Can This Infielder Make the Phillies’ 26-Man Roster?

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WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 25: Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Scott Kingery (4) forces out the Washington Nationals’s Eric Thames (9) while turning a double play during the Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals MLB game at Nationals Park on August 25, 2020 in Washington, D.C.. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

With the launch of Philadephia Phillies Spring Training, we’re all ready for the follow-up campaign that sputtered to an early exit in the National League Championship Series.

So, while catchers report and pitchers twirl their hair between each long toss, we’re reminded of a few names and faces that don’t belong to Bryce Harper or Trea Turner, including one many believe the sun had set on years ago – Scott Kingery.

The once-prematurely crowned cornerstone of the Phillies organization finds himself without a home on the 40-man roster or a contract. Considering they just declined his $13MM club option, you’d think this marriage had all but ended – a final Spring Invitation as a mere courtesy to the memory of a once passionate affair.

But while we all argue Jake Cave vs Christian Pache or Rodolfo Castro versus Weston Wilson, let us not write Kingery off so quickly. Because while it may be an uphill battle, what I’m saying is. . . there’s a chance.

Scott Kingery splashes down with the Phillies in Clearwater

Just as our team was chatting about the reduction of quality in MLB uniforms (New Jersey-Gate, I’m calling it), the Phillies’ former second-round pick got Spring Training off with a bang.

Suddenly, it had to be considered: what would it take for Kingery to make the Phillies’ 26-man roster? So far, he’s done his job. In addition to his moonshot, Kingery tallied an additional hit and two walks through seven plate appearances.

Kicking off Clearwater with a 1.571 OPS is quite the statement.

How much more would it take for the young-ish (I can say that as a 29-year-old) infielder to make the team? It certainly helps that he can play centerfield when called upon, given the precarious situation the Phillies find themselves in with the inexperienced Johan Rojas set to open the season as their starter.

However, with the addition of Whit Merrifield, the Phillies need one less bat off the bench. That leaves three spots to be filled by Cave, Pache, Wilson, Castro, David Dahl, Darick Hall, and Kody Clemens. That’s a lot of mouths (and Brandon Marsh will be back before we know it).

So, let’s look at who Kingery would need to edge out.

The Outfield

Let’s start with Cave, the last man to record an out in the 2023 NLCS. Cave avoided arbitration with the Phillies this offseason by signing a $1MM deal. The 31-year-old is out of minor-league options, so they need to decide before they hit the regular season if they’ll ever see Cave again. We saw Cave perform admirably in the regular season a season ago, so I think the Phillies will retain him as 2024 kicks off.

Pache, younger at 25 years of age, is in a similar boat – out of waiver options. If the Phillies send him down to the Minors, they risk losing him to any number of teams still enamored by the former Atlanta Braves #1 ranked prospect. With Marsh on the mend and Rojas remaining a question mark, it would behoove the Phillies to hold onto another man who can slot into centerfield.

Finally, with Dahl, the former All-Star, signing a minor-league contract in the offseason, I think he ultimately ends up being a luxury the Phillies can’t afford. It’d be nice to see if he could regain his form, but carrying three outfielders on the bench doesn’t make for much flexibility.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 16: Philadelphia Phillies Left Fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) and Philadelphia Phillies Right Fielder Bryce Harper (3) and Philadelphia Phillies Center Fielder Scott Kingery (4) tap gloves to celebrate the victory after the ninth inning of the Major League Baseball game between the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies on August 16, 2020, at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

The Infield

It’s not too bold to think Kingery might be a better fit than each one of these options.

The Phillies traded for Castro last season in exchange for pitcher Bailey Falter, but he didn’t provide the offensive boasts the club was hoping for, slashing .100/.156/.100 in 32 total plate appearances. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, guess who’s out of minor-league options?

So the Phillies need to decide if it’s worth cutting ties with a 25-year-old who turned 40% of his hits into extra bases just two years ago. Oh, right, and he can play all around the infield.

Wilson, Clemens, and Hall each have the misfortune of retaining one or more minor-league options left. Even with Wilson’s explosive start to the Spring, the Phillies don’t have to decide on him, so they won’t. We will see them all this season, but it won’t be on Opening Day.

Will Kingery make the Philadelphia Phillies?

Merrifield, Garrett Stubbs, and Edmundo Sosa are locked in for Opening Day. I think Cave makes the team, too. Pache seems likely, but that would be the spot to watch.

If I’m a gambling man (I am), based on the way the Spring has gone so far, the Phillies will need to decide between Pache, Castro, and Kingery – a spot that could be irrelevant as soon as Marsh returns, so maybe we’re just playing with our food.

Pache and Castro both sit on the 40-man roster, so you’re asking the Phillies to take a flier on Kingery despite their less-than-ideal history together.

As sad as it’s been to watch the rise and fall of Kingery, it’s time for everyone to get themselves a fresh start. If you’re telling me the Phillies eventually need to decide between Castro and Kingery, we can have another conversation, but if you love him, set him free (so he can become an All-Star for the Braves).

Apologies if you read this long. I don’t think he’ll make the Phillies. Cheers.

Photo Credit: (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)