Charlie Manuel's role as a senior adviser to the general manager has allowed him to spend quite a bit of time around the cast of Phillies prospects, which leads the former manager to believe that the club is building toward contention again. He's enamored with the raw power of Dylan Cozens and the bat speed of Rhys Hoskins, who Manuel said can catch up to Aroldis Chapman's 105-mph fastball. Nick Williams, Manuel said, "has all the talent in the world," and he "loves" Mickey Moniak, who reminds him of Washington outfielder Trea Turner.
"I'll say within the next two or three years, we have a chance to have a really good hitting club in the major leagues," Manuel said. "And not only that, we're going to have guys that are talented enough to play defense, run the bases, and all of those things."
Manuel was in town Thursday night to be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. Other inductees at the City Line Hilton included Brian Dawkins, the late former Phillies pitcher Chris Short, and bantamweight boxing champion Jeff Chandler. It was an honor, Manuel said.
The Phillies finished last season with one of baseball's worst offenses, causing them to make a change Tuesday when they added Matt Stairs as their hitting coach. Manuel managed against Stairs when the outfielder was a player coming up through the minor leagues. He then managed him in 2008 and 2009 with the Phillies. Stairs, Manuel said, "is a baseball guy."
The two share traits that Manuel said are vital for a hitting coach: an affable personality and a passion for hitting. Manuel was a hitting coach with Cleveland in the late 1990s and never shied away from his love of hitting when he managed the Phillies. Manuel said a hitting coach has to be able to communicate and understand how much time the job requires.
"It's a 24-hour-a-day job," Manuel said. "You can have seven guys in your lineup that are tearing it up and two might not be hitting. You're really thinking about those two that aren't hitting. You have to treat everyone alike and give them time. Every day, those hitters get a part of your time. You have to be able to come to the ballpark early and be really focused on what you're doing and spend time with them."
One of Stairs' tasks will be to maximize the production of Maikel Franco, who hit 25 homers and drove in 88 runs last season. Manuel, who worked with Franco when the third baseman was in triple A, said Stairs will be able to help. Manuel said Franco often gets caught up in his success instead of staying focused.
Franco reminds Manuel of a young Jim Thome, who would mash balls in batting practice before overswinging and striking out when the game started. It will be Stairs' job, Manuel said, to keep Franco at ease the way Manuel did with Thome.
"I think Franco gets caught up in what he's doing and gets really happy but then loses focus on what he's trying to do at the plate as far as being consistent and being comfortable and nice and easy instead of chasing bad balls," Manuel said. "In other words, he's not mentally ready to hit. An everyday conversation and if you communicate on that level, I think will keep him engaged. Franco has the chance to be a high-caliber hitter."