Phillies

A mechanical adjustment 'kick-started' Rhys Hoskins' career

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A mechanical adjustment 'kick-started' Rhys Hoskins' career

The spectacular beginning of Rhys Hoskins’ major-league career can be traced to a conversation he had with two members of the Phillies’ player-development department back in September 2014.

Hoskins had arrived in the Phillies organization earlier that year as a fifth-round draft pick out of Sacramento State University. That summer, he made his professional debut at Williamsport of the New York-Penn League. He hit .237 with nine homers and 40 RBIs in 70 games.

Phillies instructors liked what they saw of Hoskins that summer. They loved the potential. But something was missing.

“He didn’t consistently get his weight back,” director of player development Joe Jordan recalled. “His legs weren’t in his swing every night. The timing, the bat speed and swing path were all good, but they weren’t consistent every night.”

After the Williamsport season ended, Hoskins reported to the Florida Instructional League in Clearwater. He was hitting off a tee, by himself, in a batting cage early one morning when Jordan and Andy Tracy, the team’s minor-league hitting coordinator, approached him with an idea.

“What do you think about making a change to your stance?” Jordan asked Hoskins.

Hoskins, thoughtful, respectful, mature, coachable, eager to learn and just as eager to succeed, was all ears.

“I was open to anything,” he said.

On that September day in 2014, during a conversation in a batting cage in Clearwater, Hoskins’ left leg kick was born.

He has used it to trigger his swing ever since.

And …

“It’s made all the difference in my career,” he said. “I don’t know where I’d be without it.”

The Phillies, off to a 14-7 start, enjoyed an off day Monday. That provides us with a neat little checkpoint on Hoskins’ big-league career, which is just 71 games old, less than a half-season. He arrived in the majors on Aug. 10. Since then, he ranks first in the majors in RBIs (67) and pitches seen (1,376), third in walks (56), fourth in OPS (1.038) and times on base (126), and sixth in extra-base hits (36). His 22 home runs rank fifth in the majors in that span behind J.D. Martinez (27), Giancarlo Stanton (25), Aaron Judge (23) and Matt Olson (23).

Hoskins was no slouch at Sacramento State. He was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a junior in 2014, the year the Phillies drafted him. But even his college coach admitted last summer that the leg kick had taken Hoskins to a new level (see story).

There are a number of benefits to the leg kick, Hoskins said. Among them: It slows him down a little. If he gets his leg up early, it allows his eyes to work and that helps his pitch recognition. It helps his rhythm and timing. It gets him on his backside and gives him a loading mechanism that translates into power when he fires through the ball.

“I had no prior experience with it before Joe and Andy mentioned it,” Hoskins said. “I had no clue what I was doing with it. I was super spread out in my stance. I would get to a point where I would start my swing, stop and have to start it again. Those precious milliseconds are huge. I was late a lot. A lot. The room for error that I had was slim to none.”

When Jordan and Tracy first proposed the leg kick, they asked Hoskins to exaggerate it.

“The first thing Joe said was, ‘Try to hit your chin with your left knee,’” Hoskins recalled.

Hoskins experimented with the size of the kick for a couple of weeks in batting practice and in games. Then one day he hit a home run in a game against the Yankees’ instructional league team.

“The pitcher was throwing pretty hard and I was able to get to a ball that was in and I hit it for a home run,” Hoskins said. “I said to myself, ‘Hmmm, this is probably something to stick with.’”

Jordan and Tracy encouraged Hoskins to use the leg kick during his wintertime workouts after the 2014 season. He did. He made it part of him and his bat carried him on a quick trip through the Phillies’ minor-league system and into the middle of the big club’s batting order.

Amazing what one little bit of coaching can do when it finds a talented and willing student.

“Our entire staff watched Rhys that first summer and came up with a great plan for him,” Jordan said. “Those guys did it and Rhys nailed it. He took it home that winter, worked at it and it’s become his normal ever since.”

Phillies make a minor trade, sign a familiar utility man on final day of winter meetings

Phillies make a minor trade, sign a familiar utility man on final day of winter meetings

SAN DIEGO — The Phillies wrapped up the winter meetings with a blip of activity in the Rule 5 draft Thursday. The club selected Vimael Machin, a shortstop from the Chicago Cubs organization, with the 15th pick in the draft and quickly traded him to the Oakland A’s in a cash deal.
 
The Phillies lost no players in draft.
 
The Phillies did make an addition before leaving the meetings. According to sources, the club re-signed utility man Phil Gosselin to a minor-league deal with an invite to big-league spring training camp.
 
Gosselin, 31, played in 44 games for the Phillies last season and hit .262. He was 10 for 32 with three RBIs as a pinch-hitter. He played left field, shortstop and third base. Gosselin spent the bulk of the season at Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he hit .314 with 8 homers, 47 RBIs and a .901 OPS in 296 at-bats.
 
