Rising 2B prospect Scott Kingery climbing ladder, impressing Phillies

Rising 2B prospect Scott Kingery climbing ladder, impressing Phillies

The Phillies’ Double A Reading club was a terrific story in 2016.

The Fightin Phils had the second-best record in all of minor-league baseball, their 89 wins topped only by the New York Yankees’ Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre club, which had 91.

Reading trotted out a lineup that included a number of top prospects that will be making their way to Philadelphia soon. Heck, outfielder Roman Quinn and catcher Jorge Alfaro made cameo appearances in September. Sluggers Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins led Reading’s offense with an astounding combined total of 78 homers and 241 RBIs, and pitcher Ben Lively went 7-0 before earning a promotion to Triple A.

There were more contributors than this, but you get the idea.

In August, as the Fightin Phils’ remarkable season was nearing the finish line, a high-ranking official with the big-league club was talking about all the promising players who had helped play a role in Reading’s season. The official ran through a list of names, adding superlatives liberally, and then issued a notable P.S.

“And, you know, there are many nights when Kingery is the best player on the field,” the man said.

That was a pretty good testament to the player that Scott Kingery has made himself.

Kingery, 22, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2015, a scrappy second baseman out of the University of Arizona. In less than two full seasons of professional baseball, he has established himself as one of the club’s top prospects and there are a lot of rumblings that he could be the team’s everyday second baseman in a year or two.

Kingery’s development path will include a stop back at Reading to open the 2017 season. He spent just six weeks and 37 games at Double A in 2016 and needs more time there. In those six weeks, he hit just .250 with a .273 on-base percentage. But he exhibited the head, heart, baserunning and defensive ability that have won him comparisons to Boston Red Sox star Dustin Pedroia and led Phillies officials to say things like, “There are many nights when Kingery is the best player on the field.”

Phillies officials believe that Kingery, after having gotten a taste of Double A late in the 2016 season, will be ready to shine with the bat in 2017 and be closer to the player that hit .293 with 29 doubles and a .360 on-base percentage in 94 games at advanced Single A Clearwater before arriving in Reading.

During a recent interview in Arizona, where he spent part of the fall playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League, Kingery recalled the day in July when he learned he was being promoted to the Phillies’ rampaging Double A team. He replaced Jesmuel Valentin, another promising second baseman who had been moved up to Triple A. The Phillies’ brass thinks so highly of Valentin that it recently added him to the 40-man roster, protecting him from being selected in next month’s Rule 5 draft. With Valentin and Kingery coming, the Phillies have the second-base depth that should inspire improving Cesar Hernandez to continue doing that as he heads into 2017.

“That was the best part,” said Kingery, recalling the day he got the news that he was moving to Double A. “They told me, ‘Hey, we’re only going to send up guys who we think can make that already incredible lineup even better,’ so it was really exciting.

“When I got there and looked at that lineup, it was incredible from top to bottom. That lineup had a lot of guys that are going to be future Phillies, some core guys who are going to be up in the big leagues real soon.”

While Kingery’s climb to the list of top Phillies prospects has been swift, his overall baseball journey has not been completely smooth. He was not recruited by any Division I college teams coming out of high school in Phoenix. He wrote letters to college coaches asking them to take a peek at him. Finally, a member of the coaching staff at Arizona took a look at him and offered him a walk-on spot on the Wildcats’ fall roster as a freshman. Essentially, it was a tryout, and Kingery nailed it.

“It definitely put a chip on my shoulder to go out there and prove what I could do every single day because I needed to find some way to make the coaches notice me and put me on the spring roster,” Kingery said. “I just hustled all the time, laid out for every ball I had a chance of getting, took the extra base when I could, basically just played the game the way I know how to and it ended up working out for me.

“Looking back, I would not have taken any other route because it made me not take anything for granted. I still carry that in my game today. I still feel like I have something to prove every day so I’m not going to get complacent.”

Kingery played shortstop in high school. He played the outfield his first two years at Arizona then move to second base as a junior. He hit .354 with a .456 on-base percentage as a sophomore and .392 with a .423 on-base percentage before being drafted as a junior.

At 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, the right-handed hitting Kingery is not a big guy. He projects as someone who could hit near the top of the batting order, get on base, rack up doubles, pop an occasional homer and steal some bags. He stole 26 bases and was caught just five times while at Clearwater in 2016.

“I like to say that my best tool is my speed,” he said. “I’m always working on that. That’s why it was a great thing to be able to play alongside Roman Quinn. He’s incredibly fast. It was great to be able to see the kind of jumps he gets and the leads he takes and pick up on the things he does to try to help my game. When he gets on base, you never knew what was going to happen. He gets himself into scoring position so quickly.”

The Phillies thought enough of Kingery to assign him to the AFL, and though he hit just .234 with a .294 on-base percentage in 20 games, he found the experience beneficial.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot,” he said.

In the AFL, Kingery shared a clubhouse with some big names. Tim Tebow was a teammate, and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson was around often, in uniform, working with hitting prospects from the Yankees. In the final week of the season, Tebow had a walk-off hit to give Scottsdale a win.

