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Phillies Prospect Simon Muzziotti Flashes His Tools For Lakewood

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — The 2018 season has been a learning year for Simon Muzziotti. Some things have gone smoothly for the Phillies' No. 14 prospect. Others not so much.

What’s important is that the strides from Opening Day until now are visible, and the flashes of his talent keep showing up.

Muzziotti went 4-for-6 with a run, an RBI and a stolen base to lead low Class A Lakewood to an 11-3 victory over Greensboro (Marlins) on Thursday night. Muzziotti now has a hit in seven of his last nine games, and he has elevated his batting average back to the .260 mark after a two-week slump.

“It’s been a lot of growing for him,” Lakewood hitting coach Tyler Henson said. “There’s still a lot to do. Tonight, he was fortunate enough to get four hits, put together some good ABs, was bailed out by some good two-strike hitting, too. I’m pleased with where he’s going as long he keeps growing as a player.”

Muzziotti, 19, originally signed with the Red Sox for $300,000 in 2015 but was removed from the organization along with four other players by Major League Baseball as the penalty for Boston’s international signing violations. The Phillies signed him for $750,000 as a free agent in 2016, intrigued by his superb hand-eye coordination and plus speed.

A broken finger interrupted Muzziotti’s first full season this year and forced him to the disabled list for two months. He has largely slumped since his return at the end of June, but that precocious hand-eye coordination and speed kept popping up in spurts and were on full display Thursday.

Three of Muzziotti’s hits were infield singles he beat out, and the other was a solid line-drive single back up the middle. The lefthanded hitter hung in on tough same-side breaking balls from touted Marlins lefty Trevor Rogers, and he showed unique barrel control that allowed him to put the ball in play even when he got caught off-balance.

“His ability to do that is special, but I think it can be a crutch for him too,” Henson said. “When he starts to really control the strike zone and get balls he can drive, he’s going to become a really good hitter. When he struggles, he relies on just putting the ball in play. Once he realizes he is controlling the zone, he’s going to become a really good hitter.”

That evolution is still ongoing. Even after his four-hit night, Muzziotti’s season line with Lakewood stands at .260/.299/.332, and his thin, undeveloped physique has yielded just one home run.

But he’s been an efficient basestealer (18-for-22), has kept his strikeout rate low (13.3 percent), and he is back on the upswing after a downturn. For a teenager in his first full season, those are the kind of strides his organization wants to see.

“It’s gotten a lot better,” Henson said. “He’s seeing more pitches per at-bat and he’s buying in to what we’re having him do. The growth is there.”

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NEWS AND NOTES

Trevor Rogers, the Marlins’ No. 8 prospect and 2017 first-round pick, lasted four innings, gave up eight hits and five runs, walked two and struck out five. His fastball ranged from 89-95 mph and sat 92-93, and his changeup was a swing-and-miss pitch with late drop at 80-82 mph. Where Rogers ran into trouble was when his changeup came in too firm at 83-85 mph and stayed up over the plate, where it got hit hard. His 79-83 mph slider was also inconsistent, occasionally landing as a backdoor pitch to righthanded batters but mostly bouncing in the dirt when he tried to come inside with it. Rogers also noticeably lost his control and tempo when runners were on base, which led to a four-run fourth inning snowballing on him. He took the loss and dropped to 2-7, 5.82 on the year.

Jhailyn Ortiz, the Phillies' No. 7 prospect entering the season, went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. He froze twice on backdoor sliders from Rogers for strike three, swung through 89-90 mph fastballs multiple times and was either frozen or woefully off-balance on breaking balls. He struck out swinging in his final at-bat when Michael Mertz blew a 95 mph fastball by him. With the effort, Ortiz is now batting .226 with 142 strikeouts in 106 games.

Andrew Brown, the Phillies' 13th-round pick in 2016 out of Granite Hills (El Cajon, Calif.) HS, pitched seven innings, gave up four hits and one run (unearned), walked two and struck out four to pick up the win for Lakewood. The 20-year old righthander effectively mixed four pitches—an 87-91 mph fastball, a horizontal, low-80s slider, a 76-78 mph curveball with drop and a fading 78-82 mph changeup— worked quickly and hit his spots both inside and outside the strike zone. He improved to 6-3, 2.10 with Lakewood on the year.

Isael Soto, the Marlins' No. 24 prospect, went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs for Greensboro. The 21-year-old outfielder showed the most power of anyone on the field, hitting a sky-high fly ball that he just got under in the sixth inning and a towering drive way out to right field in the eighth for a two-run homer.

Osiris Johnson, the Marlins' second-round pick last June, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts for Greensboro. He struck out swinging on a breaking ball on the outer half all three times. Connor Scott, the Marlins' first-round pick, also went 0-for-4 but put the ball in play each time, including a flyout to the left-field wall in the first inning.

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