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Return of the King?

Maybe we haven’t seen the last of Scott Kingery?

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MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Baltimore Orioles
In the teams plans or not, Scott Kingery is still with the Phillies
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Gelb published a Phillies update on The Athletic this morning. He gave some indications about the Phillies’ plans for the bullpen and Mick Abel, as well as this blurb:

Scott Kingery remains in the organization despite the Phillies paying him $1 million to decline a $13 million club option. Kingery reverted to his original minor-league status, which means the Phillies control his rights for one more year. Additionally, the Phillies decided to place Kingery on their Triple-A reserve list, which means he cannot be selected in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft.

I imagine most of us had forgotten about Kingery. The one-time prospect was once hailed as the next Chase Utley. (To be fair, every white infield prospect in the Phillies system gets hailed as the next Chase Utley.)

But while Utley came to epitomize the Phillies’ farm system success of the early 2000’s, Kingery epitomized the Phillies’ problems with player development under the Andy MacPhail/Matt Klentak front office. He altered his swing to develop more power, but the new swing didn’t allow him to make enough contact against major league pitching. And then during his rookie season, he seemingly played every position except his natural second base spot.

He was given the starting second base job to start 2019 and showed some improvement with the bat in the first half of the year, but by the end of the season, he was once again a negative at the plate. His 2020 season was almost completely derailed by COVID, and in 2021, despite the centerfield job being there for the taking, he was never able to make a serious claim on it.

Kingery never hit well enough in the minors to make the Phillies even consider giving him a chance over the past two seasons. He played in just 15 games in 2022 and made it into just one in 2023 without a single plate appearance. Whatever the opposite to being in a team’s plans is, Kingery would seem to be the opposite.

But in the team’s plans or not, thanks to that brilliant contract former general manager Matt Klentak signed him to before the 2018 season, he’s still in the organization. As for why the team protected him from Rule 5 exposure, I can’t explain that one.

He’s a 29-year-old who hasn’t shown an ability to hit well against Triple A pitching, let alone the majors. Yes, he has positional versatility, which could be useful for depth, but last season, the Phillies chose to use Jake Cave, Kody Clemens, Cristian Pache, and Rodolfo Castro instead of him. And if ever a player could use a change of scenery, it would be him.

Maybe he surprises everyone and shows he can hit well enough at the major league level where he can serve as a credible bench piece. But it seems far more likely that one year from now, we’ll be writing the final epitaph of Kingery’s tenure with the Phillies.