Phillies

Phillies

Lately, no Phillies have struggled at the plate more than Scott Kingery and Aaron Altherr. 

Kingery's on-base percentage is down to .277, second worst among all National League regulars, ahead of only Miami's Lewis Brinson.

Altherr, who opened the season batting fifth and third and playing right field for the Phils, has slumped so badly that he was optioned to Triple A on Sunday night after hitting .171 in 248 plate appearances.

Kingery has had so many uncompetitive at-bats this season, he's made so many weak outs. He's looked overmatched, which is understandable for a rookie. It's how plenty of rookies begin their careers. The Cody Bellingers of the world are the exceptions. That's not an excuse, just a reality.

On Tuesday morning, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak joined the 97.5 Morning Show with Anthony Gargano and Bob Cooney and addressed the play of both. Klentak defended Kingery's defense but was honest about his offense. 

"He hasn't hit," the GM said of Kingery. "He's had flashes, but consistency has been a challenge for him at the plate this year. I can tell you what our hitting people believe, what our manager believes, everybody in our organization is 100 percent bullish on this kid. 

"It's his first year in the big leagues and he's thrust into a pretty big spot and he's learning on the fly. He's not the first kid to come up, the first talented player, big prospect to come up and struggle early."

 

Defensively, Kingery has improved at shortstop. He's made one error in his last 284 innings there. He's not a plus defender there yet, but he's shown range lately and his throws to first base have been consistently strong. That was something Phils shortstops struggled with in April.

"I don't think defense has been Scotty's issue at all," Klentak said. "We know what he can do defensively at second, we've seen that for years. And I've got to tell you, we just went through an exercise where we watched, I think it was the last 100 balls hit to Scott Kingery and just watched. He makes every play and makes a perfect, firm chest-high throw to first every single time.

"It has been unbelievable how quickly this kid has adjusted to shortstop, to the point where I have no problem at this stage calling him a shortstop. I realize he's sort of known as a second baseman, but he really is playing a good defensive shortstop."

It's interesting to note how similar Kingery's offensive numbers are to Freddy Galvis' this season and Galvis' career. 

Galvis this season: .236/.295/.330

Galvis' career: .244/.288/.366

Kingery: .234/.277/.329

Only offering that info to provide perspective on Kingery's struggles at the plate, not to make an argument that the Phillies should have held on to Galvis.

What went wrong for Altherr

As for Altherr, the demotion made sense. He needs to be able to play every day to build confidence and get through this. The talent is still there, the skill set is still there. Altherr didn't hit .272 with 19 homers and an .856 OPS last season by accident. He's a great athlete with power, speed and above-average defensive instincts. When he struggles, his swing gets long.

That's been the case most of this season. Altherr has struck out in 33 percent of his plate appearances compared to 25 percent last season. He's also grounded into a ton of double plays — 12 — with no player in the majors hitting into them at a higher rate.

But this trip to Lehigh Valley will be temporary for Altherr. Once he's hitting and the Phils believe he can help off the bench or against left-handed pitching, Altherr will be back.

"He's probably the single most talented dude in that clubhouse," Klentak said, "just from a pure strength and athleticism and grace and just ability perspective. And he's just completely out of the rhythm right now. Not entirely his fault. We've got Rhys, and Odubel, and Nick Williams, all of whom are playing very well right now. They deserve the regular reps and Aaron's just not able to get those regular reps. He gets a start a week and a pinch-hit at-bat here and there. 

"We sent him down, and we told him this because we need him to be a guy for us down the stretch. We know he can do it. He was one of the best players on our team last year. We've seen it."

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