To this point, THE story out of Clearwater has no doubt been Scott Kingery.
Entering today’s action, he’s posted a .389 batting average to go along with three homers, four RBI and a staggering 1.365 OPS. His numbers would be easy to write off due to a small sample size and the fact that it’s, you know, spring training, but that may not be wise. Sometimes shorter samples reveal truths. Given Kingery’s ascension through the minor leagues a season ago that saw him dominate the competition at both Reading and Lehigh Valley to the tune of 26 homers to go along with his .304 average and.889 OPS, it’s fair to believe with increasing confidence that the buzz around Kingery is legit. In fact, at least one baseball executive appears to be all in on him:
Heard this observation about Phillies' infield prospect Scott Kingery: "He's Dustin Pedroia, but with more talent." https://t.co/KFDiC16e5D
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 8, 2018
Hype is one thing, but comparisons to Dustin Pedroia? I think we can safely assume that we’ve reached peak levels of hysteria.
Kingery will turn 24-years-old in late April. As a point of comparison, the Red Sox second baseman amassed a 26.6 WAR between between his age-24 and age-27 seasons, according to Baseball Reference. Kingery is the complete package, but that assessment feels a bit strong and incredibly unfair considering the guy hasn’t taken a swing in a Major League game yet. Still, it’s hard not to get excited when watching him play this spring. There’s been a lot of this:
This kid @ScottyJetpax25 can play a little bit.
He went 2-for-2 today with a single… and this: pic.twitter.com/NydYOyQUde
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) March 3, 2017
And the thing is, Kingery’s game wasn’t supposed to be power-based—his pop has exceeded initial scouting assessments and has added an extra element to what was already an overall solid makeup. One of the elements of Kingery’s game that fans will surely appreciate is his base-running. He possesses the requisite speed, intelligence, and feel to make a consistent difference with his legs. He’s the type of guy whose hustle and play can help define a team’s character and style. Here he is after leading off today’s Grapefruit League game against the Yankees with a walk:
This type of energy and a potential impact is coming, and it’s coming soon, but even if he maintains his torrid start throughout the rest of the month, it’s still highly unlikely Kingery will be part of the Phillies’ opening day lineup. People here will talk about “doing the right thing” and “playing the best players,” but the economic inefficiency of playing Kingery immediately and thus allowing him to reach unrestricted free agency a full-year sooner in 2023 would be foolishly poor management.
The system sucks, but it is what it is, and the urgency doesn’t exist for the Phillies to waive the opportunity to benefit from it. We’re going to have to wait at least another eight weeks or so to see the next coming of Dustin Pedroia in red pinstripes.