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Kingery happy to move around diamond

Philly's No. 2 prospect could challenge for starting role at 2B, SS, 3B or OF
MLB.com @jonmorosi

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Scott Kingery has heard the comparison before. He still smiled when a reporter mentioned it to him after Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Braves.

In stature, in swing path, in baseball savvy, in determination to prove doubters wrong -- he reminds people of Dustin Pedroia. 

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Scott Kingery has heard the comparison before. He still smiled when a reporter mentioned it to him after Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Braves.

In stature, in swing path, in baseball savvy, in determination to prove doubters wrong -- he reminds people of Dustin Pedroia. 

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Phillies Spring Training info

"Obviously, it's an honor just to be put in the same sentence as him," Kingery said. "I haven't even reached the Major Leagues. He's had MVP awards, Rookie of the Year [Awards]. It's tough to compare me to him. But it's a great compliment to even be put in the same sentence. Hopefully one day I can show signs of him.

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"I think it's more [our] small stature. He played in Arizona for college [at Arizona State]. I played in Arizona for college [at the University of Arizona]. The two get put together."

Any issue being linked to a Sun Devil?

"It doesn't bother me that much," a grinning Kingery said. "I grew up a Sun Devil fan, but unfortunately I didn't get an offer there. So I went down to Tucson and tried to make ASU pay every chance I could get."

Video: PIT@PHI: Kingery tell us a bit about himself

Having settled that score, the 23-year-old Kingery is close to Major League-ready as a hitter, if he's not there already. Now the Phillies need a place to play him. Kingery has played second base almost exclusively in the Minor Leagues, but the Phils have Cesar Hernandez there. Kingery has shown promising instincts in center field, where Odubel Herrera is under contract through 2021. Wednesday, Kingery played three defensive innings at shortstop -- where fellow 23-year-old J.P. Crawford is an above-average defender.

"The mission with Kingery is to move him around the diamond and give him every opportunity to be on our Major League club, as soon as possible," manager Gabe Kapler said.

Video: PHI@NYY: Kingery swipes second base in the 1st

As soon as Opening Day? Probably not. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he expects Kingery to begin the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"We have to remind ourselves and everybody: He has only about two months of Triple-A experience," Klentak said. "As exciting as the offseason has been, and as hopeful as we are that we're going to take a step forward this year, we still need to do the right thing for a player's individual development. And that will likely mean he starts the year at Triple-A. But if he gets off to the type of start he's capable of, he doesn't have to be there long."

Last season, a swing adjustment -- with launch angle in mind -- helped Kingery hit 26 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A, an extraordinary increase over the five long balls he hit in 2016. He's carried the same approach into Spring Training, with attention-grabbing results: After Wednesday's 2-for-2 performance, he has a 1.219 OPS with three homers in 13 Grapefruit League games.

Video: Kingery eager to prove himself, grow with Phillies

Kapler was impressed with Kingery's two plate appearances against the Braves -- for different reasons. In the seventh inning, Kingery worked a 3-1 count, sat on a fastball, and throttled a ground-rule double to left. In the ninth, he fell behind 1-2, but fisted a two-seamer into center and put the tying run aboard.

"The second at-bat was really interesting, because it's an indication of his consistent angles and the way the ball comes off the bat," Kapler said. "When he drives the baseball, he gets it in the air. When he gets beat with the baseball, it lands on the outfield grass. He's just been very consistent across the board.

"We had talked about working longer at-bats, seeing pitches, fighting off tough pitches. He's done that. He's barreled up the baseball. He's used the whole field. You've seen home runs to the opposite field. You've seen him drive the ball in the gap to left-center field.

"Pop. Speed on the bases. Defense. Excellent at turning it at second base. He's been off the charts."

Video: TOR@PHI: Kingery robs Pillar of single with nice play

Other than that, not much to see here.

For good measure, Kingery made the most dazzling defensive play of Wednesday's game: Playing to the right side of second base in a shift against the left-handed-hitting Preston Tucker, Kingery sprinted after a windblown fly ball and made a lunging, tumbling catch in shallow right.

"That ball just kept carrying," Kingery said. "Originally, off the bat, I thought it was going to be on the infield. But it kept getting a little bit [further] away from me. At the last second, I kind of reached out, and reaching out that far brought me to the ground.

"If I see a ball in the air, I'm trying to go get it until I hear someone call me off. If I don't hear anybody, I'm going to go after it."

On the subject of comparisons, here's another to consider: Ben Zobrist, one of Kapler's former Rays teammates. Zobrist arrived in the Majors as a shortstop but has made three All-Star teams and won two World Series rings because of an ability to start games at every defensive position except pitcher and catcher.

"[Zobrist] was a great example," Kapler said. "Kingery has that kind of athleticism. He's the kind of guy you want at the top of your lineup. There's other examples of guys who have gotten to the big leagues because of their willingness to move around the diamond. [Kingery is] beyond cooperative.

Video: Scott Kingery keeping positive mentality this spring

"The example I'd use is Cody Bellinger and his willingness to move to the outfield -- just so if anything opened up at the Major League level, he could slide in. [The Dodgers had] Adrian Gonzalez at first base. Difficult to break into the big leagues at that point, but there was more opportunity if he could play multiple positions.

"[Bellinger was] a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman who had that level of athleticism. And we said, 'Why can't he play center field?' And he said, 'Why can't I play center field?' Scotty has an ambitious attitude toward moving around the diamond [too]."

Video: PHI@TB: Kingery ties game with a two-run homer

Kapler, of course, was running the Dodgers' farm system last season when Bellinger debuted with Los Angeles as a 21-year-old left fielder.

The date of that promotion? April 25. Now let's see how long it takes Kingery to arrive -- position to be named later.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com.

Philadelphia Phillies, Scott Kingery