Although he didn’t make his MLB debut until August 10th last season, Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins became one of the more notable stories around the league. Collecting 18 homers in your first 34 big-league games will do that.
He appeared to be Philly’s first baseman of the future until they signed Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million contract this past winter. That’s OK, though, because as we’ve seen on multiple occasions, teams will find a position for a player to man if he’s proven he can hit. The Phillies have found a home for Hoskins in left field, where he’s played nearly exclusively early on this season.
After bursting onto the scene in 2017, he’s done more of the same in 2018. Through 43 plate appearances, Hoskins sports an impressive .364/.488/.697 triple slash, with his 219 wRC+ checking in among the best in baseball.
He’s continuing to prove that his bat can succeed at the game’s highest level, but it’s interesting to note that he’s experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows thus far.
Down and Up…Then Down and Up Again
Do you remember how long it took for Hoskins to actually go on that historic power binge? Probably not since his hot streak allowed many to forget about it.
He didn’t even get the pleasure of recording his first big-league hit until his fourth game played. Once the seal broke, though, the rest was history. The overall numbers since that slow start appear rather solid, but Hoskins did come crashing back down to reality over the final 17 regular-season games of 2017. And now with a new year upon us, the man is raking again like nothing happened.
Here’s a look at how his OPS, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+ have fluctuated between these tremendous peaks and valleys.
These sample sizes are obviously very unequal, but it displays an interesting ride that Hoskins has been on. It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows since the moment he was promoted — he’s dealt with some dry spells and had make adjustments to climb out of them.
The One Constant
Despite this roller coaster of production, Hoskins’ plate discipline has remained remarkably similar throughout. Here’s a look at how his chase rate (O-Swing%), swing rate on strikes (Z-Swing%), walk rate (BB%), strikeout rate (K%), and swinging-strike rate (SwStr%) compares when we use the same time periods from above.
The rough patches obviously bring an elevated strikeout rate, but his swinging-strike rate never climbs above 10.0%, and his walk rate has remained incredibly high. Part of that can be credited to him refusing to veer away from his approach.
Hoskins’ current 48.4% swing rate on strikes is also worth pointing out since it’s so different from the rest. If he gets more aggressive in the zone — like we’ve seen him do since last August — it won’t be shocking to see his hard-hit rate rise from the current 30.4% rate and get a little closer to the 46.0% mark from 2017.
What’s most important, though, is that his quality of contact for fly balls hasn’t changed much. The slugger’s 65.2% fly-ball rate is one of the highest in baseball. While his soft-hit rate for this batted-ball event is elevated compared to last year (20.0% in ’18, 10.5% in ’17), his hard-hit rate is quite similar (46.7% in ’18, 49.1% in ’17).
Is There Something in the Middle?
Every hitter is going to experience peaks and valleys throughout any given period of time. Pointing out what Hoskins has dealt with over the course of his young career isn’t necessarily unique, but it does make one wonder when he’ll eventually settle into whatever “normal” will be for him.
Even if that doesn’t end up being the case, the mark of a great hitter is the ability to minimize the valleys while maximizing the peaks.
That’s exactly what Hoskins has done through his first 255 plate appearances in the big leagues, and his plate discipline helps make it believable that he can continue finding success on offense.
It could’ve been easy for Hoskins to keep digging himself into a hole after going hitless through his first three MLB games, but he didn’t and eventually went on a historic run of production. And even though he finished the year rather cold, he left all that in the past en route to a dominant start to 2018.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.