Over the past few weeks, injuries have begun to pile up for the Phillies. First it was Andrew Painter, who sprained his UCL in his first spring start. Next it was Ranger Suarez, who came home early from the World Baseball Classic due to a tender forearm and may begin the season on the injured list following continued elbow inflammation. Cristopher Sanchez and Nick Nelson, who were in the mix for the fifth starter job, also came down with minor injuries setting them back in their spring build up. Now, it’s Rhys Hoskins.
The Phillies’ first baseman tore his ACL Thursday afternoon attempting to field a ground ball. It was a freak accident—and with less than a week until opening day, cannot have happened at a worse time.
Coming off a postseason where he clobbered six home runs, including one of the most electric bat slams in baseball history, Hoskins was ready to carry the momentum into a contract year. Now, he’ll be watching from the dugout as his season—and possibly Phillies career—is over.
The longest tenured position player on the Phils’ roster, it’s weird to think we may never see him in red pinstripes again. Hoskins was due for a handsome payday this upcoming offseason, expecting to get a contract similar to Jose Abreu’s, who signed a three-year, $58.5 million contract with Houston this past offseason. A couple of weeks ago, it was revealed that Hoskins and the Phillies had not begun discussions on a possible long term extension. While there’s no bright side to losing a pivotal piece of your lineup and the heartbeat of your clubhouse for the season, the injury may increase the likelihood of Hoskins returning. His agent, Scott Boras, is notorious for getting his clients the most out of every deal. The injury may lead to Boras negotiating a one-year “prove it” contract for Hoskins to maximize the possibility of earning more the following offseason.
Nevertheless, these are conversations that should not even be a thought right now. Without Bryce Harper until mid-June at the earliest, the Phillies needed Hoskins to be a key producer in the lineup. Now, the Phils don’t just have one, but two, gigantic holes in the middle of the lineup.
Since debuting in 2017, Hoskins has hit 148 home runs and posted an OPS+ of 125, which is 25% above league average. He may not hit for average and is as streaky as they come, but Hoskins has been a fixture in the lineup since his debut. He understands the perception Philadelphia has of him as a player, but has his sights set on more.
Hoskins and his wife, Jayme, have been dedicated service members of the Philadelphia community for years. The two have been involved with several charities, including the Philly Pledge and Muscular Dystrophy Association, committing themselves to something greater than baseball. His work ethic is nearly unmatched and is the reason why Harper refers to him as the captain of the club. He’s tough, resilient, and understands the city. Rhys Hoskins epitomizes Philadelphia.
While it hurts now, the Phillies do have options to replace his production at first base. Darick Hall, who was competing for a bench job this spring, is now the de facto first baseman. On the outside looking in, Hall’s 2022 numbers in the majors are great––he slugged .522 with an OPS+ of 121. However, the vast majority of his at-bats came against righties because he had an OPS of .167 in 12 plate appearances. Though he’s looked substantially better against lefties this spring––a small sample size, but Hall is slashing .333/.444/.533 in 15 plate appearances––a first base platoon is the most likely option.
The Phillies can go about a platoon in multiple ways. Internally, JT Realmuto can play first base on days he doesn’t catch with Garrett Stubbs behind the dish. Alec Bohm can also slide across the diamond to first base with Edmundo Sosa or Josh Harrison playing third. Bohm, though, has limited experience at the position, appearing at the position just 24 times in his 300 career big league games.
The other option is acquiring someone externally. Miguel Saño, a former All-Star with the Twins, is unsigned while Keston Hiura, a former top prospect with the Brewers who has struggled since his rookie season, is expected to be traded or released in the coming days. If President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski prefers to wait for the trade deadline, the Phillies could pursue C.J. Cron on the Rockies. Cron has bounced around from team to team over the course of his career, but has always been reliable for his power and run production. Last year, he had 29 home runs with 102 RBIs and ranked in the 76th percentile in Barrel %.
Though the Phillies are relatively prepared to fill Hoskins’ hole in the lineup, there really is no replacing him in the short term. He has been there through the lowest of lows and highest of highs over the last decade. His career in Philadelphia has been a roller coaster. If we really have seen the last of Hoskins in red pinstripes, let’s remember him for owning October.
Photo: Matt Slocum/AP Photo