The Morning Call
PHILS’ RHYS HOSKINS IS BACK WHERE HE WANTS TO BE
Hoskins’ return to first could help him at the plate
PHILADELPHIA — Rhys Hoskins is back where he wants to be.
The Phillies’ ill-fated acquisition of first baseman Carlos Santana last season meant Hoskins had to play left field, and his lack of confidence while playing an unfamiliar position showed.
It affected him at the plate, too. His batting average dropped from .259 in 50 games as a rookie to .246 last year. Plus, his slugging percentage slipped from .618 to .496 and his WAR went from 2 to 0.5 even though he had 34 home runs and 96 RBIs.
As a team, the Phillies were 64-49 and atop the National League East on Aug. 7, only to go 16-33 over the final seven weeks to finish 80-82. Hoskins was hitting .260 on Aug. 7 before plummeting to .215 (39 for 181) during those last seven weeks.
Hoskins didn’t publicly complain about his predicament and admitted he hoped to be back at first base after the Sept. 30 season finale.
Since the Phils sent Santana to the Mariners in the trade for shortstop Jean Segura, Hoskins is a first baseman again. One could already sense the difference in Hoskins during Tuesday’s media availability in the Phillies’ clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.
“I think comfort is a big thing, right?” Hoskins said. “I’ve had a lot more repetition there, obviously, playing there coming up through the minor leagues.
“I think just handling the ball a lot more — whether it’s pick-offs, fielding ground balls — just being in the rhythm of the game is going to be a lot easier throughout the course of the year. I think I’m most excited about that.”
Manager Gabe Kapler hopes moving Hoskins back to first will help the 6-foot-4, 225slugger in the batter’s box.
“Rhys moving back to his natural position probably makes him a more comfortable player at the plate, as well,” Kapler said Tuesday. “I think there’s a possibility we see an uptick in Rhys’ performance.”
The Phillies can use it. Consistent offensive performers were few and far between last season when they ranked last in
the majors with a .234 batting average and in the bottom third in virtually every offensive category. They also finished last in numerous defensive analytic statistics.
Signing veteran Andrew McCutchen to play left field should certainly bolster the Phillies' defense.
Adding a top-tier free agent — outfielder Bryce Harper or infielder Manny Machado — would benefit the offense and Hoskins by giving the Phils another productive bat near the top of the lineup.
“Rhys moving back to his natural position probably makes him a more comfortable player at the plate, as well.” — Phillies manager Gabe Kapler
At 25, Hoskins has become one of the faces of the franchise in a hurry. In January 2017, he was one of the Phillies' prospects to attend the club's annual Prospect Education Program at Citizens Bank Park. Last week, he was a guest speaker to a group featuring outfielders Mickey Moniak, Adam Haseley and other prospects as part of this year's program.
“It was kind of a full-circle moment for me,” Hoskins said. “I was there just two years ago. It feels like a lot has happened. It feels a lot longer than that. I've obviously had a lot thrown my way in a short amount of time.”
The left-field experiment would qualify. He survived it, though he wouldn't mind if first base remains his spot for the remainder of his career.
A June 25 incident during a 4-2 home loss to the Yankees showed his level of frustration, as well as his character.
When Hoskins struck out in the sixth inning and didn't run to first base right away when the ball got away from the catcher, a fan let Hoskins hear about it. Hoskins exchanged angry words with the guy.
After the game, he waited for reporters in front of his locker because he was eager to address the situation.
“Got caught up in the moment,” Hoskins said at the time. “Shouldn't happen. Can't happen. But it did and that's how it goes. I was wrong.”
Returning to first base should make help things right again for Hoskins.