Before coming to San Antonio he was the hitting coach for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals.
We caught up with the coach before a recent game to talk about some of the prospects with the Missions this year.
Let’s talk about Nick Torres, who had a big year last year on two levels of A-ball but is struggling a little this year.
Phillip Wellman: Which is to be expected; that is why Double-A is the true testing ground and the biggest hurdle for most guys. The reason being is it is the first level where there is no limitation of age or years played in a league. Many are playing against guys that have had big league time. Up until this point you are always playing with guys of similar experience and age.
I think Nick still has the same type of strengths he had last year. He is a contact type of hitter that has the ability to drive the ball into the gaps. The reason he is struggling somewhat is he needs time and experience and I have seen that over and over again in my 19 years of managing at this level. Very few step right into Double-A and don’t miss a beat without adjustments that need to be made.
At this level you start seeing 2-0 changeups and 3-1 sliders which you don’t see in A-ball. I don’t think there is anything lacking, he just needs at-bats.
It’s why we play 140 games and ordinarily we hit prospects at the top of the order so they can get more at-bats.
How about Jose Rondon?
Phillip Wellman: Last year he played a little bit here but he didn’t really get that much experience because he got hurt early. I think there are some things in his game that as he matures need to be refined.
Defensive positioning, being able to execute offensively – bunting, hit-and-run and moving runners over because that is the type of hitter that he will be in the big leagues – and he has to bear down on his base running. If you are not good at one of those you will get exposed really quickly in the big leagues. So those are the things we are picking on him right now.
He’s making progress. He has swung the bat well this year and played solid defense. We want to get to the point with Jose where we don’t have to move him before the pitch. We want to get to the point by the end of the season where he will know where to go because he understands and is accountable for the pre-game scouting reports; and it will come because that is a big separator on who gets to play in the big leagues.
I have two other position players that I wanted to ask about. Nelson Ward, even though his numbers aren’t great right now, seems to be a much better player than his statistics are showing.
Phillip Wellman: He’s only made a few errors and he does have a nice short stroke. He plays a little too much in the air even though he has had a few home runs. He needs to focus on playing on a line because fly ball outs are not good for him. His game is about speed.
He is a very aggressive guy that needs to be more selective at the plate because he stirs up all kinds of crap when he gets on base. If a pitcher wants to walk you, let him walk you.
You don’t want a team of guys that are going up there looking for walks, but you don’t want players taking swings out of the zone either.
The last position player is Nick Schulz. I liked some of the at-bats he has been having.
Phillip Wellman: I describe his swing as short, but with a malicious intent to it. He’s not just up there trying to make contact. He is up there and trying to hit it hard. It’s different from a guy that is trying to hit a home run on every pitch, Nick just wants to hit the ball hard; which is what I like.
I think he has done fine in right field and we will have to get him some reps in left field too. Right now he is more of a corner guy. His biggest issue is lack of confidence and instincts on the bases; because he gets on a lot; so he gets exposed a lot.
Two of the starting pitchers I wanted to talk about. Kyle Lloyd, who had a big year in Fort Wayne in 2014, but was so-so in Lake Elsinore last year, has moved into the rotation and is doing well.
Phillip Wellman: He has an out pitch in his splitter and that should take him to the big leagues. Very good kid, very dedicated and he works his tail off. He looks athletic.
He is in the starter’s role out of necessity but I think his road to the big leagues will be out of the pen with his fastball/splitter combination. He has a great angle to his fastball, good downhill plane and the only time he gets in trouble is when he elevates it, but that is with everybody.
He needs to become more consistent with that and if he hangs his splitter.
What about Michael Kelly?
Phillip Wellman: What a great surprise. He stepped right in here and did the job. I try to not draw too many opinions about guys on their debut because they have the adrenalin pumping and so on; so I wait for a few days when you start seeing the real guy.
He’s still showing what he did opening day. He has been outstanding and I’m not sure anyone saw that coming, so it’s to his credit. You read about guys like this all the time that come out of nowhere . H
He’s probably our best starter right now.
A few of your relievers, Jason Jester looks like a classic reliever with a compact body and an athletic, repeatable delivery.
Phillip Wellman: The big thing with him is he pounds the zone with all of his pitches and he has no fear.
People will say this that he has to pounds the zone but if he catches too much of the plate he needs to be careful, then of course if they are too careful, then they need to come in more.
Can you help us with this?
Phillip Wellman: He’s not pounding it down the middle, but down and away and he is firm around 93 to 94. He also has a nasty slider that he can throw when he is behind in the count as well.
For me it is just a matter of time before the big league club calls him up and needs a short reliever.
Last two, you’re pair of sidewinders in Adam Cimber and Eric Yardley.
Phillip Wellman: Underarmers as I call them. I was a switch-hitter when I played so they didn’t bother me and if you ask both of them what is tough for them and they will both say left-handed hitters because they get a better view.
But they both have done a better job of pounding it into lefties and most of those types of pitchers won’t do it because they are afraid of missing out over the plate. If you don’t do that lefties can just sit and look over half of the plate.
I think they will both get ground balls in the big leagues because of the way their pitches work.