Rhys Hoskins. Aaron Nola. Jean Segura. Andrew McCutchen. Odubel Hererra. Jorge Alfaro. Jake Arietta. (Hopefully) Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper.
What do these names have in common? They are all supposed to help the Phillies compete for a playoff spot. Now, these players get a lot of rightly deserved attention, but there is one player, Scott Kingery, who everyone seems to forget.
Sometimes, I love to defend Philly fans. I think the notion that Philly fans are “violent” is ridiculous. However, if someone argued that Philly was the most impatient fan base, I’d have a hard time disagreeing.
In a year where Philly fans have discussed the ideas of trading Ben Simmons and Carson Wentz, it should not be a surprise that they have completely forgotten the incredible talent that is Scott Kingery.
Kingery has always been the golden boy. In his 2015 campaign at Arizona, he hit .392 with 5 HRs and 36 RBIs in just 54 games. After his impressive college career, the Phillies drafted him anticipating continued success from the intriguing second baseman. In the minors, he did not disappoint. In his combined season with Lehigh Valley and Reading in 2017, Kingery batted .304 with 26 RBIs and 65 RBIs. He had done everything he was supposed to do, which is hit at every level.
At the time of Spring Training, nothing changed. Kingery showed flashes of defensive potential and his power, demanding the Phillies to give him more looks. The Phillies believed in him enough to sign him to a 6 year/$36M contract, and allowed him to make the opening day roster, which in the end may have been a mistake.
We fans expected Kingery to contribute early and often, but as it was soon proved, that was wishful thinking.
Kingery’s career started out well. In his first 13 games, the 24 year old rookie batted .280 with 2 HRs and 12 RBIs. Everything went downhill from there. Finishing the season with a .226 BA, the rookie campaign we all thought would be special was everything but that.
Due to this, Phillies fans have either forgotten about him or just given up on him completely. When discussing the upcoming 2019 season, Kingery is an afterthought for most fans, which should not be the case.
If the Phillies do decide to trade second baseman Cesar Hernandez, Kingery will most likely take over as a full time starter. If not, he will see a super utility role at 2B/SS/3B/LF.
While the defense is a work in progress, it will be hard to develop if he cannot stay at one position for a consistent amount of time. In what could be a crowded infield (especially if it includes Manny Machado), there really is no space for Kingery. I do believe Cesar Hernandez will be traded at some point, and when that happens, Phillies fans will remember what made Scott a 2nd round pick.
Some could argue he was rushed, and I wouldn’t disagree. That is why it’s ridiculous to give up on him. With more ABs, the comfort level will increase. As we saw towards the end of the 2018 season, Kingery’s comfort level on the defensive side improved, and it will only go up in 2019.
The Phillies have made it pretty clear they plan on moving on from Maikel Franco this offseason. If that is the case, we could see Jean Segura (and hopefully Manny Machado) playing some third, opening up more time for Kingery at SS.
As proven last year, 2B is where he thrives defensively. For some reason, Gabe Kapler was hellbent on starting him at SS, and GM Matt Klentak clearly wasn’t too fond of that, proven by the Phillies late-season acquisition of Asdrubal Cabrera. Klentak and Kapler were clearly not on the same page. I feel Kapler wanted to let Kingery make mistakes and allow him to grow, while Klentak was in “win now mode.”
The Phillies are in a very difficult position. Even without another major free agent signing, the Phils will be a playoff contender. With that said, Jean Segura, Maikel Franco, and Cesar Hernandez are all better hitters and better defensively than Kingery (as of now.) If they want this to be the year he breaks out, Cesar Hernandez has to be traded. If they are okay with him taking the super-utility role, which seems most likely as of now, we will still see a lot of fielding woes.
We learned pretty quickly that too much expectation was put on a player who fans expected to prove his worth right away. It’s hard to get in a groove (offensively or defensively) while you are switching positions every other game and can’t get consistent ABs. 2019 will most likely be another development year for Scotty Jetpax, and that is perfectly acceptable. If the Phillies do end up with Machado, there is a good chance Kingery could spend time in the minors, which isn’t the worst idea.
With all that said, I expect the Phillies to allow the growing pains to happen without sending him to the minors.
My *official* 2019 predictions: .264 BA, 15 HRs, 64 RBIs.
Patience is a virtue, friends.
Report by Jack Margolin
All stats according to https://www.baseball-reference.com/