Few outside the Phillies organization took notice when Brock Stassi won the Double-A Eastern League MVP award in 2015. After all, he was a 26-year-old first baseman who the year before had hit .232 with just eight home runs in his first season at Reading.
Stassi didn't dwell on his 2014 performance, though. He did what he always does. He kept grinding.
“I always believed in myself . . . I always had confidence that I would work hard," Stassi told reporters, including BA correspondent Jim Salisbury, this spring after he learned he had made the Phillies' Opening Day roster. The 27-year-old will play first base and left field as a lefthanded-hitting complement to Tommy Joseph and Howie Kendrick.
“When I was in high school I wasn't recruited to go to college. I was a late draft pick." Stassi said. “So I've always had a lot of confidence. It was always my end goal (to make the majors) and I never doubted myself—ever."
A 33rd-round pick who signed for just $1,000 out of Nevada in 2011, Stassi returned to Reading in 2015 and hit .300/.394/.470 with 15 homers in 133 games. He led the EL with 90 RBIs and ranked second with 32 doubles and 77 walks. He even led league first basemen with a .995 fielding percentage.
Stassi's ability to work pitchers, hit for power and defend his position didn't go unnoticed by the Phillies. Nor did his work ethic.
“He's earned every bit of it," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said this spring. “He plays the game the right way."
“My dad always talked about the value of versatility," Brock said this spring.
That lesson paid off for Stassi, who might even be able to pitch in on the mound. He played both ways in college, and the Indians even drafted him as a lefthander in 2010.
Reporting by Jim Salisbury
More Opening Day Roster Surprises
• Trey Mancini, 1b, Orioles: Mancini batted just 15 times last season as a September callup, yet he cracked a Baltimore roster that already produces righthanded power galore.
• Jose Martinez, of, Cardinals: The well-traveled 28-year-old made the big club after revamping his swing and slugging .740 with 15 RBIs to lead the Cardinals this spring.
• Reds rotation: No pitching staff is greener than the Reds, who began the year with three pitchers with zero big league experience: reliever Barrett Astin and starters Rookie Davis, a righthander, and lefty Amir Garrett.
• Drew Robinson, util, Rangers: The Rangers list 24-year-old Robinson as a backup at every position but catcher, and he mashed lefthanders at Triple-A last season.
• Ben Taylor, rhp, Red Sox: The 2015 seventh-round reliever made the win-now Red Sox by striking out 19 in 13 innings and allowing a .212 average this spring.