2B prospect Scott Kingery 'might be on fast track to big leagues'

2B prospect Scott Kingery 'might be on fast track to big leagues'

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies' Double A Reading club had 89 wins last season, the second most in all of minor-league baseball.

With Roman Quinn, Jorge Alfaro, Rhys Hoskins, Dylan Cozens and others, the Reading club was loaded with top prospects.

That's why it was so remarkable late last season when a Phillies' official said, "You know, there are nights when Scott Kingery is the best player on the field."

Kingery, a second baseman who turns 23 in April, was the Phillies' second-round pick in the 2015 draft, a former walk-on at the University of Arizona who blossomed into a Pac-12 batting champ (.392) his junior year.

Kingery, 5-10 and 180 pounds of pure ballplayer, was so impressive his first two seasons in the Phillies' minor-league system that he earned an invite to big-league camp this spring.

He is making the most of it.

He had a huge game in the Phillies' 7-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He singled, doubled and homered in four at-bats. He also made a couple of nice plays in the field, including a backpedaling, over-the-shoulder grab in shallow right field to end the top of the eighth inning.

The Phillies rallied for four runs to come back from two runs down in the bottom of that inning. Of course, spring star Brock Stassi had the big hit, a three-run homer to put the Phillies ahead.

Stassi, who has two homers and a double in the four games in which he has played, is a serious candidate to win a spot on the Phillies' bench.

Kingery -- who has just 37 games and 156 at-bats of experience above the Single A level -- is not a candidate to break with the big club. But manager Pete Mackanin thinks he might not be that far away.

"I heard a lot about Scott Kingery and how good a player he is and he sure looks like one," Mackanin said after Tuesday's game. "He's made a good impression on me and the coaching staff. Today was a good example of what he can do. He might be on the fast track to the big leagues."

Kingery is a pretty levelheaded kid. As happy as he was with his game Tuesday, he was quite realistic. He needs more seasoning. The blueprint calls for him to open back at Double A and build on the six weeks he spent there last year.

"I feel I need to spend some more time in Double A," Kingery said. "I didn't get much time there last year. I think that's what I'll head back to and just try to figure out that pitching and climb up the ladder from there."

Jesmuel Valentin is expected to open the season as the second baseman at Triple A Lehigh Valley. He is a prospect, as well. He has been slowed in this camp by a sore shoulder.

The Phillies' depth at second base will put some heat on Cesar Hernandez to continue the improvement he showed in the second half of last season. It could also eventually turn Hernandez into a trade chip. According to multiple baseball sources, the Phillies were willing to listen on Hernandez this offseason, though the price was very high.

Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

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Jake Arrieta delights crowd, breaks bats

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Spectrum Field was sold out, filled with fans clad in green and smeared with sunblock for a game against the Atlanta Braves on a festive St. Paddy’s Day.
But the main event Saturday took place several hundred yards away at the minor-league complex, two hours before the big-league game even began.
Five days after signing a three-year, $75 million contract with the Phillies, Jake Arrieta climbed atop a mound and threw a 31-pitch (two-inning) simulated game. Scott Kingery, Jorge Alfaro, Logan Moore and Andrew Pullin were the hitters. Andrew Knapp was the catcher. Players, coaches, minor-league instructors and manager Gabe Kapler all peeked in. Dozens of fans hugged the chain-link fence to get a look at the newest Phillie. They applauded when Arrieta took the mound and again when he finished.
“It was great,” the 32-year-old pitcher said moments after the workout ended. “There’s a lot of people out here. A lot of people are excited for the Phillies in 2018. We’ve got a lot of good things going on here. A lot of guys are healthy and competing, there’s a lot of youth. It’s a really fun time to be in this organization.”
Arrieta said he felt “really good physically,” not a surprise because he came into camp in terrific shape and had gotten to over 60 pitches in bullpen sessions back home in Austin, Texas. He threw all his pitches, including a couple of knee-buckling curveballs. He broke two of Alfaro’s bats, one with a sinker, one with a cutter.
“My goal was to throw everything in the arsenal for strikes and throw my off-speed pitches in and out of the zone where I could get some chases,” Arrieta said.
Arrieta did allow some contact, mostly ground balls.
Arrieta won the 2015 NL Cy Young Award with the Cubs. He won 22 games and had a 1.77 ERA that season.
A deceptive delivery is one of Arrieta’s strengths. He throws across his body and that crossfire action makes it difficult for a hitter to pick up the ball.
“It’s extremely deceptive,” Kingery said. “Every pitch is extremely deceptive. That’s what hit me. His curveball looks like it’s coming at your head then it drops.”
Arrieta is still hoping to be ready for the first week of the regular season, but the Phillies have not formulated a firm game plan. One thing is certain: They won’t rush him. They want him for the long haul. They could hold him back 10 days or so, allowing him to build more arm strength, and he’d still make 30 starts.
Arrieta expects to throw a bullpen session in the next day or two and try to get up around 60 pitches in his next outing. That could be in a minor-league game or in another simulated game.
“As long as we continue to get my pitch count up, I think I’ll be fine going into the season,” he said.

Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

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Alex Cobb? Matt Klentak discusses replacing Jerad Eickhoff

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies signed free-agent right-hander Jake Arrieta earlier this week.

That's probably going to be the extent of their pitching additions for now.

Jerad Eickhoff is out until at least May with a strained right lat muscle and that creates a sizable hole in the Phillies rotation.

The hole is likely to be filled internally, according to general manager Matt Klentak. The team is not likely to make a run at Alex Cobb, who remains on the free-agent market.

"I doubt it," Klentak said when asked if he would look outside the organization to fill Eickhoff's spot. "I don't think we have to. I think a lot of our guys have shown very well in camp. They have gotten their pitch counts up, they're getting to the point of being fully stretched out.

"More than anything, I think we're going to have some tough decisions on figuring out who is in the rotation, who is in the bullpen, who goes into the Triple-A rotation, who goes into the Double-A rotation. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make on that front, but I don't think we're in a position where we have to go outside. We have a lot of candidates to take the ball at the big league level so we'll be fine."

Aaron Nola will start on opening day. Arrieta will be in the rotation, though he might need an extra week or so to get ready. Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta are likely to hold down spots. That leaves Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter Jr., Jake Thompson, Drew Hutchison and Tom Eshelman in the running for the final spot in the five-man rotation. Eshelman, strike-thrower extraordinaire, was the Phillies' minor-league pitcher of the year last year and projects to be in Philadelphia before long. However, it might not be at the outset of the season because he is not on the 40-man roster. Neither is Hutchison.

The Phillies do not need a fifth starter until April 11 so they could employ some creative roster construction until then. They could go with four starters and an extra reliever or bench man. Or they could bring an extra starter and "piggyback" him with Arrieta, a move that would allow Arrieta to make an abbreviated start during the first week of the season.

"There's a decent chance we open the season with somewhat of a non-traditional 25-man roster, not because we're trying to be cute but because we don't need the fifth starter until the 11th," Klentak said. "We're going to do whatever puts us in the best position to win those first 10 days of the season."

The Phillies made one transaction on Friday. They added utility man Pedro Florimon to the 40-man roster. He had a provision in his minor-league contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by March 15. Florimon is a candidate for a spot on the Phillies' bench. The move doesn't guarantee that Florimon will win a spot, but it gives the team more time to evaluate him. To make room for Florimon, the Phillies designated infielder Eliezer Alvarez for assignment.

Florimon homered in the Phillies' 6-4 loss to Toronto in Clearwater Friday. Cam Rupp and Cesar Hernandez also homered. Velasquez gave up five hits and a run in 2⅔ innings. He struck out five.

In Lakeland, Pivetta allowed two runs over five innings as the Phils and Tigers played to a 6-6 tie. J.P. Crawford and Ryan Flaherty both homered.