Photo courtesy Reading Fightins
There is no denying that the injury to Cesar Hernandez is a blow to the Phillies. Hernandez will miss up to six weeks with an oblique injury that he suffered last week, leaving the Phillies with a hole to fill at second base. For the immediate future, manager Pete Mackanin has moved former second baseman turned outfielder Howie Kendrick to second base.
Kendrick’s two errors in Monday night’s 6-5 loss in Boston just made the cry for another option that much louder. That option is Reading second baseman Scott Kingery, who is having a monster season for the Fightins at Double-A. Kingery is currently tied with Nashville’s Renato Nunez for the minor league lead in home runs with 18. He’s also batting .300 with a .375 on-base percentage and has swiped 14 bases in 16 attempts.
Here’s the problem. Kingery hasn’t even played a full season at the Double-A level, and there is no reason to jump him over Triple-A to have him try to fill in at second base. Let’s see how this could play out.
First, Kingery comes to the majors and sets the world on fire for the next six weeks. Now, Hernandez is ready to return and what do you do? If you play Kingery, you’ve killed Hernandez’ trade value because he’s coming off an injury and spends the last two months of the season as a utility guy. Move him to short? That kills Freddy Galvis’ value. Play Hernandez and have Kingery come off the bench? That’s not great for Kingery’s development and it’s not an easy role for a young player to fill; just ask Brock Stassi.
Second, Kingery comes up to Philly and stinks up the joint. The same people who want to see him there now are going to be the same ones crucifying the Phillies and Kingery, with talk radio filling up with angry words about how Kingery isn’t that good, so how good are the rest of the prospects. Or how about, the Phillies don’t know how to develop talent. They stink!
Odds are that the truth would likely be somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum, and then what? You have a kid who is doing okay, but now, likely as he’s just adjusting to the majors, you’re sending him back to the minors.
There’s a better solution. Put up with any defensive shortcomings that Kendrick may have. It’s likely that there is a lot of rust considering that he hasn’t really played second base on a regular basis since 2015. Last season, he played 32 games there with the Dodgers, but played much more in left field than on the infield. With Kendrick being pulled out of the outfield, the Phillies can use the opportunity to promote one of their young outfielders that they’re high on.
Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams are both on the Phillies 40-man roster and are both putting up good numbers with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, although neither has shown tons of consistency. Cozens got off to a horrible start and then went nuts offensively, before setting into somewhat of a normal pattern lately. On the season, he’s batting 14-46-.252/.314/.495 with the IronPigs. Williams has been the more consistent of the two players, but still struggles with pitch recognition and plate discipline. On the season, Williams is at 13-40-.280/.314/.516 at Triple-A.
Both players could use more time at Triple-A to continue to improve, but they’re at that point that if you wanted to call either of them up to Philly, it could be done without much of an issue or concern about how it might affect them or their development if they struggle.
Getting back to Kingery, he should definitely be promoted to Lehigh Valley. He’s shown that he can handle Double-A pitching, and while he’s not ready for the majors, he appears ready to transition to the next level. Second base is pretty well open for the IronPigs ever since Jesmuel Valentin went down with a shoulder injury last month. Valentin is likely lost for the season and Kingery is the better prospect of the two anyway. If all goes well at Triple-A, maybe you add Kingery to the 40-man roster and bring him to Philly in September.