The Phillies have a problem. (The Phillies have many problems, but I don’t have all day here.) Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies’ first base prospect, is currently hitting the cream cheese out of the ball in Triple-A. He’s got a .280/.385/.570 line in 460 at-bats, with 23 doubles, 4 triples, and 27 home runs. He’s got 64 walks and 73 strikeouts. It really seems like he’s ready for the majors.
Why is this a problem? They have a guy named Tommy Joseph at first base in the majors right now. The Phillies weren’t able to trade him at the deadline, but there’s no chance that he’d make it through waivers. And he’s... mediocre (and that’s putting it generously). He’s hit .247/.309/.440 with 16 home runs and 95 strikeouts in 411 plate appearances this year. He’s nothing to write home about, and sometimes he actively hurts the team, but he’s 26 and controllable, which I’m sure are words that were once spoken about Darin Ruf. It feels wrong that Joseph is blocking Hoskins, but if the Phillies want any value at all for Joseph, they need to hold on to him.
And here’s a seemingly unrelated second problem: Aaron Altherr, who had been playing pretty much every day, is back on the DL after aggravating his hamstring. The Phillies need another outfielder.
Matt Gelb of Philly.com reported on Monday afternoon that the Phillies have come up with a solution for these temporary problems: Rhys Hoskins is starting in left field for Monday night’s IronPigs game. Here’s what Gelb had to say about it.
But this is a way — with Aaron Altherr on the disabled list — to fill a current outfield hole in the majors and reward Hoskins for his minor-league production. If the left-field experiment is not a disaster, the power-hitting prospect could be in the majors within a few days.
Hoskins in the majors in a few days! That’s very exciting. Of course, it comes with the “if this isn’t a disaster” caveat, which is slightly troubling. Hoskins hasn’t played left field since he was a freshman in college since 2012, and he hasn’t played a single game in the minors in any position besides first base. So this is going to be quite the learning experience for young Rhys.
I know it’s hard, but try to push the anguished cries of “AAAHHHH IT’S THE REVENGE OF DARIN RUF!” from your brain for a moment. Because I didn’t react well when I heard this, either. Hoskins is not a left fielder, or that’s the position he’d be playing. I can’t imagine this experiment goes well, least of all for the pitchers who will have to keep throwing through whatever miscues he makes. Plus, Tommy Joseph isn’t great. They could easily sit him and bring Hoskins up. But that doesn’t solve their outfield problem. Trying Hoskins in the outfield actually does that.
And most importantly, Gelb emphasized that it’s temporary. They don’t want Hoskins to be a left fielder forever, just until they don’t need one in the majors anymore. If Altherr hadn’t gotten hurt right after they traded Howie Kendrick, this might not be happening. The Phillies have shown no desire to rush anyone, and that includes forcing a position change on a player who could produce in the majors. And it stands to reason that if Roman Quinn was healthy and not injured for the umpteenth time, they’d call him up. They may have even called him up instead of Nick Williams back in July.
But injuries necessitate problem solving. Quinn has been out for a good chunk of the year, so the Phillies have had to fill outfield holes with whoever they can find. They could call-up Brock Stassi again, but we already know what Stassi can do. With Hoskins doing so well, why not try him out?
I get why the Phillies are doing this. But it’s still unsettling to hear that a talented player is moving to a different position while a substandard player occupies the native position. We don’t know how Rhys Hoskins will do in the majors, but being better than 2017 Tommy Joseph is a low bar to clear.
Tommy Joseph MLB rankings:— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) August 7, 2017
fWAR (151 out of 160 qualified MLB players)
Yeah, that’s a pretty low bar. So while we’re being promised that this is temporary, feeling stressed by this is a natural reaction. All we have to rely on here is the past. Just as we get freaked out about J.P. Crawford and his possible similarities to Domonic Brown, we see the Phillies putting Hoskins in left field while Joseph stays at first and get acid flashbacks of Darin Ruf the 30-year-old rookie stumbling around the outfield like he’s got a blindfold on.
But this isn’t that situation. Hoskins may be bad in left, but the Phillies say this is temporary. And after a full season plus of Tommy Joseph, I have to hope that the Phillies know that he is not their first baseman of the future. But getting rid of him right now, right this second, makes no sense. He’s worth more than what they could get for him right now, and getting rid of him doesn’t solve their outfield problem.
So like with almost everything that’s happened (or hasn’t happened) this season, we have to have faith. Faith that this experiment goes well. Or maybe faith that it won’t.