Someone like Rhys Hoskins only comes along once in a generation for a team’s fans, right?
Well, maybe not.
His performance? Yeah, no newcomer to the major leagues has ever hit home runs at this quick rate. No Phillies player, no baseball player. In that sense, he’s unmatched.
But hype? Yeah, we’ve seen this level of prospect hype before.
Just for perspective, let’s take a look back (in no particular order) at some of the biggest rookie hype we’ve seen in the last 25 years or so, with Hoskins the baseline of, say, a 9 on the hype meter:
RYAN HOWARD: There wasn’t a ton of hype when Howard came up for a cup of coffee in 2004. Jim Thome was only in the second year of his six-year contract and was beloved by fans. And Howard had only truly broken out that year with a phenomenal season at Reading. But when Thome scuffled in 2005 and Howard annihilated triple-A pitching in Scranton, yeah, there was hype. And it was the same “How the heck can he stay in the minors when he’s mashing like this?” hype that Hoskins had all this season. Fate intervened. Thome got hurt and Howard jumped in to take over first base – for the next 11 years. HYPE METER: 9.5
BRANDON DUCKWORTH: Don’t laugh. In 2001, the Phillies were surprisingly wrapped up in a pennant race in August despite trotting out Amaury Telemaco every five days. Meanwhile, Duckworth – too old to be pitching in the minors anyway at 25 – had made the International League his play toy in Scranton (13-2, 2.63 ERA, 1.075 WHIP, less than one HR/9 for the abbreviated season). Yet, David Coggin was still prominently involved in the major league rotation. We had enough, and we wanted Duckworth up. It seemed like a godsend the second Duckworth got called up to pitch in early August, throwing four quality starts out of the chute, winning his first two games. How much of a godsend? Before he even threw a pitch in his first game on Aug. 7, there already was a group of 700 Levelers that had formed the “Quack Pack” for Duckworth. It was no Wolf Pack, it was barely even Padilla’s Flotillas, but those groups didn’t form BEFORE their guys even played. HYPE METER: 6, only because we knew it was fool’s gold.
PAT COMBS: Wait, whhhhhaaaaaat? The Phillies scrap heap is littered with guys who came up in September for roster expansion, pitched well and were never heard from again. But what separates Combs from the Joe Roas is that Combs actually was a legit prospect. He was one of the last cuts from the loaded 1988 Olympic gold medal baseball team, the 11th pick in the ’88 draft out of Baylor and was fast-tracked to Philly. His last stop at Scranton in 1989? Three games, three wins, 0.37 ERA. He then dominated in Philly for September, winning four of his six starts and posting a 2.09 ERA. His Philly starts that month were electric; you genuinely felt like you were watching the team’s future ace. But that never came close to materializing. HYPE METER: 7
JIMMY ROLLINS: It’s easy to forget now, but Jimmy still had tons of question marks when he came up in September 2000. He was fast and could field – no one doubted that. But he never really hit consistently in the minors, his plate discipline was questionable and any power that might develop was strictly dependent on him – it wasn’t natural. When he was handed the starting shortstop job in 2001, the team’s No. 1 prospect still had questions. But he answered them all and then some, skillfully using his speed to turn doubles into triples on the speedy Vet turf a couple times a month. He put the 2001 Phillies on his rookie back and gave notice that the hype was real. HYPE METER: 7.5
BRETT MYERS: Outside of 2001, the late 1990s and early 2000s Phillies consistently disappointed, especially the pitching staff (Andy Ashby, anyone?). So when Brett Myers earned the moniker of No. 1 prospect in 2002, all eyes were on him to save the team. His Scranton numbers that year were good, not great, but all that changed on a sun-soaked Wrigley afternoon in July. He gave up just two hits (with the wind not much of a factor either way) in his eight debut innings on just 90 pitches, out-dueling uber prospect Mark Prior. Whatever Myers lacked in hype before his call-up, he got it all back that afternoon. HYPE METER: 7
PAT BURRELL: The shine of his hype wore down some because of his mysterious slump of 2003, but Burrell already was a legendary hitter when the Phillies drafted him in 1998. People – especially women – flocked to see him, and he never disappointed through the minors (career .969 OPS in 220 minor league games). Even though his hitting was legendary, he had to be shoehorned into a corner outfield spot, and he never had to carry the team. His hype once he reached the majors was “How good can he and Scott Rolen be together???” not “How good is Pat Burrell going to be???” HYPE METER: 8. But it’s a 27 if you count his … ahem … off-the-field reputation with the fairer sex.
COLE HAMELS: Mothers Day 2006. I had seen some big walk-up crowds at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons games, but I had never seen anything like this. The line was 2,500 people long, easy, at a stadium that got 1,000 walk-ups on a great night. In the parking lot, my dad and I took note of the cars pulling in. Lots of New Jersey and Delaware license plates, lot of stickers from Philadelphia-area car dealerships. My brother had come up from Philly. Luckily, we saw this coming and had bought tickets the day before to see Hamels in what was undoubtedly his last minor-league game. Pitching in a pink Mom’s Day jersey, he dominated yet again (2-0, 0.39 ERA, 36 K, 1 BB in whiffle-ball like numbers in three Scranton starts) and was on his way to Philly to anchor the rotation for the next decade, completely fulfilling the hype of that afternoon. He is quite possibly the best blueprint of Phillies hype: Young first rounder, minor-league dominance that attracted tons of attention, exciting debut, complete career fulfillment and continued unbridled love from Phillies fans. HYPE METER: 10
DOMINIC BROWN: We all remember his breakout two months of 2013, so thankfully I don’t have to write about Mr. Untouchable again and how disappointing his career became after that. But I know of at least three people that bought Dom Brown jerseys in those fateful seven weeks. HYPE METER: 8
MAIKEL FRANCO: The Phillies stunk in 2014, we all knew it. Maikel Franco came up for September, looked overmatched and we yawned. But when he mashed in triple-A in 2015 and got the midseason call-up, we yawned no more. Franco looked like a legitimate franchise cornerstone, someone to build around when the rest of the team’s low-level top prospects matured to the majors. His at bats gave us a weird feeling we hadn’t felt in years – anticipation. We’re still anticipating with Franco, although now it’s an anticipation as to when he’ll be getting a change of scenery in 2018. HYPE METER: 6.5