The Forgotten Phillie: Scott Kingery
The Phillies added a top-dollar middle infielder this past offseason in Trea Turner. It was easy to fit into the budget, as it was frequently reasoned that Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura combined to earn about $30 million in 2022. But the middle infield's price was much higher when remembering to include the forgotten piece: Scott Kingery.
It was Spring Training 2018. Ranked number 35 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospect list, expectations were high. And Kingery had a really strong Spring Training, batting .392 with four home runs, seven runs batted in, and four stolen bases. Would he make a Phillies team with low expectations, or would he spend time at Triple-A to increase the time of Phillies control?
General manager Matt Klentak made an investment in Kingery. Six years, $24 million. Kingery was paid very well. However, he did not play well. In 2018 after signing that contract, Kingery appeared in 147 games, batting just .226 with an OPS of .605.
In 2019 Kingery had a better season. Kingery batted .258 with a very respectable .788 OPS. Kingery hit 19 home runs, 34 doubles and four triples. This came while playing seven different positions on the diamond.
But the Kingery story seemed to end there.
During the short COVID-affected 2020 season, Kingery batted just .159 in his 37 games. Injuries did not help, either.
In 2021, Kingery was sent to the Alternate Training Site out of Spring Training. He bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the major leagues throughout the season, with several injured list stints. In 15 games and 19 at bats, Kingery batted a forgettable .053 with 12 strikeouts.
In June, Kingery was outrighted off of the 40-man roster.
In 2022, Kingery made a very brief appearance on the major league roster that led to just one at bat at a time the Phillies were flush with injuries, but was quickly outrighted off the roster once again.
2023 marks the last year of that six-year contract and Kingery is in Phillies major league Spring Training once again. This will be perhaps his last chance to show the Phillies that he belongs. With Bryce Harper headed to the injured list to start the 2023 season, there is a roster spot up for grabs.
Kingery's defensive flexibility could lead to opportunities this Spring in the absence of shortstop Trea Turner.
But for that to work, Kingery's bat needs to be the 2019-levels that were never replicated. And to do so, Kingery is working alongside hitting coach Kevin Long. And Long has made a big investment in Kingery.
Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Long and Kingery worked together in Arizona four days a week. And Lauber was able to capture the plan in Long's own words:
“You can see that it’s a different swing,” Long said. “He didn’t have the ability to go direct to the ball — it just was not happening. There was a lot of stuff happening before he went to contact. A lot of inward turning. He would bury his hands. Some tilt to his bat, it was uphill, it wasn’t direct. He understands what he needs to do now, and how he needs to do it.”
Kingery caught some attention with that swing almost right away.
On Thursday during live batting practice, Kingery lined up to hit off of Phillies ace Aaron Nola along with Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh, and J.T. Realmuto. The big hit came not from their big bats, but from Kingery: a home run to left field.
Kingery remains off of the 40-man roster, and that is something hard to crack. The money is spent, and the Phillies care more about winning than making a well-paid player play only because of a contract. The financial investment has been long there, and their N.L. Championship hitting coach has invested a lot, too. Keep an eye on Kingery this Spring.