DUNEDIN, Fla. — Scott Kingery is off to another great start in spring training and it’s still not going to land him in the big leagues.
At least not immediately.
Oh, he’s coming. He’s not far away. But the Phillies, for now, are set at second base with Cesar Hernandez and that makes it easy to have Kingery open the season at Triple A, where he spent half of last season. Delaying the start of Kingery’s major-league clock by even a month or so means he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season. If Kingery were to open this season in the majors, he could be eligible for free agency after the 2023 season. That extra year of control will be nice for the Phillies if Kingery ends up being the player they think he will be.
Kingery, who hit his second homer of the spring in Wednesday’s 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays, is unfazed by it all.
“I understand you have the business side of it, how it works where I get an extra year of control,” he said. “I had some struggles [at Triple A] a little bit toward the end of last year, so why not go there and fine-tune them for a little while and see if I can get better so I can be even better and bring that with me for when I finally do get called up?”
Kingery, who turns 24 on April 29, didn’t struggle too much last year. His combined totals at Double A and Triple A: .304, 29 doubles, 26 homers, 65 RBIs, 29 steals, .889 OPS. He thinks he can improve his work on the bases and steal 45 this season.
Kingery was an early-camp star last spring. He went 6 for 21 in 10 games with a double, two homers and five runs scored en route to logging a 1.019 OPS. So far this spring, he is 4 for 9 with two homers.
“He’s a smart kid,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He understands a lot of what’s going on around him and nothing discourages him. He’s got laser-sharp focus on the step in front of him and that is the next at-bat or play in the field. He just wants an opportunity to shine and he’s shining. He has that unique special makeup you don’t find very often.”
Kingery added some versatility to his game by playing some third base and shortstop at Triple A last season. He is likely to get a look in center field at some point this spring. He absolutely projects as the Phillies’ second baseman of the future, but the future at that position might not begin until the team cashes in on Hernandez’s trade value. Kingery could get to the big leagues before that, possibly as a stopgap at third base if Maikel Franco doesn’t produce consistently this season.