All the way back in February of this horrendous excuse of a year, your’s truly named my two biggest “X-Factors” for the 2020 season. Jake Arrieta was one, and up until his recent outing looked to be a solid middle of the rotation arm for the first time since he signed his 3 year contract with the Phillies. The other, arguably the hottest hitter in baseball the last week plus, Rhys Hoskins. A hot hitting Rhys is showing us and the rest of the league that when he’s hitting, this lineup is dangerous to face.
Hoskins struggles since the All star break of 2019 have been well documented and heavily discussed. Not only was he unproductive, he looked terribly uncomfortable at the plate. For a guy who has spent his professional career making pitchers work harder then they ever want to, he started to look like he was overthinking every time he stepped into the box. Our biggest fear for him as fans entering the 2020 campaign was that his struggle would carry over. They absolutely did.
Sure, Rhys was walking at a similar rate that aligns with his career averages. But a power hitting first baseman not hitting his first home run until the 17th game of the season just doesn’t cut it. His entire batting line was cringe worthy for a guy who should be smack in the middle of the lineup. Through the first 22 games of this season Rhys was hitting .211/.417/.324. You read that correctly, a .324 slugging percentage. Thanks in part to just one home run and 7 RBI’s, this season looked to be like was said earlier, just a carry over of 2019. Though one thing most of us never seem to keep in mind when it comes to Rhys is, even at his worst he still finds a way to put enough fear into an opposing pitcher to walk him once every 5-6 at bats. When a good hitter slumps but still draws walks, it’s usually only a matter of time before the hits come. Sure your big bopper in the middle of the order needs to do more than just take his base, he needs to make the pitcher pay for throwing him strikes. It finally looks like it happened.
The last seven games Hoskins has looked more like the prospect who exploded into the league back in 2017 than Mendoza line walking player we saw just over a week ago. His average has climbed to .260 and his slugging percentage has risen all the way to .520 thanks in part to his 5 home runs in that same stretch. It’s not a coincidence that since his hot streak began, the Phillies have been winning right along with it.
Sure, a 6-1 record over the last seven games isn’t just Hoskins doing. Everyone has to contribute, and this team is showing there determination and fight over the last week. But Rhys is the kind of well rounded hitter that when he is hot, he can carry a lineup. The Phillies has a first baseman in the last decade who was capable of such feats as well. Sure he was also known for his slumps, but like Ryan Howard, Rhys has the ability to carry a lineup. No one wants to see this as some sort of short term fluke, and if the Phillies want to make the playoffs, this is the kind of Rhys Hoskins that could propel them right into post season play.