Coming off his fifth consecutive full season of well-above league average production and carrying a career OPS+ of 125, the Phillies more or less knew what they would be getting from Rhys Hoskins in 2023. The team’s longest-tenured position player slashed .375/.487/.813 with 4 home runs in 12 spring training games before a freak injury on a seemingly routine ground ball tore his left ACL on March 23, ending his season barring a miraculous late-October return.
It appeared at one point as though the baseball gods might deliver that miracle. Hoskins traveled to the Phillies’ “stay-ready” camp in Clearwater in early October to face live pitching. Manager Rob Thomson tried his best to temper expectations, calling an NLCS return a “stretch,” albeit a “slight possibility”. Sure enough, Hoskins was left off the Championship Series roster.
2023 stats: N/A
In most cases, a pending free agent rehabbing a severe injury would prioritize his own interests, devoting the season to rehab and relaxation and attempting to minimize the impact of health concerns on his next contract. As we have come to learn, however, Rhys Hoskins is not your average teammate.
They just let anyone into the dugout these days pic.twitter.com/I2DKsKzHT2— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) June 6, 2023
He returned to the dugout in early June and spent the majority of the remaining home series with the team. He even had first pitch honors before Game 1 of the Wild Card Series before heading down to Florida.
Although Hoskins was unable to contribute on the field for obvious reasons, it would be unfair to hold that against him. He had appeared in at least 153 games in three of his four full non-COVID seasons, so knocking him for durability would be somewhat unreasonable.
In spite of his status as one of the more polarizing Phillies in recent memory due to his hot-and-cold tendencies and occasional defensive lapses, you would have a hard time finding a Phillies fan who believes the club was better off without Hoskins in the lineup.
Even while slugging a franchise-record 59 homers in August and 48 more the next month, the Phillies collectively lacked a good plate approach. Perhaps cruising to the top Wild Card spot distracted fans from their 31.4% chase rate in the regular season, good for 4th-highest in baseball. Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, and Nick Castellanos annihilated mistakes en route to ousting the Miami Marlins and the Atlanta Braves. They kept the magic going through two LCS games. Then, the Arizona Diamondbacks stopped throwing them pitches to hit. They flailed at 36% of pitches outside the strike zone over the last 5 games, and we all know the result.
It isn’t as evident when he isn’t producing numbers-wise, but Hoskins’ consistent approach has been a large part of his success as a professional. A 2023 season matching his career chase rate of 22% would have given him the second-lowest among Phillies regulars, only a notch above Kyle Schwarber’s 21.6%. The top three was as formidable as expected when Turner’s numbers took off in August, but there is certainly something to be said for the value of Hoskins’ power-patience combination either in the cleanup spot protecting Harper or doubling up with Schwarber’s similar skill set at the top of the order.
Could he have saved the Phillies? Maybe not. But they missed him badly.
Hoskins, whose future fit with the Phillies was already in question prior to 2022, was effectively shown the door when President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski announced that Harper would move forward as the team’s full-time first baseman. Although it won’t be the Phillies and it likely won’t be a long-term deal, Hoskins should find a home with a team looking for an offensive upgrade at first or designated hitter, along with an A-quality clubhouse and community influence. A longtime bright spot through some dark years and some better ones, his legacy in Philadelphia should be an overwhelmingly positive one.