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Rhys Hoskins saw the light in 2020 and could be ready to shine in 2021

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As baseball's offseason takes shape, we will take a look at each player on the Phillies 2020 roster and where they fit in the future. We'll go through the roster by uniform number, lowest to highest for position players, highest to lowest for pitchers, and alternate daily.

Today: First baseman Rhys Hoskins

Career rundown

Though he endured a difficult slump during the second half of 2019, Hoskins has been mostly productive over his three-plus seasons in the majors and the Phillies have benefited from his power and selectivity. He reached 175 extra-base hits in his 391st big-league game. The only Phillies to do that quicker were Chuck Klein, Ryan Howard and Dick Allen.

Since debuting in the majors on August 10, 2017, Hoskins ranks 12th in the majors in homers (91), 16th in RBIs (255), 19th in extra-base hits (183) and fifth in walks (269).

How he became a Phillie

Hoskins was part of Marti Wolever's last draft as Phillies scouting director in 2014. He was selected in the fifth round out of Sacramento State University. The Phillies took Aaron Nola in the first round of that draft.

2020 season

Hoskins hit just .180 after the All-Star break in 2019. That was the lowest mark in the majors and it raised doubts about him as he returned to spring training in February 2020. Hoskins spent last winter working with new hitting coach Joe Dillon on swing adjustments. He continued to work on adjustments throughout the early weeks of the 2020 season.

Though he took his walks and continued to get on base, Hoskins struggled to get hits in the early weeks of the season. He was hitting .200 on August 15 when his season turned on one swing. Facing New York Mets lefty Steven Matz with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning, Hoskins drove an outer-half, first-pitch fastball to the gap in right-center for a three-run double. Hoskins had previously gotten in trouble trying to lift and pull pitches — i.e., getting around them instead of through them — to the outer part of the plate. The swing against Matz was a thing of beauty — head down, through the ball, don't fight the ball; hit it where it's pitched. A few days later, Hoskins crushed a home run to right in Fenway Park. He was suddenly back to using the whole field and not limiting himself to the pull side, which had previously made him an easy out.

 

In a 27 game-stretch beginning on August 15, Hoskins hit .264 with a .970 OPS. He had six doubles, 10 homers and 25 RBIs over that span. He was helping to carry the Phillies at that point. On September 12, however, Hoskins suffered an elbow injury making a play at first base in Miami. He missed the final 17 games and the Phillies, missing his bat, fell out of playoff contention and finished four games under .500. 

What lies ahead

Hoskins, who turns 28 in March, had a surgical procedure to repair a tear in the ulna collateral ligament in his right (non-throwing) elbow in early October. The procedure was not as extensive as Tommy John surgery. The Phillies could go slow with Hoskins early in spring training, but he stands a good chance of being ready for opening day.

With first base viewed as a potential future landing spot for Alec Bohm, Hoskins will be under some pressure to continue to produce like he did in the final weeks of 2020. He should come into 2021 with plenty of confidence knowing that he endured a rough stretch and got back on track. He showed mental toughness in doing that.

Two offseasons ago, Hoskins seemed like a good candidate for a long-term deal. His struggles in 2019 and the drop in overall revenues because of the pandemic in 2020 have probably ended that idea for now. 

Hoskins, whose contract called for him to make $605,000 in 2020, is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this winter and could be in line to make anywhere from $3 million to $5 million, depending on how the process goes after the shortened 2020 season. He will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season.

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