DUNEDIN, Fla.—Oh, the problems of youth.
Still having trouble melting away some of the pounds you picked up over the Christmas holidays? Phillies outfielder Carlos Tocci has no such problems.
Tocci played almost the entire 2013 season at low Class A Lakewood as a 17-year-old. Scouts and managers liked his swing and loved his outfield defense. But soon after they mentioned his defense, scouts would almost always point out that Tocci was simply too skinny and not strong enough to put any fear in a pitcher. Even when he squared balls up, too, often nothing good happened.
Tocci hit .209/.261/.249 last year for Lakewood. He didn’t hit a triple or home run all season. Much of the time, he couldn’t sting the ball enough to get it through the infield.
So Tocci’s offseason gameplan was pretty simple. He took plenty of swings in the cage and did some running but the most important elements of Tocci’s to-do list were: eat well, eat often and work to gain strength.
Tocci says he’s added eight pounds this offseason. That’s a pretty significant gain, but it still leaves him as one of the skinniest players on the field.
So don’t expect to see Tocci among home run leaders or anything like that in his likely return to the South Atlantic League. But the Phillies do believe he’ll be able to take advantage of his increased strength to turn soft lines and grounders into balls that make it to the outfield.
“He’s a little bit bigger. In intersquads, you’ve been hearing more noise off the bat. He’s driving the ball better,” said Greg Legg, Tocci’s manager last year at Lakewood. “That’s what we’re looking for—driving the ball through the infield or over the infielder’s heads.”
Tocci is still far from where the Phillies hope he’ll end up physically. As an 18-year-old, he’ll still be one of the youngest players in the Sally League this year. But while he’s trying to catch up to the league physically, he’s more advanced defensively in center field.
“You obviously want guys to hit .300 but overall he did so many little things well,” Legg said. “He’s a glider out there defensively. He makes the right decisions. He throws to the right base every time. I think I can count one time he threw to the wrong base. For a young player in the Sally League, that’s awesome. It means you have an understanding for the game.”
Tocci knows what he needs to do. Now he just has to show that he can do it. A lot of that depends on him carrying his newfound weight and strength through the long seaso