It has been a memorable three years in the Oakland A's organization for 2012 28th-round pick Phil Pohl, who can say he has played at five of the six levels of the A’s farm system. The only squad the former Clemson standout hasn’t played for is Double-A Midland.
After spending a week in April with Low-A Beloit, which was expected to be his 2014 home, the catcher was summoned to Triple-A Sacramento where he spelled the injured Stephen Vogt. Although he would play in just eight games over his extended stay in the Pacific Coast League, Pohl took advantage of what he considered an apprenticeship program.
"Getting the chance to talk with Stephen Vogt when he was injured on the bench was great," Pohl said. "We talked about his approach, daily routine and how he goes after it each day. Just the way he would call a game. We talk about pitch counts, calling and situational things. I watched the pitching staff and how they go about their work.
"It was eye-opening. There’s a lot of stuff that I have never thought about, so it helped me as a baseball player. I was able to take away a lot, just watching how those guys go throughout their daily business, day in and day out. Those guys were always in there early, in the training room, weight room and getting stretched out."
"You also want your catcher to be a leader and someone who knows the game of baseball and what needs to happen on the field. He exudes all of that," - Lloyd Turner
If there was any professional who could handle the big jumps in the system it was Pohl, who signed with the A’s after his senior season at Clemson and had experience from playing with the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod League.
He handled a similar jump during his first full professional season. Pohl appeared in three games with the Snappers to begin 2013, but roster changes during the first week of the season sent him back to extended spring training. Then in May, he skipped over Beloit and was assigned to High-A Stockton. Pohl spent much of the season in a reserve role at Stockton and posted a slash line of .227/.290/.407 through 54 games.
"They’ve had me back and forth quite a bit in the past two or three seasons, so it’s definitely nothing new," Pohl said. "It’s always exciting when you’re going up for something like that, jumping a few levels. I have been able to take away a lot, just watching how those guys go throughout their daily business, day-in and day-out."
Although he has dropped a level this season, Pohl is the clear-cut starting catcher for Beloit and has gotten consistent at-bats for the first time in his professional career.
"I wasn’t getting a lot of frequent playing time last year, so playing day-in and day-out here has been a good experience for me," Pohl said. "I’m getting into a rhythm and knowing what it’s like to be in the lineup every day, both offensively and defensively."
Pohl more than held his own in limited playing time with Sacramento, slashing .276/.323/.414 in 29 at-bats. Four of his eight hits in the PCL went for extra bases. Pohl has posted similar numbers across 35 games with the Snappers, batting .263 and posting an OPS of 722.
The 23-year old has made quite an impression on Snappers' hitting coach Lloyd Turner.
"He went to college and matured playing in a competitive Division I environment,” Turner said. “He’s been able to bring that leadership that he had at Clemson as a catcher into professional baseball. In his career he’s been one of those guys who had to battle for at-bats, unfortunately, but now he’s at a point where he’s getting those opportunities. He’s doing his best to take advantage of everything he gets.
"You also want your catcher to be a leader and someone who knows the game of baseball and what needs to happen on the field. He exudes all of that. He’s come up with some big hits for us since he came back from Triple-A. He experienced what it was like to be there."