The 2019 season for the Philadelphia Phillies was fraught with difficulties, and the biggest of all was the play of Rhys Hoskins, which must improve in 2020.
That’s just what happens when you manage to hit 18 home runs in your first 50 games at the major league level.
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The performance had everybody salivating heading into 2018, and while Hoskins’ numbers understandably came back down to earth that year, the 34 home runs and 95 RBI that he posted looked like they were just a starting point for what we could expect for the next decade or so.
When you coupled in a move back to his natural position of first base (bye bye, Carlos Santana) and the Phillies’ spending spree that bolstered their lineup with the likes of Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, there was no reason to believe that Hoskins wasn’t going to have a monster 2019.
Then he didn’t.
A passable first half gave way to an abysmal performance after the all-star break that saw Hoskins bat .180 over his final 71 games. He hit just nine home runs over that time with a measly 26 RBI. It wasn’t nearly good enough, not by a long shot.
Heck, the exiled Carlos Santana put up a superior season in every way possible. Meanwhile, Hoskins’ final performance graded out as nothing better than “run of the mill” when it comes to major league first basemen. Especially last year, when everyone and their mother was hitting a record number of home runs, Hoskins failed to do anything special.
Here’s a guy who really needs to hit at least 35 home runs to make himself worthwhile for the Phillies. And that’s setting a low standard, as Hoskins really should be able to produce 40 home runs and something like 110 RBI with the lineup surrounding him.
He has the protection so that he’ll see pitches to hit. He has teammates in front of him who get on base. He even has the hitter’s ballpark that any right-handed slugger would love to call home. No excuses.
Hoskins will turn 27 during spring training. There is no more learning curve or developing to do. This season will determine the course of his career, as it relates to the Phillies organization.
Can he show himself to be a valuable piece that the team needs to keep for years? Or will he prove to be “just another guy” that the team can move on from at any time without losing anything?
Rhys Hoskins wasn’t a top prospect, nor is he an established veteran who can afford to have a down year without his reputation taking a hit. He’s right at the point of his career where he needs to produce, or else he could find himself bouncing from team to team. But even that could be a generous outlook for him, as power has never been easier to procure in this league.
Hoskins isn’t a wizard with the glove or a .300 hitter. And so he needs to mash, and mash a lot. Another 29-homer year with massive, lineup-killing slumps cannot be tolerated. He’s shown a lot to climb the ladder and establish himself as a major leaguer. Now he’ll have to work even harder to ensure his longevity.