The 2015 MLB Draft begins on Monday, June 8th and runs until Wednesday, June 10th. In anticipation of the draft, MLBTR caught up with University of Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery, one of the most highly regarded players in this year’s class.
Tomorrow night, Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery will be waiting to hear his name called from Secaucus, New Jersey. Just three years ago, few could have imagined that Kingery would be in line to be a Day 1 draft pick or to even get drafted at all. Kingery was a very solid player coming out of Phoenix, Arizona’s Mountain Pointe High School, but he was overlooked by schools largely because he was only 5’7″ tall.
Kingery arrived at the University of Arizona as a walk-on, made the team, and started really making a name for himself in his sophomore year. An awful lot has changed over the last three years – not just Kingery’s stature. Today, he is rated as the No. 25 draft prospect in the country by ESPN.com’s Keith Law, No. 40 by Baseball America, and No. 42 by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. Kingery took some time out of his busy schedule late last week to chat with MLB Trade Rumors about his career at Arizona, his draft stock, and his MLB future.
Zach Links: It’s pretty rare to see a college walk-on go on to become a top draft prospect. In 2012, did you think you’d be in this position today?
Scott Kingery: Definitely not. That’s not something that I had in mind going into my freshman year, especially as a walk-on player. I didn’t have a spot on the roster yet for sure, so at that point, I was just trying to find a spot on the team.
It was pretty late in the summer when an assistant coach came down to watch me play in a tournament. They offered me a recruited walk-on spot, which means that you have a place on the fall roster but nothing is guaranteed for the spring roster. So, I wasn’t thinking about the majors at all at that point.
ZL: Did you consider taking scholarship offers from other schools, whether it was D-I or D-II?
SK: I was committed to going to a junior college in Arizona, but other than that, I didn’t have any D-I, D-II, or D-III offers for baseball. So, it was pretty much go to junior college or just take my chances at Arizona.
ZL: You turned the corner in a big way from your freshman year to your sophomore year. What changed for you?
SK: I think each year you play in the Pac-12 you just get a little bit more confident. I gained experience and I learned a lot. I think in your first year as a freshman you come in and don’t know what to expect. The level of play from high school to college increases so much. But, I learned more and more each year and built off of that.
ZL: Your double play partner, Kevin Newman, is considered to be one of the very best draft prospects in this year’s class. Did you feel like you’ve pushed each other over the years to excel?
SK: Yeah, when I was in the outfield the first few years I didn’t spent that much time with him. Now I’m at second base and we push each other and that helps us play better. This year he become one of my roommates and that’s when I realized how truly competitive we are with each other. Literally everything is a competition between us.
ZL: How does that competitive spirit between the two of you manifest itself off the field?
SK: If it’s video games, we’re competing. One night we were mini golfing and it got intense. We started even having competitions in the weight room and seeing who could get to school the fastest.
ZL: You played second base while at Arizona but there has been talk of your skills translating to shortstop. Could you see yourself playing shortstop at the big league level? How comfortable are you at shortstop?
SK: Since I haven’t been there in a few years, I think it would take some getting used to again. But that was my home all through high school. College is the only time I haven’t played there really…I think I could definitely play shortstop. I think a lot of teams want to see me try that out, too. If it doesn’t work, they can always throw me back to second base.
ZL: Do you have a preference between playing shortstop or second base?
SK: I’ve always loved playing shortstop more but playing second base isn’t too bad either.
ZL: Why do you like playing shortstop more?
SK: I don’t know why, but that’s just always been where I’ve been the most comfortable. I grew up playing that position and I just want to get back over there. When you’re at shortstop you feel like you’re kind of in the head role, kind of captain on the field. I’d like to get back to that.
ZL: There always seems to be skepticism surrounding shorter players, even when they’ve proven their ability time and time again like you have. Do you feel like any concern about you being under 6-feet tall is overblown?
SK: At this point, I don’t think that’s gonna come into play, but that was definitely one of the big reasons why I didn’t get a scholarship offer out of high school. I was 5’7″, 150 pounds heading into college so I think everyone saw that small stature and they didn’t want to take a chance. Now, I think I’ve proven myself over multiple years so I don’t think that my small stature matters much. Also, I’m 5’10.5″ now and I’ve put on 25 or 30 pounds, so it’s a different story.
ZL: What are you hearing about where you might get drafted?
SK: It’s kind of all over the place, but I’ve been hearing and reading that it could be somewhere in the No. 20-50 range. Hopefully I’ll get drafted towards the top of that, but, we’ll see. Anything can happen.
ZL: What do you think sets you apart from other middle infielders in this class?
SK: I’ve proven that I can hit at multiple levels. I did it in college and I did it in the Cape Cod league. That, along with my speed, sets me apart. I’ve shown that I can create havoc on the basepaths with my speed and my bat really just improved each year at Arizona. I also got even more comfortable with my range this year and I made things happen on defense as well.
ZL: What’s the main thing you want to work on?
SK: I want to work on my footwork at second base because that can always get better. I also want to make sure that I stay aggressive at second base. It’s a short throw so sometimes you can find yourself getting complacent and sitting back on a ball rather than getting the right hop. I like to be aggressive and get right to the ball.
ZL: Last summer in the Cape Cod League, you showed that you can still rake with a wooden bat. Do you sense that has helped your draft stock somewhat?
SK: Definitely. The top players in college are in the Cape Cod league so going there, facing that pitching, and putting up some good numbers really shows the scouts that I have a good swing and that it doesn’t matter if I’m swinging wood or metal.
ZL: Everyone loves to compare draft prospects to current players. What major league player would you say that your skill set is similar to?
SK: I’d say I’m something like Ian Kinsler, with a little bit more speed.
ZL: What are your plans for draft night?
SK: I’m just going to have some friends and family over. We’ll be watching on TV with everyone else, waiting to see what happens.