General manager Matt Klentak said Thursday that the Philadelphia Phillies wouldn’t have called up top position prospect Alec Bohm if they didn’t plan for him to play regularly.
Bohm can play first base, and the DH is an option in the National League in 2020 as well. Still, Bohm is slated to start at third base in Thursday afternoon’s scheduled contest against the Baltimore Orioles, and you get the sense that the Phillies will give the former No. 3 overall prospect the chance to sink or swim at his natural position.
“As much as we – the Phillies – were committed to giving him [Bohm] the chance to become an everyday third baseman, he was equally committed and driven to make that happen,” Klentak said Thursday. “I think that’s where the credit starts, just with his work ethic and obviously there’s been a lot of folks in our player development staff that have worked with him on that. And it’s come a long way. Look, it’s pre-pitch routine…it’s just the consistency on fielding routine plays…it’s throwing from different angles…he’s worked on all that and turned himself into what we think is going to be a pretty good defensive third baseman.”
Klentak went on to suggest that Bohm may be as hard of a worker as anyone in the organization, a sign of how highly the front office thinks of the 24-year-old.
Of course, for Bohm to take a spot in the infield at least on a semi-regular basis, it will require Joe Girardi to adjust his lineup.
Jean Segura is in the lineup Thursday as the starting second basemen. Save for an inexplicable dropped ball in the infield Tuesday night, Segura has been adequate in his adjustment to the hot corner, a position he had never previously played before.
However, if the Phillies planned to at least given Bohm a shot at third base, Segura obviously was never going to be long for the position. For now, Didi Gregorius is at shortstop, which leaves Segura with nowhere else to go other than second base, a position he was an All-Star while playing at with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016. Segura is owed $14.25 million in each of the next two seasons, so he’s likely not going anywhere. Given that the Phillies elected to sign Gregorius and move Segura away from shortstop after his defensive metrics declined in 2019, one would think Segura could get the bulk of his action at second base moving forward.
“Obviously it will be up to Joe to write out the lineup every day, but I think what you’re going to see today is pretty indicative of what the next week or so will be like,” Klentak added. “Alec will play quite a bit at third base. Segura will move over and play some second base. Scott Kingery will not help us in a variety of different spots, but notably, he may need to take down some reps in center field.”
Kingery isn’t a stranger to center field, as he played nearly 480 innings there last season. He isn’t a stranger to potentially playing shortstop on days Gregorius is off or if he isn’t re-signed this offseason – it’s the position he played most frequently in his rookie season of 2018. He’s more than capable of playing left field as well, as the Phillies continue to gauge what exactly Andrew McCutchen is at this stage of his career defensively. The super-utility role is one that’s valuable for a contending team to have figured out, as Ben Zobrist, Marwin Gonzalez and Kiké Hernandez have demonstrated over the last decade.
Still, it is a rather quick hook for Kingery at his natural position, one that the organization seemed intent on giving him a chance to play in 2020 on a full-time basis, following the non-tender of César Hernández this past offseason.
“Who knows how long [Kingery returning to the super-utility role] will be the case,” Klentak said. “We still view Scott Kingery as an everyday player. And we don’t have to look back much further than last season, where he was playing a different position, but had a pretty good offensive year and when you layer on the defense, the baserunning and the kid’s makeup, he was a really valuable player for us.
“I referenced earlier the fact that we are only 13 games into the season and we have talked on prior calls about how long of a leash do we give players when it’s only 13 games, but that’s nearly a quarter of the season. There’s no perfect answer for that. We still view Scott as an everyday player, whether that’s at second base or some other position, but right now, given his offensive struggles…given Bohm coming up…and given the need for an extra capable defender in center field, I think this makes sense for the team right now. Scotty has always been a team guy. We expect he will continue to be so because that’s the type of player and person that he is, and hopefully as we get him back into a groove and get healthy again, we can find him the regular reps again.”
It’s clear that Kingery is still very much working his way back from a serious bout with COVID-19 earlier this summer. He’s batting just .100 in his first 40 at-bats of the 2020 season, which leaves you with concerns that this could just turn into a lost season for the 26-year-old. In his third season with the team, it’s still difficult to know exactly what Kingery’s offensive ceiling is, but it’s certainly much higher than what he’s shown so far in 2020.
As far as getting Kingery regular at-bats at one position, center field may actually be his best bet. Adam Haseley was placed on the injured list Thursday with a wrist injury. Roman Quinn is electric in small doses, but has an injury history that makes you think the Phillies won’t run him out in center field every day while Haseley is out. Perhaps it turns out that Kingery actually clicks in center field and plays there on a regular basis.
But it’s important to make a distinction between a utility player and a super-utility player. A utility player comes off the bench to pinch hit and pinch run, and perhaps they’ll get an occasional start. A super-utility player may not start every game, but they’ll start most, even if it’s not at one consistent position. Perhaps that’s Kingery’s niche in the league.
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