Phillies Trio Excited For Chance At 2020 Olympics
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There are plenty of future big leaguers this year in the Arizona Fall League. That’s not a surprise. The league is a clearinghouse for future All-Stars. Some, like 2018 AFL participant Pete Alonso, will make their impacts as soon as next season.
This year, though, there are eight players who have a chance to make an appearance on the big stage even before next season starts. Those are the players who were named on Thursday as part of the 28-man roster for the WSBC’s Premier12 Tournament, which serves as the qualifying round for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Three Phillies prospects made the cut—infielder Alec Bohm and righthanders Spencer Howard and Connor Seabold—and all found it difficult to keep it a secret from the time they found out two weeks ago until the rosters were made public.
"It was crazy. It was after my first outing out here, and I did well and apparently someone liked what they saw,” Seabold said. "So they called my farm director and then they called me the next day and everything went from there.
"I kind of had to take a step back, and I actually didn’t even know what to do at first. They gave me a second to think about it, but of course I was going to do it. It was crazy.”
Bohm, Howard, Seabold and the rest of the squad will stay in Arizona after the Fall League ends and immediately move to training camp before starting play on Nov. 2 in Jalisco, Mexico and continuing through Nov. 17.
"You want to tell everyone because it’s super exciting and I’ve never played baseball in a different country. It’s super exciting,” said Howard, who added that the gravity of the situation hadn’t yet sunk in. "I think it might, maybe, when we actually get to workouts with them after the Fall League. It’s kind of surreal right now.”
There are five more AFL players on the qualifying roster: outfielder Jo Adell (Angels), lefthanders Daniel Tillo (Royals) and Clayton Andrews (Brewers) and righthanders Tanner Houck (Red Sox) and Tyler Johnson (White Sox). Adell, Bohm and Howard each rank among Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects.
The roster was open to non-40-man players, which means there’s also a few players with big league experience.
Besides playing for national pride, the Premier12 also offers the minor leaguers on the roster a chance to play alongside big leaguers and gain as much wisdom as possible during their time together.
"Throwing to Erik Kratz is going to be pretty cool,” Seabold said, referring to the 39-year-old catcher who has spent parts of 10 seasons in the big leagues. "That’s a guy who’s been around forever. Just the fact that he’s on this team is like, whoa.”
All three of the Phillies' prospects were shocked to find out they’d made the cut. Nobody told them they were under consideration. There was no Premier12 watch list or anything of that sort. One day they got a phone call, and that was it.
"I had no clue,” Seabold said. "I didn’t even think I was in the ballpark.”
If things go well next month, he and Howard and Bohm will have a chance to chase a gold medal in Tokyo.
MLB Scout's Video View: Analyzing Phillies Prospect Spencer Howard
When healthy, Spencer Howard dazzled in 2019. Here's what our scout had to say about the improvements made by the Phillies' top prospect.
— Howard started Thursday's game for Scottsdale and was extremely impressive. The righthander, who has quickly elevated himself to the top spot among Phillies prospects, struck out six batters in 4.2 innings of two-run ball. He ran his fastball up to 98 mph and showed the potential for three devastating offspeed pitches. Both his curveball and slider showed sharp, late bite, and his changeup, while inconsistent, had trap-door action at its best.
— Rays outfield prospect Josh Lowe continues to impress with a diverse blend of skills. He made loud contact on a single early in the game, then unleashed a ferocious throw from right field to nail Cubs prospect Jared Young at second base. He also showed excellent instincts when he took second base on a slightly errant throw on the infield.
— Twins prospect Royce Lewis notched three hits against Mesa in the nightcap, including two bloopers and a hard line drive. He and teammate Victor Victor Mesa hit consecutive doubles to produce a Rafters run in the fourth inning. He also played second base, moving over from shortstop to accommodate Rays prospect Vidal Brujan.
— Yankees righthander Aaron McGarity threw an extremely intriguing two innings. The Virginia Tech product worked mainly with a lively fastball between 93-95 mph and garnered five swings and misses during the outing.
— Friday's AFL games will be seven innings to give the league time to prepare for Saturday's Fall Stars Game, which will be played at 5:08 local time at Salt River Fields.