The Phillies open spring training in Clearwater, Florida next week. In preview, we take a look at five storylines:
Tuesday — Five new faces to watch
Wednesday — Five questions on the position side
Thursday — Five questions on the pitching side
Friday — Five prospects to watch
Saturday — Five people with something to prove
Though the Phillies have upgraded some spots on the position side, there remains uncertainty in the area entering camp. It's no secret that the team is still looking to make a major addition by signing Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, and the possibility of trading for J.T. Realmuto is real as the Miami Marlins seem to have lowered the price tag on the All-Star catcher. Without further ado, let's look at five position-related questions heading into camp.
Where does Scott Kingery fit?
Barring a trade, Kingery still looks like the team's second baseman of the future. The question remains: When will the future arrive? Cesar Hernandez is still here and still the team's starter at second. Kingery played extensively at shortstop last season and got better with time, but Jean Segura is there now. Kingery could play some third base if certain circumstances unfold.
For the moment, it's likely that he will fill the super-utility role that team officials envisioned for him when they signed him to a six-year, $24 million contract in March. He's still a developing player, no doubt, and needs to make more contact at the plate. As he seeks those improvements, it's conceivable the Kingery could get his uniform dirty every night with time at second, third, short, maybe left field and definitely as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner as he waits for the future to arrive.
How will Rhys Hoskins do at first base?
The Hoskins/outfield experiment of 2018 failed and the Phillies deftly extracted themselves from the situation by moving on from Carlos Santana. The Phils essentially replaced Santana's on-base skills with the addition of Andrew McCutchen and got a whole lot better defensively in the outfield, as well. Hoskins admitted he was not comfortable in left field last year and it showed. His entire game should prosper by the move back to his natural position.
"I'm excited to be moving back to the dirt," he said. "Everything there is second nature."
Hoskins tailored his off-season workouts to playing the infield again. He's never been a top defender at the position, but he shouldn't be a liability, either. Hoskins will get a lot of work at the position in spring training as he looks for a big season.
How will the outfield be aligned?
McCutchen will be used in one of the corner spots. Team officials have said as much. If the team signs Harper, he will be in left field. He could be there anyway. Roman Quinn took some time from Odubel Herrera in center field last season. The Phils will likely continue to look at Quinn in center field in Clearwater and he could push Herrera to a corner spot. But there's always the chance a better conditioned Herrera could stay in center field. Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr return. This will all play out in Clearwater.
Where will the new guys hit?
Gabe Kapler did a lot of experimenting with the batting order last spring and is likely to do the same this spring. Kapler believes the No. 2 and No. 4 spots are integral to an offense. Segura profiles in the two-spot, possibly behind Hernandez, and Hoskins in the four-spot. McCutchen could hit fifth or sixth — and this whole thing could change (for the better) if Machado, Harper or Realmuto come to town.
Whither Maikel Franco?
He lost his job at third base June, regained it after J.P. Crawford got hurt, and finished first in batting average (.270), second in OPS (.780) and third in homers (22) for the Phillies in 2018. Still, Franco does not seem to have a place in this front office's future. He will report to Clearwater as the team's third baseman and could very well be there on opening day. But there's also a possibility he will be traded during the spring as a result of the Phillies' signing Machado or Mike Moustakas. Stay tuned. Third base seems very much up in the air.
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