1/24/22 : Under the Radar
Minor League Spring Camp will likely get underway shortly. My hopes are that Covid has turned on the downtrend enough that the complex can be opened again so that fans can watch. With the upcoming season in mind I thought I’d write a few words on some players who’s careers to date may not have garnered the public notice that others have but certainly have caught the attention of those who coach them and people like myself that follow the system intently. These players are very talented in their own right yet have encountered a few more obstacles than others be it injuries, lower signing bonuses or just exposure.
Ya never know where the next major leaguer will come from. Skill, determination, perseverance and taking advantage of opportunities are all keys to making the climb. I don’t discount anyone’s journey, just getting the chance to compete as a professional ball player is something that not many accomplish. Anyone who’s put on a jersey and has taken the field at a competitive level knows that when you do so the spirit of competition and adrenaline kicks in - that’s why I love this game and watch - there’s always the unexpected. I cringe when I hear “fans” downplay a player. Don’t count anyone out, I certainly will not.
Each player we will profile has played well when able or afforded the chance and deserve recognition so here it goes. I will make it a two part series highlighting thirteen players in total - here’s part one on the first six.
1B/C Vito Friscia - 25 years old - 2019 40th round draft selection - Hofstra University. Vito had a very solid 2021 campaign primarily with Jersey Shore ( .265 average, 14 doubles, 3 triples, 7 home runs and 40 RBIs ) posting a .378 on base percentage which was the second best mark in the minor league organization ( for those with at least 315 plate appearances ). He finished the year playing for the Italian National team in the European Championships. We noticed his leadership and field presence the first summer we saw him play on the backfields of the Complex in the then Gulf Coast League. He’s “Philly Tough” meaning he shows up each and every day expecting to perform even if being a little nicked up. Vito generates hard contact as a hitter, I believe he’s in the upper echelon in the system in that regard. Just gets after it, also noted as a great teammate. We think he’s in the mix to open the 2022 season as a regular in the Reading lineup.
RHP Tyler McKay - 24 years old - 2018 16th round draft selection - Howard JC, Howard JC, TX. Tyler began the year with Jersey Shore as a piggyback rotation member but went on the IL on June 12th with shoulder impingement syndrome. He returned in mid July and pitched well in nine games ( 32 2/3 IP - 3.30 ERA ) thru August including tossing six perfect innings on August 14th against Hudson Valley. He’s got a developing power arsenal, mid nineties fastball capabilities and a top notch curve ball that has downward movement. We’ve always liked his capabilities since we first saw him in bullpen sessions at the Complex. Tyler was one of the players who participated in the Clearwater Co-Op Program ( an arrangement with the Phillies and the city where players would come in early January and work out at the complex for half the day with the other half spent working within the Clearwater community ). This spring there’s another opportunity to move up a notch to Reading albeit another stint to gain innings at Jersey Shore wouldn’t be a bad start to the season either.
1B/3B DJ Stewart - 22 years old - 2017 39th round draft selection - Westminster Christian Academy, St. Louis, MO. DJ had a strong year during 2021 in regards to power numbers, playing time and run production. He appeared in 94 games with Clearwater and Jersey Shore compiling 358 AB’s and hit 13 doubles, 3 triples and 14 home runs. Drove in 63 runs and produced a .265/.327/.436 slash line including torrid month of May with Clearwater ( .353 in 68 AB’s ) which earned a promotion to Jersey Shore where he remained a lineup regular. Defensively can play 1B,3B and LF. He is a very strong young man who generates high velocity bat speed, can hit the ball a ton. Doesn’t strike out at a high rate, generally puts the ball in play. DJ was a late round signing but not one who was overlooked. He was intending to play collegiately but the Phillies afforded him the chance to turn pro and pursue a college degree later. We think he should be headed to AA level Reading as a lineup regular out of spring camp.
RHP Albertus Barber - 25 years old - signed 6/23/19 as an un-drafted free agent - Oklahoma Baptist University. No one will ever outwork this young man or have a greater desire to succeed. He underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2021 season but has worked diligently to return. Put up outstanding numbers in 2019 at the A level - 0.87 ERA in 20 2/3 IP with 23 K’s and 6 walks. A reliever with mid to upper 90’s range with both a four seam and sinker. Albertus had surgery in May of 2021 and has now progressed to the throwing stage of his rehab work. His work ethic, passion and physical fitness will help propel him to perhaps an earlier than normal return but caution needs to be a virtue as well. Once he’s ready we see High A/Double A as a 2022 start/projection, we truly believe he will reach his dream of pitching in the major leagues at some point. Energy to the nth degree ! Jim Salisbury did an article about him in December of 2020 - here’s the link - https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/phillies/driveline-baseball-phillies-prospect-albertus-barber
RHP Chase Antle -24 years old - signed 6/16/20 as an un-drafted free agent - Coastal Carolina. Has yet to pitch in a professional game - went directly into rehab work in recovery from TJ surgery. He was a high velocity reliever ( 97 -99 mph ) in college at both Bowling Green and Coastal Carolina. Chase has now reached the throwing stage of his rehab work and should see time on the mound at least by extended spring if not before. When he’s healthy is capable of moving up the ladder quickly. One to watch for, he spent the entire 2021 summer at the Complex and is ready to bust out, only so much hotel time, Chipotle and other Clearwater takeout a person can take. Coming back from injury is perhaps the most trying endeavor for a ball player - especially for a fella who’s yet to get his first rush from pro competition.
RHP Carlo Reyes - 23 years old - signed as an international free agent - 10/8/18 - Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. Carlo pitched successfully at three levels in 2021 ( Clearwater, Jersey Shore & Reading ) compiling 60 innings in 35 games primarily as a reliever. He posted a cumulative 2.40 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 82 K’s and just 23 walks. Featuring four pitches ( FB- sinker/four seamer, Curve & Changeup ) with the four seamer ranging 92-95 mph and sinker 90-93 mph. He gets great movement on each - primary off speed pitch is the curve. He was in Fall Instructs to continue refining his change up. Carlo was a starting pitcher in the DSL in 2019 - with a four pitch mix and the ability to throw quality strikes it wouldn’t be out of the realm of returning to the starters role - his last three appearances in September were all starts for Jersey Shore. Pitched well at Reading also - we believe he will return there to start the 2022 campaign, if it is as a reliever there’s a quicker path up the ladder.
Tomorrow we’ll conclude the series with profiles on seven more “Under the Radar” players.