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Would Scott Kingery be more valuable in center field?

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Scott Kingery is slated to play second or third, but should he be the team’s starting center fielder?

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Everyone who has been following Scott Kingery since he started making noise as a highly touted prospect has been clamoring for him to become the everyday second baseman. It is a position he excelled at in the minors, where he showed great range and athleticism, and it seemed like only a matter of time before he would land the everyday job in Philadelphia.

However, in his rookie season, he didn’t play much second, just four games. Cesar Hernandez was the incumbent in 2018 and ‘19 as well, and Kingery played a scant 10 games at his natural position last season as a result. Instead, he was used as a super-utility man, with far more time spent at shortstop, center field and third base, over his first two seasons. But with Hernandez gone, the assumption is Kingery will be the team’s everyday second or third baseman in 2020.

It’s likely the Phils are hoping Jean Segura is fit enough to play third effectively so that they can finally put Kingery at second, but with the unproven Adam Haseley set to get the lion’s share of the starts in center field this year. But on the grand ‘ol internet, this dude had an interesting thought that is worth exploring.

Center field has become a bit of a black hole in Major League Baseball the last few years. Last year there were only 14 players who qualified as center fielders on Fangraphs’ site to accumulate at least 2.0 WAR.

Although he didn’t play all 126 games as a center fielder, Kingery played there enough to qualify under this leaderboard, and his 2.7 fWAR season was tied for 11th-best at the position.

Now let’s look at third base.

On this list, Kingery’s 2.7 fWAR was only tied for 23rd. Finally, let’s look at second basemen.

Kingery didn’t play enough games at second to qualify for this list, but his 2.7 fWAR would put him as the 12th-most valuable player at the position if he had.

It’s clear from these charts that the spot at which Kingery would be the least valuable is third, which makes sense given the plethora of players who can hack it at the hot corner and the fact the team has prospect Alec Bohm seemingly waiting in the wings to join the big league club at some point this season.

But there is a real battle in value between second and center field, and it’s important to consider the Phillies’ specific situation when trying to decide between the two positions. Do they have anyone else in the organization who can play those spots and, if so, what would be more valuable?

The Phils have the left-handed Haseley and switch-hitting Roman Quinn as the top two center fielders in the organization. Odubel Herrera will start the year in AAA and you can be sure the team doesn’t want to go down that road unless they absolutely have to, but if Haseley and Quinn get hurt, Herrera is probably next man up.

At second base, the team can use Segura there and promote Bohm at some point in May or June. Nick Maton is one of the team’s top-10 prospects and plays shortstop, but could probably play second base if need be, although he’s probably not going to hit the Majors until next year. Josh Harrison, Ronald Torreyes and Phil Gosselin will battle it out for a spot on the big league roster and could make the team out of Clearwater as a back-up second baseman.

There is also the argument that Kingery’s offensive numbers and, therefore, his value, will go up by playing his natural position every day. That’s a strong argument to make for him being the team’s second baseman and not moving him to the outfield full-time.

Still, it seems clear that Kingery holds a lot of value as a center fielder and, when the team feels Bohm is ready to ascent to the Majors, shifting Kingery there could be the smartest move for the rest of 2020 at least.

On Episode 359 of Hittin’ Season, I talked about this with Justin Klugh of Fangraphs.com and BaseballProspectus.com and with Liz Roscher of Yahoo! Sports, along with thoughts on Bryce Harper’s comments regarding Kris Bryant and the luxury tax, J.T. Realmuto’s contract extension and worried about Andrew McCutchen’s ability to be a great leadoff hitter again this season. Join us, won’t you?