Phillies rookie Nick Maton is not the answer in center field

Nick Maton #29 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Nick Maton #29 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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As expected, Philadelphia Phillies rookie Nick Maton is cooling off. Since he started his career on a six-game hitting streak — including four straight multi-hit games — Maton has batted .182 with an OPS of just .448. On Thursday, he went 0-for-3.

This is not panic time, as Maton was never expected to be a great hitter his rookie year — although he did provide key offense the Phillies needed. His defense metric-wise wasn’t the best, despite some nice highlight plays at second base — a -2 DRS and a -0.1 UZR in 96 1/3 innings.

I don’t want this to seem like I am hating on the guy, but with Jean Segura coming back from the injured list this weekend, the question about putting Maton in center field has been a hot topic.

With Roman Quinn sidelined and Odubel Herrera not proving he is a big-league hitter, the talk is only going to increase. We have to continue asking who should be the everyday Phillies center fielder. That question has no good answer. Adam Haseley is away from the team, Herrera has struck out seven times in 30 at-bats, and Mickey Moniak has just a 26 OPS+. It seemed Quinn turned the corner, but after getting in four hits in his last four starts, he was sent to the injured list.

Making Phillies rookie Nick Maton the everyday CF could be a disaster.

Maton has never played center field in his professional career, so he would have to learn the position on the fly. It is hard to imagine Maton doing that, coupled with bad corner outfield defense. It makes it difficult to justify putting him out there.

It is not like Maton has blazing speed to make up for the lack of instincts he will have in center. He is certainly not slow, but is he fast enough to put in center as he learns a new position?

Maton might not also be ready to contribute right now as an everyday player, with just a .086 ISO and a .436 BABIP. He had a lot of things go his way to begin the season. He also isn’t walking enough, at just a 3.3 percent walk rate and just 2 walks overall. He is also striking out more than 30 percent of the time. If he wants to be in the lineup every day, he needs to walk more and strike out less.

Maton is a good kid and is still hitting above the league average — with a 106 wRC+ and a 107 OPS+ — but asking him to field center is just too much right now. Once Segura returns, Maton will be back on the bench — but that does not mean when Ronald Torreyes comes back that Maton will not return to the minors, especially if the slump continues.

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