Brock Stassi is becoming a fan favorite for the Phillies, and his path is similar to that of another former player to don the red pinstripes.
As fans of any sport, we live to root for the long-shot athlete. This goes double for Philadelphians where we go crazy for the player who looks adversity and the most formidable of odds in the face and simply won’t quit or even settle. Rocky Balboa, Vince Papale, the Taney Dragons to name a few.
Safe to say that we are all rooting the same for Brock Stassi. He’s by far the feel-good story of the Phillies 2017 Spring Training, but there are still a few more roadblocks to clear before he can feel good.
Today is the day the Phillies brass finalizes their Opening Day roster and I’d be surprised if Stassi doesn’t find his name on it after a torrid Spring Training at the plate where he slashed .313/.365/.688/1.053. The long road he’s traveled may finally hit the GPS at 1 Citizens Bank Way.
Drafted originally as a pitcher in the 44th round by the Cleveland Indians in 2010, Stassi was already head-long into a plan to play first base for his college team in Nevada. As such, signing with Cleveland was not an option, so Stassi was draft eligible again in 2011 when the Phillies came calling in the 33rd round, but also for his pitching arm. Regardless of position, these are not exactly draft rounds reserved for MLB hopefuls, more like bodies to bulk up minor league rosters.
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Turn the clock back to 1992 when former Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez was originally drafted by Seattle in the 36th round. After a roller coaster ride through the first six seasons toiling in Tacoma and a few other of the Mariners affiliate cities, Ibanez got big league chance in 1998 to step to plate just 103 times.
Although a terror in Tacoma, Ibanez couldn’t put it together in major league ballparks over the next two years, so Mariners GM Pat Gillick let him walk at the end of the 2000 season.
Ibanez struggled to find his swing, but never lacked for effort or working hard hours in the cages to perfect his craft. The Royals took a chance in 2001 where Ibanez found his major league swing slashing .280/.353/.495/.847 with 13 dingers, 11 doubles and five triples in just 279 AB’s.
"It was the Royals who resuscitated his career in 2001, after shuttling between the minors and majors for five seasons with the Seattle Mariners. The Royals gave him a shot, he became an everyday outfielder, and he flourished, averaging 21 homers and 97 RBI during the final two years of his three-year Royals’ stint."
Bob Nightengale , USA TODAY Sports
Ibanez would go on to average 22 home runs and 97 RBI from 2002 through 2008 with the Royals and a second tour with the Mariners, who were fortunate enough to capitalize on a do-over
Stassi has progressed much like Ibanez at somewhat of a snail’s pace in six minor league seasons. However, once that switch flips and the player begins to put it all together, it tends to present managers and general managers with tough decisions based on good problems to have on their plate. This is where the Phillies currently stand with Stassi, who is making it hard to ignore that he’s seeing the ball and not missing.
After nearly being cut in 2014, Stassi turned in a stellar 2015 campaign in double-A Reading which saw him win the League MVP after slashing .300/.394/.470/.863 including 32 doubles, 15 HR and 90 RBI. This earned Stassi a 2016 promotion to Lehigh Valley and after he held his own in AAA with the Iron Pigs, his performance in Winter Ball also served plenty of proof he was coming together.
It’s not like it’ll be difficult to find a home for Stassi as he is primed for a potential platoon at first base, especially if Tommy Joseph struggles against right-handed pitching. He can also serve as a power left-handed bat off the bench and to a lesser degree, a fifth outfielder.
Overall, I feel like his performance this Spring has been the icing on the cake the Phillies needed to taste and the timing of a rebuilding franchise is perfect for the club to take a chance on Stassi to begin the 2017 season.
Ironically enough, Pat Gillick will probably weigh in on Stassi’s status today and I can’t help but I wonder if he’ll remember the day he let Raul Ibanez walk to help make his case for Brock Stassi.