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Rhys Hoskins was Great in 2018 - Except When He Wasn’t

Rhys Hoskins was excellent for long stretches of the season. Unfortunately, there were other stretches too.

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies
Rhys Hoskins shown during one of his hot streaks
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Rhys Hoskins burst onto the scene in 2017 hitting home runs at a record pace. As he sent ball after ball into the seats, Phillies fans began to believe that the team’s next great hitter had arrived. Some even suspected that we might have the preeminent slugger of his generation on the team’s roster. When Hoskins endured a slump at the end of the season, it didn’t cause too much concern. He was likely fatigued from a long season, and some regression from a record-setting home run pace was expected.

When the 2018 season began, Hoskins resumed his hot-hitting ways. At the end of April, his OPS was a nifty .985, and he was second in the National League with a .457 on base percentage. The slump of September 2017 seemed like a distant memory, and Hoskins had re-solidified his status as the team’s next great hitter.

Unfortunately, the good times did not continue. May was a bad month for Hoskins, as he batted .161 with only two home runs. He continued to walk at a decent pace, but he was also striking out a ton, and often looked lost at the plate. The bad month ended on an especially bad note, as he broke his jaw when he fouled a ball off of his face. (Note: Ouch)

The break may have turned out to be a painful blessing in disguise. When Hoskins returned to the field, he brought with him a fancy new helmet.

More importantly, he seemed to have his hitting mojo back. He seemed to hold a grudge against baseballs for breaking his face, and decided to pay them back by viciously sending them flying into the seats.

People started to joke that any time a Phillie endured a slump, he should try to break his face to snap out of it.

Even with his magical helmet, Hoskins couldn’t sustain the greatness. His bat noticeably cooled heading into the All-Star break, so when he was chosen to participate in the Home Run Derby, many fans were concerned that the experience wasn’t going to do him any favors. (Even though the whole “The Home Run Derby ruins hitters’ swings thing has been shown to be a myth.)

Naturally, the opposite happened.

If you’re paying attention at home, the list of things that helped Rhys Hoskins break out of slumps includes breaking his face and participating in the Home Run Derby. Who needs hitting coaches, right?

Hoskins naturally cooled off again, and spent the final two months of the season being okay. He hit 13 homers in August, September, and October, but only batted .215 during that stretch.

Overall, his offensive numbers looked good: .246/.354/.496 to go along with 34 home runs. Unfortunately, since the Phillies are in the National League which has thus far (stupidly) declined to use the designated hitter, Hoskins is also required to play in the field. He didn’t fare so well in that area.

Hoskins played first base in the minors, but when he arrived in Philadelphia, he was shifted to left field to accommodate incumbent first baseman Tommy Joseph. (That’s right: Moves were made to accommodate Tommy Joseph.) I’ll be charitable and say that he wasn’t an absolute disaster out there considering his lack of prior training. Besides, it was thought to only be a temporary situation. Everyone assumed that the team would get rid of Joseph, and move Hoskins to his natural position.

The team did indeed jettison Joseph...and then replaced him with another first baseman in Carlos Santana. They apparently saw enough out of Hoskins’ in the outfield to think that he could be passable out there. Either they were dead wrong in that assessment, or they really didn’t care about defense at all. (Based on the results of the 2018 season, I’d say the latter was more likely.)

Hoskins was not passable. He was bad.

What’s Next

The team seems to realize that Hoskins is never going to be a good outfielder, so they are rumored to be seeking ways to move him back to first base. (This may happen by moving Carlos Santana to third base, but that’s a different story.) I don’t think he’ll be especially great at first base, but “not especially great” is a step up from “worst at his position.”

Offensively, Hoskins is a good middle of the order piece, but in an ideal lineup, he’d be one of several pieces, and not the main guy. (I used to feel the same way about Wayne Simmonds in terms of being the Flyers’ primary goal scorer.) While he can carry the offense when he’s hot, he has also gone through extended stretches where he isn’t producing much and the offense shuts down. Hopefully, the team is able to acquire another middle of the lineup bat this offseason, and lessens his burden.

It’s also worth remembering that Hoskins is still young. He is 25 years old, and 2018 was his first full season in the majors. It’s possible - and considering his generally good batting eye, likely - that as his career progresses, he’ll figure out how to avoid the slumps that have sometimes plagued him thus far in his career.