Jose Pujols Learns From A Trying 2017
Informing a player that he has been promoted is always sweet for a minor league manager. Telling outfielder Jose Pujols that he was headed to Double-A Reading in early August was extra special for Shawn Williams, who leads the Phillies' high A Clearwater affiliate.
Williams has managed Pujols for parts of five seasons, including 2017 when Pujols fell off the prospect map after hitting .194 with 150 strikeouts in 325 at-bats in the Florida State League.
A year like that would have derailed some players, but Pujols has shown maturity as both a person and a hitter in putting himself back on track with one of the best seasons in the organization.
The 22-year-old led the FSL in hitting (.301) and OPS (.887) and ranked third in homers (18) and RBIs (58) at the time of his promotion.
"It was awesome to see how excited he was,” Williams said. "Obviously, it’s not the ultimate goal, but it’s still quite an accomplishment for him. He knows how tough last year was. We we’re all excited for him.”
Williams, Clearwater hitting coach John Mizerock and minor league hitting coordinator Andy Tracy all spoke with Pujols following his tough 2017 season. They emphasized putting that season in the past, learning from it, and starting new.
"He’s dedicated himself to baseball more this season, made adjustments at the plate, on defense and in the weight room,” Tracy said.
"From Day 1 of spring training, he was on a mission,” Williams said. "He made some changes to his stance and his mindset. He's improved his selectivity and become a tougher out.
"He’s really becoming a hitter. He’s taking singles. He’s shown a good two-strike approach. He’s getting guys in from third. He’s becoming more hitterish and in turn producing good numbers. And he’s always had big power.”
At 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, the righthanded-hitting Pujols has lots of leverage in his swing. He hit two homers in his first three games at Double-A, one of which was a grand slam.
"He can drive it out from foul pole to foul pole,” Tracy said.
The Phillies signed Pujols for $540,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2012. They did not protect him from the Rule 5 draft last year, but this year will be a different story.