For all of you that have been getting upset that Rhys Hoskins is moving to left field, you need to relax. The likely starting outfield for the Phillies next season is, left to right, Altheer, Herrera, and Williams. Hoskins moving to LF while at Lehigh Valley has nothing to do with a switch of position, and everything to do with getting him some major league at-bats before the season ends.
Over the last two seasons, Rhys Hoskins has become arguably the highlight of the Phillies system, and the one player that Phillies fans can’t wait to see at Citizens Bank Park. That role used to be occupied by J.P. Crawford, but with his offense struggles since being promoted to AAA last season, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the shortstop of the future. (He’s been raking lately: since July 1 he leads the International League with 11HR.)
Hoskins, on the other hand, raked at AA, and has owned AAA pitching since his promotion before the 2017 season. In 113 AAA games, Hoskins has a club record 27 HR, 85 RBI, a .281 average and .953 OPS. This is only one season removed from a 38 HR, 118 RBI campaign at Reading last season. So much for an adjustment period to AAA pitching. It’s fairly clear that there isn’t anything else for him to prove at the minor league level.
Without the convenience of the DH in the National League, promotions to NL clubs necessitate a zero sum scenario: if player A is in the lineup, player B has to sit. Hoskins has played every minor league game at first base (it’s been noted that he hasn’t played the outfield since college), and that position is occupied at the major league level by another highly touted Phillies prospect named Tommy Joseph.
The bad news is, now that Rhys is up, Tommy will get less playing time. Phillies skipper Pete Mackanin had a sit-down with the two players before last nights game and said as much to the two players. There are many Phillies fans who are fine with that scenario, since it is clear that Rhys is a better hitter and better defender than Tommy. Or, is he? It has oft been said that the hardest adjustment to make in baseball is from AAA to the majors. Tommy is in the midst of that adjustment, and Rhys hasn’t sniffed major league pitching. Why would a rebuilding team take away at bats from Joseph, and give them to Hoskins when it is clear that both need the reps?
The Phillies reasoning here is twofold:
1) They have time on their hands. Let’s face facts: the Phillies are not making a run at a division title this year, and while the future of the franchise is becoming clearer, no one can tell for sure if Joseph or Hoskins is the first baseman of the future, or if one of those players is capable of playing another position. The case here is for both of them to get in the lineup, and to get Rhys 150-200 major league at-bats in 2017 while not interrupting Tommy’s progression as an everyday major league player;
2) The Phillies would rather get Rhys his 150-200 AB’s at the end of a lost, rebuilding season, than next year when they are (hopefully) turning their attention to contenting in the division or for a wild card spot. A great example of this is with the Yankees top prospect, Aaron Judge. They called him up in late August last year where in 27 games he hit .197 with 4 HR. In 95 plate appearances, he struck out 42 times, or in 44% of his trips to the plate. I bet the Yankees are glad that they got that horrid experience out of the way. I’m not saying Rhys is going to be Aaron Judge, but you get the point. I think the metaphor is “getting your feet wet.”
Impatience, especially among sports fans, is understandable. With Philadelphia sports fans, it’s a right of passage. We all want the Phillies to get better, and we can almost see the path to making this happen. Now that Rhys has gotten the call, the Phillies have gotten deeper and better. At this point in the rebuild, that’s all we can ask for.
Baseball writer for SportsArePhilly.com. You can follow me on Twitter @jasphil