Phillies Nuggets with Tim Kelly

Scott Kingery’s love for the game continues to fuel his quest to return to MLB level

Scott Kingery at 2024 Phillies Spring Training. (Grace Del Pizzo/Phillies Nation)

CLEARWATER, Fla — Scott Kingery’s Philadelphia Phillies career appeared to be over on Nov. 3 when his $13 million club option for 2024 was declined. The option being declined triggered a $1 million buyout, which seemed destined to be Kingery’s parting gift after nearly a decade in the organization.

Instead, much to the surprise of those covering and following the team, along with Kingery himself, a rule that from what we can tell has never applied to another other player went into effect. Since Kingery’s MLB deal was declined, he reverted to the final year of his original minor-league contract from when the Phillies selected him in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft. So for at least one more year, he’s part of the Phillies organization.

Once thought to be a potential cornerstone piece of the Phillies, Kingery spoke candidly Friday about being back with the organization for another year and some of the trials and tribulations of his career.

“I had never heard of it either,” Kingery admitted about his contractual loophole in a conversation with Phillies Nation. “Yeah, I was a little bit shocked. I had no idea about that rule, so when it was told to me, I wasn’t in the know. And so, it was something new to me.”

It’s been a while since Kingery has truly been in the picture for the Phillies.

Kingery was on the MLB roster for a game in 2022 when the Phillies needed another bench piece. He appeared in 15 games for the Phillies during the 2021 season, but has largely spent the last three seasons at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

It’s the type of thing that could make a former top prospect long for a change of scenery or question whether continuing to play is worth it, especially given how much money he’s made. Kingery, though, remains upbeat, and you get the sense that it’s genuine.

“The past couple of years, the guys that I’ve played with, the coaches I’ve had have been really good, really fun to be around,” Kingery said. “So, it’s been a ton of fun, and been able to make the game enjoyable. And I still work to getting back to where I want to get, and being able to play baseball how I know I can.”

Above all else, it’s clear that Kingery, who will turn 30 in April, still has a love for the game and a desire to return to the majors. Upon the news that he would remain in the Phillies organization, there was never a thought about walking away from the sport or asking for his trade or release, he said.

Scott Kingery at 2024 Phillies Spring Training on March 8, 2024. (Grace Del Pizzo/Phillies Nation)


It would be incorrect to say that Kingery never flashed star potential at the MLB level. Following a disappointing 2018 rookie season, Kingery hit .292 with 11 home runs, 27 RBIs and an .889 OPS in 58 games prior to the 2019 All-Star Break. When you consider that Kingery did that while playing multiple positions defensively, he was a very valuable player for more than half of that season.

Kingery struggled post All-Star Break, though, finishing with a .710 OPS. And since then, he hasn’t been able to consistently get things back on track.

He had a scary battle with COVID-19 in June of 2020, which kind of derailed the entirety of that brief campaign for him, as he hit just .159 in 36 games.

There are no excuses from Kingery, but he did point to the right shoulder surgery that he had in July of 2021 as something that derailed him in his attempt to return to the MLB on a full-time basis. It ended that season, and had a carryover effect into 2022.

“Oh, there’s a lot of things. But, that would be too long of a conversation,” Kingery said when asked about what has kept him off kilter since his battle with COVID-19. “I had shoulder surgery shortly after that. That took about a full year to recover and feel completely normal again, and able like I could just go out on the field and play baseball rather than think about throwing mechanics or what I do with my shoulder.

“So that was one thing that was just kind of a bump in the road,” he continued. “But I finally feel healthy again, and I feel like I can get on the field and just be myself.”

A stomach bug that has made its way through the Phillies clubhouse this spring has limited Kingery recently, but he was off to a red-hot start prior to that, with four hits in nine at-bats, including two home runs. He worked out Friday morning, so one would think he’ll be back in the lineup this weekend.

Ultimately, though, there isn’t a path to Kingery being on the Opening Day roster. He’s not on the 40-man roster, and the Phillies are a significantly deeper team than they were when Kingery broke in to the majors in 2018. It’s going to take a combination of injuries and Kingery putting up production so strong that the Phillies are forced to clear a 40-man spot for him.

In 405 at-bats for Triple-A Lehigh Valley a season ago, Kingery homered 13 times, drove in 47 runs, stole 24 bases and posted a .725 OPS. He had some impressive moments, but never appeared to be a serious candidate for a call-up.

Nonetheless, he’s undeterred as he tries to make it back to the MLB level. And as unlikely as it may be, if Kingery is going to return to the sport’s highest level in 2024, it’s probably going to have to come with the Phillies, a challenge he seems up for.

“Just keep playing. [Be] consistent. Be on the field consistently, and play good baseball consistently. I think that’s always what it comes down to. And if I can do that, I think I put myself in a good spot.”


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bawb Eff

    March 9, 2024 at 8:13 am

    Kingery looked like a sure bet in the first half of 2019, but then it was like he forgot how to hit. It was painful to watch his ABs in 2020. I don’t know why the Phillies invoked that rule to bring him back. Should have just released him and let him catch on somewhere else. Maybe they feel he could be late spring trade bait?

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