Phillies

What Phillies need more of from Rhys Hoskins in 2019

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What Phillies need more of from Rhys Hoskins in 2019

Throughout the offseason, we'll take a look at the best and worst aspect of each key Phillie's season and look ahead at what the goal should be for 2019.

We started last week with Jorge Alfaro.

Today: Rhys Hoskins

"35 and 100" was a popular prediction from baseball fans for Rhys Hoskins in 2018, his first full season in the majors.

Hoskins was coming off a 50-game stint in 2017 in which he hit 18 homers, drove in 48 runs and hit .259/.396/.618. Expectations were extremely high.

Hoskins came very close to reaching those two benchmarks this past season, finishing with 34 homers and 96 RBI. He also hit 38 doubles and walked 87 times. 

This is legit middle-of-the-order production and it bodes well for Hoskins' future. He will only become a wiser hitter as he gets more of a book on the pitchers he'll face. Oftentimes, things click for a player in his late-20s. If Hoskins does indeed have another gear to unlock, he could be a top-10 bat in the National League.

As always, though, still areas that require improvement.

Streakiness

You often hear with power hitters that when they homer, they homer in bunches. For Hoskins, that truth has been even more exaggerated than for most.

Hoskins had those 34 homers despite going at least a week without a home run 14 different times. There are about 25 weeks in a season.

Hoskins went crazy out of the All-Star break, hitting .357/.455/.911 with eight homers, seven doubles and 16 RBI in his first 14 games of the second half. He credited the Home Run Derby with reawakening his pull-side power and aggressiveness.

Then: 1 for 27, no extra-base hits in eight games

Then: 3 homers in the next four games

Then: Hit .188, one extra-base hit (a double) the next eight games

Then: Back-to-back games with homers

Then: 2 for 27, one extra-base hit (a double) the next eight games

Then: Three straight games with homers

This streakiness stands out, even in an age of incomplete, streaky power hitters.

The end-of-season totals are nearly where the Phillies want them to be for Hoskins, but there's no question they would have been a better offense had he been even "OK" during a few of those home run droughts. The issue was that when it wasn't a peak, it was a deep valley, especially in the second half.

The beginning of August was when the Phils' downward spiral began. And in 50 games from Aug. 4 through the end of that horrific, penultimate series at Coors Field, Hoskins hit .197 with a .302 OBP.

Consistency is what every player seeks, but it can be an empty word because a player can be consistent even when the results aren't showing. For Hoskins, it just means a couple more hits a month. Had he gotten two more hits a month this season, he'd have been just under .270 with an OBP just under .370.

If Hoskins can go from .246/.354/.496 in 2018 to .265/.370/.515 next season — a realistic goal — the Phillies will have fewer nights when you look up in the sixth inning and they have no runs on two singles.

Defensively, Hoskins isn't going to compete for Gold Gloves, even if/when he returns to first base. He's an average defender there but a liability in left field.

That said, the offense more than made up for the defense, even during an up-and-down 2018. The Phillies still have the building block they thought they had before the season. That's one question that did get answered.

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NL East departures of Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rendon are like a free-agent signing for Phillies

NL East departures of Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rendon are like a free-agent signing for Phillies

A lot happened across baseball last week, so much in fact that a $92 million contract was kind of overlooked.

Josh Donaldson signed early in the week with the Minnesota Twins. Four years, $92 million for the 34-year-old third baseman who returned to an All-Star-level in 2019 with the Braves. Donaldson went to Atlanta last offseason on a one-year, $23 million deal and proved his health, hitting .259 with a .900 OPS, 37 homers, 94 RBI and 100 walks. He's always been a plus defender and last season was no exception.

This is a big loss for the Braves, and you have to say their offseason looks worse in light of losing Donaldson. They were active early, signing Cole Hamels, lefty reliever Will Smith, righty reliever Chris Martin and catcher Travis d'Arnaud.

But the loss of Donaldson negates most, if not all of that. 

The Braves are still probably a playoff team — 88 or so wins feels right for this team. 

Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. are still MVP-caliber players. Ozzie Albies, Mike Soroka and Max Fried are good, young players. At third base, the Braves can use 23-year old Austin Riley or 26-year-old Johan Camargo. 

Riley's first 30 games as a rookie last season were so impressive — he hit .298, slugged .628, went deep 11 times and drove in 32 runs. It was a nightmarish, swing-and-miss-filled season for him after that. 

Camargo, you'll recall, was productive in 2018. It was his first full season and he hit .272/.349/.457 with 19 homers and 76 RBI. Most teams would take that at third base. The Donaldson signing by Atlanta last offseason was a surprise because of what the Braves had at the hot corner. There are worse third base situations than Riley/Camargo.

