READING, Pa. — It’s not easy living up to high standards, especially when others set them. For Double-A Reading’s Anthony Hewitt, the bar was placed high before he even put on the uniform.
Selected as the Phillies’ first-round pick — 24th overall — in the 2008 draft, Hewitt was viewed as a high-ceiling guy with raw talent. Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Hewitt attended boarding school in Salisbury, Conn., and was just 19 when he started his pro career with a $1.3 million signing bonus in tow.
Hewitt had power, speed and was viewed as the Phillies’ third baseman of the future when he was drafted.
But after two pro seasons Hewitt was moved from third base to the outfield. He also slugged over .400 just once in his six seasons as a pro, though he has shown good instincts on the base paths.
Still, that high ceiling quickly leveled off and now Hewitt’s name doesn’t show up on the national prospect lists. A .227 hitter with a .268 on-base percentage in five seasons at rookie ball and Single A, Hewitt, at age 24, finally made it to Double A.
Meanwhile, of the 23 players selected ahead of Hewitt (guys like Buster Posey, Eric Hosmer, Ike Davis, Pedro Alvarez), only four have not made it to the big leagues. Based on that it would seem that the expectations on Hewitt as a future big leaguer may have dried up, but that’s not the case. The Phillies brass still views Hewitt as a prospect.
“Anthony is a guy who sets his own goals and doesn’t really listen to a lot of things people say,” Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. “There are high expectations for any guy who was a first-round pick, obviously. But I don’t think he really listens to other people’s expectations. He sets own goals and I never talked to him about what they are, but I know he talks about his expectations.”
Maybe playing without the label of “prospect” has helped Hewitt a bit this season with Reading? Headed into Saturday’s action, Hewitt was batting .257 and had a .303 on-base percentage. Not exactly top prospect-type numbers, but they are career-bests for Hewitt.
Those numbers are enhanced by the last 10 games where Hewitt has gone 10 for 28 with five RBIs and a walk-off, three-run homer last Wednesday against Altoona at FirstEnergy Stadium.
It was Hewitt’s first homer of the season, a fact he knew very well when asked about it after the game.
“Everyone on the team’s had a home run except me,” Hewitt said. “Anybody would try to get a little big.”
Wathan is hoping the homer will be a spark for Hewitt. Perhaps it could be something that unlocks some doors and gets him going. After all, Hewitt was drafted in the first round for a reason. Wathan says those raw skills are still there.
“Sometimes you keep looking up there (at the scoreboard) and go, ‘When is this gonna happen? When am I gonna put something in that (home run) column?’” Wathan said. “Once you get one in that column, it’s like the weight of the world off your shoulders, and hopefully now they’ll just come and he won’t think about home runs. He’s got ridiculous power — he hits the ball as hard as anyone. His BP is impressive. He can hit the ball hard, he just hasn't been able to get it elevated (in games).”
Sometimes all it takes is one. For Hewitt, now in his sixth season, he’s just hoping this is year can be his springboard.
Before it’s too late.
When the Phillies chose to bring up Michael Martinez instead of Darin Ruf when Chase Utley went on the disabled list, Phils’ manager Charlie Manuel said part of the reason was because Ruf wasn't hitting very well in Triple A.
In his last six games Ruf is just 3 for 29 and he missed the last two games with a sore hand.
Additionally, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said Ruf’s defense in left field would make it difficult for him to get much playing time. That’s even the case with two interleague games in Boston coming up.
“He’s made progress. He’s not great, but I think he’s made a lot of strides,” Proefrock said about Ruf’s defense. “I think he’s going to keep working on it down there. I think the big thing right now is he’s been in a little slump offensively. I think from that perspective obviously he needs to get it going and be a little more consistent offensively as well. His defense, he’s worked very hard on it and I’m sure he’ll continue to work hard on it.”
Ruf is batting .262 with five homers and 23 RBIs in 43 games this season.