Improper utilization costing Scott Kingery in his rookie season

By Ian D'Andrea -, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Kingery has started at second base just five times
(Photo: Ian D’Andrea via Wiki Commons)
In the second round of the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft the Philadelphia Phillies selected Scott Kingery out of the University of Arizona. 
Kingery was coming off an outstanding season as the Wildcats second baseman, one in which he had been chosen as the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year.
After signing his first pro contract, Kingery was assigned to Low-A Lakewood in the Phillies organization. He played in 65 games that summer, all at second base.
His 2016 campaign was split between two levels. He played in 94 games with High-A Clearwater and 37 games at Double-A Reading. After the season, Kingery was sent to the Arizona Fall League where he appeared in 20 games for Scottsdale. In all 151 games, he played second base.
Last season, Kingery started out back with Reading but was promoted to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, just a step away from a debut in Major League Baseball. He played in 59 games with Reading – all at second base.
On being promoted to Lehigh Valley the Phillies decided to try him out at a couple of other positions to see how he looked. Kingery got his first action at both shortstop (two games) and third base (four games) but played in 54 games at his natural position of second base.
If you’re counting at home, that’s his entire Junior year at Arizona played at second base. That was followed by 335 minor league games, 329 of those at second base. And he was succeeding at the position. Following the 2017 season, Kingery was awarded the Rawlings Gold Glove Award as the best defensive second baseman in minor league baseball.
At the plate he slashed .304/.359/.530 with 63 extra-base hits (including 26 home runs), 65 RBI, 103 runs scored, and 29 stolen bases. For that 2017 performance, Kingery was honored to receive the Paul Owens Award as the best player in the Phillies farm system.
Baseball America then named him as the second baseman on their Minor League All-Star Team second team. The second baseman. The position at which he had been playing, succeeding, and excelling for three years.
And then the Phillies hired Gabe Kapler as manager, and they decided to continue their questionable commitment to Cesar Hernandez as the second baseman at the big-league level. Kingery made the club out of spring training, but he would not be given the everyday job at the keystone position.
Instead the Phillies have bounced Kingery around in his rookie campaign. He appeared in seven early-season games at third base, 10 in all at the hot corner by late May. In those early weeks of the season Kapler also put him out in center field once and in right field three times.
Then when fellow rookie J.P. Crawford went down injured, Kapler made Kingery his everyday guy. The now 24-year-old has received a baptism by fire at the most crucial infield position at the highest playing level in the world, playing in 99 games as the Phillies shortstop.
When Crawford finally got healthy again he was sent to the minors. The Phillies obtained shortstop Asdrubal Cabrerain a deal to bolster the lineup. And yet Kingery has still started 13 games since that trade – all at shortstop.
The Phillies have actually used him more as a pitcher – you read that correctly – than they have at second base since summer began.

Kingery has struggled defensively in trying to learn the nuances of the demanding shortstop position. Those struggles have leaked over to his performance at the plate where Kingery has just a .230/.272/.340 slash line with 29 extra-base hits across 434 plate appearances.
He has played just four games at his natural position of second base. Three of those came in April. He last played the position on June 15. Now comes word that Kapler and the Phillies have no intention of making him the club’s starting second baseman, now, or any time in the near future.
Meanwhile, Hernandez continues as the everyday second baseman despite hitting just .241 with 15 extra-base hits across 411 plate appearances since May 20. Some still talk about Hernandez bringing speed to the Phillies lineup. He had two stolen bases in the entire month of June. Two more in July. Three in August. He has none yet in September.
Scott Lauber at has quoted Kapler as follows on Kingery’s future positional role with the club:

“The most sensitive, direct, and understanding way I can answer this question is that we don’t know. And I’m not going to pretend like I know. If I say he is the shortstop for the next two years, does that make him a better player? I don’t know. If I say he can move around the diamond, does that make him a better player? I don’t know.”

