Organizational depth is a common phrase used around baseball to describe older minor league players that help fill out Double-A and Triple-A rosters. They could be players with a bit of big league service time or guys that may have been branded as having a ceiling that’s upper-levels-of-the-minors high, but not any higher. Reading utility man KC Serna might be a player categorized in such a way, but that doesn’t impact his goal of continuing to climb upward in the professional ranks.
Another similar term journeyman is something that Serna explains can be a good thing, but not where he plays.
“I mean, that’d be, typically, a good position if you’re in the big leagues, but we’re not. So, you know, obviously it’s not the best role you want to be thrown into,” Serna said.
Selected in the 42nd round of the 2011 draft by Cleveland, Serna had a successful debut season in pro ball with short-season A level Mahoning Valley after a great collegiate career at Oregon, where his 163 hits rank second in school history.
In 2012, Serna found himself released by Cleveland and would return to baseball playing in the independent American Association in 2013, posting solid numbers, which lead the Phillies to come calling for the 2014 season.
The past three seasons have seen Serna spending time at three levels of the Phils system, including time last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. This year, the 26-year-old’s .351 batting average heading into action on Monday was tops for the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils. He’d also notched seven doubles with a home run and 11 RBI in 27 games.
The recent promotion of top Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford from Reading to Lehigh Valley could result in more playing time at shortstop for Serna. In order to land in the lineup more frequently, the six-foot 185-pounder has become more versatile, going from a middle infielder in college to playing third base, left field and center field as a pro. He even tossed a scoreless inning as a pitcher this season for Reading.
“A lot of things are out of our hands. I can’t really control whether I’m gonna be in there or not,” Serna expressed. “I try to show up to the field everyday, regardless of what the lineup says, just trying to get my work done.
“To be honest, I don’t really look at the lineup too often. I try to just focus on getting better and making sure that my game’s tight so that when I’m called in there, I’m ready to go.”
Serna maintains a fresh mental approach by treating his non-daily activity like a college schedule, where teams only play a few days a week.
As a youngster, Serna admired Yankees legend Derek Jeter‘s ability to garner attention for his talent, hustle and leadership rather than off-the-field nonsense. In his current role, Serna takes pride in being a bit of a veteran that can assist younger teammates with advice that could apply on or off the field.
Despite being a leader in his own right, the southern California native admires the skills of many of the younger players around him, citing what stands out most about the Reading team he’s a part of.
“Just the abundance of talent. A lot of these guys have more than a couple tools. You know, and it’s fun to watch them kind of mold their games into a big league baseball player. And I’ve seen a couple of them over the past two or three years, it’s fun to watch them grow as a person and a more solid all around baseball player,” Serna stated.
With all those rising stars of the Phillies’ future racing through the minors right now, it’s possible that Serna isn’t in the organization’s plans for the big league roster. But that doesn’t spoil the righty batter’s frame of mind, though, as he’s got a smart outlook on the business.
“Generally, I’m not playing for just the Phillies. I’m playing for 29 other teams,” Serna explained. “Whether they pick me up after the year, whether I get my shot here or somebody else picks me up mid-year, I really don’t know. But, I know where I stand. I know who I am. So, I’m confident in that.”
On that note, Serna’s goal remains firm.
“Climbing levels, whether it be here or with any other club.”