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Top prospect Scott Kingery shows Phillies he's ready now

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

By ROB MAADDI

AP Sports Writer

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) Scott Kingery has shown the Philadelphia Phillies he's ready to play in the majors even if it takes a bit longer for him to get there.

Kingery is considered the top second-base prospect in baseball and already has been compared to Hall of Famer Craig Biggio and four-time All-Star Dustin Pedroia. But Cesar Hernandez is Philadelphia's starting second baseman, causing Kingery to play other positions in spring training.

He started at third base for the first time against Minnesota on Sunday and is working in the outfield.

"My thought process last year, knowing I was going to start the year in the minors, was to go out, have fun, give them a little bit of what I can do on the field and show them I can play up here and hold my own," Kingery said. "This year wasn't much different. I had a great spring last year and I wanted to do the same thing. Go out, have fun, prove what you can do every shot you step on the field."

Kingery entered Tuesday batting .378 (14 for 37) with two doubles and three homers.

"Beyond his talent, it's his work ethic, his drive, his determination, how badly he wants it," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Every day he becomes more likable as a baseball player and as a man. His teammates love him and his coaching staff loves him and the organization is really impressed with the way he carries himself."

Kingery is slated to start the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley because the Phillies would guarantee an extra year of team control through 2024 if he's not promoted before April 13.

Plus, there's no spot for him yet.

Hernandez has a .294 batting average and .372 on-base percentage over the past two seasons. He's earned the right to play regularly. Maikel Franco will begin the season at third but he has struggled the past two seasons despite decent power numbers: a .242 average, .292 on-base percentage and 49 homers. The Phillies have four starting outfielders for three spots but Kingery is joining the mix.

"The versatility to be able to play four, five different positions is great because if someone goes down or gets traded, you want to be able to fill that spot," Kingery said. "It's a really good thing."

Kingery has played second base throughout his career in the minors and is adjusting to making the throw from across the diamond at third base.

"It'll take a little getting used to the speed of the game, the runners, the clock in your mind, how much time you have to throw the ball to get the runner," he said.

Kingery was an outfielder his first two seasons in college at Arizona.

"In left and right, you have the tail off the bat and in center you have better vision," he said. "I think it'll take some time getting used to it. The low line drives are toughest right now because you can't judge how high or where it's going to land."

Kingery hit .281 with five homers and 46 RBIs in 2016 at two levels of the minors. He began last season at Double-A Reading and finished at Triple-A, combining for a .304 average with 26 homers and 29 steals. He has the pop to bat third and the speed to lead off. He earned the nickname "Scotty Jetpacks" in college.

"If I have the ability to drive the ball in the gap and sneak a few out, that increases my ability to produce runs," Kingery said. "Obviously, as a guy known for speed, to get on base is my main priority and if I can drive guys in, that helps me more."

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Updated March 20, 2018

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