What are the biggest differences between college ball and pro ball?
Certainly, the style of the game is different, especially because I came from the West Coast style of baseball played in the PAC-12. Hitters are not selling out trying to put the ball out of the park like you see in pro ball, thus college hitters made you work a little harder to get them out. As for myself, I believe the routines I’m able to create in pro ball benefit me drastically more than they did in college. Coming to the field every day knowing I can work on whatever I want for however long I want is massive, I simply did not have that availability at Stanford.
As I am sure you know, you got ranked 9th on the MLB pipeline’s top prospect list for the Phillies. What type of confidence does that bring you as a player and simply as a human being?
It’s obviously great to see that people see potential in you, but I care much more about what the Phillies believe in me and they have done a great job of making sure I know that they believe I can help them out in the future.
Do you feel as if your natural size and strength already gives you an edge to be a successful MLB bullpen guy (at minimum, hopefully, starter) one day?
My natural size and strength do give me inherent advantages over some pitchers, and it is nice to know that I have that on my side. What is most important though is the ability to harness all of the size and strength I have to help me improve my game as much as possible.
While working with other prospects around you, who do you also feel has a great shot at making the league one day? How much potential do you see? Who do you feel in the Phillies organization (coach or player) has impacted you the most?
I won’t say who I think is going to make it to the league, but I’ll mention a couple of players who impressed me. On the hitting side, Bryson Stott and Kendall Simmons impressed me during my time in Williamsport. Bryson is a complete player and a great person, and I have experience playing against him in college and he impressed me then just as much as he does now. He just has a knack for making plays and getting hits. Kendall Simmons made an amazing turnaround from when I got to Williamsport and when I left. He hits some of the hardest balls I’ve ever seen and has some of the rawest power out there. Once he started to take what was given to him at the plate it was pretty special. As far as pitching, Francisco Morales in Lakewood impressed me the most. Obviously, his raw stuff is off the charts, but his ability to stay in the zone and attack hitters impressed me, especially considering his young age.
You originally went undrafted because of your desire to stay committed to Stanford. Do you regret that at all? Do you think it helped you grow as a player?
I don’t regret going to Stanford for one minute. I believe it is the greatest decision I’ve ever made as it has set me up for the rest of my life and taught me things I could not have learned in minor league baseball at the age of 18-21. Going through school forces you to learn how to deal with the stress of juggling multiple things at one time and teaches you time management. I now understand that putting the time into something yields positive results. I’ve taken that understanding into my baseball career and now look at every day as a time to put the work in so when I’m out there on a mound, just like taking a test, I know I have prepared the best I can. And to top it all off I am graduating in January and will receive my degree, which is very special.
I’ve seen you draw a lot of comparisons to Josh Hader. Do you think you resemble his style of play? What MLB player would you compare yourself to the most?
To be honest I think the only thing that we have in common is being lefthanded and throwing a majority of fastballs and sliders. Opposed to him I try and mix my pitches more than he does, rather than just trying to blow fastballs by people. People always ask me if I compare myself to someone currently in the MLB and I always tell them I try to be the best version of myself.
What are your goals for next season? When do you hope to see the majors?
My goals for next season are to keep progressing like I did in my first season and keep doing what the Phillies’ coaching staffs believe is in my best interest. I think if I do that, I can take my game to the next level. I cannot set any time table as to when I want to make it to the big leagues by, but I look forward to helping the Phillies win a World Series in the future.
Being a rookie writer, having the honor to speak with Erik was so memorable. Aside from being genuine, his passion for the Phillies’ organization is unheard of. He will be able to impact a ballclub one day, and I wish him the best for his professional career and future.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP