There's a long list of Phillies with something to prove during this abbreviated 2020 season.
Rhys Hoskins is at the top of that list.
12 months ago, Hoskins was viewed as a cornerstone piece for the Phillies to build upon for the next decade. He was finishing up a very good first half of the 2019 season, hitting .263 with 20 HR, 59 RBI and a .931 OPS in 89 games before the All-Star break.
Add his 2019 first half performance to a solid 2018 campaign and historic 2017 rookie season, and it was plain to see that Hoskins was establishing himself as one of the premiere power hitters in baseball. He seemed destined for a big pay day in the near future.
Then the second half of 2019 happened. Hoskins slipped into the worst slump of his career, hitting .180 with a .679 OPS in his final 71 games. Hoskins was arguably the least productive hitter in the National League over the last two and a half months of the season.
Suddenly there were questions about his future. Could he still be that foundational piece that everyone envisioned him being?
Hoskins went to work in the offseason, altering his batting stance by lowering his hands significantly during his set-up. He said he felt comfortable with his new stance during spring training and was anxious to put it to the test once the regular season began.
Then baseball shut down for three and a half months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now Hoskins finds himself back at work with the rest of his teammates, jamming in a three-week training camp before a shortened season starts on July 24.
"We're kind of having to restart with the comfort level thing," the 27-year old Hoskins said Wednesday in a video conference with reporters. "Just seeing live pitching again, just like every spring training though, what we need is reps. The more reps we get we'll be fine."
"The quarantine and the shutdown, in terms of the adjustments that were made, I was really able to hone in on some of the details within the setup. I have a bat on every floor of my house and I'd just pick up the bat, get the feel of it one time, then 20 minutes later you do the same thing. In that sense it was nice to have because that's time I wasn't necessarily going to have during the season. But we'll utilize these next two weeks to get as many live reps as we can and we'll compete from there."
As Hoskins sets out to redeem himself after his second half struggles in 2019, there are several reasons for optimism.
Namely, he's flying under the radar right now, which is a good thing. Before the shutdown, Hoskins' new batting stance and quest to bounce back were major talking points. Now, everyone is talking about much bigger concerns that accompany playing a baseball season during a pandemic. And as far as baseball storylines go, J.T. Realmuto's contract negotiations have garnered far more headlines than Hoskins' offseason adjustments.
Then there's the fact that a 60-game season might just be tailor-made for Hoskins. He's come out of the gates strong in all three seasons of his major league career.
The numbers tell the story.
First 34 games of 2017 - .314 BA, 18 HR, 39 RBI, 1.247 OPS
First 32 games of 2018 - .286 BA, 5 HR, 22 RBI, .951 OPS
First 34 games of 2019 - .302 BA, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 1.076 OPS
If Hoskins can put up those type of numbers for the first 35 games of the 2020 season, that would account for more than half the schedule. He'd have his confidence back as September arrives, hoping to help carry the Phillies to the playoffs.
Hoskins' performance is critical as the Phillies set out to end a 9-year postseason drought. The road to redemption begins in two weeks.