When spring training began, Brock Stassi of the Philadelphia Phillies did not show up on any prospect lists. There wasn’t any reason for him to be on such lists. A non-roster invitee to spring training, Stassi was a 27 year old first baseman coming off a so-so season in Triple-A.
None of that deterred him: he was excellent this spring, hitting .333/.397/.702 with six homers in 57 at-bats, which was enough to get a spot on the 25-man roster for Opening Day.
OK, so who is this guy?
Stassi was drafted back in 2011, a 33rd round pick from the University of Nevada-Reno. Up until now, Brock’s main notoriety came from being related to his brother Max, a catcher in the Houston Astros system. First base prospects like Brock have to really stand out from the crowd, and while Brock had some good minor league seasons on his resume (notably a .300/.394/.470 Double-A season in 2015), he was well back on the depth chart.
The main issue was power: Brock’s career best was 15 homers and he hit just 12 last year as part of his .267/.369/.437 campaign in Triple-A. Teams want more power than that from a first baseman. On the other hand, Stassi showed other skills, including good strike zone judgment and contact hitting ability as well as impressive defense at first base. He posted a .999 fielding percentage in 2016 and showed enough mobility that he also saw time in the outfield without embarrassing himself.
He came into camp as an extra bat but quickly proved to be more than that. The plate discipline and defense have been there but the spring power surge was impossible to ignore. Is it real?
Key points to consider:
****Stassi is 27, the classic age for a breakout season.
****He made a swing adjustment late last year, enabling him to drive the ball more often.
****He always controlled the strike zone well.
****His makeup is considered excellent.
"He might play for nothing if you asked him," said Charlie Manuel, who has gotten to know Stassi since becoming one of the Phillies' roving minor league instructors. "I'm serious. I mean, I know he wants to make a living and eat. But really, he's that kind of guy. When I think of makeup . . . He's off the chart in makeup."
Spring success does not automatically equal MLB success. The projection systems see him as a .240-.250 hitter with a sub-.400 SLG, inadequate for a first baseman. Will they prove correct, or will the swing changes enable him to show more power? I don’t know, but Stassi has earned this chance and you have to root for him.