One of the perks of working for the Portland Sea Dogs is that I can go to games when I’m free. With Reading in for a weekend, I decided to make some free time so I could look at some of the guys that may be playing at Citizen’s Bank Park in the coming years.
A double header was scheduled Saturday and I hoped to stay for both. But rain delays and life got in the way so I only saw the first game of the twin bill. Still, I got to see some good action. I figured the best way to talk about the game would be to break down the big players I planned to watch going in and the impression they left me with.
As a side note, the Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski was at Saturday’s game, scouting out Jalen Beeks, who started on the mound for Portland and Rafael Devers, the Sea Dogs third baseman. This is more to note given the stats of of the hitters having to go up against a player the Red Sox are keeping an eye on. With that noted, here we go!
Season stats: .296 average, 7 HR, 19 RBI, .633 SLG
Game 1 Saturday: 1-3, 2B, K
This was the big name I was looking out for. The play-by-play guy mentioned him to me as a good player, said he had a lot of power for a smaller guy (5’10”, 180). His first at bat, he was swinging away, taking some healthy cuts at the ball. He seemed to favor the high pitches that were coming in and struck out.
His second time to the plate, he roped a ball off the Maine Monster, Fenway’s offspring at Hadlock Field. The Sea Dogs left fielder played it like a pro and fired the ball to second and Kingery should have been a sitting duck. But Kingery made one of the best slides I’ve ever seen, cutting hard to the pitcher’s side of second base, going feet first and swinging his arms away from the tag. He overslid the base and hopped back to it, beating the tag, much to the dismay of the Hadlock faithful. It reminded me a lot of Chase Utley, the intelligence and hustle.
In the field, Kingery was named the Phillies minor-leaguer of the month when it came to fielding, and I could see why. At one point, men were on first and second and a soft ball was hit back to the pitcher who, unwisely, opted to go for the double play. His throw sent Kingery into the runner. Kingery made a great lunging attempt, keeping his foot on the bag and snagging the ball, but it did pop out. Still, the effort was top tier and he did everything right, except get the out.
A later double play ball showed off Kingery’s infielding skills. Kingery received the ball from the shortstop, avoided the runner and fired the ball to first all in the blink of an eye. It was a great exchange and he was accurate with the throw.
Overall, Kingery, in just seven innings, impressed me greatly. I’d love the chance to see him again because he could be making his way to Philadelphia in the next few years.
Season stats: .304 avg, 0 HR, 13 RBI, .391 SLG
Game 1 Saturday: 0-3, backwards K
The long, lithe centerfielder didn’t have a great game, but it’s one game. It’s tough to judge a player in just one game, but here’s what I saw. His first at-bat was nothing great. He went down relatively quickly looking at strike three. His next time up, Tocci made great contact going the other way, missing out on a hit only because of a great head-first diving catch by the right fielder.
In the field, Tocci didn’t see much action, tracking down one or two fly balls and having a home run smashed over his head.
He seemed like he had a good eye at the plate and a smooth swing. Whenever a player is able to go the opposite way with solid contact, it’s a positive sign. His .307 average on the season is second on the team, so he obviously has talent in the batter’s box.
Season Stats: .298 avg, 7 HR, 20 RBI, .606 SLG
Game 1 Saturday: 0-3, backwards K
Pullin typically hits third in the lineup and ended the top of the first with a 4-3 groundout. His second at-bat was a strikeout looking and his last at-bat showed a little something. Pullin, a left, waited on an off speed pitch and made decent contact on it. He flew out to center field, but the patience on the breaking ball was great to see and he drove it.
In the field, Pullin saw more action than Tocci. He showed good tracking ability on the fly balls hit to him. One hit off the Maine Monster and bounced around on him a bit, but when you’re not used playing balls off that wall, it’s forgivable. Pullin showed some skill on the first run of the game too, despite not throwing the runner out. He played the grounder nicely, fielding it smoothly and properly and came up firing. His throw came up about five feet short of home but was right on the mark.
Of the three hitters, Pullin interested me the most behind Kingery. He’s a lefty, unlike the other two and showed both patience and power. Again, one game’s stats aren’t enough to make up your mind about a player, but he made contact outs twice.
Season Stats: 2-1, 4.84 ERA, 22.1 IP, 1.66 WHIP, 10 K
Saturday: 3 IP, 7 hits, 5 runs, 4 earned runs, 0 K
Watson’s fast ball, according to the speed clock at Hadlock, was hitting low–to-mid 90s. Portland hitters were picking him up well, though as they were making solid contact most of the time. Brock Holt was playing as part of a rehab stint and opened up the game with a hard hit single to right. Watson kept an eye on him, tossing over a few times and I was unimpressed with his move to first. A pickoff move is much less important for a righty like Watson, but there wasn’t much urgency and it was easy to know when he was throwing over.
While his fastball was a good speed, I admit I didn’t love his breaking ball. It’s different seeing it in the stands compared to the batter’s box, but it looked slow and didn’t have a huge amount of action. If it was a looping 12-6 pitch that he was burying into the dirt, I’d probably not say anything about it, but it looked more like he didn’t throw it as hard as his fastball, making the arm speed different and not getting a huge amount of movement on it.
Watson did show a willingness to play the field. On a pop-up in the first, he hopped off the mount, eyes skyward but relented to the first baseman. Later, he fielded a couple of soft grounders. As I mentioned earlier, he made a bad decision to try and turn two on one of them, throwing into the runner. It’s a mistake that gets made when you’re aggressive, but it was obvious he should have gone to first from where I was, a little wet, yet comfortable in the stands.
Most of the damage against Watson came off of one swing by Rafael Devers, the Sea Dogs third baseman. In the third with the bases loaded and one out, Devers smashed a grand slam to dead center field, hitting the ball well past the 400-foot wall. Devers put a charge into the pitch and it looked like a fastball that missed its mark with the power Devers was able to put into it.
Watson was the least impressive of the guys I looked out for. At risk of sounding like a broken record, one game isn’t enough to truly feel out a player. But my impression from the seven innings I saw were that Phillies fans should keep their eyes on Kingery and Pull. Both may be in red and white pinstripes in the next couple of years.