It looks like the Phillies are going to be without second baseman Cesar Hernandez for a little.
The team has announced the 27-year-old will miss the next six weeks due to a strained oblique, the same injury that kept the player who is likely to take his place, Howie Kendrick, for a month and a half.
Seriously, down with obliques. They’re the worst.
Hernandez’ 2017 season hasn’t gone as well as last year, but it’s been OK. He has hit .277/.336/.399 with five home runs, 40 runs scored and six stolen bases, good for an fWAR of 1.1, and he’s coming off a 2016 season in which he was worth 4.4 fWAR and batted .294/.371/.393.
Hernandez got off to a hot start, but has cooled off over the last month. He showed surprising power in April, batting .323/.375/.531, but hit just .245/.314/.309 in May and .250/.294/.313 in eight June contests.
The injury comes at a terrible time for the Phils’ long-term plans. Despite his struggles over the last month, Hernandez could have been a somewhat attractive trade chip at the deadline on July 31. Now it’s likely the Phillies may have to wait until the off-season to deal him, if they so choose.
Kendrick should at least be able to fill in offensively, even if his defense will leave a lot to be desired. He has posted a slash line of .353/.409/.529 in 22 games this season, a terrific bounce back campaign for the 33-year-old.
But general manager Matt Klentak could also make a more aggressive move and promote Reading second baseman Scott Kingery to the big leagues to take Hernandez’ spot in the everyday lineup. He would have to be added to the 40-man roster to do so.
Would that be smart? There are pros and cons, as I discussed in the latest episode of The Felske Files, but let’s break it down a bit more in depth here.
Kingery is 23 and has been playing terrific baseball for the Reading Fightins. In 264 PAs, he has 18 home runs, leading all minor league players. Yes, he plays in Reading and many of his longballs haven’t exactly been bombs. In the Majors, many of those dingers would be doubles or fly outs. And you can’t underestimate “the Reading Effect.”
But he’s also batted .306/.382/.625 with 55 runs scored and 14 steals. He’s not a slugger who strikes out a lot. Instead, he’s an all-around player who focuses on line drives and solid contact. He also plays above average defense at second base, too.
Ryan Lawrence of The Philly Voice wrote an excellent argument for calling him up, noting Kingery’s maturity and college experience. He also performed well with the big league club in spring training before he was sent to the minor league camp.
Plus, it would give Klentak a brief look at the youngster as he considers how aggressively to market Hernandez to potential suitors.
However, calling up Kingery could be unnecessarily aggressive. He does have just 58 games at AA, with nary a plate appearance at AAA. And while it’s not unprecedented to jump a guy two levels, it’s not something that should be done lightly.
If the Phils decide to have Kendrick man second base for the next six weeks, and he continues to hit, he could be one of the few veterans acquired by the Phillies in the off-season that would actually net the team something other than cash considerations. And as Kendrick hopefully increases his trade value, Kingery would get some valuable experience in Lehigh Valley.
It’s hard to figure out why Kingery isn’t already with the Iron Pigs.
It’s also fair to wonder about the potential mental toll it would take on Kingery if he were to come to the Majors, struggle badly, and then get sent to the minors. There is a risk it could set back his development.
At the end of the day, the safe route is Plan B. The more exciting route is Plan A.
I’d go with Plan A.
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