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For Phillies, strong organizational second base depth is nice problem to have

Hernandez and kingery

(Brandon Apter/Sports Talk Philly)

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

Of the problems that the Philadelphia Phillies organization currently has, potentially having too many good second baseman is pretty far down the list, if it is on the list at all.

After an impressive -- albeit, flawed -- 2016 season, in which Cesar Hernandez slashed .294/.371/.393 and posted a 4.4 WAR, the 26-year-old is off to a hot start in 2017. Hernandez opened the 2017 season with a leadoff home run and added two more this past weekend in Washington D.C.. Hernandez is currently slugging .615, and has a .346 average to show after his first 52 at-bats. 

It's a 162-game season, so certainly Hernandez won't keep up this pace. He does, however, seem to be silencing the crowd that felt his second half breakout in the 2016 was a fluke, one that the Phillies should have capitalized on this past offseason. Instead of coming back down to earth to start the season, he's become the early favorite to be the team's All-Star representative in Miami this July. 

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Part of the reason the Phillies were willing to listen to trade offers on Hernandez this past offseason -- they did reportedly have a 'very steep price' on him -- was because of the other talented second baseman that are in the upper levels of the Phillies' farm system. 

Jesmuel Valentin, who was the final person to be sent down to minor league camp in Spring Training, is off to a hot start at Triple-A. The 22-year-old is batting .355 through his first 10 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2017. Had the Phillies not re-signed Andres Blanco, there's a very good chance Valentin would have made the team to start the 2017 season. 

To a degree, Valentin has been forgotten because of Hernandez's breakout and Scott Kingery, who was extremely impressive in limited time with the Phillies in Spring Training. In 21 at-bats with the Phillies this spring, the 22-year-old Kingery batted .286, hit two home runs and drew four walks. In addition to hitting well, Kingery showed a strong enough glove for some to think that he could be starting at the major league level in a year's time. 

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While turning having a surplus of talent into an issue is good for pageviews, the Phillies are in a very good position by having this amount of talent at one position. 

Having Valentin and Kingery waiting in the wings allowed the Phillies to listen to trade offers for Hernandez this past offseason and probably will later this summer as well. That's not to say the team will trade Hernandez, but the option is open. 

Some feel that Valentin will eventually be a bench player, and when you consider that he can also play shortstop, that might not be the worst thing. With Hernandez and Kingery both in the organization, having a flexible, cheap bench piece could become extremely valuable for the Phillies as they look to return to contention. 

Kingery, who is batting .313 and already has four home runs in just nine games for Double-A Reading, may eventually be the Phillies' starting second baseman, but the club doesn't need to rush him to the majors. Sometimes, being too good at a certain level of the minors isn't a bad thing. If Kingery continues to ascend through the organization, he could also become a trade chip if the Phillies end up choosing to go with Hernandez long-term at second base. 

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What's the likely end game at second? Valentin will probably be a bench piece, and because Hernandez can become a free-agent after 2020 -- as opposed to Kingery, whose big league clock hasn't even started yet -- an eventual trade of Hernandez seems very possible. The Phillies could consider a position change for Hernandez, who has played in the outfield before, but it's hard to imagine where he would move to. The team is loaded with organizational outfield depth, and Hernandez may be more valuable in a trade than attempting to convert him to shortstop or third base, where the Phillies hope J.P. Crawford and Maikel Franco will play for the next decade. 

After 2007, the Phillies had a surplus of outfield talent. That offseason, Pat Gillick elected to trade Michael Bourn, who ended up being a two-time All-Star, and let Shane Victorino, who also ended up being a two-time All-Star, move to center field. Jayson Werth eventually assumed right field. Bourn was a very good player for the Houston Astros, but the Phillies didn't need another outfielder at that time, so they moved a very talented young player and were able to acquire closer Brad Lidge, a key cog in the team's 2008 World Series title. Perhaps this could become a similar situation. 

But it's not 2008 yet. It's not even 2007. It's unclear how close the Phillies are to contending, but they have time to decide how these three fit into the equation. Hernandez is under team control for for three more years after 2017, while Kingery and Valentin are yet to play a game at the major league level. Phillies fans should be excited about the three talents that the organization has at second because they will contribute to the next great Phillies team, whether it's directly or indirectly. 

Comments

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Bob D

Surprised that Daniel Brito was not mentioned here. He may be in low A ball in Lakewood but he is tearing it up. And he may even be the best of the bunch. If he continues his current pace he could be in Clearwater by midseason

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