Here is the problem with that answer. I’m just a fan and a writer who has played and managed at my own far lower level of competition. But just from watching, playing, and following this game closely for what is now a 48th season, I know Kingery’s best position is second base.
Put him at second base, and he will thrive. His record tells the tale. The proof is in the pudding. Pac-12 Player of the Year. Paul Owens Award winner. Minor league All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner.
It is my belief that Kingery is being mishandled by Kapler and the Phillies. I don’t know if there is a wider agenda behind the move. I don’t know if Matt Klentak or someone else in the analytics realm is pulling the strings. What we are learning is that it is apparently going to continue for the foreseeable future.
That’s a shame for Kingery’s best path to development as a big-league regular. It’s a shame for Phillies fans who want to begin truly relating to what we hope will be the next generation of Phillies regulars.
It’s also a shame for this Phillies team as it tries to contend now and build for the future. The best possible team is not being put out on the field every night. Not when Scott Kingery is at shortstop rather than at second base.

Ruben Amaro Jr considering a run at big league GM and managerial jobs

By D. Benjamin Miller - Own work, Public Domain,
Ruben Amaro Jr (R) was fired by the Phillies
back in September 2015

(Photo: D. Benjamin Miller)
It has been almost exactly three years since the Philadelphia Phillies parted ways with former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. For many fans of the team it was a move that took far too long for the organization to make.
Amaro inherited a team that had won the 2008 World Series championship. The club continued to contend over the first three seasons of his tenure largely thanks to a core group of players put together by the previous regimes under Ed Wade and Pat Gillick.
The club would lose the World Series in Amaro’s first season as general manager, then went out in the NLCS in 2010 and the NLDS in 2011. As that group aged, Amaro proved incapable of transitioning the franchise successfully.
The Phillies slipped to the .500 mark in 2012, to a losing record in 2013, and to last place in the NL East in 2014. Finally, the club plummeted to the worst record in baseball during the 2015 season, and Amaro was out.
He was not out of baseball for long. That winter the former player turned in his GM suits for a return to his uniformed roots, taking a job as the Boston Red Sox first base coach and outfield instructor. After two years in Beantown, Amaro moved on to New York where he served this season as the Mets first base coach.
And now the 53-year-old is contemplating a step back up the baseball ladder. According to an interview with Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic, Amaro is considering taking a run at the Mets general manager position. He may also be looking towards an opportunity to actually manage a Major League Baseball team.

“…keeping an open mind that if there are opportunities to be back in the front office, I still feel like I have a lot to offer in that regard as well. I felt like being back on the field would give me a different and interesting perspective as a far as doing a better job as a GM, and trying to improve my information resources. I’m open-minded. If you were to ask me if I would like my next step to be a GM or a manager, I guess it would be a toss-up.”

According to Amaro, he has let the Mets know of his interest in their open GM position. He told Rosenthal that the team was “appreciative of my interest“, which sounds little more than a tacit openness to offer him the chance to interview for the position.
Phillies fans would be skeptical of any such opportunity afforded a man who they largely abhorred by the end. They might, however, be happy to see him making key decisions for those division rivals up north at Citi Field.
I know toward the end of my tenure as a GM in Philadelphia, I was not received well,” Amaro told Rosenthal. “But I do feel grateful that I got to be a part of the rebuild when (former GM) Ed Wade started it. I feel great about being able to work for a Hall of Famer in Pat Gillick, getting advice from guys like Dallas Green and utilizing it for success. Being part of that Phillies success in 2007 through 2011 was something really, really special for me, and something I’ll never forget.