Active rosters will expand from 25 to 26 players next season so Gosselin will be in play for a spot on the lengthened bench along with veteran infielder Josh Harrison and others. Harrison recently signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies.
 
Gosselin, a West Chester native, played at Malvern Prep and the University of Virginia. He has played in the majors with the Braves, Pirates, Reds, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Phillies.

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Sounds like Odubel Herrera is a goner as Phillies’ GM backs Adam Haseley for starting CF job

Sounds like Odubel Herrera is a goner as Phillies’ GM backs Adam Haseley for starting CF job

SAN DIEGO  — Phillies general manager Matt Klentak all but anointed Adam Haseley as the team’s starting centerfielder for the 2020 season on Wednesday and in doing so offered his strongest indication yet that Odubel Herrera will not be part of the club.

“I expect that Adam Haseley's going to be our regular centerfielder,” Klentak said on Day 3 of baseball’s winter meetings. “But having said that, I recognize that when Roman Quinn is healthy and playing to his potential, it's hard to take him out of the lineup. I think that combination of players likely takes down the majority of our center field reps this year.”

Klentak went on to say he expected Jay Bruce to be part of the club and “cover us on the corners,” as a backup to Andrew McCutchen and Bryce Harper as well as a bat off the bench.

That’s five outfielders and no Herrera.

By now you know the story. Herrera was suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s policy against domestic violence last May. As a matter of procedure, he has been reinstated to the 40-man roster, but there is no guarantee he will part of the team in 2020. In fact, it seems quite doubtful based on how team officials have glossed over him  — he’s basically a forgotten man  — whenever talking about plans for the coming season. Klentak’s strong backing of a Haseley-Quinn tandem in center field next season was the latest example.

Herrera, who turns 28 this month, was the Phillies’ starting centerfielder for four-plus seasons before his suspension, and he has two years and more than $20 million remaining on his contract. When Major League Baseball and the Players Association forged its joint policy on domestic violence, both sides agreed that a player violating the policy could not have his contract voided. To move on from Herrera, the Phillies would have to eat the remainder of his salary and prove that they were releasing him for purely baseball reasons. The emergence of Haseley, who came up in June last season, and the desire to see more of him in 2020 sure sounds like a baseball reason.

“He has a guaranteed contract for this year and next,” Klentak said of Herrera. “He's getting paid. When he left the team in the spring, he was the everyday center fielder and what he's coming back to now is a much different situation. 

“It’s just a different landscape than before Odubel was suspended. That’s the crux of the issue here.”

The Phillies probably won’t feel any pressure to make a call on Herrera’s future until spring training draws near. If he comes to camp, he will have to earn his way onto the active roster. 

“Anything that happens from here on out is going to be performance driven and he has to earn whatever he’s going to get. His standing on our club is impacted by both how he performs, but also what happens around him. Some of this is within his control and some it is not. He’s in Miami, he’s working out and he’s getting himself in good shape. He understands that he’s going to have to earn whatever he gets in his career and he’s taking that seriously.”

Haseley, who will play at age 24 next season, was the Phillies’ first-round draft pick in 2017. He was a big favorite of Klentak for his ability to control the strike zone (i.e., work counts, limit strike outs, get on base) at the University of Virginia. He was called up from the minors when McCutchen blew out his ACL in June and hit .266 with 14 doubles, five homers, 26 RBIs and a .720 OPS in 222 at-bats. He walked just 14 times and struck out 60.

“In a perfect world, he would have spent more time in the minor leagues,” Klentak said. “But with McCutchen getting hurt, we felt it was the right time to be a little more aggressive. He had some ups and downs. It wasn’t a perfect rookie season. But I think he gives a real good at-bat. He’s got a very good idea of the strike zone — he had that as an amateur and he started to show it at the big-league level. I know his walk-to-strikeout totals weren’t great but I think if you watch his at-bats, I think you can see he has that skill and as he starts to become more comfortable at this level we’ll start to see that more and more.

“I was also impressed with his defense so I think when you look at the body of work over three months that he was in the big leagues that’s a pretty impressive rookie season and I think there’s reason for optimism that he’ll be better than that (in 2020).”

From Jake Arrieta to Zack Wheeler to McCutchen and Harper, the Phillies have spent big on free agents over the last couple of years, and they still want to extend J.T. Realmuto’s contract later this winter. Most teams cannot survive by signing high-priced talents all over the diamond. For sustainability reasons, some of that talent has to be young, homegrown, and by extension, inexpensive.

So say hello to Adam Haseley in 2020. 

“I think he’s going to be a really good player,” Klentak said. “And as important as anything, our team needs to make sure that we are giving opportunities to young players when the time is right and when those players deserve it. With the way that our roster is unfolding - we have the center field spot (open) and a good young player who we really like who showed well for himself in his rookie year  — it makes sense for us to let him get the reps out there.”

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