6/7/22 : Spotlight Series - “The Long Islanders”
Written by Steve Potter
In between writing the minor league roundups, extended spring reports and weekly and monthly standouts I thought I’d intersperse a few player spotlights 😎 - perhaps some fellas you haven’t heard much about. Today’s spotlight is on five players from the Long Island, NY area that were all signed by the same scout, are acquainted friends and some of the most genuine folks you might ever meet. In addition I’ll add a sixth former player who was also on track to the top before an elbow injury forced him to retire.
Respectfully termed the “Long Islanders”.
Alex Agostino ( now Mid Atlantic/Northeast Regional Supervisor ) was the area scout credited with signing each player and Sal Agostinelli ( Director, International Scouting ) is a Long Island resident very familiar with the backgrounds of each. Both were influential in convincing the club to sign each young man.
C Logan O’Hoppe - Reading Phils - 22 years old - 2018 23rd round draft selection - Saint John the Baptist High School, West Islip, NY
Logan recently was added to Baseball America’s top 100 prospects listing for his stellar play as the primary catcher of the AA level Reading Phillies. He’s played himself into the well deserved spotlight. As a high school senior he was focused on playing collegiate ball the following season for East Carolina University, his dad’s alma mater, but chose instead the professional baseball life when drafted. He’s one of the most thoughtful young men we’ve met in the organization, has a tremendous family support system and is genuinely a good person. How can ya not root for this fella 🤷♂️.
I’ve written repeatedly about the strong statistics he’s put up over the past couple of seasons, his defensive prowess as a receiver and how he is a hugely popular and highly regarded teammate. It’s the personality that’s equally golden, Logan is one who always gives credit to where it’s due, he’s repeatedly mentioned how the mental skills coaches, particularly Hannah Huesman ( now with the Texas Rangers ) helped him to focus on positive energy and thoughts. He’s the only player we’ve ever had come over to us in spring training and apologize for not being able to chat as he was going from drill to drill, that’s remarkable in itself but is exemplary as to how he treats others. I’ve met his mom and dad on a couple occasions and the strength and unwavering love they have for their son and vice versa is immediately evident. As one who watches the system like it’s my religion I can testify ( see what I did there 😁) this young man will eventually play in the big leagues. He has all the tools to do very well.
RHP Ben Brown - Jersey Shore Blue Claws - 22 years old - 2017 33rd round draft selection - Ward Melville High School, East Setauket, NY
Ben was just awarded the Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Month Award for May as he excelled - 4 starts ( 18 1/3 IP ) in which he recorded a 0.98 ERA and 0.82 WHIP, struck out 30 batters and held opposing hitters to a .129 batting average. He had a 16 1/3 inning scoreless streak over the last three starts during which he struck out 27 batters and walked just three !
He’s got a competitive fire that is fun to watch, we’ve seen him pace on the sidelines and dugout in anticipation of getting out on the mound. Off the field he’s a true gentleman, one who is cognizant of others and welcoming. We’ve noticed over the years that when a new player arrives at the complex it’s often Ben who is the first one who embraces them into the fold. Everyone at the complex knows Ben, his warm personality encapsulates you. The young man is fluent in Spanish which enables him to communicate with many of his Hispanic teammates that aren’t as adept in English. We’ve met his mom and dad as well - it’s also evident how proud and supportive they are of their son.
The big fella ( 6’6” ) can pitch as well - we’ve seen the velocity grow over the years to where he’s now comfortable in the mid 90’s with his fastball. He gets after hitters, shows no fear and attacks. Ben had TJ surgery in 2019, this is his first season of continuous game action since. We often see him carrying his glove when he leaves the complex after training for the day, he loves the game and is attached and relentless to the pursuit of the ultimate goal of becoming a major leaguer - I think the glove is emblematic of the focus and drive to get there - wouldn’t bet against him !
