When the Phillies drafted high-school standout Cornelius Randolph 10th overall in 2015, their hope was that the rest of his game would catch up to his highly regarded bat.
After two years of ups and downs, Philadelphia's No. 12 prospect is starting to put it all together.
Randolph's professional debut went off without a hitch. After the draft, the Phillies sent the Georgia native to the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he put up a .302/.425/.442 slash line with a homer, three triples, 15 doubles and 24 RBIs in 53 games. It was as good a debut as the organization could have hoped for and more big things were expected out of him in 2016.
Unfortunately, a shoulder injury derailed his season and prevented him from building off the inspiring start to his career. Even with his injury issues, the Phillies were encouraged enough by what they saw from the Georgia native in 63 games with Class A Lakewood that they assigned Randolph to the Florida State League right out of Spring Training.
"I'm still a young player," Randolph said. "I just needed to learn what it meant to take care of my body, eat right and work out. I need to continue to mature on that side of the game, taking care of my body and eating healthy. I feel like I've made strides in that regard."
At 5-foot-11, Randolph isn't going to the be the biggest player and he may not even have the look of a prototypical power hitter, but he uses the rest of his ability -- especially a good feel for the strike zone -- to help him do damage at the dish. That skill set came through for the Griffin High School (Georgia) product, as he posted a .250/.338/.402 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs in 122 games with Class A Advanced Clearwater.
"I had a pretty good year," said Randolph, who led the Threshers with a .740 OPS. "There were ups and downs, of course, but overall, I think things went well. I knew my power was going to come around. I was just 18 in my first full season, so I knew I was still a young kid and my power wouldn't be where I want it to be. I have a lot of work to do. I know my power is going to be there down the line, but for now, my main focus is learning to spray the ball all over the field. When I get a good hold of one and it goes out, that's how it goes."
Toward the end of the season, Philadelphia told Randolph he earned the opportunity to play with Glendale in the autumn. He's the youngest player on the Desert Dogs roster, something the 20-year-old is used to at this point in his career.
"I never look too much into my age. It's the game of baseball, so it's me against him," explained the only active player in the Minors named Cornelius. "When I walk into the box, [the pitcher's] not thinking, I need to get this 20-year-old out. He's thinking, I need to get this batter out, and I'm thinking, I need to get a hit. Just like down here, I'm facing Double-A and Triple-A pitchers and I'm not walking up to the plate thinking about facing a Triple-A pitcher. I'm just sticking to my plan."
In addition to advancing his approach at the plate, Randolph's defensive game in the outfield is continuing to come along. It's something he's prioritizing during his time with the Desert Dogs.
"I feel myself getting better defensively. It's a process, of course, but every day I feel myself getting better and think that the defensive part of my game will be there for me as I move on."
More specifically, Randolph believes an improved first step has helped him get better in left field.
"My first step is coming along pretty well," he said. "I'm doing some drills, but the most important thing is to just get the work in shagging fly balls during batting practice or during early work. It's something that may go under the radar and is subtle, but that first step and read is very important."
One of the benefits of playing in the Arizona Fall League is that young players spend time away from their coaching staffs and need to structure their own time. It's a challenge, especially for a younger player, but Randolph has risen to the occasion.
"It's more on you down here," he added. "Rather than having people coach you up like it would be in the regular season, it's up to you to develop a routine and that's good for me, especially since I'm younger and still learning. So it forces me to learn how to get a routine down and that's going to help me down the road in my career. Next year, I know I have to come in and get my routine down right away to make sure I do my best and stay healthy.
"I'm loving it down here. It's great to play against some of the best players in the Minor Leagues. And it's very competitive. I love going up against such good arms every day. The competition is as good as I thought it would be. You still need to make those day-to-day adjustments here like you would in regular season."
Even though Randolph has struggled a bit at the plate in Arizona -- he's hitting .203/.277/.288 with a triple and three doubles in 16 games -- he isn't worried as long as he sticks with his ever-improving process.
"I just want to compete and put good at-bats together every day," Randolph said. "I don't want to look too much at the numbers because they don't show exactly what happened. For me, I just want to make sure I'm grinding out every at-bat. I feel like I do that, I'll walk away from this experience very proud."