“It was surreal,” Kingery said. “Tebow hits a walk-off and Reggie Jackson is in the dugout. If I look back in 10 years and thought I’d be in the dugout with Reggie Jackson and Tim Tebow at the same time I would never have believed that.”

Maybe in 10 years, Tebow and Jackson will look back and recall the time they shared a dugout with a young second baseman from the Phillies' organization.

“Hopefully that’s the case,” Scott Kingery said. “That would be a great thing.”

Best of MLB: Pirates spoil Rich Hill's no-hitter with walk-off HR in 10th inning

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Best of MLB: Pirates spoil Rich Hill's no-hitter with walk-off HR in 10th inning

PITTSBURGH -- Dodgers lefty Rich Hill lost his perfect game on an error in the ninth inning, then lost his no-hitter on a leadoff home run in the 10th by Josh Harrison that sent the Pittsburgh Pirates over Los Angeles 1-0 Wednesday night.

Hill became the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1995 to take a no-hit try into extra innings.

The Pirates didn't have a runner until Jordy Mercer led off the ninth with a sharp grounder that third baseman Logan Forsythe misplayed for an error. Hill retired the next three batters.

Hill (9-5) came back out for the 10th and Harrison sent his 99th pitch of the night into the first row of seats in left field, just out of the reach of Los Angeles leftfielder Curtis Granderson. Hill struck out 10 without a walk.

Juan Nicasio (2-5) picked up the win after working the top of the 10th (see full recap).

Orioles regroup after Britton’s save streak ends at 60
BALTIMORE -- Zach Britton's AL-record run of converting 60 straight save attempts ended amid the evening shadows of Camden Yards, when the Orioles closer blew a two-run lead and failed to get out of the ninth inning in a game Baltimore ultimately won in the 12th, 8-7 over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.

Baltimore led 7-5 heading into the ninth when Britton entered to seal the victory, just as he had been doing successfully since the final days of the 2015 season. On this occasion, however, the left-hander gave up three straight hits before a sacrifice fly by Matt Joyce tied it.

Following a walk to Khris Davis, Britton was replaced by Miguel Castro (3-1), who quelled the uprising.

Manny Machado led off the 12th with a home run off Simon Castro (1-2) to end a game that lasted 4 hours, 20 minutes.

Britton's streak began on Oct. 1, 2015, extended through all of last season and went for 11 more saves this year. He had not blown a save since Sept. 20, 2015, at Tampa Bay.

Britton finished well short of Eric Gagne's major league mark of 84, set from 2002-04 (see full recap).

Schwarber, Cubs continue surge with win over Reds
CINCINNATI -- Kyle Schwarber hit a three-run homer in the ballpark near his home, Tommy La Stella added a two-run shot while subbing for Kris Bryant, and the Chicago Cubs kept their second-half surge going with a 9-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday night.

The defending World Series champions have won eight of 10. They are 11 games over .500 for the first time this season and have their biggest lead in the NL Central, 3 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee.

Left-hander Mike Montgomery (4-6) allowed four hits in six shutout innings, filling in for Jon Lester in the rotation. Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler homered in the ninth for the Reds (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Marlins 0

BOX SCORE

A trio of rookies stepped up and led the Phillies to an 8-0 win over the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night.

Mark Leiter Jr. spun a gem on the mound, Nick Williams reached base three times and scored three runs and Rhys Hoskins drove in five runs with a homer and a double.

One night earlier, the Marlins pounded out 27 hits and scored 19 runs in sweeping a doubleheader from the Phillies.

The shutout was the Phillies' fourth of the season. Their majors-worst record stands at 46-79.

Starting pitching report
In his fifth big-league start, Leiter pitched seven shutout innings. He held the Marlins hitless for the first five innings. The only hit he gave up was a leadoff double to Miguel Rojas in the sixth. Leiter then got three quick outs. The 26-year-old right-hander walked two and struck out five. All of the strikeouts came in the first two innings.

Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino was tagged for eight hits and six runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Bullpen report
Luis Garcia and Hector Neris completed the shutout.

At the plate
The Phillies had 11 hits.

Williams singled with two outs in the first inning and scored on an RBI double by Tommy Joseph. The Phillies hit for the cycle in the third inning and scored five runs. Freddy Galvis and Jorge Alfaro had RBI hits. Hoskins had the big blow, a three-run homer into the second deck above left field. Three innings later, Hoskins smacked a two-run double with two outs. He has seven homers and 16 RBIs since joining the club. All of the homers have come in the last 10 games.

The Marlins had just two hits.

Transaction
The Phillies added right-hander Drew Anderson from Triple A Lehigh Valley as bullpen insurance. He will likely return to Triple A on Thursday. Outfielder Cameron Perkins was sent to Triple A.

The Phillies signed veteran pitcher Henderson Alvarez to a minor-league contract. He is scheduled to pitch Friday for Lehigh Valley.

Up next
The series concludes on Thursday afternoon. Jake Thompson (1-1, 4.20) will be added to the roster and pitch for the Phillies against Marlins right-hander and former Phillie Vance Worley (2-3, 4.82).

The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs comes to town to start a three-game series on Friday night.