One of the biggest questions coming into the 2021 season for the Phillies was who would be the everyday center fielder for them. At the end of spring training, the Phillies were going to roll with Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn splitting time in the starting lineup until one of them won the everyday starting job.
Well, that plan didn’t go very well. Haseley struggled, going 4 out of 21 at the plate in nine games before leaving the team indefinitely for personal reasons. Former first overall pick Mickey Moniak was called up, and he struggled mightily at the plate. He was sent back down to the alternate site before the series at St. Louis, and Odubel Herrera was called up to make his highly controversial return to Major League Baseball.
That’s where the center field situation stands now as the Phillies try many different options to fill that spot with everyday caliber production. So far this season, Phillies center fielders are a combined 9 out of 80, which is a batting average of 0.113. There’s still a lot of season left, so what are the best options to solve the weakness in center field?
Why Quinn, Moniak and Kingery are not options
Here are three guys that have played themselves out of their opportunity to become an everyday starter for the Phillies. Quinn is batting 0.065 and has struggled to get anything going. The Phillies have given Quinn every chance to prove himself, but at this point, I think the Phillies should move in a different direction.
Quinn is your prototypical speed guy off the bench, and he is faster than Moniak, but Moniak can run, too. If Moniak is going to develop into what the Phillies think he can be, they have to keep Moniak up on the extensive league roster, which might mean Quinn isn’t on the roster. Moniak struck out 12 times in 25 at-bats and looked overmatched by big league pitching. Moniak needs to develop off the bench with at-bats at the Major League level before he can start.
Scott Kingery has gone downhill quickly as he tries to fix his swing and approach at the plate. According to Tom Housenick’s April 20 article for The Morning Call, Kingery was one for 26 with 12 strikeouts at the alternate site as he continues to struggle. Once Segura is activated, expect Kingery to be optioned down again.
Herrera made his season debut in the series opener against the Cardinals, his first appearance for the Phillies since May 26, 2019. Herrera was dealing with a domestic violence incident that kept him out of baseball until now. He was an All-Star back in 2016, and this spring training showed that he has the potential to be as productive as he once was. Only time can tell if Herrera will return to his former self, but if he can, the center-field problem will be solved entirely.
Maton was called up after Ronald Torreyes went to the injured list, and he had a chance to play because of injuries to Didi Gregorius and Jean Segura. It’s safe to say he has made the most of that opportunity, batting 0.440 with an OPS of 1.041 in 25 at-bats. Now, the possibility of Maton moving to the outfield is in play once Segura returns to the field. He’s been too productive with a bat to keep him on the bench, so a move to the outfield makes sense offensively.
Maton has shown great defense in the middle of the infield, so it will be sad to not to see him there, but the team will get a massive boost if he can defensively transition to the outfield. Maton started taking fly balls in spring training and continued at the alternate site. If Maton can continue developing in the outfield and the bat stays as productive as it has been, he could be the Phillies’ starting center fielder.
Here is the blockbuster trade deadline option. Starling Marte’s contract ends after this year, and he finds himself on a Marlins’ roster (which is getting better but might be a year or two away from finishing their rebuild). By the trade deadline, if the Marlins don’t find themselves as playoff contenders and the Phillies’ center field hole continues to exist, this is a trade that makes sense for both teams even though they are in the same division. The Phillies would get a top-of-the-lineup center fielder with pop and a career batting average of 0.287. Add in two gold gloves, and Marte is a perfect fit. He’s a valuable asset, which means he is worth solid prospects. Don’t expect the Phillies to trade Maton, Alec Bohm, Spencer Howard or Bryson Stott, since Marte would be a rest of the year rental, but a trade package that includes Kingery or Moniak is possible. Whatever prospects the Marlins receive in turn could be used to help complete their rebuild down in Miami.
The Phillies can consider a few different options at center field. The best-case scenario is that they can find someone internally to play there instead of having to trade for Marte or anyone else. As the first month wraps up and the season heads into May, keep your eye on Herrera as he starts his tryout for the starting job.