DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Scott Kingery probably knows more about big league service time than most Minor League players.
He gets asked about it a lot.
Kingery hit a home run in Wednesday's 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium. The second baseman has four hits in his last six at-bats, including two home runs. But even if Kingery continues to rake this spring, he is ticketed to open the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It is almost a certainty because if Kingery lingers in the Minor Leagues through April 13, the Phillies will have him under team control at least through 2024, instead of 2023.
The Cubs waited until a similar date to promote Kristopher Bryant a few years ago, keeping him in a Cubs uniform through 2021 instead of 2020.
Cubs fans are thankful they did.
"I understand, you have the business side of it, how it works where they get an extra year of control," said Kingery, whom MLB Pipeline ranks as the No. 35 prospect in baseball. "I understand all that stuff. Obviously, I'll never think negatively about that. I'll try to think positively and say I'll get my time in the Minors, where I ended the year. I had some struggles a little bit toward the end, so why not go there and fine-tune them for a little while, and see if I can get better at that so I can be even better and bring that with me for when I finally do get called up?"
Kingery's outlook does not surprise Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, who raved about him Monday after he hit a game-tying home run against the Yankees in the ninth inning with the Phillies down to their last strike.
"I think if he was thinking about making the team, if he had no pressure on him, if he was in Double-A, if he was in the World Series, you'd see the same thing out of Scott Kingery," Kapler said. "The same exact approach to the game. The talent would still shine. He's just got that unique special makeup that you don't find very often. I do think he's a smart kid and he understands a lot of what's going on around him. Nothing discourages him."
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Kingery played shortstop the other day. Kapler said he still plans to give Kingery a look in center field. They are trying to make Kingery versatile because it is not like whenever he is promoted he immediately bumps out second baseman Cesar Hernandez.
Far from it.
The Phillies front office really likes Hernandez, who has hit a combined .294 with a .372 on-base percentage and .778 OPS the past two seasons. His status on the team means Kingery will have to earn his promotion. There is no reason to think he will not.
To force the issue, Kingery knows he needs to improve a few things. He hopes to be more aggressive on the bases, and more selective at the plate.
"I've always thought that I've been a little tentative on the bases," he said. "I'd like to say, the past couple years I've been close to 30 [stolen bases]. I think 45 is a reasonable number for me, or should have been the past couple years.
"And for me, I've been a free swinger and my approach at the plate sometimes I think gets too big, and I swing out of the zone. I think that's something over time, more experience at each level will always improve. So for me the more reps I get, the more pitchers I see, it'll be better. But for me I think that's one thing that can be better and create more opportunities for me to be on base."
If he does those things he will find himself in the big leagues. Just not right away. And he knows why.