Joe Jordan sat in the first row of metal bleachers at Bowman Field even with first base. With his legs crossed and his body angled toward home plate, he answered a number of questions about the state of the Philadelphia Phillies' minor league system while keeping one eye on the Williamsport Crosscutters' batting practice.
In the midst of answering a question, he paused. His eyes and head quickly followed a baseball, that had just been hit, and watched it land some 40 feet beyond the right-field fence.
"It must be Larry," someone said.
"Yeah," Jordan said with a hearty chuckle, "Larry's hitting."
In his first year as the Phillies' director of player development, Jordan has reasons to be excited about the lower levels of the Phillies' system. And a number of those reasons for excitement reside right here in Williamsport.
The Crosscutters are in the midst of a 14-29 season. It would be the organization's first losing season since 2007, and that was a team that featured future big leaguers Domonic Brown, Freddy Galvis, Michael Taylor, Sergio Escalona, Joe Savery and Jake Diekman.
But there's some potential parallels to be drawn between that team and this year's version of the Crosscutters. Jordan came out and said there's future big leaguers on this Cutters team despite its tough season.
"They're very exciting," Jordan said. "Roman Quinn has the ability to impact the game every night because of his speed and is going to be a good, good, good major league player. (Larry Greene Jr.) is going to be a game-changer, I really believe that. He's going to be a guy that one swing a night will change a ballgame. If you break (Mitch Walding) down tools-wise, which is what I do as a scout, he's got the ability to hit, he's going to have power, he can throw, and he works his butt off defensively. And (Chris) Serritella, out of this draft, I've been really impressed with him.
"It's a good group, a very exciting group, and there's going to be some major league players on this team."
Jordan came to the Phillies during the offseason after seven years with the Baltimore Orioles organization. During his time with Baltimore, he had scouted most of the Phillies' top prospects here in Williamsport. So even before coming to spring training with the Phillies, he had an idea of where players like Quinn, Greene and Walding were in their development.
He's seen tremendous growth in those players in their first half of professional baseball. He said Quinn has shown an ability, despite his team-leading 19 errors, to stick at shortstop.
"I have no question. None. Zero. He's come a thousand miles from spring training," Jordan said. "Two years from now, I think we have the chance to have a fantastic defensive player. He has every physical ability you need. If you watch the athletic plays, those are easy for him. It's when the ball is right at him and he has time, he's not comfortable with that right now. The game is going to slow down for him and it has slowed down since camp."
Jordan said Greene's advanced plate discipline has been a pleasant surprise. His 25 walks are third-best in the New York-Penn League and his .379 on-base percentage is 13th-best in the league. And he's just 19 years old.
"I've been very impressed with his willingness to take pitches and get deep into at-bats," Jordan said. "It's a really, really good sign for a guy that has that kind of an impact when he swings. It's a good sign from a 19-year-old hitter."
The following is the remaining transcript from last week's interview with Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan:
QUESTION: Are the Phillies still keeping the plan of drafting raw, project-type players?
ANSWER: I think the way you have to look at it in relation to this organization, is last year their first pick was at 39. This year it was in the 40s. So you have a hard time filling a need at the major league club picking there. A lot of times those college players are gone that could go through your system in a hurry. I think you always have to take a long-term view. Obviously, we've been thinned out in the upper levels with some trades that have happened. But I think they've done a good job in the past and they're going to keep taking the same kind of players.
QUESTION: Are there players currently on the Reading team you see making an impact in Philadelphia in the near future?
ANSWER: I think that there's a handful - it's not a large number - but I think there are a lot of players on that club that are going to be major league players. Some of them are just going to need a couple more years. There's a handful of guys, whether it's sometime in (2013) or early in (2014), there's some guys that will help out.
QUESTION: Is former Crosscutter Leandro Castro one of those players that can help the big league team?
ANSWER: I think what we've seen from Leandro this year is early he played out of control a little bit. Went through a period where he made some really good adjustments and slowed the game down and took what the game gave him and didn't force it. That's really the stuff that he's going to have to do because he has the ability to play all three outfield spots. He can hit, he can run, he can throw. He can do everything physically that you need to be able to do to be a major league player. It's just a matter of playing under control, playing smart. Again, what is the game giving me tonight? That's what I'm going to take and I'm not going to try to force anything else. He's getting there, made a lot of progress this year.
QUESTION: Is the plan to have first baseman Darin Ruf continue playing left field?
ANSWER: We're going to try to do it enough to get a good look. We're going to get a good feel if he can do it because we think the bat is going to be a major league bat. We've obviously got a cornerstone player in the major leagues at first base, so we obviously want to explore all of the options for Darin.
QUESTION: Are you surprised at how quickly Cody Asche has moved through the Phillies' system this year after a disappointing year in Williamsport last year?
ANSWER: I think if (Cody Asche of 2011) was the player we had seen in spring training and the first three months in Clearwater, yeah, we'd be surprised. Again, he played last summer and the organization got a read on him last summer and what he needed to work on in instructional league. They did not address it until instructional league, but they did it then. It was a simple pre-swing adjustment that they did, he took it home and worked on it and hit basically almost .350 in three months in the Florida State League. We felt like he could handle it. He's playing a very good third base, which he didn't play here last summer. He's a different player. Things came together. So no, I'm not surprised because I'm the one that moved him.
QUESTION: Is Asche starting to show signs of turning it around in Reading and having success like he did in Clearwater?
ANSWER: They are going to turn around and they've started. This is the way I look at development: when the challenge of a level is losing its luster, I felt like there were adjustments he needed to make hitting .350 in the Florida State League. It's hard to approach a player about making adjustments when things are going that well. He needed the feedback that AA gave him, which was pretty hard there for two or three weeks. But, everyone told me he's very strong mentally, he handled the struggles he had here last summer and didn't give in to it. So we made a decision that even if he does struggle, he's mentally tough enough to handle it, but even more importantly he needs to struggle so we can bring some things to him that's going to make him better down the road. And that's exactly what happened. Hopefully he keeps on this upward trend he's on.
QUESTION: Are there potential blue-chip prospects in the lower levels of the Phillies' minor league system like the ones the organization has traded away in recent years?
ANSWER: They're here. It's our job to develop them and keep them positive. They're going to have struggles. This 19-year-old group here can't beat some of these 22- and 23-year-old college teams they play. That's OK. They're going to get better. I think August will be a better month than July, but I'm very excited. This is a good group, a very exciting group to watch.