This is the fourth in a series of interviews conducted by Steve Potter.
Minor League Spot Light : Jeff Singer
Twenty three year old left handed pitcher Jeff Singer has become a very pleasant surprise for the Phillies. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in October of 2015 by scout Rowland George. Singer played high school baseball at Holy Cross High School in Delran, New Jersey and grew up in the Philadelphia area as a lifelong Phillies fan. His family are also devout followers of the team in red pinstripes.
Singer earned all conference honors as a senior pitcher and three letters in baseball while at Holy Cross and helped lead them to a Patriot Division championship title. He enrolled at Gloucester County College (GCC) in 2012 going 11-1 and was honored as a second team All American selection. In 2013 he returned to GCC and posted a sparkling 0.68 ERA in 15 games ( 11 starts) striking out 104 batters in 93 innings, he pitched six shutouts! He was acknowledged as the top Junior College pitcher in the country by being named the National Player of the year and led the team to the 2013 NCJAA Division III national championship. Over 2 seasons at GCC he went 21-2 and struck out 178 batters.
In 2014 Jeff transferred to Division I Monmouth University and played there one season posting a 5-3 record in 8 starts, for his senior season of college ball in 2015 he transferred to Rutgers Camden University where he earned NJAC first team honors. He signed with the professional Independent Camden Riversharks in the Atlantic League that summer and appeared in 13 games, six as a starter. Singer was signed by the Phillies that fall and reported to minor league spring training camp in Clearwater the following spring.
Jeff pitched in 2016 extended spring training for the first part of his season and struck out 29 batters in 23 innings, he was then assigned to the Williamsport Crosscutters for short season play beginning in June. Singer excelled at Williamsport appearing in 4 games ( 6 2/3 IP) striking out nine batters while walking none and giving up no runs, he was quickly promoted to Lakewood. For the Blue Claws he continued to excel posting a 0.43 ERA in 21 IP with 27 k’s and just 6 walks. He was again promoted to Clearwater where he finished the season appearing in 10 games and striking out 10 batters in 12 2/3 IP. His overall first year affiliated pro ball numbers were 2-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 40 1/3 IP with 46 k’s and just 12 walks, he posted a WHIP of 0.89.
The Phillies chose him to be assigned to the Arizona Fall League to conclude the 2016 season which is an honor reserved for top organizational prospects, Jeff appeared in 10 games in Arizona and posted a 1.42 ERA in 12 2/3 IP with 10 strikeouts, his performance further enhanced his standing as a top prospect in the organization. Singer’s fastball sits in the mid 90’s and he can bring it at 99 on occasion, he also features a change up and curve but the express is his money pitch.
Following are a few questions I recently asked Jeff and his answers to each.
You seem to be a very diligent worker, do you feel you pitch with a chip on your shoulder to prove you belong ?
“You need to be a bulldog on the mound and that’s what I try to be every time I compete. I believe there is a chip on my shoulder, no one knew who I was and I was going up against top prospects at every level I played at. I tried to be the best pitcher I can be and give our organization a chance at winning.”
Who was your favorite Phillie growing up? Did you attend games regularly with your family?
“Randy Wolf was my favorite Philly. I loved the way he approached the game and how he handled himself on and off the field. I attended a countless number of Phillies games, along with watching one game in the Vet.”
Talk about the experience of signing with the Phillies from a local kid perspective, how thrilling was it?
“Getting signed was a dream come true for me, but the fact that it was my home town team made it feel surreal. Growing up watching the Phillies and now I am part of the Phillies family.”
I read the pitching coach with the River Sharks helped you with mechanics that increased the velocity on your fastball, what did he change and how has it helped?
“Ryan Kulick helped me a lot when I was with the Riversharks. We both were represented by the same agent and I looked at him as a mentor for the little time I was with them. He helped me mentally in a way that just made me more relaxed on the mound. He also got me to change my placement on the mound along with using my legs more.”
Your command is exceptional, were you always a strike thrower?
“Growing up I was always the slowest pitcher, so I needed to locate my pitches to compete. I feel I got the hardest part for being a pitcher out of the way when I was young and that was location. As soon as my velocity jumped everything just clicked.”
You were here in Clearwater early this spring, did the team invite you for extended work or was it something that you decided to do on your own?
“I got invited by the Phillies to do the co-op program. The co-op program is a new system the Phillies started in 2015. It gives guys like me a chance to come early and not have to worry about living or having a place to work out. The Phillies helped get us jobs for the city so we will be able to make money as we workout and throw down here. It’s really great and I was lucky to have this opportunity.”
Tell Phillie fans a bit about your demeanor, what type of competitor are you when you take the hill?
“I’m someone that will give everything I got for my team. I don’t have a problem picking up one of my teammates and I try to always be the one to have one of my teammates back. On the mound it’s me verses you and I intend to beat you every time.”
As a reliever how long does it take you to warm up?
“My arm stay loose throughout the game and I’ll be ready to go in after 20 pitches off the mound, sometimes less depending on weather.”
How was the Arizona Fall League (AFL) experience, for example playing on a club with players from other organizations?
“The AFL was an amazing experience, I got to play with a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. Playing and performing well at that level boosted my confidence and made me feel even more that I belong.”
Lefties who can bring the heat are always in demand, those that can do so with command are even more so. The Phillies have a potential bullpen star in young Mr. Singer, he’s definitely one to watch this summer to see how he progresses.