He is 7-12 at the plate so far in spring training. He has 2 HR, 7 RBI, a .643 on-base percentage, and a 1.810 OPS. This is the best stat line thus far to come out of spring training for the 2017 Phillies. Who do these stats belong to? Maikel Franco? Nope. Odubel Herrera? Wrong again. Maybe someone else from the 2016 club is off to a hot start… Negative. These numbers belong to 27-year-old and 6-year minor leaguer Brock Stassi.
“The Beast Incarnate” Brock Stassi (bonus points if you understand my wrestling puns) is a left-handed hitting and throwing first baseman/outfielder who has been in the Phillies system since he was drafted in the 33rd round of the 2011 MLB draft. Coming out of the University of Nevada-Reno, where he had a .340 career batting average in 4 seasons at the school, Stassi wasn’t much of a popular prospect coming out of such a small school. He headed to the Phils as a player who wasn’t really thought of as a piece to invest in for their future. As evidenced by his age and how long he has been in the minors, he has always really been an afterthought, until now.
Stassi has spent time in Phillies big league camp for the last two seasons. Last spring, he hit .240 with 0 HR and 2 RBI in 25 at-bats while basically serving as an extra body in camp with no hopes of making the Phillies come Opening Day. This spring, though, things are a lot different.
In 2015, Stassi enjoyed his most productive season thus far in the minor leagues. He totaled 15 home runs and 90 RBI in 466 AB’s with Double-A’s Reading Fightin’ Phils while putting up a .300 batting average for the first time since college. This earned him a place in big league camp which, according to the stats previously mentioned, didn’t do much of anything to help his Major League dreams. He spent 2016 in Triple-A with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, where in 375 at-bats he hit for a .267 batting average with 12 home runs and 58 RBI. He lost a little in the average and RBI department, but considering he hit 12 home runs in 375 at-bats compared to 15 bombs in 466 AB’s the year before, his power was still there. Stassi found himself back in camp with the Phils this spring, and he has surely turned it all around thus far.
Stassi has been the breakout star of spring training for the Phillies so far. His 7 RBI are 2 more than Maikel Franco’s 5 RBI up to this point. Stassi has also showed some versatility, as he has seen time at first base, as well as left field. In his minor league career, he has played 478 games at first base, 36 in left field and 1 game in right field. Also, get this, he has pitched a total of 10.1 innings in the minors! Stassi pitched throughout his tenure at Nevada-Reno and has carried it over to the professional level, where every once in a while he is used in a pinch on the mound, including 4 innings last year with the Iron Pigs.
I’ll be perfectly honest. I had no idea that he had ever pitched before until, well, right now.
His combination of versatility and power has people talking in Clearwater. Pete Mackanin has been overheard a number of times, saying, “there is a lot to like about Stassi.” Player development employees for the Phils have labeled Stassi as a “grinder.”
The fact that Stassi is a little bit of a late bloomer isn’t scaring anybody. 27 isn’t all that old in baseball years. This isn’t an NFL running back who has been banging heads with people for 6 years already. This is a guy who seems to just be taking off and making himself into a nice little player. The Phillies might have caught lightning in a bottle here, and they are well aware of that.
Does this all mean Stassi will finally make it to the bigs? Well, it will be something to watch through the rest of this spring training. If we look at the potential Phillies bench, you’ve got to figure it will consist of Aaron Altherr as the 4th outfielder, Ryan Hanigan/Bryan Holaday/Andrew Knapp as the back-up catcher, and Andres Blanco as the utility infielder. This will likely leave 2 spots open. Players in competition for these spots include OF Tyler Goeddel, INF/OF Chris Coghlan, and OF Daniel Nava. Stassi now figures to be in this mix thanks to his hot start.
If I had to guess, I would say Goeddel has an edge over the others just because he spent all of last season with the Phillies and showed some promise as the season went along. They could realize, though, that with Altherr already around and a player like Coghlan who can play multiple positions in the infield and outfield, they might not need Goeddel. Still, his defense and speed are nice things to have off the bench. That ultimately leaves 3 pretty similar players in competition for the last spot, those being Coghlan, Nava, and Stassi. If it were up to me, I would pick Stassi and Coghlan for the last two spots. For the purpose of this writing, though, let’s put Goeddel and one of the latter in there. Stassi has the power and the ability to play first base and the corner outfield going for him, but Daniel Nava has the same thing. Plus, Nava is a switch-hitter, and he’s also got experience in the majors. Coghlan, a former Rookie of the Year, is coming off a World Series Championship with the Cubs, and serves as one of the most versatile players in the game, so it would be hard to keep him off this team as well. He’s also a left-handed bat, just like Brock.
These aforementioned factors could all lead to Stassi being on the outside looking in, but if he continues to smash the ball and lead the Phillies in a few offensive categories through this spring, Pete Mackanin and company will have a tough time keeping him in the minors any longer. It will be fun to see how much longer he can fly under the radar before he puts himself in a place where he has nothing else to prove. Don’t be surprised if you see Stassi in a Phillies uniform come April 3rd in Cincinnati.
Photo: Bryan Green (Via: Flickr)
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