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Mailbag #12: Ro-trade-tion

Plus! Rhys Hoskins: Not Just a Reading Fluke?

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The world has not ended yet, so with prospect list season upon us, we have the welcome retreat of being able to dive into baseball talk. So, so welcome.

As always a reminder to send me your questions on Twitter or here in the comments.

Player Spotlight: Rhys Hoskins

It can be hard to be rational about a player that hit .281/.377/.566 in Double-A and, frankly, I am terrified of what the Rhys Hoskins hype would be had he had not been teammates with Dylan Cozens. While Hoskins comes with the baggage of a wild season at Reading, he does not come with Cozens's prodigious strikeout rate or huge righty/lefty splits. Part of the rhetoric on Hoskins has been that his power output was greatly enhanced by Reading and this (an excerpt from BP's Phillies prospect list) helps illustrate the narrative on Hoskins.

Hoskins’ power spike—he hit 17 across two levels in 2015—was the product of feasting on Eastern League fastballs and playing half of his season in Reading’s launchpad, so expectations for a repeat power performance should be tempered. His raw power is above average, but tapping into that power in the future will be heavily dependent on adjusting to off-speed offerings.

In many ways, we have swung too far the other way on Hoskins. Unlike Cozens - who had what was a bit of a down year in Clearwater last year - Hoskins was coming off one of the better seasons in the minor leagues. What we can try and do is strip out the known problems caused by Reading, namely FirstEnergy Park turning doubles into home runs, but otherwise plays fairly run neutral. So here is Hoskins over the past two season both domestic and international.

PA BIP (incl HR) XBH XBH/BIP BB% K% ISO
Low-A 290 207 30 0.145 9.0% 17.2% 0.204
Hi-A 277 196 29 0.148 10.5% 17.7% 0.193
Australia 186 136 23 0.169 8.1% 15.1% 0.238
AA 589 381 65 0.171 12.1% 21.2% 0.285
DWL 70 48 6 0.125 10.0% 15.7% 0.237

Now of course, there is small sample size in here, especially with the foreign leagues. We also know that Lakewood and the FSL suppress power, but Clearwater plays positively for the league. Each major level has seen Hoskins's strikeouts rise, but also bump up his walk rate. We see a slightly different trend within Hoskins's 2016 season where, from April to June, he had a 8.2 BB% and 24.2 K%, but from there to end of season he had a 17.1 BB% and a 17.4 K%. Now, we do know that Hoskins's home run total was inflated in 2016, but  the extra base hits have been trending up. He probably won't hit 38 home runs again, but he does have plus power (we've seen that in past years) and he does do a good job of tapping into that power. This is fine because only 10 first baseman in baseball hit 30 home runs last year, and only four hit more than 34, so if Hoskins is in the 25-34 home run range he is going to be fine, especially if his doubles totals rise.

Hoskins still needs to hit more advanced pitching, which is why he will be an unlikely fixture in any Phillies Top 10 (though he will be on just-missed collections). There are equally glowing things that can be said about Tommy Joseph, so don't go rushing to anoint Hoskins just yet; but he is not just a Reading-based mirage.

Mailbag!

I don't think Thompson did enough after cleaning up his mechanics to guarantee himself a spot in the Majors to start 2017. Right now, with Hellickson expected to decline his QO, the Phillies starting rotation has three locks in Jared Eickhoff, Aaron Nola, and Vincent Velasquez. It seems that one of the two remaining spots will go to a veteran stabilizer. My personal preference is an incentive-laden deal to Charlie Morton, who the Phillies like and who flashed some upside early in the season before his injury. That then leaves the last spot as an open competition. Without accounting for trades or releases, the contestants in that competition are Adam Morgan, Alec Asher, Jake Thomspon, and Zach Eflin with the possibility that Ben Lively and Mark Appel get in on the action as well.

I think Thompson is the most talented of that group. However, his command in the Major Leagues of all of his pitches left a lot to be desired, and it contributed to the highest walk rate of his career. In addition to the command, he is going to need to show that his slider is the wipeout pitch it showed itself to be in previous years, because without it he just cannot miss bats, and that is going to prevent him from being even a competent starting pitcher. I don't know if Thompson is the favorite coming into spring, but I am sure the Phillies would like to see him grab that starting job.

I don't think any prospects specifically are trade bait. The Phillies just are not in position to be chucking prospects out until they have found established Major League players. That said are there prospects who are more tradeable than others, sure. In general, I tend to look for players that fall into these categories:

  • At a position of depth, particularly one where players may be in suboptimal situations if everyone is kept around.
  • Players at the peak of their value.
  • Players with higher risk and while their value may not be at peak, there is a chance they have no value in a year.
  • Players with divisive skillsets that another team may value higher.

In that case, here the players I see as more likely to move:

  • Roman Quinn: The Phillies really like him and he has the chance to be really good. However, he plays the same position as Odubel Herrera and Herrera is the better player. Also, the health question lurks.
  • Ben Lively: Lively just dominated the two highest levels of the minor leagues and, at age 25 on opening day, he is at his peak. No one thinks he is an ace, but a team who sees him as a Major League-ready No. 5 might put decent value on him.
  • Dylan Cozens/Rhys Hoskins: The peak value for each player is almost certainly when they hit in AAA and the majors, but with the number of outfielders, Cozens is not a singular hope for the Phillies and, while Hoskins may be good, he may not be as good as Tommy Joseph. There is a chance that another team sees only the positives with each and in that case there is no reason to stand in the way.
  • Andrew Knapp: There is just no place for him to play and the minor league catching situation across the league is not amazing. Knapp could step into the majors right now and be the timeshare starting catcher for a team with a black hole, making him an interesting second piece in a deal.
  • Franklyn Kilome: I think this is the least likely of the names on this list, but low-A pitchers are far from guarantees and his talent level could make an opposing team drool, but for those same reasons the Phillies could hang onto him.

Links:

Baseball Prospectus Phillies Top 10 (well, 13), also includes a U25 list by our own Trevor Strunk!