCL Pirates on Thursday. Ortiz is hitting .312 with a .404 OBP, four doubles, a triple, two stolen bases, and a league-best six home runs in 20 games.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak peaked in on the 6-3, 215-pound Ortiz – and the rest of the budding talent in Clearwater, too – three weeks ago.
“Jhailyn is a good-looking player,” Klentak said. “First of all, he’s a big kid. But he’s a sneaky good athlete, too. We watch the box scores and see the game reports and it seems like he slips in a stolen base or a hustle double fairly frequently, or makes a nice running catch. For a big kid, he’s a pretty good athlete. But I think the most notable thing about Jhailyn is the ball just makes a different sound coming off of his bat.”
When asked for a comp size-wise for Ortiz, who has been playing right field this summer, Klentak said David Ortiz. Coincidentally, Jhailyn Ortiz’s middle name is David. (But “Little Papi” hits from the right side, unlike the Red Sox designated hitter).
“I’ve talked forever about the importance of age and the level that a player is performing at — this kid is 17,” Klentak continued. “Even in the high school drafts that are in the GCL, most of them are 18. He’s a year younger than most there and putting up the numbers that’s he’s putting up, it’s pretty impressive. He’s a long way away. A lot can happen. But I can see why this franchise invested $4 million in him.”
Ortiz doesn’t turn 18 until November.
Moniak, who turned 18 a month before the Phillies selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB draft, is also faring pretty well in the GCL. He went 2-for-5 on Thursday and is hitting .324 with a .382 OBP, one home run, and three stolen bases in 17 games.
Klentak was asked if Moniak could travel north to continue his first pro summer with the short-season Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League.
“I think right now he’s in the perfect spot for him and he’s doing very well there,” Klentak said. “He’s acclimating well to professional baseball and playing every day. I’d be lying to you if I said that was in the immediate plans. Is it possible? Yeah. But if he stays the whole year in the GCL that’s fine. He’ll take a brief break and head to instructional league and he’ll get plenty of baseball this year.”
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