Justin De Fratus would have rather spent 2007 with the Williamsport Crosscutters. But the 20-year-old righty starter admitted he needed time in the Gulf Coast League.
“I think it was a maturity thing,” said De Fratus, an 11th-round selection from Ventura Junior College in the 2007 draft. “Just as far as understanding the game, understanding the way players are supposed to go about it.”
It’s the path most players his age travel. And after allowing an unearned run in six innings Friday, it appears to have paid off.
But from the beginning, Spencer Arroyo had a little something extra. Which is why the 31st-round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies already has the eye of manager Dusty Wathan and pitching coach Bill Bliss.
“I looked at Bill and said, ‘how old is he?’” Wathan said. “He said, ‘19.’ I said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it.’”
Arroyo threw three shutout innings in his pro debut Wednesday, allowing two hits and no walks in what was eventually a 6-3 loss at Mahoning Valley. But what impressed Wathan and Bliss more was his demeanor.
“His maturity and mound presence was outstanding,” Bliss said. “I didn’t know what to expect. And the way he handled himself there, I really don’t have any concerns, if he does well or does poorly.”
Arroyo has some frame of reference from his father Rudy, who pitched nine games as a lefty for the St. Louis Cardinals, and his brother Jack, a utility player who made it to triple-A in the Seattle Mariners’ organization.
“I have been around pro ball my whole life,” Arroyo said. “I just prepare for the game like it’s another game. I don’t think about, ‘Oh, it’s my first start in pro ball’.”
Said Wathan, who spent his childhood watching his dad John catch for the Kansas City Royals: “You know the lifestyle already, you know what to expect, a little bit. I’m sure it helps a lot, and I’m sure he can lean on some people and ask them questions.”
Being one of two left-handers on the pitching staff probably helped him make the roster. But scouts always felt he could make the jump, said Phillies farm director Steve Noworyta.
Which begs the question, how did he slip so low in the draft?
“That’s a good question,” Noworyta said. “It’s a credit to the scouts to find out when they think they can put him in there. I didn’t see him throw, but what I heard sounded pretty impressive.”
If the next 30 innings are as good as the first three, the Cutters will be glad to keep him.
“He was hitting every spot,” said Cutters catcher Travis D’Arnaud, the Phillies’ 2007 supplemental round pick, who spent last season with De Fratus in the GCL. “He had a good warm-up, he had a good focus when he was coming into the game. He has a different mindset compared to normal rookies.
“If I came up here, I don’t think I would’ve been ready.”