keyboard_arrow_uptop

The Situation: The Phillies, as you might know, are not great at baseball. They’ve held overripe first base prospect Rhys Hoskins down at Triple-A all season in favor of so-so 26-year-old incumbent first baseman Tommy Joseph, a move right on the border of defensibility for a rebuilding club. Hoskins started taking reps in left field earlier this week after Aaron Altherr went on the DL, temporarily opening a spot in a previously crowded young outfield. It’s Hoskins’ first playing time in the outfield since he was a semi-regular in left as a college freshman, but it’s not like the next six weeks of Phillies outfield defense matters too much except to the back of Aaron Nola’s baseball card.

 

Background: The Phillies drafted Hoskins in the fifth round in 2014 out of Sacramento State, and all he’s done since entering full-season ball the next spring is hit. Hoskins has spent at least 277 plate appearances at all four levels of full-season baseball, and he’s hit for over a .900 OPS at every stop. Despite his production, he went unranked in a well-stocked Philadelphia system until he was part of the Choose Your Own Adventure: Island of Klentak tie for tenth in the system entering the 2017 season.

 

Scouting: You can see the contours of a star first baseman with Hoskins. He’s a large man, listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, with a great baseball frame, so he looks the part walking up to the plate. He’ll show off impressive, easy plus-or-better raw power in batting practice that also shows up at 7 PM. He has plus bat speed. There’s swing-and-miss, as there basically always is with this profile, but he’s a pretty patient hitter and has enough feel and bat control to project the hit tool out to average. If the production carries over just a little more than we think; if Hoskins can lay off just enough good spin from MLB righties; if there’s just enough extra hit and power to squeeze out, Hoskins could be a legitimate star first baseman. We don’t have enough precision projecting hit tools to say he can’t be.

 

The reason we’ve never graded Hoskins particularly aggressively is that this is a tough, tough profile in the big leagues. On modern rosters, there’s essentially no such thing as a backup first baseman, and nearly every starting first baseman is really good at hitting. Most of our internal reports on Hoskins have projected him as somewhere around a fringe starting first baseman, even as he’s maintained huge production across all levels. A 50 hit, 50 power right/right first baseman can sometimes not even be a major-league player; the Phillies already have similar to and probably even a little better than that in Joseph. Nevertheless, Hoskins merits the chance to continue hitting and prove he’s more than a fringe guy at the MLB level, and the Phillies don’t have much to lose by letting him try it over the next few months, or even longer.

 

Defensively, he projects in the range of fringe-average to average at first. He’s a slow runner with an indifferent arm, so it’s hard to see a left fielder here. Perhaps he’s skilled enough to avoid Lucas Duda levels of embarrassment out there, but this part of the experiment might not end well.

 

Immediate Future: Pete Mackanin isn’t the most friendly manager to young players in the league, and the Phillies have seemed weirdly devoted at times this year to getting playing time for the likes of Daniel Nava, so there’s less surety that Hoskins will play regularly than there should be. And as long as the Phillies remain committed to Joseph, the playing time is going to have to come primarily in left, which is less than ideal. There’s a decently wide range of outcomes for Hoskins, with both bust and star potential present, but the most likely projection is a multi-year stretch as an average starting first baseman that puts up pretty counting numbers. —Jarrett Seidler

 

Fantasy Impact: Until this week, Rhys Hoskins had never played anywhere besides first base throughout his minor league career. His bat is ready for a trial in the majors, as he has posted a .284/.385/.581 line with 29 homers in 115 games in Triple-A. The Phillies, however, still want to give Tommy Joseph playing time to figure out if he might be part of the next competitive Phillies team, so there is no room for Hoskins at first on the major league team. The injury to Aaron Altherr (also known as A-A-RON) opened a spot in the outfield, though, prompting the Phils to start playing Hoskins in left field in Lehigh Valley on Monday as a crash course for his callup a few days later.

 

Altherr is expected to be out for a few weeks and Hoskins should start nearly every day while Altherr is sidelined. That gives the 24-year-old Hoskins a decent amount of time to show what he can do, which for fantasy purposes is primarily hit for power. Unlike a lot of young sluggers who have emerged over the last couple of years, Hoskins doesn’t strike out a ton: he had a 21.2 percent strikeout rate in Double-A last year while launching 38 home runs and struck out only 15.8 percent of the time this season in Triple-A. That should make him a little less likely to crater in his first look at the big leagues than whiff machines like Joey Gallo. The big Californian also has good plate discipline, walking in 12.1 percent of his plate appearances in Double-A last year and in 13.5 percent of his plate appearances in Triple-A this year.

 

The power potential makes Hoskins a viable pickup in virtually any roto format. He’s worth a big chunk of your FAAB, especially considering that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed. His relatively low strikeout rate means he’s more likely to hit for a decent average than most up-and-coming power hitters. The double-digit walk rates he has posted throughout his minor league career should help him score more runs and give him extra appeal in OBP leagues. The only concern is that Hoskins won’t continue to get regular playing time when Altherr returns to the lineup in a few weeks with the Phils committed to Nick Williams and Altherr in their corner outfield spots and Joseph at first base. If Hoskins rakes over the next few weeks, though, Joseph could be the odd man out. —Scooter Hotz