If the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies season had started, as initially scheduled, on March 26, Scott Kingery almost certainly would have been the starting second baseman. But what about if Opening Day is on May 26? Or June 26?
Though top position prospect Alec Bohm wasn’t expected to be on the Phillies Opening Day roster, the expectation was that the 23-year-old would join the major league club at some point this summer. Now, the regular season may not even begin until some point this summer.
It’s hard to know exactly how long the regular season will be delayed by COVID-19, but if Memorial Day feels like the earliest that the season could start, the 2020 season almost certainly won’t be 162 games long. Of course, a season that starts on Memorial Day would have entirely different dynamics than one that begins on Independence Day. In either instance, though, each regular season game would carry more weight than in a normal season. A two or three week swoon could doom your playoff chances. A two or three week hot streak could carry the Phillies into the postseason in an abbreviated season.
If the feeling is that Bohm is going to be one of the Phillies best offensive options at some point this summer, then that means he would either be on the Opening Day roster in a shortened season or called up relatively quickly.
For as many concerns as there may be about Bohm’s ability to stick at third base long-term, he’ll probably get the chance to sink or swim at the hot corner before the Phillies seriously consider a position change for him, especially in what’s likely to be a shortened season. Plus, Andrew McCutchen will be in left field, Rhys Hoskins will be at first base, and for the time being, there isn’t a DH in the National League. So if and when Bohm joins the 2020 Phillies it will likely be at third base.
Once Bohm joins the Phillies, he may not play seven days a week, but it feels unlikely that he won’t be in the lineup on most days. If he’s at third base, that means Jean Segura can’t be. Segura is owed $14.25 million in 2020, and in each of the next two seasons. He’s probably not going to the bench. Ditto for Didi Gregorius, who will make $14 million in 2020 playing shortstop, the position Segura started at a season ago. Segura has never played in the outfield, so the only other logical landing spot for him would be second base, the position he was an All-Star at while playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016.
Over his first two major league seasons, Kingery was blocked by Cesar Hernandez at second base, so former manager Gabe Kapler used him elsewhere on the diamond. The plan in 2018 was for him to be a super-utility player, but he ended up playing shortstop for more than 85 percent of his time in the field in his rookie season. In 2019, Kingery split his time mostly between third base and center field. Though he looked more natural in center field than at third base, FanGraphs actually says he was worth six defensive runs saved in 306.1 innings at third base – which is a small sample size – in 2019. In center field, he was worth zero defensive runs saved in 479.1 innings.
In his first Spring Training as Phillies skipper, Joe Girardi seemed to go out of his way to do the opposite of some of the things that his predecessor was criticized for. There was a portion of the fanbase and local media that thought Kapler held Kingery back by not allowing him to play second base on a full-time basis. Girardi seemed intent on having Kingery open the season at second base, even if it meant Segura would have to play third base, a position he’s never played in a regular season game.
This arrangement was always going to reach a crossroads, though. Barring catastrophe, Bohm was going to reach the major league level and need somewhere to play at some point in 2020. If the season had begun in late March, the Phillies would have had a month or more to let things play out before Bohm joined the team. Maybe Segura wouldn’t be able to stick at third base. Maybe he would, and Kingery would be able to play second base to open the season. But at some point, Segura playing third base wasn’t going to be an option, and the Phillies would have to decide between moving Segura or Kingery to whatever the most pressing position on the diamond was.
If there were 162 games and a month or two — at least — before Bohm would join the team, perhaps it would make sense to have Kingery open up the season at second base and cross the bridge of what do with Segura when you get there. However, let’s say that the regular season ends up being 100 games long and the Phillies expect Bohm to join the team in short order, assuming he isn’t simply on the Opening Day roster. In that scenario, wouldn’t it make more sense to just have Kingery serve as a place holder at third base until Bohm is ready, knowing he’s probably going to move positions regardless of what spot he plays at on Opening Day? Segura could then settle in at second base. When Bohm comes up, Kingery would most likely become the primary option in center field, and be able to spell McCutchen in left field if the Phillies choose to manage his workload in 2020.
As soon as 2021, things may work themselves out and allow Kingery to take over as the full time second baseman. Maybe Bohm will change positions and Segura will shift to third base. Perhaps Gregorius will price his way out of Philadelphia if he has a bounce-back season and Segura will move back to shortstop in 2021. But, if the Phillies plan to have Bohm be a key part of their 2020 team, you have to wonder if it’s in the team’s best interests to have Kingery at second base on a full-time basis, especially in a shortened season.
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