Many observations have been made so far in spring training, as the Philadelphia Phillies prepare to kick off their 28-game Grapefruit League schedule this weekend.
Among those include utility player Scott Kingery — who is competing for the starting center field job — has reported to camp “lighter” and “not as bulked.” If there is any player due for a breakout year, it is Kingery, who through three seasons has not necessarily performed up to the hype he received when rising through the minor-league system from 2015-17. It is believed Kingery coming to camp with this different look will help his speed in the field and base paths, as well as athleticism in the field.
In a recent Pine Tar for Breakfast podcast with Kevin Frandsen, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said that while he does not yet know Kingery as well as others know him, he recognizes Kingery did not have as good of a season last year as he did in 2019.
“Last year, there were some reasons behind it,” Dombrowski noted. “I think COVID and probably his swing got out of whack a little bit. I saw him play a few years ago in Reading, and I remember seeing him play and thought, ‘This guy is really a good player. This guy can do it all.'”
Dave Dombrowski said Scott Kingery should use his ‘line-drive stroke.’
So far through 309 games and 1,108 plate appearances, Kingery has slashed .233/.284/.393 with 62 doubles, 30 home runs, 96 RBI, 25 stolen bases, 67 walks, and 308 strikeouts. In 2019, he had a career year with 19 home runs and 55 RBI, while slashing .258/.315/.474 across 126 games and 500 plate appearances. He hit just .226 as a rookie in 2018 and .159 this past season.
Dombrowski continued that he thinks Kingery has the ability to be a “real good big-league player,” but is someone that will not make a living hitting the ball out of the park like Bryce Harper or Aaron Judge. “That’s not the type of guy that he is,” Dombrowski said. “He can hit the ball out of the ballpark, but for him to be a really good player is to use his line-drive stroke — to use the whole field and his speed.” When Kingery does that, Dombrowski added, he has the chance to be “really good.”
Scott Kingery is important to the success of the 2021 Phillies
The two-time World Series champion front office executive believes the Arizona native will indeed rebound this season.
“He’s going to do that at a lighter weight, because he’s not in a position where he is bulking up and thinking, ‘Hey, I got to get this ball out of the ballpark,'” Dombrowski said. “It will happen naturally at times, but he’s not the type of guy that should be trying to do that.”
“Hearing that that’s the type of shape he came in — I’ve watched him now and know he can run — those types of guys that can do it all, run and be a spark plug that can play different positions, they’re so important,” he added.
The Phillies have the chance to be a good offensive team this coming season. Dombrowski said that if Kingery starts playing the way he is capable of playing from an offensive perspective, “which there is no reason why he can’t,” then he will complement many other strong hitters in the lineup like Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, and Alec Bohm.
“You’re talking about a club that has a really good, deep lineup,” Dombrowski said. “If somebody like [Kingery] contributes, and if he can add that speed and spark to the team, when you look at those types of guys, they’re really good offensive players.
“He’s a guy that can do that for you and would be really important for us.”