When we previewed Rhys Hoskins for the 2021 season, it’s almost a carbon copy of what anyone could have written about him heading into the new year.
But if the Phillies want to contend this year, or any year in the near future, they need him to figure out how to maintain his production throughout the full season. As long as he continues to fall off after the break, the team will struggle to contend for a playoff position.
It’s the familiar refrain with Hoskins: when he’s hot, he carries a team. When he’s cold, he’s an anchor on the lineup. This year has really been no different.
By using arbitrary endpoints, we can see that Hoskins has had his cold streaks, but right now he is in the middle of a hot streak.
April 27 - May 13: .193/.281/.228, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 18:7 K:BB
May 14 - June 1: .356/.458/.627, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 13:9 K:BB
Therein lies the “problem” with Hoskins, at least according to some in the fanbase. He can be frustratingly bad when he is stone cold, yet, as he is now, he can carry the offense when he is on fire. With all the injuries that the team has had this year with the bats, Hoskins has been in the lineup almost every single day, taking care of business in a quiet way (unless there is a microphone attached to him).
The question is: why do we have a problem? Have we set expectations so high for Hoskins because of his awe-inspiring debut season? Is it fair that we have done that, or are we using him as the poster child and punching bag for almost a decade’s worth of player development frustration within the organization?
It’s this last point that seems to be the issue. It has been a very long time since the Phillies have developed someone from within their own organization on the offensive side that has been a positive for this lineup. You can go down the list of names in the past decade of players that have been drafted, developed and debuted with the team and near the top of that list, as sorted by WAR, is Hoskins. He has produced as long as he’s been here, just maybe not in the way that we’d like him to.
It’s partly a question of how to evaluate players these days. Some fans still prefer to use the basic back of the baseball card stats to determine the effectiveness of a player and there isn’t anything wrong with that. Batting average, though antiquated, still provides a pretty decent barometer of player performance. You can state all the expected, next-gen stats you want, a .198 hitter is not a good player. Other fans prefer to look beyond batting average to see what a player does to help contribute, things like getting on base, how does he slug, what kind of plate discipline does he have. It’s because of this divide in fans that Hoskins can sometimes be so polarizing in the fanbase. Due to the fact that he is a power hitter, his batting average is never going to make someone confuse him for Ty Cobb, but his ability to hit for that power and to get on base makes him a player that is an offensive force.....when he’s hot.
It’s time to accept Hoskins for what he is. At age 28, there probably isn’t much more growth in him left, though we could always be surprised. There will be calls to trade him, if not this deadline season, then definitely during this offseason. He’s still in arbitration and the kinds of numbers he puts him are the kinds of numbers that tend to be rewarded quite well during the arbitration process. With Alec Bohm struggling defensively at third base and a candidate for a position switch, as well as the specter of the designated hitter looming over the National League, it’s possible that Hoskins will have a new position when the 2022 season begins. Yet removing him from this lineup would leave a hole that the team isn’t really ready to fill quite yet. Sure there could be some shuffling of deck chairs to actually put someone at that, or another, spot, but when has the team produced someone from their farm system capable to being the offensive producer that Hoskins is?
Instead of directing your ire at Hoskins, perhaps it’s time to point to the player development machine that hasn’t produced anyone to help him in the lineup. Maybe they’re the ones to blame for this mess.