PHILADELPHIA -- Scott Kingery is one of those players who has captured the imagination of Phillies fans. Top prospects can do that.
MLB Pipeline ranks Kingery, 23, as the top second-base prospect in baseball. He hit a combined .304 with 29 doubles, eight triples, 26 home runs, 65 RBIs, 29 stolen bases and an .889 OPS with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley last season. Kingery not only hits, he plays fantastic defense and is a burner on the bases.
So when will the Phils see Kingery in 2018?
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"We have a really good Major League second baseman right now in Cesar Hernandez, whose performance the past couple years has graded out among the better second basemen in all of baseball at a remarkably consistent way," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said recently. "I don't want to discount the importance of that and the impact of that. That doesn't mean we think any less of Scott Kingery, but time will tell when he arrives. But if he continues to do what he's done since he joined the Phils organization I would expect that he'd make his Major League debut this coming year."
Hernandez, 27, hit a combined .294 with a .372 on-base percentage and a .778 OPS the past two seasons. He ranks 24th out of 131 qualified hitters in baseball in on-base percentage in that time.
The Phillies believe Hernandez has earned his spot as the Opening Day second baseman.
But there are other factors at play, too. If the Phils promote Kingery, the organization's No. 3 prospect, on April 13 or later, they guarantee that he will be under team control through 2024 instead of '23. The Cubs waited until a similar date to promote Kristopher Bryant a few years ago, keeping him in a Cubs uniform through '21 instead of '20.
Cubs fans are thankful they did.
If the Phillies wait until early June to promote Kingery, he also is likely to avoid qualifying for Super Two status for salary arbitration, although it is difficult to imagine the deep-pocketed Phils not promoting him a week or two earlier if the need arose.
The biggest factor remains Hernandez. The Phillies really like him. They got a few offers for Hernandez this offseason, but they did not like what they heard. The team sees Hernandez as an All-Star-caliber second baseman, meaning Kingery will have to play well in Spring Training and play well with the IronPigs to get his shot. Expect Kingery to move around the infield in spring, increasing his versatility.
"I expect he'll show really well for himself in big league camp because that's what Scott Kingery does," Klentak said. "He works hard. He plays well. He defends. He runs the bases. He can hit. He's growing into some power. He's a very easy player to like. I think it's important for Scott Kingery to continue to get exposure to the Major League club, to the new Major League coaching staff and see where it goes."