Johnny Almaraz, the Phillies Amateur Scouting Director, said in an interview this past week that one of the criteria of his scouting crew is to find out about the players family and background. In his words “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”, he feels it is very important to not just focus on baseball ability, albeit obviously of primary importance, but to also try and determine the makeup of the young player as desire, will, composure and passion are big elements of succeeding in professional baseball.
With that theme I thought it might be worthwhile to review, as best I can, some of the backgrounds and support of some of the present Phillies minor leaguers. My focus on Phuture Phillies is the Reading Fighten’s, with that being the case here is a look at a player who has perhaps performed better than any other minor leaguer in the system thus far, Brock Stassi.
Stassi is a 25 year old first baseman who stands 6’2″ and weighs in at 190 pounds. He was the 33rd round selection of the Phillies in the 2011 draft. He is from Sacramento, California and attended Yuba City High School where he played the positions of pitcher and outfielder for his dad Jim Stassi who coached the high school team for 18 years winning 337 games in his career. Brock graduated from the University of Nevada-Reno and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 44th round of the 2010 draft but chose to complete his senior year and subsequently signed with the Phillies the following year. His father Jim also attended and played for the Wolfpack at the University of Nevada Reno and holds a few school records still.
Brock also pitched in college but focused primarily as an outfielder and led the team in hitting his senior season with a .360 average in 55 games and 203 at bats. He was not heavily recruited out of high school and being a third day draft pick is an underdog to make the show. As Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out in an article published on May 24th Stassi sees himself as someone who has always had to prove his doubters wrong. In a quote in that article Stassi said “I’ve always had to grind stuff out and open people’s eyes, I play with a chip on my shoulder. Being a 33d-rounder, I use that as motivation. I take pride in that.”
So what about family background? As mentioned his dad was a very successful high school coach and actually continues to coach as the hitting coach for the Marysville Gold Sox Baseball Club which is a summer collegiate wood bat team based in Marysville, CA. He played in the San Francisco Giants organization after being drafted in the 17th round of the 1982 draft and made it to the triple A level before ending his playing career in the Italian Pro League in Rimini, Italy. Additionally, Jim’s uncle Sam Stassi played minor league ball, and he is the great-nephew of big leaguer Myril Hoag. Some news stories claim his father Bob played in the minors as well as his grandfather Sam Sr.
Brock’s brother Max Stassi is a 24 year old catcher in the Houston Astro’s system playing at Triple A Fresno, he was a 2009 4th round draft pick of the Oakland A’s and was acquired via trade by the Astro’s.
So Brock definitely has a family with a baseball background and therefore a platform for reference to succeed. Now let’s take a look at his numbers, prior to this season he has had a relatively non-descript pro career. His first summer as a pro in 2011 was spent in Williamsport where he hit only .200 in 150 at bats while converting to a new position, first base. In 2012 he spent time at both Williamsport and Clearwater but the brunt of his time was at Lakewood where he posted a .247 average (.342 OBP with a .719 OPS) in 186 at bats. He only struck out 34 times against 28 walks while posting 15 extra base hits ( 9 doubles, 3 triples and 3 home runs).
Brock spent 2013 in Clearwater where the offensive game came around as he hit .295 ( .347 OBP and .746 OPS) in 288 at bats. Again he had minimal strike outs with 43 but only 23 walks with 19 extra base hits ( 11 doubles, 5 triples and 3 home runs).
In 2014 he struggled at Double A Reading hitting .232 ( .302 OBP and .629 OPS) in 440 at bats as the regular first baseman. He struck out 49 times with 39 walks and 23 extra base hits ( 12 doubles, 3 triples and 8 home runs) while driving in 44 runs. He actually got off to a decent start hitting .282 thru June but faltering to a .188 average in the second half of the season.
In an April, 2015 article written by Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle Stassi cited nutrition as a factor in his 2014 fall off, he spent the offseason living and training with his brother Max and adapted a diet which includes a regimented frequency of more meals as he said last season he lost weight and strength as the season went on.
So far so good this season for Brock as he comes into play today with an Eastern a League leading .339 average thru his first 180 at bats. He also leads the league in Runs Batted in with 43 and is second in OPS at .913 while being fourth in OBP at .402. He already has 19 extra base hits ( 13 doubles and 6 home runs).
I for one always pull for the underdog and the hard worker, Brock Stassi seems to fit the mold there and I hope he has continued success, as Mr. Almaraz stated this week the mental make up and family background of players goes a long ways in helping them to succeed in this sport where the majority of the time you fail, this season so far Brock Stassi has turned prior setbacks into success, sure would be nice to see that continue.