Still, Donaldson is such a difference-maker. Another difference-maker who has left the division. The exits of Donaldson and Anthony Rendon are huge plusses for the Phillies and Mets. It's tough to conceptualize it, but not having to face Donaldson and Rendon is almost as beneficial as a one more solid free-agent signing for the Phillies. The drop-off from those two third basemen to Riley/Camargo in Atlanta and Starlin Castro/Asdrubal Cabrera in Washington is massive. Like, maybe 50 fewer extra-base hits.

Donaldson and Rendon had 145 combined plate appearances last season against the Phillies. Rendon hit .353 with a 1.102 OPS in his. Donaldson hit six homers, four doubles and drove in 16 runs in his 18 games.

All told, the NL East (aside from the Phillies) lost more than it gained this offseason. Out are Donaldson, Rendon and Dallas Keuchel. In are Hamels and Smith in Atlanta; Dellin Betances, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha in New York; Will Harris, Castro and Eric Thames in Washington; Corey Dickerson in Miami.

Aaron Nola will not miss facing Donaldson and Rendon. Those two hit a combined .345/.456/.545 with four homers and three doubles in 68 plate appearances against the Phillies' top starter. 

Donaldson is also 9 for 16 lifetime against Zack Wheeler, 6 for 14 with five extra-base hits off Zach Eflin and 4 for 12 with three homers vs. Nick Pivetta.

Rendon is 11 for 21 with four homers and 10 RBI off Pivetta.

Phillies fans may be frustrated by the post-Wheeler/Didi Gregorius period of the offseason, but Phillies pitchers are cool with how it's played out.

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Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Phillies pitching prospect Zach Warren has a dirty car but a bright future

Every one of the 15 minor-league prospects that the Phillies have invited to big-league spring training camp has a story.

Zach Warren’s is unique because (in his heart) he was a Phillie before he was technically a Phillie.

Warren grew up in Vineland, New Jersey, in the “glory era,” as he correctly called it, when the Phillies were racking up National League East titles, going to two World Series and winning one of them. Young Zach rooted for Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, but his eye always drifted toward the work being done by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, not surprising because Warren was a left-handed pitcher on the rise in those days.

After successful runs at St. Augustine Prep in South Jersey and the University of Tennessee, Warren is still a pitcher on the rise. Three strong seasons in the Phillies’ minor-league system earned him an invite to major-league spring training camp next month in Clearwater.

At the Phillies’ prospect-education seminar last week at Citizens Bank Park, Warren recalled the pinch-me moment when he got the phone call from Josh Bonifay, the Phillies director of player development, telling him he’d been invited to big-league camp, and following up that thrilling news with a phone call to his dad, Geoff.

“I had dropped off my car to be worked on in Vineland the day before,” Zach recalled with a laugh, “and my dad was a little unhappy because it was dirty and had no gas. I told him the news and that cheered him up.”

Warren, 23, is one of a handful of left-handed relievers coming to big-league camp on non-roster invites. Most, if not all, will open the season in the minor leagues, but team officials, including new manager Joe Girardi and new pitching coach Bryan Price, clearly want to get a look at what they have for future reference. The Phillies, under general manager Matt Klentak, have been aggressive running relievers in and out from the minors so it’s likely several of these relievers will get a shot in the majors this season. And if they throw strikes and get outs – well, they’ll stick around.

Warren, 6-5 and 200 pounds, was selected in the 14th round of the 2017 draft. He features a mid-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup. He has racked up double-digit strikeouts-per-nine innings in each of his three pro seasons. He spent the last two seasons working late in the game, including closer, at Lakewood and Clearwater. In 116 2/3 innings the last two seasons, he allowed just 76 hits and 34 earned runs (2.62 ERA) while striking out 180 and walking 66.

The 2020 season will be a prove-it one for Warren. He projects to make the jump to Double A Reading and be an important part of that club’s bullpen. Double A is the level where they separate the men from the boys. Have success at the level and you can rise quickly to the majors.

“I’m not thinking too far in advance, where I’m going to be and things like that,” said Warren, showing a healthy perspective. “All I can control is working on what I need to work on to get better and becoming the best player I can be. My ideal blueprint for this season is to make strides and get better and help my team win games and get to the playoffs.”

First-timers in big-league camp are like sponges. They soak up the experience and try to learn from the players who’ve walked the miles they hope to one day walk. Warren has a healthy respect for Adam Morgan, another lefty reliever and SEC product from the University of Alabama, and is eager to speak with him.

“I want to learn from Adam Morgan,” Warren said. “He was up as a starter and had to go to the minors to learn, adapt and change, and he developed and got back. I think there’s a ton I could learn from someone like that.

“I’m just looking forward to learning from everybody. I think it’s going to be a great experience and I can’t wait to get down there and get going.”

With a clean car and a full tank of gas, of course.

 

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