This offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies built on their 2022 success by adding talent and depth to their starting rotation, bullpen, and middle infield — all questionable positions that needed a better solution.
A specific question mark has not been addressed and is a pivotal movement within the team’s foundation. That question is what the team plans to do with first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
Hoskins had an incredibly polarizing 2022 season with ups and downs that drastically shifted fans' emotions. Due to his inconsistent yet impactful hitting, lack of defensive versatility, frustrating fielding, clubhouse presence, and pending free agency, Dave Dombrowski has a "Hoskins-sized elephant" in the room.
Hoskins has been a Phillies staple across their now-defunct postseason drought and has proven to be one of the better first basemen in the league. He is a solid run producer with 405 career RBI but is known for streaky hitting. Hoskins has recorded multiple hitting droughts along a multiple-game stretch. As recent as the five final regular season games in October, Hoskins went a shameful 1-for-19.
Hoskins was one of the reliable run producers in the magical postseason run, however. He posted 11 hits, six home runs, 12 RBI, and nine runs scored. Hoskins used his "Big Fella" strength to belt home runs that caused loud cheers. He notably slugged a momentum-changing, three-run home run on the first pitch of his NLDS at-bat against the rival Atlanta Braves. This home run reminded the sports world what it is like when "The Bank" is rocking.
Then there is Hoskins' performance in Game 4 of the NLCS against the San Diego Padres. Hoskins went 2-for-4 with two home runs, four RBI, and two runs scored. Both home runs came when the Phillies fell in the game early, 4-0, in the first inning and then 6-4 in the fifth inning. If that does not provide enough evidence that Hoskins can come up with crucial runs, then let’s look at his stats with runners in scoring position. In 2022, Hoskins recorded 35 hits, seven doubles, seven home runs, 52 RBI, and 19 walks, slashing an impressive .292/.378/.525.
For the better part of two seasons, Hoskins has been hitting out the two-hole. This compounds his streaky nature into a more significant problem. Hoskins' at-bats and outs can be deflating when he is in that funk. He is certainly not the ideal option in front of guys like Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber. The No. 2 hitter — an extension of a table-setting leadoff guy — needs to be more reliable. Hoskins has recorded a couple of different hitting droughts. Including the aforementioned one heading into this past postseason, Hoskins has recorded an 0-for-35 slump — eight consecutive games without a hit. Baseball is constantly evolving, but finding a more suitable spot in the lineup for Hoskins would be more beneficial to the team to offset his streaky nature.
Hoskins is a good first baseman, but he will never be described as good defensively. Hoskins’ defense has been an issue since being called to the big leagues in 2017. The team was hoping to hide him in left field. Remember the Carlos Santana experiment?
At best, Hoskins will be described as an average fielding first baseman. Last season, he played okay at first base. His fielding works like his hitting — up-and-down. Hoskins was passable defensively all year, but the team and fans know he has defensive shortcomings. Hoskins' career high in errors was last season with 12, passing his previous career-high of nine. First base is usually one of the spots where average or below-average defensive players can learn to play and stay in a big league club.
A problem with moving or thinking about moving Hoskins is his clubhouse presence. He and Aaron Nola are the longest-tenured Phillies. Through watching the games, Hoskins is one of the team's leaders, and he is always energetic and happy for his teammates when they accomplish something.
The final reason for Hoskins’ eventual fate as a Phillie is his eligibility to become a free agent at the end of the 2023 season. Hoskins will earn $12 million from the team this year, placing him as the 11th-highest salary for starting first basemen. Hoskins falls behind Freddie Freeman, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Matt Olson, José Abreu, Anthony Rizzo, Josh Bell, Pete Alonso, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Max Muncy.
Of those names listed, only three can become free agents — Abreu, Bell, and Rizzo. Abreu is about to enter his age-36 season, Rizzo is entering his age-33 season, and Bell is entering his age-30 season.
The first base position is replaceable, but Hoskins can’t just be replaced with anyone. Hoskins’ pending free agency will be a story as the season ramps up.