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March 15, 2019

Phillies season preview: Having Rhys Hoskins back at first base, where he belongs, is a huge plus

Over the last two weeks of spring training, the Phillies turn their prep work to get ready for the regular season into overdrive.

We'll do the same thing here at PhillyVoice. As the March 28 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...

Last season, the Phillies signed Carlos Santana to play first base. And while he kind of did get on base at an okay clip, he hit just .229 in his one season in Philadelphia and cost the team $20 million.

In one of his most impressive moves as a GM to date, Matt Klentak was somehow able to flip Santana and J.P. Crawford into Jean Segura (who will start at shortstop) and some bullpen help.

But the secondary consequence of this move might be the best for the Phillies: it moves Rhys Hoskins back to his natural position of first base.

Hoskins struggled in the outfield and said several times this offseason — after the Santana trade — that he was very excited to return to first base where he is more comfortable. Could that boost Hoskins to All-Star caliber at a high profile position?

Scouting report

To start, Hoskins' defense will improve this coming season with the position change. 

According to Baseball Reference, Hoskins cost the Phillies 17 runs defensively playing left field — a spot soon to be manned by Andrew McCutchen. By contrast, Hoskins saved a positive five runs at first base in just one fourth of the starts. This will help the Phillies, who struggled mightily with defense last season.

He'll also be batting with some extra protection. 

Presumably, based on spring training line ups, Hoskins will be hitting fourth in the line up behind Bryce Harper, who will be hitting third. It is a "pick your poison" scenario, with both hitters boasting power and Harper hitting left-handed to Hoskins right-hand bat.

Hoskins will have more RBI opportunities and could potentially get more pitches to hit, with a much better line up around him from top to bottom as a whole.

NL East ranking

Hoskins enters the 2019 season as one of the less proven first basemen in the NL East. The Braves (Freddie Freeman), Nationals (Ryan Zimmerman) and Marlins (Neil Walker) will each field a proven veteran at the position, two of whom have won Silver Sluggers and the third a three time All-Star.

However, at least as far as power goes, Hoskins seems poised to knock in the most homers and potentially the most RBI based on his numbers last year and projections for 2019.

First baseman 2018 stats2019 proj  Career WAR
PHI Rhys Hoskins (25).249, 34 HR, 96 RBI.251, 29 HR, 84 RBI2.5
ATLFreddie Freeman (29).309, 23 HR, 98 RBI.298, 24 HR, 79 RBI33.1
WASRyan Zimmerman (34).264, 13 HR, 51 RBI.257, 18 HR, 60 RBI38.0
NYMDominic Smith (23).224, 5 HR, 11 RBI.231, 11 HR, 33 RBI-1.8
MIANeil Walker (33).219, 11 HR, 46 RBI.244, 15 HR, 49 RBI20.5

Hoskins will be able to boost his meager WAR with a better showing defensively.

Phillies' future

Hoskins is under team control for a very, very long time, as the 25-year-old is just two years into his big league career. In 2021 he will become arbitration eligible, and won't become a free agent until 2024, when he is 30. 

The fact that he'll likely be so productive, at such a cheap number (just over half a million next season) is one of the reasons the Phillies will have luxury tax room to work with over the next few seasons.

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

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