In the last five weeks, we have seen Phillies 2B Cesar Hernandez suffer an oblique injury and AAA 2B Jesmuel Valentin have shoulder surgery, shutting down his season. Meanwhile, down in Reading, Scott Kingery continued to rake. All of Phillies nation has been clamoring for a while now that he should get the call-up to the big leagues. And then are those who are like me, who were just puzzled by the slow malaise for a promotion to Lehigh Valley. So Sunday night as I’m prepping for the Third Eye Blind concert on Festival Pier, I was debating whether I would go to Lakewood and watch Ranger Suarez or go to Allentown and see where all the Phillies advanced hitters were at. And then my Twitter feed got blasted with about 10-12 different Kingery getting promoted tweets and that was the clincher (of course Suarez ended up throwing 7.2 perfect innings before allowing a hit).
In an atmosphere where over 10,000 tickets were sold in a record setting 7th straight sellout, Kingery walked up in his 1st at-bat at AAA behind the A-Team theme music, cause if your growing a legend, that’s usually the types of sounds you’d hear. And on a 1-1 count he took a change-up down and knocked it into CF.
This is only the 2nd time I have ever seen Kingery live, but I like how fluid and simple his swing is and how good his bat-to-ball skills are. In his next four ABs, Kingery would pop up to 1B, ground into a force out and stealing 2B, popping up to 2B ending a bases loaded threat in the 6th and going down looking on a questionable high looking strike three call. But Kingery showed out with speed and his approach at the plate, where I felt like he took one or two bad swings on the night. But his defense was the real standout with two plays.
The first play came with Brandon Leibrandt (also making his AAA debut) allowed three straight baserunners to start the 2nd (walk, RBI double, error on Crawford). With 1B and 3B and nobody out, Matt Dominguez sent a little flare into shallow right. And Kingery would leap, dive and make a fantastic over-the-shoulder catch for the first out. Leibrandt then retired the next two batters to survive allowing only one run. But Kingery ignited the whole thing and in two innings, I’m sure anybody who was watching the game or going through Twitter was already foaming at the mouth by this point.
He would then make another nice play on defense to end the 6th as he would make a running backhand grab and throw to 1B to just get Dominguez again. Kingery on defense last night look calm with every ball that came his way, and his above average speed showed on some of these plays. Kingery from all accounts from what I watched since his stellar spring training with the big club, has all the tools to be this team’s table setter for the next decade providing sound defense up the middle as well. At this point it is probably best for him to remain at AAA for the rest of the season. And if there is a strong enough campaign, he will be the Opening Day 2B in 2018, perhaps even a call-up this September.
Some Other Minor Thoughts
- J.P. Crawford was hot entering Sunday on a 6 game stretch hitting .345 with 4 doubles. After going 0/4 on Sunday, he followed that up with a game where though he walked twice, he would go hitless in five trips to the plate. For me, a lot of Crawford’s struggles are always pointed to timing, but I also see it as he just allows some good pitches to hit go by him for strikes. He doesn’t need to turn into an aggressive hitter like Nick Williams or Jorge Alfaro but I see too many pitches in his wheelhouse get passed up for as advanced a hitter as he is and he ends up going after worse pitches which he ends up rolling grounders or popping up in the infield. It went beyond that though last night as the mental errors caught up. After the throw he sailed in the 2nd which he’d be bailed out on, he was nearly doubled off at 1B in the 3rd from RF on an Alfaro fly ball that fell short of extra bases to the warning track. Luckily the 1B for Pawtucket forgot about the force out rule going for the tag instead. In the 7th, a ball was hit to CF for a single. Mike Miller of the PawSox tried to score, which was a bad decision on it’s own with Cozens’ arm in CF, but Crawford ended up hesitating, possibly double clutching on the relay to home almost allowing Miller to score. It just seems like his struggles are being carried on the field with him. I think J.P. is still this team’s future at SS, but he does need a longer string than just a week of being hot at the plate so his overall game doesn’t suffer.
- For the guys who have a clearer path to the majors at this point, Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro, they would go 2/4 with a pair of doubles and 0/3 with two walks, respectively. Williams ended up scorching a ball over just out of reach of the LF to drive in the Pigs 1st run and would split the right-center gap for another double his next AB. His next three appearances resulted in an a force out, an intentional walk and a bad AB resulting in a strikeout. Williams is definitely squaring up the ball more and while I’m not a big fan of his aggressive nature, he’s made it work lately (.306, 6 XBH, 6 BB (8 prior), 9 K in last 10 G). Alfaro had one of his “better” games at the plate that resulted in him being hitless as the DH. Working the two walks was just an underlying story, as I thought he stayed within himself and didn’t chase many pitches I would consider un-hittable. Two of his outs were hard hit the other way, a 3rd inning low liner that reached the wall and a 5th inning screecher that was caught on a nice leap by the 1B. LF and Rupp’s spot behind the plate are going to be up for grabs soon. They will be at Citizens Bank Park soon enough.
- Dylan Cozens has ridiculous raw power. When guys swing like he did on his leadoff homer in the 4th inning, I’d be thinking double. He ended up having one of his better games I’ve seen him play in person over the last couple of years.
- Finally, we end with the other guy who made his AAA debut, LHP Brandon Leibrandt. Through the 1st four innings, I thought he was in pretty good control despite the somewhat high pitch count where Brian Bogusevic’s RBI double being the one bad pitch I would take back. He ended up running out of gas in the fifth inning, as he threw 27 pitches including allowing a 2-out, 2-run home run to Steve Selsky. He ended up finishing his line at 5 IP, 3 H, 3 R (all ER), 3 BB, 6 K (3 looking), 98 pitches (67 strikes). I was a bit surprised that the right-handed heavy PawSox line-up didn’t square him up enough, really only getting foul balls. He will end up being no-more than an emergency call-up, crafty lefty who relies on locating his 87-90 mph on his fastball with a decent change-up and rarely seen curve.