Mike Costanzo truly is perfect for the Phillies and they truly are perfect for him. Here is a guy who when he was born, left the hospital for his first trip home wearing a Phillies jacket. He watched the Phillies growing up and dreamed of playing for them as a big leaguer. He was in Cooperstown when Mike Schmidt and Richie Ashburn went into the Hall of Fame. Plus, he's a kid who isn't afraid to get dirty or meet fans up close and personal diving into the seats to make a play. He is the type of player that fans with cheesesteak goop dribbled down their shirts love to root for.
Oh, and he's pretty good, too.
In a somewhat ironic twist, Mike Costanzo won't get to come closer to home to play this summer - at least not to start. Instead of making the normal transition from Batavia to Lakewood, Costanzo is likely to jump over Lakewood and start the season at Clearwater. It's a big jump and not one that the Phillies often give young players the opportunity to make, but they feel Costanzo is qualified to make the transition. Plus, if there is any chance that he can be in Philadelphia by the end of next season, the Phillies want to do all they can to make that come true.
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Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 2nd round of the 2005 Draft out of Coastal Carolina University. Costanzo was actually the Phillies first pick in the draft since their first round pick was lost to the Yankees for signing Jon Lieber.
Batting and Power: Costanzo started slowly at Batavia last season and credits a lot of the struggles to putting too much pressure on himself. "I just put too much pressure on myself to succeed and the harder I tried, the worse it got for me." It likely didn't help that the Phillies started to tinker with his mechanics at the plate, either. Eventually though, it all clicked for Costanzo and he finished the season with good overall numbers that don't give much indication that he had ever struggled. Costanzo hit .331 (46-for-139) over August and September, pulling his average up from .218 to his season-ending level of .274 with the MuckDogs. Throughout the season though, Costanzo did struggle against left-handers, hitting just .170 off southpaws. Costanzo has definite homerun power and hit 7 of his 11 homeruns over August and September. His plate discipline isn't bad either; at Coastal Carolina in 2004, he walked 68 times to lead the nation.
Baserunning and Speed: Basically, Costanzo has average speed. He generally gets out of the box well and doesn't get himself into trouble on the basepaths, but he's not speedy enough to do much damage to the opposing team with his speed.
Defense: Don't just look at Costanzo's 21 errors last season and assume that he's weak defensively. Take into consideration that in college, he played a lot of first base and was Coastal Carolina's closer - yes, he can pitch, too - and moving back to third base was a bit of a challenge for Costanzo early in the year. He certainly got his rhythm back though and made just 6 of his 21 errors over August and September. The truth is that he's got good hands and is very agile - even if he's not the fastest player you'll see - and he has an above average arm. Wait and see what Costanzo's defensive numbers look like in 2006; I'm betting that they'll be much improved. He's also prone to diving for balls and throwing his body around to make plays defensively.
Projection: Making the jump from Batavia to Clearwater as the Phillies are planning on doing with Costanzo won't be easy and shouldn't be underestimated. It's a big jump, but Costanzo has the talent to make it work. Keep in mind too, that the Phillies would love it if he could put up big enough numbers to move to Reading at some point later in the season. That could have him on track for Scranton in 2007, with a major league audition later that season. Costanzo is a hard working and talented kid who fans are going to love watching play in Philadelphia.
Comparison: A lot has been made of the comparison between Costanzo and Scott Rolen. It's an accurate assessment and there is no reason to believe that Costanzo won't be a left-handed hitting version of Rolen when all is said and done. Of course, one big difference is that Costanzo is likely to consider Heaven to be Philadelphia and not St. Louis.