Phillies

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.

Angels' moves hurt Phillies' chances of catching Trout

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AP Images

Angels' moves hurt Phillies' chances of catching Trout

The Eagles made Angel Stadium in Anaheim their home away from home last week. The entire team was greeted with a gift of a Mike Trout bobblehead. Nigel Bradham even used the Millville native and Birds season ticketholder's locker to dress. Trout left a personalized message to his favorite team prior to the Rams game.

Yet another link that it is kismet for the native son, the best player in his sport, to return someday soon to Philadelphia and play for the team he grew up rooting for? After all, the Phillies are flush with spending money should the opportunity arise. They appear to have the makings of a strong nucleus that could lure the 26-year-old back East. His deal runs through 2020 and Trout would be only 29 at the end of that contract. Seems perfect, right?  

Not so fast, my red pinstriped friends.

Hold on, we'll get to that in one minute. If you've been comatose the last seven seasons, all Trout has done since debuting in the big leagues in 2011 is win two MVPs, finish second in MVP voting three times and make six All-Star Games. The marriage here with the Phillies, a team he was a die-hard fan of growing up — even attending the 2008 World Series Championship parade as a senior in high school — would be one made in heaven. 

Adding fodder to the Trout-to-Philly hype is the Angels have reached the postseason only once in his time there. The hope from a fan's perspective would be Anaheim would continue to languish in mediocrity and eventually be forced to move Trout to possibly begin a rebuild, or he would play out his deal and walk. Wishful thinking? Sure. Out of the question? No. Trout has a full no-trade, so he can pick and choose where he ends up if he wishes to leave Southern California for South Philly prior to the end of his deal.

However, there may be a fly in the ointment. Despite it being only December, the Angels have had themselves an offseason. They signed Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. The 23-year-old is a three-pitch starter who can touch over 100 mph on the gun with his fastball. He posted a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings for his Nippon-Ham club in Japan's Pacific League, a very high level of baseball. He also batted .322 with a .416 on-base percentage, while slugging .588 last season. In 2016, he hit 22 home runs. This was a major coup for the Angels, who won a bidding war over many other suitors around the league to land the right-handed pitching, left-handed hitting Ohtani.  

The Angels also signed veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler, a four-time All-Star and 2016 Gold Glove winner. Despite being 35, Kinsler is a major upgrade from what they had last year at the position. Anaheim also traded for Justin Upton late last year and re-signed him in the offseason. He'll play next to Trout in left. The Angels still need to upgrade their pitching. But on paper, they have the makings of a potent lineup that, with some pitching help, could land a wild-card spot in the playoffs. That is not music to Phillies fans' ears.

We're a long way away from 2020, so a lot can happen both here and 2,376 miles away in Orange County. The Phillies need to hope their current young nucleus blossoms like the group of Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels did in the mid-2000s. They should also keep a close eye on their neighbors to the West and cross their fingers things don't go so well. If both scenarios play out in their favor, the Phillies could reel in the biggest fish in franchise history.

Phillies lose prospect in Rule 5 draft, gain money to sign more

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Photo: Clearwater Threshers

Phillies lose prospect in Rule 5 draft, gain money to sign more

ORLANDO — Carlos Tocci has long been an intriguing prospect in the Phillies' system. The club's international scouting staff liked the slender outfielder from Venezuela enough to give him a $759,000 signing bonus as a 16-year-old in the summer of 2011.

The big question with Tocci was whether he'd develop enough offensive pop to go with his outstanding defensive prowess.

Tocci made strides every year in the Phillies system, but not enough, in the minds of team officials, to move past other prospects and win a spot on the 40-man roster. The Phils left him unprotected last winter and managed to slip him through the annual Rule 5 draft, but they weren't so fortunate this year. Tocci was selected by the Chicago White Sox with the fourth pick in Thursday's draft and quickly spun to the Texas Rangers in a trade.

The price to select Tocci was $100,000. He must spend the entire 2018 season in the majors (or on the big-league disabled list) or be offered back to the Phillies for $50,000.

"Obviously, it stinks for us to lose a guy like that, but it's the risk you take when you don't protect someone," Phillies assistant general manager Bryan Minniti said. "I'm happy for him to get the opportunity. Selfishly, we hope to get him back."

Tocci, 22, hit .307 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .398 slugging percentage in 113 games at Double A Reading in 2017. He hit .189 in 17 games at Triple A.

Tocci has athleticism and speed. He is a plus defender. His speed and defensive skill could help him stick in the majors as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.

The Phillies added a player in the Rule 5 draft, but only briefly. They selected right-handed pitcher Nick Burdi from Minnesota with the third pick and quickly traded him to Pittsburgh for $500,000 in international signing money. The Phils have just over $1 million remaining in their current pool, which expires June 15.

Extra international money is valuable. The Phillies recently added four pitchers — Seranthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez, Jose Taveras and Franklyn Kilome — to their 40-man roster and all were international signings. The team recently used international pool money to sign catcher Abrahan Gutierrez, one of 13 former Atlanta prospects who had been set free after the Braves violated signing rules. Several of those players are still unsigned and other prospects pop up all the time. Remember, the Phillies' top pitching prospect is a kid named Sixto Sanchez. He caught the eye of Phillies scouts three years ago while throwing batting practice to a catcher that the Phillies were watching (see story).

"Our international department with Sal Agostinelli and those guys, they're weapons for us," Minniti said. "So for us to have the ability to give them more money to spend is a positive. They're seeing workouts every day all over the world. It's good to have the reserves to continue to spend."

The Phillies have two open spots on their 40-man roster. Those will soon be filled by relievers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter.

The Phillies have apparently decided on a first base coach, which would fill the final opening on manager Gabe Kapler's staff. Sources say the hire will come from outside the organization, but no announcement has been made yet.