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Who comes out on top of the Phillies’ battle for center field?

The Phillies have quite the competition brewing in the outfield...

Photo via Dustin Bradford / Icon Sportswire

One of the many stories to come out of a particularly interesting Phillies “summer camp” has been the teams’ decision to let both Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn platoon in center field during a truncated 2020 season.

As one would imagine, the concept of splitting time over a 60-game campaign means that neither player would really receive consistent playing time — and, eventually, one guy is going to receive the bulk of the minutes at the position when it really counts (must-wins, playoffs, etc.)

So, who comes out on top? Let’s review our options...

Roman “Roamin’” Quinn - The Speedster

Joe Girardi said it himself last week, Roman Quinn is an undoubtably explosive and dynamic player. The speed, the impressive range, the newfound pop — he is chock-full of potential, which is an uncommon thing to say about a 27 year-old outfielder.

That said, it’s also fair to say that Roman comes with his fair share of drawbacks.

There’s no denying it — Roman Quinn is as injury prone as the day is long. In his 4 years of bouncing between the injured list and the big club, Quinn has yet to eclipse 50 games played in a season. He simply can’t stay on the field, which is, obviously, a major issue.

Roman also doesn’t boast the greatest batter’s eye in the world. He swings and misses often, which is a shame, because he could likely beat out the bulk of dribbled ground balls he’d put into play.

These things in mind, it goes without saying that this shortened season format only favors Quinn’s skillset. Less games means less of a chance to get hurt, the “runner on second” rule in extras only adds to his value, and he’s one of those guys that can help you nickel and dime runs in an “every game matters,” sprint-like campaign.

So, things are looking good for him... right?

Adam “New Kid in Town” Haseley - The Young Gun

When the Phillies lost Andrew McCutchen a third of the way thru the 2019 season, Adam Haseley’s timetable accelerated. Quickly.

The team needed an outfielder. Their ex-center fielder (who shall not be named) was suspended, Jay Bruce struggled mightily in the field with severely limited range (and an elbow injury,) Roman Quinn couldn’t stay healthy...

And boy, did Adam Haseley show up big time.

Across just 67 games, Adam Haseley managed to produce 1.8 rWAR, and made some absolutely stellar plays in the field — surprising even the most devout prospect evaluators with, what has the potential to be, plus defense in center field.

Impressive, right? And that’s without even mentioning his most lauded tool — his ability to put the bat to the ball.

Haseley was one of the most contact-prone bats of the 2017 draft class. He has the ability to spray the ball to all fields, and, while he’s yet to fully show it, Haseley easily has the potential to be a .290+ hitter with 12-15 home runs, which, paired with his aforementioned uptick in defense, is certainly nothing to scoff at.

Haseley’s only major concern lies within his ability to hit lefties, which is a viable issue that can (hopefully) be mended with experience.

In a poll that I ran via Twitter — Haseley was the runaway favorite to win the center field job, which can likely be attributed to a bit of recency bias, as Haseley has been CRUSHING the ball of late in Summer Camp.

But, don’t make up your mind just yet — we’ve still got another option to address...

Scott “Jetpax” Kingery - The Thinking Man’s Choice

So... here’s why you’re kind of forced to consider Scott Kingery for the center field job:

Alec Bohm is all but guaranteed a shot with the big club this year — and is likely going to see the bulk of his time at third base, as that’s where the club is hoping he can stick long-term.

If Bohm does, indeed, play third, this would bump Jean Segura to second base, as shortstop is already occupied by recent Free Agent acquisition, Didi Gregorius.

That then forces Kingery to one of two places: center field... or the bench.

Here’s the thing — I, personally, have no problem with this team utilizing Scott Kingery’s versatility. In fact, I encourage them to do so. Since when did having a young Ben Zobrist become a negative thing? Last I checked, players that sport above-average defense at multiple positions are extraordinarily rare, and should be treasured for that very quality.

That said, the fanbase (and the Phillies themselves, for that matter) seem hellbent on sticking Scott Kingery at second base and keeping him there — which I also wouldn’t mind, because the guy is an elite defender at the position.

But then... how do you squeeze the incredibly talented Alec Bohm in there? And what about the aforementioned Quinn and Haseley?

My Personal Verdict:

Alright... you didn’t ask for it, but I’m giving it to you anyway. Were I the Phils’ skipper — this would be my PERSONAL solution:

Give Haseley the brunt of the center field gig. He’s young, he barreled thru the Minors, and he can seriously hit. He’s the perfect bottom of the order bat that you can count on to find the gaps every now and again, and maybe even come up with a clutch hit or two down the line. Plus, if the defense is really as good as we saw in 2019, keeping the kid out of center field would be a waste.

I love Roman Quinn, I really do... but I think the inevitability is that he’ll start against lefties, and will be kept on the bench as a pinch hitter/runner/substitute, especially for the “runner on second” rule in extra innings.

The issue with starting Quinn is, per the new MLB rules, if he wasn’t the last batter in the ninth inning prior to an extra inning shootout, the team would be unable to use him as a pinch runner in the 10th inning.

In addition, while we saw some really encouraging play out of him in 2019, he had negative WAR on the year, and slashed a pretty poor .213/.298/.370 over 44 games. The combined negatives of his health, his inconsistency, and his history are far too serious to be overlooked.

I think the bench (with an occasional start) is the right place for Roman.

I know many will disagree with this one, but... ahem... LET SCOTT KINGERY PLAY A MULTITUDE OF POSITIONS.

Look, I understand not wanting to throw off a talented bat’s rhythm by starting him at different spots around the diamond, but Scotty isn’t a kid anymore, he can handle it — and he proved he could handle it last year, when he put up a near 3 WAR season in 2019.

To prove it to you, here are Scott’s numbers while starting at different positions last year:

At third base: 40 games, .294/.340/.537, .877 OPS, 5 HR

At second base: 10 games, .300/.344/.400, .744 OPS, 0 HR

At shortstop: 16 games, .271/.357/.563, .920 OPS, 3 HR

In fact, the only place he really struggled... was center field: 61 games, .223/.278/.436, .715 OPS, 11 HR

The bulk of his time in center field, mind you, coincided with his struggles post-injury, the loss of Andrew McCutchen (and the nameless center fielder,) the downward spiral of the team, and the rest of the disaster-ridden second half of last year.

I PROMISE you — Scott Kingery will be able to find ample playing time with the Phillies if he’s utilized properly. Does Alec Bohm need a day off? Great, start Kingery at third. Want to give Didi a rest day versus a left-handed pitcher? Great, Scotty can handle short. Same goes for Segura at second, or even Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, and, yes, Adam Haseley in the outfield!

Can’t find the right spot for him on a given day? Great news — the National League just introduced the designated hitter! Give Rhys Hoskins the day off at first, let Alec Bohm cover the right side of the infield, and let Scott take third! Or, even better, does Scott need a day off? Excellent, start HIM at DH.

Scott’s greatest trait, more than his bat, more than his speed, more than his dashing good looks, is his versatility. The Phillies would be wasting Kingery’s capabilities by strictly sticking him at second, and that is a hill I’m willing to die on.

But... that’s just what I’d do were I given the reigns.

I would truly love to know, what is your personal solution here? How should the Phillies cram all of these talented players into one lineup?

I guess we’ll find out in a matter of days — REAL baseball is less than one week away, after all!