Tocci pumping up for pros

Posted: June 13, 2014

LAKEWOOD, N.J. - Carlos Tocci and his grandmother shared a love for baseball. She got him interested in the game starting when he was 4 years old. They would watch games together in Venezuela, where he grew up, and they also followed the top league in the world, the MLB.

Today, Tocci is a thin, lanky 18-year-old with the Lakewood BlueClaws. Phillies scouts and management are hoping his body fills out and his skills continue to progress.

"We just have to wait on him to become a young man," BlueClaws manager Greg Legg said. "After that, you are going to get the man. When we get the man strength and things like that, we are going to have the player we all thought we would have. We are just waiting. He is a pretty solid player for 18 years old."

Tocci, 6-2 and 160 pounds, has time to put some meat on his bones. He is working out every day before games to get stronger.

"I have been trying to gain a lot of weight, trying to never miss a day of working out because I know that I need to get stronger and get big," Tocci said, translated by teammate Jose Mayorga.

The Phillies signed Tocci when he was just 16, giving him a signing bonus of $759,000. It wasn't easy for Tocci at first.

"The first year was very rough for me because it was the first time I spent months without my family," Tocci admitted. "I didn't know it was gonna be that hard at first."

Tocci made the adjustment and advanced to Lakewood in 2013. He struggled at the plate, batting just .209 in 459 plate appearances. He is having a better year at the plate, due in part to his added muscle from hitting the weight room. He is hitting .233.

"In my first year, I would hit the ball hard and it was a ground ball to the shortstop or second baseman," Tocci said. "Now, when I hit the ball hard it gets through the infield. I am feeling stronger, and I am going to keep working at it and keep working hard."

"He is already hitting the ball harder than he did last year," Legg said. "He is already driving the ball better. The sound of the ball coming off his bat is better. It is just waiting for him to get stronger. We are just kind of buying time."

While his hitting is a concern for the organization moving forward, it is hard to look past the upside of his defense. He is outstanding in centerfield, making numerous highlight-reel catches on the run this year. Legg said Tocci's defense is "off the charts," crediting his baseball IQ. Mental mistakes aren't a big part of his game, to the delight of his coaching staff.

"He has made two baserunning mistakes this year, which is pretty good for an 18-year-old kid," Legg said. "They were both aggressive mistakes, so you live with that. Hitting-wise he hasn't made any mistakes. He has chased sliders and swung over high fastballs up and in, but even Derek Jeter does that once in a while."

Tocci is still young, and needs to grow both on and off the field. When he does, he could be one of the Phillies' top prospects. He has already cracked the top 10 on Baseball America's list of Phillies prospects for this year. It is anybody's guess how a prospect will turn out, but he has the tools to be a major leaguer down the road.

"I see him being in the big leagues somewhere," Legg said. "It is going to be up to him where. He has to define whether he is an everyday centerfielder or he is the best defensive player on the team or is he an offensive threat. I don't doubt him at all."

Tocci does not doubt himself either, saying he would love to play in the major leagues right now. He is not ready yet, but his development process is on its way.

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