The Philadelphia Phillies have strong organizational second base depth. (Brandon Apter/SportsTalkPhilly)
Early in the 2017 season, I wrote about how the Philadelphia Phillies' strong organizational second base depth was a nice problem to have. However, with the team in the midst of one of the worst months of May in franchise history, the Phillies might not be in a position to have "nice problems."
Ryan Lawrence of Philly Voice spoke to an unnamed team official, who suggested that the team may try prospect Scott Kingery at another position with Cesar Hernandez currently manning second base at the major league level:
But has the Phillies’ brass at least discussed trying Kingery out at other positions?
We asked recently and the answer is encouraging: they have talked about it and are probably planning on it at some point in 2017.
“We don’t want the same thing to happen to happen to him that’s happening to Hoskins,” said one Phillies official, referring to Triple-A first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who is also crushing minor league pitching through the season’s first two months.
Lawrence's full piece is definitely worth a read, but the gist is that it suggests that while Kingery's natural position will always be second base, the organization would benefit from him being able to play other positions on the diamond. That doesn't mean he won't end up playing second base in the long run, but Hernandez has been the team's best hitter over the last calendar year, so finding a way to have both him and Kingery in the lineup in 2018 may be the most beneficial scenario for the team.
While it's not immediately clear what position(s) the Phillies would have Kingery try, it doesn't seem like they have much to lose in trying this. While general manager Matt Klentak showed confidence in Maikel Franco before today's game, he's having an extremely disappointing 2017 season and doesn't seem to be the lock to be a long-term starter for the team like he once did. And while the team has strong outfielding depth at the upper levels of their minor league system, Kingery having the ability to play in the outfield would give the team even more optionality (pardon the Chip Kelly reference). Lawrence did note that Kingery played shortstop in high school, though it seems less than likely the organization will spend much (if any) time examining him at shortstop with top prospect J.P. Crawford at Triple-A.
Kingery, who the Phillies selected in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft, is slashing .316/.392/.668 with 16 home runs, 30 RBIs and 12 stolen bases for Double-A Reading in 2017. While he's unlikely to hold onto his current lead for the most home runs at any level of the minor leagues, the fact that he's had a power explosion to begin the 2017 season makes him an even more exciting prospect. This comes after the 23-year-old impressed in 21 Spring Training at-bats, hitting .286 with two home runs and four walks.
Hernandez, who posted a 4.4 WAR (per FanGraphs) in 2016, got off to a strong start in 2017, as he hit .323 with four home runs in April. While his average has dipped below .250 in May, Hernandez fields his position well, just turned 27 and is under team control through 2020. The Phillies reportedly were willing to listen to trade offers for Hernandez this past offseason, but did so with a 'very steep' asking price.
Trading Hernandez this summer or in the offseason remains a possibility, but when you consider that he and Kingery have both had strong 2017 seasons, it makes sense that the Phillies are intrigued by the idea of both of them playing together in 2018 and beyond.