The day is finally upon us. Pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spectrum Field in Clearwater as Spring Training 2021 officially begins. While we here in Pennsylvania prepare for yet another snow storm, the Phillies are preparing for their return to Citizens Bank Park.
Perhaps the most important position to watch during Spring Training this year is center field. The position was hotly contested during the Phillies’ 2020 season and a bona fide starter has yet to emerge. With some recent additions adding new blood into the mix, let’s take a look at who will partake in the battle for centerfield.
The 8th overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft, Adam Haseley first made his major league debut in 2019. He has appeared in 107 games overall, including 23 starts in 2020. Haseley owns a career .269/.330/.712 slash line. Interestingly enough, Haseley did not hit a single home run in 2020 following five dingers in 2019.
Overall, Haseley is a decent defensive outfielder and probably one of the most complete outfielders on this list. He leaves a lot to be desired offensively and would easily bat eighth in this Phillies’ lineup, but the 24-year old does have time to develop further.
The closest thing to an incumbent on this list, Quinn started 30 games in centerfield for the Phillies in 2020. The outfielder, known for his incredible speed, would be an easy candidate for best defensive outfielder on this list. Except he’s not. What Quinn has in speed, he lacks in instinct in the outfield. He is too aggressive and dives after balls he should instead let come to him. While officially he only had one error last year, there were multiple instances where he misplayed a ball and allowed a baserunner to advance multiple extra bases.
In addition to his below-average defensive abilities, Quinn is also below average at the plate. He hit for .213 at the plate (identical to his 2019 average) in 2020. Perhaps Quinn’s biggest issue is his inability to remain on the field. Quinn has an injury history longer than Carson Wentz. Most recently, he got a concussion in September 2020 by crashing into the centerfield fence (another defensive misplay).
It suffices to say that Kingery would like to leave 2020 in the past. After contracting COVID-19, Kingery was essentially left behind during the 2020 season. While the team was preparing for the season in Summer Camp, Kingery was still dealing with lingering aftereffects from his bout with coronavirus. Without a mini camp to get back into the action, Kingery had to essential jump straight into the season with obviously poor results.
Moving into 2021, Kingery will not have a set position and will have to fight for playing time. Given Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius’s presence in the infield, the infielder will have to fight for centerfield. Kingery is enough of an athlete to manage the outfield, but he will never be a great defensive outfielder. But given that everyone on this list has their own problems, Kingery may yet have a chance. Now, with a full offseason of recovery and preparation, Kingery steps into 2021 knowing it may be his last chance for a starting role in Philadelphia.
The young outfielder joined the Phillies in mid-September last season. The former first overall draft pick went 3-for-14 over the course of eight games played. Moniak spent the entirety of the 2019 season with AA Reading, and would likely have been in AAA Lehigh Valley in 2020. Getting Moniak any form of in-game action in 2020 was a success, and fans should not read into his eight-game sample much.
In 2021, Moniak should likely spend most of the year in Lehigh. He is only 22-years old and has plenty of time to develop further. That being said, if he shows up to Spring Training ready to prove himself, Moniak may yet have a chance to earn the starting centerfielder job.
Among the newest acquisitions this offseason for the Phillies, Jankowski is a Lancaster, Pa. native. A six-year major league veteran, Jankowski has amassed a .238/.315/.313 slash line over the course of 994 plate appearances. He is signed to a minor league contract with the Phillies and will likely start the season in AAA Lehigh Valley. That being said, his veteran status combined with a strong showing may be enough to earn him a chance at the starting job.
Phillies CF Prediction
Based on the fact that he is the most complete overall outfielder, I predict that Adam Haseley will win the starting centerfield job on Opening Day. With Quinn on the bench and Kingery acting as super utility, there will be sufficient competition to keep Haseley on his toes.
This could easily change depending on if the Phillies make any additional moves during Spring Training. Jackie Bradley Jr. has yet to be signed and would automatically win the position. There also lies the possibility of an injury or a breakout performance by one of the outfielders on this list. Position players join camp in Clearwater on February 21st. That means the Phillies will have a little over a month before Opening Day to decide their starting centerfielder.
Photo Credit: Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire