If the Phillies add a shortstop in free agency, Scott Kingery could find the bulk of his playing time in center field.
As of right now, Scott Kingery is set to be the everyday second baseman or shortstop for the Phillies. However, if the team were to re-sign Didi Gregorius (or pursue another shortstop like Marcus Semien or Andrelton Simmons), it would free up Kingery to spend the bulk of his playing time in center field.
While this idea may sound strange, it could actually improve the Phillies’ center field situation and create more positional flexibility on the roster.
Center field was a major weakness for the Phillies in 2020. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the Phillies will do much to address that problem this offseason. The front office has bigger fish to fry (like re-signing J.T. Realmuto and fixing the bullpen) and the Phillies already have multiple cost-controlled center fielders on the team.
Therefore, it looks like Joe Girardi will be left to deal with a Roman Quinn/Adam Haseley platoon once again. However, a Kingery/Haseley platoon would be much more promising.
Roman Quinn’s time as a starter should be over. He’s proven himself unable to hit at the major league level and unable to stay healthy for a full season. While Haseley and Kingery have struggled as well, Kingery has much more offensive potential than Quinn, and Haseley is still young and deserves more time to prove himself. Platooning Kingery and Haseley allows both of them the regular playing time they need to flourish, and there’s less risk for the Phillies if either of them is unsuccessful. If one of them struggles, Joe Girardi can give more playing time to the other.
What’s more, because of Scott Kingery’s versatility, he would be able to see more playing time than a player in a traditional platoon. On days when Haseley starts in center, Kingery can give any of the infielders a day off – even Rhys Hoskins, if Alec Bohm moves to first and Kingery plays third. This also makes the Phillies more resilient to injury; if the team isn’t counting on Kingery to play one position, then he is free to replace any position player (except for the catcher) who goes down with an injury.
There are certainly downsides to this plan. For instance, it’s not entirely clear whether Kingery is a good defender in center field. While he actually has a higher career Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in center field than he does at either second base or shortstop, we need to take those numbers with a grain of salt. Because he’s moved around the diamond so much, Scott Kingery hasn’t amassed a full season’s worth of games at any one position, so we can’t rely too heavily on his defensive metrics. Nevertheless, Kingery passes the eye test in the center field, at least for now. Besides, I’d be willing to accept a slight downgrade defensively if it means there’s a chance of improving upon Roman Quinn’s putrid offense.
The other downside is that Kingery is, once again, left without a full-time position. Many analysts and coaches have suggested that this constant shifting around the diamond has had a negative effect on Kingery’s offense. Even Kingery himself suggested that he would have more time to work on his hitting if he wasn’t busy learning to play new positions on the fly. However, this plan would still provide Kingery with more consistency than he’s had over the past three years.
Furthermore, at this point, Kingery doesn’t really have a set position. By the time the 2021 season rolls around, Kingery won’t have played second base regularly since August of 2017. One could argue that playing second base would be just as much of an adjustment for Kingery as anything else.
Scott Kingery is still a huge question mark, so this isn’t a perfect plan for the Phillies.
He’s never hit well at the major league level, and the quality of his defense in center field is still up for debate.
That being said, if the team wants to give him one final shot to prove himself, this could be the smartest way to do so.
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