Spring must be near. Scott Kingery is back in the Philadelphia Phillies spring training camp – one more time, apparently. Kingery, of course, is the Philadelphia Phillies version of the 1986 film The Money Pit, the MLB player-equivalent of a project in need of eternal fixes.
This will likely be Kingery’s last spring training with the Phillies, as he is now entering the final year of an ill-advised $24 million contract awarded him before he had ever played in a single MLB game. That contract was written before the 2018 season and was eventually decorated with more red flags than an old Soviet motorcade.
First, there was the deal itself. Second, despite being one of the highest rated second base prospects in Phillies history, the team had seemingly determined to turn the youngster into a super utilityman. Third, despite this plan, Kingery entered his second season after a weak first campaign facing even more challenges for playing time. The Phils had added two veteran starters over the winter of ’18-19, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen.
Fourth, after his statistically best MLB season thus far (2019 while bouncing around six defensive positions), he contracted a serious case of COVID in ’20, which cut into his strength in a very serious way, and may have partly obscured problem number five:
Scott Kingery had shown up to the late training camp that year with lots of new muscle, apparently in order to help with his newly adopted attempt to master the notion of the launch angle at the direction of Phillies management.
He fell off the map as the phrase goes. His decent ’19 slash line, .258/.315/.474, deflated like some of that new muscle, to .158/.228/.283.
And since then, Scott Kingery has only played in 16 MLB games for the Phillies, gathering one hit in 19 AB, but still somehow bouncing around among five defensive positions. In 2021, he had a torn labrum repaired in his right shoulder.
Never fear (read, because Kingery is still under contract and slated to make $8.25 million this season), the Phillies will attempt one more fix for the 28-year-old before Opening Day. Batting guru Kevin Long, now the Phillies hitting coach, has spent a fair amount of time with the finally healthy player in the off-season.
According to Scott Lauber, Long has apparently succeeded in getting Kingery to use his legs to better advantage and quiet down some of his twitches in the batter’s box, thus improving the player’s “ability to go direct to the ball.” Apparently, the launch angle has finally been jettisoned.
The infielder-outfielder has already homered twice in live pitching drills, once off an Aaron Nola changeup, and now the actual games will start. People in other uniforms will be throwing the pitches, and one more time, the Phillies will have high hopes Kingery will have a great spring.
If only so that he can be traded. Once again, there seems to be no real place for Scott Kingery to start on defense for the Phillies. He’s not even on the 40-man roster.