There have been many surprises with the Phillies this season. As late as two months ago, did you see the emergence of players like Vince Velasquez and Maikel Franco coming? Did you have Odubel Herrera on pace for 29 homers 99 games into the season for a team that is tied for first-place? No? Same here.
But there have also been some unwelcome surprises this year, too. With the highly-touted Scott Kingery continuing to struggle at the plate and Aaron Altherr now in Lehigh Valley looking to recapture the form that made him a key piece of the Phillies’ puzzle heading into this season, the offense has been surprisingly underwhelming to this point. General manager Matt Klentak hopped on 975 The Fanatic this morning with Anthony Gargano and Bob Cooney and shared his thoughts on the two players.
You can read what he had to say and listen to the spot after the jump.
Klentak first praised Kingery’s improved defensive play at shortstop:
I don’t think defense has been Scotty’s issue at all. We know what he can do defensively at second, we’ve seen that for years. And I’ve gotta 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. He’s learning to go to his right, he’s got that sort of feet-first slide, pop-up slide, throw to make to first. He’s working on that. 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.
And then gave his thoughts on his offensive woes:
He hasn’t hit. 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, like everybody in our organization is 100% 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. Part of that is, like that’s part of the reason that we’re excited about the second half. It’s not just Scott, but young players who are 23, 24, 25, even 26—there’s some reasonable expectation that these guys may continue to get better because that’s what aging curves tell us–that they’ll likely be better next year, they’ll likely be better the year after that, but there’s also a chance they may be better in the second half. So that’s yet another thing that we have to weigh as we are assessing the trade market.
The last sentence is the key. Will the Phillies add a rumored name such as Eduardo Escobar or Asdrubal Cabrera to give the lineup a much-needed jolt? How will they balance the defensive deficiencies of such players? Is it worth adding one of those players at the expense of perhaps stunting the growth of Kingery, a player who they are clearly building around long-term, for a short-term fix? It would seem if they want to get serious about bolstering the current roster to make a playoff run that replacing Kingery’s .277 on-base percentage, which is the worst mark in the National League, is almost imperative. They will also have to add another bat to a paper-thin bench because of Altherr’s recent demotion.
Here’s Klentak on him:
He’s probably the single most talented dude in that clubhouse 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, right? 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, we wanted to get him down there, give him a chance to go play everyday. Get four or five at-bats night. Just get into a rhythm again. Get his confidence back. And at whatever point he’s looking good, we’ll gladly bring him back up here because we know what kind of an impact he can have on a big league club.
You can listen to his comments here: