By Siobhan Nolan, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
Scott Kingery joined the Phillies with a rather interesting resume.
A second round draft pick, Kingery hadn’t been recruited by any Division I, II, or III colleges coming out of high school, instead playing baseball as a preferred walk-on for the University of Arizona. He had an impressive stint in the Phillies’ farm system—so impressive that he was handed a six-year, $24 million contract without playing a single major league game. It all seemed to be coming together perfectly, though. Kingery was a talented infielder that could hit and run well. Some said that he was the stalwart second baseman that we’ve been waiting for since a certain Californian departed in 2015.
Well, it’s been two years since signing day, and we’re still waiting.
That’s not to say that Kingery has been a total disappointment. Coming into the MLB under Gabe Kapler, Kingery dazzled us with his skills as the coveted “utility man.” While he considers himself a natural second baseman, it became clear that he could play well no matter what position he was put in. While that was great news for the team as a whole, it’s exposed some major weaknesses in his individual game.
The most persistent issue is the fact that Kingery seriously lacks identity as a player. This isn’t entirely his fault, seeing as he expressed interest in playing one position while Kapler had more of a desire to play him wherever he was needed, which was seemingly everywhere but his preferred post at second base. Joe Girardi confirmed that Kingery was in his plans as the everyday second baseman, but this was complicated by the player’s ongoing issues with his shoulder and back, along with a particularly harrowing bout of COVID-19 that caused Kingery to join preseason later than the rest of the team. When he was able to participate in the team fully, however, he simply didn’t impress. His hitting was unfortunately reminiscent of his rookie season, where he was quite literally one of the absolute worst hitters in baseball, and where the glimmering improvement he showed in 2019 was all but obliterated. His defense was mediocre to a nauseating degree, advertising the harsh reality that such little playing time at his preferred position meant that it was debatable as to whether one could call Kingery a natural second baseman anymore.
It doesn’t help that the Arizona native has proven himself to be wildly inconsistent. He started off the 2019 season incredibly well, putting up impressive hitting numbers and making highlight reel plays out in center field. But then the All-Star Break came and went, and Kingery suddenly retreated into frustratingly average form. He has his moments that make you remember why we put so much faith in him (diving catches, clutch homers, nervy stolen bases, etc.), but it’s coming to the point where fleeting glances of star quality just won’t cut it anymore.
In 2018, we received a Scott Kingery that was being touted as the long-awaited heir to Chase Utley’s throne, as outlandish as that may sound at the current moment. But even though he hasn’t had his breakout season yet, Kingery is only 26, and he has Girardi’s full faith and support going into next season. So while Mac may not be writing him a love letter anytime soon, we as fans can expect Kingery to find his sweet spot in a (hopefully) less chaotic 2021 season.
And who knows? Kingery has great hair and runs fast—he might bear more similarities to Utley than he's letting on.