Despite Struggles, Phillies Still Have Full Confidence in Rhys Hoskins

Rhys Hoskins #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rhys Hoskins #17 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Phillies are giving first baseman Rhys Hoskins the benefit of the doubt that he will rebound next season under new manager Joe Girardi.

It’s hard to believe, but Rhys Hoskins has only played two full seasons in a Phillies uniform.

Since his August 2017 debut, the Sacramento, California, native has slashed .239/.364/.494 with 78 doubles, 81 home runs, 229 RBI, 240 walks and 369 strikeouts spanning 363 games and 1,577 plate appearances.

Comparing his first and second-half career stats, however, have been largely “night and day.” This past season , specifically, Hoskins slashed .263/.401/.530 with 20 home runs and 59 RBI in the first half. He struggled mightily in the second half, slashing only .180/.318/.361 with nine home runs and 26 RBI. Hoskins saw a similar, but not as great of a decline in 2018, his first full season.

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Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, to put it simple, wishes Rhys’ second-half struggles “hadn’t happened.”

“We saw it with our own eyes. We have to take strides to help him improve as best we can,” Klentak recently said on SportsRadio 94 WIP.

Despite his struggles, Hoskins still finished 2019 with a National League-leading 116 walks, albeit posting the sixth-most strikeouts (173) among having a second-most 705 plate appearances.

Klentak went on to point to Hoskins’ body of work, and that him finishing 2019 with one home run shy of 30 was “probably less than he would have hoped for, and what we all would have hoped for, largely because of the second half.”

Yet, Klentak stresses Hoskins is still relatively new to the big leagues, given he has just two full seasons of experience.

“It seems like he’s been here forever, but he really hasn’t,” Klentak said. “He’s still learning. Sometimes when you get into a funk like he did, it’s hard to get out of it. So that’s what I think we need to work with him on.”

Hoskins slugged eight home runs and 24 RBI over his first 28 games of the 2019 season. Then, he hit 5 and 18 in May, 6 and 13 in June, and 4 and 13 in July. His worst month was August, slashing just .161/.342/.301 with two home runs and seven RBI spanning 27 games and 121 plate appearances. He hit twice as many home runs to finish the last month of the season, but, still, slashed only .170/.274/.350.

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Klentak said that every player will go through slumps, “even the very best players in the league,” but it’s about “minimizing the length of those slumps.”

“If you cut them off at a couple days or even a week, versus letting it linger for a month or longer, that will have a huge effect on Rhys’ own numbers, but also the team,” Klentak said.

There can be comparisons drawn between the Phillies record and standing with Hoskins’ second-half slumps in 2018 and 2019.  The Phillies’ largest and latest division lead this past season was on May 29, 3 1/2 games. Hoskins’ decline came around the same time the Phillies’ struggles began, at least in terms of the standings.

Phillies senior advisor to Klentak, Larry Bowa, believes Hoskins “got caught up in the analytics stuff about launch angle and exit velocity.” He recently said in an interview on SportsRadio 94 WIP:

"“When he first got called up, he hit all those home runs, a lot of them to right center/straightaway center field. He got away from using the middle of the field the second half of the season; he got stuck on No. 29 the last month and I’m sure he wanted 30 home runs.I’ve never seen him pull as many balls foul as he did last year, especially in the second half. We definitely need him to be the Rhys Hoskins that we know. He can be. I’m not saying he’s going to hit .320; to me, he should hit .270, hit 35 home runs, and be more consistent.”"

Despite Hoskins’ struggles, the Phillies, Klentak and Bowa included, have full confidence he will rebound in 2020.

Bowa said, “It was a big rollercoaster ride for him, and I’m sure he wasn’t very happy with it. Knowing Rhys, I’m sure he’s going to be working on certain things for his swing to get better during the winter time. Hopefully enough voice down there [in spring training] can help out also.”

Klentak agrees, saying the Phillies “still have a ton of confidence” in Hoskins’  “ability in the batters’ box, his eyes, patience and power.”

“And, beyond that, [we have confidence in] his work ethic and leadership that he will be the best version that he can be.”