February 26, 2017
DUNEDIN, Fla. – Even though Spring Training is a bit longer this year (because of the World Baseball Classic), it will hardly be surprising if a half dozen or so notable Phillies prospects are packing their bags for minor league camp at some point in the next week.
There are only so many games and innings to go around for the 62 players currently in camp. And minor league camp officially opens on Thursday.
But, until that day arrives, guys like Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery, non-roster players in camp, still have time to impress the major league staff.
The 23-year-old Hoskins, who hit 38 home runs at Double-A last season, came off the bench on Sunday and worked two walks in the Phillies 10-3 win over the Toronto Bue Jays. A day earlier against the New York Yankees, he hit a home run and a double, the latter helping the Phillies collect a 6-5 walk-off win.
Manager Pete Mackanin was impressed with the right-handed slugging first baseman’s approach.
“He looks like he’s got a chance to be a good hitter. He seemed to lay off some bad pitches,” Mackanin said Saturday. “That's what we're looking for, guys that aren't going to make outs early in the count swinging at bad pitches.”
Mackanin volunteered an observation of Hoskins again after Sunday's game.
"I was told he’s got a good idea at the plate and he sure looks like that, he sure looks like it," Mackanin said. "He’s got a nice soft approach. It looks like he’s really under control. That's good to see."
Although in the same breath Mackanin has said it's too early to make too many meaningful observations, some players have stood out. On Friday, Mackanin raved about Kingery, a 22-year-old second baseman who was promoted from Class A Clearwater to Double-A Reading last summer.
“He’s a good athlete, he’s a gamer,” Mackanin said. “You know he’s got real good fielding mechanics, a good approach at the plate. He’s a guy that I mentioned to (bench coach Larry) Bowa the last time he came up. I said this has to be pretty exciting for him to be in his first big league camp playing against the Yankees.”
With the Phillies on the wrong end of a perfect game against the Yankees in Tampa, Kingery hit a ground ball in the hole between third and shortstop and blitzed down the first base line. He ended up reaching on an error to give the Phillies their first base runner (but may have arrived safely anyway).
“To me, it looked like I would have been there, but if it was a good throw I don’t know,” Kingery said. “It was a broken bat toward the hole and there are times I can beat that out. I knew I had a chance.”
Kingery is one of two Phillies second base prospects in camp, along with former Dodgers first-round pick Jesmuel Valentin. Kingery is likely to begin the 2017 season where he finished last season – at Double-A – while Valentin plays alongside J.P. Crawford in the middle of the Triple-A infield.
The Phillies second-round pick in 2015, Kingery received little interest out of high school and had to walk on to the University of Arizona. He prides himself on his hustle.
“For me, anything can happen: an error, a ball slips through, maybe there’s a ball a guy loses in the sun. … Maybe you force an error if it’s going to be a close play. Make them rush a little bit and make a bad throw,” Kingery said. “So I’m running out of the box 100 percent all the time. Then I I can get myself in scoring position from there.”
Fellow prospect Dylan Cozens interjected to make a fair point.
“His nickname is ‘Jetpacks,’” Cozens said. “He’s gotta run those out.”
From barely recruited walk-on to one of baseball's best second base prospects, Scott Kingery hasn't slowed down: https://t.co/mdneoID9AS— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) November 11, 2016
Cozens, Kingery, and Hoskins all starred in Reading in 2016. Hoskins came two home runs away from sharing the Bauman Award (which comes with a nice cash prize for hitting the most homers in the minor leagues) with Cozens.
Cozens, who will play in a talented Triple-A outfield to begin the 2017 season, hit 40 home runs in 134 games last year. But Hoskins had an impressive season in his own right, hitting .281 with 116 RBI, and a .943 OPS in 135 games.
Hoskins’ 38 home runs matched the previous Reading franchise record Darin Ruf held until last season.
“He had a heck of a year last year,” Mackanin said. “He's got to go to Triple-A and put together another big year and then we'll worry about him.”
While the minor league season beckons, the prospects in major league camp are enjoying their stay while it lasts.
“The most interesting thing for me is seeing how guys prepare for a game,” said Hoskins, who came off the bench and walked twice in Sunday's game against the Blue Jays. “How they go about their daily routine and what they need to do to fill the best they can when they step on the field.”
“I’m out here just having fun, showing what I have,” Kingery said. “That’s all you can do right now. When I get on the field, it’s go-time. I’m going to play the way I know how to play.”