Despite statistics in offensive, pitching, and defensive categories that seem to point to their being a middle-of-the-road ball club, the Philadelphia Phillies have fought their way to consistent series wins in the 2019 season to this point. That resilience and persistence have allowed them to maintain at least a share of the division lead since late April.
However, if the Phillies are going to find a way to remain in contention for their first NL East crown and National League playoff berth in eight years, there are a number of things that are going to have to improve. The injury-devastated bullpen needs reinforcements. The bench needs upgrades. And the starting pitching rotation could use a proven veteran winner.
But one place that the Phillies could find improvement would be from increased production by the lineup regulars who are already here and healthy. One of the biggest possibilities may finally be emerging from a lengthy funk.
First baseman Rhys Hoskins suffered through a 28-game stretch from May 8 through June 7 in which he slashed at just the .214/.342/.327 mark. During that month-long period, the Phillies cleanup hitter produced just two home runs, six extra-base hits, and 10 RBIs.
His improvements at the plate have become readily apparent over the last four games. Hoskins has slashed .467/.529/.733 with a double, a homer, and five RBIs in that time. He has gone 5-7 over the first two games of the current series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and looks much more confident at the plate.
After finishing fourth in the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year voting, expectations for the powerful first baseman soared. He largely met those expectations a year ago during his first full season in the big-leagues, bashing 34 homers and 38 doubles while driving in 96 runs. Hoskins also put on a solid performance in the mid-season MLB Home Run Derby.
The 26-year-old is especially valuable to the Phillies in a financial aspect. They are hoping to get premium production out of him at a relatively inexpensive price. Hoskins is making just $575,000 this season. He is not arbitration eligible for another two years, and cannot become a free agent until after the 2023 season at age 30.
Hoskins seems to love playing in Philadelphia, donates his time to local community and charitable activities, and has immersed himself in the culture of the town.
“I love this city…Hopefully, I get to build something long-term here,” said Hoskins in an interview last month with CBS3 Philly’s Don Bell.
If he can continue to produce as he did a year ago, even improve on those numbers, it will become much more likely that the Phillies management will look to wrap him up with a longer-term deal similar to the one signed by Aaron Nola. The 26-year-old pitcher now has a contract guaranteeing more than $40 million through 2022, with a team option for another $16 million in 2023.
Hoskins appears to be emerging from that month-long funk. That big bat can do a lot of damage in the middle of the Phillies batting order. With a huge series coming up this weekend on the road in Atlanta, now would be a great time to see this more recent success continue.
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