Scott Kingery, 2B
5’10”, 180 lb
Drafted in 2nd round of 2015 MLB Draft
Teams Played for: Reading (AA/Eastern League), Lehigh Valley (AAA/International League)
Dates Seen (all w/LHV): 6/26, 7/24, 7/28, 9/1
Eyewitness Stats: 5/19, 3 K, SB
What the Numbers Say
Reading (AA): 69 G, 317 PA, .313/.379/.608, 87 H, 18 2B, 5 3B, 18 HR, 44 RBI, 62 R, 19/22 SB, 28 BB (8.8%), 51 K (16.1%), 166wRC+
Lehigh Valley (AAA): 63 G, 286 PA, .294/.334/.449, 78 H, 11 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 41 R, 10/12 SB, 13 BB (4.5%), 58 K (20.3%) 117 wRC+
Fielding: (as 2B) 113 G, 992.1 innings, 529 total chances, 308 assists, six errors, 75 double plays turned, .989 Fld %; (as 3B) 4 G, 33 innings, 10 total chances, nine assists, zero errors; (as SS) 2 G, 18 innings, 10 totals chances, eight assists, zero errors, one double play turned
Kingery had a real surge in power this year particularly during his time in Reading. While some attribute this to Reading’s favorable conditions, he actually slugged at a similar percentage with his home/road splits (.620 at home vs .596 on the road). His most homer frenzied stretch was from 5/7-5/29 where he hit 10 of his 18 AA home runs and slugged .742 in 100 PA. In his other 217 PA in AA he slugged .545 but hit 14 doubles and four triples to go with his eight home runs, a similar extra base line to what he hit in AAA.
A big key to Kingery’s extra-base hit surge was hitting more flyballs and line drives than in previous years. During his three seasons his ground ball rate has decreased from 50.2% to 42.2% and all the way down to 34.1% this season. Last year, Kingery had a flyball rate of 41.2% across two levels. In his stint in Reading this year, that skyrocketed to 50.4% before normalizing itself at 41.4% in Lehigh Valley. Even still, his HR/FB ratio in Lehigh was still at a solid 9.5% (after dropping from his 15.9% in Reading) which suggests that he could maintain average power. Meanwhile his line drives also got a nice increase from 16.3% in 2016 to 19.7% this year. Kingery ended up hitting more line drives during his tenure at Lehigh Valley (22.2% compared to 17.5% at AA) to make up for the drop in fly balls at that level.
After a strong AA in which he had posted around league average BB% (8.6% EL average) and above average in K% (19.7% EL average), those numbers would head in the opposite direction (4.9% BB, 20.3% K). Those numbers would usually be alarming but he ended up doing a similar dive last year when he was promoted from Clearwater (94 G) to Reading (37 G) (7.9% to 3% BB; 12.9% to 21.7% K). A key difference this year is that he continued to hit consistently post-promotion. Last year after his promotion to AA, he hit .250 with a .606 OPS. After his promotion to AAA in late June, he hit .294 with a .786 OPS. Even his worst month in terms of OPS, .750 in July, was a month he hit .298. So while the absurd power disappeared in AAA, he normalized into what he could potentially be.
He did not reach base via hit or walk in 10 of his 69 AA games and in five of his 63 AAA games. In a 40 game span (7/14-8/25), he would have a 16 game hit streak, go hitless on 8/1, and followed it up by going on a 22 hit game streak. During this streak of 39 of 40 games with a hit, he hit for a .310/.348/.460 line.
It’s clear that Kingery won’t have too many problems against lefties (.340, .855 OPS in ’16; .307, .953 OPS in ’17), but the concern vs RHP dissipated somewhat from last year which is encouraging. Last season he hit .259 with a .676 OPS vs righties. This year it was a tale of two stories like most of his numbers. In Reading he had a .982 OPS and then like most of his power production, that OPS took a dive in Lehigh down to a still respectable .766. But he still hit against righties about the same (.305 in AA vs .300 in AAA). Perhaps some of this can be attributed more towards the fact he hit less ground balls and more in the air, as his strikeout rate vs RHP only slightly increased from last season (16.1% to 19.1%).
An interesting stat I found was that Kingery actually performed better with two outs in Lehigh (.342, .899 OPS) than he did at Reading (.226, .816 OPS). He ended up hitting better, but slugging less with runners in scoring position at Lehigh (.317, .754 OPS) than he did at Reading (.273, .935 OPS).
Tale of the Tape
From a physical standpoint, Kingery has pretty much filled out his 5’10” frame. At the plate, Kingery has excellent barrel control and is a big grinder at the plate, fouling off plenty of tough pitches and putting the ball in play a lot. Kingery’s swing doesn’t have a leg kick or much of a big load, which is somewhat surprising considering how much power he hit for in Reading. But he’s got quick wrists to help generate above-average bat speed that he can generate average home run power. His swing is fairly compact, fairly linear and has some leverage. It’s a swing that is geared towards hitting line drives and because he hits the ball from where it’s pitched, he can hit with that type of contact to all fields. This bolds well for gap power that will lead to plenty of doubles and triples. Kingery is a plus runner getting down the 1B line around 3.98 seconds beating out a throw in one of the clips above.
Some things to be wary of with Kingery. He struggled often with off-speed offerings that were away and tended to miss those plenty of times where it will be a point of attack by opposing pitchers. And when he does make contact with those pitches, most of the time he’s out in front and generates weak contact. There were also times where while he didn’t miss them much, he was late on plus velocity. I would chalk that one up more towards timing, however.
Defensively, Kingery is an elite defender. In his first game at AAA, he made an incredible catch, running back and having to leap and reach back (watch below right here courtesy of MiLB). He has tremendous instincts and soft hands, which are both matched by his tremendous athleticism. Late in the season the Phillies made him play a few games at shortstop and third base and while he doesn’t have the arm strength to stay at those positions long term, he certainly showed that he could handle those positions in small doses should the need arise.
What Lies Ahead
Kingery’s season was no doubt one of a kind for a player at his position and it put the scouting world on notice. While he ended up hitting for 26 HR and 29 SB, Kingery is more likely to be a 15-18 HR player. But his speed, defense and hit tool have the makings of an above average second baseman. And while he could probably make the Opening Day roster now, a month of seasoning in AAA wouldn’t be too harmful, just to work on some minor things in the batter’s box while adding an extra year of control to boot. But now comes the interesting question: will he make his MLB debut as a Phillie? It’s clear that Kingery’s upside is slightly higher than Cesar Hernandez’s with the chance to hit for a little more pop and a better glove (won minor league Gold Glove this season). But if the opportunity arises that the Phillies could land an elite player in a trade (like Manny Machado), Kingery might need to be included and Cesar really isn’t a bad option at 2B for three more years before an extension or the next guy comes along. It’s clear that the Phillies would rather have the cheaper, higher side option which is why they are shopping Cesar for a controllable starting pitcher. Of all the potential moves on the Phillies shopping list, this is part of the last puzzle piece for 2018.