Major league teams love athletic players because of the versatility and potential they possess. Jiwan James, a rising outfield prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies’ minor league system, fits that bill. He was taken out of high school in the 22nd round in the 2007 draft as a pitcher, although many believed that he was going to forego baseball altogether and play college football. James ended up signing with the Phillies, and in 2009 was converted to an outfielder.
James adapted to being a position player quickly, hitting .268 since the conversion. His most advanced tool at this point is his speed, as evidenced by the 33 stolen bases he had last year and the 31 he had this season. He is also considered a dominant defensive outfielder. James has never hit more than 5 home runs in any season during his career, but he has the size (6’4, 180) and athletic talent to do just about anything he wants on the baseball diamond.
With the aging Raul Ibanez set to become a free agent, it is possible that James could be fast-tracked to the majors. I recently exchanged emails with James, and hope that you enjoy learning a little more about this Phillies’ prospect.
How did you first become interested in baseball?
It was the first sport I played, at like age 5 I think.
How did you first find out that the Phillies were interested in you?
I really don’t remember. All of the questionnaires started coming in around the same time, during my senior year. I did talk to the Phillies more than anyone else leading up to the draft though, so that’s probably when I figured it would be them.
You dropped a little in the draft because most teams thought you were going to the University of Florida. What made you change your mind and sign?
The pros and cons of signing and not signing, sitting down with the family to talk about it, and the change in the (Florida) coaching staff.
Who was your favorite team and player growing up?
Yankees and Derek Jeter.
What is the attention and scrutiny like, being a top prospect for Philadelphia?
I really don’t pay too much attention to it. I’m more into having fun playing the game and enjoying my teammates first.
You were drafted as a pitcher… do you miss pitching?
Not at all. I’m having too much fun playing every day.
What has been your favorite moment in your professional playing career thus far?
Winning the South Atlantic League Championship last season. That was the most fun I’ve had yet playing baseball, from the start of the season until the end.
What is your thought process/mind set like right now as you get closer to the major leagues?
The closer I get, the harder I work.