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February 28, 2020

Phillies season preview: Can Rhys Hoskins hold on to his job at first base?

Spring training is starting to ramp up, as the Phillies are currently both tuning up to make a run at the playoffs in 2020 whilst also honing down their roster to the best 26 men they have to field a team when they return from Clearwater.

So it's as good a time as any to ramp things up here at PhillyVoice too. As the March 26 season opener against the Marlins 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

Are you a Rhys Hoskins optimist, or pessimist?

In 2019, Hoskins led the entire National League in walks (with 116). His one base percentage, .364, was the 35th best in all of baseball. His 29 homers were still good for 59th most in a home-run crazy league. 

His .226 batting average was 130th of 136 qualifying players. His 178 strikeouts were the sixth most.

Clearly there was a lot of good paired with some really bad last year for the now 26-year-old slugging first baseman. His first 89 games in 2019 saw him hit .263 with 20 homers and 59 RBI. His final 71 was at a .180 clip with just nine dingers.

Hoskins needs to continue to be patient in the year to come — he led every single hitter in total pitches seen, and pitches per at bat (and it wasn't even close). But he can't whiff or go down nearly as often, slotted in the heart of the Phillies order. 

That being said, it's hard to expect All-Star numbers — realistically — from the soon-to-be fourth year pro after he has pieced together a .239 career batting average. The Phillies need his power (he still averages 36 homers and 102 RBI per 162 games), but Alec Bohm, the Phillies' top prospect, is there waiting to take his job if he has a repeat breakdown in 2020.

Hoskins has revamped his swing and has been working hard to be a reliable anchor alongside Bryce Harper in the middle of the batting order. We'll see if a new approach can get him back on track.

NL East ranking

If we are being honest, the Phillies have the third best first baseman in the division, at best. A perennial MVP candidate in Freddie Freeman in Atlanta leads the way, edging out 2019 NL Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso, who is fresh off an all-time rookie home run record (53).

Eric Thames will at least split time with, if not replace, aging Ryan Zimmerman in Atlanta at a position that appears to be weak on the defending champions roster. Howie Kendrick also could play some first base for Washington. The Marlins are slated to start veteran Jesus Aguilar.

First baseman 2019 stats2020 proj  Career WAR
PHI Rhys Hoskins (26)226, 29 HR, 85 RBI.241, 31 HR, 87 RBI3.9
ATLFreddie Freeman (30).295, 38 HR, 121 RBI.293, 29 HR, 94 RBI37.4
WASEric Thames (33).247, 25 HR, 61 RBI.239, 25 HR, 58 RBI3.4
NYMPete Alonso (25).260, 53 HR, 120 RBI.261, 31 HR, 90 RBI5.0
MIAJesus Aguilar (29).236, 12 HR, 50 RBI.257, 22 HR, 71 RBI20.5

Fantasy baseball site rotochamp has Hoskins at the 21st spot of all first baseman heading into next season, ahead of Aguilar but well behind Freeman (2nd) and Alonso (4th). 

Phillies' future

Hoskins will reach arbitration eligibility for the first time following this season, which means he will be under team control for at least three more years. The first base position is his to lose, and the Phillies are heavily invested in his success — as an arbitration contract (or one negotiated to avoid it) is much lower than market value... as we learned from J.T. Realmuto. 

A productive Hoskins, playing for less than he's worth, will give the Phillies a huge advantage as they navigate their complicated and ballooning payroll for the next few seasons.

Keeping Hoskins on his toes, as we mentioned, is 23-year-old Bohm, an all-around hitter who may be better defensively at first base, but is currently playing third to fill a bigger team need. Bohm has played about 27% of his pro games at first and the rest at third.

It is also worth noting that there are a handful of other prospects, held in much lower regard than Bohm, who play first base, including Austin Listi and Darick Hall — each with high power but low batting averages. 

Phillies season preview
SP | RP | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | RF | CF | LF | Bench | Manager

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