The battle for the starting spot in center field just got a little bit smaller.
The Phillies optioned Scott Kingery – along with JoJo Romero and Rafael Marchan – to minor league camp on Sunday.
This comes three years after the Phillies signed Kingery – who was the team’s top position player in the farm system and had yet to appear in a major league game – to a six-year/$24 million contract, a deal that included three additional club options. Kingery struggled from the start, and slashed .226/.267/.338 in 147 games while playing several positions in 2018.
He took a step forward in 2019, slashing .258/.315/.474 while spending most of his time split between center field and third base. But Kingery struggled down the stretch, and that continued into 2020 when he slashed .159/.228/.283 in 36 games.
Outside of parts of that 2019 season, Kingery has simply looked outmatched by major league pitching. He didn’t perform well again this spring, when he slashed .159/.229/.295 and struck out 19 times in 49 plate appearances.
Optioning Kingery will allow the Phillies to give him regular playing time in camp, which is more valuable for a player at his stage than having him on the bench. There is no denying he was a special prospect — he slashed .304/.359/.530 and slugged 26 home runs between Reading and Lehigh Valley in 2017 — and the Phillies are now searching for a way for him to find that success again.
It also means that the battle for the center field position comes down to Roman Quinn, Adam Haseley and Odubel Herrera. Haseley and Quinn have the advantage of being on the 40-man roster.
Romero — once a crafty starter in the minors — opened some eyes last year when he made his debut with the team, showing the ability to throw his fastball in the upper-90s to go along with his wipeout slider.
While his ERA ballooned to 7.59 after some tough outings late in the season, Romero still appeared to have an inside track to a roster spot this season, especially with the release of Tony Watson last week. But the Phillies are now set to enter the season with just one left-handed reliever, which likely takes Alvarado out of the running to be the team’s closer.
Marchan, 22, impressed behind the plate in a short stint with the Phillies in 2020, but still needs time in the minors to get his bat major-league ready.
The Phillies will need to make more roster moves over the next four days heading into Thursday. In addition to making a decision on the center field position, they must open spots on the 40-man roster to make room for Matt Joyce and Brandon Kintzler, who are already set to make the team.
Sunday, the Phillies also reassigned catcher Rodolfo Durán and outfielder Travis Jankowski to minor league camp. Veteran catcher Christian Bethancourt was released.
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