LAKEWOOD, N.J. - Power is the thing that attracted the Phillies to Art Charles.
"Charles is a guy who has big pop," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the day he acquired the 6-foot-6 first baseman from the Toronto Blue Jays for reliever Michael Schwimer. "Whether he's going to be a major-league hitter at some point, we don't know, but we know he has a lot of power."
After watching Charles play for a month at low-A Lakewood, the Phillies are happy with their return so far because he has provided the advertised power and even more.
"First off, he can play first base," Lakewood manager Mickey Morandini said last week. "A kid his size usually has trouble with mobility around first base, but he's pretty darn good over there. He's got good feet, his hands are good, and he throws the ball extremely well. We've been very impressed with the way he's handled himself there."
Unfortunately for Charles, it was a defensive play that sent the left-handed hitting slugger to the disabled list last week with a sprained right wrist. In an attempt to turn a home-to-first (3-2-3) double play, Charles' glove hand was bent back when an opposing runner collided with him at first base.
"I was worried it was broken," Charles said two days after suffering the injury during a game at Greenville, S.C. in which he hit his team-leading fourth home run. "It really hurt. It does kind of [stink] that I'm out right now. Hopefully I'll make a quick recovery."
Charles, 22, will sit for a while on his four home runs, .286 average, and team-high 17 RBIs. Thanks to 10 walks, he also has a .361 on-base percentage. Those solid numbers came after a difficult first two weeks.
"He started off slow the first seven to 10 days, but the last three weeks he has been pretty impressive," Morandini said. "He can go pretty far yard [in batting practice], but he's not the kind of guy who just tries to swing that way. He works on stuff. He has a good head on his shoulders. We've been trying to get him to stay on the ball and drive it up the middle of the field because he's naturally going to hit home runs."
Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development, was Baltimore's scouting director when the Orioles selected Charles in the 33d round of the 2008 draft out of Ridgeview High School in Bakersfield, Calif. Charles didn't sign. He was drafted again the following year in the 39th round by Kansas City, but opted to stay at Bakersfield College before finally signing as a 20th-round pick with Toronto in 2010.
In his three professional seasons with the Blue Jays, Charles became acquainted with some of his current Lakewood teammates because Toronto's spring-training facility in Dunedin, Fla. is only a few miles away from Clearwater.
"I played them a bunch in spring training, extended spring training and the instructional league," Charles said. "I was real familiar with them and they were familiar with me as well. I knew quite a few of these guys, not from hanging out with them, but from playing first base and talking to them. I got to know Roman Quinn because he got on first base quite a bit."
Jordan said he was excited when he found out Amaro had acquired Charles.
"He's an athletic big guy, so I think there's a chance to build something pretty good," Jordan said.