Kelly Dugan steadily progressing at Reading

FILE PHOTO Kelly Dugan , a 2009 Phillies' draft pick, is settling in since his promotion to Reading.
FILE PHOTO Kelly Dugan , a 2009 Phillies' draft pick, is settling in since his promotion to Reading.
Posted: July 24, 2013

READING - When Kelly Dugan takes batting practice, a majority of the baseballs he hits land over the fence or with a splash in the pool down the rightfield line at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Dugan, 22, was selected by the Phillies in the second round of the 2009 draft at age 18 out of Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif. After struggling with multiple injuries, the 6-3, 195-pound outfield prospect is ready to show the organization what he can do when healthy.

"Kelly is a guy that can absolutely hit," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. "I mean he's a baseball player and he's gotten a lot better in the outfield from when he first signed. He just keeps getting better and better and he has hit at every level, and I am excited that he is here. Hopefully he can continue to do what he has done and get his reps at this level and then we can move him along."

Since the day he was drafted by the Phillies, Dugan's goal has been to make it to the major league club. As one of the top high school prospects in the country, Dugan passed on a scholarship to Pepperdine after batting .379 with eight homers and 35 RBI during his senior season. Dugan's father, Dennis, is an actor and director in Hollywood.

"I know I made the right decision," he said. "This is what I wanted to do. If you get drafted in a lower round, that is different. Financially it was easier and I felt that I would get more chances, so it was more comfortable for me knowing that was what I wanted to do."

Now in his fifth season in the minors, Dugan's career batting average is .295/.373/.446. He has 26 homers and 136 RBI overall, despite multiple injury-shortened seasons.

In his first season in 2009 in the Gulf Coast League, Dugan struggled with a leg staph infection and had just 167 plate appearances. The next season, he was sidelined by a stress fracture in his back. Since then he has not suffered a major injury, which has allowed him to progress steadily in the organization and receive a promotion to Double A Reading this season.

"In my first couple years I was injured on and off a lot," he said. "Right now, I am just happy to be healthy. With the last 2 years being healthy and out on the field, it has been easier to get my work done."

Since being called up to Reading on July 5, Dugan is batting .255 with one homer and three RBI. He started the season at Class A Clearwater and batted .318 with 10 home runs and 36 RBI in 56 games.

"I'm sure I can turn it around," Dugan said with a laugh. "I was hitting the ball right at people for the first few games and that's how the game is, especially at the higher levels as guys are going to be better at defense. I am feeling comfortable and these last few games have been great and I'm just trying to win some ballgames."

In Reading this season, Dugan has put in a lot of hours in the gym getting stronger; he has gained the attention of multiple teammates for his work ethic. While he is known around the locker room as a guy who is relatively quiet, funny and likes to tell jokes, Dugan takes his game seriously on the field.

"He has a really good work ethic," Fightin' Phils first baseman Jim Murphy said. "He is aggressive at the plate, he swings at good pitches and has put good swings on most balls. His average isn't reflective of how he has played so far."

Something beginning to develop for the outfielder is his power. When he was being looked at before being selected 75th overall by the Phillies in 2009, professional scouts projected him as a player who could hit 20-plus homers in his big-league prime.

"I think he's starting to develop his power," Wathan said. "I think most of the guys learn that they are hitters earlier in their careers and then the power comes later. As he grows into his swing and grows into the game, I think he definitely has the potential to develop more power."

"He has definitely shown flashes of power this year," Murphy said. "His first few years he didn't as much, but power usually comes later on and he will get more at-bats, and it looks like he is coming around."

Despite Dugan's slow start in Reading, Wathan has been impressed with what he has seen of late. Although he is not one of the organization's top prospects, many in the organization, including Wathan, believe he can hit his way through the minors and into the majors just as Darin Ruf did a year ago.

Recently, Dugan passed the 1,000 at-bat milestone in the minors. The standard for many minor leaguers before advancing is 1,500 at-bats, but before he reaches that goal, Dugan has a few things in his game he would like to improve on.

"I want to keep getting better at everything," Dugan said. "I want to keep getting more consistent on defense, throwing the ball, running the bases, everything. My opportunity is here in the minor leagues and that is where you need to do that."

If he can keep up his steady progress in the minors, Wathan believes it will be sooner rather than later that you will see Dugan with the Phillies.

"With this organization, I obviously want to be a major leaguer. and whenever they feel like my skills are ready to get to that level, I trust them," Dugan said. "They have been doing this for a lot of years, so when they think I am ready to make that step to the next level, I trust them with that."

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