What is the plan regarding centerfield for the Phillies this season?
In the last couple seasons the team has run out players such as Odubel Herrera, Travis Jankowski, Roman Quinn, and others that have not even been average. One of positives of the lockout is that it gives the front office more time to research and resolve the position that has been a black hole on the Phillies roster for years. This article will go in depth about different options that the front office has in conducting the search for a starting center fielder.
Current Options on the roster
- I know, I know, immediately many fans will say that there is no chance that the Phillies have their centerfielder for next season. However, I want to point out one player that may have a slim probability of being the starter and that is Scott Kingery. I get it, he is a huge bust. But, with the news of him getting major shoulder surgery last year it makes me wonder how long the injury had been affecting him. If he is completely rehabbed and better, there is a chance that he could be the everyday centerfielder. It would turn his bad contract into a decent one, and I think I would hope for a .260-.280 batting average with 15-20 homeruns and stolen bases. This would be the best season Philly has gotten out of a centerfielder in quite a long time. However, there is no guarantee here and he could be the bust that he appears to be with the shoulder just being an injury added on to being a bust.
Minor League options
- While outfield is not a strong aspect of the Phillies minor league system, a few options stand out as sleeper options for the centerfield position next season. The first is Matt Vierling. Vierling is 25 and, after a strong season in the minors, got big league experience this past season. In 71 at bats, he hit .324 with not much else. The average is positive, but he only had six extra base hits, two steals, and four walks. This makes his case an interesting one, as projecting a full season may be rather difficult. In his final season in the minors he had double digit steals, homeruns, and doubles so there may be room for improvement at the professional level.
- Mickey Moniak is the second possibility. I can feel the eye rolls as I mention his name. However, he has been a part of the Phillies organization for so long that many fans may not realize he is still just 23. I would argue he has made a lot of progress especially with the pressure on him after appearing to be a flat out bust for the number one pick. While he will most likely never live up to the hype of his draft slot, that does not mean he cannot be a contributor on this team. If Moniak were to start I could see him batting anywhere between .230 and .260, with over 20 homeruns and 10 plus stolen bases. As far as walks and strikeouts it is hard to say. The hope would be that someone like Harper can take him under his wing, and with a hitting coach, maybe they can unlock more potential in him
- Johan Rojas is the last player I want to mention. While he may not be ready yet, as it is estimated that his eta is 2023, he possesses something none of the previously mentioned options do, and that his above average speed. Last season across three levels, while only batting in the .260s, Rojas stole 34 bases. It may not be for this season, but Rojas could cause the Phillies to just try a one-year solution until he is prepared to start.
- The free agent market for centerfielders is weak. The only player that may make sense for one season whose primary position is centerfield would be Kevin Pillar. My reasoning for this is that while he does not possess a strong bat or speed, he does possess elite defense. If the Phillies get a centerfielder that can at least be great on defense, they would be getting more out of the position than anything in recent years. The other option would be to sign a free agent that does not traditionally play centerfield but can if needed. The obvious person that comes to mind in that mold is Khris Bryant. The issue with this is, how much would playing center full-time affect his play (if at all). A few other corner outfielders that may be rental options could be Eddie Rosario, Tommy Pham, Joc Pederson, and Michael Conforto. All have their positives and negatives, and defense is none of their strong suits so it would not improve Philadelphia’s terrible defense (except Pillar).
- It is hard to speculate on trade targets for the Phillies. Cedric Mullens is a huge name that has been thrown around, however it would take a lot of top prospects to get him. With the Phillies still trying to rebuild their farm system, I do not see selling the farm as a viable option. Even for a player of Mullens’s caliber. Two players that are a step or two below Mullens that could be trade targets are Kevin Kiermaier and Randal Grichuk. Kiermaier is not the greatest offensive threat, however he is a three-time gold glover that could sure up the outfield and make the pursuit of a bat-first left fielder (like Castellanos) make more sense. Grichuk is nowhere near the defender that Kiermaier is, but he is a much bigger threat at the plate. He may also cost less to acquire, although I will not be speculating on what a trade for any of these players would look like in this article (that will be for a future article).
- The most ideal situation, I believe, for the Phillies would be that Scott Kingery comes back and shows he is capable of being the everyday centerfielder. If he finds his swing again, he brings a little bit of everything (speed, defense, power,) that could really impact the team in a positive way. It would make his contract less of an albatross and just help the overall team a great deal. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing if this is possible until the season begins. A dream scenario possibly more than Kingery working out would be Moniak realizing his potential and becoming, at the least, serviceable. Again though, there is no way of knowing if this is the case. Therefore, I suspect the Phillies will have another option in place. I think the best and most sensible option would be trading for someone like Kiermaier Betting your centerfield position on two unproven young players (Moniak and Vierling) is extremely risky, and I think other big name free agents suit the needs of the team more so than Khris Bryant. As for the cost of acquiring him from the Rays, it is hard to say. Maybe a combination of someone like Adonis Medina along with a younger unproven prospect will get it done. Despite all this speculation, nothing can be done while the lockout is in progress. I think I speak for every baseball fan out there when I say I truly hope this is resolved soon so that free agency can resume, and to prevent this from spilling over into the regular season.