C/1B Vito Friscia - Reading Phils - 25 years old - 2019 40th round draft selection - Hofstra University
It’s not often that a 40th round draft choice puts themselves in a position as a lineup regular at the upper rungs of the system but Vito isn’t your typical last round guy. He can flat out drive the baseball and has consistently been in the upper group of players in regards to exit velocity and bat speed. During his career Vito has also exemplified leadership, we remember watching him in his first season on the backfields how he played every game and pushed teammates to get thru the grind of daily noon games in the scorching Florida heat. It’s where we met his mom and dad as well, both very proud and supportive of their son.
Vito has added left field to his defensive repertoire this season in addition to playing first base and catcher. It’s the hit tool that will be his ticket to a continued climb so being versatile defensively is a plus. Over the past two seasons he’s been amongst the system leaders in on base percentage, home runs and walks - he makes the pitcher work and often puts himself in good hitting counts. Vito studied accounting ( had to plug that since that’s what I did for years 🤓 ) in school so analytics analysis is a piece of cake for my young friend ( I don’t know that to be true but continue to shamelessly plug accountancy ).
He’s a fella that when you watch him come to the plate there’s almost an expectancy that something good is gonna happen. Not your typical 40th round draft selection to say the least - we think he’s got a legit shot to make his way to the top rung.
LHP Nick Fanti - FCL Phillies - re-signed 5/24/22 - 25 years old - 2015 31st round draft selection - Hauppauge High School, Hauppauge, NY
Nick was a minor league free agent this offseason after spending seven years in the organization with the last three being sidelined by both shoulder and elbow ( TJ ) surgery and rehab work. Previous to the injuries he had shown that he was a very capable professional pitcher - in fact authored two no-hitters for the 2017 Lakewood Blue Claws when he posted a 2.54 ERA in 120 1/3 IP.
He’s a craftsman on the hill who rarely issues a free pass and has the mix and command to force light contact but also put away hitters on strikes when needed. Another young man who’s very well liked and received by teammates and folks he encounters - a favorite amongst the security and other staff members at the complex. Genuine personality that shines thru. Nick has worked himself back into competitive condition, when we talked with Mr. Agostinelli this spring we agreed that he’s a young man deserving of another chance to succeed, I admit I was very happy to hear he was re-signing and back in camp.
Initially starting in the FCL to build up innings, if all things go well the lefty could move up to higher rungs relatively quickly. We hope that the skills that were so evident before the injuries occured are even stronger now - if so then he will be one I’ll be writing about in future highlights.
LHP Corey Phelan - 60 Day IL - 19 years old - signed as an un-drafted amateur free agent 8/20/20 - Harborfields High School, Greenlawn, NY
By now I’m sure you’ve heard how Corey was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in April and is currently undergoing treatment in New York. He was awarded the April minor league pitcher of month award for his courage and preserverance as he undergoes treatment. I’ve texted with the young man on a few occasions to offer encouragement and it’s evident that he’s a fighter and maintains a positive outlook by his posts on Instagram.
We noted his composure when seeing him pitch in previous Fall Instructs, for such a young hurler he showed moxy, command and a mix that project well for his future as a hurler. In our opinion Corey will succeed in his medical battle and we’ll see him return to the backfields to continue his climb up baseball’s ladder. We had “Brito Strong” last season when Danny was felled by his medical issue and has battled back to the field - no doubts whatsoever that “Phelan Strong” can replicate the feat.
Strong families shine thru when needed - Corey has that going for him and an extended family unit as well that cares - l look forward to the day when I can report on his pitching endeavors once again. 👍⚾️💪
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article there’s a sixth young man in the Long Island connection that retired from professional baseball in November of 2020. LHP Kyle Young is now a full time student at Farmingdale State College pursuing a business management and economics degree. The now 24 year old was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2016 draft from Saint Dominic High School in Oyster Bay, NY. Another pleasant person with an outgoing personality and presence that quickly became a favorite at the Complex, we’re happy he’s pursuing his education and wish him great success.
That’s a wrap - thanks to Mr. Agostino and Mr. Agostinelli for finding these young men and convincing them to become Phillies. It allowed us to become somewhat acquainted with some very fine people, that’s emblematic of the phrase Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️ Good stuff 🤓