By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
Last month, Phillies prospect Zach Collier got a glimpse of what it could be like play in the major leagues when he and several of the team’s minor league prospects visited the team’s clubhouse at Citizen’s Bank Park as a part of the team’s orientation program for aspiring Phillies.
“It’s been my goal ever since I picked up a baseball to compete and play at the big league level,” Collier said. “I’d like to make the team here at Citizen’s Bank, but I’ll play where they send me.”
The 22-year-old outfielder from Chino Hills, California was certainly impressed with the surroundings and got a good understanding of what it’s like to play here from former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins who spoke to the young players about how passionate fans are in Philadelphia.
“What I got from (Dawkins) is to be a leader and lead by example,” Collier said. “He emphasized the importance of giving the effort. Keep grinding and working hard. He said you have to have a thick skin. I believe that when my time comes, I’ll be able to handle that. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like.”
If anything, Collier, who is apart of the Phillies 40-man spring training roster, is confident about his ability to play the game and so are the people in the Phillies organization.
The Phils’ supplemental first-round pick in the 2008 MLB draft is coming off a solid 2012 season playing for the Phillies Class A Advanced squad, the Clearwater Threshers.
“I don’t think you can pick out a month where you didn’t see progress, said Joe Jordan, the Phillies minor leagues director. “He’s got a lot of physical ability. I think last year some things really started to come together for him. The game slowed down for him a little bit. “
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Collier batted .269 with 32 runs batted in, six home runs, 11 stolen bases and 39 runs scored in 78 games after missing the first 50 games of the season after testing positive for amphetamines. He also posted career highs in on-base percentage (.339) and slugging percentage (.399).
“He’s got a really good left-handed swing,” Jordan said. “He played very solid center field in Clearwater in that big ballpark. Especially in July and August, we saw a guy starting to get comfortable. I think that’s it more than anything.”
Collier played some of his best baseball in the five-week Arizona Fall League where he batted .371 with 10 runs batted-in, four doubles, three triples and three stolen bases. In that league, Collier went up against mostly Double-A pitching.
Jordan said while Collier has a lot of power, he wants him to focus on hitting for a good average first.
“That’s the type of hitter he needs to be right now,” Jordan said. “He hits the ball very hard. He’s going to hit some homeruns, but he needs to lead our team in doubles. I see him more as a hitter, he’ll have some power.”
Jordan said he wants to see Jordan work on becoming a better base stealer to further improve his stock as he moves up in the Phils minor league system.
Collier has played all three-outfield positions. He said centerfield is his favorite because of his ability to see everything in front of him.
“I like centerfield because I like the advantage of having that vision behind second base into home plate because you can see the ball in each direction,” Collier said. “When you’re playing in the corner, it’s all about reaction and you know you have a whole lot of grounds to cover.”
Jordan said while the Phils organization is projecting him to play centerfield, the fact that he’s played the other outfield positions bodes well for him.
“I think he can be a good centerfielder and I think he showed us that last year, but it’s a big benefit to him that he’s been exposed to both corners and he’s comfortable playing all three outfield spots,” Jordan said. “This is going to settle itself out as he gets to the big leagues depending upon what our major league club has at that time.”
If there’s one area of his game that he would like to improve is his, Collier said he wants to have an even stronger arm in the outfield.
“It’s something that I can work to because I’m always looking to improve,” he said.
Unless he makes a big splash and makes the Phillies 25-man roster, Collier will probably be playing with the Phils Double-A affiliate in Reading to start the season. Jordan said that will be the best thing for him at this stage of his development.
“Zach is going to be playing at a good level,” Jordan said. “He’s going to be challenged. We’re going to have him in a good place and we’re going to have him with a good staff. When he’s good enough and he’s ready, he’ll tell us. His performance will tell us.”