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Dugan watched, listened while in big league camp

April 1, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
READING – Kelly Dugan did a lot of watching and listening in Clearwater at the start of spring training. Standing by the batting cages he'd watch how veteran members of the Philadelphia Phillies went about getting their work in.

During games, he'd listen to how they dissected opposing pitchers pitch by pitch. The Phillies' minor league outfielder wanted to soak up as much information as he could while he was in the team's Major League camp.

When the time came for him to go back to minor league camp, he put what he had learned into practice. He'll start his second season with the Class AA Reading Fightin Phils when the season opens Thursday night against Portland, and he says he's never been more prepared for an opening day.

“Being around that group of guys who have won a championship and seeing how they work and how they go about their business, was really good for me as a player,” Dugan said during Reading's annual media day on Tuesday at FirstEnergy Stadium. “I've never had a spring like that where I've gotten to do both (Major League and minor league camp). I got there in the beginning of February and for me it was a great. I've never felt as prepared as I do now.”

Dugan spent 3-4 weeks in Phillies camp after being placed on the 40-man roster in the offseason. He got just five at-bats during his time in big league camp, but Dugan said the time was more about watching and listening than it was about results in games.

The 23-year old outfielder who was a second-round draft pick in 2010, is coming off his best statistical season, where he hit a combined .291 with 20 home runs and 59 RBIs in 112 games between Clearwater and Reading. His .318 batting average in the first half of the season in Clearwater earned him a promotion to Reading for the second half of the season.

The former Williamsport Crosscutter's season was so good it helped vault him into a position as a consensus Top 10 prospect in the Phillies' organization. He is rated as high as the fourth-best prospect in the Phillies' system by both ESPN and Baseball Prospectus.

It's all come from finally being healthy. The early days of his career were hampered by injury after being drafted out of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif., where he was a teammate of current Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

A staph infection ended his first full minor league season when he was in Williamsport in 2010. In 2011 he was having a stellar season back in Williamsport before a stress fracture in his back limited him to less than 50 games. He's avoided significant injuries since then, battling only turf toe which robbed him of a chance to play in the Arizona Fall League following last season's breakout performance.

“Part of being a professional and playing 162 games in a year has to do with knowing your body and how to take care of your body,” Dugan said. “Everybody is so competitive that you want to maximize everything every day in the weight room are on the field. And everyone plays so hard every day, but you have to learn how to go about it. Over the course of time I've learned how to go about it better. I think that's led to more productivity and healthy years over the last couple years.”

Now he's been able to consistently showcase the tools which were ever present at Bowman Field in bright, but brief, flashes. He's consistently making solid contact and driving the baseball to all fields. Nearly 40 percent of his hits over two levels a year ago went for extra bases. He posted a career high .215 ISO last year, a metric used to measure a hitter's power production. His .221 ISO in Clearwater alone last summer was the seventh-best in the league.

Dugan's 20 home runs combined over the two levels were a career-high in his five years in the Phillies' system. His previous high was 12 in 2012 while playing for the Lakewood Blueclaws. Reading manager said the power maturation has been a big part in making Dugan a more complete hitter. His power will also help him profile better in a corner outfield spot where power is an expected commodity.

“Power is really one of the last things to come for guys,” Wathan said. “We want these guys to be good hitters first and foremost, and then the power will come eventually. If you try to teach power early, you're going to lose a lot of things. (Dugan) is starting to come into his power and hopefully he can continue that this year.”

“Some people, like my buddy Giancarlo Stanton, he just comes in right away and is so gifted that he has that power right away, but I think he's unusual,” Dugan said. “Some guys take a little longer. I had to take advantage of all the opportunities the Phillies gave me with instruction and training in the weight room and experience and at-bats.”

And now he's finally combining everything – talent, preparation, intelligence and baseball acumen – to be one of the Phillies' top prospects.


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