Scott Kingery spent just under three-quarters of the 2019 season in either center field or third base. In over 2,000 innings played throughout his major league career, Kingery has played only 88.2 innings at second base, his natural position.
New Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi has made it clear he prefers Kingery in one position. The 25-year-old’s versatility around the diamond makes him one of the most valuable players on the team, but he’ll surely benefit from the consistency that comes with taking the majority of reps at one position.
Kingery spoke candidly about what it means to stay at one position during a recent appearance on Kevin Frandsen’s Pine Tar for Breakfast podcast.
“It’s unbelievable,” Kingery said. “I don’t know if people realize the effect that playing all over has on you. Not just physically, [but] as much as it is a mental thing.
“Just having that routine of showing up and you don’t even have to look at the lineup. You know you’re going to be in the lineup. You know you’re going to be playing one position.”
Kingery, who is currently back home in Arizona, expanded upon the mental and physical challenges of moving from position-to-position.
“The fact that you can go to one position and get so many reps at that position that if you’re body’s hurting, your legs feel a little bit heavy, you can take a day off from groundballs and go into the game and still feel fine. You’ll feel like you didn’t miss a beat.
“But when you’re playing multiple positions, especially ones you’ve never really played before, that’s when things get tough because you miss one day taking ground balls at third, you feel like it’s a brand new position.”
It’s interesting that Kingery specifically noted the difficulties of playing third base. From the eye test, it seemed like third was the position he struggled most at. The metrics tell a different story as Kingery was worth six defensive runs saved and posted a 4.5 ultimate zone rating in 2019. That indicates above-average play at the hot corner. As a comparison, Kingery posted zero DRS and a -1.4 UZR at center field, albeit in a larger sample size.
His defensive play in 2019 seems all the more impressive when you factor in the complexity of learning how to play different positions at a major league level.
“I had to learn whole new situations. If a ball was in the gap, where do I go? Who do I throw it to? If a bunt play is put on, where do I need to be? When you’re at one position, you get that locked in at Spring Training and you know it. It’s reaction at that point.
“When you’re playing different positions, your mind is going crazy. I remember when there were times in the field before the ball was pitched, I was thinking of 10 different situations that can happen. “
Early in Spring Training, it seemed Kingery was primed to start the season at third base with the signing of Didi Gregorius. After a few weeks of games, it’s evident that the plan is to move Jean Segura to third and shift Kingery back to second. It’s unclear if a delay in the start to the season will at all change that plan.
If we’ve learned anything about Kingery in his first two seasons, it’s that he is capable of excelling at just about any position the Phillies need him to play. It’s exciting to wonder just how much more valuable a defender Kingery could become if he could focus on one position throughout the duration of the season.
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