Bryson Stott does not know what he’s hitting, but he’s hitting — a lot. Sometimes he’ll go to the plate at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown six or seven times in a game.
“You get plenty of at-bats because there aren’t nine hitters,” the Phillies’ 2019 first-round draft pick said during a phone interview. “There are four or five hitters on a team, and you just cycle through.”
Such is life in something called a satellite camp in the midst of baseball’s COVID-19 season.
Had this been a normal season, Stott, a left-handed hitting shortstop, probably would have opened the season at low-A Lakewood and worked his way up the minor-league ladder the same way 2018 first-round pick and current Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm did a year ago.
He does not know for sure where he would have started the 2020 season because “we never got that far” in spring training, Stott said. He did get far enough along that he got to face New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in a minor-league exhibition game. It’s a memory he’ll keep for a lifetime.
“We faced him that Thursday that they announced that it was being shut down,” Stott said. “He’s everything you see on TV. He’s huge. He’s a very big human, and he even looks bigger on the mound. His stuff is electric, everyone can see that, but seeing it in person was pretty cool. He threw me a first-pitch slider and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ and then I lined out to left-center. I got a good swing off him, and he was throwing 98.”
Three days later, Stott was headed back to his hometown of Las Vegas, where he spent two months in quarantine as the coronavirus spread. His first full season in professional baseball was in jeopardy, but he entirely understood why.
“Obviously it is crazy, but the health of the world and the country is of utmost importance and sports had to do what it had to do,” Stott said.
When parks and other outdoor venues started opening in Las Vegas, Stott spent time with his friends playing Spikeball and preparing for whatever baseball lay ahead. One of his friends, of course, is Phillies superstar Bryce Harper.
“It’s not like we hang out every single day,” Stott said. “It was just once or twice on the weekend.”
Stott, 22, did pick Harper’s advanced hitting brain during the offseason and again in spring training, but he has mostly left him alone since the season started.
“He gets so locked in and does his thing out on the field, so I try not to bother him,” Stott said. “But in the offseason or when I’m in a funk or something like that, he is always there for me, a phone call away if I need it.
“In spring training, I asked him what he does against certain pitchers. I wanted to know about how to face a sinkerballer or a guy who is coming in on you or a hard-throwing lefty. It was all kind of approach things.”
Stott, now considered the Phillies’ top prospect since Bohm and pitcher Spencer Howard have reached the big leagues, was not invited to the summer camp in Philadelphia, but he joined the satellite camp in late July. While it’s not the ideal plan for developing young players, Stott believes he has benefited from it.
“It’s obviously different,” he said. “You don’t have the people you played with the year before since not everybody could be here. But having that mix of older guys who have been to the big leagues gives us younger guys a chance to pick their brains.”
And the pressure of results is also nonexistent.
“I like it because you can work on certain things with no average to worry about … so if you need to make adjustments, it’s the perfect time,” Stott said. “You can try some new stuff and have fun with it. It’s a time to get better for the years to come.”
Stott has also faced more advanced pitching than he would have at Lakewood or even high-A Clearwater.
“All these guys here can throw two, three, or even four pitches for strikes,” Stott said. “The guys here who can only throw two pitches for strikes are throwing a 90-mph wipeout slider, so it plays like three pitches anyway. You can’t really zone in on one pitch.”
Stott is also fielding a ton of ground balls at shortstop every day in what he described as one-on-one early workouts with the coaching staff. He has also played a little second base. He’s developing as a player, so it really doesn’t matter what he’s hitting, which is good because he really doesn’t know anyway.