In the end, Scott Kingery did not turn out to be a more talented Dustin Pedroia.
During the spring of 2018, though, the hype surrounding the Phillies’ young second baseman/super utility man was off the charts. Scotty Jetpax was a universal top-35 prospect in all of baseball, Kingery was unstoppable in spring training, hitting .411/.441/.786 with 5 HRs and a team-best 23 hits, 8 more than anyone else.
The hype was so great that, in a now-deleted Buster Olney tweet, he quoted a rival talent evaluator as saying Kingery was like the Red Sox’ star second baseman “only more talented.” Former general manager Matt Klentak was so enamored he signed Kingery to a six-year, $24 million contract before he had ever played a big league game.
It all quickly went spiraled downhill.
In his rookie season, he played a career-high 147 big league games, accumulated 484 plate appearances and put up an OPS of .605 with a bWAR of -0.6. In 2018, he was better, playing six different positions in the field with an OPS of .788 and a WAR of 2.5.
Then, COVID hit, and Kingery got hit hard with the virus. While the entire 2020 season was truncated for everyone, it was especially difficult for Kingery, who dealt with lingering effects throughout the season and played in just 36 games with a .511 OPS. Over the last two years, a combination of injuries have kept him to just 16 big league games over the last two years and only 118 minor league games, but it’s clear his swing was destroyed by previous Phils’ coaching regimes before then.
But with the trade of Matt Vierling and Nick Maton to Detroit, could another opportunity be opening up for the former top prospect? Manager Rob Thomson volunteered Kingery’s name when talking to reporters this week (via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki).
The skipper also noted that non-roster invitee Scott Kingery will get another look. He is in the final year of a six-year, $24 million contract.
“Scotty is a highly talented guy,” Thomson said. “He got a little sideways there for a little bit. Maybe we can get him back and get him going.”
The mention of Kingery came unprompted from Thomson. It’s interesting that his name is still on the minds’ of Phillies coaches and, specifically, the manager, and one can’t help but wonder if Kevin Long can make heads or tails of what has been ailing Kingery’s swing since he became a big leaguer.
Even if he makes the team, Kingery is no longer being counted on as a major contributor. Those days are long gone. But with a solid spring (and hey, Mickey Moniak earned the starting center fielder job out of Clearwater before he got hurt so who knows?), an opportunity has presented itself for Kingery to once again be a contributor to the Phillies.
No one should count on it, but it’s there. On the latest edition of Hittin’ Season, I talked more about the possibility of Kingery on the 2023 Phillies and examined a number of other unanswered questions the team faces with less than a month before pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater.