News broke Monday morning that the Phillies will be testing out slugging first base prospect Rhys Hoskins in the outfield. It is no secret that Hoskins is ready for the big leagues, batting .280 with an on-base percentage of .385 and 28 home runs at the highest level of the minors. The 24 year-old is also displaying excellent plate discipline with 64 walks to just 73 strikeouts.
Hoskins now joins a long list of first base prospects to try their hand in the outfield. The St. Louis Cardinals tried it with Albert Pujols. The Los Angeles Dodgers did it with Paul Konerko. The Phillies even tested Ryan Howard in the outfield to try to find a way to get him and Jim Thome in the same lineup.
Obviously none of the aforementioned experiments lasted long, with each of the players eventually moving back and sticking at first base. Overall, the pickings are slim when looking for first base prospects that successfully converted to outfield. This is because, from a defensive standpoint, it is a quite difficult transition.
The outfield is a more physically demanding position than first base and requires a great deal of athleticism and instinct. Playing the outfield at the major league level involves getting good jumps on the ball, taking efficient routes, and exceptional arm strength.
Although there are not many, one notable success story in recent memory is Carlos Lee. At one time Lee was a corner infield prospect that broke into the majors as an outfielder. With Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko blocking him at first base and DH, Lee needed to find a way to break into the major league lineup, so the White Sox moved him to the outfield. Lee played well enough there for his bat to stick in the majors for 14 seasons.
Despite a lack of success stories, the fact is that great hitters always find a way into the lineup. If a player keeps hitting, his bat will be in the lineup one way or another. Whether Hoskins succeeds in the outfield remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that he will be in the Phillies lineup sooner than later.