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March 16, 2021

Phillies positional preview: Rhys Hoskins must prove it or lose it at first base in 2021

Spring training is in full swing, as the Phillies are currently both tuning up to make a run at the playoffs in 2021 while also honing down their roster to the best 26 men they have to field a team when they return from Clearwater.

According to, the Phils are +285 to make the playoffs, and have an over/under win total of 80.5. With a payroll near the luxury tax limit, fans and team management alike are hoping they can far exceed both of these predictions.

So now is as good a time as any to ramp things up here at PhillyVoice too. As the April 1 season opener against the Braves approaches, we'll break down everything you need to know to get ready for one of the most anticipated Phillies seasons ever.

Let's take a look at first base...

Scouting report

Rhys Hoskins is one of those players on the verge of becoming (if he's not for you already) a frustrating "what should have been" kind of player. He'll likely bat second most days for Joe Girardi's lineup in 2021, which is a pretty strong endorsement of his ability to get on base, and perhaps to a lesser extent an indictment of his inability to, you know, hit the ball. For every thing he does to contribute to the Phillies' success, there's something he does to the team's detriment.

Hoskins ProsHoskins Cons
He has a ton of power, averaging 39
homers and 102 RBI over 162 games.
He's struck out more than 150 times
in each of his full seasons. 
He led the NL in walks in 2018 and came
close to doing so in 2019 and 2020.
He just can't hit for average, posting
BA's under .250 three years in a row. 
He is under team control, via arbitration
for at least two more seasons.
He is one of the worst defensive
first baseman in one majors.

Hoskins is almost jaw-droppingly inconsistent, and that's why we chose him the No. 1 player currently in spring training with the most to prove. Just look at his splits, from one half season to another:

 1st half2nd half
2017*.304/.402/.757, 11 HR.220/.293/.505, 7 HR
2018.252/.363/.456, 14 HR.237/.341/.546, 20 HR
2019.263/.401/.530, 20 HR.180/.318/.361, 9 HR
2020*.203/.414/.313, 1 HR.276/.357/.644, 9 HR

*Hoskins played a partial rookie year in 2017, and 2020 was just 60 games long, so we split each of his seasons in half and the results are above. 

The green is what the Phillies want. The red is proof he can't keep it up (though the second half of 2018 with 20 homers wasn't terrible). 

There are a lot of potential upgrades out there (one of which we'll get into later) and the Phillies really hope that he can find a way to get his bat working as consistently and his eyes do, taking pitches and drawing walks at a pace that would make Billy Bean drool. If he posts yet another similar season to the ones above in 2021, the Phillies may finally entertain seriously trading him to open up a premium position to someone who can take advantage of the Phillies hitter-friendly ballpark.

NL East ranking

The Phillies' division is pretty loaded when it comes to first baseman, with the Braves boasting perennial MVP candidate Freddie Freeman and the Mets home run happy Pete Alonso. The Nats brought in Josh Bell, a talented former Pirate to man first for them while Miami is content to bring back Jesus Aguilar after a proficient 2020. Here's how the NL East first basemen measure up:

First baseman 2020 stats2021 proj  Career WAR
PHI Rhys Hoskins (27)245, 10 HR, 26 RBI.236, 24 HR, 69 RBI5.6
ATLFreddie Freeman (31).341, 13 HR, 53 RBI.292, 27 HR, 100 RBI38.8
WASJosh Bell (28).226, 85 HR, 22 RBI.255, 23 HR, 79 RBI2.6
NYMPete Alonso (26).231, 16 HR, 35 RBI.250, 39 HR, 93 RBI5.5
MIAJesus Aguilar (30).277, 8 HR, 34 RBI.253, 23 HR, 81 RBI3.8

For what it's worth, Freeman is listed by RotoChamp and other fantasy baseball sites as the top first baseman in the league, with Alonso 4th. Hoskins is the 19th ranked 1B, ahead of both Bell and Aguilar.

Phillies' future

First let's look at the farm system, where two players with first base listed as their natural position fall into the team's top 35 prospects, via FanGraphs. Jhailyn Ortiz is a true home run (48 total over four seasons) or bust player who is on the cusp of competing for a major league job — but his batting average (.227) leaves a little to be desired. At 22, he will likely be in Double or Triple-A to start the year and isn't exactly breathing down Hoskins' neck.

The other name to know is Baron Radcliff (which is a really sweet name), who is a big first baseman that Phillies drafted out of Georgia Tech this past summer. He too, has really elite raw power and at 22 could also find his way into a high minor league situation in 2021.

But, the biggest threat to Hoskins's job is staring at him from across the diamond. Alec Bohm could arguably be a more reliable hitter than Hoskins is, and while he is looking to improve at third base this season, his future may be as an MLB first baseman. The Phillies' roster as a whole offers a great deal of flexibility, and in theory could allow the Phillies to seek out a third baseman to replace Hoskins someday, with Bohm a natural fit at first. 

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