By the end of this season, those of us who’ve wandered into busy Philadelphia intersections, arms outstretched and bellowing "WHERE ARE THE PROSPECTS?!!" may have little more to do than check ourselves into the appropriate institution. It has not been a smooth nor accelerated process, but there has been a small amount of movement: By the close of 2016 [EDIT: or even THIS season, 2017], we will have seen Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro get promoted to the big leagues, while exciting names like Scott Kingery and Sixto Sanchez have climbed rungs of the farm system. And the Phillies, it seems, may not be finished.
Now, first baseman Rhys Hoskins is ‘primed’ for a big league call-up, according to Todd Zolecki, and no one’s more excited than Pete Mackanin.
"Everybody wants to see [Hoskins'] bat, but Tommy Joseph has done well enough and there's enough games left for him to show even more improvement," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said before Tuesday's game against the Braves at SunTrust Park. "It's hard. You don't want to put Tommy Joseph on the bench, so maybe this is a way to do it."
Ask Pete about Rhys, and he’ll gush over Tommy.
The Phillies really, really like Tommy Joseph, and believe they have not seen whatever it is they need to see to determine his true value, whether to this team or another team. Such is that love that they are moving hot-hitting, aggressively intriguing prospects to fit around him. Hoskins’ transplant to left field is just going to be what it’s going to be (he took to the position amicably in his debut), it seems, and maybe a year from now, when Hoskins and Joseph are both hitting at a .340 clip with a combined 60 home runs, we’ll all be wearing clown paint. But until then, this is apparently the plan. Also, that will not happen.
So, after a brief quickening of the pulse and stewing of the juices following the announcement that Hoskins would be taking some reps in left, everyone seems to have calmed down. It had been starting to feel like we’d never see the 24-year-old, born in the spring training of 1993, with the major league team this year, despite his International League-leading 28 home runs and .571 SLG. This is... not the way we’d imagined it happening, but really, what ever is?
Greg Luzinski and Pat Burrell played left field and they both have World Series rings. Darin Ruf and Cody Asche played left field and they are both still alive. And it’s sounding like the Phillies were so undaunted about the shift in Hoskins’ defensive alignment that his orientation - for a position he hadn’t played since he was a freshman in college in 2012 - seemed to evolve from "just stand out there and we’ll hit fungoes at you" to "yeah, you’re good to go" in what I’ll say was probably like 20 minutes.
Hoskins: Phils told me "run around in the outfield a little bit during BP," then told him to take it more seriously, get reads off the bats.— Marshall Harris (@mharrisCSN) August 7, 2017
This scheme was moved from planning to execution also due to the injury to Aaron Altherr, which allowed an outfield spot to wriggle free in a situation that was referred to as a "logjam" just weeks ago. Of course, eventually, Altherr will be back, but maybe Joseph will be gone, and Hoskins can play his natural position. But that’s for future blog posts to discuss. And none of it matters anyway, because Hoskins could be performing circus acts in left field and Pete Mackanin’s eyes would apparently be glued to Tommy Joseph hitting .245.
Regardless, with Andrew Knapp slipping away with a bruised hand last Thursday, the Phillies called up Jorge Alfaro, who will see an "increased opportunity" in the coming days with Knapp formally heading to the 10-day DL. Alfaro started the season in April with Lehigh Valley hitting a blistering .333 with an .896 OPS and even a pair of triples. Those numbers tailed off significantly—Alfaro hit .167 in July in 18 games—but we’ve never been led to believe that his position as the catcher of the future has really been in jeopardy.
Knapp has performed well at the position, earning a reputation for getting on base that Cameron Rupp just doesn’t have, but Alfaro is now getting a chance to wedge some playing time in between Ruppearances (Rupp will get the "bulk" of the starts), which has amounted to one game so far, and in that game he went 2-for-4 from the eight hole.
But again, Pete Mackanin doesn’t sound particularly enthused about giving the kid playing time, per Zolecki:
"I'll pick my spots, but I'll play him," Mackanin said about Alfaro. "I can't catch Rupp every day. [Alfaro will] get a good bit of playing time."
Cool, sure, yeah—wherever you can, you know, slip him in around Cameron Rupp (To be fair to Rupp, he’s hitting .333 in July and .302 in the second half. He also hit .182 in June. So). Of course, Alfaro was promoted out of necessity, not because the team deemed him ready for the big leagues, but he also has no more options left and will have to be on the Opening Day 2018 roster for the Phillies to keep clinging to him. At the very least, in the coming days, Alfaro will keep from going completely stiff on the bench. One hopes.
It’s hard to be patient when the team is so bad and the prospects look so good, and it’s not dumb to want the future to get here a little faster. For now, as we hit the regular season’s home stretch, the Phillies are granting us some parting gifts in the form of prospect promotions, and whether you agree or not with the route they’ve taken to get here—or the patience granted to those certain underwhelming players "blocking" certain prospects at certain positions—it’s refreshing to see their names in the lineup.
And you never know who’s next. Well, sometimes you do.