Rhys Hoskins – Is 200 enough?
9, 17, 38, 47.
What does that sound like? 9, 17, 38, 47? A locker combination at the gym? Maybe jersey numbers from retired Yankee greats? Lotto numbers? Nope, those are the yearly home run totals for Rhys Hoskins in his minor and now major league career. Hoskins slugged his way onto the scene late in 2017 by becoming the fastest player in major league history to reach 18 career home runs.
While sharing time at first base and outfield, Hoskins slashed an impressive .259/.396/.618 in his 212 plate appearances with the Phillies. Hoskins surprisingly flew pretty far under the radar despite hitting the second most home runs in the minors in 2016 and then another 29 homers in Triple-A before getting the call to The Show on August 10. Hoskins wasn’t considered a top-flight prospect and didn’t even make MLB.com’s top-10 prospect list for the Phillies’ farm system going into last season.
So how could we have seen this coming? Well, to be honest, no one expected Hoskins to produce a 1.014 OPS in his first 50 games, but the signs were there. Hoskins posted back-to-back seasons with an OPS over .900 while taking his fair share of walks, powering the ball out of the ballpark and driving in a ton of runs in the minor leagues.
Fast forward to Hoskins’ first 50 big league games of tearing the cover off the ball. With as much publicity as Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger received, it was Rhys who was the one who burst into the bigs, swatting 11 dingers in his first 19 games.
But, really, how good was Hoskins in 2017? Let’s take a look. In comparing him to the rest of the league, he receives high marks in many of the areas you want to see from a reliable hitter. Using a minimum of 200 plate appearances, his OPS of 1.014 ranked fifth in the league, behind only Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, Judge and Joey Votto. This is a reasonably smaller sample for Hoskins than the rest of the group, but it’s still impressive, to say the least.
Also standing out in the plus column is Hoskins’ matured approach, especially for his age and major league service time. His 17.5% walk rate ranked fourth among the same group, and his swing percentage of 17.1% ranked 15th among 349 major league hitters who qualified. In addition to the plus approach, Hoskins’ power seems to be legitimate. Hoskins’ 46% hard-hit rate was one of the best marks in the league, and his average exit velocity of 90.8 mph was also in the top-15 in the league.
The 24-year-old is a hitter that likes to elevate the ball, which can certainly help in the home run department, but it can also lead to a suppressed batting average. He hit only .259 in his rookie season with a low .241 BABIP, but don’t expect that to rebound even though he makes solid contact. It’s more likely that he’ll hit .240-.250 with that many fly balls.
Hoskins has drawn plenty of attention because of his combination of power and patience, but what about the plate appearances? Last season’s 212 plate appearances don’t exactly give us the confidence we need to make a draft-day decision, but confidence is what it will require if Hoskins is going to be part of your 2018 draft plan. In the few industry drafts I’ve participated in so far this offseason, Hoskins is going as early as pick 25 and as late as pick 50.
So what separates Hoskins from bad hitters that have simply gone on hot streaks? If you think about it, Bryan LaHair had a stretch of 200 or so plate appearances in 2012 where he hit 13 home runs and had a .931 OPS. Even Oakland’s Matt Olson, Hoskins’ virtual bash brother, hit 24 homers in just over 300 plate appearances as a rookie last year. I’m not going to touch the LaHair comparison, but I will point out all the ways Rhys is superior to Olson. When comparing the two, Hoskins comes out ahead in walk percentage, strikeout rate, contact rate, OBP and line-drive rate. The Philadelphia first baseman also had a more sustainable HR/FB rate, chased fewer bad pitches, showed better plate patience, made better contact both in and out of the strike zone, and made more hard contact. Heck, Hoskins even drives a faster car, and I heard his girlfriend is more attractive. Not really, but you get my point. Hoskins overshadows Olson in almost every category that requires holding a bat.
This might not make you feel better about the potential draft-day price, but to me, buying Hoskins isn’t about buying into a kid with power and a good approach; it’s about buying into a kid with a three-year track record of elite power and a damn good approach. Only three hitters in 2017 had better than a 0.7 BB/K rate and an OPS over 1.000: Mike Trout, Joey Votto, and Hoskins. Of course, this hardly means Hoskins will continue his historic pace and put up anywhere near the 162-game pace numbers of 58 home runs and 156 RBI. However, it also doesn’t suggest that he will be capped by the 34 home runs and 94 RBI that his STEAMER projections suggest. Given everyday at-bats, I expect him to hit close to 40 homers, drive in over 100 runs and hit just a tad under .250 while still maintaining an OBP .100 or so points higher than his batting average.
Hoskins may have flown under the radar initially, but those days are clearly behind him now. I’m confident enough in Hoskins to make him a fourth-round pick. Anytime before that, though, and last season’s 200 plate-appearance sample just isn’t enough to justify the cost.
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