Rhys Hoskins, leadoff man? Wait, what?

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Rhys Hoskins, leadoff man? Wait, what?

TAMPA, Fla. — For a month last season, Rhys Hoskins was one of the most exciting power hitters in baseball. Heck, in terms of games played, no major leaguer had ever hit 18 home runs faster than Hoskins, who did it the first 34 games of his career. His 47 homers last season (between the majors and Triple A) were the third most in all of pro ball, behind two fellas named Stanton and Judge.

Hoskins got to line up across from Giancarlo Stanton (59 homers last season) and Aaron Judge (52) when the Phillies traveled to Steinbrenner Field to play the Yankees on Monday night. Actually, Judge did not play. The Yankees are taking it slow with him as he comes back from offseason shoulder surgery. He will play later this week. He did take batting practice — with Hoskins watching from the top step of the dugout — and put on a big power show, as did Stanton, who was in the lineup, hitting fourth, baseball’s classic power spot.

That’s what made the Phillies’ lineup so interesting. And unusual. Manager Gabe Kapler used Hoskins in the leadoff spot. Don’t bank on seeing that during the regular season, but in spring training … well, out-of-the-box thinker Kapler will try anything.

“Spring training spots in the lineup, spring training positions on the diamond, they’re practice, they’re processes, they’re ways for us not to do things for the first time in the season," Kapler said.

For instance, Cesar Hernandez started at shortstop. If there’s ever a time when he has to go over there during the regular season, it won’t be foreign to him.

Batting Hoskins first was a way to get him more at-bats early in the game, and a way to get him out of the game earlier so he can recover in time for the next workday.

“We’re always going to keep the long view in mind and sometimes lineups can be a demonstration of that,” Kapler said.

When the Phillies open the season March 29 in Atlanta, look for Hoskins to hit fourth. Carlos Santana might hit second. Kapler said he believes the two-hole and the four-hole are the most crucial in the lineup.

“The two-hole comes up with runners on base so often and the four-hole, as well,” Kapler said.

Lineups ultimately will be decided by matchups, data and film study. These are the new Phillies. Kapler said he could construct a lineup that has a player in a key spot in the lineup based on how his swing path matches up with an opposing pitcher’s pitch characteristics. He mentioned that he once batted third for Tampa Bay based on that very reason.

Believe it or not, this wasn’t the first time Hoskins had hit first.

“My sophomore or junior year (at Sacramento State), I did it one weekend,” he said. “We were struggling and our coach just tried to change things up. It got us going.”

The next weekend, Hoskins was back in the four-hole, land of the power hitter.

Phillies poised to sign Yhoswar Garcia, top teenage outfielder from Latin America

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Phillies poised to sign Yhoswar Garcia, top teenage outfielder from Latin America

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It’s not the signing you want to hear about, but for those who like to follow prospects from the ground floor on up, it’s certainly interesting.

The Phillies, according to multiple reports out of Latin America, will land highly regarded Venezuelan outfielder Yhoswar Garcia when Major League Baseball’s international signing period begins on July 2.

Garcia is just 16. Word is he will receive a bonus in the neighborhood of $2.5 million. He is 5-11 and 180 pounds. He is an excellent athlete with speed, a strong throwing arm and a promising bat.

Young players like Garcia have miles to cover in the development process, but there is definitely something to dream on there and the player has obviously impressed Phillies scouts.

Two summers ago, the Phillies signed another Latin teen named Garcia for $2.5 million. Luis Garcia, a switch-hitting shortstop, has quickly risen to the top of the Phillies’ prospect chart. As a 17-year-old last summer, he led the Gulf Coast League in batting average (.369). He finished third in on-base percentage (.433) and RBIs (32) and was sixth in OPS (.921).

Luis Garcia projects to play at Single A Lakewood this season.

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Does Odubel Herrera become trade bait if the Phillies sign Bryce Harper?

Does Odubel Herrera become trade bait if the Phillies sign Bryce Harper?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Odubel Herrera is a man of much interest in this Phillies camp.

He is coming off a disappointing finish to the 2018 season, one that led to management’s order to get into better physical condition.

Herrera arrived to camp early and in noticeably better shape. But that hasn’t made him immune to the injury bug — or speculation about his future in Philadelphia as the club negotiates with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

Herrera pulled out of a first-to-third baserunning drill on Wednesday and hobbled off the field. A couple of hours later, he left the ballpark wearing a wrap on his left leg.

Manager Gabe Kapler called it a "mild" hamstring strain. Actually, it was a recurrence of a hamstring injury that Herrera suffered during workouts a few days before camp officially opened. Herrera had an MRI after the initial injury and had recovered to the point where he could participate in on-field workouts.

“It was tightening up on him during baserunning drills so we’re getting it checked out,” Kapler said.

Kapler was unsure whether Herrera would have another MRI.

There is plenty of time for Herrera to get healthy for the Phillies’ season opener. Or any team’s season opener, for that matter. The Phillies whiffed on Manny Machado on Tuesday and while that likely rescued third baseman Maikel Franco from the trading block, it may have put Herrera on it — or, at the very least, made him a consideration to be placed on it because he might fetch some value in a deal.

With Machado off the board, the Phillies are now 100 percent on Harper and there is enormous public pressure for them to land him and put an exclamation point on the Winter of Stupid Money. Harper, of course, is an outfielder. If the Phillies land him, they would likely have to subtract an outfielder.

If the Phillies were to land Harper, they could trade Nick Williams or send him to the minors. Both Aaron Altherr and Roman Quinn are out of minor-league options, but one could be a trade candidate. It would seem likely that the Phils would want to hang on to Quinn, who has the speed and arm to be a difference-making centerfielder — if he can finally put together a healthy season. Quinn’s inability to do that makes it difficult to bank on him as the regular centerfielder and that could convince the Phillies to hang onto Herrera, who has started 524 games in centerfield the last four seasons.

And there’s another reason to hang on to Herrera: He is talented and at 27 could still develop the consistency needed to be a star — or the batting champion that former manager Pete Mackanin once predicted he’d be. Herrera also is a left-handed hitter, which the Phils are short on.

Herrera was an All-Star in 2016. He signed a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension later that year. Last season, his overall game — the physical and the mental — slipped badly in the second half and he lost playing time in center to Quinn. Herrera hit just .189 with a .530 OPS over the final two months of the season, prompting management to order him to get into shape and improve his focus.

At the moment, all indications are that Herrera is in the Phils’ plans for this season and beyond.

But something will have to give if Harper dons red pinstripes.

Phillies officials remained in pursuit of Harper on Wednesday. Out on the field, players went through early-camp workouts in preparation of Friday’s Grapefruit League opener.

“My focus is on the camp,” Kapler said in response to a question about Harper-Mania. “I’m not saying we’re not aware of the things going on around us, but the focus is on crisp, efficient workouts.”

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