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August 07, 2017

With Joseph blocking him at first, Phillies trying Hoskins out in left field

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050617.Phils.Hoskins Ryan Lawrence/PhillyVoice

Rhys Hoskins leads the International League in OPS and home runs. He could make his major league debut for the Phillies as soon as tomorrow night ... as a left fielder.

Rhys Hoskins has been killing the ball for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs this season. The 24-year-old is hitting .280 with a .955 OPS this season and through 112 games has hit 28 home runs, 23 doubles, 84 RBI and 78 runs scored. Perhaps most-tantalizing is his .385 OBP and the fact that, despite those power numbers, he has struck out just 73 times while walking 64 times. 

But for some reason, despite their own offensive struggles, the Phillies have been hesitant to call up the Top 100 prospect (No. 69 in Baseball America's midseason rankings). 

That reason appears to be Tommy Joseph, who took over as the team's regular first baseman as Ryan Howard's Phillies career came to an end. A former catcher, Joseph had to switch from catcher to first base following a series of concussions.

And the trickle-down effect of that switch has, unfortunately, caused Hoskins to be blocked at the big-league level.

But maybe not for long, as it appears the Phillies are hoping the young first baseman can play some left field, even if it's only in the short term.

The reasoning behind this is simple: If the Phillies are going to call up Hoskins, it would be foolish to do so without having a position ready for him. He'd gain very little by just sitting on the bench and watching the Phils night after night. 

So why not just play him at first and move Joseph, who is slashing .249/.307/.440 this season, to the bench?

Again, it's a simple, logical answer: If the Phillies are hoping to trade Joseph this offseason, relegating him to the bench would kill any value he has. Their best chance at maximizing his value would be to continue playing him and allowing him to pad his stats a bit. After all, he isn't arbitration eligible until 2020 and won't become a free agent until 2023, and that alone should help stir up some interest from around the league.

But by squeezing Hoskins into the lineup in left field, the Phillies are essentially having their cake and eating it too. And if they do indeed deal Joseph this winter, then first base will be open for the young slugger.

It may be a short stint as a professional outfielder for Hoskins, but he feels like he's ready to play the position:

Hey, if that's what it takes for him to get some big-league at bats, then so be it.

We'll find out how well he remembers the position soon enough. The IronPigs host Norfolk on Monday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. 

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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