Carlos Tocci, one of the most polarizing prospects in the Phillies’ system, just had himself one heckuva winter ball.
This week, Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci won the Rookie of the Year Award in his home country of Venezuela. The honor comes after Tocci batted .323 with a robust .401 on-base percentage in 217 at-bats for the Tigres de Aragua in the Venezuelan winter league.
I know what you’re saying… big whup, it’s only winter ball… but it’s a league that boasts an intensity comparable to a little league called the NFL. So, if Tocci can thrive in the hot-cooker which is Venezuelan baseball, then his prospect grade may deserve a bump up.
There’s also the El Torito barometer: The last Phillie to win the Venezuelan Rookie of Year Award was Odubel Hererra, who led the winter league with a .372 average in 2014-15.
All this is sweet news for Tocci, whose status — in the Phillies’ eyes — may have dipped in recent years. For two consecutive Rule-5 Drafts, the Phils did not protect him, and yet he’s still with the team.
Since the Phillies signed a 16-year-old Tocci in 2011 — for $750,000 — the young outfielder has had his supporters and his detractors.
His supporters say his centerfield defense is major-league ready right now, and his bat will catch up, giving him an Ender Inciarte ceiling.
His detractors say Tocci needs the help of a gale-force wind to hit the ball out of the infield.
The detractors also say he’ll never pack on the muscle that would get him through a 162-game season. Tocci is skinny as a stick, listed at 6-foot-2 and 160 pounds.
Tocci, only 21, just finished his second consecutive season at Single-A Clearwater, batting a respectable .284 while carrying a ho-hum .362 slugging percentage. He has only nine HR in more than 2,000 minor-league at-bats.
One stat that may portend well for Tocci is his career-high 26 doubles last year, as doubles can turn into home runs if he adds some beef. That will be especially true if he reaches Double-A Reading’s stadium, or someday Citizens Bank Park
Tocci is expected to start in centerfield for the Reading Fightin’ Phils this season, and, if he can duplicate his winter-league success at Reading, expect the Phillies to protect him when the next Rule-5 Draft rolls around.