Jean Segura is expected to be the everyday starting second baseman for the Phillies in 2021.
He was a bright spot in a year in which the Phillies were abysmal on defense, so the news should be a surprise to nobody.
That leaves Scott Kingery in a tough spot. The plan last year was to get Kingery settled at one position, preferably second base. A bout with COVID-19 along with injuries and poor performance in 2020 means Kingery is far from having an everyday role on the roster.
“[Segura] is going to play second base and [Kingery] is going to fight for his playing time all over the field,” Joe Girardi said during Didi Gregorius’ introductory Zoom press conference. “[Kingery] is versatile, which allows us to give guys days off. We can move him around. We were hoping last year to get him to one position, but it just never happened because he got sick and he was never the player that we thought he would be, probably because of the COVID. Then he hurt his shoulder and then his back and there were a lot of things he went through last year.”
Kingery began the 2020 season as the Phillies’ starting second baseman and struggled in every facet of the game. He slashed .159/.228/.283 in 113 at-bats. Among the 267 hitters who accumulated at least 120 plate appearances in 2020, Kingery ranked second-to-last in wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) at 37 and wOBA (weighted on-base average) at .227.
And while much of Kingery’s upside lies in his defensive abilities, he took a step back in the field. He ranked last in outs above average (-4) among qualified second baseman (at least one fielding attempt at the position per team games played) last season and never looked comfortable at his natural position.
Despite his struggles, it’s unlikely Kingery will spend much time on the bench. In 2019, Kingery spent at least 100 innings at third base, shortstop and center field. Advanced metrics say third base is his best position, but his glove can play in center. Among qualified center fielders in 2019, Kingery ranked 24th out of 48 in outs above average (2).
With the DH not returning to the National League in 2021 for now, he should find plenty of chances to play all over the field when guys like Segura, Gregorius, Alec Bohm, Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen all need days off.
The starting job in center field is also up for grabs and Kingery will surely be in the mix along with Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley. The Phillies are still mulling over the idea of inviting Odubel Herrera to camp.
“That’s the one spot we’re not sure who is going to take hold of it,” Girardi said. “And saying that, you can take hold of it in spring training but you have to continue to produce because there’s going to be other guys that are trying to get that spot. That will definitely be a competition.”
No matter who is manning center field, the Phillies need to get more out of the position. Since 2018, Phillies center fielders have combined for a .712 OPS and an fWAR of 4.0, which is good for 19th in MLB in that time span. Girardi doesn’t mind platooning again, but he prefers to see one guy take hold of that job.
“You’re looking for someone to just say ‘Hey, this is mine and you’re not taking it.’ And that’s what we hope happens in spring training.”
Kingery could be that guy but even if he isn’t, Girardi expects much more from the former Phillies top prospect.
“We’re looking for a healthy Scottie Kingery to make a huge impact all around the diamond because I really do believe that he’s capable of doing that.”
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