Phils' Dugan approaches first big-league camp

Dugan
Dugan
Posted: February 11, 2014

WHILE A number of 2009 second-round draftees already have contributed to the major league club that selected them, Phillies prospect Kelly Dugan still is awaiting his opportunity to show off his talents in Philadelphia.

The 23-year-old outfielder started 2013 in high-Class A Clearwater but finished his fifth year with the organization with Double A Reading, where he batted .264 with 10 home runs and 23 runs batted in in 56 games. Before joining Reading in July, the lefthanded-hitting Dugan hit .318 with 10 homers and 36 RBI in 56 games with the Threshers.

"I was just happy that I got a chance to go play in Reading and hopefully I can build on that season," said the 6-3, 195-pound Dugan. "I've been working really hard this offseason so I can come up to Philadelphia and play with the big guys. Spring training is the next step for me and now I'm just excited and ready for it to start."

After a strong 2013 campaign, Dugan was one of four prospects added to the 40-man roster in November to protect him in the Rule 5 draft.

Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan has watched Dugan since his days at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and he believes Dugan has the potential to be better than most initially expected.

"I think obviously it's easy to see the potential with the bat in his hands and he loves to hit," Jordan said. "I think he's a student of hitting, but I think the most impressive thing for me is that he has really invested in the defensive side of things. Last year we really started to see his athleticism more in the outfield.

"This guy has more of a chance to be a complete player than most people think. I realized initially when I got here . . . that he is really growing in all aspects of his game."

Phillies pitchers and catchers have their first workout on Thursday, and Dugan and the rest of the position players are scheduled to report a week from today. Dugan will start spring training for the first time in big-league camp, working alongside Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf, who, like Dugan, both were trying to break in with the Phillies after minor league success not long ago. Dugan will go down to Clearwater early to familiarize himself with coaches, trainers and the rest of the Philadelphia staff. Dugan added that he is also willing to leave a corner outfield position to work in centerfield if the opportunity presents itself.

"Right now, I'm just honored by the opportunity to be here and happy that I get to go to spring training and get the opportunity to be around some of the great players that are on the Phillies right now," Dugan said. "I'm excited to learn from them and just be around them. I hope I just take a lot away from it. I want to just take the opportunity to watch them work and get a chance to talk to those guys about hitting. It's a great opportunity for me and I'm really humbled by it."

Dugan was expected to be one of seven Phillies to participate in the Arizona Fall League, but turf toe kept him out. He struggled to stay healthy early in his minor league career. In 2009, it was a leg staph infection. In 2010, a stress fracture in his back. Since then, Dugan has not suffered a major injury. He said the turf toe will not be an issue in 2014.

"I was really bummed because I wanted to play and it was such an honor to be selected to play in the Arizona Fall League," Dugan said. "They just didn't have enough time for me to recoup because if you have an injury, they just want to get another guy in there immediately. I felt like I could have played toward the end, but they just didn't have the roster space."

One of the most notable aspects of Dugan's game that improved in 2013 was the arrival of his power. Between Clearwater and Reading, Dugan hit a combined .291 with 24 doubles, four triples and 20 home runs. From 2009-12, Dugan had just 15 combined home runs, 12 of which were hit in 2012 in Class A Lakewood.

"I don't think it's surprising because if you really break down his swing, he has plenty of bat speed, he has a lot of hand strength and he's got leverage in his swing," Jordan said. "If Kelly Dugan just tries to be a hitter and really tries to barrel balls and hit balls hard, he's going to hit home runs. There's going to be plenty of power if he just tries to be a hitter."

Before Dugan is able to join the Phillies, Jordan sees a few things that must first improve.

"I think he can improve his plate discipline," Jordan said of Dugan, who had 114 strikeouts and 29 walks in 474 at-bats last season. "We talked about some offseason adjustments he has made - simple things, nothing big - and he feels really good about how he is able to cover the plate more as well. Away from the offensive side of things, I think he needs to continue to focus on the defensive side of things because he has a good chance to be a good defensive outfielder, which is very important because you don't want to limit yourself to [being] a good offensive player.

"He needs to become a better baserunner. That's a part of his game that is also very important because he needs to be a guy that can go first to third or score from second on a base hit. There are things he definitely has to work on, and he's not there yet."

Coming off consecutive seasons of increased production, the prospect who once passed on a scholarship to Pepperdine to join the Phillies organization is beginning to put into perspective how close he is to making his first appearance in the Philadelphia outfield - although he is unsure if that will come as early as 2014.

"I think that's really for the Phillies to decide," Dugan said. "I have a lot of faith in them, and when you say you are ready and when your skill set is ready, they will give you a chance. I trust them. I'm just focused on what I need to do and I'm just trying to stay focused in the moment."

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