Rhys Hoskins is getting a lot of digi-ink recently. You may have read about him being only the third player ever to have eight dingers in his first 15 games. Or maybe the first player to have 19 RBI in those same games. Or how he’s walking nearly as much as he’s striking out. Or how he’s doing it with a BABIP flirting with the Mendoza line. Or how he’s done it all despite having only 64 plate appearances and after starting out 0-for-12. All these things are worth talking about.
None of those reasons acknowledge Hoskins in the context of the current Phillies lineup, though. Maybe it’s because the team is the clear-cut worst in the majors this year. Or how they’ve been so terrible the last few years that it mirrors their futility in the 90s. Or how they stand in such stark contrast to the organization’s great run from just a few short years ago. All of these things are worth not talking about.
But the way the this year’s team persists makes it important to look at Hoskins in their construct.
These numbers back up everything about Hoskins at the start of this piece. They also tell us a couple of other things about the rest of the current Phillies core, whose average age is 25. (Jorge Alfaro is excluded because he’s only played in nine games this year.)
Nick Williams has probably been the second-most exciting bat in the Phillies lineup this season, but his BABIP and K% also make him the biggest wild card moving forward. Cesar Hernandez is a worthwhile hitter who provides value in a few ways. Odubel Herrera goes through stretches that are equal parts brilliance and frustration. Freddy Galvis is a defense-first shortstop who isn’t a total black hole at the plate. And Maikel Franco may be genuinely concerning at this point, which could be why JP Crawford is seeing time at third base in AAA.
As members of the second-worst offense in baseball, do they provide a single reason to get excited when watching them? They can be compelling on a given night, but no one in that group has a game-altering skill that urges you to tune in or stick with them through a whole contest.
It’s more than not having a standout skill, though, and goes beyond being bad. It’s that this Phillies team’s greatest flaw often seems to be that they can handily beat themselves. How each individual performs at the plate can provide one example.
Galvis is the eighth-easiest out in baseball when he’s down in the count. Nick Williams would be up there if had enough at-bats to qualify. Odubel Herrera is in the top 50. Maikel Franco is 74th, but his overall game hasn’t struck fear into anyone in a couple years. Cesar Hernandez is quietly one of the better second basemen in the league, but he doesn’t offer nearly the offensive upside as Hoskins.
That likely makes Hoskins the best of the Phillies core at avoiding outs when behind in the count, and what contributes to him already being the team’s best hitter. Consider his crazy low BABIP and ability to walk and it gets easier to buy into. Yes, the sample size is small. But it’s also yielded results very similar to what his minor-league profile says to expect.
Hoskins isn’t just making outs at a lower rate than his teammates when down in the count. He’s shown himself to be adept at causing damage in such situations. That’s when he’s hit half of his eight home runs, meaning he doesn’t make it about just shortening up or taking a pitch. He simply doesn’t give a flip if he’s behind. He appears calm at all times. Combined with true talent, that is what makes for perhaps the most dangerous type of player.
Now, add that distinction to a lineup of other serviceable players where one or two of them grow. Add a pitcher or two to Aaron Nola, who’s becoming an ace. Think of other help coming from the minors. Things are looking much better for the Phillies, even if they come with conditions.
Rhys Hoskins has been excellent, but that’s not all. He’s clarifying Philadelphia’s path out of the basement, and possibly back to relevance, rather quickly.
Tim Jackson is a writer and educator who loves pitching duels. Find him and all his baseball thoughts online at timjacksonwrites.com/baseball and @TimCertain.