Spring Training is just around the corner, and while we all prepare for pitchers and catchers to report, fans are left with questions to ask about their respective teams. As a Phillies fan, I certainly know that I have my fair share of questions regarding the organization. With so many questions to ask, I had the idea of going to the experts. This past Friday, I had the great pleasure of having a phone interview with MLB.com’s Philadelphia Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki.
This interview was a great honor for me personally, as I’ve looked up to Zolecki since I first expressed interest in sports journalism. In what was about a 35 minute interview, I can honestly say that I have never talked to a nicer person than I did in my time with Todd. He not only took the time to answer my baseball related questions, but he was able to answer a few personal questions that I had for him.
Let’s take a look at what Todd had to say during our conversation.
In your opinion, who is the top prospect in baseball?
“I think you could take any of the top five prospects on MLBPipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list and call him the top prospect in baseball. I’ve seen these rankings for years. Nobody is ever 100 percent correct. Any organization would be thrilled to have any of them.”
Looking around at the rest of the NL East, are there any prospects that stand out to you?
“The Phillies have seven players in the top 100, but the Nationals have two in the top 11. The Braves have Dansby Swanson at number eight. Swanson is intriguing because he’s a number one pick that got traded in the same year he was drafted. It’ll be fun to see if he lives up to the hype and how that trade is looked at in the future.”
When looking through recent history, are there any comparisons you would make between the Phillies rebuild and another team? You look at the Nationals, and their stretch where they landed Strasburg and Harper. Then, guys like Jayson Werth and Max Scherzer signed. Could you make a comparison between the two teams?
“You could make a comparison between the two, although the Nationals hit the lottery with back-to-back number one picks. The Phillies will have the first pick this year, but I don’t think the choices are considered as “can’t miss” as Strasburg or Harper. That said, the Phillies understand you need to build from the ground up. I think if some of these prospects live up to the hype, you’ll see the Phillies hit the free agent market hard in a couple years and fill any holes they need.”
Do you believe J.P. Crawford has the tools to become an elite player in the majors?
“I think Crawford definitely can be elite. He can hit and he can play defense. If he can do in the majors what he’s doing in the minor leagues, particularly offensively, he could be a perennial All-Star. Defensively, he’s also highly regarded. That alone could keep him in the big leagues. But his bat is what will separate him. It’s a good sign that he’s walking almost as much as he’s striking out.”
Are you ready to deem Mark Appel a bust, or do you believe the trade to Philly will rejuvenate him?
“It’s too early to give up on Appel. He still has the same stuff that got him drafted number one a couple years ago. That alone makes him worth taking a shot on. We’ll see.”
Where do you believe Ryan Howard swings a bat in 2016?
“It looks like he’ll open the season in Philly, but I’m not sure how long. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised at anything that might happen. If he finishes the season in Philly, is released or traded, none of it would surprise me.”
If you don’t mind, I’d like to get a little more personal. What made you want to get into the field of journalism?
“I always had an interest in writing, even as a kid. It just seemed like a natural fit. I wasn’t one of those kids that changed what he wanted to be every year. I knew I always wanted to be in sports journalism one way or another.”
Do you have any tips for aspiring journalists, or sports journalists?
“I think a few things are key. First, write as much as you possibly can. It’s the only way you’ll improve and find your voice. Second, read as much as you possibly can. It’ll help you figure out what you like and don’t like. Third, get internships. People want to see you’ve worked in a professional environment. Fourth, be willing to move. There are a limited number of jobs and you have to be willing to go to them. Fifth, be persistent. There is a ton of rejection in this business. I still have a stack of rejection letters when I was applying to internships and my first job. It’s important to hang in there.”
Finally before I let you go, let me get a prediction. With the 1st pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, the Philadelphia Phillies select ______?
You can find Todd Zolecki via Twitter (@ToddZolecki), and you can read his column “The Zo Zone” over at zozone.mlblogs.com.