At his season-ending press conference, Philadelphia Phillies president Andy MacPhail said that “getting people in their right positions is a goal for us going forward.” That clearly pertains to Rhys Hoskins, who struggled to adjust to playing in the outfield. However, Scott Kingery’s natural position is second base, though the Phillies appear to believe that may not be his “right position” going forward.
As Gabe Kapler’s contentious interview with SportsRadio 94 WIP‘s Angelo Cataldi wound down Wednesday, Cataldi asked the Phillies manager what he thought Kingery’s best position was. Kapler didn’t say second base.
“I think he’s a shortstop,” Kapler said of Kingery, who just finished up his rookie season. “I think he’s played mostly shortstop for us, our staff and our scouts think he’s a good shortstop. Second base might be a good position for him as well, he’s done a lot of that at the minor league level, and by all accounts and reports, by me watching video, he’s a very good second baseman as well. It’s really nice for him to have the flexibility to play both. And as you know, he can run out there into center field and do a good job out there. Right now, he’s a high-quality, above-average shortstop.”
This may give you an idea of how the Phillies view their infield heading into what may be the most crucial offseason in Phillies history. Kingery is a natural second baseman, but like Kapler, MacPhail was happy with his progress at shortstop in his first season playing the position.
“In my own eyes, if Scott Kingery can make the progress that he showed us defensively – from the Scott Kingery that played shortstop at the beginning to the Scott Kingery that was with us in the end – if he can do that offensively, we’re going to be very happy with his progress,” MacPhail told the collective media Tuesday.
While Kingery finished the season with -6 defensive runs saved, defensive runs saved doesn’t factor shifts. MacPhail stressed in his press conference that advanced defensive metrics such as defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating are inexact sciences. They are useful tools, but only to a certain degree. Kingery also grew throughout the year at shortstop, something that is universally agreed on. There were defensive metrics such as his 3.4 defensive WAR that reflected that Kingery has some upside at shortstop.
That doesn’t mean that if the Phillies get the chance to sign four-time All-Star Manny Machado, likely to play shortstop, that they won’t move Kingery back to his natural position of second base. But maybe they’ll choose to spend on right fielder Bryce Harper, rather than Machado. Maybe Machado will choose to sign with the New York Yankees. The Phillies could even try to convince Machado to return third base. The point is, if Machado isn’t playing shortstop for the Phillies in 2019, someone has to be. And that someone could very well be Kingery.
J.P. Crawford’s 2018 season turned into a lost season due to multiple stints on the disabled list. It’s difficult to imagine the Phillies moving on from their long-time prospect, who looks like someone that if he unlocks his power – something the Phillies worked to help him do in 2018 – could have a very high offensive ceiling. But given the injuries he dealt with in 2018 and the lack of offensive consistency he’s shown since reaching the Double-A level, it’s hard to see the Phillies opening the season with him as a starter in 2019.
Cesar Hernandez, meanwhile, could remain in the picture as a starter for 2019 if Kingery stays at shortstop. Though Hernandez saw increases in his walk and power numbers in 2018, he showed some noticeable regression in terms of defensive metrics and batting average. Still, Hernandez is only 28, can’t be a free-agent until after the 2020 season and the Phillies have always liked how much he works the count and draws walks, even if he was a bit too patient in 2018. Like the past two offseasons, the Phillies figure to listen to offers for Hernandez. But the Phillies couldn’t find an offer they liked the past two offseasons, and that was when Hernandez was coming off of the two finest seasons of his career. If the Phillies don’t sign Machado this offseason, they could very well open the 2019 season with Kingery at shortstop and Hernandez at second base.
It became clear in the second-half of the Phillies season that the Phillies need to place a greater emphasis on defense. But that doesn’t mean within one offseason the Phillies will become an elite fielding team. The team sounds committed to moving Hoskins back to first base, but that may mean that Carlos Santana shifts to third base in 2019. And then there’s Kingery, who may not be returning to his natural position on a full-time basis next season, though the Phillies seem pretty comfortable with him at shortstop.
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