Director of Player Development Joe Jordan departs Phillies organization

Jordan has seen mixed results over seven years.
The Philadelphia Phillies announced on Tuesday that director of player development Joe Jordan would not continue with the organization. His exit from a position that he has held for the last seven years was swift and sudden.
…last week I walked into Matt’s (Phillies GM Klentak) office and told him I didn’t think I was the guy to take this thing forward,” said Jordan per Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Much of what you need to know about the bottom line reasoning behind Jordan’s exit from what is essentially the traditional “farm director” position can be traced back to his hiring.
Jordan was hired by former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Over the last few years since Amaro was replaced by Klentak, the new Phillies GM has done what pretty much every new head of any organization does in all industries – bring in his own people.
Those people have included “new thinkers” like Klentak, well-versed in video and computer analytics. In a comprehensive piece on the changes, Matt Gelb of The Athletic named three of those individuals as assistant GM Bryan Minniti, minor league information coordinator Ben Werthan, and player-development coordinator Dana Parks.
Gelb described behind-the-scenes maneuverings involving an increased role for Minniti over the past year which likely helped lead to yesterday’s announcement:
…Minniti, who was promoted to assistant general manager last offseason, oversees  the club’s player-development process along with amateur talent procurement. He has begun to exert more influence in how both departments are run. Two sources said Jordan was asked to take a reserved approach — more hands off — this season.
The Phillies did not immediately name a new farm director. There are internal candidates, but the club has shown with many of its recent hiring’s such as manager Gabe Kapler that they are willing to search aggressively outside of the organization for new talent fitting their ever-increasing move towards an analytical approach to talent evaluation.
What all this means for the future is that the new director of player development will either be one of the newcomers, perhaps Parks, or will be a new hire from outside who fits that same mold.
At the big-league level, players such as Aaron NolaRhys Hoskins, and Scott Kingery came into and developed up through the organization during the Jordan years. They have brought not only long-term talent but are also providing the fan base with the first group of relatable and marketable players in years.Jordan’s tenure has resulted in a somewhat mixed bag of results.
There have been undeniable steps forward. The Phillies have a handful of minor league affiliates in the playoffs this season, and that minor league system has become respected throughout the industry.
There have also been stutter-steps and frustration from high draft picks and top prospects such as J.P. CrawfordMickey Moniak, and Cornelius Randolph who also came into and have been developing through the Phillies organization during his tenure.
Though there certainly were behind-the-scenes frustrations, the public parting of the ways between Klentak and Jordan was amicable. The 56-year-old Jordan was quoted by Bob Brookover of

“It would not be accurate to say that I was opposed to analytics. But I think our organization was in some form of transition and it was time for me to move on. I’m not leaving Matt at all. I had a phenomenal experience with the Phillies.“

As the organization moves forward, fans of such an increased emphasis on analytics will be happy. “Old school” fans who long for days where the eyes and minds of grizzled veteran scouts watching players and filing reports led to decisions regarding on-field talent are likely to become more frustrated.
The Phillies appear to properly recognize that there is merit to both approaches in helping push the organization forward. Klentak is now leaning more and more on his own hand-picked lieutenants to do the job of overseeing the evaluation and development of ball players with an ever-increasing emphasis on statistical analytics.

Labor Day 2018 MLB Power Ranking

By Unknown -, Public Domain,
Atlanta Braves fans rooting on the NL’s top-ranked team

The Labor Day weekend is coming to an end. September baseball is upon us. 

Pennant races. Heated divisional rivalry battles. Wild wildcard scenarios. And another MLB Power Ranking released.

The defending World Series champion Houston Astros were either alone or tied at the top of my Power Rankings as summer was opening at the start of July, again at the MLB All-Star Game break, and then also in mid-August.

Now the Astros are back alone on top. How did they earn that distinction? Houston enjoys the top pitching staff in baseball. They are tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks as MLB’s top defensive team. They are fourth in all of baseball in runs scored.

Sitting at 30 games above the .500 mark on Labor Day, Houston has been pushed this summer by the incredible run that the division rival Oakland Athletics have been on since the middle of June. 

The A’s woke up on the morning of Saturday, June 16 in the midst of a four-game losing streak. The club had dropped 11 of its previous 18 games. They had sunk to fourth place in the AL West, 11.5 games off the lead. Their season looked essentially over.

