MISSOULA — Alex King might just be the most valuable position player in the Pioneer League North right now.
No way, you say? Let's take a look at the résumé of the Missoula Osprey newcomer:
For starters he's hitting .317, which would rank fourth in the division if King was actually included on the league's hit list (his 12 games are not enough to qualify him). On top of that he has recorded a hit in nine of his last 11 games and landed safely on base in a team-high 11 straight.
And that's just part of why he's so valuable. King is listed in the O's program as a shortstop but he has also been inserted in the lineup at first, second, third, outfield and designated hitter.
Not bad for a small-town Kansasan who was taken in the 35th round of the MLB Draft last month.
"Hey, I mean, being a white shortstop who played college ball in St. Louis, Missouri, it's a blessing to be here for sure," King told 406mtsports.com. "(Teammate) Zach Almond was drafted in 35th round last year so I don't think it matters what round you're taken.
"Those higher guys might get a little more priority. But I don't really focus on that too much. I think I'm better than people think I am."
Does it bother King he's been asked to play so many positions? Does he care if the term "utility" is applied to his career, same as his manager, Mike Benjamin, who played all over the infield for the San Francisco Giants?
"I'd rather play every position because you get in the lineup more often," said the former Saint Louis University star, who led the Billikens to the NCAA tourney this spring. "If I'm limited to shortstop, splitting time with two other guys, I'm playing once every three days or so.
"Here I get to play all sorts of positions and continue to keep my bat in the lineup. If high-A needs a first baseman, I'm able to do that. If low-A needs a third baseman, I'm able to do that. So that's kind of my goal."
Life as a utility man hasn't been all sunshine and roses for King. There was that rough patch in Ogden last weekend where he committed three errors in two games at first base.
"I was getting mad but you have to stick with it," offered the 6-foot-2 prospect, who played first in Wednesday's 9-8 home loss to the Ogden Raptors.
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"First is the toughest for me for sure. The ball comes off the bat different. Way different than short and third. I'm backwards on that side. Spin is coming off weird. I feel real comfortable at short, pretty comfortable at third, still trying to get comfortable at first."
King played a lot of different sports growing up. He's thankful he was steered toward baseball by a list of coaches that includes Whitey Herzog's grandson, John Urick, who played in the minor leagues for six years prior to directing King's high school team.
"With baseball it seemed like I was always a step ahead of everybody," King offered. "I had that hand-eye coordination. My coaches encouraged me to take baseball by storm and I'm glad I did."
King, who played briefly in the Arizona League and in Hillsboro before heading to Missoula, is especially keyed up for this week. A home series against the defending Pioneer League champion Raptors gives the O's a chance to prove how good they can be.
"They swing it well, they have good arms and they don't make too many defensive mistakes," King said of Ogden, a Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate that boasts the best record in the league at 22-10. "For me they're the best team we've faced by far."
Missoula and Ogden struggled defensively in the first four innings Wednesday, each committing a pair of errors. Jeremy Munoz had a two-RBI single for the O's and Tre Todd a solo homer for the Raptors as the teams entered the fifth tied at 3-3.
Ogden shortstop Ron Brito broke the tie with a solo home run in the fifth. Matt Cogan made it back-to-back solo shots off Osprey reliever Erin Baldwin, giving his team a 5-3 lead.
Brito ripped a two-RBI double to center field as the visitors stretched their lead to 8-3 in the top of the sixth. Joe Robbins answered with a solo home run to left in the bottom half.
Jeremy Arocho smacked an RBI double for the Raptors in the seventh. Missoula answered with a run in the seventh to make the score 9-5.
The Osprey trimmed their deficit to 9-8 in the eighth. Two of the three runs scored on a Zach Almond double. Missoula had the tying run on third base in the ninth but Daniel Wasinger struck out and Jesus Marriaga lined out to short to end the threat.
Notes: Osprey starting pitcher Marcos Tineo has been named Pioneer League Pitcher of the Week for July 9-15. The honor is the first for a member of the Osprey this season. Tineo delivered a stellar outing in Idaho Falls, holding the league's second-highest scoring offense to two hits and no earned runs. The right-hander tossed six innings with three strikeouts and no walks in his strongest start of the season ... On Tuesday the O's announced the addition of four pitchers to their roster, headlined by former Osprey Carlos Hernandez, who spent time in Missoula during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Pitchers Luis Castillo, Bryan Valdez, and Mailon Arroyo are also set to join the roster.