The Phillies have yet to announce which of their two middle infielders will play where.
Barring any major acquisitions, Jean Segura and Scott Kingery will be the Phillies’ middle infielders in 2021. However, it is anyone’s guess which one of them will play which position. Both men have seemingly equal claim to second base and shortstop.
Until Joe Girardi makes an official statement, all we can do is speculate.
Here is the case for each infield set-up.
The Case for Kingery at 2B and Segura at SS
This would be a more straightforward choice. Scott Kingery was a second baseman when the Phillies drafted him in 2015, and Jean Segura has been a shortstop for almost all of his nine-year MLB career. The Phillies’ depth chart on MLB.com lists Kingery as the second baseman and Segura as the shortstop. There are plenty of reasons the Phillies would want to stick with this set-up.
For one thing, Kingery has years of practice at second base, and Segura has even more experience at shortstop. Even though Kingery hasn’t played very much second base recently, and even though Segura is getting older for a shortstop, the value of their previous experience should not be overlooked.
If Segura and Kingery feel confident and comfortable in their positions, they’ll have more time to focus on their offensive performance. One of the reasons the Phillies replaced Gabe Kapler with Joe Girardi is because, while Girardi uses analytics, he also understands the human aspect of the game. This is one instance in which respecting the human element could really help.
Speaking of Joe Girardi, it’s also worth noting here that Girardi casually referred to Jean Segura as the shortstop on December 14th. “Obviously, we lost our shortstop [Didi Gregorius]… We still have Jean [Segura] that can play shortstop,” Girardi said, referring to holes the Phillies need to fill. This is far from an official statement, but it’s worth considering nevertheless.
The biggest argument against this defensive set-up is that Jean Segura has declined too much at shortstop. Segura’s defense at short was subpar in 2019, and when the Phillies signed Didi Gregorius it looked like Segura’s days at short were done.
However, Jean Segura is not washed up, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that Kingery would be a better shortstop. Yes, Segura was mediocre at short in 2019. His UZR (-1.3) and his DRS (-4) were both in the bottom third of the league. However, in his career Segura has a -12.2 UZR and a -8 DRS, so those numbers don’t necessarily represent a decline. And while they aren’t great numbers, they’re still passable. He won’t win any Gold Gloves, but Jean Segura is not that much below average. Finally, it’s important to note that Kingery’s defensive statistics are not much better. In his career, Kingery has amassed a 0.3 UZR and a -2 DRS at shortstop. He wouldn’t represent a true upgrade over Segura anyway.
In conclusion, it makes a lot of sense for Segura and Kingery to stick with the positions where they are most comfortable. Jean Segura is still capable of playing shortstop, and it’s no sure thing that Kingery would be any better.
The Case for Segura at 2B and Kingery at SS
While the other set-up is more conventional, this option is not that farfetched. Scott Kingery is no stranger to shortstop. He’s actually played more major league games at shortstop (138) than at any other position. In addition, Kingery has only played 298 MLB innings at second base. Meanwhile, Jean Segura has played 1411 major league innings at the position. He spent more time at second base than shortstop last year. One could make the argument that it would actually be more of an adjustment for Kingery to play his “natural position” in 2021.
According to the defensive metrics UZR and DRS, Scott Kingery has been a slightly better shortstop than Jean Segura in recent seasons. It’s important to take these defensive statistics with a grain of salt, but considering the fact that Kingery is younger and faster than Segura, it’s a good bet that he’ll the better shortstop going forward. Kingery still has the time and the physical capability to improve at shortstop, whereas Jean Segura is over thirty and will most likely continue to decline.
At second base, however, Jean Segura has actually shown a lot of promise. In 2016, he played second for the Arizona Diamondbacks and posted the best DRS of his career. In a very small sample at second base in 2020, he also put up excellent numbers: 3 DRS and 2.3 UZR in only 239.1 innings.
In conclusion, Scott Kingery and Jean Segura have moved around the diamond so much that neither really has a “natural position” anymore. Kingery has plenty of experience at shortstop, and Segura has shown skill at second base. Due to his youth and agility, Scott Kingery should be chosen to play a more difficult position.
The possibility remains that the Phillies will re-sign Didi Gregorius or add another shortstop in free agency. Jim Bowden of The Athletic thinks Marcus Semien is a fit for the Phillies, and Andrelton Simmons is an intriguing possibility as well. If this happens, everything you’ve just read is pretty much irrelevant. So who would play second base?
On the one hand, it’s possible the Phillies would look to trade Jean Segura, as was rumored earlier this offseason. In that case, Kingery would obviously play second base. However, there’s also a chance that the Phillies could choose to move Scott Kingery to center field next season. He’s played there in the past two seasons, and he’s probably just as good an option as Adam Haseley or Roman Quinn.
In this situation, Jean Segura would be the second baseman.
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