Oakland defeated the division-rival Los Angeles Angels that night, and then walked-off the Halos on Sunday afternoon to get back to the .500 mark. 

It was the beginning of an amazing turnabout, one that saw Oakland go 48-20 over the summer months to build a 5.5 game lead in the AL Wildcard race. The A’s also now trail the Astros by just three games in the loss column in the AL West Division standings.

The Cleveland Indians have run away with the American League Central Division race. Terry Francona’s Tribe, losers of a heartbreaking seven-game World Series just two years ago, will be back in the postseason once again trying to end the franchise’ now 70-year championship drought.

In the AL East, the Boston Red Sox have built a comfortable seven-game lead on the arch-rival New York Yankees. The Yanks, with baseball’s second-best overall record and now third in the power rankings appear headed towards a one-game Wildcard showdown for their season.

The Seattle Mariners are five games behind Oakland in the loss column and the Tampa Bay Rays are seven back. Those are the only teams even remotely capable of a push towards the AL’s second Wildcard playoff berth.

In the National League, things appear far more interesting. The Atlanta Braves lead the Philadelphia Phillies by four games in the NL East. The Chicago Cubs hold a six-game edge on both Milwaukee and Saint Louis in the NL Central.

New this month in the senior circuit? Those Braves have risen to become the top-ranked team in the National League for the first time this season. With a young, talented ball club, Atlanta promises to be a contender for years to come.

In the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers have taken the lead, but are tied with the Colorado Rockies in the loss column. The Dbacks sit just a game behind those two in what looks for all the world like a three-horse race down to the wire.

The National League Wildcard picture is, well, wild. The Brewers and Cardinals currently hold the two available playoff spots. But the Rockies are just a game back, with the Dbacks and Phillies just two and three games back respectively.

My formula for compiling the MLB Power Ranking remains unchanged. I researched each of the 30 MLB teams current position in the four categories of winning percentageruns scoredpitching OPS, and fielding percentageI then assigned each of those rankings a 1-30 value and added them up to determine an overall score.

The current MLB Power Ranking on Labor Day are presented here, with each team’s previous rank from July 1, the MLB All-Star break in mid-July, and then the middle of August from L-R in parentheses: 

1.   Houston Astros (1-1-1T)
2.   Boston Red Sox (2-2-1T)
3.   New York Yankees (5-3-3)

4.   Atlanta Braves (4-4-6)
5.   Cleveland Indians (12T-10-4T)
6.   Oakland Athletics (15-11-7)
6.   Chicago Cubs (7-5-8)
8.   Arizona Diamondbacks (3-7-4T)

9.   Washington Nationals (8-13-11)
10.  Los Angeles Dodgers (9-6-9T)

11.  Colorado Rockies (12T-9-9T)

12. Tampa Bay Rays (14-15-16)
13. Saint Louis Cardinals (23T-18T-15)
14. Milwaukee Brewers (9T-8-14)
15. Los Angeles Angels (6-14-12)
16. Seattle Mariners (11-12-13)

17. San Francisco Giants (22-20-18T)
18. Philadelphia Phillies (23T-16-17)

18. Cincinnati Reds (17-21-21)
20. Pittsburgh Pirates (18-18T-20)
20. Minnesota Twins (16-17-18T)

20. New York Mets (27T-24-26)
23. Toronto Blue Jays (19T-25-24)
24. Texas Rangers (19T-26-22)
24. Detroit Tigers (19T-22-23)

26. Miami Marlins (26-23-25)
27. Kansas City Royals (27T-27T-27)

28. Chicago White Sox (30-30-29T)
29. San Diego Padres (25-27T-28)
30. Baltimore Orioles (29-29-29T)

The next MLB Power Ranking will be released in mid-September as teams prepare for the final two weeks of the regular season in the middle of the stretch run. There will also be one final ranking at the conclusion of the MLB regular season.